Saturday, November 24, 2012

Pink Jobs and Blue Jobs

Dan's grandparents divvied up chores on the farm this way.  Anything indoors was Mom and the girl children's responsibility, cooking and cleaning and laundry; and anything outdoors was Dad and the boys' job, plowing and harvesting and feeding the cattle and reroofing the barn.  And so many cruising couples we know do essentially the same thing: "she" cooks and cleans and stores provisions and chooses the window covers.  Sometimes she sews, even including the sails.  "He" makes the boat go and gets it there, changes the engine oil and takes the helm and chooses the anchor.  Um, yeah.  Having lived through the 1950s once (at least part of the 1950s, even though I was too young to really remember it) I have no wish to do it again, but that's what these roles remind me of.

A fellow writer was working on an article about women and cruising and asked a group of us for advice we'd give to new women cruisers.  Hey, I should be able to help with that, after all, I've been happily living aboard this boat for ten years now.  And yet I was drawing a blank and couldn't figure out why.  "Don't have any advice specifically for women," I emailed back, "and maybe that is the advice.  At sea, there are no gender roles, there are just tasks that need doing. You don't have to be able to do them well (or as well as your spouse, if that's who you're cruising with) but you have to be able to get the job done." I'm not as good at sail trim as Dan, and he's not as good at navigation as me, but each of us knows how to do all the tasks we need to to make our boat move.  We each have our comfort zones, but the biggest comfort is that whatever the world throws at us, Team Cinderella has two brains that can try to tackle the problem.

Dan knows how to sew and cook, and this summer I learned that bluest of blue jobs, rebuilding the carburetor on our outboard. 
= = = =
Life Afloat on Facebook!

Visit The Monkey's Fist to find other bloggers who wrote on this topic

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Reflections on Hydrology from a Life Afloat (insanely long post)

Last week I gave a talk for a group of retired USGS hydrologists and geologists (actually, we were supposed to do the talk as a team, but Dan had cheered himself hoarse at the Eastport-Annapolis tug of war over the weekend and had no voice).  Less than a transcript but more than speaking notes, here's approximately what I said.

Sunrise on Factory Creek, near Beaufort, SC
Hi, I’m Jaye Lunsford and in the course of my science career I worked or supervised examples of all areas of USGS hydrology: ground water, surface water, water use, water quality. Etc.  After retirement, I learned that I could stop working as a hydrologist but I could never stop being one. Dan and I live on a sailboat and took a winter trip via boat to the Bahamas.  I’m not going to do a travelogue or talk about good food and interesting people, even though we encountered many of both.  I want to talk about some science tidbits along the way and how our hydrology background illuminated all we saw and did.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Of Well-Funded Adventures -- Or Not

The Most Intriguing Thing I Ever Learned Over a Cup of Coffee

So I had met this guy who called himself “Joe the Cobbler” in a sailing forum online.  We found ourselves arguing opposite sides of discussions on the value of a college education (even though he’s a college graduate), of anchoring rights (even though he’s meticulous about honoring the rules of the places he visits even when he doesn’t agree with them), who knows what else.  Ever since, we’ve eyed each other a little bit warily online…then came a discussion a few weeks before the election, when tensions were high everywhere, that looked for a moment like it was going to turn downright nasty and class-warfare-ish, and instead became a startling breakthrough that not all members of a labeled economic group like the 1% or the 47% think alike. Yes, of course this insight is not all that profound in “real life,” but on the internet -- where all you have to communicate with are words, without tone or body language to give you clues -- it’s incredibly easy to categorize anyone and hard to think of them as more than two-dimensional, or sometimes even more than one-dimensional.  We both dumped a few stereotypes and became, if not yet friends, at least more sympathetic to each other.

Anyway, Joe posted that he and his family were anchoring in Annapolis for a few days.  They were on their way to Florida for the winter – even though November is late for southbound boaters to be this far north, Joe casually said they’re from northern NY and used to the cold didn’t bother them. We agreed to meet for a cup of coffee at one of the shops near City Dock.

Now, Joe’s the kind of book that you might judge negatively from his cover...and then missed all the wonderful stories inside.  If I’d seen him on the streets of Annapolis, well, I might not have crossed the street to avoid him, but we probably wouldn’t have gotten to talking, either.  The word “scruffy” seems to have been invented for describing Joe.  Not unclean-scruffy, but colorful-character-scruffy, the bushy beard and old coat and rucksack made him instantly recognizable from the description he’d emailed me when he, along with his wife and daughter, came into the coffee shop.  We ordered coffee and snacks and grabbed a window table so we could people-watch.  Then the stories started.

Joe led a rollicking life that included a stint in the Army and driving a truck and running a shoe-repair business (hence the moniker).  He talked about the people he’d met bartering handy skills like carpentry and welding in exchange for free dockage at quirky little towns along the coast; Dan talked about midshipmen he’d coached while in the Naval Academy’s OSTS program.  Joe and Dan compared stories about serving in Korea, 20 years apart.  We talked about coastal cities we’d visited and favorite anchorages and learned that Joe’s wife Kim had an engineering background like Dan and me.  They told about staying in NY one winter so their 8-year-old daughter Maria could experience snow (they nicknamed her “Marina the Cabin Girl” over her objections, and she was as self-possessed and comfortable interacting with grownups as are most of the homeschooled cruising kids I’ve met) and Dan reiterated that the only ice he prefers to see is the ice in his drink glass.  We talked with the barely-stopping-for-breath urgency that cruisers often have when they know their time together is short and their paths may not cross again for months or years, and there’s just so much to cover.  The coffee was long gone cold and the sky was dark when we separated to go back to our respective boats, as they were sailing south again in the morning.

In the conversation and even more in reflection, I realized how many of the adventures happened partly because Joe and his family embraced spontaneity, but also precisely because of limited finances (or choosing to live frugally).  If they had just stayed in the marina the night he described in one of his stories, they would have had a pleasant, comfortable but unremarkable evening.  Lacking the money or inclination to pay for a slip, they instead traded labor for just-caught fish and an evening’s free dockage on a rickety dock … and acquired a story as well as meal.   As Joe’s tales unfolded, one thought that more than anything screamed through my head was the ultimate truth of a Sterling Hayden quote I’d once come across:

 “To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen, who play with their boats at sea - "cruising," it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.”

Fair winds, my new friends, for now we’ll see you online.  May you always remain slightly short on cash and rich in stories, until we meet again.

= = = =

Life Afloat on Facebook!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hurricane Prep Checklist

Satellite view of Sandy (photo: NOAA)
So, by the way, what did we do to get the boat - and us - ready for last week's superstorm?

Our marina slip is new, it was rebuilt only 3 or 4 years ago.  It is surrounded by 8 stout pilings each about 8 feet tall, and it's oversize for our boat.  A 33 foot long by 11 foot wide boat in a slip that's 50x18 has lots of room to rattle around in.  And its sheltered from open water.  All of these were considerations in our deciding to ride out the storm in the slip instead of going to a mooring, anchoring in even more sheltered water, or hauling the boat to endure the storm on dry land.

Our good friend David K. lives on his boat in the U.S. Virgin Islands and has survived numerous hurricanes. He warned us that it takes 4 days to have a hurricane: a day to get the boat ready, a day to have the storm, a day to rest, and then a day to put the boat back together - and that's only if there was no damage!  He was right; there's a lot of work to be done to get the boat ready to weather a storm safely.

So, here's what we did to get Cindy ready for Sandy:

  • Topped up the fuel and water
  • Took off all the canvas - headsail, staysail, mainsail, dodger, and bimini - both to decrease the amount of windage we presented to the storm, and to protect the canvas from wear and damage
  • Tied all the docklines to sturdy points, around stringers or pilings instead of cleats which could pop out of the dock boards under load
  • Made docklines super-long so they could rise with storm surge if there should be any
  • Doubled up all the docklines, with the second one slightly longer and heavier than the first.  The theory was that if one broke under the load, there would be a backup already in place to take up the slack.
  • Wrapped canvas chafe gear on the lines where they went through the chocks or tied to the dock.  When we ran out of canvas, we used rubber hose and old t-shirts.
  • Turned our boat in the slip, to point bow out for a quick getaway if necessary, which was also the direction of the strongest anticipated winds
  • Centered ourselves up in the slip so we wouldn't rub against the pilings.
  • Made sure our mast was offset from our neighbors, so when the wind got the boats to rockin' our rigs wouldn't tangle
  • Moved our cars to high ground, away from trees and storm surge
  • Charged everything that had a battery

Then we packed some food and books and our computers and prescription meds and passports and cellphones and their car chargers (and rum!) in an emergency bag and headed for the marina's lounge to ride out the storm.  We'd ridden out 3 hurricanes aboard before this one, but something about Sandy's size made me uneasy.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Provisioning Up

Every cruising blog seems to have a photo like this.  Shopping for all this food was the easy part.  I'm going to stow it where exactly?
“You should bring enough food to be able to live off your stores for 3 months without ever seeing a supermarket,” advised our experienced cruiser friends as my eyes widened.  “And 6 months for things where you really want your specific brand.”  It was late springtime in Annapolis and we were planning our trip to the deserted Bahamas Out Islands for the coming winter.  “Okay, then,” I responded with a calm I definitely did not feel, while trying to decide if I needed my regular brand of organic, fire-roasted, petite-diced canned tomatoes or just generic canned tomatoes.  This was going to be the real deal – just us, deserted tropical islands.  No grocery stores.  No people.

That summer was the planning time.  For months, I kept grocery lists to figure out our shopping patterns.  If I had it to do over again, I would have written my lists in a small notebook; much easier and neater than keeping the odd collection of envelopes and scraps of paper that I actually use.  At one point I even built a computerized list, organized by the aisles in our local grocery store.  We’re vegetarians who added limited species of fin fish into our diet at the advice of the nutritionist after Dan’s cancer surgery; at least we weren’t going to have to figure out how to store steaks and bacon.  From studying my accumulated grocery lists, we learned that we generally eat 1-2 fish meals per week, and 3-4 bean, grain, or pasta meals, and 2 cheesy dairy meals.  In theory.  In practice, we eat out once or twice a week, and have one “meal” that is really just a couple of glasses of wine with snacks and friends.  Non-food supplies like shampoo and paper products and plastic bags, had to be accounted for as well.  Want to know how long a tube of toothpaste or box of laundry detergent lasts?  Write the date you put it into service on it with magic marker.  We both cook for fun as much as sustenance, which means there are also condiments and spices to contend with. Inevitably I’ll complain that there’s nothing in the fridge – but the fridge is not empty, there’s a bunch of space taken up with half-bottles of salsa and maple syrup and mustard and mayonnaise.   There are partial bottles of Trader Joe’s sauces, flavors that we tried once or twice and liked, so we bought several more to use again, only to grow bored after the novelty wore off and leave behind while we headed in new directions.

Provisioning sounded like simple math.  3 months, 12 weeks.  If we have pasta twice a week, that’s going to be 24 cans of chopped tomato and 8 pounds of pasta.  48 cans of vegetables.  12 pounds of rice.  24 cans of tuna.  12 pounds of coffee.  We also planned for things that we knew would have to be different under way than at home.  Fresh bread wouldn’t keep for 3 months and we didn’t have the space to keep it frozen.  Instead, we’d make bread from scratch or do without.  Add to the list 15 pounds of flour, “some” powdered milk, sugar, and honey.  Onions probably won’t keep, better get some dried onion flakes.  When we’re on overnight passage at sea, we don’t really cook, we just want food that can be eaten out of hand or mixed with boiling water.  Add instant oatmeal, ramen noodles, and some energy bars to the list.  Toilet paper and paper towels!  Everyone warned us that paper products in the Caribbean were either ruinously expensive, or simply not available in the soft, cushy quality we’re used to here in the US. 

Still, making the list was the easy part.  After the big shopping trips to CostCo and Giant and Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, we had to find places to store everything.  First came the repackaging.  Cardboard never comes aboard, both because it can harbor roaches - they love to eat the glue - and because it can hold moisture and spoil whatever is stored in it. We saved the plastic containers of things we bought regularly; they made nice uniform-sized canisters for storage of bulk things like dried beans as well as anything that originally came in a cardboard package.  We bought a restaurant-size jar of bay leaves and put handfuls of the leaves in with the flour and rice to prevent weevils.  We split the cost of a vacuum sealer with our friends and broke bulk packages of coffee and granola and crackers and blocks of cheese into smaller servings and shrink-wrapped them.  We also vacuum sealed prescription medicines and Q-tips and spare parts, anything we wouldn’t use right away that would be damaged by moisture. 

After repackaging, then we looked for creative stowage locations.  One huge dry locker under the v-berth cushions became our primary long-term storage pantry that we’d get into once a month or so, to restock canisters of staples that were in more accessible “day use” locations.  We tucked things in unlikely places: drawers are rectangular but the hull is curved, which meant that there was wasted space behind the drawers.  Wasted no more, that space was promptly filled with supplies.  Heavy things went below the waterline and bulky but light things went higher.  Finally, with a water line an inch or two lower than normal due to the extra weight we had crammed aboard, we were ready to sail to the Bahamas, and live off what we had with us.

We spent more time than we expected to in the little islands of the Exumas.  There were small stores there; the local people had to eat something and get their food somewhere, after all.  We could learn more about life here by following their lead.  Maybe we couldn’t get broccoli, but we could get cabbage and kale, and grapefruit and limes.  The stuff we had in storage stayed in storage.  Then we headed for the Out Islands.

You know what the kicker was?  Because of the weather, we never made it to those deserted Ragged Islands.   That weather trapped our friends, along with several other cruisers, on moorings in the national park, for about 3 weeks, where they happily ate and drank everything they’d brought, per their own advice.  We were wonderfully lucky to be “trapped” by that same weather on more-developed Eleuthera, where we had access to the biggest grocery store we’d seen since leaving the U.S., and even pizza.  Why eat canned tuna and canned string beans when there was fresh-caught fish and pineapple available?   We never needed many of the supplies we’d so carefully stowed, and many of them came back to the U.S. with us.  (Except, of course, for the alcohol.  No trouble using that up!)
Stowing the good stuff!

Locker diving in that deep locker to get a favorite snack

= = = =

Provisioning is the subject of this month's RaftUP (which I'm embarrassingly late contributing to; blame it on a combination of Superstorm Sandy, conflicting deadlines and some personal-life drama.)  You can read other cruisers' take on this topic at:

Still to come: 

= = = =

Click on the monkey's fist to read others bloggers on this topic.
The Monkey's Fist

Friday, November 2, 2012

Loss of the Bounty

Bounty, in happier days

Well, here’s the post I didn’t want to write.  While we were hiding from hurricane/superstorm Sandy, the wonderful historic ship was sailing from New England to their intended winter port of St Petersburg, FL, which meant that they were sharing the Atlantic with Sandy.  And as you probably learned by now, it’s been all over the news, they didn’t make it.  The Coast Guard staged an heroic rescue, saving 14 of the 16 aboard; the ship sank in the Graveyard of the Atlantic off Cape Hatteras.  The captain apparently went down with the ship – poetically appropriate for the period, tragically romantic, but horrible – and another crew member was lost.

Why were they out in the storm?  Were they so schedule-driven as to take a foolish risk?  The same modern weather forecasting ability that told us the storm was coming, also allowed them to know where the storm was.  According to their reports, they were able to navigate around to the back side of the storm, avoiding the worst of it.  They were in gale-force winds and heavy seas, which were unpleasant but they should have been able to survive that had nothing else gone wrong.  But other things did go wrong. They were taking on water faster than they could pump it out, lost power and propulsion.  At that point, there was no way they could keep themselves from turning sideways to the waves and broaching.

So, what do we learn?  Was it risky to go out when there was a storm?  Probably.  But any time you leave port, you take a calculated risk, because forecasts are good but not perfect, even for a day sail.  Any time you go out on passage, you go beyond the range of the weather forecast, and statistically, if you’re out for a week or more, at some time on your trip you will get rained on, or find yourself in a thunderstorm or squall or heavy wind.  Staying in bed isn’t even safe!  People “safe” at home died from this hurricane as well.  Some stayed in their bedrooms, and a tree fell crushing the roof.  Some avoided the falling tree risk by sleeping in the basement, and were swept away in a flood.

“A ship in a harbor is safe,” reads one of my favorite quotes, “but that is not what ships are for.”  After its appearance in the movie it was built for, what was this ship “for?”  Entertainment, education, and most of all, inspiration.  Getting kids hooked on history, dreaming of far horizons.

As long as there are far horizons, there will be dreamers to be inspired by them.
On the Bounty in Annapolis harbor, June 2012

Coast Guard photo of the sunken Bounty

Track of the Bounty's course, apparently showing them clear of the storm on the back side.
And then later, on the back side of the storm.  The storm was moving north, winds circulate counter-clockwise so the winds where they were would have been blowing north to south, and the northward movement of the storm would be subtracted from the strength of the winds, making this the relatively milder side.  But the Gulf Stream moves south to north here - wind opposing current makes for nasty seas. When they were picked up by the Coast Guard, they were in 40-knot winds and 18-foot waves.  What went wrong?

While the Bounty visited Annapolis in June, we spent 3 days aboard, volunteering for their educational mission, talking about maritime history and posing for photographs.  I wrote about it here and here.

I'm distressed to read the bashing of the decision to go to sea, that's showing up on the internet, and waiting for the results of this Coast Guard investigation into the sinking.  But here's what I know right now:  The sea is big and sometimes scary.  If we can convince ourselves that other peoples' dumb decisions are the cause of their problems, then we can convince ourselves that since we would never make a silly decision like that, we would be safe no matter what, and we don't have to face the real truth, that whenever you go to sea, however much you prepare, however vigilant you are, sometimes things will happen that put you at risk that you cannot control.

Addendum:  here's another sad photo from the Coast Guard
= = = =