Sunday, June 24, 2018

Our First Month of Sailing

I am writing this from the ranch on June 24. It has been almost exactly a month since we launched the sailboat in Stockton Lake. It is amazing to think that on April 16th we bought the boat and brought it back to the ranch for a month of cleaning and refitting. I took my first lesson on May14, and now a month and a week later, we have accomplished so much.

Notice that we are still calling it just," the sailboat". We can not agree on a name, so for now it will have to be, "the sailboat".

Sailing has many aspects. If the winds are constant and light, it is easy and relaxing. The problem is that you don't go very fast and therefore can't go very far. We want to explore new places, so some good wind is needed.

We have done many light wind days and they have been great for learning. Another problem with light wind days is that it is hot in the boat. The lack of breeze can be a problem for passengers and crew. It does not take long before you are looking at that cool water and looking for a cove to drop anchor and swim.

Kim has jumped out of the boat a couple of times when it appeared that we were barely moving. She found out quickly that it is tough to keep up with a sailboat that is going even 1 knot. She has learned to throw out a line to hold on to and drag behind the boat. It is really very relaxing up to about 2 knots. Above 2 knots it is not possible to hang on for long. That is when I get to practice the "man overboard" drill that I have learned.

I do have to be honest, one thing I have been working on is how to be a good captain. We have had a couple of incidents that required quick thinking and a cool head. My thinking was not quick enough and my head did not stay cool. I am aware of my weaknesses and with confidence I think I am getting better. You will have to ask Kim to see if she agrees.

I have been keeping a log and we have been sailing 15 days out of the last month. We were staying at the COE park about a mile from the dock from May 31 to June 14. It was so easy to just drive over to the dock and cast off the lines and head out. I can see why many people have their boats in a slip at the lake. The sites at the COE park are huge and we loved our time there.

That is the lake through the trees. The campground is on a peninsula. 

We had a number of visitors while we were in the park. First up was our two grandsons that live in Arkansas. Connor and Cameron are 7 and 4. Connor loves to fish, so we did a bunch of that.

We had the boys for two days while our son Michael and DIL Audrey had a couples weekend in Branson. Michael and Audrey came up on Sunday and we all went sailing. The wind was stronger than I had seen and it was a bit hectic. Winds were 15 to 22 knots. The bad news is that we ended up putting a big tear in the mainsail. It was one of those experiences that was good and bad. I learned a bunch of what NOT to do. I would do much better the next time we went out in strong wind. They make something called "sail tape". We were able to fix the main fairly easily, but we now knew a new mainsail was in our near future. I wondered how much that was going to cost...

We had the pleasure of our good friends Dick and Cathy joining us in the park for a few days. They are on their way to Alaska. We had a blast catching up on our travels over the past year and we went out in the boat two evenings for a swim. The winds were very light, so sailing was not going to happen.

Dick in the cockpit with me

Cathy enjoying the ride on the bow.
Next up was a visit from our grandson Will. Will is 8 and he took to sailing like an old pro. We sailed 2 days with Will in all kinds of wind and he did great. He took the tiller for long stretches and when he was not driving the boat he was running a jib sheet. It was awesome to have him on the boat. 

Will on the tiller.
I love this shot of Will looking out over the water as the sun goes down.
Just a random sailboat shot in the marina after a long day on the water.

Kim and I were in the park by ourselves on Sunday, June 9. We had very strong winds and I went out to the point at the end of the campground to look over the lake. The wind looked pretty scary. I also noticed that no other sailboats were on the water. We decided to wait to see if the wind would subside as predicted.  We headed out at about 3 pm. We have two head sails and I chose the smaller one. (A 100% jib) I also took a reef in the main. That means we reduced the sail area by about a third. This reduces the power of the sails and should make the boat easy to sail in stronger winds. As we headed out, we waved hello to Jerry, who has a Catalina 34 docked right across from us. He was just coming in after a brisk sail. He has been great and provided some excellent advice. He told me later he was happy to see my conservative sail plan and knew I would be fine. We had an excellent sail for the first 2 hours. We kept a pretty constant 5 knots and were able to move quickly up the lake into the wind. The winds were a challenge, but the boat felt balanced and we handled her with ease. After that, the wind died and we shook out the reef and cruised home at about 2 knots. It was an excellent day because we felt comfortable and learned to be conservative first. We did find three more small tears in the main when we were putting the sails away. I guess it is time to spend some money.

We had an excellent month of sailing. It has not been without challenges, but all in all it has been great. We are learning to love this activity and I can't wait to go sailing again. Our confidence is gaining very quickly and we now are excited about strong winds and some white caps on the water.

In the following weeks we have had a number of more "Firsts". I can't wait to write all about it.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Our First Week of Sailing

I am writing this entry from Lake Stockton, Missouri on June 8. We have been staying very close to where we have the sailboat in a slip that we have rented. We are doing a monthly rental for $175 per month including 30 amp electricity.

We splashed the boat on May 23. I did not write much about that day in my previous entry, so I thought I would write a bit more. We arrived at the boat launch/marina at about 10AM. The sun was out with almost no wind. Unfortunately, it got hot quickly in that parking lot. Our 2 year old granddaughter Amelia was with us and that complicated the day a bit. We got the boat ready to lift the mast by removing all of the ties that we had done for the transport. We had some ideas about "stepping" or raising the mast. We had done it once at the ranch, but I had the help of one of my very strong sons. This time proved much more difficult. We partially lifted it once, only to find out that our idea would not work. We started over and I basically did a "clean and jerk" weightlifting move and got it to a full standing position. Kim installed all of the stays (cables that support the mast) while I held it up. There are a total of 6 stays (Headstay, backstay, and inside and outside shrouds on both sides).  With the lack of wind this part was not bad. By this time, we were pretty hot. We went to the marina store to make arrangements for the slip and some much needed ice cream. I went for Gatorade. We then lifted the motor and installed it on the mount and then the rudder. This entire process took about 4 hours. We were now ready to take it to the ramp.

The ramp is an interesting process. We back the boat down to the edge of the water and then block the wheels and raise the coupler off of the ball. Then we drive the truck forward about 10 feet and install the extended tongue on the trailer. The tongue extension increases the overall trailer length by about 10 feet, which allows us to push the boat further into the water. I wish I had a picture of that, but it worked perfectly. We were able to float the boat off of the trailer in about 5 feet of water and just the rear tires of the truck were in the water. The draft of the boat is about 3.5 feet with it's fixed keel.

By the time Kim drove the truck up to the parking lot, we were ready to go for a swim. We started the motor and went about 300 yards to a cove and dropped the anchor. We swam for about two hours and got our body core temps back down to normal. Amelia enjoyed that part of the day. Prior to the swimming, she was hot and whinny.

We then went and found our boat slip and after playing with dock lines for way too long, we put her to bed for the first night. It felt strange walking down the dock leaving her there for the night.

The next day we went out on our first sail. The winds were fairly light(maybe about 5 knots), but it was a perfect day for us. We sailed around for about 5 hours and we loved it. Kim was now ready for some stronger wind.

The next few days were the Memorial Day weekend. We knew the lake would be a bit crazy, so we decided to relax at Bob's. On Monday, we decided that much of the craziness would be done and headed out for our second sail. We started out with light winds. We stopped in a cove and dropped anchor. We cooked an early dinner on the boat and then the wind picked up. We raised the sails and Wow! We were sailing! I installed a GPS/depth finder on the boat and was surprised when we got the boat up to about 5 Knots in a wind of about 10 Knots. We sailed all the way to the dam into the wind and then sailed back to the marina down wind. We had a blast! Kim now had more confidence in my ability to handle stronger wind. I felt that I had complete control of the boat. Another great day.

The next day our son Mark joined us on the boat. Mark has an interest in learning to sail, so the day became his first lesson. We had excellent wind for the first half of the day and Mark was at the helm for much of it. The wind shifted and dropped a bit, so we pulled into a cove and had lunch and did some swimming in the over 80 degree water. We have been having record highs almost every day. Well over 90 degrees this time of year is too hot, but the nice thing is the water warms quickly. We sailed back to the marina in light winds. Another almost perfect day.

Pretty sail. The original mainsail on this boat from 1983.

We were ready for a couple of days off at this point. The sun was taking a toll. Bob was also getting home from Ireland and it was time to move the trailer from his beautiful home to the park we are in now. While we were at his house, we had some pretty intense storms come through. We also had some amazing sunrises and sunsets.

A storm coming in


Sunset is a special time at Bob's

Awesome Sunrise

The first week of sailing could not have gone better. The second week did not go as well. We sailed in much stronger wind and we had our first damage to the boat from the strong winds. I will write all about that in my next entry.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A Test of our Patience and it is Great to Have Awesome Friends

As I mentioned in my last entry, we had a plan. On May 13, we would first take the trailer up to my friend, Bob's house to moochdock in his driveway, while he and his wife were out of the country. The plan was to then go to the lake the next day to start a 2 day sailing class. After the class was completed I planned to go back to the ranch to get the boat and bring it up to Lake Stockton and put it in the water for the first time. That is of course if during the class I determined that I hated sailing and would then go back and sell the boat and move on to other endeavors.

In the previous two weeks I had spent about $1500 on the truck doing the 200K mile service and replacing the rear brakes for the 4th time. The truck seemed to be running perfectly for the 2 hour tow up to Bob's. Just as I was pulling into his driveway the truck just died. It would crank, but it would not start. My truck was in the driveway, but the trailer was now blocking both lanes of traffic. It is not a very busy road, but I still felt the need to get it out of the way as quickly as possible. Kim ran up the hill to Bob's house to see if Bob could pull me off the road. I (being a Ford guy), had to suffer the indignity of being pulled by Bob's Chevy into his drive and up the hill to a place where we were somewhat level. We then used his truck to help me unhitch and leave the truck in a place where a tow truck could get to it.

The problem was that I had my first sailing class the next morning at 9AM. Bob is a great friend and offered to let me use his truck to get back and forth to the school. THANKS Bob!!!

I was up early on May 14. I called the Ford dealer in Bolivar, Missouri and arranged to have the truck looked at. I also arranged a tow truck to come out and get the truck. Kim would stay with the truck and trailer and hand off the keys. I would head off to my school. Everything went as planned until they called later in the day and told us they did not have anyone to look at it that day, they had two techs out.

The school went very well. It was two ladies and myself and Mark the instructor. We did some boat prep and then went out on the water. I actually sailed for the first time in my life and guess what? I LOVED IT! No need to sell the boat. We had good wind, Mark said it was over 10 knots. All I know, is there were whitecaps and we were moving along quickly. Each student took a turn at the helm. I learned a couple of very valuable lessons which will stay with me as long as I am sailing. I also gained confidence in the strong winds.

The next day there was almost no wind. I was not sure what we were going to do when I got to the dock. Mark said, "Go Sailing". I was amazed that we could move around very well in almost no wind. We did not go very fast, but we could still move. The combination of the two days and the very different wind conditions was an excellent combination for me. During the second day sail, I took the on-water test and did OK. Then, when we were off the water, I took the written test. I am happy to say, I made a 96. Before the class I was given a book that was about 120 pages packed with basic sailing information. I read it three times and all of that studying payed off. I think it also helped a great deal to do all of the work on the boat to help with the terminology.

When I got done with the test, I got the bad news from the Ford dealership. The truck had major problems. I called the next morning and tried to talk to the service advisor. He was not making sense and his pricing was unbelievably high. I checked with some other shops and then talked to another good friend, Dan (who owns an auto shop) and he told me that he could come up to Bolivar from Republic, Missouri and get the truck and fix it for me. I met him at the dealership and got a very cryptic diagnosis that I paid for and helped Dan load the truck on his car trailer.

I took this quick shot of the truck on the trailer heading away from the Ford dealer.
I got a call from Dan a day later with more bad news, the problem with the truck was not the Fuel Injection Control Module, as the Ford Dealer said it was, it was actually the High Pressure Oil Pump. The HPOP is about $1600. It was a lot of work, but he would try to get it back to me the first of the next week.

To add to the test, one of the AC's on the rig was having issues. It was in the 90's so AC was needed. I determined it was a bad fan motor. I made the drive to Springfield to get one and installed it myself with the help of a YouTube video. That went well.

Over the weekend, our oldest Granddaughter graduated from High School. Congratulations Hannah!

Our daughter Shannon had a very busy week going, so she asked if we could watch Amelia. Of course we said yes. She is just so cute, you can't say no to that girl. Here she is giving Bob's dog her daily petting.

On May 22, I got the call that the truck was ready. Dan saved me a bunch of money and got it fixed fast. The total was still a little over $3K. I drove to the ranch from his shop and the truck was running perfectly. I hitched up the boat and hauled it back to Bob's house. All went well.

The next morning, we took the boat to the Marina and raised the mast and launched it for the first time. It was hot, but with the help of Mark (my instructor and person we bought the boat from) we got it done. We motored out and went for swim. Amelia was still with us, so she got to go for the first ride in the boat. We rented a boat slip for a month for $175 with electric. So, we will settle down and go sailing for the next month. It was tough and very expensive, but we got it done. Here is the boat in her new home.

The next day, Kim and I went out for our first sail. I will write all about that in my next entry.

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".