Friday, March 26, 2010

More Boatyard

[Kyle]After a week of glorious (finally) weather in the U.S., I arrived back in Scotland to freezing temperatures and rain showers. Maryanne met me on the Oban side and by the time we got the ferry to Kerrera, I was pretty much cold-soaked.

As the afternoon wore on, the clouds started to break and the sun came out. For a brief time (with layers on) it felt like the Spring it was supposed to be. I took advantage of the dry weather window to touch up a few thin spots on Footprint’s bottom paint and get as much done as possible so that she would be ready to be put in the water a couple of days later. (The next day’s forecast was for very heavy rain and wind so I doubted much would get done then.)

On our evening excursion to the bathroom block, we were intercepted and befriended by a long-haired ginger tom, who I later took to calling Socrates because of a syllogism I had just read: All cats die; Socrates died; therefore Socrates was a cat. Socrates was, in fact, an adorable cat who insisted on following us home and cuddling up on our warm boat, all while purring enthusiastically. He was clearly somebody else’s cat as he had on a collar with a bell and seemed well fed. After giving him a good warm-up, we put him out to find his way back home.

The next morning was dreadful as predicted. The rain and wind started just before sunrise and didn’t let up for hours. Eventually, I lost the argument and was nominated as the person to crawl out of the nice warm bubble that was our bed so I could get the heat going and the coffee on. As soon as I walked past the cockpit door, I heard a loud meow. There was Socrates, sitting on our cockpit seat inside the enclosure, looking very pleased with himself for finding a place out of the wind and rain. Later, when the clouds broke again, he even had a sunny spot for himself to stretch out.

We talked to the yard guys and they said tomorrow was good to go in first thing. Since the weather was clearing up a bit, I decided to use the free afternoon to take an exploratory run around the island. The map at the marina office indicated that every road on the island could be covered in a four hour walk. I figured that would be about an hour and a half’s run. Perfect.

Boy, was I wrong. Kerrera’s roads are set up as a big loop around the island with a single road branching off at each end; one to the marina, the other to the castle. What isn’t mentioned on the map is that there are a total of three flat spots on the island of about a dozen paces each. The rest is up, really up, really really up, or falling. After reaching my halfway point by time, I had still not reached the road to the castle. Before me was an ever steepening hill. I decided to go out a little further figuring that if I got to the top, I would at least be able to see if it was best to turn around or continue.

Scenes From Kerrera Island

At the top, the road did seem to meander its way toward the other side of the island (all while still managing only to go up). I continued on and, sure enough, eventually found myself at the top of a cliff looking way down at the road on which I had recently been running. I guess this was supposed to be the falling part. Not wanting to backtrack all that way, I managed to scramble down a cattle path past some very confused and irritated looking cattle and return to the road, which now, remarkably, seemed to be all up back to the marina. How is that possible? I was so wiped out from this run.

After a little bit, clouds started to roll in. I knew that I had already had an amazing run of luck by being out in the Scottish weather for almost two hours without being rained on, so I wasn’t even upset when the drizzle started. Soon, though, it started…stinging! The drizzle was turning into larger and larger hail. There was no shelter around, so my only defense was to pull my shirt up over my ears and run downwind so as to minimize the horizontal component of the impact and focus on my useless brain. The way I figured it, my brain was asking for it for getting me here in the first place. I came around a corner upon a very protective looking bull standing the middle of the road and in front of the rest of the herd, hailstones bouncing harmlessly off his highland shag and pinging off his horns. The road was the only way through without getting shin deep in water. He looked very peeved at me for being in his road and showed no signs of moving. It is difficult so slink by such a large animal meekly, particularly when it’s glaring at you, all while getting pelted with hail, but somehow I managed and successfully made it by. At the next farm, a bunch of adorable young kids were cowering under any shelter they could find, mostly their mothers, who stood squinting against the hail as the balls stuck to their wool. The only shelter big enough for me that wasn’t filled with sheep was an open henhouse. After thinking about it for a bit, I decided I didn’t want to be the guy responsible for scaring off all of some poor farmer’s chickens on an island small enough for everyone to know about it ten minutes later so I ran on.

The storm ended just as I staggered exhausted into the marina and over to Footprint where Maryanne met me in the cockpit with a look of sympathy, an outstretched towel and an Irn Bru. Socrates just squinted at me and purred.

Later that night, just before bed, I was making the walk to the bathrooms in miserable weather to brush my teeth (man, I’m getting sick of that routine) when I heard a plaintive meow. On the way back, I shone my light around and was met with two bright beams in the distance. I walked over to find poor Socrates huddled on a piece of 2x6 not much bigger than she was under a monohull, which was much too far up on its long keel to offer much protection. She was surrounded by deep puddles and I swear she was deliberately trying to look trapped and miserable. Being the big softie that I am around animals, I scooped her up and walked her to Footprint high above the wet ground. Inside the cockpit enclosure, I made her a bed on our cockpit seat out of clean rags and coils of rope. I put another layer on top of her and once she was warmed up, she fell fast asleep while I scratched her ears. We got up just before the sun the next morning and she had gone. By the time coffee was made, she was back, looking happy to see us and purring away.

The yard guys came with the lift and picked Footprint up off her blocks. Socrates wouldn’t move. Maryanne tried to get her to leave but she just sat on the bottom step. Eventually, there was just too much commotion and she jumped off. She followed Footprint for a while but there were just too many puddles for her clean/dry paws to navigate, so she slunk off to the side underneath another boat...poor thing.

The cat we named Socrates made a comfy home for herself aboard Footprint, while I'm sure her local family were worrying about her. And yes, we know female gingers are rare!

Footprint went back in with relatively little drama. There was about a minute or so before cooling water came out of the exhaust, causing a flurry of valve checking and diagnosis. It turns out the sea water intake was in the flush position instead of sea water intake. The other thing that happened that I didn’t even notice until later was that the log reset to zero during the engine start. I thought I was looking at the trip log which starts every time power is applied (or is reset), but when I went to fill out the logbook at the dock, I realized that all of our 11,085 nautical miles had been erased and we’re back to zero. Ouch. {Maryanne: This reset itself back again on the next trip, so I’m not quite sure what happened}

Boy, it sure feels nice to be back in the water. Being on a boat in the yard is like having a car with no wheels. You can recline the seats and listen to the radio all you want, but you can’t GO anywhere. Even though we don’t really want to go anywhere in this weather, it’s so nice to know that we could. We’re not trapped at the end of a long, muddy walk until business hours waiting for a bunch of guys who may or may not be able to get around to us that day. Being in the water means we are, once again, in command of our own destiny.

Oh, the mud. I had to get rid of the mud. The dock we’re using at Oban Marina is right next to a spigot, but there’s no hose. The next spigot has a hose that just reaches the nearest corner of Footprint, except the water pressure is so low that the trickle that comes out of the end of the hose gets completely blown away by the wind before even reaching the boat. Undeterred, I started filling buckets. It took about 20 minutes to fill a three gallon bucket, which I would spend using another bucket full of suds to scrub a big patch of deck. After a couple hours on my knees getting soaked in the wind, I was freezing and tired, but thrilled to have Footprint white(ish) again.

Tomorrow, we’ll take Footprint over to Dunstaffnage Marina on the mainland side. That way, we won’t be restricted by the ferry schedule and I’ll be able to go straight to work without stopping at a hotel first, then Footprint will wait until next month, when hopefully the weather will be a bit nicer, before we continue on.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Pi Day –Observed,

[Kyle]Well, sort of.

First we had a whole lot of laundry to do. Maryanne did that while I carried jugs of water to put in Footprint’s tanks so that I could finish testing the water system. Again, everything is good. I carried a couple more so that Maryanne would at least be able to do dishes aboard while I was at work. I do spoil her.

No, really.

For the second half of the day, we took the ferry over to Oban and checked into a nice hotel, where the first thing we did was take three showers (me) and a long , hot bath (Maryanne). Once we were all soft and smooth and fresh smelling, we drove to the nearby village of Connel for a really nice dinner at a cozy pub on the water at a table next to a big, warm fireplace. When one of the servers came by and asked how the food was, Maryanne commented that the mushroom soup was the best she’d had and asked either who made it or where did they get it. Our server said, “That’s the guy you want to talk to at the bar. He made it.”

The guy noticed us talking about him and asked what was up.

“I was talking to this lady about your soup.” Our server said, “She says it’s rubbish!” Then he walked off.

Poor Maryanne was mortified and immediately began protesting. The whole place cracked up. The cook, grinning with pride, came by and told Maryanne his recipe. Then he went into the back and came out with a written copy for her. Whoo-hoo!

Celebrating our 7th Anniversary with a posh hotel and a nice meal with a view

We went back to our snug hotel room with its fluffy sheets and shared a bottle of wine while talking about the last seven years. It was a nice treat after all of that hard work.

Back in Oban – Day 3

[Kyle]The weather was cold, wet and miserable the next morning. Most of the outside jobs were done the day before and the inside of Footprint was no longer an obstacle course. We made short work of running through pretty much the rest of our list of systems checks and putting things back together. During lulls in the weather, we would both go out on deck and get as much of bending the sails on as we could before the next shower. After three or four attempts, they were furled nicely with the lines tidied up. By the end of the day, we even had the engine up and running.

Everything worked fine. Footprint was basically as we left her – except for a coat of yard mud. The spot where she is shored up does not have access to water so my dreams of giving her a good wash are going to have to wait until she’s at a dock. They’re going to have to dredge that spot after we leave.

It was also our seventh Anniversary (Pi/π Day, since it falls on 3.14, March 14th that is). As Anniversaries go, I have to say, I think it was our worst. We were both grubby with dirt, grease and engine oil. It was freezing out and every time either of us wanted to pee, we had to traverse a 300m mud puddle, same for brushing our teeth or doing the dishes.

Back in Oban – Day 2

Kyle gets his workout for the day

[Kyle]After a good night’s sleep, and some coffee, and some breakfast, we felt more ready to take on the tasks ahead of us. The weather was forecast to get worse and worse as the days went by so I wanted to get up the mast as soon as possible in order to avoid the worst of the rain and wind.

It took us a few hours to get the deck cleared of the tarps and get everything ready to go, and then I went up. It was fuh-reezing up there. I had two things to do. One was easy – replace our tricolor masthead light. The other was hard – Remove the mast cap so that I could replace a worn sheave. This turned out to be one of those jobs that got more complicated with each step. What started out as: remove two screws, remove cap, slide pin out of sheave, quickly degenerated into a full disassembly of all masthead equipment. Why can’t they make stuff easy to take apart?

After three and a half increasingly uncomfortable hours supporting myself on foot straps, with one arm wrapped around the mast and the other doing all of the disassembly work with ever colder and more useless fingers, I finally got the thing off and in front of me where I could look at it. You could imagine the wave of depression that swept over me when I discovered that the pin I needed to remove had been put in with a hydraulic press and would need to be removed with one, something I definitely couldn’t do up there.

It took me another half hour go get everything reinstalled (I knew how everything fit together by then) before I finally arrived back on deck freezing, exhausted and completely cramped up. I had a talk with Maryanne and we decided that, since both sheaves were identical, we would swap over the mainsail halyard and the topping lift so the heavily used mainsail halyard would get to use the less worn sheave until we can get the mast unstepped at some point in the future.

While I was up there, Maryanne, between helping me, managed to reconnect all the mast wiring, install a replacement deck electrical box/cover, and make really good progress on getting the interior of the boat back to a livable state. Most everything had been stowed except the tools and parts in current use. There was still grit and mud all over everything, but at least we could sit down and eat.

Back in Oban – Day 1

Our first view of Scotland - Brrrrr....

[Maryanne]We arrived in Scotland in style - 1st class tickets courtesy of Kyle's job (thank you VERY MUCH). The flight was over night, but it was daylight as we landed around 8am - and quite a shock to see snow covered hills as we did so. Kyle and I were not sat together but I managed to catch his attention and give him the look that told him I was not too happy about that.. Ho hum, now we just have to manage with what we have I guess, but it sure would have been nice to have delayed our return by a couple of weeks as originally planned; unfortunately Kyle's work schedule would not oblige.

[Kyle]After a very long series of flights from Houston/Phoenix to Glasgow and then a very long drive, we made it to Oban just in time to make the 2 o’clock ferry over to Kerrera, where Footprint is stored for the winter.

While we have been looking forward to getting back aboard our little home and resuming our adventures, mostly we were filled with dread at both having to do the long list of jobs that were necessary to get Footprint ready to go back in the water and what condition we might find her in after six pretty rough months alone.

Kyle manages the luggage back at the yard - that a guy!

Back at the boat, of course, the reality revealed itself. Footprint appeared to be intact but was a dreadful mess. The yard was one big, gritty mud puddle that was impossible to keep from tracking all over the boat. The decks were covered with dead leaves and twigs and dirt, all oozing streaks of brown that collected in algae-filled puddles. Inside, all of the cupboards were open and the cushions were askew to improve air circulation to every corner. The addition of our luggage made the place look completely trashed and left us with no place to sit.

The first item on my list was to get the bed put back in place and made up so we could sleep that night. Maryanne made a half-hearted attempt to clear off enough space for us to eat. We were so tired. Even though we wanted to get as much done as we could while it was still light out, we were both mostly staring off into space trying to get up the motivation to do the next thing and overwhelmed by trying to figure out where to even start. After a painful half an hour of this, we decided to skip dinner and just go to bed for a while – just to get our energy back up. The next thing I knew, it was pitch black. We had slept halfway through the night. We decided we’d feel better if we made it a set, so we slept through the other half, too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On our way back to Footprint

[Kyle]Well, the time came for me to leave Phoenix. Maryanne left a few days later. In preparation for our return to Scotland, It was necessary for us to try to get everything we had brought with us and everything we'd acquired in Arizona (mostly boat parts and supplies that are difficult or expensive to get in the UK) back into our bags. Maryanne wisely went to Goodwill and bought a giant “throw away” suitcase so that we had some extra room for everything.

The next step for us was to pull everything out of every drawer and closet to make sure nothing was missed and put it in a big pile on the middle of the guest room floor. It was a BIG pile. It was overwhelming. Just trying to figure out how to sort the pile into smaller piles for each bag was a real challenge, AND there was no room left on the floor for the sub-piles.

I started on one side and Maryanne started on the other. I had a bit of a panic attack when after a few minutes, I looked up and saw that Maryanne had already filled her big camping backpack. I swear, that huge pile was still exactly the same size. There seemed to be no way this was going to work.

We kept at it for a bit longer and, eventually, the bags were almost full and all that was left on the floor were a few scraps that would easily fit. We ended up with two big 38lb. backpacks, 2 20lb. day packs and – the whopper – the Goodwill bag at 82 lbs. 82lbs. is a bit over the limit for airline baggage (70 max), but Maryanne assured me that, with a little rearranging, we should be able to make it. The thing is that I had to go to work for the week, so I only had room for one of the big packs in addition to my usual crew luggage. That left Maryanne with the remainder. I have managed to book her all the way from Phoenix to Glasgow on one ticket, so hopefully, she’ll be able to check most of it and won’t have to see it until Glasgow, where our next challenge will be to fit it into what I’m sure will be a tiny rental car. After that, we’ll have to get it all into the water taxi and then lift it the ten feet or so up into Footprint. I suppose that’ll make up for not having a gym handy.

[Maryanne]Ahh, packing. Kyle and I tackle this activity from entirely different perspectives and applying entirely different methods. I was not on board with throwing everything on the floor in a big pile - but we survived. Kyle took a picture which I'll post sometime soon here. It was Not easy to have two cooks attempting the same dish in the room (so to speak). I knew all along that we would be just fine, but Kyle was stressing more and more as we approached the "trial packing exercise". We really hadn't bought much, and we'd dumped some of the things we'd arrived with. AND we'd brought a giant suitcase to cover the excess (so big that my little suitcase fit inside it so we didn't have extra bags to check in, just extra space). Kyle panicked before, and during, and afterward was in shock that I was right all along (when will he learn?).

I managed to get the suitcase down to 69.5lb (max being 70lb), and arrived at the airport with two bags to check in, and one to carry aboard.
We are off on our way and looking forward to being reunited with our boat, and crossing our fingers that there are not (or at least not too many) unexpected new problems to deal with when we get there. I've been very interested in the Oban weather for the last few weeks and I can tell you it is COLD there...

Once we arrive, first job is to kick on the heating and dig out the thermals! Once we've defrosted and settled in, I'm sure we'll post again.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Last days in Arizona

[Kyle]As winter gets in its last few punches, like most cruisers, our thoughts drift to the coming first days of spring and Footprint, left to fend for herself through a very cold, windy winter.

For the most part, we haven’t been doing too much out of the ordinary during our stay in Phoenix. I usually arrive home on the long flight from work with a backlog of fatigue caused by irregular hours, o’dark thirty wake up calls and hours in the dreaded middle seat. Usually, it’s all I can do to get through a quick snack and a recap of my week before collapsing in the bed. Subsequent days contain all of the usual day-off chores: unpack, do laundry, repack, run a lot and go to the gym a lot. By the time Maryanne and I get back from the gym, a good part of the day is gone. Plus, we’re tired. It really then only takes a few unexpected errands to eat away at the rest of the day. Next thing we know, my block of days off is coming to an end and I’m dreading the uncomfortable red-eye back to work.

I have actually been pretty lucky during this particularly awful winter. On almost every occasion, the week’s blizzard would start just a few hours after my flight home left. By the time I got back to work, the storm had been gone for a day or so and things were just getting back to normal. This last big storm lingered a little bit into my first day back. Just as I was beginning to get stressed out about how I would make it to work with all of the delays and flight cancellations, they cancelled all of my flights for the day and I got to spend an extra day “stuck” in Phoenix – with pay even!

One of the things we’ve been meaning to do, but just haven’t been able to find the time for is a visit to the nearby White Tank Mountain Regional Park, only minutes away from Mom’s house. Well, we finally made the time.

We got up early, still went to the gym, of course, but then headed to the park {Maryanne: The gym was not so "of course" to me!}. In our usual fashion, we picked the longest, steepest trail we thought we could manage that would still get us in a couple of hours before dark. Our choice was a 9.1 mile loop. It took us over a steep ridge with long views of the valley. Then it descended on the other side to a dry creek bed that plunged steeply back down a canyon that eventually wound itself back to our starting point. The climb reminded us a lot of the Deshaies river scramble (see December 2008) minus the water. There was a lot of opportunity to twist an ankle that, fortunately, we missed. We were pretty tired at the end of the day, but it was nice to get out, get some dirt under our feet and spend some time together.

Scenes from our hike at White Tank Mountain Park

Kyle poses (carefully) with a Teddy Bear Cholla, and Maryanne with a Saguaro Cactus

[Maryanne]One of the things I love about visiting Arizona is the Cactus. They are everywhere, growing 15+ feet tall in peoples gardens, in the divide on the highway, and of course out in the untouched desert. The furry, harmless looking Teddy Bear Cholla (pronounced choi-ya) is a devil in disguise - any slight touch or brush against this cactus leaves you with multiple nasty thorns stuck to you in clumps, and as many pointing out as into your skin (so very difficult to remove). The much more sedate and giant Saguaro (pronounced sah-wah-roh) can live for 150 years, and can form its arms in some pretty impressive shapes. Cactus were not a sight I grew up with (obviously!), and I love to see them up close and everywhere.

[Kyle]A lot of people have been asking if we’re excited about getting back to Footprint. We are, of course, but it’s tempered by trepidation about what we’ll find when we get back to Oban and the sheer amount of work we’ll need to do when we get there to get her ready for the season. As we’re ramping up to get back, our list is taking on a new urgency. Maryanne has been spending much of her time chasing down spare parts shipments and dealing with the myriad logistical details of our return home. Next week, our big task is to do a “test pack”. We need to see if the bags we brought will be big enough to get everything back in one trip.

It is exciting to be poring over charts and guidebooks for our coming season, excited by the anticipation of new places and all the challenges ahead. Once everything’s ready to go, we’re really looking forward to our usual permavacation.

Stay tuned.