A slow day racing is better than no day racing

We’re not really hardcore sailboat racers.

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In fact, I entered the boating world by restoring a sunken sailboat that didn’t move for almost three years. That probably makes me more of a sailboat mechanic than an actual sailor. I only took the ASA basic keel boat course because I needed to know how to run the lines when I put the boat back together.

Laid back cruising has always been the plan.

However, after being invited to crew on Antares last year, I’m really starting to enjoy racing. It’s definitely been great practice for sailing on our own boat, and we’ve made lots of new friends.

Last weekend Mary surprised me with a new set of Henry Lloyd foulies as an early birthday present, so I’d have them for the last two icicle series races.

They’re very nice. I put them on Saturday morning, and even the snowy egret hopped up on the breakwater to check them out.

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However, the foulies proved completely unnecessary. By race time the weather was so nice, and the wind was so light that we actually got Mary to come along for the ride as crew photographer.

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There was enough crew to run both Antares, Doug’s Cal 40, and Hippokampus, Andy’s Pearson 422.

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First leg started with the spinnaker flying, but even with the kites up, this photo pretty much captures the speed and intensity of the entire race.

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Yes, he’s napping on the transom. They also had a guy napping on foredeck.

Hippokampus was flying her spinnaker for the first time. The red, white and blue definitely looked good.

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I got some good practice working the spin sheets and the jib sheets, and Mary got some good photos.

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Weird boats I’m not allowed to buy (From Mary)

Ok so…I am constantly on the hunt for a new boat.  Not that there is anything wrong with our boat, or that I really intend to buy one, but you never know what you will find.

So here I would like to introduce you to a few amazing boats that my husband will never allow me to purchase.

1. The Podcat http://www.yachtworld.com/boats/1986/Podcat–2731621/Santa-Barbara/CA/United-States#.VMf1of54qmQ

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This boat is super fast, and super retro, and looks like a frikin space ship.  Unfortunately though, its small, and also probably impossible to find replacement parts for, and for these reasons I will never be able to zoom past you in my amazing space boat. Seriously check out the windows on the back..they look like thrusters.

Theres also a video of it in action here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_8BQVSKheQ

2. Basically any old pirate ship

There is a steady stream of amazing old pirate ships on craigslist.  This one was my most recent fantasy thanks to my friend Shari: http://globalnews.ca/news/1704973/watch-pirate-ship-for-sale-in-california/

Because you know..if you could just get a few sailing buddies together, it wouldn’t be that much, and then HIGH SEAS ADVENTURE.  I mean..I don’t need anything else in my life.

3. For Cheap or Trade, large liveaboard, Needs work

If you spend any time at all on craigslist, you have seen this boat.  Its big, it may or may not have an interior.  Sometimes it has never even been in the water, and maybe it is just glued together boards.  A few examples of the things this guy is willing to trade for include a Honda motorcycle or $50.

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Don’t get me wrong.  I mean no disrespect to this guy. Every bit of white trash in me wants to buy this thing, put it on my lawn and slowly glue stuff onto it until it will float.

In case you would like to buy this boat: http://houston.craigslist.org/boa/4821672463.html

4. A Wharram…anything. 

I love these boats, they look like something out of a movie.  My husband won’t let me have one…that is all.

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This one is a pretty sweet example…I love the gang planks that lower down.

http://www.yachtworld.com/boats/2011/Wharram-Oro-2655892/Tacoma/WA/United-States#.VMf8Nv54qmQ

Our new feathered friend

Last weekend we had a new bird take up residence near Gimme Shelter. Every morning this snowy egret was walking the shallows just the other side of the breakwater.

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While he kept an eye on us and refused to eat while we were watching, he never flew away. I left him to catch his breakfast while I went to eat mine. I was excited to see him again the next morning when we got up to walk the dogs.

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Rarely are birds and animals close enough to shoot with the rangefinder, but he (or she, I have no idea how to tell the gender) was close enough that I managed to capture these shots with the M9 using the 135mm f2.8 Leica Elmarit lens.

All of the rocks in that area disappear under water when the summer tides and south wind return, but hopefully our new egret friend will stick around and have breakfast with us for a few more weekends.

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Sunsets

The brief appearance by the sun last week brought a weekend full of really nice sunsets.

Friday we had pink clouds over Clear Lake.

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Saturday was by the far the most dramatic. The sunset snuck up on me from behind Crazy Allen’s Swamp Shack at the Kemah Boardwalk while we were still celebrating the finish of that afternoon’s Icicle Series Regatta.

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And after two beautiful sunsets in a row, Mary and I wanted to be ready for Sunday’s show. Unfortunately after making the hike around Watergate to find a great viewing spot, it turned out more low key than the others, but it was still nice.

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Today the gray skies and rain have returned. Hopefully it clears up and warms back up by Saturday.

How much fire is too much fire?

If you’ve cooked on your boat, you’ve probably lit a fire on your boat.

Both the Seahorse and Gimme Shelter have been equipped with Origo alcohol stoves.

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We’re hesitant to cook on them because alcohol is more expensive than just plugging in an electric griddle or using an electric coffee pot while at the marina … and also because I did manage to set the galley of the Seahorse on fire during one breakfast incident when I thought the burners had gone out. I tried to refill them, but they weren’t really out — flash fire. Thankfully we only ended up with a melted dish rack and a few singed spots on the couch, but ever since then we’ve been incredibly fire conscious.

I actually refurbished a propane oven, but it was a very old model with zero safety features (and it wasn’t cooking things very evenly either). So after much debate we decided to sell the oven and stick with the alcohol stove for now.

Gimme Shelter also came with an oil lamp mounted on the bulkhead. We finally decided to fill it up and give it a try last weekend.

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Despite the paraffin lamp fuel claiming to be odor free, I could still smell it burning. I also instantly became paranoid that it would either set the boat on fire or kill us with carbon-monoxide poisoning.

I know that for centuries sailors have safely had lamps and stoves on boats, but the second I light them I can’t stop being paranoid the boat will burn down.

So tell me, do you cook on your boat? If so, do you use alcohol or propane? Would you use an oil lamp? How much ventilation does an alcohol stove or an oil lamp require, so that the fumes aren’t dangerous? What fire prevention measures do you have in place?

Anchor lights and other things at the top of the mast

When we purchased Gimme Shelter, she did not have an anchor light. The previous owner had been hanging a small light off the backstay. After a few close calls with some not-so-smart boaters while anchored out to watch fireworks last summer, I decided the backstay light was not hacking it. (Yes, I said last summer. You can’t rush these projects when there’s important things to do like sailing, drinking and playing music.)

Many months ago our friend Rene had donated this Seasense LED anchor light he had left over after a project on his Morgan. Many thanks, Rene!

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This weekend it was finally warm enough to tackle the job. However, first I had to do some investigation and answer some important questions like, where did the anchor light switch and wiring go? I wasn’t sure if I was going to have to run all new wire or not.

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Gimme Shelter came with a “solar charger.” Basically there was a huge 15 watt panel in the aft berth with a 12v DC plug. If you carried the giant, outdated panel outside and plugged it into the 12v socket in the binnacle, then flipped that “solar charger” switch, the panel would ever-so-slightly feed the batteries. I decided the “solar charger” switch was probably a good place to start looking for anchor light clues.

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Yep, under the solar charger label was the anchor light switch. However, it obviously was no longer wired to the anchor light, so the investigation had to move behind the panel.

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What a mess?! However, almost all the wires still had their tiny factory label ring on them. I found two red wires that were no longer hooked to anything. One was labeled “G” and one was labeled “5”. The wire going to the steaming light was labeled “4”, so I took a gamble and hooked wire “5” to the anchor light switch and flipped it on. Suddenly I had 12 volts  running to the wiring plug at the base of the mast! (I still don’t know where the “G” wire leads.)

The anchor light wires were still attached to the plug and running up the mast, but we had no idea if they still made it all the way to the top, and there was only one way to find out. It was time to put on the harness and head up the beanstalk.

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Since Mary doesn’t have the strength to crank me up the mast, and she doesn’t care for heights, we invested in a MastMate. It’s a nylon ladder that connects to the main halyard and runs up the sail track. I still wear a harness and connect the topping lift to my harness just in case, but it makes going up and down much easier. Mary just takes up or lets out slack and ties me off instead of having to crank me up.

I was greeted at the top with a disturbing sight.

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A lizard was literally impaled on the end of the windex. How does that even happen?

I’d taken up a bag of tools, so I went to work unscrewing the cap to the top of the mast. However, once unscrewed the top wouldn’t budge. I had to retreat down the mast to find a pry bar.

Once back up the mast with the biggest screwdriver in the box, I did manage to pop the top and found this.

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Can anyone enlighten me as to why there are two sheaves in the middle of the mast? If they had been the same size as the sheaves in front I would have switched them out, so I could run a second jib halyard, but they weren’t quite the same size. I lifted them out and began searching for the anchor light wires.

Hallelujah, the wires were still there. After spending what felt like an eternity balanced on one foot reaching down the mast with a long pair of needlenose pliers I finally grabbed them and was able to slide them back up to the top. I then clamped a set of vice grips on them, so they wouldn’t fall back down the mast. After trimming and stripping the ends, the multimeter verified that I had 12 volts at the top of the mast. (I was astounded because boat projects never go this way.)

At this point I needed to take another break, so I left the vice grips holding the wires and climbed back down with the mast cap. I decided the easiest plan of action was to mount the light to the cap on the ground, then take it all back up as one piece for installation.

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In the perfect world I would have cleaned and repainted the cap, but even though this project was going surprisingly well, I was still running out of daylight, and I needed to get everything back together before heading home.

For the third time I climbed the mast. I crimped the wires together, taped it all up, released the vice grips and screwed the top back into place.

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And just as I leaned back to bask in the glory of my flawless victory, I broke off the windex!

I wasn’t too upset. I mean, there was a dead lizard stuck on it anyway.

I ended the day with only one injury. Somehow I gave myself a blood blister on my pinkie – no idea how.

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It felt so good to finally scratch the anchor light off our work list (even though I had to pencil in “replace windex” at the bottom). I was amazed that we never even had to make a trip to West Marine! I don’t know if that means we’re getting better at projects or that we got really lucky this time.

As we took one last walk with the dogs before sunset, I could see our new anchor light shining proudly across the marina. (Our mast is the tiny one right in the middle of the photo. And by shining proudly, I mean, I could barely see it because it was still daylight, but it was definitely on, so that counts.)

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We finally have all of our lights functioning. Hopefully we will spend many nights anchored out this year.

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It’s so good to see the sun

After three weeks of the dreariest weather you can imagine, the sun is actually visible in the sky today. It’s still cold. In fact, there was frost on the cars and grass this morning, not something that happens too often in Houston.
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I have no idea how people living further north manage to deal with winter.

Here’s one more video we made while stuck inside with nothing to do last weekend. Hope you enjoy.

Tiny Desk Concert Contest

What do you do when it’s 39 degrees and raining outside? Stay in and play music, of course.

Mary and I just finished writing and recording Write You a Letter, our entry for the NPR Tiny Desk Concert Contest.

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Note, as the contest requires we have a tiny desk, and Mary even uses a typewriter as one of the percussion instruments.

Whether or not we win, we figured the world can always use another song about sailing away.

Thanks for taking the time to listen, and I hope you enjoy.

Poor little Tex

Despite my protests, Mary adopted this little guy in 2011. He was the tiniest dog at the rescue.

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While cute, we found that tiny dogs come with their own unique health problems. While Tex now enjoys the perks of traveling around the US, sailing on the weekends, and sleeping on fluffy pillows, he still has terrible dental problems and occasional seizures. During Monday’s visit to the vet they had to pull SIX teeth.

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The poor guy didn’t have many teeth when we adopted him. Now he’s only got four left.

Despite the trauma of the anesthesia and oral surgery on Monday, he already seems back to his normal self and definitely is not upset that he now gets to eat wet dog food. However, his big sister Dixie Belle is quite jealous of his new food and all the attention he’s gotten the past few days.

Now he just wishes he could stop getting baths.

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