Monday, December 8, 2014

Missing: The Crew of Zephyr

Well, not really...but in terms of blogging, yes. So...where have we been? Think that Johnny Cash song "I've Been Everywhere" 

"I've been everywhere, man.
I've been everywhere, man.
Crossed the desert's bare, man.
I've breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I've had my share, man.
I've been everywhere."

We've been to Boston, Eastie, Harwich, New Orleans, New Castle,Waterbury, Duxbury, Provincetown, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Scituate, Osterville, Katy, Baton Rouge, Bar Harbor DC,Warren, Westport, Woods Hole, Annapolis 'ole Kit-ry Maine! Home! 

I'd love to say we'd sailed all those places,it would be quite incredible if we sailed to Katy, TX, but we did sail to a lot of them. This summer was full of change some good and welcome, some not so good. We enjoyed amazing times with family and friends and even had a 4th of July escape in our "Land Yacht" OJ to the Vermont mountains - thanks Hurricane Arthur. 
Our Land Yacht is a great backup plan when a Hurricane ruins 4th of July sailing plans
There is so much to write about like our great weekend sailing trip to Salem...

Or our sweet view of the Boston skyline from our summer slip in East Boston...

Or the many nights spent with a cockpit fulla friends, tunes on the stereo and laughs...

Or our eventful summer cruise to Scituate - Provincetown - Duxbury and beyond where we lost the dinghy in a blow and got towed TWICE! 
A very happy captain sailing his very own boat into Duxbury Bay

A TowBoat US membership is the best thing money can buy! The story of the two folks towing us is for another time.
Or our sail north to Portsmouth when we lost the dinghy - once and for all...
Zephyr's arrival into Little Harbor as seen from Sea-Celia, it's like the heavens were welcoming us back home
And I will write all about these different summer adventures especially since my view out my window right now is of a frozen tundra, complete with ice caking all trees and my cockpit full of an 1" of ice. I like to relive our happy summer times to help me get through the endless Maine winters. 

Basically, the take-away is that in mid-September we sailed back north to Portsmouth/Kittery and we couldn't be happier with our decision. Overall, Boston just was not our cuppa tea. The marina we chose wasn't ideal for living aboard. The constant and vicious wakes from all the boat traffic made for a VERY uncomfortable and constant roll while in our slip. Zephyr would take the waves and wakes on her starboard beam and then would continue to violently roll back and forth for 4-5 minutes The commuter ferry boats start around 5am and from 4-6pm it was also VERY rolly, then on the weekends, it was virtually impossible to be aboard comfortably without getting tossed around the boat getting bruised up. It's probably a great marina for those weekend warriors but for us liveaboards who cook aboard, shower aboard and sleep aboard day in and day out it's just not doable.  
Take a look at our neighbor's boat to get  a good idea of daily life

Add to that, that about 6 weeks into living in Boston, we also started getting very homesick for the lifestyle the Seacoast provides. We missed walking into town for dinner, we missed taking Toby to gorgeous Seapoint Beach on the Maine coast, we missed trees and trails and wild and natural spaces. We missed local foods, local beers, small markets, gastropubs, smoothie stores -- you know the yuppie stuff. Apparently, we're yuppies and we're just fine with that! We missed the simple, quiet, relaxing lifestyle that the Seacoast provides. I mean there's a reason there's a mass exodus from Boston every weekend in the summer to Portsmouth & Kittery- it's vacationland! The Seacoast is where we called home for 8 years and there is something quite wonderful about the people and the life we've built here. 

Once we thought of going into another winter aboard, we couldn't imagine not having the great community of friends (more like family) we made at Badgers Island Marina. That sealed the deal to head north (but really though - who winters in Maine!?) The decision to move home was not a hard one to make, even with the commute Tim now has. It came down to where did we want to be when we weren't working? Where did want to wake up on a Saturday morning? Who'd we want to surround ourselves with to survive another harsh, cold New England winter? 

Living on a boat isn't the easiest lifestyle choice and so it becomes really important that the world outside the boat is comfortable, easy and relaxing. If we'd cast of our lines for points far south and were leaving on our cruising adventure I think it would've been a different tale but because we're still tethered to land for work, family commitments, life, we just simply wanted to be 'home'.  Until we are cruising full-time and have the ability to sail onto a new port whenever we want, it's vital that we like the port we're in. It's no different than picking the neighborhood where you're going to buy a house. 

And really...Let's face it the Farrells are just not city folks! 

So we're the prodigal Seacoasters whom have returned. The summer away gave us great clarity in what it is we want in the next steps of our life and it helped to solidify for us where we're meant to be. It helped to clear our vision so we could reimagine what the next phase might look like and gave us a chance to really take an honest look at our feelings, hold them out in front of ourselves and explore them, own them. It gives us a chance to slow down, take a deep, long breath and realize - we've got it real good. It's time to soak it all in rather than just keep planning and dreaming away today. So that's what we're doing soaking it all in, feeling very grateful we have a lifestyle that allows us to try on new things and return if they don't fit, grateful we have family and friends who support all our choices and grateful we have eachother. 

Stay tuned...until then, if you need us we'll be living inside a bubble in the mighty, freezing waters of the Piscataqua! 

Today 12/8/14 - THE BUBBLE ERECTUS! 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Looking Back - Spring Prep: Ground Tackle Upgrade

Old chain - eek!
When we bought Zephyr we didn't fully inspect the chain, rope and anchor system as good as we should have. Last spring as we were prepping we pulled all the chain and rope out along the dock and our boat neighbor, a licensed captain, alerted us to some serious corrosion on the links of the chain - AKA NOT SAFE! We knew then that we'd have to upgrade the chain ($$$) and most likely the anchor as it was quite clearly undersized (35# for 43' boat). So this spring's big project was a full upgrade. First we bought new chain. Now, for a second, imagine logistics involved in buying and moving aboard 150 feet of 3/8ths inch chain...imagine...
Luckily, there's a fantastic place in Portsmouth for ALL THINGS steel, chain, shackle, chainplates and more - Fastener Warehouse. We wanted BBB 3/8ths chain, the good stuff, and we went with our little Jetta Wagon to go pick it up - laughable. Lucky for us and our struts they only had 100' and we wanted 150' so they had to order it and deliver it to the marina - the Jetta thanked us! I can only imagine loading and unloading 150' of chain! 

The half barrel of chain arrived unfortunately at low tide. 
Do the math - 300 lbs. of chain + a steep graded ramp = yea, not ideal. 
The delivery guy at first thought he could do it, looking at me and saying, "You game to anchor me down?" Response: "NO!" 
Delivery Guy: "What's the worst that could happen, it will just fly down and off the dock."
Me: "Ummmm...Yea, let's not lose $800 of chain to the bottom of the river. Let's wait 6 hours!" 

West Marine was our destination for the rope, called rode. We got 300 feet of 3 strand, high gauge nylon rope. Measuring it out was quite a show. 
So we had the chain and we had the rope, now we could do the next phase of the project- marking it all so when we deploy the anchor we know how much we're putting out. When anchoring there's a ratio that you use depending upon the depth of the water you're in - typically it's 7:1, then you add the freeboard or height of your boat from the surface of the water, the ground type, the winds, the forecasted winds, the tide differential and you get the amount of chain/rode to deploy to have the proper scope and angle on your anchor for it to dig in deep. The more chain you have the more weight you have along the bottom of the ocean and more secure you will be, hence the 150' of chain.

I did HOURS of research on the best way to mark your anchor chain and rode, HOURS. The advice and methods are innumerable - everyone's got a way, some super complicated, some super easy. I took to my ever reliable and fantastic womens' sailing Facebook group, Women Who Sail to ask. These ladies are the BOMB they are women all over the world living on boats, sailing across oceans, raising boat babies, generally rocking at life! The advice was awesome and so were the anecdotes - disagreements among husband and wife on the method, painted feet, highly technical methods that were forgotten and more. Over 30 responses! 

We finally decided upon a 2-tier approach - paint and zip ties. So once the paint wore off the zip ties were there and/or once the zip ties rip off the paint's there. We laid out all 450' of chain and rode along the dock. 

First we painted links and rope yellow. We used bright yellow rustoleum.

One Yellow Painted Link = 100's
2 Painted Links = 200's 
3 Painted Links = 300's 
4 Painted Links = 400's 

Had to be sure not to get the dock yellow - though we did leave a small mark on the concrete, Jill & Tim's mark at Badgers Island Marina for life! 

Then came the multi-colored zip ties. We used pink, orange, yellow, green, blue (in rainbow order). Here's the method we used:

- Pink Ties starting at 25-feet, then at 50 feet, then at 75. 
- Orange ties at 100, 125, 150, 175
- Yellow ties at 200, 225, 250, 275
- Green ties at 300, 325, 350, 375
- Blue ties at 400, 425, 450 

And at 10 feet we did an array of all colors so that we have a signal when the anchor has freed itself from the bottom and then we know as we're pulling it up that the boat is free. 

Our fantastic boat neighbor Captain Tim helped us splice the rode to the chain, this is a VERY important part of the system, weak splices = boats adrift! 

The weather for this project was less than desirable, we were FREEZING with cold, raw rain and a frigid Maine April seabreeze, it was one of those many times when we say, "this life aboard sure isn't all Jimmy Buffett songs & margaritas!"  

We have been offered a sponsorship by Mantus Anchors  - a fantastic new anchor manufacturer, cruisers who developed this state of the art anchor that sets the first time, every time. So we'll be ordering a brand spanking new 65 lb. galvanized steel anchor to add to this sweet new ground tackle system we have now. We're going to have it in time for our Summer 2014 cruise to the Cape and Islands - hello gunkholing! 

The ground tackle system is SO important for any cruising sailboat, it means freedom and safety! In a couple years when we're anchored off a deserted island in the Bahamas we'll think of the cold, bitter Maine afternoon that we did our anchor chain marking project and laugh -and maybe we'll sip a margarita too! 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Looking Back - Spring Prep: Bubble Hatching, Rigging & Dinghy Prep

Sitting here in Boston Harbor on a 89 degree day, this past winter feels like a VERY distant memory! It seems New England just sort of skipped over spring again this year we went from 40 and raw to 90 and humid - whew! Though we, for one, are not complaining. This winter was one for the ages for us. I swear I was showing signs of PTSD (see photo right) after surviving this FRIGID winter aboard in Maine. I never trusted that the weather was actually going to get nice again, I kept waiting for the temps to drop and the snow to fall. Whew, I am so, so happy that summer is here (though I still have a heater ready to deploy in the aft cabin, just in case!)

I promised that we'd revisit all the preparations done this spring for this sailing season. We both admitted that we got A LOT later start to the prep this year than last, mostly because this was the winter that would never end! It was cold, rainy and cruddy most of spring, so cold that we needed our heat on! Our minds were not even thinking sailing so, needless to say, we were delayed. Finally in mid-April the weather gods were with us on a weekend and we hatched from our bubble. Once again, nothing felt better than taking the knife to that plastic shrinkwrap that encapsulated us all winter and springing forth into the sunshine and seabreeze! Becoming a boat again instead of a wrapped up floating apartment! 

We also had a professional sailboat rigger down to the boat for a looksee. We never had a rigging survey conducted and we knew our standing rigging (the mast, the stays, chainplates, etc. all the things that help hold the mast up) was a bit worn. Paul, the rigger, did tell us she was showing her age, OK, but old. He suggested that before we cast off to the islands we should consider putting on a new rig, we are starting to save up to do that this Fall/Winter. It's a lot of money and a big project but there's nothing more important than your rig on a sailboat, no one wants to deal with rigging failures "out there".  
B.O.A.T. = Break Out Another Thousand

We (stupidly) left our dinghy in the water all winter and she was a little worse for wear. The engine was happily kept aboard but the boat was covered in an array of very interesting species. The wiggly, squirmy wormy things were moving around and not excited to be seeing sunlight. Armed with a scraper and some magic elixir from the dollar store I set to work. It came out SOOOO clean and sparkly, I was quite proud of my handywork. 

Tim then set out to do some outboard engine maintenance with our boat neighbor Brendan's help.  Some lube, some oil filters and a wiggle and waggle and the old Evinrude sprung back to life! Of course after a day of dinghy work the boys had to try them out so they zipped across the river to Martingale Wharf while I walked over the bridge. We sat at the outdoor fire pit and enjoyed the view we knew we'd be leaving soon. 
Casting off into the Piscataqua River 
The boys did have a 'hiccup' on their way back across the river due to water in our dinghy's gas tank. We've since bought a new 6-gallon tank and the problem's resolved. 

We spent a lot of spring also soaking up all the things we loved about the place we called home for the last 8 years before moving to Boston - hitting our favorite bars, cockpit cocktails, dinner with friends, loving on this little seaside town. 

Friday seisiun at The Press Room - always a favorite 

Great nights with friends at favorite bars, Rusty Hammer 

Portsmouth just takes away your breath away sometimes...reminds me of NOLA...

The obligatory Portsmouth Tug Boat Photo 

Saying goodbye to great winter boat neighbors aboard "House Cat", Celie and Jennings, they're anchored up in Great Bay this summer! 
Late night beers in the cockpit with the Naval Shipyard off our bow 
There's more spring projects to report on...NEXT UP...Ground Tackle Upgrade. Stay tuned...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Where have we been? Big City Living!

I can't believe we haven't updated this blog since the end of March, and here it is mid-June! It's 70 outside, the sun is shining and I'm listening to the sounds of a rocking concert across the harbor in the Seaport. Yup - that's right, we're living it up in the big city, Boston - East Boston to be exact. We're at the Boston Harbor Shipyard & Marina in the Jeffries Point neighborhood of "Eastie". We are right across the harbor from the Seaport District and the World Trade Center. We've been here exactly one month today. We have lots to share about our projects and prep this spring and then our trip south from Portsmouth to Boston, but for now I'll share a little slice of life from this first month here in Boston. 
The view off the stern of Zephyr - that big 'ole red boat is the Nantucket Light Ship
The transition has been a bit tough, not going to lie, the change from the quiet, quaint, forested lands of New Hampshire and Maine to the constant hustle and bustle and WAVY, ROCKY waters of Boston Harbor has taken some getting used to. The marina is a bit more 'industrial' and with not so many luxuries but the view is quiet something! The whole city skyline is laid out before us. Not to mention the entire city is at our fingertips, the T into downtown is a 10-minute walk and the city water taxis pick up right on our pier! There's a funky, fun place called KO Pies right inside the Shipyard that serves authentic Australian pies and Harpoon on tap. It's a lot of fun and only a 3 minute walk from the deck of our boat. 

Toby is getting used to city living, loving all the smells! 

Our dock, F-Dock is almost entirely sailboats and a few young liveaboards! We're all the way at the end on the right.
The skyline at night is quite spectacular 
The Shipyard is part of Harbor Arts Shipyard Gallery so throughout the piers and buildings are fantastic works of murals, sculptures, installations and more. 
My two loves on our new dock 
Great view for walking Big Guy 
 We've been trying to fall into our groove here in Boston but with the onset of summer weather life's been busy with F-U-N! We have also been spending a lot of time at the Cape House getting that place ready to rent for the summer. The couple of weekends we've spent in Boston have been great fun! Tim's brother Andrew and a bunch of his good buddies all live around the corner from the marina so, needless to say, this first month has included A LOT of boat drinks! Bridget from NYC even came aboard for a few and crazy thunderstorm!

We are definitely liking the array of options in front of us for going out - the options for live music especially, but also for going out to eat - innumerable cuisine types from every culture, loads of delicious Latino food in Eastie. On a Tuesday we were able to go to a really cool club in Cambridge and catch a nationally touring bluegrass band that we love - Chatham County Line. Great craft beer line up, delicious food and incredible music. It was AWESOME! And on a Tuesday! Certainly not something we could do in Portsmouth! 

Toby got his summer shave - he's ready for the beach!
The highlight of the past month by far was definitely this past weekend - we finally got off the dock and went sailing! Woo Hoo! On Sunday morning we hit up The Green Bean Food Truck that parks every Sunday morning in the Shipyard - bombing breakfast sandwiches & iced coffee. Crowds of folks show up in the Shipyard - Dogs Welcome - and chow down while overlooking the harbor. 

After that we welcomed Andrew and his bright, short-shorts called Chubbies aboard and prepped the boat to cast off. It was GORGEOUS out, 80 degrees, full sun and a light breeze. After talking to our next door boat neighbor we set our sights on Great Brewster Island, part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Park. He raved about its seclusion, easy anchoring and breezes. We haven't yet upgraded our anchor, though we very much upgraded our chain and rode - keep posted for another post on that topic - so we thought, well, we can at least try a "lunch hook". 

Sailing out of the marina you're right in the mix and mayhem of Boston's Inner Harbor, the "Rules of the Road" that we learned in sailing school were very much put to the test. We had an upwind sail tacking back and forth to make our way out to the outer harbor. There were ferries barreling past, booze cruise boats, jet skis, powerboats, sailing school boats, yachts and more! Not to mention 747's flying overhead and a giant container ship! WHEW! The crew did great! We had great boat speed and made meaningful tacks to make our course. 

Great crew - brings mimosas & steaktips & a mean Farmers Tan, thanks Dupree!
I wasn't kidding about the short-shorts - long live Chubbies!

Spectacle Island
As we got out to the outer harbor the winds picked up nicely and we were making 6.5 knots on a close hauled sail - very nice! The temperature was at least 15 degrees cooler out there and it felt amazing! Zephyr was loving it! We approached Great Brewster Island and pulled in close to shore and Andrew and I started to deploy our anchor, she set in, we all took a visual spot on shore and made sure the boat wasn't moving and then we set about CHILL-LAX-IN! We grilled up steak tip sandwiches, I cast off the fishing pole to troll for stripers we jammed out to the Dead and enjoyed the solitude and sun. 
The sandy cliffs of Great Brewster - gorgeous! 

Trolling for stripers with the city skyline off our stern

Toby LOVED roaming around while at anchor

Toby loves to sail, motoring not as much.
Our windlass which brings up the anchor had a bit of a snafu since we've upgraded our chain to a 3/8ths size it was jamming up the windlass. Lucky for us Andrew has been hitting the gym and was able to haul the anchor by hand! We 'weighed anchor' and set sail back towards the city. It was a nice, peaceful downwind sail at about 3.5 knots, not bad. We even had a wing-on-wing sail set up going on for a bit. We had bluegrass tunes spinning and soaked up the late day sun, feeling quite good about our first anchoring success.

That is until we were very closely buzzed by 747 transatlantic jet! WHOA! That was close and very loud! Poor Toby was shaking for the next 1/2 hour...sorry Boo!

We sailed right into the harbor only furling and putting the engine on as we were outside the marina entrance. 

Relatively smooth docking - still have things to learn - and then some cold beers at the KO Pie Shop as the sun set. All in all it was a FANTASTIC Sunday! We can't wait to get back out there! 

We are still finding our comfort zone here in Boston and find there are moments of homesickness for the fabulous Seacoast we left and all the awesome friends and boat neighbors we left, but so far, we've been enjoying the newness, the change and the challenges. Life's richness is found in moments of change and challenge.