2020 is here

Remember when we partied like it was 1999 because it was 1999? I still remember that night, my senior year of college at Texas A&M, gathered in an apartment with about 30 of my closest friends — most of the university swimming and diving team, a bunch of us Rec Center lifeguards, and a few others that were regulars in our social circle. I spent the evening hoping that through some miracle I might get to kiss the girl I liked at midnight and wondering if the Y2K bug was going to wipe out all of our computers. Spoiler alert, neither happened.

It’s hard to believe that was 20 years ago, especially since most of the time I still feel about 25. I jumped with both feet into the newspaper industry just in time to watch it die a slow horrible death. Back then, getting your picture in the paper was a big deal. People talked about it for years. Now, nobody cares about anything except celebrity retweets, and everyone is trying to be an “influencer.” Social media brought the democratization of journalism but with a loss of quality and a loss of truth. Everyone has an outlet and is screaming at the top of their lungs to be heard over the noise, but nobody had to sit through media law 101, and it shows.

Our 2019 celebration was a far cry from 1999. I don’t know if I could still even come up with 30 people to invite to a party, much less get them out of the house after 9 p.m. anymore. We were just a party of four out on the water.

This marks our one year anniversary working on the Kadey Krogen 38 sailboat. As always, it came down to the eleventh hour as to whether or not she would be working for the trip out into Galveston Bay to watch fireworks. The dodger combing that was having fiberglass repair done wasn’t reinstalled until the evening before. Unfortunately $3,000 later, it looks wonderful, and is much stronger, but obstructs the companionway from opening and closing correctly. It will have to come back off for more repair.

I also spent the four hours leading up to when our guests arrived crawling through the bilge and anchor locker to get a pump working and to rewire two of the running lights, which quit for no reason. However, the windlass, which has been relocated and then rewired with a solenoid and up and down buttons worked pretty well. Unfortunately the chain seems to slip every fifth link or so, and I can’t tell if it’s because we have low grade chain or if the gypsy is worn out and needs to be replaced.

I know that earlier I said I still feel 25, but I may be getting too old for project boats.

Despite all the trials, we made it out onto the bay to watch the fireworks. Mary made full use of the oven on the new boat to make some delicious Hawaiian roll ham and cheese sliders, and the full cockpit enclosure kept us warm. Despite the ongoing maintenance issues, this boat definitely has some advantages over our previous vessels.

While there’s no telling what’s in store for us in 2020, we are very excited that there will be an addition to the family in May. Parenting will be the biggest adventure we’ve ever undertaken.

I also want to say congratulations to our friend’s TJ and Kayla who were brave enough to spend new years with us on the water. They’re tying the knot in 2020, and we’re very excited for their upcoming nuptials.

It’s been a wild 20 years. In 1999 I never would have dreamed I could shoot a photo with my phone and instantly send it to all my friends. I mean, I didn’t even have a phone — I shared a landline with four other roommates. I’m very excited to see what the next 20 years brings.

All good things for you and your family in 2020.

7 days chartering in Greece: Day 3 – Hydra

As we were enjoying breakfast on our third day on the boat, we watched a propane truck completely demolish a electrical/water station. The repair guys were there almost immediately to repair it. Apparently most of these Islands have water brought in by boat and stored in massive tanks on the island, so water leaks do not go unnoticed.

Our captain was not excited about our next destination, but under insistence from some of the crew we motored off for Hydra (EE-Dra). As you enter the city its surrounded on both sides by massive fortress walls with cannons sticking out.

The city had an older feel than Poros.

We did some exploring and went through the Lazaros Koundouriotis Historical Mansion, while the guys had coffee by the water.

Donkeys are everywhere in Hydra and are the main source of transportation as well as hauling goods. We saw one carrying full size refrigerator on its back.

We decided to trust the travel books and take a long walk up to a monastary that overlooks the town. The books claimed that it was about an hour walk. It was closer to two hours for us, as no one told us it was 90% stairs.

When we got to the top we took a wrong turn, after a few EXTRA steps we finally made it to the correct monastery.

There were monks actively living there. I can’t imagine how they do that walk on a regular basis.

The view from the top made it somewhat worth it.

We walked back down close to sunset, and were surprised by large amounts of loitering cats. They were forming cat gangs and digging in dumpsters. They all seemed friendly and well fed though, and we saw small piles of cat food left around untouched.

We had a lovely meal at a “tourist” restaurant. Yiannis our captain informed us that although our meals were only around 12 Euros a person this restaurant would be too expensive for most locals to eat at.

The waiter informed us that they had just picked the olives on his families farm for the season and offered us some some fresh squeezed Olive Oil. The taste was green and fresh.

As it began to get dark we began to understand why our captain didn’t want to come to Hydra. There was limited parking, but it didn’t seem to bother the hordes of boats that just kept coming into the little cove. We were med-moored 3 rows deep on both sides before we settled in for bed.

Yiannis, our captain warned us that when the wind picked up tonight at 4 am, everyone would be awake.

He was right. I woke up to the engine starting, and lines being frantically pulled in and let out. The boats in the second and third rows had started to drag anchor and be pushed into the front of our boat. Each boat had an exhausted and angry looking captain sitting out with boat poles holding other boats away from his boat.

This continued until the sun finally came up and the boats were able to leave from the outside in.

I think if we had been up all night like Yiannis was we probably would not want to ever come back to Hydra. But for me, even with the half night of sleep, Hydra was worth it. It was a beautiful old city with a different character than other places we visited.

7 days chartering in Greece: Day 2 – Poros

The first morning waking up on the boat set the tone for the rest of the vacation. Four of us woke early to have coffee and breakfast and prep the boat for an early departure, and three of us slept. We put the sails up for awhile, but there was little to no wind. We passed by Aegina and some large rocks to enter into the harbor near Poros. We saw our first and only flying fish

We took some time to anchor in a cove by ourselves, don our wet suits and do a bit of swimming. We saw a few fish but not a lot. Lots of old moorings and nets. Sea urchins were everywhere on the shores.

Pulling into Poros it was impossible not to be overwhelmed by how beautiful the city was. It was as if the city rose up out of the sea on the mountain and we were moored at the base of it.

We had our first attempt at med mooring. After picking up a tire on the first try we got ourselves settled in. We did a short hike up to the clock tower and explored some old churches.

We began to see why Greece is known for its cats.

Me and Fred took off to get some good night time shots, while everyone else settled in at the one cafe with wifi.

7 days chartering in Greece: Day 1 – Planning and Paperwork

A “last minute” birthday invite from a friend led us on an adventure chartering a 42ft Fountaine Pajot Cat in Greece this fall. Last minute for me is only have three months to plan provisions, anchorages, and our sail plans.

We stressed over the plans for the entire three months, but in the end picked a fairly well-traveled path around the Saronic Gulf just west of Athens.

I used the same method as my last trip to plan the provisions. You can read those details here. The only difference this time was that everything was in KG and G and so it took a bit more math on my part. We sent the list off to a provisioning company this time instead of doing the shopping ourselves, and had the supplies delivered to the boat.

We got in early to the marina Saturday, but the food arrived late. The charter manager sat us down to sign paperwork and pay all of the remaining money owed. He explained to us that there would be a $3600 deposit paid, and if there was any damage at all to the boat that we would be out the cost of repairs or all of that money if the repair was higher than their insurance deductible. We could however pay $300 up front to have the insurance put into our name, and we would then be covered for damages. After much debate we decided to go ahead and pay for the insurance money. It was worth it to not have to worry throughout the week.

The marina was a busy place. The docks were just big enough for cars to drive down, and they did. They drove full speed, forwards and in reverse.

After loading the provisions and signing paperwork it was too late to head out. We opened up a few cans of Mythos and headed over to a local place that our captain recommended. He helped us to order a hearty Greek style group meal that ended up being enough food for three days.

We all went to bed excited to start our adventure on the open ocean in the morning.

Southeast Texas Cats Mercury Cougar Club

It was about a year ago I met Thomas Folk in person in a Home Depot parking lot. It was during a Saturday evening car show, but neither of us had our Mercury Cougar’s at the event.

When you invest the time and effort into a classic car, you want to talk about it, and it only took about a week before Mary was completely tired of hearing about problems with pulley alignment and my hypotheses as to why the dash lights weren’t working.

Tom and I talked cars and discussed the potential for creating a local club. He stepped up and did the networking with the Cougar Club of America and tracked down other Cougar owners in the area. I put together a logo and a Facebook page, and in December 2018, we had our first meeting of the Southeast Texas Cats.

Our December meeting will mark the one year anniversary, and while our event attendance isn’t breaking any records, I think it’s pretty remarkable that a free organization run by enthusiasts has made it an entire year.

The November event was a cruise I suggested in the Clear Lake area that started at the Seabrook Waffle Company and ended at the Lone Star Flight Museum. Apparently I wasn’t the only person who thought the Seabrook Waffle Company was a great spot for a Saturday morning car meet because the local Volkswagen club was there as well.

We had a nice drive down Nasa Road 1, then up Space Center Parkway around to State Highway 3 to end at the Lone Star Flight Museum, which was having some nice activities in conjunction with Memorial Day.

Here’s a quick video recap of the cruise, and if you’re in the Houston area and want to know more about classic Mercury Cougars, stop by one of our upcoming meetings.

1960 Crestliner: Phase 2

Last week we headed to Illinois four days earlier than the rest of the family to get the Crestliner running and comfortable for the 4th of July.

While we were gone I had a rebuilt outboard put onto the back of the boat. When the shop installed the outboard, they also replaced the rotten transom board for me.

When we started the project, we had an idea that we would pattern a new floor with painters plastic or butcher paper. This didn’t work too well. It was very difficult to keep the plastic tight on both sides on the curved edge. It was also impossible to reach both sides at once without being in the middle of them. We ended up doing side to side measurements every 6 inches to create a pattern.

Not perfect, but not bad

The subfloor of the boat had been filled with styrofoam, but throughout the decades, it had become water-logged, crumbly and moldy. When I looked up replacement options for closed cell foam, the slick mix and pour foam that would have perfectly formed to the subfloor troughs was far too pricey for this project. After googling several types of closed cell foam, we landed on pool noodles! $50 for enough to fill the whole thing.

We secured the floor over top by screwing it into the metal ribs.

The next step was the front seat. My father had a bench screwed down on all sides, but we wanted to make it open up to provide access to the storage we found underneath. This was obviously the original design since the hinges were actually welded in place.

We decided to cover the seat and the floor with a vinyl imitation teak decking. It’s soft on the feet, non-slip, pretty to look at, and it keeps you from getting splinters. After the flooring we took considerable time to install some swivel chairs. It was difficult because they bolted in both sides.

During the spring we made some cushions for the aft part of the boat using some closed cell foam and sunbrella leftover from our sailboat interior. Our next step was to make some bases for them. We chose to do a rectangular plywood base with 2x2s as joiners in the corners. After we had them all put together and painted, we traced them onto the floor where we wanted them. I then took them out of the boat and cleaned the plywood floor carefully before sticking down the vinyl decking. Then we bolted down the side seats and left the middle seat as a floater, which can be also be used as a step or a coffee table.

The last thing we needed was to get the lights running on the boat. That was fairly simple as the wiring isn’t very complex so we just ran all new. We ended up buying new stern and fore lights as well.

Our last obstacle was some safety concerns on the trailer. Our forward winch wasn’t working at all, so we got a replacement for it along with some new tires at the local farm store.

We did a quick test run in the yard, as well as some backing practice. The yoke of the trailer turned out to be a bit crooked, so pulling straight back involved a sort of S pattern wobble with the steering wheel to compensate.

Finally we got to take her down to the river! I can’t wait to take her out many more times in the future.

Restoring my Dad’s 1960 Crestliner

When we were kids, Sunday afternoons after church were often spent out on the Mississippi in our family boat. We would swim in the gross brown water, fish, tube off the back of the boat, or explore the sandy islands that dot the river. We used to take the boat on vacations with us, and we always took the cousins out when they came to visit.

The 1960 Crestliner was the first boat that we owned. My dad got it from his parents when he was in high school. My mom says it was in worse shape then than when I got it. My dad fixed it up and used to drive it way too fast, ramping off barge wakes.

Our family moved on to other boats, but my dad was not the kind of man to get rid of old things. We started to have more of an Armada in our yard. When he passed away a couple years ago he left us three boats as part of his large “collection” of items.

I chose the Crestliner to keep for myself for three reasons. 1. It’s aluminum and so simply designed that not much can go wrong. 2. It’s small and easy. 3. It was the first and meant the most to my dad.

I’ve had it for a couple years now, but I just got started on the process of restoring it into something that we can use again as a family.

The first step was to rip up the rotten wood floors. After that I had to take out all of the flotation foam because there was years worth of compost underneath. I scooped out six five-gallon buckets of dirt from the bottom of the hull. It turned out that most of the foam was old and rotted anyway, so I threw it all out.

Then we hosed it down and I took it over to a mechanic to get the engine inspected. Phase 2 will be a new wooden floor, new seats and a running engine. Hopefully in time for the 4th of July!

London Calling: The Cruise to Corpus Christi

Sunny skies and open roads

I had to drive to work in the rain. Driving in drizzle during rush hour in Houston is the most hazardous thing you can do in a car. You’re almost guaranteed to get rear-ended sooner or later.

However, I made it to work, and my day ticked ever so slowly away as I waited for the big road trip.

I managed to get out of the office by 4:30 p.m., gassed up the Cougar, and we tackled traffic heading south out of town. She was purring like a kitten.

I noticed an insane amount of police presence along 59, mostly monitoring northbound motorists. It’s as if someone declared there was an immigration crisis at the border and then instructed DPS to make sure they apprehended enough people to prove it. I made sure to stick to the speed limit.

Just before the turnoff onto 77 I stopped for more gas. I probably had enough to make Corpus, but I didn’t want to risk it.

Taste that sweet premium

After filling up, I turned the key, and I got the dreaded slow crank. This was my biggest fear. I JUST replaced the starter last week.

I popped the hood, jiggled the starter cable, and tried the key again. She started right away. I smiled, put her in gear, and headed on down the road.

I had turned off of 77 onto 136 at dusk, and I was cruising down that little road thinking to myself, you did it. You built a reliable driver. Where should we go after this? Maybe we can tour cross-country the way the Bumfuzzles toured in their vintage Porsche. Maybe I’ll make the drive to the West Coast Classic Cougar open house this year.

Then I attempted to speed up, and there was a lurch and a click. I decided that maybe I shouldn’t speed up, and just stuck with cruising at 65. I was only 25 miles from the hotel, no need to rush.

A few minutes later, there was another click and suddenly I lost all power. I guided the car to the side of the road to assess the situation.

She was still running. Temp was great, no warning lights. I tried to put her back in gear — nothing. Reverse — nothing. Overdrive — nothing. Drive — nothing. I was stuck.

I called my Hagerty roadside assistance number. The operator pinged my location and said a tow truck would be there in about 60 minutes. About ten minutes later my wonderful wife rolled up behind me.

I had tried and tried to talk her into coming with me, so we could make a weekend of the event, but she had insisted she wasn’t coming until Friday. Thankfully her FOMO (fear of missing out) got her moving early, and she had left Houston just a few minutes after I did.

We sat together in the Terrain looking up at the stars and petting the dogs until the tow truck arrived.

Sometimes you need a little help to get there

The car got loaded, and we noticed the left rear axle was sliding out. When troubleshooting car problems, it’s usually good to start with the piece that’s falling off. My guess is the transmission is actually still functioning, but there’s nothing connected to the differential to power the car.

We dropped the car off at Greatstate Transmissions. Who knows if that was the right place to take it, but nothing was open at 11 p.m., and I didn’t really want to pay for another tow from the hotel to a shop the next morning. They open at 7 a.m., so I’ll call them early to find out if the Cougar will be moving in time for her big scene.

We’re definitely coming out upside down on this little venture, but hey, it’s already been interesting.

What do we even want?

We have been boat shopping since about 6 months after we bought our last boat.  We’ve gone through a lot of different phases while trying to decide what our “forever boat” would look like.  We knew we wanted more space, we wanted a boat that would hold its value, and appreciate as we added more gear, and we wanted something a little more friendly to open seas than our current boat. 

For about 3 years I was convinced that this boat was going to be a catamaran.  It had more space, they’re in high demand and therefore hold their value, and they are relatively flat when sailing.  Once we started to do some serious shopping we realized that in our price range of 50k-80k the actual square footage we were going to get would be a downsize over our regular boat.  I wasn’t swayed though and we went aboard many the odd shaped catamaran.  In the summer of 2013 we chartered a 40 ft Lagoon in the SVIs.  Being aboard that boat for a week changed my mind completely.  While it was very spacious and comfortable at anchor, while sailing the see saw motion of the boat was jarring and uncomfortable.  So I decided that for the price difference, it was not worth the cost. 

So we focused in on monohulls.  We started to hone in on what we wanted.  1. Two cabins 2. Separate shower stall 3. boat that would hold value 4. A heavy duty boat with lots of displacement. 5. Aft Cockpit.  We wanted to stay somewhere below 42 ft to keep the boat pretty manageable between the two of us, and keep maintenance costs down.  

Tayana 42

As we started to look we found that there are a lot of blue water boats in the 42ft length that have everything we want, but in the 80-120k price range.  As we dug deeper we started to find a few boats under 40ft that had two cabins that might be an option.  The IP38 has an aft cabin that is big enough for two people.  They are normally a little higher in price but every once in awhile one will come down.  The Krogen 38 has two lovely cabins and a separate shower stall.  The Amel Sharki has two cabins and even though its a center cockpit, it convinced me with its overall beautiful appearance.  

Amel Sharki

We started to ask around about some of these models in owners groups on facebook, and that eventually led to us meeting some owners in real life and being able to do walk throughs and even go sailing on some of the of the same model boats.  This really helped us to understand potential issues with certain models and gave us a good idea of what to look for when shopping.  

This early research stage is really essential to the whole boat buying process.  Once you see a boat in person its easy to develop an emotional attachment and be blinded to potential costly issues. 

We’re really excited to say that we closed today on a 38ft Kadey Krogen.  It was not an easy road though.  So much to tell you all about the buying/offer process very soon. 

Putting Gimme Shelter up for sale

It didn’t really hit me until I locked her up for the last time and walked back to my car.  Sitting in my car crying all I could think about was all of the great memories we made in this boat since 2013 when I bought her.  I had bought her myself in an effort to move both my relationship with Fred and our sailing life in a forward direction.

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Our first boat, a 27ft Starwind, was an amazing boat and we stayed on her every weekend for years.  But Gimme, a 34ft Oday offered us a fridge, and a double sink, and so many more comfort items that made our weekends so much easier.

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Over the years we have had a steady stream of projects.  Installing central AC, upgrading all the canvas, upgrading the engine, replacing the fridge compressor, redoing windows and hand rails so that she has no leaks, etc.  All the time we talked about what our next boat might look like but not really getting any closer to making the move.

For the last year or so there have not really been any projects.  The boat is pretty solid and relatively low maintenance by design.  We’ve reached a point where we couldn’t really do any upgrades either, as it makes no sense to put $20,000 worth of equipment on a $20,000 dollar boat.

Fred picked up a 67 Cougar car project, but now even that is nearing is completion and the time had really come.  It was time to get a new bigger project boat.

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The first step to that is clean our boat out completely and to get her on the market.  I went to Lowes and got us some giant plastic tubs and we started taking everything that wasn’t specific to our boat out of it.  I then untuffted all of the cushions and took them home to wash and retuft.  It took about four days of two people working with magic erasers to get every bit of the inside and outside spotless.

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Sunday night I was sweaty and dirty from a day of hard scrubbing.  I backed my way out of the boat cleaning all of the floors one last time.  As I locked the door and walked back to the car it felt like we were losing a member of the family.  I gave Fred a call and we reminded each other that no change is ever easy, and that this is the first step to our next great adventure.