Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Are you Ready?

Are you Ready? Is your boat Ready?
What's "On the "A" List, and what's on the "B", "C", "Manana" and "Underway" lists?

I see that my beautiful, and dutiful, wife is outblogging me 24 entries to 2 and, sadly, they are insightful, eloquent entries and have pretty pictures. But FEAR NOT my faithful reading audience (Hi Mom), I will warm up to this blogging thing,  and charm you with my tall tales of oil changes, mysterious electric charges and other boat health snippets!  I'll even sprinkle in some high quality imagery to grab your attention!

Not so clean diesel fuel

Its an incredible adventure we are heading on, and its been a Herculean task getting ready- a constant reminder that the hardest part is actually leaving your homeport dock- if we even had one!  Our boat is a nomad with no permanent dock as we scramble in the final few weeks and move around the Bay Area to get work done, and get ourselves ready.

I've had 15+ years to think about this process - but really grabbing a hold of how to tackle the mountain of issues was quite daunting at first.  Usually, most cruisers will buy their cruising boat several years ahead of their trip and take at least a year to get it ready, work the kinks out, and get used to it.  For a number of reasons, we haven't had that luxury, but I am still confident we will get there.  Fortunately, we found and bought a boat that has been actively cruised for the last two years by competent and caring owners.  This makes a huge difference in keeping systems active, working and being used- as lack of use combined with the marine environment is a terrible combination. Maybe more importantly, the choice we made had a lot to do with the owners whom we have really gotten to know and like - and whose post-sale advice, explanations and help have been completely invaluable - its a great advantage that I am very, very thankful for.

I've gotten to know Family Circus quite well over the last 10 weeks- spending almost every day working through a punch list of items to fix, buy, replace, think about, or learn more about.  Every night I re-write the "list" and get it ready for the next day- hopefully crossing off a few items along the way.  Inevitably, some items linger, as we try and find suppliers, expertise, or we fail in getting it done right the first time.

I've been looking forward to this ten week sprint for the last 6 months- its important to me to really get to know our boat inside and out, at least as much as I can.  Family Circus is certainly more complicated that what we've owned before, but its starting to make more sense and I talk to "her" as I work away.  There is a ton I don't know yet, but I feel much better that I did a few months ago when I stared incredulously at the electrical panel and its rows and rows of switches- all neatly labeled in French.  I've also learned where the "secret" switches are- like which ones turn on the propane/stove, and where the Internet/Wifi Extender is.  (the latter I haven't divulged to the kids yet, nor will I in such a public forum!)
Good diagrams ... in French
We built our priority list based on a variety of sources- Beth Leonard's Voyager Handbook ( a 4 lb. encyclopedia of a book that I have carried on numerous business flights!), John and Amanda Neal's Cruising Seminar, Jimmy Cornell's Seminar, about 15 more books and our own experience from our past two boats.  I've kept an Evernote Notebook going for over two years, and have gathered many notes and ideas, and then I keep an Excel sheet, called "The List" with a tab for each group of priorities.

The "A" priorities are all the fundamentals - boat soundness and condition (haulout), rig, sails, engines , safety items, and all the major systems - charging, refrigeration, watermaking, communications, electronics, etc...  This is the main list I try and work off- and sprinkle anything and everything around these items.  I have gathered some expertise in some of these areas, but I am reliant on marine experts for many- especially to get a "health check".

As much as I can, I sit next to these folks as they do the work and try to learn as much as I can, often getting a chance to turn wrenches, get dirty, or lay upside down under a bunk cleaning something.  I know that the family will be heavily reliant on me to keep the systems up and running so that our adventure can continue, and while I genuinely enjoy learning new things, and how things work, I certainly feel some of the pressure to develop more of a clue that I had previously on many of these items. I am very grateful for some of the wonderful technicians I have gotten to meet and learn from- I also always try and get a cell phone number or email address for future questions!

The "B" and "C" priorities and other "To Do's" are all added to the daily list and we get done as much as we can-  Its actually astounding to see what we can accomplish in today's era vs cruisers who have left before us.  The power of the Internet is in full force as we learn from others, find answers to questions and communicate with suppliers globally.  Add to that the mobile component of our smart phones, and laptop modems, and we get an inordinate amount done in a day, wherever we are.
Yes..that is the center of an electric marine toilet - "Yay me- this is so glamorous and exotic!"

So....where do we stand today? at this very moment?  It's the question I get most these days- some version of "Are you ready?" "Is your boat ready?"

I'd answer it in two ways:  First, we've talked to enough cruisers to know that you never ever finish your punch list, it just doesn't happen.  You just have to go.  Second - I think we're getting close.  We have a few final big hurdles to get through over the next week (did I just say that? a week?) - a few final health checks that need to come back positive- but I think we're getting close enough.  I remember a switch in my mentality in the middle of last week, when I made peace with the fact I wasn't going to get it all done, and that I just needed to make sure the right things were done and everything else would take care of itself.

I also keep reminding myself of why we are doing this and to keep forging forward- I can catch up on sleep later..under some palm tree on a deserted beach, or in my bunk, as the Pacific Ocean slides by, lapping the hull.
Why? For moments like this, ... with her  (and the kids)

In some ways, maybe its ME that hasn't been ready yet- Family Circus looks at me so patiently every morning as I come down the dock to start the day's list.  I'm starting to wonder if she's thinking: "Dude, I was built in France, sailed in England, across the Atlantic to the US, through the Caribbean, Panama Canal and Central America and up to San Francisco....exactly WHAT are we waiting for?"
Family Circus- ready to break some dock lines

Not much, ..I'M almost ready- I can feel it.

Thanks again for all of your wonderful comments- please make sure to leave them in the blog online! We love to get them!

Monday, September 29, 2014

On the count down...

Okay,  we are on the final count down.  We have less than two weeks before we depart.  I can't believe it is finally here and the anxiety is now setting in.  Many sleepless nights worrying about if we have crossed the T's and dotted the I's.  Chris has been working so hard on getting the boat ready.  When we bought the boat we never would have thought it would have been so much work.  We really thought that we could just turn the boat around and go back out.  But as anyone who has owned a boat in the past knows that it is NEVER that easy.  A lot of what we have been working on is stuff that we wanted to have added to the boat and other things that we knew needed to be fixed... we just never thought it would take so long to line up all the marine technicians to get these things accomplished.  We now have our new name on the boat and business cards are on order....

We are basically taking it down to the wire with a scuba compressor inspection, generator inspection and a refrigerator repair lined up for next monday and hopefully it doesn't require us to order parts to get our refrigerator and freezer up and running efficiently.  Yes as of right now my fridge does NOT work on the boat.... Ugh.. can anyone say, aseptic packaging... :@) yum!

We have been having so much fun on the weekends taking out friends and family and also getting our sailing practice in with the kids.  We also met a new family that saw us anchored out on Angel island last weekend.  We had just got the new name on our boat applied and I was joking with Chris that he needs to behave himself because now people can hunt us down.  Low and behold we were contacted by them.  They are planning on leaving next year and wanted to pick our brain for ideas and contractors.  It was a real eye opener to be on the other end of that call and be the one that people were asking us questions... We ended up anchoring at treasure island with them and hosted dinner on our boat while the kids played on the beach.  It was so fun talking to them.  The kids had a great time  and then we had a movie night on the boat.

Homeschooling is getting better day by day.  We are constantly making changes to the calvert program that we are using.  The older kids are really beginning to get in a grove and are able to sit down and teach themselves a lot of the material.  It is really hard to have a routine right now.  We are living between two places and so our materials are scattered.  We will aim to live on the boat starting Wednesday 10/1 so hopefully the kids will be able to get up and just start their instructions.  Mykaela has been a tremendous help with Amaia.  She has taken over teaching her and it has really helped to free my time up for Alexia and Alina.  So far Tristan is flying through the review and getting all of the tests correct so I am letting him continue what he is doing until he gives me a shout...  Alina has really taken off with her reading and writing.  I am so proud of her.  She truly loves to write and comes up with some really cute stories.

I believe I have almost everything on the boat and organized... for the most part.  I have the kitchen finally done after I receive my last Amazon shipment of Lock&Lock containers for the dry goods.  Our provisioning is 80% complete.... need the fresh goods/ root vegetables and flour/sugar and black beans.   I have gone thru all the kids clothing and sorted/folded and organized them.  I have gone thru all of our medical supplies and will be picking up the last of the pharmaceuticals this week.  We still need to go thru our ditch bags (these are the OH SHIT bags for when we need to abandon ship)  Hopefully they will never be pulled out.  We have all our radio equipment up and running, Satalitte phone should arrive in a few days from Seattle, and lifeboat is repacked and certified.

We have tested all the paddle boards and kayaks, now we need to go thru the dive gear and the wetsuits to make sure we all have a functioning mask.  I believe we have all the toys/games on the boat that we are bringing... Tristan said today that if he could only bring one thing on the trip with us it would be his kindle... boy I tell you that is music to my ears.  I can't tell you how nice it is to wake up and either see your kids laying in bed reading their kindles or out on the paddle boats going to the beach.  Im really looking forward to this part of the trip.  And yes we are the geeks that have purchased their own crew shirts for our trip.  I actually am very proud of them and wear them often....  Tristan and I were wearing ours the other day when someone asked if that cartoon was still running... others ask us if we are a traveling circus family... it is fun to see the looks we get and the questions that are asked.  It is definitely a conversation starter while you are waiting in line.

We are planning on leaving between 10/7 and 10/10.  We are starting to watch for the weather window now to see what day would work best for our path and direction.  We are planning on going out under the gate and turning left towards Catalina Island.  We are planning on going straight there.  It should take us about 2 to 3 days to get to the beginning of the Channel Islands.  We will tootle around there for a few days and then we would like to be in San Diego on 10/17.

My fear and anxiety is starting to kick in.... I really need to get some sleep and to start thinking of the trip in small sections.  Kind of like when I am running and I set little goals for myself.  Right now I am only telling myself we are going to Catalina Island.... I can do that... One small step at a time.  We can always turn around if we need to or stay put somewhere.... I wake up at night with shortness of breath and feel like I am going to implode... I tell my self I just need to do this... I can do this, be brave, be strong, be courageous... I am like Pocahontas riding the colors of the wind... Right?  UGH!
Others have done it...  all that crap...

Here we go... JUST DOING IT!

May there be fair winds and smooth sails!


Friday, September 26, 2014

This is one of the reasons we are casting the lines and sailing away for a short time....

    Chris and I have several reasons for making the decision we have about uprooting our family and sailing away.  We will outline more later, but this article was brought to my attention by a dear friend and I was elated to see that this is one of the reasons that we are trying to get away and hopefully let the kids be the kids they are... to dream, discover and create... with nature.

  Now don't get me wrong.... as Chris says, "our boat is below water line because of all of our art supplies you are bringing."  I can't help it.  I have visions of the kids nature journaling and then decorating all the pictures, poems, stories, and songs they will write...  But we also are excited that they will be playing with what is around them instead of all the electronics.. sea life, rocks, sand castles, climbing trees, forts from palm fronds... things that they find that are washed up on shore....

I may be deceiving myself but I am going to stick with my thoughts and dreams and hope that the kids can go back 40 years and start with the basics like we all grew up.  We didn't turn out so bad and we know how to problem solve, be creative with what we have, and really think for ourselves... I hope this works for them as well.... at least show them what is possible.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Safety Week for Family Circus....

This week we focused on all of our safety equipment.  We took this week to inventory all of our jack lines, lifejackets, medical kits, emergency radio equipment, lifeboat, along with going on a test run in the ocean overnight at half moon bay.

I have to tell you that this week was a learning lesson for me along with reassurance that this is actually doable.  We started the week going to Sal's Inflatables and blowing up our life raft.  It was a great having all the kids there and Sal was amazing and patient.  He really got all the kids involved to show them what needs to be done and what is packed in the life raft.  He had us all climb in and then talked us through what we will be doing step by step in terms of deploying the life raft and what it will be like out there.... Hopefully we will never have to use this but it was nice to be able to visualize for us and the kids.

Sal was wonderful and also gave us some rations that would be packed in our life boat for the kids to try.   He said everyone gets one bar in the morning, one bar in the afternoon and one bar at night... can't imagine living on this for very long...

The captain (hee hee) picked the best day ever to go out on the ocean on Wednesday.  We took our first ocean trip with the kids.... YES, I did say first ocean journey.  We have to start sometime.  The kids did fantastic.  We only had to remind them once or twice in 2 days to wear their life jackets.

We were all harnessed in at all times and if we went outside of the cockpit we wore the lifejackets.  It was a VERY mellow day, almost like a lake out there, a very good way to start and to do some training.  We had about 5-11 knots of wind, which we were pleasantly surprised at how well the boat moved in light winds.  It took us about 5 hours to get down to half moon bay because we had to tack back and forth... there was an unusual wind coming from the south so we were heading into the wind.     When we got there it was amazing.... there were quite a few fishing boats in the harbor, then we saw for the first time a humpback whale!  The kids were so excited.  Of course you keep looking in hopes of seeing it again, and we did.  The whale was circling our boat.  We were in about 30ft of water and it kept coming up for air.  Really amazing to see!  The next morning Amaia and I looked up humpback whales in our book and we discovered that the whale was creating a bubble net to catch fish.  No wonder there were so many fishing boats.  The whale was doing all the work.

 It was a really beautiful evening.  We chose to anchor instead of dock because where the dock was located it smelled so bad from all the bird droppings on the wall break.  There were so many pelicans that took up home there, I couldn't believe it.  Once anchored we went to dinner, great food and really nice people at Ketch Joanne's...
 On the way home in the dinghy it was dark, so I was using a flashlight to guide our way.  I shined it up on the wall to see the pelicans and I guess I startled them.  They were like bats flying out of a cave and diving right over our heads and into the water in front of us... This wall had at least 100 or more and as we went by with the dinghy motor they would fly off the wall and zoom right above our heads or land in the water by our boat... I didn't expect that, after the initial shock and fear of being hit the kids were really enjoying the chaos.  Don't worry no birds got hurt in this venture.....

The ride home is not as pleasant as on the way down.  We all got sea sick, we were heading down wind with barely any breeze so we were just bobbing out there... the swells were a little bigger, but the problem though is that it was confused seas so there was no rhythm to get used to... but it is this feeling that we will eventually need to get used to.  Fun Stuff... NOT!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Oh noooo.... Replying to the automatic emails sent via the blog...

I was having lunch with some friends on Sunday and the subject of the blog came up.   I was asked if I was getting the comments or responses to the emails... and all the worldly wisdom that is coming my way... I wasn't!

I am so looking forward to the comments, questions and communication that this blog will help us in staying in touch with everyone.  I didn't realize that when you receive my automatic emails you CANNOT hit reply to them to send me an email.  If you hit reply to the email it goes to the NOREPLY@blogspot.com.  What you have to do, is at the bottom of the page go to our blog link and open up the blog and then send an email through the "contact us form".  Or you can send us an email using my gmail account at htzortzis@gmail.com.

Sorry for the extra steps and I hope it doesn't deter you from sending us a note.  I truly am looking forward to all the words of wisdom, funny comments or inspirations coming from ya'll back on land.  Believe me I know there will be days we need it.  

Thanks again for following us and sending us all the good thoughts and encouragement.

Heath and family.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Running tests through all systems.....

So this is another of our little tests that we will be going through... We are in the process of setting up all systems while we are out at sea and are currently trying to figure out how all of our communication will be working.  We have installed the SSB Radio and have our station licenses for chris, myself and the boat.  We have our sail mail accounts and our win link accounts and have been receiving weather faxes and GRIB files through our boat computer and storing on the hard drive so we can analyze weather patterns from Mexico to California.  I say we a lot in this but actually it is Chris that is studying all of this... I need to literally jump on board and start to assign myself homework in these areas as well.

We have now completed the first full week in school.  I have made some small adjustments and am realizing that if we don't kill ourselves to try and complete all the work assigned in one day, we will be okay.  Half of the kids are really taking on the responsibility/initiative and are getting up in the morning and just jumping right to it.  The other half are slow to rise and easily get distracted and procrastinate in getting their assignments done but we are painfully learning, this really is school and we need to do the work... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9......  I am hopeful that we will be acclimated soon to the new structure and freedoms or lack of.

The boat list of "To Do's" shrinks and then we open up a new can of worms and we have a whole new list... The good news is that we are at the point where our list of things Major to do is shrinking and the list of Minor things we would like to do is growing.  

The boat has been hauled out, with new bottom paint, Props, Seals for the engines, all sails and rigging is completed, engines are completed, SSB Radio is installed, Toilet is fixed (Alina already put something down that wasn't suppose to go), and refrigeration is being worked on.  We have the generator to be serviced, the dive compressor and water maker.  Next week is safety week and we will be going over all of our safety equipment.  On Tuesday we will have the life raft repacked at Sals Inflatables in Alameda and all the kids will be there so they can see what it looks like.  One day a field trip to the coast guard on Treasure Island so the kids can practice sending off flares and fire extinguishers, practice calling on the radio and going through all of our tethers, life jackets and medical supplies.  We will also start running some sailing drills for man overboard and reefing techniques with the kids so everyone knows what to do in an emergency...  

We have changed the name of the boat from "On Delay" to "Family Circus" and the new name decals will most likely be put on this weekend.  We will then have our naming ceremony and sacrifices to all the gods of the wind and sea... Neptune, Poseidon and Aeolus.  We want to make sure to start off with the Gods in good spirits and with us.  




Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
- Mark Twain

Sunday, September 7, 2014

School is in session.....

Ooohhh it is just like christmas.... the kids are so excited to get all of their school supplies delivered.  We received the 5 boxes of supplies from Calvert Charter School.  Each of these boxes I swear weighed 50 pounds... What the heck... This school is known for working with cruisers... they should know that this amount of weight will definitely put us below the water line... It took 1/2 a day just to go through all the materials and decide what we really need and what can we do without.  5 science scales probably not necessary...  Maybe these will be a donation to the BVE science lab.  It was a little overwhelming for me to go through all of this material.   I think it finally sunk in how much work this is going to be for me to sit and teach 4 years of school in one year.... Especially since I am not a teacher.   I kept thinking to myself... Okay, here we go... let's just DO IT!

I am so proud of my students... I mean kids.  Alexia and Tristan decided to start their school a day early.  I had some doctors appts for the little girls so they took it upon themselves to go through the 10 workbooks/manuals that were sent and decipher what they needed to do.  They fumbled through and got organized and familiar with what each of the manuals were referencing and after about 6 hours finished most of their first day of school.

The next day I started officially sitting with the kids and helping them with their school work.  I sat between Alina and Amaia and went back and forth between subjects.  Starting with Math and then moving on to reading, comprehension, grammar, science, geography and social studies.  I have to tell you that I was worn out.  I was answering questions and explaining for 4 different grades simultaneously ... I felt like I was a pinball going back and forth.  I have to say that it didn't take very long for the kids to understand patience and also the art of disappearing when the teacher was distracted with another student... UGH>  I truly have always given credit to teachers but now more than ever... To keep the kids focused and on task with be a challenge.  Even with the complications of a small area, a lot of distractions and noise the kids handled it very well and I am really looking forward to their progress and spending this time with them.  It is really fun to watch their little wheels turning.

Alina was finished in about 3 1/2 hours with what she was assigned to complete.  Amaia's work assignments took about 4 hours and we didn't finish all of it... and tristan and alexia are at about 6 hours so far.  I hope that once we get the system down better and understand the manuals and programs better that it won't take as long to get through... I really thought that the schooling part of our day would be maximum 6 hours... I may have underestimated the task at hand.

After about 4 hours of school... I decided since we were in Sausalito and in the Marina right next to the Bay Model and the building of the new Bay Area Tall Ship we HAD to go on a FIELD TRIP... The kids thought this was the best idea ever.

Tomorrow starts a new week and I think I may add a PE section into the mix... How about paddle boarding and small boat sailing... Love it!