Archive for the ‘Sailboats & sailing’ Category

Another old, hanging story that needs to be completed … I wrote Part 1 in March 2015, and I never added the update until today.

Actually, the windscreen and side-curtains were completed in November 2017. I picked them up from the canvas shop Thanksgiving weekend — and Halcyon was “on the hard,” stored ashore for the winter, when I fitted them to check them out, and took these photos.

And here’s a photo of Halcyon under sail, taken from a similar Bristol 29.9 on the Rhode River, the following summer:


The dodger is big enough to shelter under, out of the rain … but I confess, I don’t go sailing in rainy weather. I really should get used to it.

More to the point, it completes all of the improvements I wanted to add — except, maybe, to install a cold-plate refrigerator in the boat’s icebox ….

There’s a saying among boaters: “There’s always something to fix, on a boat. Once you’ve got everything fixed, there’s still something to improve or add to the boat. And once you’ve added everything you want, and have the boat completely fixed up the way you want it … then it’s time to get another boat to fix up.”

(Not that I intend to do so. Halcyon is all the boat I need, for what I’m doing — knocking around the Chesapeake Bay.)

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One of the classic sayings about owning a boat is that there’s always something that needs fixing; the corollary is, even if everything’s working, there’s always something that needs improving. My boat is no exception, and though there’s little that needs fixing on a simple boat like mine, I’ve found plenty of things worth improving.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This winter, my project is to build a new “dodger,” or “spray hood.” This is a canvas shelter, with vinyl windows, built over the entryway from the cockpit to the cabin. It’s supposed to keep spray and maybe rain from getting into the cabin, and to provide a windbreak on a chilly, blustery day. A sturdy one can (and should) give you something to hang on to, when you need to go up on deck. The one that came with my boat was wearing out; the stitching was breaking down, I’d replaced all the zippers, and this summer I decided that it was time to for it to be retired and replaced.

Then I saw a better idea, at the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s Annapolis Gam. It was a “hard-top” dodger, with a rigid top canopy made of thermally-formed, high-density polyethylene (“StarBoard”),with zip-on windshield and side curtains. It was billed as strong enough to stand on … certainly it was strong enough for me to mount a semi-flexible solar panel on the top, and add a whole lot more to my existing solar-charging system. I could also have the top built so it extended back over the cockpit, giving me a little more shelter … It looked good. It looked great. But their estimate looked daunting. Their hard-top dodger was priced at some $3500, and the solar panel I was contemplating would be $1500 more. Not so good. I had the money, but that was more than I wanted to spend. I got some more estimates, but it was “back to the drawing board.”

A few weeks later, I found an ad in Boat US Magazine, for an engineered-plastic “hard top” that wasn’t as impressive – but a call to the manufacturer proved it was a whole lot more affordable. This one was made of extruded, cellular polycarbonate sheet material – kind of like corrugated cardboard – with an optional, sturdy aluminum edge. The “Premier” edge-frame was plainly strong enough and wide enough to give me a substantial “grab bar” – and it could be built long enough to hold a pair of 100-watt, semi-flexible solar panels I’d seen at the Annapolis Sailboat Show, that cost $300 each!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So I worked up a cardboard pattern, taped it on my existing dodger frame and sent my measurements off to “HardToTop.” They couldn’t build a top to fit the frame of my canvas dodger – the curves weren’t right for their top to fit – but they could build a new frame; and their hard-top and frame would cost $800. So I went for it – “Chaaaarrgge It!” as Wilma Flintstone used to say in the Flintstones cartoons.

A couple of weeks after Christmas, I got the new hard-top and support frame. I fitted the frame on the boat – then the Winter set in; cold, blustery, snowy, rainy, too much of a mess for me to do anything until mid-March. I was able to dry-fit the panels with the outer frame, figure out how to fit the solar panels and their cables, and cut notches in the frame pieces so I could run the cables inside the frame.

Finally, in mid-March, we got some warm (or warm-ish), sunny days when I was able to fit the hard topDSCN1249 to the frame. The first day, I dry-fitted the panels and slip-fitted the outer frame in place – then I drilled and fitted the panels, adjusted everything to where it seemingly needed to be, and finally caulked the panels’ edges and bolted them in place. “So far, so good” – there were things I might have improved, but the hard-top fit as I needed it to fit and it would provide me plenty of shelter!

The weekend afterward was rainy, sloppy and blustery, but Monday was warm and partly-sunny and suitable for me to fit the solar panels and the cabin-top braces that would make my “solar dodger” strong and sturdy.

I had a lot of “visionary” tasks to manage, to make everything work. I drilled the dodger frame and pulled wiring for the solar panels through to the underside of the frame; I taped down the solar panels, with “extreme outdoor” mounting tape, as I’d figured they’d need to be placed on the top. I installed connectors beneath the hard-top, and led the solar-panel cables through the frame as I’d envisioned. I drilled and tapped the mounting screws for the “MC-4” connectors, and finally I put it all together, with the aluminum frame and the stainless-steel struts that lock the hard-top in place.

And I’m proud of the results.


I’ve got some more work to do with the “Solar Dodger.” I’ve got to install the “awning strips” around the lower edges, and I’ve got to call in Galesville Yacht Canvas to make the windshield and side-curtains. And I’ve got to hook up the solar panels to the charge-controller, so they can feed my batteries. But I’ll have an “embarras de richesse” of solar power when they’re hooked up … maybe even enough to install a refrigerator!

It’s worth considering.



Shedding of the Ego is a new blog by MGTOW legend Barbarossaaaa, and it is off to a great start. The first article I read (and I’m still in the midst of reading) is “Are Seasoned MGTOW Bored With The Red Pill?” by contributing author Kolinahr, and I heartily recommend it.

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One of the problems of solo sailing is that you still have to sleep. You still have to eat, and fix your meals, and use the head. You have to leave the boat to make its own way, when you do these and if it can’t stay on course, you’ve got a heck of a problem.

There are a few ways to handle this, but only two of them work if you’ve got a sloop (like mine) with a helm wheel (like mine). You can install a mechanical device that keeps your boat pointed correctly in reference to the wind (a wind-vane system), or you can install an electrical/electronic device that keeps your boat on the magnetic-compass course that you want to follow more-or-less … an autopilot. For a boat like Halcyon, the electronic solution costs about one-third the price of the wind-and-water-powered version, and it requires a boat-owner to do a lot less modifications to his/her boat.

So it is that I decided to entrust Halcyon and (and my own skin) to that latter, electronic system … decided, with trepidation and reservations, because of the less-than-stellar performance of a similar autopilot system on my previous boat, Bossa Nova. And with my first little day-sailing voyage using the new and improved Raymarine X-5 Wheel Pilot, I am thoroughly delighted with the device as it runs on Halcyon.

Otto the Autopilot, on board Bossa Nova (artist’s misconception)

As I suggested, I had some prior experience with autopilots because I decided to put one on ‘Bossa Nova,’ my Macgregor 26X … which is best described as ‘a 26-foot sleep-aboard sailing dinghy.’ The MacGregor 26 series are trailer-borne day-sailors with enough amenities to work as a weekend-or-vacation getaway for one, or a couple, or a man and wife with two young children … or so they say. I’ve used it as a vacation home, and as a funny-shaped travel trailer, and it worked well enough for me by myself; but it’s a very light and ‘nervous’ boat, built for protected waters and/or excursions in the best of conditions. Because I was sailing solo – the whole point of my sailing, because I don’t expect or plan or wish to need someone else sailing with me – I needed some ‘help’ to keep Bossa Nova on-course when I had to take down and flake down its mainsail. And ‘Otto’ did a pretty good job of that. Otto was noisy, though, and drank up the amp-hours from my electrical system, which (on a boat like this) wasn’t all that capable and strong to begin with.

But … don’t the world-cruisers, the people who are sailing away for real, use wind-vanes? I should say, wind-and-water-powered steering systems, designed to keep your boat following the wind, and costing you not a watt-hour of battery power. A cursory check of long-distance-cruisers’ Web sites reveals this is the case. But is a wind-vane system like the Cape Horn (the one I’d like) well-suited to sailing the Chesapeake Bay, for someone who just wants to extend his horizons a little beyond the local area? And would the next buyer of Halcyon – if I decide she’s not quite enough boat for my dreams – feel comfortable about a wind-vane?

Between the money, and the difficulties I envisioned installing the thing, I decided that the autopilot makes more sense for now. The easiest thing to install would be a ‘wheel pilot’ that attaches to the helm wheel directly, and only Raymarine makes one of those any more. When I spotted a sale at Defender, a mail-order boating supplies firm, I put in my order for the whole kit, plus an instrument housing for the control head.

Halcyon’s autopilot, driving me home.

The installation wasn’t all that hard, but it took time and I made a couple of bad decisions in mounting the stuff. One problem was that Raymarine had cooked up a new networking system that meant I had to install a ‘backbone’ close to the control head. Another was that I let a well-meaning friend talk me into mounting the control box in a place where I found it would not be able to be cabled up; the old-style control head with its cabling system would have worked fine there, but I couldn’t get the cable through the helm pedestal. Oh, well, live and learn, and take care of the cosmetic problems when you have to. I also had to order a longer device cable and a special ‘right-angle plug’cable directly from Raymarine. And I had to find places to put the parts, access routes to pull the cables through from all over the boat to the power pack, ways to make access holes to do the final cable-leading to that control head, power connections, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So it took a few days of work, spread out over several weeks. But finally I got it all installed, all hooked up, ready and steady and sturdy and strong.

And the results are very satisfactory. I’m not trapped at the helm, able to leave it wheel-locked for only a minute or so. “Otto” takes care of things well, if not exactly ‘efficiently’ – moving the wheel in response to every wave, every burble of wake, every excuse it gets. I’m not sure how much electricity it’s using, but I have solar panels to mitigate its energy use and I’m thinking about where I might put a couple more panels if it turns out I need them. The new control head is more sophisticated, ‘smarter,’ than the one on Bossa Nova. It’s a definite improvement, and very liberating … I can sit at ease in the shade or even sunbathe up in the bows of the boat, and let Otto take care of steering. In wide-open waters I could take a nap while letting Otto run the boat – which is critical, as I will need to be able to ‘catnap’ through the night on ocean passages.

With Otto at the helm, my horizons are extended – dramatically.

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I’m happy to see you, too, Sir George Somers!

I am fresh back from a week of sailing in the fresh breezes of the North Atlantic, as one of five crewmembers (plus the captain, who made us six)  on a 48-foot Nautor Swan sailing yacht bound for Bermuda! The experience was a real adventure for the crew, if not for our seasoned captain, Tania Aebi; New York to Bermuda was the first leg of her solo circumnavigation, as a teenager,  in her Contessa 26 sailboat Varuna.  Certainly the voyage we shared with her was much easier for her than that trip. And certainly, with her years of experience, she made it easer and surer for us as well.

My goals were simple: First, prove to myself that I could handle an offshore passage. Second, learn as much as I could from Tania, who is (after all) one of those who have gone where I am dreaming of going. Third, enjoy the voyage, even the parts that might not be so damn enjoyable at the time.

And I met them, with varying levels of success.

The biggest worry I’d had was whether or not I could even get to sleep while the boat was under way. I’ve been doing my share of Bay sailing, but I’ve always spent my nights at anchor; the only times I’ve gone offshore were on ocean liners – and there is a vast difference between a 30,000-ton liner and a 30,000-pound sailboat.  The hiss and crash of the waves on the hull, right beside my ear – the pitching and rolling of the vessel, that would have bounced me out of my bunk if I hadn’t used a lee-cloth to keep me contained there – made it a challenge indeed; but if I couldn’t sleep, I convinced myself, then relaxing my body as totally as I could manage would do me just about as much good. And I did adapt. I did sleep, and took catnaps during the day as I could, and that relieves me of the biggest worry I’d had about sailing the open seas. I can handle it.

My third goal was a whole lot easier. The ocean off Long Island, in June, is still quite chilly, and we had to bundle up for night watches all the time. But there was that amazing sky at 2 AM one night, so thick with stars that I could almost feel myself falling up into its glory, and I was living that line of John Masefield’s poem Sea-Fever: “And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by….” I also had the experience of sailing the Nautor Swan 48, which is more racer than cruiser. It’s got a short, deep and rather bulbous keel and a deep, finely balanced ‘spade’ rudder; it’s marvelously responsive in the right hands, but I had my hands full keeping her close enough to the right course (and I wasn’t the only one!) The daytime watches were entertaining, when most of us were up in the cockpit watching the sea go by; the last couple of days and nights were exciting, with heavy winds driving the boat at eight knots with occasional bumps up to 9 and even 10 knots – and if that doesn’t sound fast to you, you don’t sail, do you? And I had the great good fortune to be at the helm when we dropped and secured the sails, and motored directly upwind into Town Cut and St. George’s Harbor.

The second goal? I’d hoped to brace up Cap’n Tania to hear of how she’d provisioned Varuna, how she’d handled cooking for one plus a cat, how she’d handled the single-handed days and nights of her passages around the world – Et Cet-e-ra, Et Cet-e-ra, Et Cet-e-ra, as Yul Brynner enunciated it in The King And I. She forestalled all of this quite tartly with three words – “Just do it!”

Yes, ma’am, Captain. Will do.

(Well, two out of three ain’t bad.)

So now I’m back. I did see better ways to do a lot of the things I’d have to do on my own voyage, and I’ve got some things to add to Halcyon and some improvements I’ll need to make on her. I’ve worked up a program to ready myself for that future, solo Bermuda run – if not this year, then certainly (God willing) in 2013. Because I’ve expanded my personal envelope, considerably, and I have to grow now to fill it.

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22:30 EDT, Saturday, 31 March 2012 – Lat 34°39.9’N, Lon 79°00.3′ W …

The north end of the Walmart parking lot in Lumberton, NC; not a place where you’d expect to see a boat heave-to for the night. A Toyota 4Runner, towing a 26-foot sailboat on a trailer, cautiously pulls in among the land-yacht RVs and travel trailers, parked across the stripes. The driver, not coincidentally the boat’s skipper, is a bit uneasy about this – what is the protocol for spending the night at Wally-World? Satisfied that he’s parked just like the others, he gets out of the SUV and walks down toward the Big Box emporium. He’s about to pass a gaggle of teenagers, standing around their parked cars, when the security-vehicle pulls up; seeing an opportunity, he crosses over to the driver’s window and asks directly, “Is it OK if I park there for the night?” …

Yeah, that was me, Beija-Flor, big as life and twice as weird.

I was travelling with Bossa Nova, my 26-foot sleep-aboard sailing dinghy. We were headed for a few days’ vacation on Lake Marion, SC – and in need of a place to stay the night. Some years ago, a travel-trailer-warrior friend of mine told me that Sam Walton himself – a travel-trailer enthusiast and bargain-hunter in his own right, I suspect, in the early, lean years before Walmart made him a billionaire – had directed every one of his store-managers to let travel-trailers park overnight in their store’s parking lots, on their way to their “real” destinations. Not only was it a gracious good-will gesture, but 99 out of 100 will need something they can get right there in the Big Blue Box. I was no different in that respect; it’s just that my own travel-trailer has a different shape. A boat shape, a yacht-y shape. Between boat-ramps, Bossa Nova is quite functional and even comfortable as what I call a “funny-shaped travel trailer.”

Serious sailboats do not go on trailers, unless you count the specialized “transporter” trucks that are used to haul the smaller ones across the country. It is no simple task, for instance, for the Island Packet folks in Largo, Florida to put a new 46-foot yacht on a transporter trailer and haul it to – let’s say – Rock Hall, MD; where Gratitude Yachts will step its mast, rig the rigging, and use a Travelift crane to gently lower her into her proper medium, the water. But many smaller vessels, such as sailing dinghies, live on trailers and are only launched when the owner wants to go sailing.

Bossa Nova is at the large end of the “trailer-boat” classification, at 25’11” long and 7’10” wide (abeam). She’s a good “weekender” boat, with (supposedly) enough bunks for 6 … but, in fact, with the stuff I carry and use and the way I carry it, maybe adequate room for two or three at most. Still,  she is quite functional as a “second home” – with a working galley (a single-burner butane stove, a tiny sink with an electric water-pump, and storage space for provisions and utensils – plus a 40-quart ice chest); a workable bathroom (a porta-potty in a little broom-closet that gives me just enough room to haul up my trousers after the deed); a reasonable dining table, across from the galley, so close that it’s almost part of the galley; and a couple of good sleeping spaces (the one I use is a quarter-berth, aft under the cockpit, which is a little bigger than a torpedo tube). Bossa Nova is only a “yacht” by virtue of the fact that its designer and builder calls his factory “MacGregor Yacht Corp.”

But … I can cook aboard, take care of my ablutions aboard, and sleep aboard Bossa Nova. For a limited time – and I have friends who have pushed the limits, out to months – I could live aboard this boat. She’s certainly more comfortable than a refrigerator box under an expressway overpass.

The day after my night in the Walmart parking lot, I headed down to Lake Marion, SC. I’d bet you’ll remember Lake Marion, if you’ve ever driven down I-95 to Florida; it’s the first really big body of water along the way, crossed by a bridge that’s nearly two miles long. A bridge that has a “hump” on the south end, high enough to accommodate the mast of a sailboat the size of Bossa Nova. Sailboats are a rare sight on Lake Marion, or so I was told by the matriarch of a family-group that took a picture of Bossa Nova from their overpowered pontoon boat – she assured me solemnly that Bossa Nova was the first sailboat she’d ever seen on Lake Marion.

As my vacation progressed, I came to understand why. Lake Marion was formed from the Santee River, as a feeder for a hydroelectric power plant; they did not cut down the trees in the river-bottom before flooding the area, and so there are plenty of snags that might be hit by the keel or rudders of a passing sailboat. Believe me, I found out about that. Repeatedly. Lake Marion feeds into a further-downstream lake, Lake Moultrie, where they did cut down all the trees. It’s a better lake for sailing, they tell me, but Lake Marion is better for fishing. It might have been sensible for me to take Bossa Nova down to Lake Moultrie – but it took me a hard and sweaty hour-and-a-half to raise her mast and rig her for sailing, and I didn’t feel like repeating the labor.

I stayed three days on the water, in a nice little hidey-hole around the corner from the marina where I’d parked the tow vehicle. I did use my “rubber ducky” inflatable boat to go to shore there, and I took the opportunity to hang out and chat with some of the folks who stayed at the trailer-park that surrounded the boat ramps and the tiny marina. I believe that I could have stayed in that hidey-hole for who-knows-how-long, paying $4 a day to park my car and trailer and nothing for the anchorage – and, ya know, I think it would have been worth it. It was definitely cool to cook up my dinner on the butane stove, then grab a “cold one” out of the cooler and sit up in the cockpit enjoying the stars. (Though it was all too exciting to be awakened by the bull-roar of an alligator at 1 AM!)

But, on day 2, the outboard motor on Bossa Nova was acting up. I decided to spend day 3 at anchor, doing some of the “cleanup” work that she really needs if I’m going to sell her later on this year. I rowed the rubber-ducky dinghy in to Bell’s Marina, and had a couple of really good meals in their restaurant … and Wednesday afternoon, April 4th, I got Bossa Nova out of the water, back on her trailer, and I stowed the mast and the boom for the drive home.  There were thunderstorms on the way, and I saw no reason to be on the water when they reached Lake Marion.

I spent my last night out at the Walmart in Petersburg, VA … and brought Bossa Nova home, the next day, to the marina where I keep my Bristol 29.9, Halcyon. The Bristol is no “trailer yacht” – she’s 10’2″ abeam, with a long fixed keel and a “keel-stepped” mast that will have to be pulled out with a crane some day, to check its base and re-wire its lights and its radio antenna. It’s going to be much more convenient, having both boats in the same place – and later this summer, when I’m ready to sell Bossa Nova (and when I’ve fixed her outboard motor), I can place her with the same yacht-broker who sold Halcyon to me.

Then I will no longer be entitled to call myself “trailer-yacht trash.”


With a post as snarky as this, I really ought to direct you to MacGregor Sailors – a website devoted utterly to the trailer-sailors designed and built by Roger MacGregor, including the “Venture” brand that started his career as an unlikely trailer-yacht designer. (You may find some of my own modifications to Bossa Nova, under my own name rather than my Portuguese “nom de plume”.)

18 USC § 1384… (In Mala Fide, 2 May 2012) – this is a wonderful “kick in the face” to our Nation’s Military, as a follow-up to the media shitstorm from our Secret Service’s secret-services while President Barack HUSSEIN Obama visited the notorious den-of-sexual-iniquity known as Colombia. “Pay-for-play” is legal in that country, as it is in many other countries … but “18 USC Paragraph 1384” prohibits our young-and-horny US military personnel from disporting with the local “professional talent,” who are prepared to deal with their testosterone, and gives them a severe penalty for “getting their rocks off” in a clean, STD-aware, manly-approved fashion. I am pissed-off … royally … as much for the sake of the “girls,” who stand to lose a substantial portion of their income, as for the sake of the “boys” who must zip it up or “take matters into their own hands.”

You want privilege? You got it! (A Voice for Men, 2 May 2012) – Dr. Paul Elam speaks the truth. “Male privilege” includes way more responsibility than “privilege,” and way more liability/trouble/danger/deadliness than is ever faced by the “Strong, Empowered, Endangered, Independent, Needy, Subsidized, Insulated Woman” who demands so damn much subsidy for her to “be Independent” and so damn much protection to be “Strong”!  I can do no better than than echo Paul’s core concept: “If you want my ‘privilege,’ by all means you are welcome to it. All you have to do is pay the price.”

Maybe there is enough here to start me ranting again!

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The phrase “ready to launch,” when I’m in a day-dreamy mood, can slip me back to my childhood – especially to February 20, 1962, when Mrs. Horton trundled a television to the front of the classroom and we all watched in a hush while Mission Control counted down the minutes, then the seconds, for a Project Mercury launch! “Three … two … one … ignition … LIFTOFF!” And the bright fire splashed out from the base of that gleaming Atlas rocket, with the little black “plug” on the top that bore John Glenn up into the USA’s first manned orbital space flight. Even if we were trailing the Russians – my God, those were exciting times!

But the term “launch” has long referred, as well, to the prosaic task of putting a boat into the water (or back into the water). And tomorrow morning, my Bristol 29.9 sloop “Halcyon” will be lifted off its winter perch-poles, where she has sat “on the hard” since November, and trundled over to the lift-well where she will be lowered gently into the Chesapeake Bay.  Then, if all goes well, I will start her little diesel and putt-putt her over to my slip. Maybe I should call it a “Project Mucky” launch; because, in her own way, Halcyon is my own personal “space capsule,” for a voyage that will carry me beyond my own horizons.

I believe I have a cogent argument for regarding the single-handed sailboat as a progenitor of that Project Mercury space-capsule. The first “solo orbit” of Planet Earth took place in the 1890s, when a self-proclaimed Yankee, Joshua Slocum, “tied the knot in his wake” and completed the first solo voyage around the world. It took him years to circle the globe, something that John Glenn, and others after, managed to do in ninety minutes; but Slocum relied on himself, while every single person who has been lofted into Earth orbit managed it only through the efforts of an immense team and a tremendous, dedicated industry of high technology. I would be beyond thrilled if I could follow Gagarin and Glenn into orbit; maybe, if I’d gotten one of the three $210-million winning tickets in the Powerball, I might have spent the $10 million that Baikonur charges for a space-tourist trip out to the ISS. (And maybe they would have said I wasn’t fit enough to go into orbit.)

But I think I might be able to follow Joshua Slocum, or a couple thousand other adventurous souls, and sail around the world.

Halcyon is also my “escape capsule,” a little floating refuge where I can be free from the cares of the shore. Whether I go out for a day, or overnight, or longer, it’s just me and the boat and the wind and the waves. Halcyon is not a large boat – her inside space is something between a small efficiency apartment and a large walk-in closet – but she has, in miniature, all the things that make a house a home, except for a fixed address.  (Aside from the “fixed address” of my dock.) Plus, of course, equipment you wouldn’t find in your house, such as water tanks and a “holding” (septic) tank, a diesel engine and its fuel, sails and sail-handling gear, and an inflatable “rubber ducky” dinghy. I’ve spent several thousand dollars, over the winter, to make Halcyon a stronger, safer, and more comfortable boat.

There are some “comforts of home” that aren’t so easy to duplicate on the water, or that demand a lot of complexity – and money – to make them work. Electricity is a prime example; I’ve chosen not to install a shore-power “umbilical cord”, so I’m limited to battery power, and to charging the batteries from the engine’s alternator or the solar panels I’ve installed. That’s not enough to run a refrigerator, but it is enough for lights and some radio use. And my cell phone, tethered to my laptop, will keep me connected to the Web – when I’m in a position to use it, for instance at anchor for the evening.  Part of my process, this year, will be learning to “feel at home” within these limits.

Halcyon is enough boat for the Chesapeake Bay, and possibly beyond. I don’t doubt she could take me all over the Caribbean, and I know of people who have cruised around the world in boats its size, and even smaller. But she’s enough for my current purposes and needs. I’ll spend this year cruising around the Bay, staying aboard for longer and longer periods of time, getting along with what I have aboard Halcyon, and managing my life as much as possible as I would if Halcyon were indeed my home.

It may be vainglorious of me to presume to compare Halcyon with Project Mercury, considering the millions of dollars NASA spent for Alan Shepard’s fifteen minutes of flight! But I cannot presume to “explore for Humanity” as he did, with his successors; I can only presume to explore for myself.

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The best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. 

– Robert Burns

My Florida vacation, which I viewed with such anticipation, got quite eviscerated by time and happenstance. What was going to be two weeks turned into six days, and two of those were on the road. But … we all know “what” happens.

When I got home with Bossa Nova, I found that one wheel hub was quite warm – and after I published Holiday, that afternoon, I started worrying about it. By the next morning, I decided I’d better take the trailer (boat and all) over to George’s Auto Hospital and find out what’s going on. Took a few hours, but finally I backed the trailer into his shop bay – and found the problem was a dragging brake on that wheel. George called a trailer-repair place nearby, and we found they could get the new calipers “by tomorrow.” Fine, that’s only a day off my plans.

Uh … no. The next afternoon, I got a call from George’s receptionist: “They didn’t ship the whole order. They will get the rest of it to us tomorrow.” So now it’s two days off of my plans – and I wouldn’t get to Florida in time for even the last day of the Sun’N’Fun fly-in.  But there was an alternate destination I’d considered before, Lake Marion in South Carolina – half the road time, and wouldn’t it be a nice place to go sailing for a week or so?

Thursday afternoon, the parts came in – but the job couldn’t be done until Friday. George picked me up Friday afternoon and brought me to his shop, where I “settled up” and drove Bossa Nova back home. It was late enough that I decided to leave Saturday morning. (Three days lost. But I reminded myself – “most people have plans, whereas sailors have intentions.” Besides, there were some troubles with my trailer’s side-marker lights; I fixed them Friday evening.)

And it wasn’t till Saturday morning – after I’d put my clothes and my supplies aboard Bossa Nova – that I tried starting up its motor, a Honda outboard, to see if it would run. Bad news. It was hard to get it started, and it ran really rough. So I drove over to the marina where Halcyon waits to be launched … maybe I’d have to have them work on the engine. But when I set up the “rabbit-ears” to run the water cooling on a hose, I was able to “play” the engine till it was running reasonably smooth; enough so that I decided I could trust it for my trip. And I had everything packed – so I headed south.

I got to Lake Marion Sunday noon, after spending Saturday night in “travel trailer mode” at the Lumberton, NC WalMart. (More on this in a future post.) Found a place to launch and to leave the trailer and tow-beast while I went sailing … and I must admit that the labor of raising Bossa Nova’s mast had me considering a quicker schedule for selling that boat! But I did a few hours of sailing after the launch … and I brought Bossa Nova back to a snug little “hidey-hole,” back up past that “home base” marina, where I lay at anchor for the next three nights.

Lake Marion is a wide and beautiful lake, but it is much better for fishing than it is for sailing. There are wide areas of old standing timber that have broken off just below the surface of the water; wonderful “structure” for the underwater natives, but I ran up on a couple of snags while I was sailing. (No damage, though, thanks to the design of Bossa Nova – all ballast inside the hull, a light fiberglass swing-up centerboard, and pop-up rudders.) I learned to stay close to the marked channel, but the sailing was still good.

Monday was boisterous at first, quite an exciting sail, but the wind completely died about 2 PM when I turned for “home” … and the engine started misbehaving again, by the time I got back to my hidey-hole. Tuesday morning, the winds were higher – even on the creek, I could see the treetops being lashed about; I decided to spend the day at anchor, and used it for some time-consuming and finicky tasks that I’d put off for a long while. (That actually was quite satisfying!) I also took the dinghy ashore, back to the marina/campground where I was keeping the trailer, and had dinner at their restaurant.

The weather report on Wednesday morning was … let me put it delicately … not so encouraging; and I was worried about the motor’s poor performance Monday afternoon. So I got Bossa Nova back on her trailer, with a little help; I brought her back to a good parking-space, lowered the mast and stowed it for trailering, rolled up the dinghy, and headed for home.

I got back to my marina on Thursday afternoon, after coping with a couple more problems on the way – one with my trailer’s lights, and a worse (or at least, more disgusting) problem with Bossa Nova’s porta-potty head.  I also managed to put off the fullness of the problem with Bossa Nova’s motor, until I got her back home. (I’ll get it fixed in the coming weeks, but now my most pressing intention is to get Halcyon back on the water.)

Ya know what, though? I had a full measure of fun in those few days. I will say that I had a lot more “learning” than “fun,” but that’s how it goes, sometimes. And “the best-laid plans” are not superior to a sailing-man’s “intentions.”

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The Weather Channel girl
With her perfect weather curl
Is talking cold, cold, cold …

You can’t get out of bed,
You can’t remember what she said –
You’re feeling old, old, old …!

Jimmy Buffett, “Holiday”

I went looking all over YouTube, in hopes of finding a video of Jimmy Buffett playing that song live with the steel-drums intro, as it’s recorded on his Meet Me In Margaritaville CD. I thought it would be the most appropriate way to break the news gently, as if the news really mattered.

For the next two weeks I’m going to take an official and declared holiday.

I’ve brought Bossa Nova, the trailer-boat, back from her parking spot at Maryland Marina to the side-street in front of my townhouse. I’m loading up the clothes, food, and other items that I figure I’ll need for a two-week trip down to Florida. I’m going to set up the “wireless tether” on my Android phone, so it can link to my laptop, and I may try to do an article or two while I’m on the road, but I plan to be busy enough that I won’t be able to keep any promises.

Bossa Nova, my funny-shaped travel trailer.

This is a good trip for me to make with Bossa Nova, as she can serve as a funny-shaped travel trailer on the way down and back. In point of fact, there are a couple of road trips I’d like to make with Bossa Nova this spring and summer – a fact I’ve used to justify keeping her for at least a couple more months. After this jaunt, though, she’s going to her new home at the marina where I keep Halcyon; it will be cheaper and more convenient to keep her there, and soon I’ll be listing her with the yacht-broker who sold me Halcyon last year.

Meanwhile, though – after the months of getting Dear Auntie settled in “Shady Pines,” of clearing out and cleaning up her old house, of getting it on the market and getting it sold – plus the incidental work I did on Halcyon, and the work I’m starting on my own abode – I think I damn-well deserve a holiday.

So take a holiday …
You need a holiday …
Grab a pack and hit the trail,
Hoist your sail and wind up in some moonlight bay!


Food for thought – a few good posts, not all of ’em new:

You Are Not A Princess! (A Shrink For Men, 15 Dec 2009) – Dr. Tara Palmatier lists twenty-five points for men and women to consider. A common thread – respect, don’t just expect.

Despite All the Risks – Why Young Men Still Get Married (The Spearhead, 26 Mar 2012) – “…with feminist divorce and child support laws, buying the cow costs so much the cow could end up owning YOU.”

How feminists define gender traits (A Voice For Men, 23 Mar 12) points at the most succinct statement of the feminist creed – “woman good, man bad” – and opens it out with a simple chart to reveal what sorts of behavior are labeled as “innate” and what sorts are “learned.” The author follows it up with Alleged “gender-based” treatment (AVfM, 25 Mar 2012) … and how much deeper will we go, down the rabbit hole?

MISOGYNY – Designated Victims and the Poisoned Benefits (GendErratic, 21 Mar 2012) elucidates the origin and structure of “victim culture” from a simple postulate – “Typhon’s Law : Men are seen as agents and women as patients.”

Daddy’s little princess (The Sanctuary, 25 Mar 2012) goes with Failure to launch and the Mama’s boy (16 Mar) – both targeting “the sins of the parents” that seem to be driving our culture to dysfunction, one child at a time. (I admire Spacetraveller for the way she is building on related themes!)

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There is a saying familiar to women everywhere, and this one isn’t even (all that) misandric:

“The difference between men and little boys is the price of their toys.”

I represent that remark … so much so that if some little-old-lady type made a needlepoint sampler of it to needle me, I’d frame it in the place of honor in the main salon of my boat. I can count my own expensive toys on the fingers of – oh, and my toes, too – say, can I borrow a couple of extra hands for that count? No, I’m just joking; just barely joking.

There’s my “economy” car that Mitsubishi tarted up as a rag-top roadster. (It gets 30 mpg, same as a contemporary Galant.) There was the Snowbird, a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane that carried my Mom and myself on many a hundred-dollar hamburger ride. There’s the scuba gear – tanks, fins, regulators, buoyancy-compensator pack, and custom-fitted wetsuit; at least I didn’t go “technical,” as that amount of scuba-gear would pile up price-tags of three to five times as much as what I’ve got now.

And there’s a succession of boats, culminating now with my Bristol 29.9, “Halcyon.” Which is, itself, a more expensive toy than the rest, because it needs toys of its own. But I like to style Halcyon as “more than a toy,” because it becomes my summer cottage on the shore of the Bay … the wet side of the shore, which is even more fun.

What do I mean, “Halcyon needs toys of its own?” Well, the boat itself isn’t enough by itself. You need to equip it in order to sail it, and the way you equip it is based on the kind of sailing you’re going to do. For instance, I needed new sails this year; I wanted more ventilation, which meant opening portlights; I needed safety gear, such as my marine band walkie-talkie and a GPS satellite-navigation receiver (both of which I already had). I needed a better anchor, after the original “hook” dragged time and again in my favorite overnight anchorage. And there were a bunch of “little incidentals” that add up, over time; like the twenty yards of Sunbrella upholstery material that I got for $4.50 a yard at the Annapolis Seagoing Flea Market.  (Part of that is already the new slipcovers in Halcyon’s main salon.)

The other day, I received the “next big thing” for Halcyon: a solar-panel setup for electrical power, while I’m sailing or at anchor … or off the boat, while she’s at the dock in the marina. I’m going to put them on the “hatch garage” atop the cabin, so I held out for special rugged solar panels that won’t be hurt if I step on them. And, since I have to remove the hatch garage to install them, I also bought a new “mainsheet traveler,” or mainsail control track, which will replace the old (and, to my mind, inadequate) traveler that Bristol Yachts Inc installed on that hatch-garage when they built the boat in 1979.

There are a whole lot of things that I’d like to add, aboard Halcyon. But my “un-met friend” Fatty Goodlander – the writer who is the reason I subscribe to Cruising World Magazine – once published a “natural law” whose sensibility and rightness I cannot deny:

If it doesn’t make your boat safer or stronger, don’t buy it.

I try to follow that. I try real hard.

New sails fit in both the “safer” and “stronger” categories, as does the jiffy-reefing setup I added last September. The “mainsheet traveler” goes to “stronger;” the solar panel system, I can log as “safer” because it makes sure I can run my electronics and still start the engine tomorrow morning – or next week. The new windows? That’s a stretch; but better ventilation at anchor or at the dock may tip the balance for “safer,” and the stainless-steel and tempered-glass construction (compared to the old, cracked, crazed Plexiglas deadlights in their corroded aluminum frames) may possibly qualify, at least minimally, for “stronger.” Never mind; I’ve spent the money and it’s gone, I’m pleased as punch with the results, and I’m looking forward to that first warm summer night where the breeze through those portlights will comfort me.

There are some even-stranger “additions” that my hamster spins wildly to ratiocinate as “safer/stronger.” Like the five bottles of Cru 82 vodka that I bought and drank, this winter, so that I could use the stainless-steel bottles for stove-alcohol storage … each 750-ml “empty” will fill one Origo stove cartridge properly without over-filling, and five are enough to store a gallon of stove fuel. (Denatured alcohol is pricey – but for the price of a new propane stove, plus propane bottles and a safe way to store them, I can buy a hell of a lot of stove-alcohol.) And the Cape Horn steering system I described in Steering The Singlehanded Yacht will keep Halcyon straight on course whether I’m on the Bay – or out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  When I buy and install it.

I have to keep a balance about these “expensive toys.”

But my solo, single, MGTOW life means that Halcyon doesn’t have to compete with a flesh-and-blood girlfriend, or fiancée, or wife, or Mother Of My Children. I refer to Halcyon as “my fiberglass mistress” for fun, and because a wife would call her that – just as it’s traditional for a pilot’s wife to call his airplane “his aluminum mistress.” That’s because women set themselves into deadly-serious competition with anything that their men enjoy, or desire, or play with – animate or inanimate.

For those of you men who have girlfriends, or fiancées, or wives, or Mothers Of Your Children – I invite you, with some asperity, to add up the money you spend on your Significant Other (from courting, to maintaining, to placating and paying-off) and determine that proportion of your net income that her “maintenance” represents. I don’t doubt that you spend a greater fraction of your bottom line on “paying her off” than I spend on Halcyon.  And, though Halcyon does indeed “talk back” to me, it does so silently … and it doesn’t continue to incriminate me for past mistakes, world without end, when I learn to handle her better!

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Halcyon, my Bristol 29.9, is small enough and handy enough for single-handing. I took her out sailing dozens of times last summer, and I had company for exactly two of those voyages – one of those being a couple of hours’ sailing with my 90-year-old Dear Auntie, who could do nothing but sit and watch (and who damn-near had to be swayed on board and back to the dock in a cargo net!) Halcyon is simply equipped, sloop-rigged (no inner stay for a storm sail), rugged but not sophisticated. That rugged simplicity is suitable for my current needs and goals.

But I have the classic problem of the single-handed sailor; I cannot contrive to be two places at once, for example keeping Halcyon straight on course while I go up to the mast and take in the mainsail. Or going below for something, such as my lunch. I can lock down the helm for a minute or so, but I’m spending 99% of my time right there at the wheel. This isn’t much of a problem for a day trip, or a regular Bay gunkholing cruise from harbor to harbor; but before I can point Halcyon’s bow beyond the horizon, I’m going to have to deal with it.

So I’m very interested in fitting Halcyon with a self-steering system; a device to keep her pointed in the right direction, while I do whatever I might need to do to “take care of the boat.”

I could install an electronic autopilot, like the one I have on my trailer-sailor, Bossa Nova. But “Otto” doesn’t hold a course very well, it uses a lot of electricity – and the “zzzt – zzzt – zzt – zzzzzzzt – zzzt …” noise of its drive, turning the wheel for every little quirk of wind or wave, is obnoxious enough that I use it only when I must. Halcyon actually came with an older autopilot system, but (dammit!) it didn’t work when I tried it out on my first sailing excursions … and the manufacturer went out of business years ago. I haven’t found anyone who will work on it. So it’s in the basement, on its way to the recycling bin.

There is an alternative, usually called a “wind vane.” This is an apparatus that keeps the boat on the heading you set, with respect to the wind; and that is actually more valuable in a sailboat than an autopilot’s ability to keep the boat on a set compass course. It also doesn’t use any electricity, so I don’t have to worry about it running down my batteries. But it is about three times the price of “Otto” on Bossa Nova, and installing it is major surgery.

An autopilot will try to keep the boat on the same “compass course,” with no regard to the wind. A “wind vane” system follows the wind, and if the wind changes direction, so will the boat – but it will sail efficiently with respect to the wind, and it’s the captain’s responsibility to adjust the wind-vane AND the sails for any course correction. (The autopilot will “try to maintain course” regardless of the winds. This is not a good thing, in a sailboat.)

I only know of four wind-vane-steering-system manufacturers at this time. The one whose product looks best to me, right now, is Cape Horn; its owner sailed a 30-foot boat around the world, by way of the Cape of Good Hope (Africa) and Cape Horn (South America), with the prototype of his gear. That is very close to the size of my boat, and he guarantees his rig for “one circumnavigation or 28,000 miles” – whichever comes first. I have sent him a request for information about my particular make-and-model boat, and I may be installing a Cape Horn rig on my boat later this season.

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