Monthly Archives: November 2011

Loosing an anchor to river gods

Loosing an anchor to river gods

Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up and everything just flows? The sun seems to rise at exactly the moment you put the water on for coffee, the air is warm enough that you cannot see your breath and the day’s forecast is beautiful. It’s a great day to get a lot done, maybe even sail your boat for 10 or 12 long hours. You fire up the engine, haul up the anchor and… but wait, what’s that? The anchor seems a bit too heavy. No, not too heavy – stuck. Really really stuck. And it’s not the anchor that’s stuck, it’s the rode (rope) attached to the anchor that is stuck – there is another 80 feet of rope between the stuck part and the anchor. Your great day starts getting a bit overcast. Then you remember that you anchored in 22 feet of quick moving water, way to far to dive – even if the water weren’t cold enough to induce hypothermia in minutes. So, you drive the boat in circles pushing and pulling the anchor from every direction for an hour. Finally, you give in to your cravings. This morning is just too miserable to continue without breakfast and coffee. Back in the boat, the previously hot water is now cold… You heat it up again, make some breakfast and browse the internet for the prices of a new anchor and rode… $600…. Storm clouds are now creeping up on your overcast attitude. You’ve lost your “early start” on the 10 hour day and cutting the rode and leaving the anchor is a bit like working for two weeks, tying your paycheck to a rock and throwing it into a river. With new conviction, you fire up the engine and spend another 30 minutes pulling at a totally uncaring submerged tree or maybe the tip of some huge, undiscovered underwater mountain range – whatever it is it’s not moving.

That’s how our day started. Extremely frustrated and feeling pretty disillusioned about cruising life (I, Jaxon, was feeling real depressed), we decided to give it one more shot before cutting the line and dragging our other anchor across the bottom to pick up the chain/anchor end of the rope (rode) and at least try to recover that – hopefully without loosing another anchor. Back on deck, we started up the engine one last time, steered to the side we thought the rode was snagged on and opened up to full throttle. Engine roaring and anchor line violently shivering under pressure, we crossed our fingers and gritted our teeth – SWOOOSHSHSH!!! The boat released and flew forward… Caye looked at me, I looked at Caye, that was it, either the we had broken the line or pulled it free. We excitedly started pulling in the rode. Hand by hand, we pulled up 2o feet, 40 feet, 60, feet and slowly the rusty, mud covered anchor became visible in the murky water. We were keeping this paycheck.

The rest of today was reasonably uneventful. We passed Shiloh National Military Park and Shiloh Mounds National Heritage Site. While reading a Wikipedia article about the second (a prehistoric Native American town), we learned that the town had a related settlement with mounds and everything on Swallow Bluff Island – the exact tiny island we were anchored behind the previous night. Oops. In the morning, we finished up listening to 1493 by Charles C Mann and began South, The Story of Shackleton’s Last Expedition 1914 – 1917. We had fast internet all day, so I took advantage and got lots and lots of business work done. Caye navigated the boat through barges and countless speeding fishing boats, while combating a oncoming river current that increased from 2mph in the morning, to a punishing 4mph by the time we reached the Pickwick Lock and Damn at 5pm. With no wait at the lock, we were up in 25 minutes and found a beautiful cove anchorage under a blanket of stars in the North end of Pickwick lake. Tomorrow heavy rains and temperatures in the 70s – almost tropical…

Awakened by frost

Awakened by frost

It is hard to explain today’s sensation when we walked out of the cabin to find our boat covered by frost. On the one hand I was perplexed by the beautiful winter scene, a white, sparkling, thick layer of ice covered every surface of Surkha.  As soon as we stepped out, Jax and I exchanged the camera back-forth trying to freeze the moment, as we floated in a misty sunrise.

On the other hand, I was reminded that Jax and I had an uncomfortable conversation in the morning, before sunrise, about my desire to sail from sun up to sun down and beyond, before winter caught up with us. “You need to enjoy these moments” Jax said, while I responded that if we did not leave soon, we would be covered by ice, reminding him that I hate cold weather (which is only partially true). Either way, my worst fear solidified this morning and I have to admit, it was not that bad.

Below plenty of layers of clothes, we motored through a beautiful sunny day in Tennessee. As I handled the tiller, Jax worked by my side while we listened to 1493, Charles Mann’s squeal to 1491 that we enjoyed so much. So far, the book has not gained the five stars I awarded it’s predecessor, nonetheless I have listened to it the full two last days of motoring, roughly 18 hours, which does mean something. The scenery today was jaw-dropping gorgeous. Huge cliffs with elaborate houses decorated the sides of the river for much of the day, forests with soaring Eagles occupied the other part of this scenic adventure. The temperature started very cool, at around 22 F, -5.5 C, but within 6 long hours we were cruising at 48 F, 10 C.

At around 4:30, we lowered our Delta anchor at Swallow Bluff Island, Mile – 170.0. About twenty minutes later, we were audience to a spectacular sunset that gave the impression that the sky was aflame. Tomorrow, we will anchor at Mile – 215, marking the end of the Tennessee section of our trip. If the forecasted three-day storm permits, we will attempt to start our travels through the Tenn-Tom Sunday. The start of that part, will put us 450 miles away from Mobile, which we think we will be able to do in 9 days.

We are a sailboat again!

We are a sailboat again!

Sails are up and we’re heading South. For real this time! We finally got all of the false starts, bad weather, boat problems/projects and mast stepping taken care of and headed out. Well, I guess we didn’t really get the bad weather taken care of – it’s still pretty miserable actually. Rainy and in the high 40s with just enough wind to create waves just tall enough to be uncomfortable… But, that’s beside the point, which is that we put away 53 miles today and should be able to do the same or better tomorrow. If we get that number up to 60-70 and do it for 10 days in a row, we’ll be in the Gulf!

Yesterday’s mast stepping was quite an ordeal. We had waited through a week of high winds for a calm opportunity and that opportunity finally came yesterday – along with heavy rains. Our day started around 7am – we got dressed up in countless fleece and thermal layers, topped with foul weather gear – then headed out into the cold and wet. Caye worked on detaching all of the lines that held our mast to the deck while I ran new electrical wires through the length of the mast to power our new masthead anchoring light.

After completing a few more preparation steps, Chris, Cody and Wayne from Lighthouse Landing Marina joined us, bringing cheery attitudes and weather jokes with them into the downpour. Thirty minutes later, the mast was vertical and Caye and I were alone again, soaked to the bone and ready to finish attaching the shrouds and tune the rigging.

It took us the rest of the rainy day and more to reload all of the things that we’d stored on the Lighthouse Landing Marina’s docks while making room for the transmission work and generally prepare the boat for getting underway again. In the midst of all this work and rain, we decided we might as well use the abundance of water to wash off the evidence of two months of anchoring in muddy river bottoms.

And the transmission? It’s working great. Chugging right along without much complaint. It’s a bit slower to engage than before, but not distressingly so. Thanks Chris!

quick update…

quick update…

Our mast is up!!! yeeiii (Spanish version). We worked from 8am to… well we are still working. Tomorrow we leave at dawn!

PS: Ecuador beat Peru 2-0!!! en futbol de verdad

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

To write a review of Walden, one of Henry David Thoreau’s masterpieces, seems like a daunting task, for his thinking, choice of prose and philosophy deserve months if not years of attention. In this piece I will merely explain some of the themes of the book and about Thoreau.

Walden, was published in 1854, eight years after Thoreau left his cabin, which he built next to Walden Pond in Massachusetts. During the two years spent at Walden Pond, Thoreau scrutinized present day society forming his thoughts into this book.

Walden is divided into eighteen chapters with titles such as Economy, Where I Lived and What I Lived For, Reading, Sounds, Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors, etc. In the different sections, Thoreau explores the themes and how society interacts with them. The chapters are thick of metaphors, allusions, hyperbole, personification, irony, satire among other literary tools. Many of Thoreau’s arguments can still be applied to mainstream Western society, which makes his book ageless and a must read for any looking to understand our world better.

Thoreau, a notable 19th century Massachusetts transcendentalist, is often described as an author, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, development critic, historian and poet. Thoreau thrived in many disciplines, linking them all to his disgust with Western society and culture at the time. His words have inspired many souls, among the most notable are Mohammed Gandhi and Martin Luther King – who both quoted his “Essay on Civil Disobedience” on occasion. They have helped start various movements related to social change such as environmentalism and anarchism.

Thoreau is often faced with great acceptance or vast critiques, for his words are too controversial and emotional to fall anywhere in the middle. Among the greatest critics of Thoreau’s work were Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson, poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier and American author, Nathaniel Hawthrone. Regardless of one’s opinions of Thoreau, Walden is a very enriching yet complicated read, that requires dedication and a top spot in a reading list.

“I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.”

Where I lived and What I lived For, Walden

Links to buy book: (I recommend reading 1491 and Walden as sequels to get your mind really going)

Paperback

Free audio book

1491, Charles Mann

1491, Charles Mann

“1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus”, is the child of more than 50 years of ground breaking research and a man, Charles Mann, with the vision and literary disposition to weave facts with soft words. Before starting the 480 pages of this book, the reader must be prepared for the ride, for what Mann’s prose contain are likely to go against what most of us have been taught in school and what mainstream society holds as true. What was life like in the Americas prior to Columbus? How did native people live? For how many years where the Americas populated? questions like these are explained by Mann, with the support of a wide range of scientists, archeologists and historians.

The scientific literature presented in 1491, gives the impression that for many outside a certain intellectual circle, the Americas’ history has been an undebated and often an unexplored subject. After reading and sometimes even re-reading Mann’s stories that depict the Amazon as a man-made garden, the Mississippi crowded with vast communities, populations of 55,000+ years old and microbes that swept the Western world, it becomes hard to identify it’s relevance in modern day . If the knowledge were widespread, taught in schools and taken as a truth, would the fate of indigenous societies across the Americans change?

After listening to the Audible.com version of the audiobook, while sailing down the Mississippi, it was hard not to feel like this text should be a mandatory read across South, North and Central America. For if nothing else, it portrays a different story, one that depicts the humble savage as an influential power with agency. A tale that depicts that history is complex and that what many in society hold as true is often only one side of the conversation. I wish I could take this book and spread it across Latin America, for I know that the indigenous population there could use some well researched and presented history to empower them in modern Euro-South American society.

Then I wonder, would the message get across or would the stories told by Mann would go by unappreciated?

I absolutely recommend this book!

 

Links to buy it below:
The audiobook

Paperback

Kindle Edition

The audiobook CD

movie day followed by late-night planetarium show!

movie day followed by late-night planetarium show!

Yesterday was such a weird day. We woke up and the wind was just rocking us back and forth violently. We knew from the moment we opened our eyes that it was going to be hard to get any boat projects done. So, we decided to stay in bed, something we had not done in approximately 2 years. We watched movies, read and relaxed for the whole day.

At around 5pm, our friend Rob came to see if wanted to do something. Having had rested our fair share, we accepted his offer to go explore town. We started by stopping at “Patti’s 1880′s Settlement” which is the main tourist attraction in Grand Rivers. It is hard to describe the place, for it consists of a restaurant, mini golf park, petting zoo, huge gardens, lots of stores, a climbing wall and more. Although the theme is suppose to be the 1800′s, the inside is more like a bunch of random modern attractions put together very well for everyone’s enjoyment. We were not there to do any of the activities they had to offer, but rather to observe the 880,000 Christmas lights that decorate the place, which mark the beginning of their Christmas celebrations. The place was out of this world, everything was lit up, even little bushes! I can not say I liked the place, however it was a pretty mind-blowing scene.

After Patti’s, we went to the “Woodlands Nature Station” to see a herd of deer, followed by a trip to the Planetarium, where Rob works. After touring the facility some, Rob gifted us a private 1 hour plus planetarium life show. He showed us different constellations, helped us figure out how to do celestial navigation, told us fun stories behind well-known and not so common constellations and taught us how to find the Andromeda galaxy, which is the only other galaxy we can see with our naked-eye. It was a very fun evening! We got to ask so many questions about astronomy and Rob, who is very knowledgeable, answered all of them. At around 11:00pm, we were back and ready to hit the sack – again.

Today, the wind is blowing hard again (30+mph), so we’ll attempt to finish our boat projects and we hope we can step the mast tomorrow and be gone by Wednesday.

A storm decides our plan

A storm decides our plan

11/11/11 was a lucky day for us. At around 10:00 am we called Chris to ask him if he was going to pick us up and he responded that Vern, a cool guy who has been in the boat repair business for over 50 years and a dear friend of Chris, had been working on the transmission since 7am and were on their way. Chris jumped right to work, swearing his whole way down the lazarette. Jax helped Chris, while Vern and I talked about his adventures in Hawaii, Alaska, Florida, California and Tennessee. Within a couple hours the basic job was done. Jax’s homework was to finish up the loose ends.

We were finally tucked into bed at around 11:00pm, after a day of working, laughing with Chris and Vern, chatting with boat owners on the dock, contemplating stepping the mast, unpacking and repacking our boat, we started dreaming of the next day, when we would take off. After a cold, but cozy night, we woke up at around 6am in rocky boat, the signs were not good – it was very windy out. Ignoring the swelling motion of Surkha, we made some coffee, heated up some cornbread and sat down to study the weather. Rain, thunderstorms and 15-30mph South winds were predicted until Tuesday.

As we discussed our plan of attack, we heard a loud knock on the side of the boat, “Wake up!!” I though it might be Rob, a friend from the marina who we have not seen in a couple days. Then the voice said again, “Wake up!! it’s fucking Christmas!” then I knew it was Chris. We were happy to see him, “let’s go, I’m gonna give you some Diesel” and just like that, Jax and I were out of the boat. The three of us drove to Amy and Chris’ house in their 1977, matte gray, Ford pickup truck. After touring different stripped down vehicles in the shop and hearing about Chris’ plans to rebuild his tow-truck, we drove to his house. We stayed there for a while, chatting with Amy and Chris about all of their adventures in different boat deliveries and their life in Massachusetts. Their stories described various tales of generous people they have found along their way and it made it clear to us that they, in a way, were continuing that cycle of generosity through us. All the help they have offered and given us has made our stay in Kentucky unforgettable and has certainly further inspired us to be as generous when we find young people doing cool things later on our life.

 

What really went wrong with our transmission…

What really went wrong with our transmission…

We’re making a bit of progress here folks. Thanks to everyone for all the encouragement, advice and good attitudes.

Picking up where Caye left off. Around 9:30am, I had the cockpit locker/lazarette completely cleared of all life jackets, lumber, funnels, empty oil containers, rags, ropes, etc. and with some instructions from Chris in mind, started disconnecting the transmission/bell housing from our engine block. I had found very few illustrated guides while online yesterday, so decided to take lots of photos throughout the process. A more detailed breakdown of the process is forthcoming. The quick and dirty version is this. Removed 50% of the bolts holding the bell housing/transmission to the engine, removed all batteries and battery boxes, removed the air filter, disconnected the propeller shaft linkage, disconnected the exhaust pipes from the engine, and disconnected the plumbing that connects the cockpit floor drains to holes in the bottom of the boat.  After all this, Chris called to check on my progress, then drove over to take care a few more hard to get bolts, and lever the engine onto blocks so that the transmission could be removed.

As soon as the transmission was out, Caye, Chris and I headed back to his shop to crack open the gearbox. Chris, the local Bostonian (think NPR‘s Click and Clack) diesel mechanic, retired boat delivery captain and generally nice guy, has a great mechanic’s shop. It’s totally full of every car/boat part, tool, gadget and junk that you can imagine. Two gorgeous dogs have free run of the place, are tied together by a short leash and hence “go everywhere together”. The operating stage for the transmission surgery was the tailgate of Chris’s wife’s pickup truck.

The initial drops of transmission fluid that flowed from our gearbox were our first bit of foreshadowing… Full of metal shavings… As soon as we had the transmission opened up, it was obvious that there were little bits of metal, like shiny sand, everywhere. There were even some slightly larger junks. Not good at all. For the time being, we ignored the metal shavings and focused on the problem at hand, the slipping clutch.

The clutch is cone style, imagine one cone fitting into the back of another hollow cone. Right away our issue was obvious, there were little bits of the metal shavings stuck onto the inside cone, which in turn meant that the cones were not making good contact. With problem nailed, we headed back to the cause. The metal shavings were not steel, so they were not broken parts of gears – good news. So, where did the metal shavings come from….? “Oh, there it is”, said Chris, pointing to a small hole in the side of our gearbox. “Someone screwed a bolt through your gearbox wall…” Then it was obvious, there was this ragged, gaping hole in the side of the gearbox, where someone at the factory had inserted a bolt too long for its hole. The bolt was inserted as far as possible with a very strong arm or impact gun and it shot through the end of its hole, into the gearbox and pushed a lot of bits of aluminum casing with it.

So, why is this just coming up now if it happened at the factory? Well, the transmission has been very low on fluid for a long time and the metal shaving were probably just hanging out on the bottom of the gearbox waiting for that fateful day when someone decided to add enough fluid to mix them around. Then, the could do some real damage.

Twenty four hours later, we are again waiting for Chris to pick us up and will be heading over to the shop for day. The plan of attack is to remove the bits of aluminum from the clutch surface, rinse everything of metal specks thoroughly, reassemble the transmission, put it back in the boat and head out. We don’t know if that will be hours or days, but we are happy, comfortable and the weather is supposed to move from the 30s and 40s to the 60s and 70s over the next few days:)

48 hours in the engine room

48 hours in the engine room

As an outsider of the project, I can only tell you a brief overview of our last 48 hours. For juicy engine details, part names, company calls, mechanic talk, Jax will have to fill you in once he is done taking our engine out. Yes, my dearest readers we have to take our engine out!

Okay, so a quick update of our last three days… It all started five years ago, when a very irresponsible shipyard in Sturgeon Bay,WI, hired by the last owners of our Ranger 28, forgot to put any transmission fluid (ATF) in the engine. Fast forward to two days ago, when Jax and I noticed that the engine was acting strange. One day later, we find out there is no fluid in. Rob, a really cool guy at the Lighthouse Landing Marina, donated  two quart containers of transmission fluid to us. Jax, missreading the FULL mark in the dipstick, put both containers in, causing an over lubricated transmission. After running the engine in this state for 20min the boat would not shift into forward gear. After burning two hours troubleshooting the gears, clutch, sucking transmission fluid out, Jax searched the marina trying to find some advice and after trying everything that Cody, another very helpful hand at the marina, suggested, we were left with one option to call a mechanic…

After a couple of tries Jax got a hold of Chris, a retired boat delivery guy and now an engine mechanic. Cody recommended him to us after saying, “he’s alright, even though he is a Yankee” followed by “warn her that he has a mouth on him”. So along came Chris this morning, coffee in one hand, a cigarette in the other and a big smile. After Jax and him talked about engine stuff he crawled into our cockpit locker, which can better be described as a 6ft long, 2ft tall space, where one has to be almost be up sidedown to work on the motor, It is dark, wet and Chris hated it. After letting us know how much he hates sailboat’s engine rooms and telling us lots of funny engine related stories of when he used to deliver boats he left Jax with instructions on how to take out the transmission. His diagnosis was that the lack of lubrication in the transmission ate the clutch, which means we need to take it out and analyze what needs to be replaced. Fortunately, Chris is an adventurous guy and has been in similar situations to us before, so he is letting us do much of the work and will only charge us what is indispensable!

That concludes my update for now, Jax is working in the motor and I am sitting next to him as an assistant.

 

Notice some changes?

Notice some changes?

Yep, we have changed!! For a while Jax and I had been contemplating changing our busy blog to something more simply, but never got around to it, until these last two days. If you read Jaxon’s last post, you know we have been having engine problems… to say the least. So, I was done doing everything I could in the cabin, doing some work, cooking for three days, standing on my head, planing the next two weeks of our life, asking Jax if I could help 1,000 times, I finally just decided to sit down, design (all with Jax approval) and do little bits of coding, Jax doing the rest.

In the last couple of weeks we have been receiving emails with lots of questions and have found other cool blogs so I think some new pages are in order. So expect more changes, hopefully you all like it and find it as easy to navigate as the last edition.

For those of you concern with our engine problems… an update will follow.

 

 

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