Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 

May 1:



      After two days and three nights aboard our Alaska Ferry, we were discharged in the port of Bellingham, Washington on a beautiful spring day.  After a long drive to get our rental car, we headed off to Skagit Valley.  If you've never been, Skagit Valley is a fertile plain in northwest Washington that is home to several tulip farms.  These farms sell tulip and daffodil bulbs all over the country, and this time of year, you can visit vast fields of blooming spring flowers.  For a garden lover like Kathleen, this is about as close as she can get to heaven without having to die first.   We toured the grounds of one of the farms that was carefully groomed to display the enormous variety of flowers they produce until my wife was finally driven nearly mad with the realization that she no longer owns a patch of dirt on this earth to plant anything.


     A few hours later, we were in downtown Seattle checking into our hotel.  We had scheduled several days here of visiting old friends and seeing a few of our old haunts when we lived here over a decade ago.  While Emmett enjoyed watching them throw fish at Pike Place Market, and a visit to the Tacoma Zoo...I think the thing he was most enthralled with was the flat screen TV in our hotel room.  We have no television, of course, on Uliad, nor did we have it in Alaska.  So having an unlimited supply of cartoons and Discovery channel was about as close as HE could get to heaven without  having to die first.   So it actually worked out pretty well for all concerned:  Mom and Dad could go out at night to a few nice restaurants, and Em could rot his brain all evening in the hotel.

     But this was nothing compared to what he found at my friend Eric's house.  Eric is an old friend from high school whom I hadn't seen in years.  So Em and I came over for a visit one afternoon while Kathleen was having "girl time" with her old friend Kelly.  Within 10 minutes of our arrival, Eric had shown Em his 6 foot wide 3D television with Play Station Kinect games.  You would have thought the kid had just stepped out of a time machine as he discovered what giant leaps entertainment technology has taken while we've been away.  And on our way back to the hotel, Em announced that he was now modifying his dream of someday owning a Nintendo Wii--he had simply not been dreaming big enough. 

Skagit Valley, WA in the springtimeEmmett enjoys modern technology

 May 7:  


      Next on our travel agenda was a whirlwind tour of family visits before going back to New Zealand.  We caught a flight to Minnesota and were met at the airport by my Dad.  We stayed with him for a few days, taking side trips to visit a bunch of other relatives before driving out to Colorado where my brother lives.  We downsized a lot to move aboard Uliad 3 1/2 years ago, but the one extravagance I just couldn't bring myself to part with was my Jaguar XKR convertible.  My dad has been looking after it lovingly for me all these years and it was a real pleasure to get her back out on the open road. 



 May 17:   

      For those of you who have been patiently waiting for me to start talking about sailboats again, the time has come.  I am finally back aboard Uliad after a long flight.  We had a whole bunch of interior work done while we were away, so it was really exciting to step aboard and see the new place!  Kathleen ordered up new upholstery throughout and it looks fabulous.  In addition, we had repairs made to a bunch of woodwork and overall, I was pleased with the result.  The other major project was replacing the headliners--which is a sort of vinyl covering to the interior ceiling of the boat.  After 15 years, the old stuff was sagging and worn, but now everything looks like new again.

      I arrived with baggage filled with supplies and the first project to be completed was to replace some interior lighting fixtures with new, energy efficent LED lights.  Taking down all the old headliners meant cutting all the wiring to the ceiling lights, so I knew when I arrived around noon that this would be my first project, or else I'd be sitting in the dark after sunset.  I didn't quite make it...but by 8pm or so, all the new lights had been installed and I was able to find my way to my bunk.  (Hey, 8pm in New Zealand is after midnight in the USA!)


 May 19:   


      Accomplishing more than one project on a sailboat gets complicated in a hurry.  For example, the simple task of unpacking a suitcase gets held up by the fact that the supply of six new oil filters cannot go to their rightful storage place under Emmett's bunk because everything from the stern locker is currently on top of his bunk.  And that is because the hydraulic engineers needed to access the stern locker to remove and rebuild the steering rams while we were away.  So the new engine spares will now go on the salon table along with a bunch of other tools which will block me from putting away some spare electrical cords that I keep behind the salon cushions...and so on. 

     But I did manage to arrange the boat so I could repaint some surfaces in the master cabin yesterday, and tomorrow, the hydraulics guys are scheduled to return to bleed the hydraulic steering lines.  Then I'll be able to store all that stern locker stuff where it belongs, which means that I can then access the engine spares again, so after that maybe I can change the oil in the generator and main engine!

     The good side of all of this complex rearranging is that the pace of work is often interrupted for very logical reasons.  A job that would take twice as long today can be made much easier by simply putting it off for a few days until other projects get out of the way.  This is the way it goes in so many aspects of the cruising life.  One discovers a logical order and pace to life and rather than racing around to maximize one's efficency, it is often the case that the smartest course of action is to stop and do nothing for a while.  At least until the hydraulic technicians are done with their work.



 May 21:


     So all this hard work, interspersed with thoughtful pauses, left me this evening with time to pause and enjoy the end of the world.  Some nut-bag tele-evangalist back in the US had attracted an oddly large following of believers to his claim that today would mark the beginning of the apocalypse.  And the beginning of the beginning of the end was reportedly to happen right here in New Zealand with a massive earthquake at 6pm. 

     With glass of wine in hand, I stepped out to the cockpit to enjoy my last sunset and, with luck, the sight of a few selected righteous folk being whisked skyward.  Sadly, none of it came to pass.  Nor were there zombies returning to life, nor trumpets blowing from behind clouds.  But it was a lovely sunset.  So, after finishing my glass of wine and checking myself carefully for any unnoticed mark of the beast, I went back below to attend to those boat chores that it appears will still need doing. 



 May 27:


     About a week after I arrived in New Zealand, another half dozen or so boats left the harbor on the latest "good weather" window for the passage north to Fiji or Vanuatu.  A few more have straggled off since then, leaving the marina left with only a few sad cruisers whose work lists got delayed, or they have such major repairs underway that they won't be enjoying the full season of cruising in the tropics this year.  Sadly, we have become one of them.  I arrived here feeling strangely ambivalent about the start of the season, but as projects come together, I'm now starting to feel that old familiar yearning to point my bow toward the horizon. 

     Instead, we're in the midst of a major interior refit project.  While we were away, we had a bunch of old interior woodwork repairs made, and all the interior upholstery replaced, including the ceilings.  The work has turned out great.  This has only encouraged me to keep going:  I replaced a number of corroded hinges, hooks, door clasps, etc with hardware that I had sourced back home.  We had become plagued by a growing number of leaks in the past year or two, which led to the wood damage requiring repair.  So naturally I've also waged a simultaneous war against the leaks.  After recaulking a few areas of the teak deck, all the saloon windows, and rebedding one of the hatch windows, it would now appear that we've finally won the battle.

     With the wood now safe from future water damage, I started putting a fresh coat of varnish on a few areas that were looking a bit dull.  I was so pleased with the results that one thing led to I'm about half way through the whole boat.  Varnishing is a bit like waxing a car in that it takes some time, but that glossy shine at the end of it all is such a pleasant reward that it makes the whole day's effort seem worthwile. I think I'll probably go ahead and do the whole boat while I'm at it.

     So I should really post some before & after photos to show you what's been going on here, but I'm still constantly shuffling everything from one part of the boat to another as I tackle all these projects, so at any given moment, most of the boat is piled with junk so that one corner can be barren of anything.  But as soon as it all settles down, I'll be sure to share my efforts with everyone!  Think of it like one of those extreme makeover home improvement shows where you have to wait until the end to have the final product revealed.  It'll be at least some consolation for not being in Fiji by now. 





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