Sunday, July 2, 2017

Doing the Numbers: What's Next?

Northern Star on the ocean

April 11, 2017 marked the end of our second full year living aboard S/V Northern Star.  Seven hundred and thirty days with water below.  Does it feel like it was that long, you ask? My answer is, "well, the last few months did seem to have more days in them than usual." Lightning, followed by 59 days in a marina plugged into shore power kinda alters the time/space continuum as it is perceived in my head.  Lying flat on my back in pain for the better part of 4 weeks didn't help much either.
Jax loves to travel by car

When we moved aboard, we planned to keep a running tally of how many nights we were 1- at anchor,  2- attached to a mooring, 3- in a marina slip,  4- underway (overnight passage making) and how many we nights we spent 5-away from the boat visiting family and friends. Like a few other great ideas we had about boat life, we didn't follow through with it.  If I were to hazard a guess however, it would be that that we were at anchor ~ 380 nights, on a mooring ~60 nights, in a marina slip ~ 270 nights, underway (overnight passages) ~8 nights, and away from the boat ~ 42 nights.  (When we leave the boat to travel on land, the boat is left in a marina, for safety precautions). If I dug around for a bit using my calendar, my notes in Active Captain on my iPhone, receipts from marinas and the Ship's Log, I could probably come up with exact figures but somehow I no longer care enough about those numbers to do that. I will say that we attempt to spend the bulk of our time at anchor because:  1- it's free, 2- it's quieter, 3-the boat naturally points into the wind so the boat is cooler. and 4- we enjoy the cameraderie of the cruising community while at anchor.  There's nothing like it.  Alas, I do know that we have spent many more nights in a marina than we wanted to because of mechanical or electronic issues.

Another thing we had planned to do was to document (using a spreadsheet and diagram) where every single thing we brought onboard was located. (Imagine labeling every nook and cranny where you store things in your house on land!) Initially, we thought this was a fanTAStic idea! I got as far as counting all the separate hiding places on the boat. There are 84 places to put things away on Northern Star.  84!! But labeling each of them with an identifying name and/or number to write on the diagram was where I got bogged down.  I could designate each cubby or spot by labeling it with a P or an S (Port or Starboard) but from there on things got all muddled in my head. Should I use a simple numbering system? ie. P1 through P4_? Were we actually going to refer to a diagram that was going to be incredibly crammed with information in teeny tiny little print? We abandoned the idea as being mentally exhausting.  Suffice it to say, we have an unbelievable number of things stored in those 84 hiding places.
Storage is behind and beneath cushions, under the bed, etc.

Usually I remember where the item lives. I will not even hazard a guess at how many hours have been wasted in fruitless searches for items that we know are somewhere on the boat?  I could throw some guesstimates out there, but that would only serve to irritate me and it's such a pretty day today.

There are two rules of thumb I have learned about finding things onboard. First off, if the item is not found within the first five minutes of the hunt, it's very unlikely to be found in the next twenty. It is more productive to forget about the search altogether and distract myself with a little cleaning. Cleaning often turns up whatever we are looking for. 
Secondly, whenever a new thing comes onboard and is assigned a place to belong, I best not, under any circumstances make the mistake of moving it to a "better" place later on. There is no better place than the first place because that's the only place I'll remember later.  
Chart plotter

How many electronic devices needed to be replaced due to the lightning strike? LOTS and lots of them.  Essentially, every piece of electronics that uses a circuit board was toast after the lightning encounter on January 23rd.  The inverter, chart plotter, autopilot, GPS, compass, electric winch, VHF radio, tank monitors, water pump, navigation lights, two cameras, lots of gauges, and so on and so on....all needed to be replaced in part or whole.
Sunrise on the Little Bahama Bank, Abacos, Bahamas

Our most recent grand plan, developed before we headed to the Bahamas last winter, and before we experienced the lightning episode was this--we would return to the States in the spring to a boatyard that would allow us to work on our own boat. Our mast and boom have some corrosion and we planned to have them painted. We would also replace our standing rigging (the steel cables that attach to the deck and to the mast) as it is 15 years old and we figured it was time to replace all of that, especially while the mast is down anyway. 
Northern Star in Oriental, NC

We planned on spending no less than 30 days doing this work. It's tedious and time-consuming to remove every piece of hardware and to prep the mast and boom for painting.  By itself, the painting would require some 10 to 12 steps to complete. Consequently, this was our plan for the summer of 2017.  No time for the long cruise up to Maine as we did last summer. Just get this big project done, doing as much of the work ourselves as possible.  
Jax never asks "Are we there yet?"

I wanted to be able to report the number of miles traveled in the first two years of living aboard, but that is extremely difficult to do with any accuracy.  The ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway) does not go in a straight line, and when out on the open water, sailboats are notorious for tacking in order to take advantage of the wind direction.  But, wildly estimating, from Annapolis, Maryland to the Abacos in the Bahamas, back to the U.S. and up to Maine, then back down the coast to the Abacos, I'm going to say we sailed (or at least traveled) no less than 6000 miles at blistering speeds of 3 to 7 1/2 knots, or 3 1/2 to 8 1/2 mph.  If this seems like we were only plodding along, remember that "it's the journey, not the destination."  A wise sailor/philosopher said that and I heartily agree with her.
This is how NOT-to bend over.

Oddly enough, but fortuitously, the rigger that we hired to go up the mast to evaluate the condition of the mast and standing rigging returned to us with an evaluation that was most positive.  On a grading scale from A to F, the rigger gave our standing rigging a grade of A!  Further, he judged the corrosion on the mast to be essentially cosmetic.  Wow! So, our plan to spend 30 days or more working on our mast this summer was erased. Again I say--WOW!  But that was our plan!  Our only plan for the summer. We had not considered the possibility that we would need a back-up plan for summer!  Nor the possibility that I would need time to recuperate following back surgery.
White-tailed deer.  Photo taken yesterday from the car.

So, here we are--in Minnesota--visiting my family and our friends--and without a plan for what comes next when we return to the boat! What an odd circumstance. What's our new plan? When will I be ready to resume the active role of First Mate on a sailing vessel? Soon, surely very soon.

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