Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Repair and Refit of Sailboat

We brought the boat to the ranch on April 16. We found a few things of concern in our pre-purchase inspection, but because we were not able to put it in the water, we were not sure if the boat will even float. The first money we spent was on new tires for the trailer. The trailer appears to be very well built. We feel that it and the motor could easily be worth the $2400 we paid for the entire package. So, we are thinking we got the boat for free. 

We started the first day going over the boat and making a list of projects that are needed to be completed before we could put it in the water to see if we even like sailing. 

The first order of business was to get the boat as water tight as possible. We had a good forecast for the first week, with no rain. We focused on getting the water out of the boat and keeping it out the first time it rained. 

A strange thing happened the first evening. I had a terrible allergic reaction to something. We still do not know what it was. Kim thought it might be mold in the boat, so she spent her first 12 hour day doing a total clean of the entire cabin. When she was done the boat looked 100% better. 

I spent much of the first week working on the companionway hatch cover. I decided to make it out of some red cedar that I have had for many years. It has been strip stacked and drying for over 25 years. The hatch that was with the boat was badly weathered and made out of plywood. It was a problem, but the biggest problem was the threshold and the frame. The wood was cracked and rotten. I decided to replace the entire hatch frame. Here is the end result:

I would like to add a special THANK YOU!!! to my Dad. He has loaned me all of his woodworking tools to use. I was able to do some very intricate work with the help of many of those tools. 

We then decided to put up the mast. I have watched many videos about how to do this. We did this for two reasons. First to see how to do it and second, to get the mast out of our way. We did have one little incident when were we stepping the mast, but in the end we got it done.

You can see the stepping crutch I made out of some old wood.

The mast is 30 feet tall from the water line.

Here is our outboard motor. It is a  mid 80's 15hp Johnson
I did some testing on the outboard. It ran fine, but had a problem with the electric start. I found the problem and it now works perfectly. 

After working some very long days for about a week and a half, we went to Shannon's to watch her 6 kids while they were on a cruise. We really needed the break. I am not sure how much of a break it was. That family goes at full speed all of the time. We celebrated Isabella's 12th birthday and enjoyed our time with the grandkids. 

I stayed at Shannon's for 7 days and Kim stayed for the entire 10. We then got back to work and finished up the project. Here is a list of all of the things we have completed. 

        ○ Sand all wood on boat
○ Treat all wood
○ Install both side rail drains
○ Build companionway door
○ Install all wood
○ Install door and hatch
○ Hook up battery
○ Test interior lights
○ Install outboard
○ Secure battery 
○ Extend cables
○ Test outboard
○ Repair stancions
○ Repair mast light
○ Step mast
○ Remove and Repair Port deck rail
○ Replace halyards
○ Measure anchor line 
○ wash topside and hull
○ polish and wax hull and deck
○ repair trailer lights
○ new wiring
○ install depth finder
○ fix rudder = This turned into a 3 day project
○ seal hatch on starboard side
○ Fix front hatch
seal chain plates 
○ install new bow light
○ new light bulbs
Build leg for table
Buy battery charger 
Reinstall short wall
Install and test rigging 
Install hasp on door 
Check windex installation 

This was our list, but there were a number of other small projects that were not on the list.

On May 12, we were ready to take it to the lake. At least that was the plan. May 13th was a day that changed everything. That is a story all unto itself. I will write all about that day and what followed in my next entry. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Time to Shift to Another Gear

As I wrote in my last entry, we are taking on a new challenge. We have been living in our trailer for 5 years and 5 months. We have been retired and traveling for 4 years and 5 months. We love our life and have had an amazing time. We love to travel and see new places. We have very little desire to see the same places we have seen before unless it involves seeing family or friends.

I have a history of change. I tend to want major changes in my life on a regular basis. About the time a particular place or job or activity gets comfortable, I am ready to do something else. We both knew this going into our vagabond lifestyle, so it did not come as a surprise to Kim or myself.

I would not say that we have become bored with the RV life. I would say that we would like to continue to travel via RV part of the time, but we would like to travel differently part of the time also. We want to expand our horizons to include many places we have not yet seen. We would like to visit some places that you can not see via RV. Like islands and  other continents. The problem is, I HATE AIRPLANES! I have spent so much time cooped up inside an airplane during my working years that when I retired, I never wanted to fly again! So, what is the solution? You guessed it, A BOAT!

We love boats. We have a powerboat and love to spend time on it. The problem is that it is pretty expensive to explore in it. It is a ski boat and does not have any sleeping quarters. We are also concerned that we only have one mode of propulsion. If the engine dies, we need to get towed. So, I have been considering sailboats. For the past year, I have been studying everything I can find about sailing and sailboats. I have been driving Kim crazy with my one minded fascination of the thought of buying a sailboat and using it to explore new places. If you know me, you know I get obsessed with new things and learn at a nauseating level. The main problem with this entire idea is, I HAVE NEVER SAILED A SAILBOAT!

When we arrived back at the ranch in Missouri on April 2, my plan was to go to a local lake and take a sailing lesson. The best sailing lake in the area around the ranch is about 2 hours away. It is called Stockton Lake. I have never been on the lake or really even seen it. We do most of our boating on Bull Shoals or Table Rock. They are very large lakes with beautiful shorelines with countless bluffs and coves to explore. We have only seen a small part of each of these lakes. Stockton is a smaller lake with fewer bluffs which provides excellent wind for sailing. Many people in the sailing community have said it is one of the better sailing lakes in the US.

On April 9, we went up to Stockton State Park Marina to talk to the people there about getting signed up for a class. They were nice, but told us they would call us to set up a time to schedule a school. We then asked for permission to walk the docks and check out the sailboats. That was interesting, but I did not really know what I was looking at.

We then drove over to Orleans Trail Marina to see what kind of boats they had there. When we got out of the car, we were immediately greeted by this fellow named Mark. We told him we were there just to educate ourselves, he stayed with us for over 3 hours showing us boats and just talking about sailing. We looked at one particular boat that was full of water. We both looked at it and said no way, let's move on. Mark told me this was a very good boat and we should consider taking it home and doing much of the work ourselves. It also came on a nice trailer. That is important to us. We want a smaller starter boat that we can take from lake to lake and learn to sail and explore new places. Well, to make a long story short.  A week later, we bought that boat. It is a 1983 Hunter 22. It was really rough, but what I read and what Mark told me, it was a good buy at $2400. It came with the nice trailer and an outboard motor. Yep, I bought a sailboat and had never sailed in my life. Here are a few pics:

That is just the beginning of the story. Come back to see if we can fix it up and get it in the water. Also, I have to study and go to school. Will I pass the test?

This is just part of a much larger dream. We want to learn to sail first. Then, we will see if we both like it and if we want to move up to a larger boat and maybe some day try some ocean sailing. It could be an interesting journey or a big train wreck. But hey, train wrecks can be entertaining.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mammoth Cave National Park

I am writing this from my daughters house in Ozark, Missouri on the first of May. We have been back in the Springfield area since April 2. To say we have been busy since our return would be an enormous understatement. We are currently staying in Ozark to watch six of our grandchildren, while Shannon and Brian are on a cruise to celebrate Brian's 40th birthday. I normally don't do much writing while I am in this area because our life feels "normal". Well, it has been anything but normal since we have been here. I do plan to write about it, I just hope I can find the time and inspiration to do so. For now, I want to finish our trip this past winter, so that is what this entry is all about.

We arrived in Cave City, Kentucky on March 25. It was a short 80 mile drive through the rural countryside of Kentucky. We really enjoyed the drive. We chose to stay at Singing Hills RV park and Campground because it is a Passport America park. The rate was $20 per night for a full hook up site with 50 amp. The park was not all that special and the normal $40 rate is a bit high high in our opinion. The PA rate is limited to two nights. We stayed 3 nights and were given a $30 rate for the third night. We had good Verizon cell signal and good OTA TV coverage. I did not take a picture of our site. We did meet a couple of other campers, but now that time has passed, I do not recall their names. One couple from Canada in a Titanium came by for a drink after I had to stop them and say hello. Us Titanium owners have to stick together. We also spent some time visiting with our next door neighbors that were on their maiden voyage in their beautiful brand new Cedar Creek. They used to own a sailboat, so we talked about that for a long time.

We came to the area to visit Mammoth Cave National Park.

We started our visit on Monday by going to the visitor center and walking around the exhibits. They were very interesting and explained why this area is full of caves including the 400+ miles of mapped passages of Mammoth. It is the longest cave in the world. Many new passages are discovered and mapped each year. The only other place in the US that has this same geology is our home area of the Ozark mountains in Missouri and Arkansas. We decided to then take a hike and see the area around the VC. The hills in this area are very steep, so hiking can be difficult. There are miles and miles of hiking and biking trails in the park.

Nice viewpoint of the area
We walked down to the beginning of the River of Styx. The river just appears from under this huge rock face.

It had been raining quite a bit in the previous few days so the water was brown and stirred up. We then had the long uphill walk back to the Natural Entrance of the cave. You can buy tickets for a short tour of this part of the cave for $5 each and does not require a reservation. It was a good deal and a way to go underground without getting too claustrophobic.

The cave was large and wide, so it was easy walking. This area of the cave was used to produce some nitrite during the Civil War. There is some old machinery still in the cave. Flash photography is not allowed inside the cave, so my pictures inside this area did not turn out well.

The next day, we had a reservation for a guided tour called Domes and Dripstones. We were warned that you need to make reservations in advance. We were able to get two spots on this tour about two weeks before our visit.

We left the VC in busses and went about 10 miles to a small entrance. We then went straight down through a crack in the rocks about 300 feet. It was tight and steep. My camera worked fairly well with the available lighting that was provided by tour lights.

Mammoth cave has very few of the formations we have seen in other caves due to the fact that there is very little water flowing through the cave. We did have a number of stops to hear the rangers talk to the group. The information was good, but we knew most of it by visiting the exhibits the day before in the VC. At the end of the tour we did get to a part of the cave that does have some water flow and has some good formations.

We really enjoyed our time at Mammoth Cave National Park. The cave is interesting, but not spectacular. If I was to compare it to other caves we have been where Carlsbad is a 10, Mammoth would be a 2. Sorry Mammoth, just my opinion. That is the problem with going to Carlsbad first. I think that makes 32 of the National Parks we have seen in the past 4.25 years. We have also seen about 20 National Monuments. It has been an amazing journey.

We were then about 450 miles from the ranch in Missouri. We chose to make two more stops. On March 28 we drove to Hillman Campground in the "land between the lakes". This is an area where two lakes were formed by the damming of the Tennessee and the Cumberland rivers. This is a National Recreation Area. We had a nice camp spot right by the lake.

It rained much of the time we were at Hillman. We never left the campground and just relaxed and read. I did take a few walks around the park. The strange thing about this park is that they allow seasonal campers. We had many rigs around us, but were still all alone. It was strange. I did see something a bit unusual while were were there. They were installing one of the prefab bathrooms that we have seen in many federal campgrounds.

This one came in three sections

Lifted in place by a crane
We stayed at Hillman for 2 nights. We then made the 150 mile drive into Missouri. We chose a COE park on Lake Wappapello just north of Poplar Bluff. We scored an awesome site overlooking the lake. We were way above the lake.

That is our rig way up there.

We had some nice views of the lake, but it got pretty cold

We did head into Poplar Bluff for Easter Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. It has been in operation for 125 years.

On Monday, April 2, we made the final 150 mile drive to the ranch. We had a great trip. After spending 7 months last year at the ranch we were ready to get back on the road and this trip showed us why we love this lifestyle so much.

Now it was time to get back to life in Missouri. We were looking forward to spending time with the Grandchildren and getting things done at the ranch. That was the plan until we did something really crazy! In my next entry I will write all about what we did, and where this decision may take us. I guess that is why I call this blog "Shifting Gears".

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Harrison Bay and Defeated Creek Campgrounds

I am writing this entry from the ranch in Missouri. We arrived here on Monday, April 2. Since we have been here it has been the typical busy schedule. We love to spend time with the grandkids, but we do miss our very relaxed lifestyle on the road. I have to get these last three entries done for the blog or I will forget what we did, so let's go back about three weeks to leaving the Smokey Mountains.

We left Ft. Wilderness campground on March 20. We had a very interesting drive down the gorge of the Nantahala river. There were many white water rafting outfitters along the road. The river was beautiful. We should have taken some pictures, but there were not any great places to stop with the rig. The driving was slow, so the 130 mile day seemed long. We stopped at Harrison Bay State Park, just north of Chattanooga, Tennessee. That was the first Tennessee State park we have stayed in. We had a nice site, but we just stayed two days and it rained most of that time. Here is a shot of our site:

I took a couple of short walks, but that was it for activity. We are starting to see signs of spring. The red buds in this park were blooming.

We left Harrison Bay on March 22 and headed north. Yep, North! We decided that we wanted to head to Kentucky to see Mammoth Cave National Park, so that meant going almost due north. We drove up out of the Tennessee River Valley. There were some steep, but fairly short grades. It was a pretty and interesting drive.

We drove about 150 miles to Defeated Creek Campground. They had plenty of room in this very large COE campground. We scored a nice site right on the lake.

We both took many walks around this beautiful park. I got a number of bird shots, but I will spare you most of those. The park was almost empty when we arrived, but got pretty full as we headed into the weekend. We stayed 4 nights and just enjoyed the beautiful park. We did have one spectacular sunset.

I also caught this Blue Heron fishing behind our rig one evening.

Well that was about it for our two stops along the road. We love campgrounds with lakes. We always talk about how we would like to go explore the lake by boat. I have been doing a bunch of research on how to make that possible. I had been thinking mostly about a powerboat, but on this trip we shifted that thinking to sailboats. The only problem is neither one of us know how to sail. It is our plan to explore sailing as we move forward. More about that in future entries, but next we need to remember Mammoth Cave National Park. I will write about that visit in my next entry.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Great Smoky Mountains Part 2

I am writing this entry from a small park on a lake about 150 miles east of the Ranch. We are going to stay here for three days. We just don't want this trip to end. We are not looking forward to getting back to the busy "normal" lifestyle that consumes us as soon as we get back to familiar territory. I do have a number of things that need to be done to the rig, so I will focus on that and get ready for the next trip. We are currently thinking about heading to the Great Lakes region in the summer time. For now, I need to stay focused to get the blog of this trip finished.

After two great days to get our visit of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park started, we were excited to see what else we could do. I was thinking about...fly fishing!

We started out by heading into Cherokee, NC to visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. The Cherokee inhabited much of the SE US before the European people invaded. The tribe was decimated by diseases brought by the invaders. They also brought technology that the Cherokee people had not dreamt of. Over many generations they became fairly integrated into the white man's world. There were many treaties that were made and then broken as the Europeans moved further inland in search of gold and other minerals and land to grow crops. Andrew Jackson worked with a number of Cherokee in his military exploits in the early 19th century. He wrote about being concerned that the Cherokee would ultimately cease to exist like many other tribes. His ultimate solution to the potential elimination was to create land in the far west to allow the 5 civilized tribes of the SE US to survive. The forced movement of these tribes became known as "The Trail of Tears". It is certainly debatable whether now President Andrew Jackson was noble or inhuman.

There were some Cherokee that stayed hidden in the mountains of North Carolina. They were pursued for many years, but ultimately were allowed to stay. They used money that was held by the federal government and purchased what is now the Reservation of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. In 1946, the tribe established a history and cultural center that later became this museum. We spent about 2 hours going through the exhibits and presentations. It is really quite moving. This all means more to me because I have some of this Cherokee blood in my veins as one of my descendents was a full blood Cherokee woman. I did not take many pictures. I wanted to focus on the content and experience.

We decided to finish off this day with a hike along a creek in the southern end of the NP in an area called Deep Creek. It was a beautiful walk that included three waterfalls and countless smaller cascades down the rocky canyon.

We stopped along the creek to fish and Kim did a bit of reading. It was a magical spot.

We ended up walking about 4 miles and I did not catch any fish, but it was still a very memorable day.

The next day, we decided to go outside the park to a place we had heard about. It is called the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Joyce Kilmer is the person that wrote the poem, "Trees". He had never been to this part of the country, but after he was killed in WWI, they decided to dedicate a small section of old growth forest to his memory. The trees in this area do not live as long as the huge trees we have seen out west, but it is still an impressive place. We enjoyed a 2 mile hike up through the grove.

After our hike we drove about a mile to a small campground by a creek. It was completely empty and beautiful. We would love to camp there, but it would be a trick getting our rig in there.

I decided that I needed to go fishing after our meal. I was rewarded for the effort with a nice little Brown Trout. The best part was Kim watched me catch it, so I have a witness.

On the drive back to the campground we were able to capture this beautiful view.

On the last day we were in the area, we took a drive up a place called, "The Road to Nowhere". This is a road that was built to provide access to family cemeteries and other places inside the park that were cut off when The river was dammed and Fontana Lake was formed. After millions of dollars, they stopped the project and decided to just take the families across the lake on boats.

This tunnel is the end of the road
We backtracked about a mile to Noland Creek. It was very steep down to the creek, so Kim stayed with the truck while I went fishing. It was a beautiful creek, but I was unable to coax any fish to join us at the dinner table.

I took a short video that captures the sights and sounds of this beautiful place. 

Here is one final shot of the lake and the view in the Western North Carolina mountains.

We both fell in love with this area. It is one of the few places we have found that we could visit over and over again.

We always wonder what is around the next corner. That is why we have little interest in going to the same place. There is always something new to see. Family is the only thing that brings us back. It was now time to move back to the west and time with family, but before we did, Kim decided we had one more National Park to visit. In the coming entries, we will begin our trip west and north. Yes, north in March. Come back to see how that works out.