Ship's Log               s/v Uliad 


January 27:  

 

Today was the day we started telling friends, colleagues, and staff about our plans. Responses have ranged from intrigue to panic, but everyone seems to understand my rationale. My partners seemed to take it in stride, but some of my staff whom I have worked with for years seemed visibly upset. I suppose we instinctively knew it would be bittersweet to start this process, but now the reality has set in. It will be hard to say goodbye to so many people. It is difficult to put my office staff through the uncertainty of my departure. After so many months of dreaming of warm, palm-lined anchorages, the realities of what we will be giving up for that dream hits me like a punch in the stomach.
I'm also feeling some panicky thoughts about, "is this really wise?"; "can we really afford it?", "what if we hate it?" and so on. I felt like I was dragging my feet the past few weeks to start making our cruising plans public, and now I know why. This will be an emotionally difficult process. Nothing worthwhile comes without a price, I suppose.
So this is The Plan: After 10 years of building a career in Family Medicine, I found myself bored, tired, and feeling like this is not how I want to be spending the rest of my adult life. I wanted to slow down and watch my son grow up. So we're selling the house, packing away & giving away the stuff, and quitting the job. We're moving aboard our boat and sailing off into the sunset. We'll live more in the moment, and take time to savor what is truly important. We'll explore together, as a family.
At least that's The Plan. Go ahead, keep reading. I'll keep you informed as to how things really work out!

 

February 2:

 

 

 

  There's a famous old saying among boaters that the two happiest days in a sailor's life are the day he buys his boat, and the day he sells it. For me, the day we bought Uliad proved to be somewhat anticlimactic: the whole thing took place by sending a couple of faxes in between seeing patients, and a brief note the following day that everything went through fine. No big deal
But the first time I set foot on my boat--now that is a happy day. As I write this, I'm flying down to Ft. Lauderdale with a suitcase full of tools and a list of boat projects that is currently 63 items long. Some are basic yacht safety items that I need to see with my own eyes are fixed: replacing frayed mooring lines, double clamp some engine hoses, etc. Others are purely items of convenience, cosmetics, and personal preference which will start to make this boat our home.
I can't wait to step aboard MY boat. Like a bride on her wedding night, a captain's first night aboard his boat is anticipated not simply for the moment's pleasure, but for the promise of the years of happiness to come. When I arrive, late at night, she'll be quietly, patiently waiting, surrounded by moonlight sparkling on the water. I'll pause and take in her pretty lines for a moment before stepping aboard. I'll make my self at home, and be gently rocked to sleep deep within the womb of her master cabin. And tomorrow, when the Florida sunlight reaches through her portlights to stir me from this happy rest, I will awake and begin our life together. I'll exhaust myself exploring each hidden corner. Nobody will know her as well as I. Those 63 items will slowly be crossed off, and soon, others sailors will steal glances as I sail by, muttering, "Lucky Bastard!" under their breath. I'm coming, beautiful. I'm coming.

 

 

February 5:

Ft. Lauderdale has been called the Venice of the Americas. Strangely, there already IS a Venice, FL somewhere else. Anyway, they call it that because, like Venice, there are a whole bunch of canals branching off the Intercoastal waterway. The canals are lined with homes, and those citizens who can't afford both a waterfront home and a big yacht, rent their dock space to people like me. I have to admit, we were a bit uncomfortable during the survey having to walk into someone's back yard to see the boat. Now it was even worse. Despite assurances from the broker, and a big For Sale sign in front of our house, I was a little worried. Here I was, arriving at about 1am, driving slowly to find the right place. Then I had to get out, and go through a gate on the side of the house to let myself onto the boat. I was pretty sure that someone would report me as a prowler, and I'd soon be chased down by a police dog. Then I was also a bit unsure if "liveabords" were permitted in a nice neighborhood. I imagined an angry gang of gray haired men chasing me off with leaf blowers. I crept to the boat as quiet as I could, and ducked inside with my suitcase. Then, using only a penlight, I quickly made up my bed, laid down, and tried to relax my pounding heart and remember the happy place I was in just a few hours ago.
Fortunately, none of my fears came true, and I awoke on our beautiful new boat. The house was confirmed to be unoccupied, as were several other nearby homes undergoing major renovations. Behind me, at the neighbor's dock, a boat washing service was busily at work on a large motor yacht. And throughout the weekend, the neighborhood was quiet, and nobody seemed to notice that I had just moved in.
So I started tearing madly into my giant list. The biggest item was to dig out all the lockers that were filled with many years of spare parts, tools, and assorted junk. Every time I got to the bottom of another locker, I was greeted with many years of dirt, salt, and a few rodent droppings. By mid afternoon, there was a giant pile of stuff on the saloon table, and an empty boat everywhere else. Ready for a change of scenery, I set off for the boat store with another list. Several hours and several hundred dollars later, I was back. After cleaning out the lockers, my second priority on this trip was to secure the boat: I changed some frayed dock lines, attached chafe protection, and added some fenders. Now I'd sleep better back in Wisconsin without worrying about Uliad breaking loose.
By Sunday, I was ready to do some outside work. My first task was to re-bed some plexiglass on a hatch over the galley. No sooner had I removed the panel and finished digging out all the old silicone when the rain let loose. So I spent the rest of the day back inside alternating between sorting through the pile of stuff in the main cabin and emptying the bucket in the galley collecting the rainwater that kept dripping through the hatch. The most frustrating part it all was not the rain, but the fact that after two long days of work, the boat was looking worse than when I first arrived. By midnight, I decided that I would go to bed and get up early. I had trouble falling asleep. I kept wondering what I'd do if I couldn't get that hatch repaired before I had to leave tomorrow.
Monday came with another gray, stormy looking sky. But the rain had stopped, so I figured I'd better take whatever chance I could get. I cleaned and dried the hatch frame, caulked it with some goo that the boat store recommended, and set the plexiglass back in...Finished!! and just before the rain started up again. Then it was off to talk to contractors.
Before the morning was over I had lined up a multi-pronged attack on boat mediocrity. The diesel mechanic would be back tomorrow to pull and overhaul the engine. With the engine out of the hold, the watermaker guys would come and replace the ancient unit currently taking up space behind the engine. The fire extinguisher guy came by and re-certified our 4 extinguishers. The sailmaker would be by on Wednesday. A list was left for the electrician. The carpenter will come up with a plan for the guest cabin. Now we were making progress!! I decided that Ft. Lauderdale is the Mayo Clinic of the yachting world. The point is, when it comes to boats, everyone is a specialist here. If you go to Mayo Clinic for a pain in your left foot and happen to mention that the right foot is also giving you some problems, you can expect that the left foot expert will order a consult from the right foot expert. Everything is just about that specialized in the boating industry here. So I'm expecting good work, but probably big bills also.
During my last hour of this three day weekend, I just concentrated on cleaning. Kathleen would be coming down in three weeks and I could already hear her having fits. I made a mental note to get the bilge cleaning specialist over here before Kathleen comes. Her dainty senses should not have to notice the rodent droppings. At the airport I hear that it is currently 8 below zero in Wisconsin. Yay.

 

February 12:

Well, the bitter cold temperatures have persisted now for over a week in Wisconsin. Kathleen has been making good use of her time stuck indoors by starting the long process of sorting through all our stuff. Everything seems to go in one of three groups: Give away to friends, save and put in storage at my Dad's place, or bring to the boat. As time goes by, I'm guessing that two new groups will appear: the sell group and the throw away group.
Kathleen and Emmett went to Papa's house to deliver the first load this past weekend while I remained home on call. I spent most of my quiet time at home on the computer: I signed us up with web hosting from GoDaddy.com, set up new email accounts for us all, and created and uploaded the Uliad.net website that you're reading this on. I'm no expert in any of this, and my progress in accomplishing these tasks could be compared to watching a blind man feeling his way around an unfamiliar room. It might not be much to someone who really understands Web publishing, but I'm quite proud of my work!
Orders have been placed for a new laptop, ship's navigation software, new hatch hardware, new EPIRB batteries, and so forth. The battle wages on.


 Despite my best efforts to begin keeping a diary of this life transition, I'm finding that my current life leaves precious little time for self reflection that this requires. And maybe that is part of the problem.
Why? I have been meaning to start by answering that question. I've always led a pretty straight and narrow life: high school to college, to medical school, to residency, to work. I'm not really the first person you might expect to drop out and adopt a bohemian lifestyle like this. But the reality is, I've had this sailing dream in the back of my head for a long, long time. And if you know me, one thing you probably do know is that I'm a pretty goal oriented person. When I find something I want, I start asking myself, What are you doing TODAY, Steve, to achieve that goal. Some days, the answer was planning charter vacations. A lot of days, it meant reading as much about sailing and cruising I could get my hands on. And often it was The Plan that gave me that extra push to work as hard as I could in my career, to earn the money I'd need to do this.
I was a few years into building my medical practice when a patient of mine died. She was a lovely lady, the kind of patient you can never have too many of: always friendly, sick enough to come in frequently, but well enough to be in a good mood. We'd run into each other at church, or in the grocery store. She brought in a wedding present when I married Kathleen (a delightfully tacky crystal vase, I think). Now she lay dying from an unexpected heart attack. I went through the paces of my job, talked with her husband who understood the situation and wasn't inclined to drag things out. And after signing her "comfort measures only" orders, and tucking her and her family into a quiet room to share their good byes, I realized that this death was different than so many similar situations in my training. Because this patient had become my friend. Like so many other patients had in my practice. It is inevitable when you become a country doctor, that you tend to your friends and your neighbors.
That night when Kathleen asked why I seemed preoccupied, I turned to her and said, "You know, this is going to be really hard--being a doctor."
And so it has. The hardest job you'd ever love. By walking intimately alongside the sick, we see life's unpredictability. We see random tragedies, lives ended incompletely, dreams left unfulfilled. It is not that I developed a fear of death, as much as I became aware that our lives are finite, and time creeps up on us if we're not careful.
There was a urologist at my hospital: successful, well-liked...a real gentleman. As a young doctor just starting out, I admired the fact that he had somehow escaped the surly, over-worked demeanor that so many of my older colleagues had become afflicted with. At the peak of his career, he seemed to have found the balance in life that eludes so many of us physicians. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and in 6 months was gone.
It was like an eerie premonition to my own Mom's death a few years later. Mom had left a successful career where she was a corporate vice president. She retired to focus her efforts on being a grandmother. And she too developed a brain tumor. And a few years later, she was gone.
By now, my philosophy had changed. I was done with the straight and narrow life that says you work hard for 30 years and then retire. Life is too unpredictable. We were going to go now while we were young, and healthy. And so The Dream has slowly evolved for years. There are easily a couple dozen reasons not to do it. Probably always will be. But I can never escape feeling that there is something passing me by as I drive to work each day before dawn, and come home after dark

      But there was a lot more to our decision than watching others die young. Being a doctor had taken its toll in other ways as well. When Kathleen and I first came to our small town, we looked around and laughed at some of the grouchy old doctors who always looked in a rush, and like their smiling muscled had permanently atrophied. Where's the joy? I wondered. "If I ever start acting like that," I whispered to Kathleen at a Medical Staff banquet, "get me out of here." Well, 9 years later it was happening. And here's how it happens:
Being a doctor is the greatest job in the world. I love it for so many reasons. But to be a really good doctor, you have to be there. You have to take time and be available when people need you. But as word spreads you get busier. And it is intoxicating to see your schedule fill up with so many people who had put their trust in your skills. If you're good, and personable, you get busy. Really busy. And you start having to take a little less time with each patient, which you don't like. So you start working really hard to be as efficient as possible and squeezing every minute out of each day so you still have enough time for each patient.
Of course your family doesn't like it that you give the best of yourself to the patients and come home late and exhausted each night. Different medical families seem to handle this one differently. Some couples seem to quietly accept that the Doctor runs the practice and the spouse takes care of the household. And they go on leading separate but superficially interdependent lives until they drift far enough apart that they are pretty much strangers. Other couples fight back, and the wife starts calling the office manager to wrestle back control of the schedule. Hard lines are drawn between work time and family time, and the two demands are constantly at odds.
And all that stress, all that busy-ness, all that constant striving to be a good doctor, a good husband, a good dad...it starts to do things to you. You start getting annoyed if the light turns red. Annoyed that the patient isn't getting better like they should. A family game becomes a task to be efficiently completed within a reasonable amount of time so you can move on to the next item on today's agenda. And pretty soon you haven't smiled all day. The worst part is, you have no time to even notice, or self reflect. And since we all treat doctors with such reverence, nobody else tells you when you start to change.
I was on my way to becoming one of those scowling old doctors with atrophic smiling muscles. And I didn't like it. Trouble is, by now there's no easy way to fix it. The patients all depend on you. You're used to that fat paycheck. If you cut back, you're just dumping the rest of the work on your partners. There are a thousand little voices telling you to just keep at it.

 Fortunately, as I slipped down this slope, there was one thing Kathleen and I did right. As our lives became more hectic, it would have been very easy to seek comfort in consumerism. Working too hard? Well then treat yourself. You deserve that big house, that shopping trip, that expensive vacation. We both have our things we like to splurge on, but for the most part, we lived far below our means At the same time my income grew far beyond I ever dreamed it could. Working so hard literally paid off. So finally, we were able to come to the realization that we had a million dollars in the bank, but no time to enjoy it Too busy to have fun. To tired at night to enjoy the things we used to do. And The Dream became the perfect answer to trade in all that money for a happier life.
So that's the short version of how I came to leave a career I love to pursued something completely different. Now that it is officially going to happen, I have my own fears and second guessing going through my head far more often than I thought I would. We know we're ready for a break from years of working too hard, but the unknown can be scary! So many boat refitting projects going on at the same time feels overwhelming and only adds to my anxiety. The good news is, I can see progress being made, and things just may come together. The rodent droppings were cleaned up before Kathleen came down--that was the biggest victory.

Today Kathleen and I are trying to get home from Ft. Lauderdale again. A snowstorm has snarled air traffic and we're stuck in O'Hare, hoping to get a standby seat on one of the last two flights home. (both fully booked at this point) Snow is pouring down out there. At least the planes are still leaving!
We really started trading in the money for the dream this week. The engine overhaul is nearing completion, the watermaker should be installed tomorrow. New high frequency radios, new sails, new bottom paint, new batteries-- the list goes on. I'm slowly ticking off the project list. The problem is, when you start fixing one problem, half the time you uncover a second problem that needs fixing as well. So new items keep getting added to the list as well. It is exhausting, but in a good way. I'm really loving all the hard work. And I'm starting to feel like I really understand each system in the boat. This will be critical down the road to know where each little thing is and what it does.
Kathleen has been studying the boat from an aesthetic perspective and is starting to formulate a plan of what housewares, decorative items, and personal items will be needed and where everything will get stored. She was all set to start some painting projects when she started getting sick.
The thing about Kath is, when she gets sick, she never gets a mild case of anything. Within 24 hours she was splayed out in bed with a splitting earache and a bad case of laryngitis. Bad combination because now I couldn't hear her complaining about how bad her ear hurt until finally about 10 at night she mustered up the strength to stomp out into the main cabin, whispering at the top of her lungs about how she's going to find an emergency room where someone will take care of her better than her louse of a doctor-husband does. Ooops! I loaded her up with Ibuprofen, Sudafed, and a few drops of lidocaine in the ear, and thankfully it worked, because I had just bought $800 worth of new AGM batteries for the boat and we really couldn't afford an ER bill right now. (Just kidding, honey!)
So we're struggling to get back to 10 inches of fresh snow. I'm tired, my wife is sick, our flight is cancelled, but I have just the faintest smile on my face. We're really going to do this. Knowing that somehow makes me feel that things are going to be just fine.

 

March:

Today I decided to add up how many contractors are all working on Uliad's refit: Lets see, there's a carpenter, an electrician, a bilge cleaner, a rigger, a diesel mechanic, a watermaker installer, an electronics technician, a repairer of window blinds, a compass adjuster, a bottom painter, a prop shop, and one yacht manager to crack the whip. It sounds like I'm some prima donna hiring out all the work, but trust me, I'm doing a bunch of stuff myself also.
For years I moonlighted in Emergency Rooms to pay off my school loans and make some extra money. It didn't take long for me to realize that every time a new repair project came up around the house that I'd just say, &"hire someone, honey. I'll be in the ER paying for it.&"; Not many contractors could charge as much per hour as I could earn.
Unfortunately, that kind of attitude won't work so well if something breaks on our boat a thousand miles from nowhere. I really need to have some basic knowledge of how to repair just about everything on this boat. So I'm gingerly trying to get back in the habit of repairing and installing things myself. It is kind of fun, and kind of frustrating. And it has struck home just how much I use my brain and how little I use my hands in my life as a doctor. I was installing a water pump the other day, and after figuring out what I needed to do and exactly how I wanted it all done, I literally caught myself looking around as if to think, "now who can I tell to do all this?" I wonder if Kathleen would laugh if this water pump breaks down and I hand her a written prescription for a new one?


     It occurred to me this morning that it is now only one month away until I will step aboard Uliad and set sail nearly a thousand miles in her to bring her to Delaware. Several things gnawing at my mind all day today are:
- I've never sailed that far a distance before.
- I've never sailed this boat away from the dock yet. Except for her sea trial where technically it was the previous owner in charge of everything.
- None of the repairs have really been properly tested yet.
- Most of the repairs haven't been even completed yet.
- Some of them haven't even been started yet.
- I still haven't had any of my potential crew confirm yet that they will definitely come with me on this trip.
- Given my schedule and the tax laws of the state of Florida, delaying my departure is really not an option.

So, as you can imagine, I'm starting to get a bit nervous about the upcoming April 11th. My rational mind knows that this is a solid boat with lots of back-ups if anything should go wrong. But I still can't help writing the list of woes above and thinking that this is a classic introduction to some horrendous survival at sea story that will be told to future generations of sailors as an example of what NOT to do.

Nonetheless, I shall remain positive. I've been packing up another duffel bag full of parts, tools, and supplies to bring with us this Wednesday. I've got a couple lists ready to go, and if I get them all done, we should be in pretty good shape to take off next month. Big on my list will be to actually sail the boat.

The engine has been overhauled now and the mechanic is supposed to finish aligning it and giving it a test run. So if that goes smoothly, that should take care of all the work needed in that big dark hole of an engine room. (Other projects down there including replacing the watermaker, a bilge pump, and the #1 battery bank.) Once we can finally close the door on the engine room, It should do wonders to making the pilothouse look like a yacht again instead of a construction zone.

      Today marks the fifth trip down to Ft. Lauderdale since last November when we first took a 3 day weekend to have a look at Uliad. I had been searching for a new boat casually since summer of 2005. At that point I was just doing a lot of reading and getting ideas about what features we'd want in our next boat. I looked at a lot of designs and started bouncing ideas off Kathleen. In May of 2006, we took a month off to sail Shepherd, our 47 foot charterboat through the leeward islands. We came away from that trip with a lot better knowledge of exactly what we'd like to have in our next boat to be able to live comfortably on it. We also came away with the desire to go ahead and get moving on this life change.

So with Shepherd up for sale, our list of "must haves" and "would be nicest" developed. I preferred a rugged metal hull for security, as it is better able to withstand a grounding. That narrowed the field right away. We also needed 3 cabins: A centerline queen bed aft for us, a cabin for Emmett, and a third sleeping area for friends, family, or crew. And then the other big desire was to have an enclosed pilothouse so you could stand watch in bad weather without having to stand out in bad weather. Finally, the boat had to be rigged so one of us could sail it most of the time. With only the 3 of us, we saw that as a basic security measure: if one parent needed to sleep or take care of Emmett, the other should be able to get by alone running the boat.

We first looked at a steel Bruce Roberts design in Toronto last summer. It was a nice boat, and the price was right, but, like most Bruce Roberts boats, this one was home built, and had a few quirky design features that the owner included for God knows why. I liked it better than Kathleen, who thought it was too big (54 ft), too hard to sail (they needed 3 people to raise anchor!) and the thing was really not so pretty to look at. Back to the drawing board. I also made a few inquiries into yacht plans and having a new boat custom built.

Kathleen does much better looking at actual boats than imagining them while looking at design drawings, so she decided what she needed was to see a whole bunch of boats at once to get a better sense of what her options were. In the fall we went to the Newport Boat Show and spent all day comparing the pretty new boats. We came away deciding that Kath really didn't want a boat bigger than about 50 feet--more than that and she started feeling very intimidated standing at the helm and trying to picture how just the two of us would dock it. We really liked the Island Packet 48 for cruising, but it was a brand new design and we didn't quite have the money to buy brand new.

Meanwhile, I was spending most of my spare time during these months trolling Yachtworld.com for boats. Which is where we eventually found Uliad. It was aluminum hulled, professionally built, and within our size and budget constraints. The layout wasn't quite right, but it could be made to work. Best of all, the price had just been reduced and it had been on the market for a while so maybe we could get a good deal. I didn't feel good about making an offer without actually looking at the boat, so Kathleen and I went down for a quick weekend trip last November and spend the day crawling all over the boat. It wasn't perfect, but it was close enough for us! It had most everything we needed, and it looked like the rest could be made right as long as we could get the right price for it. So we made an offer that week, and after a few weeks of going back and forth over price, we came to enough of an agreement to have the yacht professionally surveyed.

A yacht surveyor does for boats what a building inspector does when you buy a house. We spent another 2 days in January with the inspector looking over everything again. It helped my yacht-confidence to find that the inspector didn't find much that I hadn't already found myself. But having his name behind the list of "flaws" was enough to get some further price concession and a few weeks later, we were owners. And so here we are. I'm getting more excited as each problem gets rectified and more enthusiastic to get out sailing finally!


    

 

     We were pretty discouraged after arriving at Uliad to find the junk of half a dozen contractors strewn about the boat. The engine was in, some of the electrical work was complete, very little progress in the carpentry...but worst of all was that the boat was just a mess. And it appeared that, since it was a mess, each contractor didn't thing that their little piles of junk left in various places was any big deal. So our first project was to clean up and help remind anyone that this was a yacht.

Today, I'm pleased to say, Uliad actually left the dock. We were both pretty nervous to be taking the boat out for the first time...we had on board two diesel mechanics to sea trial the engine and generator, and a compass adjuster to, well, to adjust the compass. Fortunately everything worked, and we managed to motor and dock the boat without making spectacles of ourselves. Our dock space is wedged pretty tightly between several powerboats, with big pilings to work around to get in, so we were pretty pumped that we managed to park the boat flawlessly... Kathleen looked like an absolute pro handling the lines, and for my part, I was pleased to say that my new boat handles very nicely in tight quarters.

We planned to celebrate our maiden voyage by taking Emmett out to a nearby roller skating rink that he had been eyeing as we drove past. Finding the said rink closed, we made a quick recovery and took him to a nearby amusement park for a roller coaster ride. Then finding our boy to be about one inch too short to ride said roller coaster, we made a second quick change of plans and played mini golf. Thank goodness my son is adaptable. After beating us both at mini golf, Emmett and both his parents came back to the boat exhausted, and happy that we had such a great day.

 

    

     --So this morning Emmett was up bright and early to remind us all that the roller skating rink will be opening in only an hour for family skate time on Saturday morning. Before I could even get any coffee in myself, Em had us up and dressed and on the road. For only $4.00 (adults get in free if they bring their kid, we were issued skates that looked about 50 years old and pointed toward the big wooden rink where the disco music was already blaring. The ceiling was painted black, but it was punctuated with twinkling rainbows of stage lights and whirling disco balls that light up unpredictably. The soundtrack was a curious mix of disco classics and modern hip-hop-pop. Maybe a half dozen inner city kids stumbled around the perimeter while their parents congregated in the back, enjoying a brief respite while their kids could be self-entertained. A few brave Dads donned skates to hold their kids up while their legs flailed in odd directions. Emmett, too, had a rough start, but after seeing enough other kids fall also, and a brief lesson by a matronly lady who was conveniently time warped here from 1978, he put it all together enough to finish near the top of the roller-limbo contest by the end of the afternoon.

Meanwhile, Kathleen and I took the time to have a few rolls around the rink ourselves. Were these kids the only ones who don't have play-stations to keep them sedated in their family rooms? We pondered such questions as we risked concussions and fractures. There certainly wasnt the crowd we each remembered from the roller skating phase of our childhoods. It is nice to know places like this still exist. We used to go every Sunday afternoon...a bus came and stopped in front of the post office and drove us all to the next town to spend our afternoon roller skating. Why, if you could beg a couple dollars from your mom you could get in, rent your skates, and still have enough for a glass of pop at the snack bar.

Have you been roller skating in the past 20 years? Probably not. Well, I'm here to heartily recommend it. We akwardly tried to glide in a giant oval beneath the dark ceiling sparkling with colored lights...and if I just relax and let myself go...just for a moment I'm 10 years old and back at the Quamingo Roller Rink on the prairies of Minnesota, gliding beneath the stars with my whole life in front of me and maybe by the end of today that girl is going to want to hold my hand and couples skate. Why anything could happen...

And before I drifted (ok, wiped out most un-graciously on the floor) back to the dingy reality of this relic of a bargain entertainment venue, and then the reality of a long day of chores, lists and deadlines. Before I was a hard driven late 30s professional...it occurred to me that this is sailing too. The whole world is in front of me all over again. Anything could happen. Anything.

 

21 Mar 2007 9:12 pm
      After 5 long days of work in Ft. Lauderdale, we came back monday starting to feel a lot better about her being ready on time. I've started to line up crew for the delivery to Delaware, scheduled to begin only 3 weeks from today! All I need now are for the contractors to finish their tasks on time.

Sometimes it seems like a full time job just keeping track of all the details of projects. As I start to get wound up about it all, I just have to remind myself that's why we hired a yacht manager down there to look after things. Today he called to inform us that the haul out at the boat yard took place later than expected after the delivery captain got stuck in a shallow mud bar on the way out the channel. Funny, same thing happened to us last week. Now I don't feel so bad!

 

28 Mar 2007 9:13 pm
     With two weeks to go until the delivery trip, things are starting to come together. Barring any major surprises, the contractors should be able to finish their assigned tasks in time.
Uliad came out of the water this past weekend for a much needed coat of bottom paint. There is still work to be done by the carpenter, electrician, riggers, hydraulics, and radio guys, but it looks very achievable at this point.

I have the crew assembled for the delivery trip to Delaware:

Steve P is a guy I have never met who was recommended by our yacht broker. I'm paying his way to come just because A. he runs a boat yard in New England and hopefully can fix stuff if it breaks, and B. he has some offshore experience which neither I or nobody else does. Hopefully he has neither a psychopathic side nor a bad body odor. One just cant tell from a few phone calls or emails.

Kent is a colleague of mine and a fellow sailor. I think I caught him at a weak moment, since he's been unable to sail in Wisconsin all winter. He jumped at the opportunity even though he knows both me, and sailing, enough to know better.

Eric is an old high school friend. He has come on charters with me once or twice, but aside from that has no sailing experience. I talked him into coming by promoting the whole "adventure at sea" thing. I purposely omitted any mention of seasickness...hopefully that won't come back to bite me in the ass.

So, in two weeks, the four of us will hopefully converge upon Fort Lauderdale; arriving as strangers and becoming a crew. We'll pack up our ship and set out of Port Everglades to hook a ride on the Gulf Stream northward. Our course will pull us slowly farther from land and out into the big Atlantic, pointing our bow toward Cape Hatteras: the graveyard of the Atlantic. By the time we round the cape, we should be settled into a routine of watches, and over the worst of any seasickness we may have faced. It would be naive to expect nothing to go wrong, but I have confidence in the boat to carry on. After Hatteras, we will reach a fork in the road: we could turn left, and duck into Chesapeake Bay for a longer but protected remainder of the trip. Or we could take the shorter, more exposed route north into Delaware bay. I think we'll make that decision when we get there. Either way, or final destination will be Summit North Marina, on the C&D canal which connects the Chesapeake and Delaware bays. By then, we'll all feel like accomplished sailors. And so we will be. A thousand miles across the ocean. By then, we'll all be the best of friends, or so annoyed with each other that we're ready to swim to shore. I've seen it go both ways on a small boat. By then, I'll be done worrying about whether I have forgotten anything in my long list of preparations...

April:

 

     I received email from Uliad today. "Dr John"; is the founder of Cruise Email, inc. and the guy who is installing our new SSB radio. So the radio is apparently working well along with the special modem necessary to send email over high frequency radio waves across the oceans. There are several companies and non-profit organizations offering these services, all have painfully slow download times, so don't send us photos! So that's one more thing to check off the list.
I think I've received the last of the gear &parts that I've ordered and packed 'em all up.
My biggest frustration so far has been my Max Sea navigation software. The program sounds great on paper: it allows you to interface your GPS to your electronic charts to your internet weather data and display them all together. So on one screen you can see the chart, with a little red boat in the middle representing you. Then various symbols, lines and colors can be used to display the wind and waves both now and in the future as you move forward in time. It would be a pretty cool thing if it worked.
I loaded it onto my laptop in February and promptly found that the charts they sent were not being recognized by the program. After a couple calls, they sent me some new codes to put into the program and that part worked...for about a week. Then the program froze up. No big deal except no amount of rebooting would help. I even tried to un-install the program and start over only to find that an error message popped up every time I tried to uninstall. So now I was really screwed: couldn't use the program and couldn't get rid of it. Calls to tech support were met with round after round of "golly-gee, never heard of that one before. We'll have to get back to you..." Finally after a week of not getting back to me I ended up reformatting my hard drive to start over.
Then like the masochist I am, I reloaded the software to try again. It worked great for a few days, then started freezing up every time I load it. I kept calling tech support. My usual routine was to turn on the laptop and start it up while on hold so as to be able to explain to them exactly when it crapped out and how cursor rapidly flashes between the little hand and the hourglass. Day after day I called and then miraculously, one day the program loaded up and started working again just fine. Wow. I almost forgot how mad I was at Max Sea and went about planning my upcoming voyage in great detail. I downloaded the latest weather file (called a GRIB file) and was having great fun for about a day when the whole thing started all over again. More calls to tech support were met with "the software engineer is very interested in your problem. He will be calling you tomorrow!" Well, 3 calls and 4 tomorrows later I still haven't heard squat. Asses. I should have bought Nobletec's navigation software.
Fear not, dear reader, we have both paper charts and C map cartridges for the video plotter on board to guide us on our coming voyage. I hope they are more reliable!


April 3:

     Meanwhile, as I try to attend to all the details of the boat, Kathleen has admirably taken up the task of sorting out our domestic responsibilities. Her father is having major surgery at the San Francisco VA next monday...two days before I leave to sail the boat! She's trying to make her travel arrangements, as well as for her father to fly from Reno to SF. While she gets him there and ready for surgery, I'm on call for my group here in Waupaca this weekend and looking after Emmett. Then on Monday My father comes here to help look after Emmett until Kathleen returns NEXT weekend. Are you keeping all this straight?

Oh, and Kathleen is not only making her travel plans, she has also arranged for plumbing and landscaping repairs to be done so our house will be ready to sell. And she interviewed three realtors, and chose one to have the house on the market by the end of this month when she gets back. And she is trying to help one friend get ready for job interviews and another plan her wedding...

It is a lot of work to drop out and leave it all behind.

06 Apr 2007 9:54 pm
     So finally after several more pestering calls, I finally was put through to the Max Sea software engineer-- a friendly guy with a strong French accent who calmly walked me through updating my display driver and just like that, my software problems were solved. Damn. The thing I hate about computers is that no matter how much you know, there is always some geek out there who can make you feel like an idiot. I was really hoping that there was some grave error in the code and they'd have to admit their big error.
As much as I really wanted to hate Max Sea, I'll have to admit that it is a pretty incredible tool for navigating with. It seamlessly integrates and displays GPS, charts, weather, current, and tidal data all in one place. And, conveniently enough, if I should grow bored with this program, there an ample number of "upgrades" I can buy to show the sea floor in 3D, chart my course for me, or tell me the name, course and speed of every other ship around me.
But before I buy that, I have to recover from the staggering load of bills we've racked up in our Ft. Lauderdale refit. We've drained the boat fund pretty well, and my fiscally conservative side wants to put the kabosh on any more spending for now. We're still doing pretty well schedule wise, but now the calls are just starting to roll in today: The electrician says he wont really have time for the chain counter...the hydraulics guy is on vacation so we're not really sure if we'll get to that winch... Maybe the headaches going to pile up soon

08 Apr 2007 8:50 pm
     >Several times in the past month I have been explaining my sailing plans to someone when their jaw slightly drops, followed by some stern suggestions that I might consider taking a couple days to sail the boat around in circles in Ft. Lauderdale first before starting out on such a big trip. With great concern in their voice, they've suggested that it is just safer if I stay close to the harbor and practice up a while before sailing a thousand miles in my new boat. I'm new enough at this to just start getting nervous when someone thinks me foolhardy. But I also know enough (or am stubborn enough) about what I'm doing to choose to ignore them. Lots of the sailors stoires I've read talk about "the dock committee".   It is composed of people who seem to know about sailing, yet never seem to go anywhere themselves. They're usually quite opinionated and ready to share their opinions at the drop of a hat. Apparently, cruising ports around the world are infested with these folk. I think I've met my first dock committee. Or maybe I'm an idiot. Guess I'll find out soon enough.

I'm actually starting to get real weather forecasts now for days that we'll actually be out on the water. As anyone who watches the 10 o'clock news knows, the forecast 4 days from now is not always very accurate, but the early news is good: Gentle winds from behind the first day, dying out the second, then building to strong (but not scary strong) winds from behind the third day. What a great way to get our sea legs those first couple days. Then when we're getting into the groove, we'll be ready for some adventure by day 3 with the winds kicking up to 20 knots. As long as the wind stays out of the south, I'm happy. The biggest weather danger of this trip would be a strong north wind, blowing opposite the gulf stream. Those contrary forces can build up some pretty nasty seas, and would force us to either abandon our destination and head for shelter, or sail up wind into bad waves. Neither is very appealing.

But so far it looks like that's not going to happen. So if the weather computers are right, we're looking at a great trip...dock committee be damned!

10 Apr 2007 9:40 pm
     The past few days have brought a flurry of calls from Ft. Lauderdale. Most things are getting done, a few aren't , a few new problems have popped up. What, you wanted us to do that? And oh, by the way, there appear to be more rodent droppings in the bilge, shall I call an exterminator for you? It all sounds like chaos from here, so I'm a little worried about what I'll find when I get there. My steadfast message to every contractor these past few months of refitting has been the same: The boat MUST be ready to go to sea by tomorrow, April 11.

Meanwhile, as is typical on the day before a vacation, every patient seeme to be lined up and double booked for that one last issue with Dr. Erickson before he leaves town. My day quickly became filled with appointments, prescription refills, papers to sign, patients to hand off to my partners. What a mess. After one last run to the hospital to take care of one more crisis, I'm now taking a deep breath. Did I forget anything?

Tomorrow I get back to Uliad. There's a feeling I get every time I leave this hectic, hyperactive life behind to start a week on the boat. In the BVI, it usually happens in the taxi ride to the marina: we drive along the sea side and I start to feel my muscles relax, my jaw unclench...we're here. At last. I breathe in the smell of the sea and the world begins to shrink...back to my family and friends and this moment right here...this little boat. Deadlines and schedules fade into an unnecessary intrusion upon my enjoyment of the present. Oh, man I could use that feeling. Tomorrow. Tomorrow it will come.

I feel a little embarrased before anyone bothering to read this blog so far. It seems to be filled with complaints of business and dreams of what is going to happen. Well, dear reader, tomorrow I'll finally start doing something worth telling you about. I'm flying down, packing up Uliad, and cutting the lines to Ft. Lauderdale. The plan is to sail nearly 1000 miles north to a marina in Delaware to park Uliad well out of hurricane range for the summer.

The weather so far looks great for the first day or two, but at some point it looks like a front will cross our path bringing winds potentially 30-40 knots strong. The winds should come from behind, which is good. But 40 knots is 40 knots. It appears we may have 3 options at this point: rush to leave ASAP and go as fast as possible to try to be north of Cape Hatteras before the strongest of the wind & seas develop, or get good and ready, leave the day after tomorrow as previously scheduled, and be ready to turn into shore somewhere in South/NorthCarolina if the conditions get too squirrley. We could then continue motoring up the ICW and skip the worst of it all of Cape Hatteras. That would make for a slower trip all around, but it might be better to be late than seasick. Guess we'll keep watching the weather and decide tomorrow night. I just hope the boat is ready.

12 Apr 2007 6:37 pm
     After arriving in Ft Lauderdale yesterday, we had a few setbacks: First, Nance & Underwood riggers weren't quite done with my backstay...they were replacing my rigging and somehow forgot to install any insulators for the SSB radio antenna. Then they apparently took down my wind instruments on top of the mast and nobody seemed to know where it went. I asked them to save one long stay to have as a spare...but they had already thrown them all away. They never bothered to do an eye splice I asked them to do... it has been one f-up after another with them.

Then there was the engine that wouldn't turn over. The mechanic arrived from the firm that had supposedly just overhauled and inspected everything in the engine room. At first the diagnosis was a bad battery...with that replaced it was bad cables...then it was the starter...Finally after replacing all three to the tune of about a thousand dollars, the engine finally fired up and we were off by about 5pm.

While these problems were being sorted out, the carpenter continued to plod away at finishing his final project: some new drawers under the galley table. Also, the electricians came by one last time because the lights they had supposedly repaired were not working. So after a long and frustrating day, we finally were able to shove off.

What a relief to get away from all this and back out to sea. The boat looks great and moves so nicely. It was a great moment to finally esape from refit-land. The crew has been getting along splendidly and I think everyone looks happy to be moving.

Now for the next challenge: In two days we should be somewhere off South Carolina when a pretty major storm is expected to hit us. The free grib weather data tells us pretty much exactly the same thing as the Commander's Weather guy: We're likely to face 40+knot winds, and you don't want to be anywhere near Cape Hatteras when it hits. So the plan now is to make way as fast as we can for Charleston, SC.

Tonight at dusk, it is a beautiful light breeze and clear skies. The seas are mild. Nobody is seasick. Everything is good. Strange to imagine how all this will soon change. It kind of sounds like the intro to a bad made for TV adventure, doesnt it?: Four novice sailors left on a shakedown cruise in a new boat that was already having engine problems...then foolishly set course straight toward the perfect storm that was brewing in the Atlantic....

 

14 Apr 2007 6:37 pm
     Our second day out, the wind turned out of the north as predicted by all our weather sources. The wind was fairly light, but even so, when wind runs opposite ocean current, larger waves are kicked up. We eased our way out of the gulf stream to find calmer waters, but by this point, Eric had already given a stomachfull of beer and Doritos back to the sea. All of us struggled with nausea throughout the day, but Eric definitely got the worst of it... he spent the day prostrate in the cockpit, occasionally getting up to retch over the side some more. Poor guy. We covered his watches for him, and someone offered him a rectal suppository of Phenergan. And to his credit, I think he came very close to taking Steve P up on it. By mid afternoon, Eric had composed himself enough to sit up and explain his work at the Port of Seattle. For about 20 minutes he looked like he had gotten his sea legs, only to abruptly stop in mid sentence and flop back over to the rail. By my estimation, only about a third of the can of ginger ale that he drank came back up. This was a marked improvement according to my crew.

We did manage to hook a small dorado in the morning and hauled it in close enough to see how pretty it was. But then, as they are famous for doing, the fish took one look at Steve P at the stern holding the gaff hook and he promptly spit out the lure and swam away. Eric's constant chumming of the water the rest of the day did little for our fishing results after that.

The winds finally clocked back to east, and then southeast overnight, allowing us to slide back over into the gulf stream. This morning I awoke to a bright sunny day, relatively calm seas, and the boat moving on course at ten knots (including a 2 knot boost from the current. Everyone's nausea seems gone and the world looks great.

But of course there is this talk of a really big storm coming tomorrow morning. Because we're making good time, we've decided to press on to Cape Fear, where we plan to pull in late this evening and proceed up the ICW until the storm passes. This morning I made a batch of fresh scones & coffee for everyone. A nice light but filling breakfast to fuel us up before the weather gets rough again.

In a passage, it seems there is always a blah, nauseated, sleepy feeling as your body adjusts to the sea. How great it feels to wake up a few days later with that feeling gone. Appetites back, well rested, and nice weather makes us feel ready for what the sea will soon dish out.

 

15 Apr 2007 9:37 pm
     We continued to make great progress with the help of the gulf stream. The southerlies continued to build all day and with it, the waves kept Eric enjoying his meals in both directions. We had originally planned to duck into Charleston to ride out the storm, but the sailing conditions were so nice that I secretly hoped this storm would magically disappear. After all, how accurate is a forecast 4 days out anyway? I spent a fair amount of time off watch fiddling with my new SSB radio pulling down the latest text forecast and weather faxes and the reports were unanimous: We needed to get the hell off the water before Sunday morning. A major storm was a-coming.
But because we were all having such fun, we decided to press on to Cape Fear, North Carolina instead of Charleston. Although we arrinved well past dark, the inlet was well marked and easily navigated. The winds were probably up to 25 knots or so by now. We turned left onto the ICW to Cape Fear Marina. Conveniently enough, they were just finishing a new floating fuel dock where we tied off around 2am. We all sat up for a few minutes enjoying the relative quiet of a moored boat, the settled feeling in our stomachs, and the sense of accomplishment.
By this morning, we awoke to hear the sound of 40 knots of wind howling through the rigging. If you've never heard it, it sounds like a wailing banshee. Well, you've probably never heard that either...but it is a colorful metaphor, no? As the day wore on, the noise built and there were literally whitecaps in the harbor!
We checked in at the marina office. They were happy to let us stay on the nearly finished fuel dock for the day as it was still off-season. They also offered to help move us to somewhere where we could buy water and electric hookups. I suggested that perhaps they could charge us a little less for a dock that had neither these amenities, nor a connection to land yet, but they would have none of that. $80 poorer I wandered back to join the crew, who had arranged to borrow a car from the marina.
A fitting on the shower sump pump had broken and Steve P had sprung into action, pulling the pump and declaring that a 35 cent part at a hardware store was all that was needed to spare us all from sharing a small place with other unshowered men for the rest of the week. A check of the engine room also revealed a mysterious pool of oil in the bilges. The day before I had added oil to the engine, but I definitely didn't spill this! I needed some oil absorbing mats and then figure out where the leak was.
Our wives would be proud of us. Unable to sail, we were to spend the day shopping. Eric was appointed captain of the car, and off we went in search of Loews at the outskirts of town. Where, in addition to the plumbing fitting, I managed to find a small wet-dry vac, some degreasing solution, and a new allen wrench for the boat. Meanwhile, Eric ventured to a grocery store across the road to stock up on a few more sodas and cookies. We all found just what we needed.
Our only precipitation from this storm struck on our shopping trip. The rain poured down in buckets for about 15 minutes, then slowly returned to sunshine by late afternoon. Eric took us all to McDonalds drive thru, followed by an hour of driving around to see who might have those oil mats. We even stopped to ask for directions! No luck. It seems this town never spilled oil.
I spent the rest of this windy afternoon contorting myself around the engine trying to find where the oil had been coming trom. The best I could find was a loose screw on the front of the engine that seemed slightly oily around it. I tightened that as well as a few other things around it and called it good. A check of my engine manual revealed that the flat panel on the front of the engine that this screw was holding appeared to be called the "oil seal". Perfect. that must be it.
While the 50 knot winds raged around us, we had plenty of time that night to pour over our weather reports and discuss our next plan of action. Then we all gathered around Eric's laptop for a screening of "Borat". We were to spend the rest of the trip saying things like "very nice!"; and "high five!" in our best Borat voice.

16 Apr 2007 11:44 am
     Aside from offshore weather forecasts and weather faxes, we were pretty cut off from the news. But apparently this storm was getting headlines across the country. Kent's wife called our house wondering what was going on, and Eric's parents sent us an anxious email as well. We tried to reassure them that we were safe and sound in a safe harbor...but even as we were telling everyone, we were planning to head offshore again.
The forecasts for Monday were calling for 35-45 knot winds and 20 foot seas, but everything was supposed to be gradually tapering off as the storm moved away. And the forecast also put wind & waves behind our beam... So with blue skies overhead, we rationalized that we should head out to sea again. Well, except for Eric who kept mentioning that this Intracoastal Waterway sounded really interesting and it would probably be fun to explore it. We rationalized that seasickness rarely lasts more than a few days so he'd probably be fine.
We motored out the Cape Fear inlet and hoisted staysail and triple reefed main, ready for action. It was rough, but doable. Frying Pan Shoals extend 25 miles out to sea just east of the inlet, so we had a long southeast tack to sail before we could make our turn toward Hatteras. By the time we did, winds were blowing streaks of foam across the waters and the seas were up to 20 feet. Kent, Steve P and I alternated driving and sitting up behind the dodger to avoid the driving spray. Eric resumed his position between the bunk and the head. Occasional retching noises confirmed he was still alive.
I had been told by both previous owners how nice a motion at sea Uliad had, but now was the first time I really had a chance to feel it for myself. She sailed absolutely great through it all. Despite some pretty horrendous conditions, the boat felt solid, secure, and steady.. We never felt overpowered or out of control, even as the winds and seas built. The autopilot started acting up and we presumed it was getting overpowered by the big waves that were now up to 25 feet high. Several hatches were sprouting small leaks below including the one right above the main electric panel and my laptop. A few sparks appeared behind the former, and trouble appeared in the latter. Not good!! One big rogue wave struck us hard and pushed us down perhaps 45 degrees. I was at the wheel and remember seeing it coming and turning away to avoid getting the spray in the face. As the boat pushed over, I stepped from the cockpit floor to the cockpit side wall and stood for a second before Uliad popped back up. In one shot, the dinghy davits had bent slightly, and one dinghy oar was washed away.
I would really love to tell you an epic survival at sea story about the building waves and mighty winds, but the reality was...that was about all that happened to us. No great danger. No sudden calamity. Just the growing tiresomeness of always having to hang on as the boat gyrated across the big waves. And the annoyance of dripping salt water in a number of the hatches whose gaskets were in need of replacement. It was clear that this boat will be able to handle a lot more than its occupants.
Each of us was starting to get tired of this, and when one of us suggested going back in, the rest of us readily agreed: Cape Lookout was a few hours ahead. We wouldn't make it before dark, but it was a well lit harbor. It certainly seemed a preferable alternative, especially given the fact that conditions seemed to be building offshore, not improving as the forecast had called for!
The winds had clocked around to the Northeast by now, so it was a long close reach to the Cape Lookout Sea Buoy. The laptop had stopped working after its saltwater shower, so we found our way in using the chartplotter at the helm and the harbor chart from our ICW paper maps. We finally tied off at a marina's fuel dock at 3 am. With the detour around Frying Pan Shoals, we had only covered about 100 miles. And with little motivation to repeat the story again tomorrow, we decided that we'd start up the ICW at 6am after a brief nap.
Both Steve P and Eric had home obligations that meant, if they were to go the whole trip, we'd have to keep moving. Eric and I took the first morning shift, only to find that our first bridge would not be passable for another 3 hours until the tide went down. The ICW is supposed to allow for boats up to 65 feet tall to pass under its bridges. So many boats (like mine) are built with a mast that extends 64 1/2 feet above the water. But that doesn't account for tides, and the high tide put the first bridge at about 63 1/2 feet. Another look at the chart, however, revealed an alternate route with a draw bridge whose attendant was more than willing to open for us. Off we go!!

 

17 Apr 2007 1:37 pm

     We motored all day, anxious about the time it would take us to get home if we averaged the 50-80 miles per day that our guidebook talked about. But after looking ahead at the chart, it appeared that shortly after sunset we'd encounter a long, straight canal, followed by an open water sail across Pamlico sound. Both of them seemed reasonable to do at night, so we decided to press on through.
But first we had to pass under the infamous Wilkerson Bridge. As previously mentioned, the ICW is built for masts up to 65 feet tall. But the folks who built the Wilkerson Bridge apparently didn't pay too much attention to the drawings, because it is listed on the chart as 64 feet. We pulled up slowly to see the water sign sitting at about 64 1/3 feet. I turned around, planning to hang out for an hour or two to see if the tide went out enough to get to 65 feet. But then Steve P came up with the idea of sending someone up the mast to look and see if we'd clear it or not. Great Idea Steve!, are you volunteering to go up? Poor Steve was stuck. I pulled out the bosun's chair, stuffed some tools in the pockets as well as my camera for the mandatory mast-top photo of my new boat. Eric helped out by pornographically testing the rope and knot security. Thouroughly tested, up Steve went.
It was a very close call. But by removing the tricolor light and the Windex, Steve declared it safe to proceed. And so we did with only an inch or two to spare!


19 Apr 2007 10:00 pm

     The rest of the trip turned out to be just a long drive north. We traversed a small lock in Virginia, then motored up into Norfolk. Even if we hadn't just spent the last few days out in the boonies, the size and number of ships in this harbor was truly amazing. Does the navy really need this many ships? What do we do with them all??
Our progress was almost impeded by the last bridge we had to pass under. We just missed the 3:30pm opening by 10 minutes and were told by the bridge tender that the next opening would be at 5:30 pm. What! Since when does rush hour run from 3:30 to 5:30? Do Virginians really get off work at 3pm? Fortunately we were saved when a barge heading south hailed the same bridge requesting an opening, and stating he had a "red flag". Apparently a red flag is some sort of free pass to get through bridges whenever you want. I'm going to have to get me one of those.
We spent the next ten minutes trying to decide if we should call back the bridge tender and ask for permission to go under with the red flag barge, or should we just go for it and ask for forgiveness instead of permission. The latter sentiment was unanimous among the crew and we ducked under easily while the barge was still a quarter mile off and never even got scolded by the bridge. "Very nice!" & "High five".
With no more major obstacles in the remaining waters, we stopped at a marina to get a wi-fi connection and reserve flights home for everyone. We also bought some fuel and I gave our Perkins Diesel a well deserved oil change. I was pleased to see that, with a little hand pump attached to the side of the engine, I could accomplish the whole task in about 10 minutes--even on my first try. I calculated a fuel consumption of 1.7 gallons per hour so far. That seems kind of high to me, but we have been pushing the RPMs higher than would be ideal.
The southern Chesapeake has been a good opportunity to get to know my radar well. The wind is cold and on the nose. Sitting below at the pilothouse helm, I can keep watch out the windows, monitor traffic on the radar, and type on the laptop all at the same time!

We pulled into the marina finally around 9 or 10 pm and easily found our spot on the end of K dock. We made it! Congratulations were passed around, and we all went below for steaks and to polish off our last bottle of wine. Which has now made us all extremely sleepy after 7 days of watch schedules. Good night all.

 

22 Apr 2007 11:00 am

     The crew all shipped home the following day, leaving me to clean up the boat. I had been warned by Kathleen not to leave the boat looking like four guys had been living on it all week. I had been getting a little worried about breakdowns enroute, but after a good night's sleep, the inevitable repair list looks a little more manageable:
Replace rubber gaskets on hatches
Hire welder to repair cracks in dinghy davits
Raymarine technician to check fluxgate compass on autopilot
Return the new BBQ grill to West Marine that won't light
Repair a toilet seat whose hinge broke
Pickle the watermaker
Wash the salt out of everything

Now I'm flying back to Wisconsin as I write this. It is going to be hard jumping back and forth between these two lives in the next few months. In Wisconsin my life is hyper-structured and over scheduled. On Uliad, everything takes longer to do, forcing me to slow down. Goals are simpler and immediate, allowing me to live in the moment. And that is the whole idea.

So now I need to shift gears, and go back to my high-speed productivity way of living. Gotta pay for that welder you know. Got to get the house sold, blah blah blah. But in my mind I'm already thinking up excuses to make a quick trip back...to go cruising a month sooner... to not live that way any more.

 

23 Apr 2007 9:43 pm
     I spent most of my first day back at work worrying about the boat. Should I have left the seacocks open? Do I have a stray current problem that will eat a hole in my hull while I'm gone? Will stuff get stolen? Will the battery charger start a fire? Probably all irrational fears, but I was surprised how much they occupied my mind. My last boat always had a charter company watching over it which I suppose should not have set my heart at ease, but I realized this is the first time I've felt totally responsible for a very expensive yacht. If it sinks at its slip next week, its all on me.
My fears are not all baseless. Before locking up this weekend, I pulled out the corrosion meter from a drawer and found the needle well into the "freely corroding" zone. But all my testing came up blank. The meter stayed the same wherever and however I tested it. I even pulled out a spare zinc and dipped it in the water and got the same reading...so maybe the meter is bad. I hung two extra zincs over the side just to be safe.
I also notice that the engine start battery (brand new) does not seem to be holding a charge. So I think there could be a stray DC current or an improper ground somewhere. But that's going to have to wait for the next trip to figure out. I just hope the zincs last that long!

25 Apr 2007 9:50 pm
     Kathleen has been furiously cleaning out the house. I don't know where everything is going, but she's already made the place look twice as big just by cleaning out a lot of clutter. The realtor came by today for us to sign the papers and our house goes on the market next week!
To do my part, I reserved a U-haul trailer for the weekend and planted two flower boxes in the front yard. Around 2pm, Kathleen was in a seriously foul mood when she decided that all this work would go much easier if she was intoxicated. Several rum & cokes later, she's still working on the laundry, but she's in a much better mood.

30 Apr 2007 10:43 pm
     Imagine this for a moment. You're leaving your life as you know it and you can't take it with you. What do you do with all that stuff that you've accumulated. Things that you like, things that were expensive, things that have meaning to you in some way or another. Do you give it all away? Yes, sure there are plenty of folks who would like your car and your jewelry... but most of it, It will never mean as much to somebody else.
Do you sell it? How much do you think that slightly used leather sofa would go for in a garage sale? Could you stomach having someone offer you $25 to put it in his son's fraternity basement?
No, this is precisely how we accumulate so much stuff in life. And why grand children dig enormous piles of junk out of attics after the funeral. And why we have enormous storage locker facilities in every town. It was with great pride that I went out and bought each one of these things that I now sift through. That softball mitt-- I bet I tried on twenty before finding the one that fit me like a...well, like it should. These lamps-- man they were perfect for our living room. The dining room rug-- I bet Kathleen went through five before finding one just the right size and colors for there. This espresso machine-- oh I love it so much. Kathleen got it for me for my birthday about five years ago after I practically pointed to the exact one on the web page that I wanted. It has been my constant companion on way to many early mornings...
How odd to just walk away from it all. After working, struggling so hard to make this place just so...how odd to start dismantling it all. And although neither of us has dared voice it, it is even a bit painful at times.
You can't take it with you.
Maybe that's why we've started this game as we pack up the boxes. I call it the "when we get back" game. It begins with a comment like, "When we get back, we're getting a formal dining table...I'm ready to get rid of this old one";. Then moves on to, "When we get back, I'm going to find some napkins to match these napkin rings. I never used them, but they're really nice". Or even "When we get back, I'm decorating the bathroom in cobalt blues and this candle will decorate the toilet tank lid."
It's as if we can only bring ourselves to dismantle this life by imagining an entirely similar one that we'll soon be constructing "when we get back".
But who's to say? After living together on a small space, will we ever see the need for a formal dining table again? Or frivolities like napkin rings? How will we change? And what will we think of all the trappings of this life that we so lovingly wrapped in tissue paper for "when we get back"?

May:   

 

I08 May 2007 10:17 pm
     Mostly through Kathleen's herculean effort, we had the house looking fabulous just in time for our first open house on Sunday. Apparently we had a couple lookey-loos stop by but no offers.
I tend to be a person who is happiest when I have a project to work on. God forbid I should just have to sit around and wait for someone else to do something! Well, that's the position we're in now. As soon as someone buys the house we'll have a huge stack of stuff to do, but it drives me nuts not being able to do anything to MAKE it sell. Same goes for our old boat SHEPHERD. Man I'd love to get that sold, too.
So this week we're taking a few well earned days of rest, and I'm trying not to go out of my mind doing it. Fortunately the office keeps me preoccupied enough to maintain sanity. I suppose I would do well to start learning how to be a more passive observer of the world around me if I am to be truly happy lounging away my placid afternoons on the deck of Uliad...

10 May 2007 10:47 pm
     I was back in my hometown of Kenyon, MN last weekend to visit my Dad, when I met my old high school English teacher. She is a good family friend, and I was a bit embarassed to learn that she has already been reading my website. Oh no! Have I left a dangling participle somewhere?
So we got talking a bit about good adventure stories that she liked to use in her classes to keep the boys interested...and it got me thinking how dull this blog probably is to the average web surfer. Day after day, I do nothing but go to work and wait for our adventure to begin...should I really go into any detail about sending off the check to the yacht electrician today? It sometimes seems like my whole life is consumed with just waiting until the pieces fall in place and we can get started... Then, dear reader, I'll finally have something worth reporting.
I have seriously considered just holding off on keeping this log until we actually shove off. But then I remember how many cruising stories that never tell the part about how one actually gets to that point. What was it like to make such a colossal change? Now is when the hard stuff is taking place in our lives... the slow, long goodbye to most everything that has been occupying our attention for the past 10 years. As big a task that may be, it still feels like we're just waiting. Knowing we're leaving, we no longer have to worry about planning for the future HERE. Whether it be work, volunteer organizations, house projects, or even the cultivation of relationships with more casual acquaintances, it all seems unnecessary--someone else will tend those gardens now.
So we sit in this limbo...saying goodbye, but not quite gone yet. Waiting. Packing. Dreaming about something far from here. Something worth writing about.

16 May 2007 11:33 pm

      So I was talking to a colleague this morning who was admiring our ambitions and asking if I knew enough about diesel engine mechanics to look after our new boat.
"Not really";, I told him. And then added that in addition to being inadequately prepared as a diesel mechanic, I was also desperately short on experience as an electrician, plumber, computer geek, and so forth. Sometimes I worry about these things, and other times I just shrug my shoulders and think, "Oh well, I'll figure it out if I have to."
I also take comfort in the fact that just about everything mechanical on the boat has a back-up system if it fails. If the diesel won't run, then we have sails to move us along. If there's no wind, we can even use the dinghy to pull the boat short distances. And so on with everything else.
But even with such redundancies, if the motor quits, it will still have to be repaired at some point. And one part of this grand adventure will be the fact that, whenever possible, I will need to try to do such things myself. This was running through my mind because I was driving our convertible Jaguar in to the dealer this morning to get the oil changed. Now an oil change is one thing that I really can do with all confidence, and soon I would be doing this again with some regularity when we go sailing. But for now I'm perfectly content to pay someone else to get their hands dirty. Should I be?

If you've never been to a really high end service shop, let me share my experience today: I drive in to their indoor garage, whose floor is probably cleaner than my kitchen I might add. Wayne is there to shake my hand and call me by name, remembering the Dr, not Mr. mind you. All within about 5 minutes he has gone over the service plan, collected my keys and handed me the keys to my loaner (no charge) for the day. Now the loaner here is not the usual beat up old Chevy that you might beg for at the body shop. No, it is a new Volvo with about 5K miles on it. Wayne makes sure I know where things are and sends me on my way. If I didn't have plans with the loaner car, there's a plush lounge with big screen TV, newspapers, magazines, private office space to work, free sodas & (could they be fresh baked throughout the day?) cookies. The bathroom has marble tile and gold fixtures...I feel like a king.
Later that day, the serviced, washed, and vacuumed Jag is waiting in the indoor carport when I return. Wayne has the papers done and just like that I'm on my way. He notices me finishing off a bottle of water as I drive in and asks if I'd like another for the drive. Of course service like this doesn't come free. I probably paid triple what it would cost me at the local Jiffy Lube. I justify it all by saying I have alot more money than time. And Kathleen and I have learned over the years that not many people make more per hour than a physician. So generally when I start thinking of a do-it-yourself project, she reminds me of this. I go off to work and we hire someone experienced to do the project for us. We still come out ahead.
But has this kind of pampering made me soft? Money won't be such a freely available problem solver when we start cruising on Uliad. I wont have a shop full of guys working at my beck and call... I won't be able to snack on warm cookies and read this week's Time while someone else climbs down into the engine room for me.
I should probably worry about such things, but for now, the prospect seems kind of exciting. Won't that be an adventure, having to rebuild the oil thingamabob and reinstall the back pressure dieselmatizer all in one morning before the storm hits. How butch.

22 May 2007 10:33 am

     This morning was one of those days where it's hard to go to work. First of all, it never helps if I actually have a rare morning where I'm not already rushed. With no patients in the hospital to hurry off and see before clinic, I had time to sit down with Emmett and work out the maze on the back of his cereal box. Then as I went out to move the hose and start the lawn sprinkler...the birds were all out singing a chorus, the sky was sunny, the air was cool but carried a promise of warmer weather today. I had to pause and admire just how beautifully the mist was swirling over the surface of the lake. How is it that I get up every day and don't notice these things?
And so my thoughts again turned to sailing. Without a busy schedule awaiting my attention every day, will I have the time to appreciate moments like this more often? Or will I busy my mind with plans to change the oil or go spear a lobster today? I'm trying to start slowing down now, even as my life insistently tugs at my sleeve, telling me to hurry up.
So off to clinic, trying to savor a beautiful spring morning as long as possible. I had the top down on the convertible, driving jealously past folks out taking a walk, planting their gardens, or just looking like they didn't have too much pressing stuff to do on this fine day.
Now in my office it is a always perfect, humidity controlled 70 degrees and I'm back to doing the same old thing as yesterday...trying to keep enjoying each moment, where ever I may be.

24 May 2007 4:42 pm

      After a 5 week hiatus in the real word, the Ericksons are back at the airport today on their way back to Uliad. Kathleen has packed our bags to strategically maximize our 2 bag/ 40 # each luggage allowance...bringing a whole pile of housewares, linens, and clothes to find places onboard.
For my part, I have a list of stuff needing attention that I wrote on my last flight home:
Tighten the mast top wind indicator...find a piece of teak plywood to fashion a new panel for the nav station, clean the sea strainers (been putting that one off too long!)... recaulk several windows...replace hatch gaskets... change the hydraulic oil...and then check on the work that was supposed to be done by now by a welder and the Raymarine electronics technician.
Along with all that, we'll need to fit in some play time and a little birthday celebration for Emmett. And Kathleen agrees that it is time for her to start practicing docking the boat. I hope she agrees that Uliad is pretty easy to handle in tight quarters... I haven't had any problems yet, knock on wood. I'm sure she'll do fine, but just to keep the stress away, we're going to do the docking practice early tomorrow morning before the crowds arrive to their boats for the holiday weekend.
Doesn't that sound like a fun Memorial day weekend?

 

25 May 2007 8:29 pm

     After a flight delay, we finally arrived at Uliad around 2am. The bags were thrown in, the beds made, and everyone crashed. This morning, I started poking around and planning my work. I can't tell you what a relief it was to find everything in order. The engines started right up, everything works, the only problems appear to be the ones I already knew about. After months of refitting, where every project seems to open up a can of worms, I finally feel like I'm getting on top of everything. Another arrival or two like this and I'm going to start trusting everything.
The hardest part about refitting, is the need to prioritize. Safety projects came first, followed by mechanical & functional changes that we wanted to make Uliad comfortable to live on. Last on the list are cosmetic issues. Uliad sorely needs a facelift: new paint on the hull, new varnishing to the woodwork below. It is hard to sink so much money into the boat, only to look and think, "Well, she still looks a little rough around the edges."
But soon we'll start getting to those cosmetic issues. Until then, I'll have to take pride in how smoothly everything is running for the moment.
Emmett "ound" a book on a shelf called "The Dangerous Book for Boys" and has been pouring over it all day. It's kind of a cross between a Boy Scout Handbook and a kid's Reader's Digest. It actually made him forget about his new Play Station Portable for half the day!

 

26 May 2007 10:50 pm
     We've noticed an interesting phenomenon here at the marina. It seems that some folks, after buying their big fancy boat, like to park it at the marina, and then not go on it. On nearly every pier there is someone who sets up lawn chairs and coolers right there on the dock to sit and look admiringly on their boat. Why? At some point do they realize that if they're just going to sit on a lawn chair on a dock, they can build a deck in their back yard for a whole lot less money?
This trend was taken to its most extreme on the M dock, where they had a tent, two folding tables, a steam table, coolers, and a half dozen lawn chairs set up to watch the boats come and go from the marina all day. Then this boat's corpulent owner invited all his friends--not to go boating--just to stand on the dock with him. I don't think I saw any of this group actually set foot on their big pretty boat all day.
But there was a pretty good crowd gathered out there to enjoy the holiday, which was not boding well for Kathleen. She had been planning to practice parking today, and was hoping to get this done early before anyone else was awake and she had an audience watching her. Kathleen should know better than to plan to do anything early. It is just not in her nature. She's a night owl who usually gets her best work done after 10pm. And living on a boat means not having to set an alarm clock, right?
So it was somewhere around the crack of noon when Kath finally fired up the diesel to begin docking practice, and by now, the neighbors and their friends had already fired up their floating hot dog stand an hour ago. Did I mention that Kathleen doesn't like learning in front of an audience? I think we've spent too many years watching charter boats try to hook a mooring as our own evening's entertainment. But much to her credit, she pulled intrepidly away from the dock, motored confidently around and prepared to put on a show.
Now, first of all, steering a large boat seems like it should not be much different than driving a car...after all there is a steering wheel and a throttle, right? But it is very unlike a car, and not even much like a small boat: the momentum of over 40,000 lbs of boat will keep turning the boat for a while even after you straighten the wheel. It will keep moving forward for a long time even after you shift to neutral. And if you're turning while you stop, you might stop going forward, but keep pivoting in place! In addition, backing up is even more challenging. Because the prop pushes turbulent water across the rudder, you can either turn the boat in reverse, or accelerate the boat in reverse, but not both at the same time. Then add the effects of wind and current pushing the boat, and you can begin to understand the challenges.
But to her credit, Kathleen braved it all. On our first approach, she did all the right things, but was a little timid in approaching the dock and ended up looking like a beginning driver who parallel parks about 3 feet away from the curb. Looking at the sludgy brown harbor water below, I refused to leap the gap. Back out and around for another try.
By now, the hot dog dock noticed something was up: didn't that boat already go by once? The guy at the L pier also sensed a practice session. His icy stare seemed to be willing our boat as far away from his as possible. Kathleen's knuckles whitened and we made our final approach. This time, she had learned from her first mistake and she pulled right in and turned it right up along side the dock where I could easily step off and tie on a line with a big grin on my face. No cheers erupted from the grandstand. I think any watchers were losing interest...no crash, no show.
Kathleen refused to give herself credit yet and wanted to do it again. Only this time by backing away from the dock. (Did I mention that backing up is tricky?) She started getting a little frustrated remembering which lever was throttle and which was gear shifter, and when to to what, and ...Oh boy.... The third approach didn't go so well and we ended up with our bow anchor hanging over the dock and the boat perpendicular to where we needed to be. And with that Kathleen had had it! She had me take us home. I think the neighbor guy went below...it was to stressful for him to watch. For my part, I just reminded myself that the boat is solid metal and the paint is going to be re-done soon anyway. But I don't think I sounded like the Zen master I was trying to be. Kathleen was picking up on the tension in my voice. Annoyed as much by my coaching as with the boat's lack of cooperation, Kath unpried her hands from the wheel and said "that's it, I'm done practicing for now... you do it!!" So we pulled around and pretended to be invisible as we sailed past the hot doggers on L dock. Out in the anonymous open water of the canal, Kathleen now felt ready to get a feel for how to back up and turn the boat. (Why didn't I suggest backing up out here first!!) Soon she was getting a feel for prop walk , momentum control, and backing in reverse. After what seemed like enough time for the audience to have forgotten about us, we drove back in. A fat guy in a lawn chair gave Kathleen an odd hot dog salute, a thumbs up and a smile as she drove in. Kathleen looked like she had just eaten a bad hot dog.
Just when we were about to end on a bad note, another gal on a 40 foot motor cruiser two slips down called out some words of encouragement to Kathleen. As I tied off the lines, the two started talking: Kathleen apologising up and down for being such an embarrassment to boating women everywhere, and the captain reminding her that everyone goes through that at first. That followed by "You mean you only have one engine on that big boat? And no bow thruster?? I don't know how you do it!"
I turned around and coyly suggested that she should tell my wife to try it one more time. She did, and Kathleen did. And the last park was the best one ever. Right on the mark. I stepped ashore and wrapped our lines around the cleats with a big smile again. I stood back up and looked around. The hot dog crowd seemed to be ignoring us now. Maybe there's no entertainment value unless something can be criticized...or maybe the fat guy with the hot dog, like our neighbor on the motor cruiser, and yes, like me...had been there before himself. I'd like to think he recognized that nervous look on Kathy's face and turned away...distracted his guests with another round of hot dogs...told a funny joke...whatever.
Because nobody likes to be the center of attention when docking. You'd like to glide in gently as natural as bird coming to its nest. With lines tied, Kathy killed the engine and sternly declared the docking lesson over. She hurried below decks mumbling something about tense muscles and being ready for a cocktail so early in the day. I tried to congratulate her before she could get away. I waited for a cheer to go up from the skeptical yachtsmen around us... but all I heard was the birds in the trees and the quiet din of folks going about their business. And for Kathleen, I think, that was just fine.

 

27 May 2007 4:42 pm
     The chore list didn't prove to be too onerous. The seawater that comes in to cool the engine first passes through a sea strainer, which is a big plastic bowl with a metal lid. It's purpose is to keep you from sucking in debris, fish, or whatever into the engine. But every so often, you need to clean out all the crap that it has been straining out. So that was my first job for the day. The actual cleaning was pretty simple, all I found was a few bits of seaweed in each strainer. The challenge was figuring out how to open the thing. After closing the seacock, I first thought I had to remove about 10 impossible to get at screws underneath the bowl, but after struggling with that a while, I looked more carefully and figured out there was a screw on access port right up on top. I think there must be some sort of special wrench I'm supposed to use to open this...there are three little holes on top that I think the pegs of the special tool goes into. But a pipe wrench worked fine also. Anyway, even though the strainers weren't dirty inside, I'm sure glad I figured out how to do it now. It would have really sucked to have the engine quit after sucking a plastic bag into the strainer and then have had to figure that out in rough seas as we blow toward the rocks!

The hydraulic oil turned out to be a similar issue: Changing the oil was every bit as simple as changing the oil in your car. But the hydraulic unit has the most enormous bolt for a drain plug that I'm going to need to get a special socket just for this. When we bought the boat, the hydraulic pump that runs the anchor windlass and the winches was looking neglected: water had gotten into the hydraulic oil and some of the valves were starting to corrode. The unit was pulled an rebuilt, but they recommended we run the system alot and change the oil once or twice to make sure all the water was out of the hydraulic lines. Everything seems to be working good now, and I didn't see any water in the oil I drained out, so I think the hydraulics are looking pretty good now.

28 May 2007 9:45 pm

     After Emmett had gone to bed, I drove into town to the Food Giant store and picked out the "Triple Chocolate Tiger Cake" for Emmett's birthday. In the morning, we banished him to his cabin after breakfast so we could get ready for his birthday. This consisted of setting out three presents and a card on the table, inserting and lighting seven candles in the cake, and rummaging around to find the digital camera.

We finally let him out and captured the moment on film. He seemed pretty impressed to have his own cake on the boat. Kathleen and I sang the birthday song at the top of our lungs and Em opened his presents. By far the most exciting were a new pair of "Heelys" which are a kind of tennis shoe with a little wheel in the heel. With practice one can apparently lift up ones toes and glide along like on roller skates. Em has been enthralled with them ever since seeing some hooligan zipping through the San Juan Airport at unsafe speeds with them.

So as soon as we had finished our cake, Emmett was dragging me up to the smooth cement in front of the marina club house to try out his new present. It's about a ten minute walk up the hill to get there. It then took him no time at all to realize that it was not as easy as the kid in the airport made it look. About two minutes and one skinned knee later and we were walking back down the dock to the boat.

Later there would be an outing to the swimming pool and talk about his Birthday party next weekend for all his friends back home. But for one brief morning on Uliad it was just us, being able to spend some fun time with our boy. Not having to rush around to get the pinata set up or the party favors packed or the cake out of the carpet. Just the freedom to celebrate together and do whatever seems fun at the time. The "party" was pretty minimalist...were we getting lazy. But I really don't remember another birthday where Emmett's smile seemed so big as this one. Even with the skinned knee, I think this is going to be a good year.

 

29 May 2007 9:10 pm

     Freshly back from the boat, my mind always starts in making lists for the next trip. I've decided that next month I'm going to drive a load of stuff out to Uliad. Mostly heavy things that would be too difficult to ship or fly out. For example scuba gear--tanks, weights and such. But having made that decision, I also realize there's a whole list of stuff I should get to work on gathering up.

How many oil filters should I carry? What tools to I need to round out my onboard tool kit? Maybe its time to order that icemaker Kathleen wants... Sounds like a serious shopping binge will be in order to have everything ready to go next month. Tempered, of course by our hard realization of exactly how little storage space there is on a 51 foot boat. I have no idea how those families of 5 take off in a 38 footer for a year. But I do know that you inevitably bring however much stuff you have room for.

Guess if my boat was smaller, I wouldn't have to worry so much about how many spare filters to go buy. The answer would be, "one...and you're using it as a pillow until you need it!"

 

June:  

 

 

     The day after a 7 year old's birthday party, complete with swimming in the lake and 4 dogs joining in is not exactly the best time to show your house. But last night after the party we got a call from the realtor asking if she could bring some prospective buyers around today. Holy S*%! We shook off the exhaustion that comes from trying to herd a large crowd of sugared up kids and went to work on the house. Garbage out, dishes done, floors cleaned... 12 hours later the place looked like a showpiece again.
My call weekend has, mercifully, been slow. I think Kathleen would have me sleeping in the garage if I wasn't around these past two days. I sure hope the home sells quickly...it's exhausting trying to keep everything neat and presentable!
06 Jun 2007 3:29 pm
      I was wandering along the tool isles of my local Fleet-Farm store looking at the racks and racks of hand tools today... What will I need in a good on-board tool kit? After all, I may need to be my own diesel mechanic, plumber, electrician, and so on. Some sailing books I've read provide long lists of "must have" tools for long distance cruising. I never even knew what a gear puller was until I started reading these lists carefully. Now I'm standing in the isle looking at the 6 inch gear puller and the 10 inch gear puller. Two jaw or three jaw puller. And what am I ever going to use this for again?
These expert's lists turn out to be a great place to start... but the problem is that they're often written by someone who really does know how to rebuild his own engine. For me, I first have to think about what first might need to be done, then am I likely under any circumstance to try to do it. If so, then I need the right tools. If not...maybe the gear puller will just have to stay behind.
For all my fretting about a proper tool kit, I have had no difficulty at all putting together a properly thorough medical kit for the boat. Which is nice, because this appears to be a major issue for lots of other would be cruisers. Go to an online bulletin board like sailnet.com and there's always somebody asking panicked questions about where should he go to get vials of morphine and surgical tools to stock his offshore emergency kit. I'm always a bit amused and a bit concerned by these postings because my feeling is that if you have enough medical training to start injecting someone with morphine, then you probably know by then exactly what you'd need to do to get some. But it's easy to find a list and assume your life may depend on having everything on it, even if you don't really know how to use it. Hmmmmm.
So I suspect Uliad's medical kit will end up being a little better than the average cruiser's. On the other hand, my tool kit might be a little lacking. And when the time comes that I really need a gear puller, hopefully I can find a mechanic with a boil that needs to be lanced...
08 Jun 2007 9:26 pm
     Today was a big day. Emmett had his last day of first grade. It was also his last day of public school for a while. Kathleen has been busy learning about homeschool curriculums and we've been trying to sort through how we'll do schooling next year. Traditionally, it seems that most cruising families use Calvert School...they are an accredited private school in Maryland that has been providing a home school curriculum for decades. They send you a big box with everything you need to teach your kid second grade right down to the pencils and crayons and instructions as to which worksheet to complete each day. Thorough but perhaps a bit rigid. Now in recent years there are a lot more alternatives. OK, once you weed out the right wing, conservative Christian, "protect our kids from sinners" programs out there maybe only a few are left. But we're going to look them over.
Homeschooling seems daunting until we really start delving into what our son did each day at school. As you can imagine, the last day of school, not much got done. But yesterday, it appears he spent nearly the whole day on a field trip to--get this-- the mini golf course. I keep trying to pry out of him what the children learned on that educational outing. The day before that was 'clean out your locker day', and so on. I'm thinking that once we bypass the two recesses, standing in line, and show and tell sessions, it should take us about 15 minutes each day for the actual learning part.

The other big event today was my submitting my official resignation to my clinic. Yes, I told them months ago I would be doing this, but this makes it official. I was required to give 90 days notice in my contract. If my math is correct, I got my letter in 101 days before I leave. We set the final day as September 18th. I don't know if I'll be thrilled to be free or terrified to be out of work by then, but there's no turning back now!!
So to celebrate everything, I came home and fired up the grill. I seared two Kobe beef strip steaks and opened a bottle of 1986 Mouton Rothschild that I have been saving many years for this very occasion. Emmett declared the steak to be the best he's ever had. Even my semi-vegetarian wife had to agree. I sat back after polishing off the last of it and pondered: 21 years ago when this wine was being created, I was just graduating from high school. I've come a long way, baby! The steak, the wine, and this moment were all savored. Aah, life is good.
13 Jun 2007 8:24 am
     This morning I have a dentist appointment...probably my last one with my current dentist. Dr. R is also a boater and always enjoys hearing my latest sailing stories. Today the agenda will be a cleaning and exam, but also I'm going to tell him of our open ended sailing plans and ask him to look carefully for any potential dental problems that could pop up in the next year or two and take care of them now. Prevention is a good thing.
If I've learned nothing else as a family doctor, it is that prevention is a good thing. Kathleen has her annual doctor's appointment next week. (I did that last month) We're taking just as much care in seeing that our bodies are prepared for this trip as we are seeing that the boat is prepared. A great first step for anyone planning to travel is a visit to the CDC's travel health website. Here's an example of our tax dollars put to great work. www.cdc.gov/travel It is easy to navigate and regularly updated with the latest vaccination and travel health recommendations for any place on earth. I use it all the time as a medical professional, but it is all written in language that the average consumer can understand.
So after popping up that site, it looks like I was pretty well up to date on my recommended vaccinations, except for yellow fever which is prevalent in Tobago and Venezuela when we get that far. And my last typhoid vaccination was ten years ago--time to update. Emmett got his first in a series of two Hepatitis A shots a couple months ago with great fanfare, and he and Kathleen will also need to go back for Yellow Fever shots.
But perhaps the most important part of preventive medicine is those little habits one practices every day: Brush your teeth, wash your hands, wear your harness, put on safety glasses, eat your vegetables...and so on. Do I sound like your nagging mother? Ooops, time to go get my teeth cleaned...
15 Jun 2007 8:52 pm
      Not long after we made our plans public in January, we started making plans to sell the house. Problem was, right about the same time, the ancient septic tanks buried in our front lawn finally (if you pardon the pun) crapped out. It couldn't have happened at a worse time. We were racing the cold as we knew the septic field couldn't be repaired once the ground froze solidly. So one thing led to another and soon there were giant holes dug in the lawn, dirt an mud everywhere, and the whole place looked like a construction site.
Just in time for the winter cold to set in. So now there were large mounds of dirt frozen solid and any effort to repair it all would have to wait until springtime. How in the hell were we going to get the house sold now! At least we had toilets that worked.
Finally by about April, Kathleen went to work getting the dirt put back where it belonged. Then came the concrete guys to pour a new walkway to the house, followed by fresh green sod laid down where muddy holes used to be. (And a much shabbier, weedy lawn before that) At last we were ready to put the house on the market!
Or so I thought. First Kathleen got rid of tons of clutter from the closets, then she rearranged furniture to make the place look more spacious. She took down all the family photos so it wouldn't look like someone else's place to a prospective buyer. Then carpet cleaning, window cleaning, and you-name-it cleaning. It was as if, through the sheer force of her homemaking skills she was going to make someone fall in love with this house!
I'll admit I was getting more than a little frustrated at all this. What are we waiting for? But when the realtors finally showed up, there was nothing but praise for Kathleen's "home staging" talents. And I have to admit, the house looked pretty fabulous. We finally listed it about 6 weeks ago around the time I was fretting about what we would do if the house wasn't sold yet by the time we planned to leave.
Well, the short of the story is that this past week we had two buyers competing to buy our house and ended up accepting an offer yesterday for slightly MORE than our asking price. Best of all, we'll close just a couple days before I finish work so we won't have to deal with the hassles of finding some short term rental...or dealing with an unsold house when we're leaving the country. So lately I have been gushing praises for Kathleen for keeping the whips cracking and making Emmett and I clean up after ourselves so the house stayed looking as great as she planned. Not selling the house seemed like the last realistic obstacle that could keep our dreams from coming true. And now we've crossed over that obstacle. Sometimes you just have to jump off and assume that serendipity will shine on you and things will all fall in the right place. And remarkably, sometimes they do.
18 Jun 2007 10:48 pm
     There are some things that you just cant fit in a suitcase. Like a scuba tank. Or a bicycle, or a half sheet of plywood. These are all things we need to get on the boat, but just can't fly with. And shipping stuff like lead weight belts could get expensive in a hurry. So we've decided that this coming weekend, I'm going to load up the SUV with all this bulky stuff and make one massive road trip to deliver it to Uliad.
It looks like about a 15 hour drive from Wisconsin...so I'm going to leave Thursday after work, get there sometime Friday. Unload. Sleep. Then get home in time to work on Monday morning. Restful, no. But it has to get done sometime, and it is probably better to get this stuff out there. Plus I'm still feeling a strong urge to just check things over on the boat. So this week I'm getting my rest and packing up for the big road trip!

 

20 Jun 2007 12:50 am
     I knew this day was going to come. Today I came home from work to find my wife exhausted after a day of sorting her clothes. You see, Kathleen really likes her clothes. and I tease her somewhat mercilessly about her closets and drawers that are literally stuffed with them. And ever since we decided to move onto a boat I thought to myself, "will she be able to pare down her wardrobe enough to fit into the boat?"
So today she showed me how she, with great consternation, had piled a large stack of things covering our queen size bed. "These are the things I think I need to bring." she said triumphantly. "Oh, and these, too."  She pointed down to about 10 pairs of shoes at the foot of the bed. Then she expressed some worry as to how she's going to cut back any further.
Remember, I'm still thinking that I'm the luckiest guy in the world to have a woman who IS willing to give up all the nice things that she has accumulated over the years. I looked at the daunting pile of clothes and imagine in my mind's eye the volumes of her closet and cubby holes on the boat available to store it all.
In the abstract, preparing for a sailing voyage can be a lovely stroll down consumer land. It seems there's no limit to the number of handy gadgets that we think we should buy for the boat. I'll admit that I've "needed" some new tools, another laptop, and so on. And we've both agreed that we just HAVE to find room somewhere onboard for the compact icemaker and an espresso machine. After all, just because we're sailors doesn't mean we can't be CIVILIZED.
But as we pack up the truck with all this stuff, and as we lay out all the clothes, this nagging voice of reality is starting to creep in: It ain't gonna fit!! I'll do my best at packing carefully and finding every little nook and cranny that we can store things in, but I have no doubt that soon we will have to start making some hard choices. The ice maker or the espresso machine...which stays behind if there's not room for both? (I can't make a proper iced mocha unless I have BOTH!!!)
That day will come. And we're going to have to somehow work through the hard decisions of what to leave behind. But not too much at once, ok? Remember, I'm still the luckiest guy in the world that my wife is already willing to slice off about 70% of her wardrobe right off the top. "Don't worry, sweetie", I tell her as we survey the mountain of textiles, "I think we can make it fit."
<23 Jun 2007 10:25 pm
     Every year the summer solstice comes around June 21...the solstice is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. My day began around 6am to go to a meeting at the hospital, followed by 8 hours of patients in the clinic. Then after work I headed home for a few hours with Kathleen and Emmett before heading back to Uliad.
We have collected a large stack of things around the house to bring on the boat. Things like scuba tanks and bicycles that we can't just put in a suitcase. So we decided that at least one time, we'd need to drive out to Delaware to deliver all this stuff. This would be the weekend.
I found a colleage to cover call for me after 10pm. So at 10:01 I set out in our SUV which was literally packed with: Emmett's bike, my compact folding bike, an espresso machine, an ice maker, two bags full of clothes, scuba gear, snorkeling gear, a speargun, 4 pillows, and so on. By midnight I was rolling through Milwaukee. By dawn I was in eastern Ohio. All along the turnpike, I was pleased to discover, there are Starbucks regularly spaced and open all night. One grande iced mocha seemed to give about 4 hours of alertness.
On through the mountains of Western Pennsylvania and Maryland. By noon I was fighting my way through Baltimore traffic and I finally arrived at the marina by mid afternoon. I had an appointment scheduled with a welder to do some repairs to the bent dinghy davits and arrived just in time to meet with him.
After showing him around and discussing the details of his work to be done, I set about checking over the boat. And everything was looking good until... the engine wouldn't start. Several tries later the diesel roared to life...and sprayed emulsified oil out the air intake duct. SONOFABITCH!!!!!!! I shut it down right away and proceeded to pump about two gallons of salt water and two gallons of oil out of the crankcase. A quick phone call to my diesel mechanic confirmed my next steps: Saving the engine would first require prompt action: I filled the engine with a 50/50 mix of oil and diesel and ran it for 15 minutes or so. Then drained the oil and repeated this process 4 times before refilling with all oil. I was starting to be pleased by the 4th time with the healthy color of the oil coming out again.
After all that, I finally put myself to bed around ten o clock. 40 hours since I first got up. What a way to spend the longest day of the year!!
The following morning, I took the boat out on the canal and ran the engine under hard load for a little over an hour, trying to get the engine temp up as high as possible to burn off any remaining oil in the engine. After this vigorous process of flushing the engine, I shut it all down and set to work trying to figure out how this happened in the first place.
The whole engine on our sailboat sits below the waterline, so siphoning of sea water can eventually drown the whole engine. There is a vented loop in the sea water intake line to prevent this. But in this case, it appears that the vent got plugged and over the last 3 weeks, sea water had slowly siphoned back into the engine. Now I finally have the explanation for why the engine wouldn't start back in Florida...and where that mysterious oil sludge in the bilge came from!  I corrected the problem with the vent hose and now the whole thing was working well. I hope I won't have any long term problems from this fiasco, other that some potential for increased internal corrosion inside my just overhauled engine.
By the end of the day, I was starting to feel in control of the situation again. And I finally got around to unloading all the stuff I had brought...just in time to get to bed. Tomorrow I have to get up early to start the long drive back home again. What a challenge to live two lives! I could easily spend a week here getting all the projects done that are stacking up... but then, I really need to be home and working hard to sock away enough money to last us for the forseeable future!

25 Jun 2007 5:55 pm

    After throwing everything else that we had packed for this trip into the boat yesterday, I was up and ready to head out Sunday morning. One last look through the systems to make sure everything was shut down properly. One last look through the fridge and drink up the last of the milk. Pack out the garbage, lock up, and go. By 8 am I am on the road for the 16 hour drive back to Wisconsin.
The drive went well. A long haul, but despite the onboard surprises, I got done the things I needed to do. This engine water thing has me a little psyched out so I'm already plotting the next trip out to keep an eye on things. We definitely need to keep an eye on things. I took our digital camera and carefully photographed each of the steps to starting up Uliad: the seacocks, the battery switches, and so on... so if my schedule is too busy and Kathleen has to make the next trip out alone, she'll be able to run the engines herself and shut things down correctly.
28 Jun 2007 9:56 pm
     I really like to eat. And I like to eat well. Which, in Wisconsin usually means cooking at home. Now I don't mean to knock midwestern cuisine. Hey, I grew up on it. But at some point in my youth, I discovered a gastronomical world outside the church basement standbys of my childhood and I've never looked back. Well, there's the occasional primal urge for Kraft macaroni &amp; cheese...but in a land where ";good eatin" is measured by the number of holes one must loosen one's belt after a meal, I found myself looking elsewhere for culinary inspiration over the past few decades.
Beef Wellington, Peking Duck, Homemade ravioli...there was nothing so complex or extravagant that I wouldn't give it a try. I've amassed an enviable collection of professional grade cutlery, cookware, and the most arcane of kitchen gadgets. And lets not mention the pantry that at this moment holds the following obscure ingredients and more: Toasted rice powder, fennel pollen, pomegranite molasses, and chickpea flour. Yes, I have used them all more than once. I love to cook, it is my creative outlet. Some people paint pictures, I dream up new dishes. And there really are times I'm in the middle of making dinner when I taste the sauce and think to myself, "What this really needs is some fenugreek...now where did I keep it."
So you can perhaps imagine the challenge it might be to move my whole kitchen into an area that now takes up the size of just my oven. Some things are easy: you don't really need a lot of cookware, just a couple properly sized pots can do just about anything. A baking sheet, a fry pan, a few good utensils to stir with, and a couple of my best knives and I can do it all. The whole gadget drawer can go. One can get by just fine without a lime zester...I'll just have to zest my limes the old fashioned way! Same goes for the avocado slicer, the garlic peeler, the ice cream scooper, and so on.
With great sadness, I will leave behind my stand mixer. It doesn't really do much that a spoon, a whisk, and a strong arm can do. But it sure is a whole lot easier than having to build up that strong arm. I did invest in a nice electric hand blender to fill in once and a while. Kathleen is insisting upon the toaster because, lets face it, nothing else can really make toast without constant vigilance and burned fingers.
Which brings us to the recipes. Nobody cooks broadly without a big collection of cookbooks and recipe files, so this will be challenge to pare down. I need one good general reference cookbook and I can't think of a better one than Joy of Cooking. It's a classic. There's lots of others I've liked, but only used one or two recipes, so I've started transcribing some favorite recipes to a folder on the computer. Same for the big recipe file...I'll have to pick out the things in there I'll actually use. Since I expect to be eating plenty of seafood, I'm also hauling along "the Pike Place Market Cookbook and another one written specifically for world cruisers with instructions on things like how to clean a conch or how to open a coconut.
And finally, there is the issue of what to do with that pantry full of exotic spices. I'll have to pare back to just the basics onboard, whatever those turn out to be. But the best part about travelling is the discovery. And eating is usually best when sticking to what is fresh and local. So I still think I'll find plenty of interesting, creative things for the galley as long as I can find a market to poke through and other people to talk to who also really like to eat.

 

July:  

 


Apparently the word has gotten out around town that I'll be leaving... because many patients these days are asking "so are the rumors I've heard true?"  For the most part, patients have been tremendously supportive and encouraging for me to take some time off. They marvel at our adventuresome plans and thank me for taking care of them. But naturally there are some who are worried about having to find a new doctor. Which is also a compliment in its own way I suppose.
One gets to know people so closely as a family doctor, that it is often like saying goodbye to friends. And all these repeated conversations in the course of a day leave me spent by 5 o'clock.
I also stepped down from the hospital board of directors this week after 6 years of serving there. This was also a bit difficult... I really enjoyed the work we did there to keep our rural hospital strong into the future, but things are changing and my energies are focused elsewhere. So while it was hard to say goodbye, it also felt rather liberating to lift one more responsibility off my shoulders for now.
And then there are our close friends in Wisconsin. Most seem truly excited for us, but we've had some strange reactions from a few...one couple who we felt very close to just kind of disappeared as soon as we told them of our plans. It is as if we're already gone and they've got to forget about us and get on with everything else in life. Calls and invitations have gone unanswered. Strange. On one hand, we feel this desire to reach out and not let a good friendship end so alkwardly. On the other hand, we've tried several times now and maybe its not worth the energy...maybe they never were such good friends all along, now that we're removing ourselves from any certain rung on the local social ladder.
So it is interesting and surprising sometimes to see how those around us react. Guess this is part of the adventure too!
04 Jul 2007 10:53 pm

    When we bought Uliad, we inherited several sacks full of old, outdated flares found in an old locker on board. Hand flares, flare guns, smoke signals, rocket parachute flares...there were a lot of flares! With expiration dates going back as far as 1994. So how does one safely dispose of these incendiary devices? Why, by lighting them all off of course!
Now, in Ft. Lauderdale, I recall signs posted around marine stores listing places you could bring old flares for disposal. Apparently one very common cause for bogus calls to the coast guard is when somebody fires off a flare for fun, then some concerned citizen calls it in thinking that someone is in need of rescue. So I suppose I could have just followed instructions and turned them in...But what's the fun in that?
But being a prudent mariner, I did think it would be wise to first bring them back to Wisconsin, where we are a good thousand miles or so from the nearest ocean. Calls here would be more likely directed to NORAD than the coast guard when a flaming orange ball is seen descending toward earth.
I also didn't think it would be wise to attempt in any way to bring any of these on a commercial airline. The TSA would surely do bad things to me. So finally after driving out to the boat, I had the chance to bring back a cardboard box filled with the most outdated signal devices onboard. Anything expiring after 2003, I decided, would stay behind as back-ups to the "current" flares on board. Then we patiently waited until the 4th of July, when fireworks are going off anywhere, and my pyromaniacal tendencies would not attract undue suspicion.
Emmett, being a boy, was immediately thrilled and fascinated by the box. We brought it out to the dock where, surrounded by water, we felt we were the least likely to set anything on fire. We fired off a hand flare. Em's eyes immediately grew to the size of saucers. "Cool!!" he declared. He quickly decided that hand flares were the most powerful, awesome sparklers ever made, and he had great fun waving it around over the water.
It was starting to rain, so we had to get moving on the box. Great, I thought. Less chance of starting the roof on fire. Next up was the flare gun. A flare gun is basically a little orange plastic pistol with 6 shells. I inserted the first one into the chamber, aimed for the sky, cocked, and fired. Up went a weak red trail...down it came just as quickly about 30 yards away, narrowly missing my neighbor's inflatable trampoline float. Oops. that would be embarassing: "Hey Walt, um, sorry but...it seems that I've shot your trampoline."
Time to move on to the rocket flares...and to be more careful what direction I shoot.
Now, I had tried to sell this activity as great family fun to Kathleen, but she was definitely a little freaked out by the smoking/burning/exploding aspect of it all. "But honey," I rationalized, "if something happened to me, you should be comfortable doing this if we needed help" Nothing doing. "
But now she finally appeared in the back yard to join in. "Steve, did you just hit Walt's trampoline with that thing?!"
Now the flare gun was quite a disappointment. I don't think you could attract attention across a parking lot with that thing, much less across a couple miles of open ocean. You definitely get what you pay for. Rocket flares, on the other hand, are about $50 bucks a pop, and pretty damned impressive. I held it up like the olympic torch and pushed the trigger on the bottom. First comes a rushing sound like a small jet was taking off from my hand. Up, up , up went a big red flaming ball. And just when it seemed to have reached a height at which the usual fireworks around the lake would explode in a snowball of colored sparks...it just kept going. And going, and going. And finally after what must be 5 times as high as anyone else's fireworks on the lake, a tiny puff. And then the flaming red ball begins to gently drift with the slightest breeze. Gently downward, aiming for the middle of the lake. It put out so much red light, I could have sat down on the dock and read a newspaper. Or at least about 60 seconds worth of one before it finally fizzled out about 30 feet above the surface of the lake. I could hear a few muffled "Wow!"s and "What was that?"s from folks around the lake.
After shooting a couple more off we decided that we probably won't stress out if our flares on board get a little out of date. Only one (of about 6) rocket flares didn't light. It expired in 13 years ago. Two others of the same age worked just fine. Kathleen decided after standing close enough to get an idea how they worked that she really didn't need to fire one off. She could see that the instructions were right on the flare and that would be just fine if the situation arose thank you and I'm going inside now so please try not to blow up Walt's trampoline...
Emmett agreed that the rockets were too loud and scary when fired and he just wanted more hand flares. But then on his third one a spark landed on his sandal under his toe when he started to hold it a little too close. As quickly as he could howl in pain, he decided that he HATES flares and wanted nothing more to do with them.
And with that I was left standing in the drizzle on the end of the dock, surrounded by the perfectly still waters of Stratton Lake. I imagined what it would be like to reach for this flare on a dark night, in a pitching sea, trying desperately to attract the attention of a distant plane... and the fun was over for me too. I wanted nothing to do with these things either. To reach for a flare implies perils that I never want my family to face. Ever. I thought of all the little precautions we take and decisions we make so we will never find ourselves out there with a flare in our hands...And with that thought in my head, I put the flare box away. Hopefully forever.

06 Jul 2007 9:25 pm

     We're on our way back to the boat for the weekend. Hopefully it will be dark enough that Kathy doesn't freak out about the un-packed state that I left everything a couple weeks ago. First on the agenda is to start creating an organized system of packing everything away. Then, as usual, I have a long list of mechanical repairs and upgrades to start working on. With a little luck, there won't be any surprises this time and I can actually get a few things checked off the list.
There's a tremendous number of little nooks and crannies to stuff things in on a boat. The challenges are: many of these little places in the bilges are susceptible to dampness. So you have to protect most stuff from that. Also, since our aluminum hull is quite susceptible to electrolysis, we have to be absolutely meticulous about not having metal objects in direct contact with the hull, or the hull could quite literally start getting eaten away. So things like engine parts, cans, or even bottles with metal caps need to be stored inside a plastic bin or something. And then there is the mere fact that there are relatively few spaces that are easily accessible...which means that we need to think carefully about what we stuff away in hard to get at places and what needs to be more easily available.
Fortunately, Kathleen is great at organizing and packing stuff, so I'm putting her on that one. Then I'm going to get to work on reviving the washer/dryer. But that's another story...
07 Jul 2007 8:34 pm

    Fortunately, there were no surprises this time on Uliad. After my last trip's engine siphon fiasco, we realized we need to be alot more cautious when "putting the boat away". The whole engine is, after all, below the waterline. So first thing this morning, I ran Kathleen through the procedure for starting up and shutting down the boat: Open seacocks, turn on switches, close the waterlock drain, etc.
The whole boat was a mess all day, clothes, spare parts, tools... everything was thrown everywhere in a grand effort to get it all stowed in an orgainzed fashion. I went through all the miscellaneous bits and pieces again that I inherited with the boat and tried to decide what I really needed to keep. I managed to stow it all away in several locations based upon likely need and still found some left over space to free up a few more shelves. Excellent!! Then it was on to cut a new panel for the radios at the nav station. I had to take off and disconnect everything, un-install some outdated gear, make sense of a nest full of wires, and repair a few corroded connections. After reconnecting a corroded ground wire, I even found that our PA/hailer was working again! This is basically a combination fog horn and megaphone for the boat...nice to have back online.
Then I had to plan and cut out a new panel. On my first try the SSB radio was too close to one edge and the whole thing didn't fit back together. So now I had to disconnect everything and start over!! Drat.
As I predicted, Kathleen managed to find room for all her clothes that she had sent with me. The trick seemed to be not to look up all day. Because as soon as you saw the huge messes and piles lying around everywhere else, it all seemed too impossible. Kathleen looked up. Soon she had a headache and needed to lie down. Emmett was getting bored and we were all starting to get in each other's way.
So by the end of the day, I took Emmett off to the hardware store. He had a great time zipping down the large isles of Loew's while I got a few tools that I needed to round out my tool kits. Then it was off to KMart for some plastic storage bins--carefully selected to fit into the bilge compartments. By the time we returned, Kathleen had found a place for everything! What's more, she had started working her decorating magic and Uliad was finally starting to look less like a disaster and more like a home. Now, if I can just get this panel cut properly...

8 Jul 2007 8:34 pm
      When I was growing up, I remember my grandmother regaling me with tales of her brother Clarence. As the story goes, Clarence could build anything and fix anything. Why he once spent all winter building an airplane in the attic out of an old lawn mower. In the spring, he assembled all the parts on the front lawn and flew up and down the street as high as the telephone poles. He fixed radios, he built his own clocks, he made a go-kart out of two record players...The stories went on and on.
They all might seem a bit far fetched for a farm kid with an 8th grade education living in the middle of North Dakota around 1940. My only evidence for my great uncle Clarence's talent lies in my family lore, and one small box on the shelf of my father's spare bedroom: It is a little hand-made box, with a faded old address glued on: Lawrence Erickson, Rogers Memorial Hospital, Rogers, ND. My grandfather. Inside the box is a little contraption carved out of a block of wood. You turn a little handle, and two small wooden rods slide back and forth in tracks whittled perfectly to fit. 50 years later and it glides as smoothly as precision machinery, transforming rotary power into linear, up and down piston movements in two perpendicular planes. I must deduce that it was made as a little toy for my grandfather to amuse himself with when he was in the hospital for something. And in such a setting, I imagine it was made fairly quickly, followed by the perfectly matched shipping box, to send off. The whole thing is quite remarkable, really. That one little artifact makes all the other stories about Uncle Clarence inherently believable...
I was thinking about Uncle Clarence lately as I pondered my own utterly impossible fix-it problem: Uliad has a clothes washer-dryer installed in the forward cabin whose door handle was broken by a certain nameless individual who happens to be my wife. So the problem is, the machine is 15 years old, made in Italy, and despite many a Google search, it seems that no parts are available for it anymore. What's worse, it appears to have been built right into the boat at the time of original construction. In other words, it won't fit through the door or the ceiling hatch. So the only way it is coming off this boat is in pieces. And I can't install a new washer/dryer there for the same reasons. It appears that my only options are to somehow fix this washer, or cut a large hole in the boat to replace it.
So I thought to myself, ";What would Uncle Clarence have done?" I took a deep breath, hitched up my breeches, and decided that some small portion of his blood must still flow in my veins. I would fix this machine. I will make it last like a 1955 Chevy in Havana. I have to. And if I could no longer buy spare parts, I would just have to make them. The problem was a little plastic hook that connected the door handle to the door to the washer. Soon I was out in the garage making molds of this little part out of Play-dough, then casting a new part out of epoxy. I attached a little teakwood handle with screws drilled into the new epoxy casting, then smoothed the whole thing out with a Dremel tool grinder to look as much like the original as possible.
After much tinkering, I finally got the thing wedged into the door, latching properly, and even ran a load of laundry! Yes!! I was beaming, and sure that Uncle Clarence was looking down proudly from heaven.
But I regret that there is no warm fuzzy ending to this story...at least not yet. As soon as the machine hit the spin cycle, it quit on me. I think the electric door lock switch has gone out. I can probably bypass it, and then we'll just have to remember not to open the door when the machine is full of water. But to do that, I'm going to have to start tearing the wash machine apart.
Oh well. It was a good story there for a while. And Uncle Clarence, if you're up there reading this... I could sure use a little help!

10 Jul 2007 8:52 pm

     To anyone who has ever had to sleep like a refugee on an airport floor, or stand in a line of hot, sweaty, angry travelers, or have a delayed flight or a lost bag just ruin your day. I have a story for you. A story that, depending upon your underlying personality, will either make you cheer with joy or curse with envy.
We were on our way home yesterday, waiting in the Philadelphia Airport terminal when the announcement came up. This flight was overbooked. We were sitting there feeling pretty smug at the standby crowd. We had our seat assignments already. Ha! Then it occurred to us, what the hey? Maybe we should cash in if we could get a later flight. I didn't have to work until the following day and if we got home a few hours later, no big deal, right? A rude, angry businessman pleaded his case in front of me while the gate agent, with nerves of steel talked him down. But he just HAD to get a seat on this flight today! Had any thing come available yet? What number was he on the list! How could they DO this to him!!! With relief in her eyes, she took our boarding passes and made alternate arrangements for us.
We ended up giving our tickets in exchange for three free tickets and another flight three hours later connecting through Cincinnati rather than Chicago. We mulled around the news stand for a few hours where Emmett engrossed himself in "the Harry Potter Poster book" and Hot Rod magazine.
Two unremarkable flights later, we finally rolled into Appleton airport around 9:30pm. We were feeling pretty tired as we went back to the United counter. We still had to reconnect with our bags that were to have followed the original itinerary.
There we discovered that, due to thunderstorms, all United flights out of Chicago had been cancelled all day. So our bags were still there and so would we be too had we not offered to give up our seats that morning! So rather than having to overnight in Chicago, and cancel my clinic today, we ended up with three free plane tickets, our bags delivered to our front door, and the delicious thought that the rude business guy would be sleeping on the floor.. And who says nice guys finish last?

16 Jul 2007 10:58 pm</pubDate>
<description>Every year on the weekend after 4th of July my maternal relatives gather at my Uncle Jim's home in Branierd, MN. It is a great big family reunion and all of the Norman Rockwell-esque images that come with that are pretty much true for us. So as usual, we made the 8 hour drive with an SUV full of food, kid, dog, suitcases, etc. this past weekend. The plan was to leave friday morning, get there by suppertime, enjoy saturday, then pack it all up for the long drive home sunday afternoon. It was a tight schedule, but we knew we could do it.
This year, we of course had a big announcement to make with our pending travel plans... of course everyone had already heard about it. My brother downloaded the whole blog so far and passed out copies for those family members who aren't too web savvy yet. And my cousin Kris had downloaded some photos from the website and made a big &quot;Bon Voyage&quot; collage for us. And my aunt Jean included a special prayer for us on our coming travels Sunday morning...
It is joyful and humbling to be reminded what a wonderful, loving extended family we are fortunate enough to have. I am once again reminded how difficult it is to set out to accomplish much in life without the support of family and friends behind you.
For our part, we had just printed up &quot;boat cards&quot;: little business cards with Uliad's name and photo, followed by our website, email, and contact information. Then we put out an open invitation to all our relatives to come and visit us on the boat as we travel around the world.
The only challenge with such an invitation is that it is hard for us to predict exactly when we'll be where. I think the worst possible way to sail is on a set schedule, as in &quot;we'll leave St Thomas on January 3rd and then spend 2 days on Culebra, then leave on the 6th to meet our friends in Puerto Rico who are flying in on the 7th. The reality, this kind of travel is the only kind most people know. The trouble is, when traveling by sailboat so much depends upon the weather... If the seas are rough and you need to get to the next port, you tend to push it to keep with the schedule and end up not having much fun on a rough crossing. Not to mention the fact that if you find a place you really like, why not stay a while and enjoy it? Or conversely, why stay if things arent all you'd hoped for.
For land travellers, locked to pre-purchased tickets and hotel reservations, you don't really have a choice. But now we do. The wind is free so we never have to worry about penalties and fees for changing our plans. And we don't have to pack it all into one week before we have to go back to work. What a luxurious way to travel.
Unfortunately, all those people we'd love to come visit us will still have to fit it into their pre-scheduled week or two off work. So we proposed the most brilliant solution to this dilemma. (I didn't think it up...I had read about it from other sailors) The deal is this: you can either decide where you'd like to fly down to meet us, or when you want to meet us...but not both. For example, if you've always wanted to scuba dive the sea mounts off the island of Saba, then we'll call you a week or so in advance and tell you when to come meet us. Or if you know that you're taking vacation the last full week of February, then we'll let you know a week or so prior to that where you should buy the plane ticket for.
The uncertainty can be a challenging thing to get your head around if you're used to having a rigid itinerary planned out months in advance...but trust us, it'll be worth it!
So for those members of the Haukebo clan who have found their way to Uliad.net through our ship's calling card... welcome! Glad to have you along in spirit through the web log. And we hope to see you in person, too!
17 Jul 2007

     My life has been chronically overscheduled for so long, that you'd think I'd be used to anything. But looking ahead at July for the past few months, we have known it was going to be really crazy. First came the quick trip out to the boat, followed by the family reunion weekend and its attendant 9 hour drive each way to northern Minnesota. We arrived back two days ago to dump out the suitcases, do some laundry and refill them yesterday. Because today we are on the way to Orlando, where I'm teaching a course on Medical Procedures to some physicians. Kathleen and Emmett are coming along to take in some Disney World fun while I teach seminars for three days. That leaves us Saturday to all spend together, then come back next Sunday. Upon which I do it all again--refilling my suitcase with clean clothes to fly out Tuesday morning to Corpus Christi, TX where I'll be giving lectures at the annual meeting of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians for the next two days. Then I'll fly back Friday morning just in time to begin my call weekend...
So that just about eats up all of July...probably won't have the time to even think about sailing until August 1. I've been making a conscious effort to make this journal about our sailing preparations and travel. So although I have lots of observations and opinions about Disney World and the unique people who visit it, I will hold off and wait until I have something more to report about Uliad.

22 Jul 2007 4:58 pm

     We made it through our 5 days in Orlando and are now flying back home again. After all the stress of preparing the boat, selling the house, planning to pack and move, and so on...it was nice to get away from it all. Which is not to say that a few days at Disney World is not a stressful experience in its own right. Try this sometime, walk through the Magic Kingdom any given afternoon and look at the expressions on everyone's faces as they pass by. Try to assign a word to describe each person's expression...
We were starting to lose it yesterday. We were all short on sleep, long on junk food, and trying to pack in as much as possible to get our money's worth of each overpriced ticket. It was hot. Not just hot. Florida's extreme humidity in the middle of July kind of hot. Nerves were getting short. Then in the middle of yet another snippy conversation with Em or Kathy, I remember looking around wondering why families travel hundreds of miles to come to this hell hole, when I first started the little game above. Yes, here in the happiest place on earth, 90% of the patrons wore expressions of fatigue, gloom, and irritability. I pointed it out to Kathleen and pretty soon we were snickering under our breath when a particularly menacing scowl walked past. "Good Lord!" we thought, "how could someone look so miserable at Disney World!"
Surely it has everything to do with families trying to pack way too much "fun" into a few short days... something we had been guilty of ourselves, both in the past as well as today.
So we stopped for something cold to drink, pared back our plans of how many rides we had to hit, and ended up going home when the rain set in later in the afternoon. We made one last voyage to Space Mountain, after which Emmett got wet in the rain, then chilled on the air conditioned bus. He took a nice bubble bath when he got back to the room. Nobody complained about missing any rides. We ordered room service, watched a cartoon on the 24 hour Disney channel, read him a story, and put Emmett to bed. Kathleen and I drank in the wonderful silence for a few minutes before thoughts of tomorrow and all the things waiting to get done at home began to creep back in and spoil the mood. This day, it seemed, was a microcosm of our whole lives. We need to slow down. Savor life. Love each other. Laugh together.
I discovered a few mantras to keep in mind as we travel around this earth: First, if it's not fun, don't let anyone else tell you it should be. You can always just go do something else. And second, The Happiest Place on Earth, it would seem, is always right there buried inside my own attitude wherever we may find ourselves.
27 Jul 2007 11:44 am

    Both Kathleen and I have passports which were due to expire this summer. That would be good news in that we can renew them and then they'll be good for another 10 years and we won't have to deal with trying to renew them later. And we can ask for extra pages to be included now so they don't fill up with all the entry stamps we hope to gather in the coming years. The downside is, a few months ago George Bush decided that all Americans should now have passports even when travelling to Canada, Mexico, and a bunch of places that we used to be able to go with just a driver's license. So there is a huge, months-long backlog at the passport office.
No problem, we planned ahead. I sent in my renewal paperwork in early May. Kathleen--never one to do things early-- dragged her heels on getting her passport photo...couldn't find the right outfit or something. Anyhow, I thought I'd be smart and get mine sent off right away and set a good example for her. Problem was, I sent in my renewal application with Kathleen's passport. Dang! Now I had permanently lost all moral authority with regards to all things passport related. Calls to the passport office led to repeated dead-end recorded messages. Emails went unanswered. They're all apparently too busy working on their backlog of passport applications.
Finally a month later an official letter came to me from the Passport office informing me that my passport was not received and I should mail it in. No mention of Kathleen's passport. I sent mine in with a letter pleading to send back my wife's passport too before she reminds me again what a dumb mistake that was. No dice. My shiny new passport arrived and Kathleen's was apparently never to be heard from again.
So now it appeared that we'd have to: 1. fill out a "lost passport form". 2. Apply for a new passport for Kathleen, which would also require a certified copy of her birth certificate, a trip to the courthouse, and a whole lot more paperwork than the simple renewal. We were getting nervous about how long all this was taking so we signed up with a passport expediter service. For enough money and with all your paperwork in order, an expediter will hand carry your documents to the National Passport Center in New Hampshire, stand in line for you and get your passport that day. For a little less, they'll promise to have it back to you within a week. We opted to for that one.
Kathleen got her photo taken, went to the courthouse and the first questions they had were what was your date of departure and on what airline. She reported that the ladies jaws all dropped when she explained that she couldn't give an exact date since she would be leaving the country by private yacht and we'd leave whenever we were ready and the weather was good...They didn't know what to do with that answer.
But thankfully they managed to get the paperwork signed and we FedExed it off to the expediter this week. So hopefully she'll have her passport in hand and we can all forget about my big mistake soon!

 

August:

Kathleen left for Uliad today, leaving Emmett and I back in Wisconsin. Her agenda for the long weekend will be to check on the boat and make sure she's secure, run the engines, and then do some packing and organizing of more stuff. And I think she was going to paint in a few places.
I'm quite proud of her to tackle the engine maintenace. After flooding it last month, we've decided to keep the engine water seacock closed when we're away, so starting the engine is now a fairly complex process compared to, say, starting your car: Now you have to: Turn on the engine start battery switch, turn on the engine controls on the main electrical panel, climb down into the engine room and open the seacock, check the oil, belts, and coolant, climb out again, open another floor panel to get at the exhaust waterlock, close the drain plug on said waterlock, turn the key to the on position... and only then can you push the button that starts the main engine. Whew! In preparation for the task, I took digital photos of each switch and valve last time I was down, and then I made up an instruction sheet complete with a color photo for each step.
And I must say, the whole thing worked. For a girl who has a rather unhealthy aversion to machines of all kind, Kathleen got the whole task done and not only had the engines running, but also the air conditioning on, the fridges charging, and the icemaker cranking out some cubes for a well deserved cocktail by the end of the evening.
Now if only she had left me as detailed of instructions for being Mr. Mom this weekend!
04 Aug 2007 2:00 pm

    I'm looking down a little befuddled at the flip-flops on my feet. How do people wear these things? It's just not natural to have something jammed between your first two toes while you walk. And they're so... so... loose. True to name, they flop around when I walk and if god forbid I should have to run somewhere...
The stylish new thong sandals are the result of one of Kathleen's latest shopping forays, and part of a broad effort to make my wardrobe a little less Brooks Brothers and a little more Tommy Bahama. I agree with the need, but this one is hard. Maybe it comes from growing up in a little farm town where good footwear meant Red Wing Boots... sturdy enough to keep out dirt, snow, and the occasional errant cowpie. Everyone I knew in school wore either them or tennis shoes, which offered the speed and agility needed to avoid having one's head dunked in a toilet in junior high. The point is, shoes were functional, style was a distant second. And I think that's why I'm having a small panic attack when Kathleen insists that I'll need to wear these in my new life of leisure.
OK. I need to find the functional element. I can kick them off quickly for a swim. Umm, I can take them off easily without untying them. I can tuck them away compactly where Kathleen will never find-- OK, what ELSE.
For 15 years now it has been a shirt and tie every work day. And over the past year or two, as we have come to know that we're really going to do this, I have been cutting way back on new work clothes. As a result, I'm now finding a number of shirts with little stains and tatters when they come out of the closet. Whatever, I'll just throw the white coat over it. Now we're getting close enough that I can finally start throwing out the worn out uniforms as I see them. The rest will get packed away in a closet, waiting until the day I come back to the working world again.
So what else to bring? From our years sailing on our last sailboat in the Virgin Islands, we learned a good rule: twice as many t-shirts and swim suits as you think you need, and half as much of everything else. But then when we sailed Uliad up to Delaware in April it was really COLD out on the water. It could easily be like that in October on the way back down too. Do I have the space to tuck in a couple sweaters? a down coat? mittens? What if we have to fly back in January for some emergency? Or will we some day laugh at why we ever thought we'd need to pack clothes like that on our way to the tropics?
But then, isn't that a typical traveler's mistake? To not be sure what you'll need, so you overpack and try to bring everything. Meanwhile, where ever you go, there are people already living there-- dressed quite appropriately. And there are stores there selling that appropriate clothing. So I'm going to take my best guess and leave a little room in the wardrobe to pick up a few things along the way. And you can bet that I'll be keeping an eye out to see if the natives really do put up with wearing flip flops.
07 Aug 2007 10:58 pm

     We've been starting to wig out this week over moving plans, packing details, financial details, scheduling parties and last goodbyes, and so on. There are a thousand details to attend to. If I think about it too much, it can all get overwhelming. Better to just do one thing at a time, and then hope there is enough.
I mailed a letter to all my patients this past week, telling them that I will be leaving next month and referring them to my partners for future care. I also included a few words about my plans to take some time off to spend with my family, exploring the world on our sailboat. I expected to draw a few comments and sure enough, starting yesterday just about everyone coming through the door comments on the letter they got. What I didn't expect was just how emotionally difficult the process could be.
My first patient of the day was typical: "So is it true about this letter... you're leaving us to go sailing? You know, I had Dr. G as my doctor and then he left, then I had Dr. S and she left, and now you're leaving...who do you recommend I go see now?"
Or my next patient: "Thats great, doc. Good for you. Now please tell me you're coming back. It can be really tough to find a good doctor, you know. We really like having you. We sure hope you'll be back."
Nobody says it, yet everyone implies it. "Don't go, Doc. I need you. After all we've been through, I trust you. I don't want to start over with someone else. Don't go." And although none of my patients says it in those words, that's the message I keep hearing behind the well wishes and hearty handshakes. I suppose I should be grateful and flattered; and I am. But after so many years of doctoring, and working for and thinking about these people, and making it my life's top priority to BE THERE for them-- it almost goes against my nature now to say, "No. I won't be there any more."
And of course goodbyes are always hard for anyone. But this week I really think how easier it would be to work in a little office somewhere where I'd just have maybe a dozen co-workers to say goodbye to. And they'd all show up for cake in the cafeteria, then I could pack up my cubicle and go.
I have a thousand patients who have been coming to me for years. I carry their secrets, know their problems, share their pain. They are friends. And although they all clearly wish me well, they also wish me to stay... and be that friend they can trust.
What is the hardest part of sailing around the world? It is untying the dock lines. It is the thousand little things asking you to stay.

09 Aug 2007 10:08 pm
      For months now, we've been researching our options with regards to Emmett's schooling while we sail. From our reading, it seems like lots of cruising families use The Calvert School. Calvert is a private school in Baltimore that has been providing distance learning curriculum for probably a hundred years... way back to when it was called "correspondence school". And their primary customers were missionaries and diplomats and such. But we wanted to look for other alternatives, too.
Home schooling is apparently a pretty big movement across the US. When I was a kid, I had never heard of it. By high school, there were occasonal mumurings about wierd families who homeschooled. I imagined luddites and libertarians living in fortified compounds, spouting dogma to their kids from dawn til dusk. Perhaps it is because my Dad was a public school teacher, but I've always been wary of home schooling. After all, isn't it a bit presumtous to think that you can do a better job teaching than someone with a degree, a license, and a career-ful of experience doing the job
Then I became a parent of a grade school kid.
I quickly grew annoyed with the rigid school schedule and "permission forms" to take Emmett out for a family vacation. And then there was the homework. Oh! Lord the homework! 9 months of the same "how long is this worm" and "what number comes between 17 and 19" worksheets. Every day, the same problem, different answers. Now I understand the need for repetition, but I could see Em's bored eyes glaze over after a few months. Kathleen volunteered in the school and confirmed our suspicions: The class moves at the pace of the slower students. Extra worksheets are given to keep the rest busy. And much of the 7 hour day of learning is spent doing activities like standing in line, recess, lunch, and watching other kids get disciplined. The real learning of skills that need to be mastered can actually take place pretty quickly, without a whole lot of special talents of the teacher. The real challenging part is not the teaching, but the "crowd management" skills.
So we were pretty excited to explore homeschooling curricula. And since we're going cruising, we at least wont be suspected of being right wing freaks for taking Emmett out of public schools. Kathleen has taken on the task of being primary teacher, and therefore primary researcher of curriculums. She has made me promise to step in for Math lessons when we get to fractions. Kathy never liked fractions.
By first eliminating those that had an obvious ideological axe to grind, her task was made much easier. Then we had to look for ones that were "complete". As in you don't have to go online to print out stories or worksheets. We won't always have access to internet, libraries, or the like. And the final criteria rested with the rigid-ness of the curriculum. As new homeschoolers, we wanted some structure to make sure we weren't pushing too fast or missing important topics, but we didn't want to be so locked in that we couldn't spend some time learning about, say, rockets when we happened to be sailing past Cape Canaveral.
After all that, Kath narrowed her search down to Calvert School and Oak Meadow. And the winner is: Calvert. We signed up on line and Emmett's box arrived a week later with much fanfare. The beauty of Calvert is that everything you'll need for the year, right down to the pencils and glue sticks, is shipped in a big box. Perfect for a family like us that will not always have an Office Depot right down the street.
Opening the box was like Christmas in August. There was a music box with CDs and little instruments, shiny new textbooks, art projects, story books, rulers, and so much more. Em immediately started paging through the Calvert Science text while Mom began to read Lesson one in the Teacher's Manual. And I drifted back in my memory to my elementary school days. New clothes laid out, a new teacher to meet. A desk to fill. The textbooks were stacked neatly, waiting to be read, pencils ready to be sharpened, ruled paper looking eagerly white...and I remembered the anticipation and excitement of a new school year. That feeling is still here. Even when homeschooling.

12 Aug 2007 9:43 pm

     So you've read about Kathy's struggles with paring down her wardrobe, and my anxieties over cooking without my big kitchen. Today it is Emmett's turn to face the reality of living in a much smaller space. Any parent out there knows how quickly a child can accumulate boxes and bins full of assorted bits of broken plastic. It is just incredible. And of course 80% of it gets played with exactly once. I don't think any of Emmett's elaborate Hot Wheels tracks that he begged for were ever assembled more than one time. Which is not such a bad thing, considering that one had real green slime that oozed down the sides of the "volcano" as the hot wheels cars raced by. The gimmick grew old even before the ooze had reached the carpeted plains at the bottom of the plastic mountain.
Another 10% gets played with again, but not in the manner in which it was intended. Helicopter rotors, for example, were quickly dismembered and recycled as daggers for a ninja escapade. That leaves just a small fraction of the toy bin (oh, if there were only one!) that a parent might think would make any difference. No.
The first sorting only seemed to clear out about a third of the stuff. Despite their lack of use, Em remained firmly committed to keeping his treasures. After all, they were hard won through many hours of begging, hinting, and cajoling various adult pushovers who shall remain nameless. You know who you are! So we finally resorted to The Bin.
Today I handed Emmett a rather small green Rubbermaid bin that I thought stood a reasonable chance of fitting into the space under his bunk. He was then informed that he could bring whatever toys he wanted on the sailboat--as long as they fit in the bin. Anything left outside the bin after today would be given away. So Emmett set to work. And I must say, I admired the concern and thought he put into his selections.
First went the entire collection of Hot Wheels cars. Then a small supply of track (no volcanoes, etc). A couple nerf guns, some games... a few things came out to make room for others. After 15 minutes the big decisions had been made. Then it was just a matter of filling in the gaps. He was starting to lose interest. Capitulation or a tantrum was imminent. I could smell it.
Em was now faced with two alternatives: He could sort through all the little bits and pieces, beg for more space, pack the bin as tightly as humanly possible...or he could let go, give it all away, and run outside to play with a stick and a leaf and whatever his imagination might dream up. Emmett chose the latter. And I've never been prouder.

16 Aug 2007 4:22 pm

      I've started cleaning out the junk from my drawers and shelves in my office this week. I'm trying to pare it down to only the things I'll really keep when I pack it up in a few weeks. I stopped to look around and was reminded of the first time I saw this room. 10 years ago. The building was only half built and Kathleen and I wandered around the framed in rooms to find where my office would be. We paced the concrete floor to decide how I'd lay out my new office.
It seems like we did everything together back then: Hanging out, window shopping, exercising, watching TV, you name it. These days, in the name of "efficiency" we hardly ever see each other. I go to work all day while she packs the house. I take care of the money and she takes care of Emmett. You walk the dog while I get supper ready. And on and on it goes.
I miss not having to be efficient. I miss the luxury of each other's company...of being able to wander around with her and not tense up over the other things I need to get done. Even though we live in the same house, I miss my wife.
We're even more stressed out and pressed for time lately as we try to juggle where all our posessions are going and how it is all get there. What to give, what to sell, what to keep...not only is it a big job, but it is an emotional job, too. So I keep reminding myself why were suffering though it--to get back to those days when we did everything together, and had nothing better to do. We're going to get there. We've got to... because we're trading in our careers, our home, our cars, everything for it.
18 Aug 2007 4:22 pm

     In 1997, I had just finished my residency and Kathleen and I were moving from Tacoma, Washington to Wisconsin to start my first real job. So we sorted through all our things and had ourselves a big garage sale out back to clean house before the move. After two days of hard work, I think we netted around a hundred dollars. Worst of all, I remember people coming through and seeing some nice nick-nack for sale for 25 cents and asking if I'd take 10 instead. "For Pete's sake, can you really not afford a lousy quarter!"
So I promised myself that day that I would never again hold a garage sale. If I ever got the notion to clean out my closets, I would go work for a shift in the ER, hire two guys to haul my junk to the land fill for me, and still come out way ahead.
Well, we started to get too guilty thinking about throwing away so much perfectly good stuff. So when my Dad declared that he was having a garage sale this weekend, we decided to haul a load of it to Minnesota to add to the sale. We arrived late at night as usual and unloaded the trailer: half for the sale, the other half to go to our storage shed. By this morning we were up early and putting rediculously low prices on everything. None of it's coming back with us, so there's no sense holding out for a good price! But true to form, Minnesotans aren't known for being confrontational or argumentative, so only twice all day has anyone tried to bargain for a lower price. One was a Mexican family who bought a rug for 3 dollars instead of 5. The other lady was caucasian, but she must have been visiting from out of state.
It has been pouring rain all day, but we've still had a slow, steady trickle of items walking down the driveway. With three hours to go, I've collected $83.35. If this keeps up we should just about make enough money to pay for the gas it took us to drive here and back this weekend. But hey, at least we kept it out of the landfill, right?

22 Aug 2007 10:44 pm

    I flew back to Uliad today for one last work trip. We arrived to find everything in order. I find that every time I come I walk down the docks craning my neck to see if Uliad is still there and floating. Of course she is. It is completely irrational, but I worry about the boat when I'm gone.
The dingy davits had been delivered by the welder, so we put that back on. It looks great, but it doesn't line up quite right to fold up into the arch the way it was designed. I can get within about 4 inches before it starts to bind, but I think that's going to have to be good enough. The welder came back out to inspect it and judged that to correct it, he'd have to saw it apart and re-weld it again. It took nearly three months to get the first repair done, so I think I'll have to go out and break it again before we do that.
No boat-work weekend can start without a trip to West Marine and Loew's hardware--so off we go. Those stores are going to miss me when I'm gone.
23 Aug 2007 11:07 pm

     My brother Mike graciously volunteered to come to the boat this weekend and help with some final boat projects. I think Kathleen talked him into it after seeing what a crappy job I did cutting a new wood panel to install all the electronics on. This was necessary after adding the SSB radio. My first effort looked pretty nice, but I cut out one hole too close to the edge to get the radio to fit. Then I was in a bit of a rush on my second attempt, and I'll be the first to admit it looked awful. The cuts weren't quite straight, the varnish job was spotty, and it just looked bad. But I really thought I'd do fine if I just took my time and gave it one more shot.
"Nothing doing," Kathleen said. "Your brother is an expert woodworker, we're getting him to do it right." Now she is right about that. Mike is an engineer for Hewlett Packard, and when not designing new computer chips, he makes things out of wood. No not birdhouses...Mike makes carved hobby horses, ornate silver chests with fancy inlays, and such. So I knew we were in good hands. My technique in making a radio panel consisted of setting down the brackets and tracing the outline. It never occurred to me that there was much more to it than that until I saw Mike walk by with a micrometer in his hand.
So as I crawled through the bilges re-routing wires to move the stereo onto the electronics board, I could hear him sawing away up in the cockpit. As I connected the harness wires behind the stereo, I heard sanding. And by the end of the day, I must declare the new panel is a work of art, and clearly Mike uses the same precision that one needs to build, say, a microchip. Now it just needs some varnish and we'll hook it all up tomorrow.
I sure hope my wiring job behind this new panel doesn't set the whole thing on fire.
26 Aug 2007 8:44 am

    With my brother's help, this last weekend of boat work has really paid off. I'm finally feeling like everything is ready to go. Fueled on little more than Diet Pepsi Max and the occasional pizza, Mike crafted a new seat for the dinghy, a radio panel, a hatch screen, and a new cabinet shelf. And he did the dishes. Diet Pepsi Max is some powerful stuff.
For my part, I feel like a qualified electrician after moving the stereo and installing cockpit lights, replacing two light switches, a solar vent, and two light bulbs. Then after putting all the electronics back in place, we discovered that the VHF radio no longer worked, so I went and bought a new one and installed that. And after all that, everything actually works! I am the king of electrons.
The biggest challenge to the whole project was figuring out where to run all the wires. This usually involved trying to fish it through some tiny inaccesible path behind lockers or above the ceiling panels. Then when taking down the ceiling panels I was met with more remnants of the rat who lived there back in Florida. Yuck! Oh, and then I drilled my first hole in the boat to get the wires up into the cockpit. For some reason drilling holes in my boat always frightens me just a bit. Even above the deck, I get these visions of water pouring in through the hole. But we got it all done and the new lights look great.
The VHF radio was a bit of a mystery. The fuse was blown, but after correcting that, the radio still didn't work. I assumed that when removing it a wire fell on the wrong terminal and I shorted it out, but then later a neighbor came by to tell me that there had been a big electrical storm last week and a couple other boats on our dock had suffered some damage. Since I have the tallest mast, he wondered if I had any problems. So that could have done it, but I noted that all my other electronics work fine, the mast head looks fine and all the lights up there are still working...I find it hard to believe that we could have been struck by lightning, so I think I'm sticking with my theory that it was my own screw up.
We also made a valiant effort to revive the washing machine, but to no avail. Not even my brother could figure out how to fix it. So it appears that we will need to replace this when we get to Ft. Lauderdale in a few months. But aside from that everything is now in working condition and ready to go. We just need to pack whatever else we bring next month, buy some groceries, and then we're off.
And we can finally get to work on some more cosmetic issues: The boat desperately needs a good wash and wax. There are some black rubber marks on the side of the hull that need to get rubbed out, and some paint touch ups needing to be done. And the teak decks need sanding and oiling. Those things we should be able to do underway to help prevent boredom. Once we get those things accomplished, the boat will start looking like a yacht again, and hopefully other people will start sharing my belief that Uliad is one gorgeous sailboat!
30 Aug 2007 9:17 pm

    One final challenge remains before we leave our terrestrial existence. We have to pack up and store or otherwise dispose of our worldly posessions. One of the more perplexing issues has been selling our cars. My Dad has graciously volunteered to look after my beloved Jaguar XKR... in fact, he was so excited to do so that he even built a new garage in his back yard to store it. That leaves our Volkswagen and our Toyota SUV. I wasn't really thrilled about newspaper ads because we kind of need the truck for moving. But after we finish that, we really need to unload it. So we started mentioning to everyone we knew that we were looking to sell and fortunately, a cousin of one of my partners was looking for an SUV like ours. Best of all, they live in Baltimore, which is pretty close to the boat. So we came to terms on price and now we can drive our truck out there, move on board the boat, and sell the truck to them before we sail off!
That left the VW Jetta, which we put on Ebay last week and some guy from Reno, NV snapped it up, just meeting our reserve price. Before the auction ended, two local people stopped by to look at it, one put a low bid on ebay, but it seemed like they both were hoping to make a lowball offer after the auction ended. So the guy from Reno flew out to Milwaukee and then caught a bus to Waupaca. We signed the papers in the local hotel parking lot, and after a few hassles with his bank wanting all the paperwork faxed before they'd release the check, we sent him on his way to drive back to Reno in his new car.
Gee, that was easy. If only the rest of our packing and moving was.

September:

The Labor day weekend has been a busy one for us, hence my delay in writing. After clearing out most of the furniture, we've been taking it a little slower on packing for a few days. But as I write, Kathleen is back to wrapping the rest of her framed art in bubble wrap to go to storage. For my part, I started the weekend by mowing our much neglected lawn. This was made all the more challenging by doing it with a broken mower. The handle cracked off a month ago in mid-lawn. Now in any other circumstance, one trip to town would have the problem solved. But since we're leaving anyway, I reasoned, I should just try to make do. My first thought was to push the handle-less mower around the yard like a misdirected toddler. No, the neighbors would talk. Maybe under cover of darkness.
My final solution involved some good old baling wire to jimmy the thing back together long enough for one more trip around the yard. It worked for about the first third, but a second attempt resulted in success. The grass is cut. For the Last Time ever! Best of all, I have absolutely no guilt about getting rid of the lawn mower in whatever way necessary.
Labor Day always marks the end of summer. It hasn't seemed like the end of summer to me, since we're about to sail off into perpetual summer. But it has been a weekend of Lasts. It is my last weekend on call. I was bragging about this to the ER doctor on Saturday. I was in a great mood and nobody could ruin it. Send as much work as you want at me...after all, its my last call weekend! But being a holiday, I'm covering for three other doctor's patients. Being a long weekend, with all the offices closed, the phone call volume has been steadily accelerating. By Sunday night, I was getting calls about every hour all night long from the hospital, the nursing homes, the patients... my mood is a little less good.
Emmett went to a birthday party of a school friend. Perhaps the Last Time he'll see some of these kids. We didn't dwell on that. Monday we spent preparing for one last dinner party at our house with some old friends who came by to wish us well. One last chance to fire up the grill and enjoy the lake with them. Between phone calls, I made smoked pheasant canapes and grilled chicken with a raspberry-chipotle glaze. It is becoming an interesting challenge to cook with whatever is left in the freezer or pantry--we're trying to use everything up and not buy anything more.
Em and I lit one last bonfire in the fire pit and burned up the downed branches from the last storm. Kathy and our guests enjoyed the fire at lakeside while I was called away twice to attend to some issues back at the hospital. (Last time, Steve!) I broke our "don't buy anything more" rule to bring Emmett back a bag of marshmallows to roast on the fire. He was just getting around to making me one when I had to run in again to admit another patient.
I made it home to find Emmett asleep, our guests gone, and Kathleen back to packing. Hopefully the last family event I'll miss because of patient issues. Kathleen was kind enough to save me the dishes to do. And just as I finished, ready to finally sit down and relax, the pager goes off again...my last OB patient has just arrived in early labor. Soon I'll be delivering my last baby here in Waupaca. I know some day I'll miss all this. But right now I'm just tired. I'm just glad this is the last time.
05 Sep 2007 10:18 pm

     Emmett and I went to Appleton today to get the car serviced before we leave it with my Dad in a few weeks. We brought along Emmett's new Math book to start homeschool while we waited at the Jaguar Service Department. I'm afraid we're starting a bit slowly on the homeschool thing. It is hard to get going full speed when we don't hardly have any furniture any more for Em to work on.
One of the things that let us to choose the Calvert Curriculum for school is that everything is spelled out exactly what to do for each day. It seems a bit rigid, but I think it will work out for the best. I know my personality...given a chance I'd probably assume that my son is smarter than most kids and can probably do all this in his sleep, so why not run through it all twice as fast? But it's not a race. One lesson per day. Just like the book says, Steve.
Well, lesson one involved spreading out little colored bits of cardboard on the table and grouping them to demonstrate things like: 3+5= 8. This really was simple. Pretty soon Emmett was asking if he could skip the tedious cardboard bits and just fill in the answers. That seemed reasonable to me. Assignment finished. Worksheet done. Total time, about 5 minutes. This homeschool stuff is a snap. I should have brought the writing assignment as well.
OK, so we started in on Lesson #2. This was only slightly more challenging, in that we are now adding sums up to about 15...I'm thinking we'll maybe get the first week of math out of the way... seems like it's all review anyway. But halfway through the assignment, Emmett's concentration began to fade. It's hard to stay in his seat. He starts asking how much more...and isn't there a play room here that we were going to check out? It turned out to be a struggle to keep re-directing him back to get that second assignment done.
Does my son have ADD? Does it really take only 5 minutes a day to learn math? Or am I just being reminded that it's not a race. Slow down. Don't work so hard. After all, that's what this whole sailing life is about, right?
We went to the play room for recess and I got a good whoopin' by my son in a game of "Ants in the Pants". Feeling a bit brazen by this, Em wanted to bet me $5.00 that he could get all his ants into the plastic pants before the car was ready. I warned him that he might not want to bet the money he was planning all week to spend on new toy at Target today. This was duly considered and he lowered the bet to $1.00. Which he promptly lost.
After picking up the car we ran some errands at Home Depot and Petsmart. Emmett had his Heelys on, so I guess we could call that Phy-Ed for the day. When we got to Target, low and behold Emmett came up about 75 cents short for the toy he really really really wanted. I guess we'll call this his economics lesson for the day. Feeling my newly won dollar burning a hole in my pocket, I purchased said toy and informed Emmett that it was now mine until he performed certain household chores when we got home which would earn him exactly 75 cents. The boy, the toy, and the point were then all driven home.
Maybe homeschooling is easier than I thought it would be.

06 Sep 2007 11:27 pm

     Each day the house gets a bit more bare. The more it gets cleaned out, the more melancholy place it becomes. One can't help but reflect upon all the memories here. All the things that have happened here. It is starting to look less and less Ours as all the personal touches are stripped from the walls, all the decorations packed away.
Are we doing the right thing? Will we miss this home, or be happier without it? And what of all this stuff... each decoration, each lawn ornament and nick-nack seemed just right in its place. Will it ever have another place? This internal conversation goes on all the time as I pack. It leads me to want to STOP packing just to turn it off for a while.
The excitement of the sailing adventure comes back into focus and lures me back to work. Back and forth. It will be nice to get this stuff all packed away, the house closed, and all eyes looking forward again.

09 Sep 2007 10:54 pm

     Kathleen and I go to the same hair stylist. When Randy heard about our upcoming adventure, his first concern was for our hair. (Isn't that sweet of him?) Soon he had a plan hatched of how he would teach me how to color Kathleen's hair. Then he would teach us both how to cut each other's hair...
Now as you might imagine, this had me a little nervous. I imagined one mistake escalating to tit for tat hair accidents until we were both bald. Kathleen thought it was a great idea...after all if I can operate on people, what's the big deal with cutting her hair. I didn't dare remind her that when I'm operating, they are asleep and can't talk back. Or that I don't have to wake up in the morning and look at the scar I made every morning.
Despite my misgivings, the date was set. We arrived at Randy's place at about noon. We found Randy and his parter in the driveway, drinking a beer while listening to "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse. Now I should remind you that drinking beer on Sunday morning is pretty normal social ettiquite in Wisconsin on Packer game days, so one should not rush to assume that Randy need enroll in, rather than listen to "Rehab". But the thought did cross my mind as to how many he'd had and whether he was bringing his A-game to the barber chair that he keeps just off the kitchen.
So we set to work getting Kathleen's gray out. At first, I was in my element. Mixing hair color is just like chemistry: 35 mL of this and add 6 grams of each pigment, add the catalyst and blend! Then came the hair. "So how long", I queried Randy, "does one need to be enrolled in beauty school before you are allowed to do your first dye job?"
"About 3 months". I was in trouble. What if we arrive in a foreign port and my wife looks NOTHING like her passport photo any longer?
"What do you think about Grecian Formula? It looks so easy on TV." Randy let out a high pitched shriek of horror as if I had suggested that, perhaps we feast on Kathy's liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti. That shriek would be the only answer I would get to my question.
With a large, flat paint brush we set about--or should I say Randy set about--painting the hair color around Kathy's hair line. "Always start around the perimeter", Randy tutored. Then the scalp was divided up into 4 quadrants and dye was laid down in rows, about 1/2 inch at a time. I dabbed timidly once or twice until Randy snatched the special brush away and proceeded to paint the roots with the efficiency one would expect from a well known professional. I don't know for sure, but Randy sure made it look easy. If the rest of the head goes like those two dabs I was allowed, Kathy's hair may not be all lost yet. My teacher promised to write out the secret formula to the color I like to call "Kathy Erickson Brown", but I couldn't get him to write out a list of topics for me to discuss while I'm doing it.
The color was now to remain on Kathy's scalp for exactly 30-40 minutes, which would lead to just enough time for him to plop me in the chair for Kathy's lesson. My hair, it seems, requires equipment. A clipper, a scissors, a comb, and a straight razor, to be exact. Randy rattled off a whole tool kit that he'd be ordering for Kathleen. I imagine her opening shop on a coconut tree stump somewhere. As he demonstrated the proper clippering technique, I elaborated upon a infomercial I had seen where someone had invented a clipper which attaches to the vacuum cleaner, allowing you to suck, cut, and dispose of the hair in one quick step. Randy rattled off the name of the wonder device that I had forgotten and made a sour face. I was clearly not the star pupil he had hoped for. Meanwhile, Kathleen was struggling with holding comb, scissors, and hair simultaneously. Three things, two hands...you understand the dilemma.
Kathleen's hands on experience was as brief as mine, then Randy snatched back the instruments and made sure that I came out looking great. (Perhaps for the last time?) Emmett got a nice trim as well and after the alotted time, Kathleen's dye was rinsed away. I know he had a few more pointers for me about trimming Kathleen's hair but um... I think one was something about trimming off the point in the middle or something. It takes a certain optimism to set out to sail across the ocean on a small boat. Hair care? Yeah, I can do that too.
Hair lesson accomplished, we retired back to the driveway for wine and cheese. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we had it alll to ourselves. The rest of Wisconsin was inside huddled around their TVs with foam cheese blocks on their heads. Whiling away the afternoon, sipping on wine, and enjoying good company-- now there's another skill that I need to practice for sailing.
<12 Sep 2007 10:02 pm

     By now, pretty much all the big, important stuff has been taken care of. The furniture is moved. Kathleen has cleaned out the last of her closets into several enormous boxes, and we're all living out of suitcases for the last week. I have 4 more days of work at the office, so I've taken my four most worn out dress shirts and set them aside in the closet. Each day I wear one. Then I come home, take it off, and throw it out. Disposable clothing. This is what it has come down to at the end.
The most important stuff is packed up. But that leaves piles of things that we don't care enough about to pack first, but it is still perfectly good stuff that we MIGHT want some day, or maybe not. And it is just too wasteful to get rid of it, right? But when you don't really care that much, it gets increasingly difficult to be motivated to pack it up. And the time is ticking... One week away and it'll all be over.
I've also been busy this week changing our mailing address on bank accounts, investments, medical license, and whatever. I'm trying to make the investments fairly self sufficient. Trying to get all the important documents filed in an order that they'll be easy to find if needed... Each night we flop into be exhausted. What freedom it will be to have all this behind us and be driving off to Uliad. Only a week to go!
13 Sep 2007 10:21 pm

     Today was the first of several Bon Voyage parties. The hospital had a little dessert gathering in the afternoon to wish us well and thank us for 10 years of service. It was nice to see everyone and answer questions about our plans. I passed out lots of boat cards with our website on it. A few nurses scurried back to their departments to look it up, and then came back to tell me they'd been looking at Uliad.net already. (A ploy to get a second piece of cake perhaps?)
Before long I felt like I was giving a lecture. I was surrounded by a dozen people answering question after question. What a novelty I must be to everyone! But it was a lot of fun to share our plans, and everyone who came seemed truly excited for us. A giant card with about a hundred signatures was given to me... along with a whole lot of hugs and hearty handshakes...I will truly miss the warmth and sense of camaraderie that I have enjoyed here.
So for those folks from Riverside Medical Center who are now logging on after finding our website address on the little boat card I was handing out: Thanks for the party, and thanks most of all for many years of fond memories working with you all!!!
15 Sep 2007 9:08 pm

     One of many things on my to do list lately has been to arrange for our health insurance while cruising. Now you might think that as a physician I might not need it, but with what medicine costs these days, I don't think anyone can afford to be without it. I've seen plenty of people either ruined financially by health problems, or more often, just get sicker because they couldn't afford the care they needed.
Our current insurance will run out at the end of the month I stop working. Now there is a law that allows one to continue employer sponsored group health insurance after leaving a job, but one must pay full cost. In other words, no more employer subsidy. There are two problems with this option. First, US health insurance generally doesn't cover any care provided outside the USA. Not much help if I break a leg in Barbuda. The second is cost. When I asked, I was told that it would cost me $1800 per MONTH to continue our insurance. I'll be the first to admit that the costs of the US health system are out of control...but that's another story.
Fortunately there are a number of companies selling "international health insurance". Some of them are specifically designed for and marketed toward cruisers. We found three different policies all quoting around $1800 per YEAR! And while the deductible was higher, the coverage was pretty comparable. How can they get by charging one twelfth the cost? A couple reasons: an offshore underwriter doesn't have to meet US insurance regulations, medical care is alot cheaper abroad than in the US, other countries don't sue like we do... I wouldn't be surprised if 25% of what I earn as a doctor goes into insurance company overhead: calling for preauthorizations, documenting properly to "prove" what services were provided, filling out the forms just right. It has become a big game for insurance companies to find ways to deny payment and for physicians to find ways to increase payment. All these games take time, which is to say they take extra staff, and extra money eventually paid by patients. Most countries in the world have either a nationalized health system, (where there is a single set of rules to get paid by the government) or a private system where everyone pays cash (i.e. no games, no overhead)
So it's not surprising that good medicine costs less everywhere else in the world. To keep us honest, these insurance companies require that you be out of the US for at least six months out of the year. And we have to leave the country within 30 days of the start of the policy. They don't want to pay US prices if at all possible!!
Our biggest hurdle in getting insurance was the dreaded "pre existing condition" riders that insurance companies demand. Now we're generally healthy people, but Kathleen has had a couple kidney stones in the past. The application asks for information about any health problems you've ever had. (And don't lie or they can void the whole insurance contract) The first company I talked to insisted upon a permanent lifetime exclusion of kidney problems of any kind. Now I could understand a six or twelve month exclusion period to make sure we weren't just buying insurance because Kath felt another stone growing...but one day's treatment for an unexpected kidney stone a couple years ago came to nearly $30 K. Insurance doesn't make much sense if it doesn't cover you when you need it!
The second company first wanted copies of Kathy's medical records. "Here we go again", I thought. But then when I re-read the message, they only wanted all records related to her migraine headaches that she's taken medications for in the past. So we sent that off and they came back agreeing to insure us... with a two year exclusion period on any coverage for migraine headaches, and a permanent exclusion of all GI conditions.
Now that seemed bizarre since Kathy has never had a GI condition. I think they might have meant to say kidney conditions, because her history of kidney stones is certainly a risk to an insurer. But one thing I've learned in my many years as a physician is to not expect intelligent, logical decisions from an insurance company. So we decided to take the policy the way they wrote it up, which means full coverage from day one for any future kidney stones! Which is probably the most important thing for us anyway.
Now on to the next item on the to do list

 

17 Sep 2007 9:08 pm

     This weekend was the final push to get everything packed up and moved out of the house. The division of labor was that Kathleen did the packing and I did the moving. It has been about 3 straight days of this and are we ever glad its over! We managed to stuff all the rest of our things into a 12 foot U-haul trailer, and on Sunday night, we drove it over to the parking lot of the local Comfort Inn. We'll be staying here for the next couple days until I finish work.
Sunday afternoon was also our second Bon Voyage party. This one was hosted at a local park pavillion by some old friends from Kathleen's Search &amp; Rescue Unit. Also invited were members of her garden club, our neighbors, and Steve's work colleagues, including a number of folks who had left the clinic years ago. It was fun to catch up and have the chance to say goodbye. And it was definitely a welcome interlude before going back to finish up the house.
Monday morning was the official closing on the house. So as of now we are officially homeless and debt-free! At noon today, we had the third and final bon voyage party at my clinic: a potluck lunch thrown by the office staff. The consensus there was that most people didn't much like water and couldn't imagine doing something like this. Oh well, to each his own. This evening Kathleen is rushing over to Appleton, WI to run some last errands while Emmett and I are going to dinner at the home of one of my colleagues. Then one last day of work, one last dinner engagement, one last night of call.... it is all pretty hectic around here.
Sorry for the short blogs lately, but I'm sure you can understand how crazy this last week is!

19 Sep 2007 10:59 pm

     I started my last day of work slowly, enjoying the fresh morning air, the sun rising over the mist, the birds singing... I stopped at my favorite local coffee shop for an iced mocha and thought how nice it all was. If I had this attitude every morning, I might never have wanted to leave. I really wanted to take it all in, knowing it would be my last time.
My clinic schedule has slowed down tremendously in the past week or two. It seems that most have moved on to find another doctor. This leaves me more time to reminisce and say goodbye to the ones still coming in. I've learned to stop worrying about how much money I'm making and I've been enjoying the slower pace of work...something I never could have done a few years ago.
Then after seeing my last patient, I left the same way I arrived 10 years ago: carrying a box of desk stuff. The afternoon summer sun beamed down warmly on my face as I paused. Too many years of cold, fluorescent light and air conditioning in that building. It will be good to be back outdoors again. It will be good to slow down.
We went out for dinner with some old friends that evening. I ended up making one last trip to the hospital to admit a patient. Once again, knowing it was the last time made it all oddly pleasant to get up late at night...would I miss this sense of being urgently needed?

20 Sep 2007 10:59 pm

    The sun shone brightly on my first morning of freedom. My first item of business was to run into the hospital and pay one last visit to the patient I had admitted the night before. All was in order and she was ready to go to surgery. I'd hand off her care to my partner in a little while and be free of all patient responsibilities. Would it be a weight off my shoulders? Or an emptiness in my life? The nurses knew it was my last morning rounds and they all gave me a cheery send off.
Now for years Kathleen has teased me mercilessly about the giant wad of keys I carry with me. What can I say? I have 3 cars, a couple keys for the clinic, my desk, the office cabinets... then there's the front and back doors of the house, and this high tech magnetic fob for the doors to the hospital. Then add the padlock to Uliad. This giant gob jingling in my pocket has led to every imaginable version of the old "or are you just happy to see me" joke over the years between Kathleen and I.
Well, the bulge in my pants was shrinking. We had sold one car a few weeks ago, and passed off the keys to the house on Monday. This morning I walked down to the administration office to turn in my magnet fob thing that had amazed Emmett so many times over the years when I could magically unlock the hospital door simply by passing my pocket unobtrusively close to the sensor. In the back conference room I could see an early morning meeting going on with a couple physicians and the CEO. I've gotten up early many many times over the years to get to those meetings; as the chief of staff, or the board secretary, or the finance committee, and so on. Would I miss being in that inner circle? Would I miss being a part of all those weighty decisions. I clipped my name badge to the key fob, set it quietly on the secretary's desk, and walked out.
My next stop was the medical records office. They had been warned ahead of time of my arrival this morning and had all my charts and paperwork neatly laid out for me to complete. I wondered aloud how many times I've rendered my signature in the past 10 years.
Usually, my morning drive from the hospital to the clinic is a hurried affair to avoid being behind on my schedule, or at least to have a minute to catch up on some more paperwork before my first patient arrived. How odd it seemed to be able to drive leisurely, enjoying the morning! At the office I had more dictations to sign off on. One last look around my office confirmed that I had packed everything that belonged to me. I walked down to the office manager's desk, shrugging off several comments from the staff that perhaps I was back this morning, having changed my mind about this whole nonsense.
The office manager had the official corporate checklist for us to go through: forwarding address, turn in the ID badge, the cell phone, the keys, and most gloriously of all: the pager. I laid down that little black box that had woken me countless times for so many things, from the gravest threat to life down to the most miniscule nonsense. I thought about how on vacation, it took 3 or 4 days for me to stop having brief moments of panic when my arm would swing past my right hip and I'd unconsciously realize that the pager wasn't there. It had become a part of me, like a bad habit that Kathleen and Emmett had learned to silently (or not so silently) tolerate in our lives. Goodbye.
I walked out to the parking lot. It was full, and I couldn't help but smile. I remembered the slow days years ago as we worked like crazy to build this practice. This place was every bit as busy as we once dreamed it could be. One look back as I drove off. "Good work, Steve", I thought. I reached in my pocket. The only thing left now was the key to the truck, and the key to the boat. "The keys to my future", I said to myself. And off I went.
Back at the hotel, Kathleen was scurrying about, finishing packing up the last of our things. "Check it out," I said while showing off my right hip, "No more pager".
"Congratulations" she replied dryly. She was in no mood to celebrate just yet, and I could see by the large mound of duffle bags near the door that she had been working hard.
I caught her in my arms as she hurried past and planted a kiss on Kathleen's cheek. Without those bulging keys in my pants, I wanted her to know that I was still glad to see her.

 

27 Sep 2007 9:01 pm<

     After leaving Waupaca, we dropped off a large trailer full of stuff at our storage locker near my Dad's place. Then we drove the following day to my brother in Colorado. Mike was going to take in our faithful 9 year old German Shepherd Dog. Kathleen and Lucy had been as close as a woman and a dog can be, so we had delayed saying goodbye to her until the last possible moment.
The day after we arrived, we all set off for a hike in the mountains near Mike's home. My mind kept wanting to wander as we hiked: planning my next move, worrying about sailing, making to do lists in my head. "No", I told myself. "Be here now". At first, I had to force myself to sense how it feels to take the thin mountain air into my lungs. I had to consciously stop and take in all the natural beauty around me. I had to remind myself how fortunate I was to be here, hiking in the mountains during business hours on a weekday. Some day, all this will come naturally. But it will take practice. "Be here now" I repeated in my head.
After a few wonderful days at Mike's house, and a tearful goodbye to Lucy, we turned our car eastward again. We are finally on our way toward Uliad. 28 hours of driving ahead, and we'll finally become cruisers, boat people, whatever. I can't wait to get there, but I'm already happy that we're on our way. I feel a bit disoriented in a way only a major life change can. Disoriented, nervous, thrilled, and apprehensive all at once. Bob Bitchin wrote in his cruising narrative, that the night before going cruising for the first time that he felt "like a virgin on her way to her first orgy". Yeah. Something like that I guess.
As much as I hate to leave you with that metaphor dangling in front of you... it is time for my shift behind the wheel again.

 

 

 We arrived two days ago to find everything in order on Uliad. But we didn't let that last very long. After several days, we have now unloaded everything from the truck and proceeded to throw it randomly about the cabins. Well, at least that's what it looks like by now. Slowly, everything is trying to find a home onboard. And we have already started a box or two in the cockpit for things that we now agree will not have a home onboard. Sometimes you just don't know (or don't want to believe it) until you have in front of you, say, the silverware drawer, and next to it all the things you were hoping to stuff into it.
The weather has been hot and sunny...not great for carrying load after load down the mile long dock. We have been taking advantage of the shore power and running the air conditioning constantly. The ice machine has also been getting a good practice run.
This is alot of hard work. Kathleen and I both have ideas about what should go where, and as you can imagine, we don't always share the same vision in this regard. The tempers seem to corelate with the temperature here. But the reward is almost palpable...to sail away and everything that follows in our cruising dreams. It is so close now! Yet so many piles of stuff still stand in our way. Sometimes this whole trip has seemed like one long exercise in frustration over how MUCH stuff we have and how much it all holds us down and boxes us in. The world beckons us ahead, if only we can see beyond the boxes.

 

30 Sep 2007 5:29 pm

     There is nothing more American than driving one's car. We all drive from suburban cul-de-sacs to the grocery store in big SUVs and mini-vans. We love our drive through restaurants so much, that now pharmacies are even copying the idea. We live in our cars, complete with cup holders and DVD screens for the whole family. There are lots of places you just can't get to without a car...Ever tried walking to a shopping mall?
So for us, when we sold the Toyota yesterday and officially became a car-free family, we also felt that we had definitively crossed over to the category of "alternative livestyle". Kathleen ran a bunch of last errands in her car before the new buyers arrived at the marina by mid-afternoon. The 2001 Sequoia had been driven with all our remaining possessions to the East Coast, where we had arranged to sell it to some relatives of one of Steve's colleagues. It all couldn't have been more convenient for us, and the price was right for the buyers. In the end, the transaction went smoothly, and we can tell that Kathleen's beloved giant 4 x 4 will go to a good home.
Groceries, trips to the hardware store, sightseeing...all these things will now have to be planned strategically. (We've already started lists for the next time we need to shop). But for today, we have plenty to keep us busy just doing all the final packing, checking, cleaning, and preparing. It has been our goal to leave the dock by October 1, but it now looks like October 2nd will be more realistic. We estimate having all the boat chores done by sometime tomorrow, but a check of the charts and tides shows that we have several hours of motoring to do to get out of the canal, and several more before we come to our first anchorage, so if we don't get off the dock by 1pm at the latest, we'll take off the next morning.
My main project for today was to wash and wax the whole boat. Yes, the whole 51 foot boat. Now let me tell you--waxing a 51 foot boat is perhaps something like trying to satisfy a 400 lb nymphomaniac. One man should not attempt it by himself. If he must, then he should bring power tools.
I had no power tools. 7 hours later, the boat looks better than I've ever seen her, and with what little energy is left in my aching arms, I made the first entry in our new hardware store shopping list: 1 power buffer.
Now where will we find room to store it?

 

 

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