Friday, August 20, 2021

The Pandemic Pantry Part 2 -- the Actual Plan

 



In the restaurant industry they call it "PAR level" -- Periodic Automatic Replenishment (or "Replacement" or "Resupply" depending on who is writing the acronym). It's a pretty structured method of making sure you have enough food on hand to prepare the meals until your next reorder time, without going seriously under (missed sales and unhappy customers) or over (food spoilage and storage issues). I'm quite committed to the concept, having developed an informal version years ago when we had little money and less time, and built a computerized grocery list organized by the aisles in our grocery store with the number of boxes/cans to buy of each item, the Saturday after payday. Little did I know I was reinventing the wheel.

In suburbia, if you planned wrong and ran out of an ingredient, it's inconvenient. You might have to run out to the store unexpectedly, or pay more for it. Or you might have to change your planned meal to something else. When we were cruising, we bought what was available on the little islands, and the list was more like a general guideline or suggestion than an inventory. Exploring new food possibilities was part of the adventure, after all. But at sea, whether on our own little Cinderella or the mighty El Galeon, if you're out of food it's way more than just inconvenient -- there's no popping round to the grocery store when you're in the middle of the Atlantic! So keeping the storeroom ("gambuza" in Spanish) properly supplied was a much more rigid process.  

While we were in lockdown it was like trying to apply every aspect of pantry management, all at once. Like being at sea, our visits to the grocery store were very infrequent and limited. Like visiting small islands, not everything was in stock at all times, so we had to buy it when we found it, or improvise. We were trying to save money, and we wanted to cook extra-healthy to keep our immune systems up. Put it all together and it was ... a lot. 

But wait, wait, there's more! I had learned on the Galeon how distracting it is to have that little background buzz of "what shall we make for dinner" popping up every day around mid-afternoon -- until it was no longer there. When I was crew, dinner was whatever the cook decided, and when I was assistant chef, that was part of my actual job, not something I did in addition to my job. Well, during lockdown I just didn't have the mental bandwidth for complex meal planning. So I built a basic inventory list of about 40 core ingredients. (Drinks, snacks, spices, plus some pantry staples like oil and salt and flour, weren't included in the 40.) Meal planning became simply deciding 2 nights per week would be fish-based meals, 2 nights egg-cheese-dairy, 2 nights plant-based. We found 5 or more recipes for each category that could be made with our basic 40, and put our kitchen on autopilot for a while. Now, if you're good at math you noticed that I only accounted for 6 days. One day a week was "wildcard." Sometimes wildcard would be experimenting with something new, sometimes it would be takeout, sometimes it would be instant ramen noodles, sometimes it would be inspired by whatever looked good at the farmer's market. Just enough to keep it interesting, but not complicated. 

At the end of lockdown we had saved an impressive amount of money by not eating or drinking out, lost weight, and stayed sane and healthy. I'm posting the "Basic 40"list (feel free to copy but make it your own; remember, it's a suggestion, not a prescription!) and the titles of some of the meals that can be made. It's not a shopping list with quantities, instead it's what you want to have going into the week so you can make whatever meal you choose pretty spontaneously and know that everything you need is on hand. You take inventory before going to the grocery store, and just buy enough to bring the level of food in the pantry up to PAR. There's some seasonality; we rarely use butternut squash except in fall and winter, use fresh tomatoes and corn in summer instead of canned, and use fresh spinach instead of frozen when it's available; it's pretty flexible. Still working on the actual recipes in fits and starts. Some are in metric and some are in English; some need to be scaled down from a quantity that will feed a crew of 25. Someday it will be a book, for now, it's just fun. 


“BASIC 40 PANTRY LIST” 
(PAR for all = 1, except as noted; easily feeds two of us for a week no matter what we decide to eat)


CAN AND JAR
garbanzo beans (2)
cannelini beans (2)
mandarin oranges (2)
chopped tomatoes (2)
salmon 
tuna (2)
black olives (2)
green olives 
roasted red pepper 
green chilis
saag paneer pouch (2)
mushroom pieces
corn


DRY & BULK
lentils
rice 
small pasta (corkscrews, macaroni)
bulghur
couscous or quinoa
spaghetti 
bread crumbs
coffee
protein powder
peanuts
triscuits
flour (2 c)
instant potato flakes
corn starch


FROZEN
green beans
cut butternut squash
spinach 
cod (2 pcs)
salmon (2 pcs)


FRIDGE
eggs (12)
block cheddar
parmesan
feta
tofu or chik'n (plant-based chicken substitute)
butter (2 sticks)
sliced almonds
yogurt (2)
tortillas 


PRODUCE
onion (2)
purple onion
garlic
bell pepper (2)
potato (1 lb)
lemons 
bananas (8)


DRINKS
V-8 (4)
ginger lime ice (4)
BlackWing beer (4)
rum
red wine (3)
cherry juice or concentrate


CONDIMENTS, OILS, AND FLAVOURINGS
no dead birds boullion concentrate
coconut milk powder (3) or can
olive oil 
canola oil 
tamari
sherry vinegar
white vinegar
lemon juice
tomato paste tube
hot sauce
mustard


SPICES
parsley
basil
oregano
mint
dill
paprika
cumin
curry blend 
herbes de provence
chili 
fish blackening
salt
peppercorns
cinnamon
cayenne
saffron


SAMPLE RECIPES USING THE "BASIC 40"

BREAKFAST: 
smoothie with yogurt, banana, cherry juice, and protein powder

LUNCH:
generally leftovers rolled in a tortilla, or a room-temperature salad (the "mixed" salads below are great for lunch) or tuna or egg salad, or cheese quesadilla; or veggies and couscous 

MAIN MEALS:


EGG-BASED:
Shakshuka
Basque scrambled eggs (or other egg-and-veggie skillet scramble)
Cheese or veggie omelet with green beans and sliced almonds
Crustless quiche (spinach and mushroom; tomato and peppers; whatever inspires)
Spanish tortilla 
Butternut squash mac-and-cheese

FISH-BASED
Fish cakes
Pasta with olives, tomato, onion and tuna
Blackened salmon with wilted spinach salad
Potaje bacalao (cod stew with potatoes and chickpeas)
Moqueca (Brazilian cod stew in a coconut milk sauce)
Lemony lentil and salmon salad*

MEATLESS (some have a little crumble of cheese)
Bean soup, stew, or chili
African squash/peanut stew
Curry night -- chana masala or trini aloo, and saag paneer and basmati rice 
Stir fry with tofu and vegetables
Baked tofu Veracruzana or Caribbean jerk tofu
Chik'n and rice with vegetables
Bean and rice variations – Peruvian tacu-tacu, Mujeddrah (middle Eastern lentils, onions, and rice), red beans and rice, etc 
Spinach-feta-garbanzo pasta salad
Bean, mushroom, or lentil burgers

MIXED (hard-boiled eggs + tuna)
Papas alinas (marinated potato salad) with gazpacho*
Salade Nicoise
Traditional Spanish salad


WILDCARD
pizza, dinner out, happy hour munchies with friends, ramen noodles, something from a can, the eggplant looked good at the farmers market so make pistou, etc. Tapas or Greek night – dolmas, olives, nuts, tzatziki*, spiced chickpeas, felafel, hummus. Breakfast burritos.

* Gazpacho, tzatziki, and lemony lentil salad also need cucumber; which is not on the basic 40 list. A  couple of soups, and the Spanish salad, also need a carrot; not on the basic 40 list. My favourite blend for stir fry includes red bell pepper, mushrooms, and tofu or chik'n (plant-based chicken) and also broccoli and zucchini (not on the basic 40 list)

Monday, August 16, 2021

When the Room is Complete Chaos (a step-by-step guide)

When the room looks like this ... 


... this is your tool kit!

Not directly boat-related, but the same approach that moved us from 3,000 square feet on land to a 33-foot sailboat I've found are helpful in other aspects of life. A couple of my land-based friends have been inundated/devastated/overwhelmed by a chaotic disaster of a room, and asked for help. 

 Not sure how to start? Here’s one approach designed to break down the "overwhelm." When you get right down to it, there are only 5 categories of things in a chaotic mess like the room above -- trash, dishes, laundry, things that belong somewhere else, things that have no home. 

So, pick up a big tote bag and a trash bag, and make 5 passes through the room. Each pass will require a bit more brain power, but by the time you get to the tougher ones your "decluttering" mental muscles will have been thoroughly flexed and ready for the challenge. 

The first step is the simplest. For #1, trash, just walk through the room picking up trash and putting it in the bag. Don't worry about anything else. No tough decisionmaking required. When you've gotten all the trash, put it out in the bin (or wherever trash goes where you are). 

Then, do #2, dishes. Walk through the room a second time. This time, pick up every dish or cup, bring it to the sink or dishwasher. Leave it there for now, you'll get back to it in a bit. We don't want to slow your momentum. 

Pass #3 is laundry. Go through the room a third time. Pick up the laundry, put it in the laundry bag/basket. Bring it to the washing machine if you have one in your house, or put it in the hall closet on it's way to the laundromat. The room by now is getting a bit better, yes? 

Time for #4, items that are out of place. Get your tote bag, walk through the room picking up the out of place items. Put them in the tote. Now, walk around the house emptying the tote and putting things in their proper places. 

Go back to the room for the last, and hardest, pass, #5, homeless things. Have you noticed that the first 3 steps were no-brainers? Then #4 needed a bit more thought? For this last step, we're going to seriously level up the decisionmaking. Take all the things that have no designated home, and put them in the tote. With them out of the way, the room should look somewhat orderly now. Congratulations! Pour yourself a cup of tea (or a glass of wine, we won't judge.) Now walk around the room with the tote bag full of homeless items in one hand and your cup in the other, define homes for the things you want to keep (whether in this room or elsewhere in the house), and put the rest by the door to donate at the next opportunity.

Congrats! You're done!

You earned this!




Saturday, July 10, 2021

The Ugliest Flip-Flops

 


WHY do I still have these? I got this pair of flip flops years ago, and I still have them though I never wear them. Let me tell you their story.


I got them with my friend M when we went to a launch party for a new brand of beer. The company had gone to considerable effort with the party, going so far as to close the street and truck in enough sand to make a "beach" party. (I'm not exactly sure why they did that when the real beach was just a couple of blocks away. Whatever.) The bands were excellent, there was tons of food and swag and free beer. The problem was that the beer was awful. M and I joked about how bad this beer was, it remains a running joke between us now even though she has since moved halfway around the world.  I won this pair of flip flops at that party. They are not comfortable. Really cheaply made, they don't fit right -- too long in the toes and too short in the heels. But they make up for being uncomfortable by being ugly. The soles are printed with the logo of that tasteless beer in gaudy colors. 


So, to summarize: I have flip flops I don't like, advertising a beer that I don't like, that I'm not at all sentimental about, taking up space in our storage. (Granted, they don't take a lot of space.) And I have much much better memories of friend M that I can call to mind whenever I want, photos and books and adventures we had together. So I really don't need these particular tangible reminders. Why, then, haven't they been thrown away?


Well, it's precisely because I can call M to mind whenever I want. But I have to actively decide to think about her. The ugly flip flops ambush my vision at totally random times and bring her up unexpectedly. Like she pops into my brain of her own volition, and says, "Hey, remember that time I brought the boys to your place and you went down the slide with them over and over again?" or "Remember when the Indonesian restaurant did a pop-up dinner in the middle of the mall?". Always a pleasant surprise. So that's why I still have those stupid ugly flip flops ... just for the randomness of it.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Tiny Space Storage Hack: Bolsters and Pillows That Are Really Stuff Sacks

 

In this small a space, we need to make every inch count. And now that we're living in the land of four seasons again, we need to store off-season clothing. Stashing it in a locker didn't work -- moisture led to mold led to ruin of my best coat. So we came up with this instead: keep them out in the open, in the air, and make them earn their keep by acting as cushions!

These "pillows" are 14 inches/35 cm square with simple button tab closures. They hold flat-folded bedsheets or towels.


This "bolster" holds my off season clothing. It's 10 inches/25 cm diameter and 19 inches/about 50 cm long. Built as a simple cylinder. It has a drawstring closure, visible in the next photo.

The innards of the "bolster." Pro tip: it's actually two bags, an inner and an outer, with a layer of batting in between to make it softer to lean against and smooth out the visual lumps from irregularly shaped clothing. The fabric that makes up the end is a lightweight ripstop nylon instead of the heavier fabric that makes up the rest of the bolster, to allow it to be tightly gathered by the drawstring without bunching.


Friday, April 2, 2021

A Tour of Our Boat (Expanded, Updated, and Talking a Bit About Storage)


 

Life on a sailboat! It's romantic, it's adventurous, and it's like a turtle -- very slow getting around, but when we finally get there, we have our home with us.

It's about as tiny as small-space living gets. For almost 20 years and 25,000 sea miles, we've lived on a smallish sailboat 10 meters/33 feet long. Our main living space is a single room a bit less than 3 meters x 4 meters or 9x12 feet - 10 square meters/100 square feet. The designer managed to tuck into that tiny area everything we need - a place to cook, a place to eat, a place to socialize, a place to sit and think, and a place to sleep, helped greatly by multipurpose furniture. Of course, everything is built in, and bolted down so it won't go flying if we're tossed about at sea. And storage, though some of that storage happens in weirdly-shaped or damp quirky lockers dictated by the shape of the hull. Living in such a tiny space, though, has certainly forced us to think hard about our relationship to our possessions! Here's a brief photo tour, and I'll be following it with a few posts about strategies and tricks we've come up with to make our material lives fit. 





Here's the forward half of the main living area, set in its ordinary daytime configuration. There is storage tucked everywhere, inside the table, under and behind the seats, as well as the black sliding door lockers that are visible.

If we're going to have friends over for dinner, the sides of the coffee table in the center fold out to make a big dining table.

Or we can pull out the cushions and make a cozy double bed. 

Looking in the other direction, here's the tiny galley. Even though it's small, it still has a stove, oven, fridge, two-basin sink. There's a dish cabinet over the sink, and two storage lockers behind the stove and the working counter. Lids on the counter lift up to access a fridge, freezer, and more storage. We also keep dry and canned goods in the locker behind the settee just outside of the galley on the far right of the photo. Bonus - everything is in arm's reach at all times, LOL! The stove is mounted so that it tilts and swings; always level even if we're underway. In addition to being space-efficient, the U-shape is very secure and keeps you from being tossed to the floor by waves while cooking.


Just across from the galley is the navigation station (a.k.a. my desk). Under the liftable lid are stored everything from the ship's log and nautical charts, to ordinary office supplies and checkbook. Stairs lead up and outside to the cockpit.


Here's one example of the hidden storage - my "file cabinet" inside the table. At various times in our 20 years here, these lockers have also held tools, spices, electronics, and games.

Tucked neatly into the bow of the boat is the v-berth where we normally sleep (again, with storage underneath). It's as wide as a king-size bed at the head, but our toes snuggle together at the point of the triangle. Because it completely spans the width of the boat, with those sides, we can't fall out of bed! Rails along the sides provide a bit more storage.


Here's a bit more of that storage rail that runs along to side of the bed. It's got a wooden lip to keep things from sliding off in a rough sea; we added the brass wire to secure books. We've got limited space for books, so we keep in hard copy mostly reference books; things we read linearly like novels go on the Kindle. 

Between the main cabin and the v-berth is a short hallway. On one side is our clothing lockers and dresser.

This is the inside of the largest locker. 10 hangers and 4 shelves. 


On the other side of the hallway is the bathroom ("head" in boatspeak). The sink faucet pulls out, and the entire room becomes a shower stall -- it's designed so it can get wet, and has a drain in the floor.

I'm standing outside of the bathroom to take this photo - this is all there is!

If the weather is even remotely nice, though, we spend most of our time outdoors in the cockpit. And here's how we like it best, filled with friends! The guy in the gold shirt on the tall helmsman's seat, is the one who taught us how to sail. And though you can't really tell it from the photo, each side bench is long enough to stretch out and sleep on. And once again, the seat covers lift up to provide storage underneath. 




Monday, March 22, 2021

Nothing Gold Can Stay

 


A crew member in the rigging of Pride of Baltimore casts his shadow on the sail.
(Photo by David Sites, image edited to black-and-white by me)

   
In the rigging of the Nao Santa Maria, in 2019 when it was my turn --
the magic already fading to gray in my memory.


My mind is a little collage of quotes and images swirling, but all on a common theme. Nothing great lasts forever; the glory days inevitably end; longing to still be living them; and knowing they will never really exist again that way (if they were even ever real). Words like the Portuguese saudade and its Welsh cousin hidraeth that articulate this melancholy homesick longing for what is lost. Quotes like “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened;” and “How lucky we are, to have had something that makes saying goodbye so hard;” and the Robert Frost poem that this blog post is titled after, one of the first poems that I loved enough to memorize back in high school, and never forgot.

Pride of Baltimore tall ship came in to the Annapolis harbor for the weekend and we went down to watch. We knew there were no deck tours offered, due to Covid, but I thought maybe to tiptoe back into the tall ship circuit, chat with one of the crew from dockside and swap a few tales. How their cook almost lured ours away during reciprocal ship tours in Philadelphia because they had such a well appointed galley compared to ours; or seeing them anchored at sunset as we shared a safe harbor at Matane in Quebec awaiting Hurricane Dorian. 

But that was not to happen. We weren't visibly part of the tall ship community any more. To the crew on board we were just ordinary dockside passers-by in jeans and navy blue windbreakers gazing at the ship.  Not even enough eye contact for the crew onboard to realize that those jackets we wore bore the logos of fellow tall ships. The crew was busy, coiling lines, stitching sails, oiling leather. We know those jobs! We've been the ones climbing in the rigging, scrubbing the decks, and answering for the nth time the curious questions of the slightly-awed public on the docks. But those jobs were being done by someone else now, not us. Perhaps that's the way of anything you accomplish if you try for greatness. Eventually those golden days always end, the world goes on, and you're on the outside looking in.


A couple of old pirates, sharing confidences on the midnight watch
 (charcoal sketch by KC Cali)

Dan has been working at recasting our pirate characters' back stories for our new location and an English, rather than Spanish, heritage. So now these two characters were the ship's carpenter and the (cross-dressed, disguised) navigator on an English merchant ship that had been captured by the Spanish, and we worked aboard those Spanish ships for many years, and finally, in St Augustine, Florida, managed to leave, and make our way back to English territory in the Chesapeake. We made those characters “retired” pirates though, they are settling down and no longer dream of going back to the wild, high seas. Feels a bit melancholy to frame our characters in that context, and at the same time it gives us a platform for our Spanish cultural history explanations, and also is a story that makes sense of our ages – at 70 it's sort of ludicrous to portray a woman disguised as a young boy. Surprisingly, it also feels very comforting. A chapter is ending and it's time to turn the page and see how the next part of the story unfolds. It really was time ... better to retire while our former colleagues regret our departure than wait until they're relieved to be rid of us! But it still makes me more than a little sad; from here it's hard to imagine what that next chapter could possibly be, to rival the excitement of the previous one. Which is just exactly the point -- we've lucked into some incredible adventures, that deeply changed us, and the best way to honor them is to share those stories. 







Monday, March 1, 2021

Masks: Life Imitates Art


 I'm (weirdly) finding that other than the issue of my glasses fogging, I like masks. 

Sailboats, anchors, shooting stars, birds ... our masks express our personalities as much as they express our commitment to staying safe.


I have face-blindness. Not horribly bad, but enough so that it's difficult for me to immediately recognize people especially when they're out of their proper context – running into my doctor in the grocery store,  for example. I loved working for DoD – everyone had their name right on their uniform! And, typically, found it challenging when people were allowed to wear business casual to work on Fridays and the last two weeks of December.


So with everyone wearing masks and a little harder to recognize, my difficulty with faces is not so obvious. It's a great equalizer. And more; the masks themselves became a clue. My friend B. always wears a bright red mask and that makes it very easy for me to know it's her even when I can't see her face. I'm reminded of a science fiction story I read as a kid where everyone personalized their standard issue black and white space suit helmet so they could be recognized at a distance. Cheeky pink polka dots, or tiger stripes, or neon green, whatever, both practical and an expression of their personality. 


Life imitates art? Here we are in 2020 living that children's story. Very early in the lockdown we made ourselves a pair of masks by cutting up a pair of old tight-weave cotton pants. Then my wonderfully talented equaintance-turned-IRL-friend T. made us a set that are unique and reflect our interests. Now if I could just find that spaceship, I figure that living on Cinderella for 18+ years has given us lots of practice. 


These were made for a (tiny, socially distant) outdoor wedding. Decades from now, when the grandkids look at the wedding pictures, they'll be able to definitively date the event -- "That's so 2020!"

T. was really well-positioned to take this on; when she's not busy making face masks, T. does some incredible fabric art. 


Thursday, December 17, 2020

Trrrrrruck! x2!

 

“Dispirited” was far too mild a word to describe our state of mind as we tried to figure out what our next year was going to be like without tall ship sailing, living history, or any of our favourite boating-related social gatherings. Nor were we sure about boating itself, between the possibility of marinas/fuel services being closed or restricted due to virus, and the fact that we couldn't comfortably tour and visit cities and towns along the way, if we decided to take the ICW north.  But there was an alternative way to get to the Chesapeake for the summer – a truck! (Two trucks, actually; more on that later.) And since the boat was already out of the water, with the mast removed and all the lockers empty due to the chain plates project, we realized a lot of the work and cost was already covered.


Those empty lockers were going to be an issue. Generally when trucking, the boat has to be empty, lockers, water tanks, fuel tanks, everything – both to keep overall weight down, and to prevent weird stresses during moving, on lockers and hull sections that are usually supported by water.  So the things that normally lived in those lockers would be moved in our car, which (we checked!) could hold exactly 14 Home Depot “small” moving boxes 12x12x16. We own a lot more than 14 small moving boxes worth of stuff, so everything else would remain behind in the storage unit we already maintained in St Augustine until we could go back with a moving truck to retrieve it, probably in the spring. Our minimalist lifestyle was about to temporarily get even more minimal. 


We found a fabulous trucking option in US Boat Haulers. Excellent communicator, on time (actually a bit early), and although not the cheapest option, we were more than willing to pay for peace of mind. And we had a nice little bonus. I asked Chris, the owner-operator what I needed to empty, and he chuckled. “Nothing! My truck could hold two Cinderellas,” he explained. “Fifty-five feet or 55,000 pounds. You can pack that boat completely full of anything you want and you still won't exceed my weight limit.”   

Why, hello there, Annapolis!

From the back, you can get a better view of just how oversize Chris' truck was for little Cinderella!


Sails and sailcovers and shade awning and other boat canvas filled the v-berth; and boxes of books and clothing and kitchen utensils and tools were stacked two-deep across the main cabin floor. Our car held our electronics, valuables, papers, and clothing for about a week of varied weather. The marina picked up Cinderella and put it on Chris' trailer with the mast beside it, and off we all went.


We drove through northern Florida and Georgia and passed the exits for now-familiar cities, Jacksonville and Brunswick and Savannah. I said a mental goodbye to graceful Spanish moss on trees. South Carolina had billboards for fast food, personal-injury lawyers, and Jesus, and seemingly little else. Someone had gleefully spray-painted “LOST!!” on all the Trump posters. 

Spanish moss image from here 

The view from our hotel room; Spanish moss gilded by the early morning sunlight


We continued through North Carolina and into Virginia and passed the sign that said, “Entering Chesapeake Bay Watershed” and grinned at each other. We drove past an intricate-shaped tiled roof on a cool historical building and made a note of places to explore in Richmond. We were really looking forward to having four distinct seasons again, and delighted in the colors of the trees – bronze and gold and weathered bricky red and russet and deep green. The colors were soft and autumnal, fitting with the gently rolling hills. They weren't the brilliant yellow of the aspens against dark pines we remembered fondly from our time in Colorado; nor the blazing orange of the maples in Michigan. They were slow and subtle. And the light! Long and soft, but clear, like golden hour in the middle of the afternoon.  



Chris texted us regular updates of his position and conditions. The most remarkable text was that he had arrived in Annapolis a full day early after a trip that had been completely without incident. A few hours later, Cinderella was back in the water, and we motored her to her new slip in the same marina we had left from, 11 years and over 25,000 sea miles ago.


We spent the next few weeks settling in, and revisiting once-familiar places. I was simultaneously amazed at how much things had changed, and how much they hadn't. 


Rather suddenly, Dan had a really strong premonition that we needed to go back to Florida to bring our stuff from storage, sooner rather than later.  We couldn't explain it, but agreed to respect it. A few hours of intensive logistics and scheduling work later, we had a plan, and I had pages of confirmation numbers, phone numbers, times and dates and addresses in a worn notebook I had been using to keep track of details since we first decided to move back in September, that I nicknamed my “external brain” and took everywhere with me. We'd be leaving Monday morning right after Thanksgiving. At this time of year, rental car companies are often looking to move cars one way from the Northeast to Florida; we've paid as little as $10/day in past years. Although we didn't do quite as well as that this time, we still caught a nice deal, and found a surprisingly good rate on a motel in St Augustine that had been newly renovated. 


We rented a moving truck from Penske for the return trip. They were excellent about confirming (and re-confirming and re-re-confirming) that it would be ready on the agreed date. Then, the day before we were to pick it up, they called and said, “Hey, we'll have a truck for you at the promised time, but we don't have the agreed size. Are you okay with a bigger one at no extra charge?”  My reply: “Ma'am, as long as it goes when I put my foot on the gas, I'm fine with whatever you've got.” And that's how we ended up with BYT (Big Yellow Truck).


I figured bigger would just mean easier to load, but BYT was huge! Per their website, it was sized to move a small house, 25,000 pounds and a 22-foot box, all for our little 10x10 storage unit. We could have saved money on hotels on the way back if we'd just unrolled our sleeping bags on a stack of unused furniture pads in the unneeded space at the back of the cargo bay. A nice extra was that BYT was brand new, a 2021 model. It had a wide range of safety features that were startling at first, but quickly became reassuring. It beeped when it sensed we were closing the distance to the vehicle in front of us, ponged when we strayed out of our lane without using the turn signal (I guess that's how it decided we were purposely changing lanes instead of drifting inattentively or accidentally), and chirped when it caught you speeding (presumably that meant it had GPS tracking somewhere to know where we were and what the speed limit was at that location?).   BYT also had air brakes, so it made “big truck” noises. I once heard their hiss and looked around to see where was the 18 wheeler that was overtaking us. Like a character in a bad cartoon I looked in every direction, saw nothing, and then sheepishly realized that the sound was … coming from me. In fact, another trucker we met at a filling station was somewhat surprised that we were given a truck as large as BYT when neither of us had a CDL license. I later learned that we were a mere 1,000 lbs below the limit. 

Big Yellow Truck!


The good ol' boys at the rental counter cautiously asked if we'd ever driven anything like this before, and visibly relaxed when Dan said he'd grown up on a farm, so yes he had. We had also driven a similar truck when we moved my kid brother's household goods from Arizona back to Colorado, and even towed a car behind said truck, and done it over mountain passes, but that had been almost 30 years ago.


We parked BYT at the storage facility and spent two days repacking our boxes of stored possessions. We have off-season cruising stuff, tools, and long-term items like family heirlooms, memorabilia from 4 summers on the tall ships, lots and lots of books, things we wanted to keep but didn't necessarily fit on a 33-foot boat.  Packing for the jostling of moving is different than packing for stationary storage, and we wrapped breakables and bulked out boxes with crumpled paper so they wouldn't crush if we bounced if we hit a bump or pothole. I fondly remembered my BFF Karen's father's wise moving advice - “There should never be empty space in any box.” We loaded the finished boxes onto the big professional-grade moving dolly provided by the rental company and wheeled them up the sturdy loading ramp, carefully stowing the heaviest boxes on the bottom and lighter or more fragile ones above. We had literally two boxes left to load, on the last afternoon, when Dan reported a “situation” with the truck. Seems a guy had tried to drive behind the base of the ramp and pull into a parking spot on the far side of the truck, misjudged the turn and was now suspended sideways on the ramp! He couldn't go forward or back because his wheels weren't touching the ground; we couldn't lower the ramp because you had to raise it first to get the hooks out of the back bumper (which we of course couldn't do with a car resting on it); we couldn't drive forward because we were already nose-to the side of the building; and there wasn't room to hook up a tow truck. We were both very, very stuck.

Kinda like those memes of a turtle on a fence post - you're left wondering how it got there


Fortunately, the car was quite small. He called his wife and asked her to buy “the biggest jack they sell at Auto Zone” and bring it. With a little creativity, he was able to jack the car up just barely high enough to take the weight off the loading ramp, and we were able to partly lower the ramp so that after a few iterations of back-and-forth he could drive off. No damage at all to the ramp, and only minor damage to the car frame. We learned later that the car was brand new; he'd only had it for 3 days, which unfamiliarity no doubt contributed to the “situation.” 


After that drama was sorted, we headed to our motel for our last night in St Augustine, prepared for an early start next morning after dropping off our rental car. Once we got into the rhythm of driving BYT it was kind of fun to be so big. Regular cars either went around us or stayed out of our way, and we were eye-to-eye with other truckers. We pulled up at the agricultural inspection station at the Florida-Georgia state line and the inspector just asked, “Whatcha haulin?” like we were any other regular transport professionals – I somehow thought that the bright yellow rental was the equivalent to having a giant sign that said “we're clueless amateurs!” but apparently not. “Household goods,” I replied, then, excitedly, “We're moving to Maryland!” He smiled, gave us a thumbs-up, and waved us forward on our way. 

Inside BYT -- all that extra space! We had more stuff than this, including our inflatable kayak, but never needed to stack the boxes more than 3 high, as shown.


Driving something that big was unexpectedly tiring, though, in addition to the fact that we really only wanted to travel during daylight hours and good weather, so it took us three days to complete what was normally a 13-hour drive from St Aug to Annapolis. The first day, we only drove about 4 hours, and stopped short due to wind and rain further north. We were tired from all the boxes the previous day, so relaxing in a hotel was really appreciated. Weird during the Time of Covid, though. Normally we'd have been all over exploring a new restaurant; instead we had ramen noodles in the hotel room, using water heated up in our little electric teakettle. We called Penske in Annapolis to say we were delayed by weather and were going to need an extra day on the rental. It felt weird saying that, because it was mild and sunny where we were in South Carolina. It probably helped our credibility, though, that there was a nor'easter howling through Annapolis that day – the weather we were avoiding by stopping short. They were great about it, saying that they wanted people to respect the weather and not take risks, thanked us for our caution, and gave us the extra day for free. Nice; I hadn't had any reason to expect that. 


The second driving day was a Saturday, and we stopped near the southern edge of the Washington DC metro area that evening, leaving about 90 minutes drive remaining on what we hoped would be light traffic on the normally busy beltway for early Sunday morning. I joked about being a blue haired lady from Florida with a death grip on the steering wheel, driving slowly in the big city traffic.  Never mind that the "blue" was a streaky turquoise and navy mix on my bangs, or the "driving slowly" part was being what seemed to be the only vehicle on the Beltway that was sticking strictly to the speed limit because (a) BYT chirped at me otherwise, and (b) 13 tons of truck is rather intimidating to maneuver. The good news was that we had completely missed any bad weather, and instead we had a brisk, sunny day to unload. It was a ridiculous number of boxes all told, though – by the time the truck was empty my fitness app recorded that I had walked 5.5 km, just back and forth from the truck to the storage shed. (Actually, I walked even more than that, since I hadn't had my phone in my pocket the entire time.) Later, Dan pointed out that for the first time since we left Colorado in 1998, everything we owned – liveaboard boat, rental houses, and now, stored possessions – was within a 5-mile radius of each other. It might take a while to get used to. 


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Leaving Florida

 



I've written many press releases as part of my job, but as we prepared to leave Florida I searched for ways to say farewell to our friends (and put a more positive spin on it than, "We hate the way the state is handling the virus; we've gotta run, 'bye."), it felt like I was crafting a press release for my own life. It went something like this: 

 We'd been planning to cruise Cinderella north next spring, since coronavirus has pretty much destroyed  our El Galeon trips. But now we've had an unanticipated opportunity to get Cinderella to the Chesapeake for about 2 years beginning this fall instead. (Going north in November? Yikes!)


Sadly, we're going to have to relinquish our slip at the Municipal Marina downtown. It just doesn't make financial sense to hold on for 2 years.  We'll come by later in the week to say goodbye and tell everyone the details. It has been absolutely delightful living here for the last 7 years . St Aug will always have a special pull for us; I'm certain we will be back for many visits. 


Beginning Nov 2  we will be trucking Cinderella to her next home port in Annapolis, MD. ETA November 5. I'm very, very, conflicted – we love St Augustine for the town's Spanish history, its physical beauty, and the committed cruising community … but the sailing is underwhelming. We're happy to explore new cruising grounds for a while. 


We've done the entire ICW or US East Coast outside 8 times south and 7 times north on Cinderella and the Spanish tall ships we work on during the summers, plus several sections more times on paid deliveries of other private boats, so we don't feel like we're “missing” anything doing this one by truck. And we got a great rate since most trucks are carrying boasts south this time of year and we're going the “wrong” direction on what would otherwise be an empty deadhead load.


Sometimes I think I know what people must feel like as they go into exile; I look longingly at the pretty little Spanish town we can't safely live in any more. I remember walking those cobbled streets, eating in those restaurants, watching the sunrises from those beaches. “You'll be back,” quipped my friend Michelle. She, like me, is from Colorado, traveled by boat, docked in St Augustine, fell in love and didn't leave. “This town has a bungee cord. The farther you go away, the stronger the pull to return.” “It's dug its hooks into my heart,” I agreed. “And it's ripping me up to leave it.”


 Other times, my emotions are flat. As though I'm reading a badly written book about things that happened to someone else, I can't remember ever feeling those feelings of love and familiarity for this place. 


As we drove north in our giant bright yellow rental van with all our possessions except the boat in it, and passed the Florida state line for the last (?) time it was more a sort of sadness without passion or anger; just, "bye, Florida, sorry it didn't work out."



Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Chain Plates!


Replacing the chain plates is a project that I'd wanted to do for a long time. The chain plates are the bases that the standing rigging (the cables that hold up the mast) attach to, so their integrity is pretty important! Ours were as old as the boat, 40 years. Because they pass through the deck and are buried in fiberglass, it was impossible to inspect them completely, so we just made the assumption, erring on the side of caution, and bit the pricey bullet to replace them while the boat was out of the water for the summer. It also helped that we had removed all our possessions and taken them with us to the townhouse, as the work would involve getting into many of the storage lockers. 


Access to remove and replace them was going to be problematic. It looked like there was no way to do the job without destroying some cabinetry. We proposed instead to install the new ones on the outside of the boat, leaving the old ones in place to use as backing plates. This would give it a strappy, classic look that we were grudgingly coming to accept, though not as sleek as the original, it would do the job safely and well. It was also the approach that many people on the CSY owners forums had taken. 


So we were surprised and delighted when the staff at Oasis said they thought they could give us internal replacement chain plates that exactly matched the originals and that approach would be cheaper than the external installation we anticipated. Yes! Let's do this!

What we thought the job was going to look like - external straps. This is on a big sister sistership to Cinderella, a CSY 37 named "Independence."

Another set of external straps; this is "Glory," the boat of our sailing mentor David in the Virgin Islands.

And now for the work on Cinderella: 


First they removed the bronze rub rail so they could drill out the bolts holding the old chain plates in place.

Ryan showed me several places where there was rust or hairline cracks. If these things had broken under load (like during a strong wind when we were sailing), the mast could have come down!

The old chain plates weren't as damaged as he'd first feared, but it was "definitely time" to replace them, he confirmed.


Marina employee Cody drilling out the bolt holes in the new chain plate, using the old one as an exact pattern.

And the installation! With all that careful prep work, the new pieces slipped right in.


Instead of my nightmare of ripping out cabinetry, the only sign they had disturbed anything was this cut in a pantry shelf. They had removed the shelf to access the old chain plates. After drilling out the bolts from the outside, the chain plates could be lifted up, then down and out, and the new ones put in the same way. The cut shelf is generally hidden behind a door, and in any case, it is usually covered with cans or jars of food. 

Here's the cut at the other end of the same shelf, and the new chain plate bolted to the side of the hull.


The view from top side, with the standing rigging attached to the new tab. The part of the chain plates above deck was polished for weather resistance, the part hidden below was coated with a rust-protective coating.

Another shiny new attachment above deck - boat jewelry!

And the below deck part, this one inside a locker -- strong and solid.

The sleek look was not compromised at all. (The mast was reinstalled the day after this photo was taken.)