Beta Centauri: The Voyager of Hadar

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I like sailing movies and documentaries. I’ve laughed my way through Captain Ron numerous times, and I’ve watched Deep Water in awe as Donald Crowhurst literally goes insane while attempting to sail solo around the world. I even love the campy overly-dramaticized 1970s story of Robin Lee Graham in The Dove — especially when the sharks eat his cat.

Needless to say I’m always on the lookout for a new sailing movie.

A few weeks ago I got a Facebook friend request from Beta Centauri. I think Daniel Paulson, or whoever is helping him with marketing, was just sending requests to everyone who was a member of various sailing groups on Facebook.

I noted that it was supposedly a sailing movie, but I wasn’t sure what to think of it. I kind of ignored the posts. But, then I was in the local Boater’s Resale Shop and low and behold, there was a stack of Beta Centauri DVDs for sale on the checkout counter. I decided I’d risk $12.99 to see what it was all about.

First off, let me tell you what is right about this movie because I don’t want to sound like I’m being negative. It’s an amazing feat that Dino Paulson and his daughter sailed around the world. I haven’t done it. I’m not yet prepared to do it. And not only did he sail around the world, he did the first half without a working engine. It was very impressive.

I also appreciated that he and the narrator worked to do some research and provide some history on each location in the film. There is some beautiful footage of the Coral Sea in Fiji and some great wildlife footage of the animals in South Africa.

However … there’s an awful lot of handheld selfie footage … like, A LOT a lot. There’s also a ton of graphics/stock images to fill the screen as the narrator tries to connect one thing to the next. Some of it, like the info about the dodo and animal extinction works. Some of it is just filler.

I liked the fact that Dino interviewed other cruisers in every port as he went around the world. However, the questions asked weren’t all that poignant and everyone seemed to want to wax philosophical. He interviews a guy shipwrecked on Palmerston Island, but he never asks him how he plans to leave … or if he even plans to leave … or if maybe he needs a ride.

The other thing about making a documentary about yourself is when you ask friends and family about yourself, they say really nice things about you. And the guy is obviously out there doing some amazing things on a Morgan 41, but it was refreshing at the end to finally hear his daughter say she hated sailing and to hear his mother say she wished he’d just settle down in the city.

So yes, there’s quite a bit of selfie footage. There’s some issues with the sound mixing. There’s some problems with the lower-thirds not being completely on the screen or being misspelled. But hey, the guy sailed around the freaking world and made the documentary completely by himself, I can cut him some slack.

Now there’s some things I really wish had been in the movie. For instance, we know that SV Hadar’s engine is dead half the movie. It’s too bad he never explained his power system and how he was keeping everything charged. I also assume he had a watermaker for those 30+ day passages, but I have no idea. What they did for water was never mentioned. The only things that get discussed are the heat exchanger, the starter and the autopilot because those are the things that break.

Hadar also has an amazing graphic of a woman or an angel or something on the hull. But there’s never a long clear shot of it with any discussion of what it is or what it means.

So was it worth $12.99?

I’d say, yes. I did learn something about each location in the movie, and I will be making a fishing lure with two weights, a frayed bunji cord and a hook. I have also added “pet a giant tortoise” to my bucket list.

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Tales from the Galley: Bacon Cheddar Ranch Dip

After much begging, cajoling and flattery, I finally talked Mary into appearing on video. We’re experimenting with a new feature called Tales from the Galley where she will walk you through different aspects of cooking on a boat. To start things off we chose something very short and simple from the Boat Galley Cookbook, a Bacon Cheddar Ranch Dip. However, if you like the idea, please send us suggestions for dishes you’d like to see prepared or any questions you may have regarding cooking on a boat.

Thanks for watching!

Boat Galley Cookbook

4 Ways we Reduced Trash, on and off the Boat

In the general spirit of earth day, I decided to try to make 4 changes in our household that would reduce the amount of general trash that we produce. On the boat the reasons are obvious — there is limited space. Besides having a tiny trash can, it gets old to constantly haul tons of tiny bags of trash to the dumpster, and the dumpster is only an option in the marina. At sea you may have to live with that trash for weeks and weeks.

Instead of buying a bigger trashcan and increasing the percentage of our small boat that was full of trash, I decided to make some changes. Most of our trash on the boat is cans and bottles, almost 100%. There is no recycling offered at the marina. So that leads me to..

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#1. Reusable bottles. While I wish we could trust the water from our holding tanks, it tastes terrible. However, from now on we’ve committed to never buying disposable plastic water bottles. We have several reusable bottles of different colors that we refill and keep in the fridge — most of which were free at some event or another. This provides the added benefit of being able to take the big jugs of drinking water home to refill them for free.

Besides buying pony kegs of beer or one of those soda makers I couldn’t think of anymore ways to reduce waste on the boat, and neither of those options seemed highly practical for weekenders. However, I’m open to more tips or suggestions.  We can always use less waste!

Not wanting to give up, I turned to our land-lubbing abode to find my other 3 rules to inflict on my husband.

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#2. Recycling at home. I cleaned out our pantry and went to the garage to find Fred’s recycling crate. He has never once used it…ever. It was totally full of junk, as a lot of things are in our garage. After spending way more time than I expected cleaning the garage (once you start it’s hard to stop), I installed our new recycling crate right in the pantry where hopefully it will get lots of use.

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#3. Composting. To go right along with my gardening I have this delightful composter. While I don’t get a lot of dirt back out of it, it does seem to make all of my yard/kitchen waste go away.

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#4. Reusable grocery bags. I had about 100 of these bags scattered throughout my house, not doing anyone any good.  I combined them all into the biggest bag, and I moved them out into my car. I figure even if I forget to take them back out here and there, I should have enough bags for grocery shopping already in my car for about a year. No excuses.

I know it’s not much, but it’s a start. Please feel free to leave any more tips on reducing waste!

We had guests!

We invite lots of people to go sailing with us, but schedules are complicated, lives are busy, and the weather hasn’t been too cooperative lately. However, we did finally have a break in the rain long enough Saturday afternoon to take our friends Andy and Jayne out to Redfish Island and back. They were the first guests we’ve had on Gimme Shelter since Thanksgiving.

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The wind was shifting around a bit, but we made it from the Kemah bridge to Redfish with only two tacks, and we had no trouble setting the anchor. Mary had chicken legs marinating in a honey mustard sauce, so we got a chance to use the new grill again.

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It was perfect weather for an outdoor dinner in the cockpit. We’ll be on the same catamaran as Andy and Jayne in the Spanish Virgin Islands, and I’m definitely looking forward to more of these dinners overlooking beautiful blue water.

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After dinner we followed the sun home and watched it disappear over the horizon.

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Thank you to Andy and Jayne for sailing with us. It’s already raining again, but hopefully we’ll be back on the water next weekend.

Planning the Spanish Virgin Islands

In June we’ll be making our first big trip of the year, flying from Houston to Puerto Rico, then spending a week on a Lagoon Catamaran exploring the Spanish Virgin Islands.

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We were invited on the trip by friends we made crewing in the Icicle Series Regatta — yet another reason why it pays to spend some time crewing on different boats and meeting new people in the sailing community.

While it’s too early to know what the weather will be doing in June, we have started mapping out our planned destinations and creating an ambitious but tentative itinerary. I wasn’t familiar with the SVIs, so I spent today mapping it out to better understand the trip.

Now to do some research on all of the things to see and do in these locations!

Mary’s thoughts on Sperrys

One of my friends the other day asked me if it’s true that boaters wear special shoes. Well we do, and for us at least in the past our choice has been Sperrys. These below are the current members of our collection. (I might have a few more pairs of shoes than Fred … )

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When choosing boat shoes I look for four things: non-marking soles, good grip on deck, comfort and style.

While I love my Sperrys for their style, I have trouble with blisters. They’re fine for short stints on deck, but if I walk around the marina in them my feet are killing me.

Fred, while finding his shoes to be very comfortable and wearing them all the time, has only had them for 14 months, and they are no longer gripping the deck. When this happens the shoes are actually dangerous, so he’s not allowed to wear them on the boat anymore.

We have fallen into the pattern of using the shoes for the first year on the boat, and then after that they become casual city shoes.

Recently Sperry came out with these new shoes, which for me anyway may be a solution.  Supposedly breathable, pack-able and flexible. I will have to give them a try to let you know what I think — except they’re $75. Maybe if I buy them I’ll be able to do yoga on a surf board like the girl in the picture.

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Lately I’ve just been giving up on looking fashionable and have been wearing some regular old Nike sneakers with white soles. I have to say, they look pretty awful, but man they are comfortable. They also dry fast and grip really well. I can walk for miles in them with no blister issues.

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Then there is always the option of going barefoot. I feel like there is some sort of rift on this subject with experienced sailors on either side of the issue. On one side going barefoot is comfortable, free, quick drying, and generally in the spirit of the vagabond lifestyle. On the other hand, if you are out on the ocean and you break a toe, it could be a problem. Although even on land most people will just let a broken toe heal on its own, so unless you manage to break your whole foot, it’s probably not going to be life or death. So far Fred has already broken two toes since we purchased Gimme Shelter. He kicked a dock cleat while not even on the boat, and then he broke the other toe on a pulley for the jib mounted on the deck. Since then he has been consistently wearing shoes, but with summer fast approaching and his shoes having hardened dangerous soles we will be back to barefoot before you know it. I can’t see myself dropping $150+ on another pair of Sperrys for both of us this year.

Does anyone have any suggestions for comfortable, long lasting boat shoes that don’t make me look like a soccer mom?

I’m not much of a cyclist

In 2007 I was asked to spend a Saturday in La Grange, Texas photographing cyclists doing some sort of two-day charity ride from Houston to Austin. That was my first exposure to the BP MS 150, and the energy and atmosphere was overwhelming. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since I was 12, but right then and there I pledged to ride in 2008.

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I bought a bike, I trained, and I rode the 187 miles from Houston to Austin. That year I raised $660 for the National MS Society.

Despite swearing that I’d never put myself through that misery again, in 2009 I found myself back on the bike.

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That year I raised $850 for the National MS Society.

In 2010 I’d had enough riding. I sold my bike, and I took over as Team Captain and organizer for the Technip MS 150 Team. For the past five years the BP MS 150 hasn’t just been a charity event, it’s been MY charity event.

I was content to organize for a couple years, but as you sit in the team tent and congratulate the riders for besting the challenge, you just want to be out there, so in 2013 insanity struck again. I bought another bike and made another ride, although this time my back and my legs weren’t holding up as well even though I did the shorter express route, which was only 167 miles.

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I was supposed to ride again in 2014, but I was introduced to sailboat racing that year with the GBCA Icicle Series, which took place the same weekends I should have been training for the ride. Then I ended up in London for work the entire week of the event, so Mary and I just volunteered.

However, this year I was determined to ride again! I raised $1025 for the National MS Society this year, the best fund raising I’ve ever done. Unfortunately, that was offset by failing to train … at all … whatsoever. The week before the event I finally pulled my bike out of the garage and aired up the tires. I managed to squeeze in a total of three hour-long sessions on the stationary trainer before D-Day hit.

Sailing has some very good health benefits. The constant motion of the boat does strengthen your core and help your balance. Pulling lines and raising the anchor does work the arms, shoulders, back and legs. However, I can say with 100 percent certainty that sailing every weekend is not appropriate training for a 100+ mile bike ride.

When the thunderstorms hit and the La Grange fairgrounds flooded canceling Day 1 of the ride, I don’t think I was the only rider feeling relieved. Day 1 is the 100-mile portion, and while the logistics of getting my 90 riders to La Grange Sunday morning were daunting, it wasn’t as scary as that 100-mile ride.

I spent Saturday morning picking up trash at the spring Adopt-A-Beach Clean Up, and I spent Saturday evening carbo-loading. Sunday morning we were up at 4 a.m. and headed to the office to get the volunteers set up for rider check-in.

By 7:30 a.m. the riders and I were in La Grange and lining up for the start of the 67-mile ride from La Grange to Austin.

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My group finally rolled out at ten till 9. By 9:30 I was really wishing I had done some training.

By noon I was ready to die, but I kept on pedaling. In previous years I had been able to skip rest stops to save time. Not this year. I made full use of every break point the volunteers provided.

Not until 6 p.m. did I finally roll into the Austin city limits, feeling terrible that I had told Mary I’d finish by 4 p.m. at the latest. It was almost 6:30 p.m. when I finally reached the finish line, but there was Mary, still waiting for me with the camera in hand.

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I felt a vindication as I crossed the finish line. Something along the lines of, hey, you’ve still got the willpower to push through this kind of challenge. I’m also very proud that my team has now raised more than $63,000 for the National MS Society this year.

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However, the experience was a wake up call. I can’t let myself fall out of shape again doing nothing but sitting on a boat drinking beer every weekend. There’s a new fitness program being implemented aboard Gimme Shelter.

I’m not sure if any of my co-workers and donors read the blog, but thank you to all the riders, our two riders that volunteered as ride marshals, all the volunteers who supported the riders, and all of our donors.

I think I’m through with cycling. I’m really tempted to sell the road bike and buy two folding bikes for the boat — but you never know. Whether riding or not, I’ll be there supporting the MS Society in 2016.

Cleaning up the beach in Galveston

The past few weeks have brought plenty of rain to the Houston area. I mean, I’m very glad we aren’t having another drought, but the rain and storms are getting a bit excessive. I wouldn’t mind a few weeks with no rain.

Saturday I was supposed to be riding my bicycle from Houston to La Grange for the first leg of the 2015 BP MS 150, but the fairgrounds in La Grange were flooded, so the first day of the event was canceled. Instead we headed to the boat where we spent Friday night rocking and rolling with lightning flashing all around us. These two were not happy with the situation.

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Eventually, the storm passed, we all lived, and Saturday was much nicer. We headed to Galveston Island State Park for the spring 2015 Adopt-a-Beach clean-up.

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While others in the group grabbed the large pieces of trash and walked on, Mary and I really focused on collecting all of the small plastic we could find. Turtles and birds often eat the colorful plastic that they mistake for fish or balloons and plastic bags that they mistake for jellyfish. Mary found three balloons and patted herself on the back for saving three sea turtles. Of course, I pointed out that hypothetically the same sea turtle could have eaten all three balloons, and then she’d just have saved one turtle. She said saving the same turtle three times still counts as three saves.

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Sadly, I’ve never seen a sea turtle in the Galveston area, but supposedly we still have a few that come ashore to nest each year.

Representatives from Texas Parks & Wildlife were taking samples of the tiny fish in the surf. I was surprised how many they pulled in since you don’t ever notice those fish in the water while swimming.

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The planned picnic afterwards was a bit of a bust. Did I mention that we’ve had a lot of rain here?

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I know it wasn’t much, but hopefully those few hours we spent picking up trash made at least a little bit of an impact for the better.

Catching up on projects

It rained all weekend here, but just because we couldn’t be out on the boat didn’t mean we couldn’t catch up on some long-running projects we’d been putting off.

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About a year ago a friend snagged us a free sail for some unknown boat off craigslist because we had seen bags made from sail material at the boat show, and Mary was going to try to make us one. She got it started, but you know how it goes, things get busy, you forget what you were doing, etc. After some weekend work, prototype bag #1 is finally coming together. Hopefully it won’t be another year until it’s finished, but don’t hold your breath waiting on a line of hand-made Gimme Shelter boat bags to be available any time soon.

But Mary isn’t the only one with long-running projects. I started laminating together oak and poplar for a new table many months ago. Then about halfway through the job, I got distracted.

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I’m catching up. Just one more plank to glue on before I start planing it down. Then there’s the sanding. Then there’s the routing. Then there’s the staining and varnish — yeah, it may be another month or two before I finish this one.

Meanwhile the garden is growing like crazy. We have so many greens we can hardly eat them all, the cauliflower is ready to eat, and we will have squash very soon.

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Mary is doing her best to come up with new ideas for all this garden food. She also just purchased The Boat Galley Cookbook, so hopefully we’ll learn some new recipes for when we’re afloat.

And then there’s the new projects we’re starting together even though we haven’t actually finished these old projects.

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After our trip to Laguna Harbor we decided we wanted to know wind speed and direction, so I’ve got to get our NMEA2000 backbone installed and mount the new Garmin GWS 10 wind instrument at the top of the mast.

When I look at the list of projects, sometimes I wonder when we ever have time to go sailing.

Boys with toys

After the boat show, a new vessel appeared in our marina — something unlike any of the others.

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This thing was fast, and it was definitely violating the “no wake” policy in the marina.

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But nobody seemed too concerned.

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I don’t know the exact price, but I’m pretty sure our neighbor paid more for this thing than we did for our first sailboat.

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It runs off a small one-cylinder two-cycle engine and sounds like a weedeater. You have to remove the cowling and pull a cord to start it. Then you’re off to the races.

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At least until it dies in the middle of the fairway, and your neighbor has to dinghy out to bring it back.

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Power boaters … SMH.