Thursday, April 29, 2010

Long Term Plans

For those of us who work towards a "Long Term Plan", I came across a post on a sailing forum today that quite honestly changed my views of planning the future completely. In this forum, a gentleman asked for opinions on their Long Term Plans to see if their sailing future was a possibility. Basically, he wanted to know if in 18 years, could he and his wife leave their land based life behind and sail off into the sunset. A very good question and it was obvious they took most everything into account when making their plans. One of the responses he received however is something that I will never forget and felt it worth putting here for all of you to read. I hope you get as much out of this as I did. I want to thank Dave on the s/v Maxingout for the following post.

You have long range plans with lots of assumptions about the future.

My experience is that life is a non-linear experience, and assumptions about the future are not worth very much.

Long range plans to me only have meaning for six months to twelve months in the future, and even then things can change radically.

I wrote a page on one of my websites called "The Man With The Unplan".

THE MAN WITH THE UNPLAN*** I am the man with the unplan

I am the man with the unplan. What is the unplan? The unplan is simple: my long range plans are firmly set in jello, and are therefore subject to revision, reversal, and massive change. Although I know who I am and where I am going, I don't have any long term plans set in concrete.

My life is full of maybes, perhaps, and possibilities, but real long range plans are clearly out of the question. Three of my colleagues who had long term plans are no longer alive, and the handwriting is on the wall and in clear focus. The message says, "Today is the only day I have, and I need to make it count for something good."

I used to be a man with a plan, When I was halfway through college, I made a plan to go to medical school, and I did it right on schedule. But after that, the unplan took over. When I was an intern, I planned to become a pathologist, but instead, I became an eye surgeon. I planned to practice general ophthalmology, and instead became a retina and vitreous surgeon. I made a plan to work overseas in Saudi Arabia for five years, and instead stayed for eleven years before I set sail on the ocean of my dreams. I planned to spend two years sailing around the world on my yacht, and it took eleven more years to complete my circumnavigation.

Life has been full of twists, turns, and reverses, and it's easy to see why I am the man with the unplan. I didn't realize I was the man with the unplan until I had a car accident in New Zealand. When I rolled the van I was driving, I broke two legs, five ribs, one scapula, and I punctured one lung. I spent nine days in the intensive care unit, had three operations, and received seven units of blood - all of this was quite unplanned. I stayed in the hospital for two months and gradually regained my ability to walk. It took six months to be able to bend my right knee ninety degrees, and that made it difficult to climb on and off my yacht.

While I was hobbling around on crutches in Whangerei, New Zealand, I passed a real estate office that had an advertisement in the window for waterfront property - one kilometer of ocean frontage. At the bottom of the advertisement were the words, "For long term plans." I looked at those words and burst out laughing. Those words - long term plans - were massively presumptuous in the world in which I lived. In my world, I didn't know if I would ever walk normally again. Skipping and running were out of the question. First, I had to progress from hobbling to limping. Even my trip around the world on my sailboat was up in the air; I didn't know when or if it would ever continue.

I realized then and there that I was the man with the unplan. Although I had a general direction to my life, and I had a list of things a mile long I wanted to do, I no longer had solid plans or even a schedule. My life was full of possibilities, but long term plans were a thing of the past. When you are fifty old, and you don't know how much time you have left, you leave the long term plans to young whippersnappers who feel like they are immortal.

Since that time, I have been living more in the moment. I have a general direction to my unplanned existence. I planed to sail across the Atlantic Ocean sometime in November, December, or January, conditions permitting. I will probably cruise in the Caribbean from January to June, and then I will arrive back in the USA in June, July, or August. That's my unplan.

The truth is, I was never very good at squeezing my life into any type of mold, and plans are sometimes the most restrictive molds of all . Anyway, the majority of my plans have turned out different, maybe even better, than I had hoped. So I have decided to stick with my unplan and see what happens. One thing you know for certain, we will be surprised when we see how it all turns out.

By the way, God, if you happen to be listening, I would appreciate it if you would extend my unwitting and unplanned existence for another forty or fifty years, because there is so much to do and so little time, and I want to make the next fifty years into a real adventure. I promise I will do better this time. Amen.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sailboat 7 Day Diet Plan

Since there is a diet geared to just about everything else out there, I thought why not have one based on a week of sailing. OK, you have asked for it, so here it is:

Lose 7 pounds in 7 days!

1) Get yourself a sailboat and a week off of work. Be sure to pick a weather window that is quite questionable

2) Bring just enough crew to make the trip insurable. In most cases, this is 2 people total

3) Bring food that's not so great even in the best circumstances

4) Make sure your watches completely exhaust you so that the thought of anything other than bed makes you sick

5) Be sure your anchorages are rough and windy causing sleep deprivation and "anchor dragging" anxiety (Remember, excess anxiety is the key to this step)

6) Repeat steps 1 through 5 daily for seven days

7) Take a look at yourself if you can bare it on the 7th day and see how it went

For even better results, repeat steps 1 through 5 until you are anemic or in need of medical attention.

Please send $5.00 to S/V Skylark if you want this incredible new weight loss program sent directly to your companionway hatch. :)

I am not just the president, I am also a client!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Leg 1 - Washington, NC to Morehead City, NC

I have a lot of updates and don't know exactly where to start, so I will follow along with the Log Book and add the juicy details along the way. As far as pics, I have a few to add, but as you continue to read the progress of Skylark on the trip, you will understand why we don't have as many as you would expect...

Day 1, April 13
My sailing buddy Allen came in from West Virginia that morning arriving at the dock at about 3:30. While I was waiting for him, I did the final preparations to the boat as was ready to go when he got there. I had been at the boat since Monday and was able to get through most of the last minute details saving quite a bit of time. Once we had his gear stowed, we ran to the store for a last few things and was back at the boat by 4:30. We cut the lines at 5:00 and headed down the creek for the last time. I really enjoyed my time at McCotters. The folks on my dock were the nicest people and always lent a hand no matter what. Special thanks to Iverson, Robert and Glen for every thing you had done for me in the last year. It is very much appreciated. I can only hope my neighbors in Florida are as nice.

The weather when we left was about 80 degrees and sunny. Winds were ESE @ 5 to 10 knots. With only about two and a half hours of sailing before we lost the sun, it was decided we would stop for the night in Bath. Never being there before, I had not realized how shallow and narrow the entrance to bath was and for the first time on the trip, we kissed bottom. We were going very slow and easily backed off. With the sun gone, we got as close as we could to the leeward shore and dropped anchor. It was a cool night falling into the 50's with about 15 knot gusts and the occasional sprinkle. There was some chop as well, so I set a stern anchor to keep us tight into the wind. With no one else around, it worked well and kept us relatively still.
We didn't get much sleep that night so it was a bit of a rough start.
Sorry, no pics of the first day.

*Quick note: The engine had been leaking oil from the start of the trip and we had watched it carefully when ever it was running. It never caused an issue as oil pressure and temperature were exactly where they should have been the entire time. What it turned out to be was that the reservoir was slightly over filled, and it caused the oil to leak out an over flow. Once we got to the correct oil level, the leak disappeared.

Day 2, April 14
Allen's alarm had us up at 7:30 and it was time to make some coffee. The weather was still overcast and windy blowing around 15 knots again and it was 46 degrees. Even though there is a plaque on the stove that says don't use for comfort heating, I put two burners on and warmed the boat up a bit. We left about 8:30 heading towards Indian Island and the mouth of the Pamlico River and Sound. At that point, we had a decision to make. We could cross the sound and head out Ocracoke Inlet or, head down the ICW and go towards Beaufort Inlet. NOAA made the decision for us. The winds on the sound were 15 kts+ and the waves were upwards of 5 feet. We decided to head down the ICW instead and let the passing front move out before heading to bigger water. I am glad we did as the sailing on the Neuse River was amazing. So with the decision made, we headed SW and sailed on to Oriental, NC. This was my first time down the ditch this far up and enjoyed some of the sights. It was also my first time under a fixed bridge with Skylark and breathed a sigh of relief when we made it under. I am 46 feet off the water and the bridge was 65. Even knowing that, it seems like it was going to hit regardless. But alas, we made it unscathed and it made for some good pics.

We made it to Oriental harbor and dropped the anchor at exactly 6:00 pm. We had about 6 boats anchored there with us and the weather cleared and was beautiful. I whipped up a good dinner and got ready for bed. This would be our best nights sleep in many days.

Day 3, April 15
We picked up the anchor at 8:00am and started across the river to pick up the ICW. It was a little cool, but sunny and clear with winds at our back at 5-10 knots. Our destination for today was the turning basin in Beaufort. We figured it would take a while to cover the 20 or so miles especially just motoring, so we figured we would take our time as we would anchor in Beaufort for the night before heading out. There was very little traffic on the water so we just plugged along down the middle of the channel till around 11:00 when we pulled into Boch Marine to top off water, get ice and oil and charge the batteries. It was an easy approach, but the tidal drop is close to 4 feet. We had plenty of water however and was able to get everything accomplished accept ice. There is very little there, both services and amenities, so I would recommend going a bit further to the next marina if you are in the area. We left at 12:30 and continued to Beaufort. We made extremely good time and saw the Beaufort port cranes and water towers on the horizon not long after.

*Another side note. The ICW channel is extremely narrow heading into Beaufort, so be sure to watch your depth sounder like a hawk. We kissed the bottom but didn't get stuck because we veered out of the channel just a couple of feet.

At 1:45, we motored under the fixed and train bridge into the port of Beaufort and headed for the inlet. It was exactly 2:00 pm as we crossed into the Atlantic. The weather was perfect with seas at 1 to 2 feet and a 10-15 knot breeze. The problem however was the the wind was out of the SW, directly on our nose. So we were left with two options. We could sail west towards the coast and then tack south and run up the coast to our mark where we could cross Cape Fear, or, we could sail due south about 45 miles out to sea, tack once to a straight shot to the Jacksonville Inlet. Looking at the charts and considering the weather, we decided to head south to sea and keep a safe distance between us and land.

We had all the sails up and were cruising at around 5.5 knots. The sea state was still quite comfortable and so was the southerly breeze.

Day 4, April 16
As the night continued, we started our watches. About 3 hours on, 3 hours off. It was 4 hours till we were completely out of sight of land. Maybe another hour till we lost sight of the Point Look out Light off to the north east. It's quite a feeling not being able to see land. There were no other ships out, so we were very much alone on a very big sea. The real fun came when the sun went down. There was only a sliver of a moon and the stars were incredible. It got so dark you truly couldn't see the bow of the boat or the top of the mast. You could hear the sails ruffle now and then, but couldn't see them. The only light was coming from the compass. A tiny red glow that barely allows you to make out your course. But not long after, I switched on the running lights as well as the mast lights and it lit the boat up for all to see. We only say one ship that night, a tanker probably on the way to Beaufort.

By dawn however, things were starting to change. The last NOAA report we listened to as well as other weather services predicted Friday's weather to be sunny with winds 10 to 5 knots. By 6:00 am however, the wind was already at 15 knots guesting higher. The seas too were growing and now crested at about 6 feet. Annoying yes, dangerous, no. We reduced sail and pressed on for another hour when we notice the wind and waves both picking up dramatically. Again we listened to the NOAA broadcast but this time, it had changed to winds at 25 to 30 knots and seas 8 to 10 feet. OK, this was getting a bit more interesting especially being 50 miles off shore.

Not being dramatic, but this is the last picture we were able to take for days.

Only an hour later, the winds were 30 to 35 knots and 10 foot waves were the norm with some a little higher. The other issue was that it was not supposed to weaken until Sunday, so we would have to cross Frying Pan shoals in this with winds and waves picking up even higher. We had another decision to make.

With no real end in sight, we decided to head back to Beaufort and let the waves push us there. It would be a long day, but we figured we could make it back before dark. It was the right decision to make. Not long after we turned around on a due north course, the winds gusted higher and we were seeing waves over 15 feet come directly from the stern. Skylark's cockpit is about 4 feet from the water, so we are talking waves nearly 4 times that coming from behind and lifting us way up and then dropping us into the following troughs. It went from very annoying to survival. It does make you look at things a little differently, but my only concern at the time was the safety of Allen and getting us all home.
We were both tethered to the boat and stayed on deck together. The waves were very steep making the ride unbearable but we did keep moving in the right direction. Many times, the waves broke over the cockpit soaking the both of us.
It wasn't until about 4:00 pm when we spotted land again. We were so exhausted that we barely made it. Because of the winds, we had to shoot for Cape Lookout bight, a small inlet that would give us protection. We did make it around 7:00 pm. We dropped the anchor, and passed out. Literally.

Didn't know Allen took this one...

Day 5, April 17
We stayed in the bight through Saturday due to the wind and waves still blowing and decided we would have to postpone the rest of the trip to Jacksonville for a couple of weeks as we both ran out of time. In days, we got through half of the trip. In miles, we have about 350 to go. We will do this over a long weekend in the beginning of May. Right now, Skylark is safe and sound in a marina in Morehead City and ready to go. Being about 15 minutes from the ocean will be a great place to start and allow us to have much better forecasting. April is a tough month for weather, so I guess all in all, we lucked out.

Day 6, April 18
We left the bite at 8:00 am and sailed 12 miles to Morehead City where as I mentioned we have Skylark in a marina near the inlet. She will be looked after there well until we get the rest of the way down. We were in by 1:00 and I was back home in Asheville by 10:00pm. The best part of it all was I was back in my own bed. About 2:00am however I woke Amy up and asked her to check the anchor.:)

So that's it for the story but I wanted to put this out there for anyone that might be looking for a boat. The Cal 34 is an incredibly well made boat that handled very tough conditions with ease. Her design is just perfect for heavy weather and the confidence I know have in her is off the charts. I would take her anywhere and would recommend a Cal to anyone thinking of long distance cruising. And that's first hand experience.

And of course I wanted to thank Allen for coming along on this adventure. I know it was tough, but we got through it and looking back, it was a hell of a ride. Allen has already signed up for the next leg so that obviously says something...and thats, we are both nuts. I have made a friend and that is always a good thing. Not to mention, he might need crew to help bring his boat down to the Caribbean. :)

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Hi All,

Just wanted to update everyone on Jim's grand adventure. Yesterday he was in Oriental NC. and today he finally hit the ocean! He should be at sea for the next three days or so...

Monday, April 12, 2010

At the Boat

It's a beautiful night here in Washington, it's so clear the stars actually look fake. Got down to the boat around 4:00 this afternoon and have been running around like a mad man since. After a large food shopping run, filling up the spare gas jugs and dropping the rental car off at the Greenville airport, I am officially done for the night. Was able to knock out a few other tasks as well, so all that is left is a nice wash down before we leave tomorrow.

We will leave some time in the afternoon and sail down to Indian Island tomorrow night. I will try and post as often as possible, hopefully tomorrow and the following day. Once we hit the ocean though, we will be out of range till we get in close at Jacksonville. If we are lucky enough to get a phone signal, I will give Amy the scoop and she will update the blog with general info and then I will fill in the blanks and add pics when we get in.

So good sailing to all and to all a good night.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Sunny and Good Winds Predicted

So far so good.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Trip Preperation

So I have converted the spare bedroom to the "staging" area and have it piled high with all of the stuff that will be coming along on the trip. Amy will check each item off the list as I pack the car to be sure I don't forget anything. I feel pretty good about things at this point. The planning has been going on for a while now, so all of the details are nailed down and captured.

The 5 day forecast for next week is looking good. (knock on wood) The plan as of now is to go to the boat on Monday morning and start prepping and provisioning. If all goes well, we will leave Tuesday morning at first light or the second pot of coffee, which ever comes first, and head towards Indian Island at the mouth of the Pamlico River. Depending on weather, we will make a decision to either head down the ICW towards the Beaufort inlet or continue across the bay towards the Ocracoke inlet. They both have pros and cons but weather will help us make that decision.

I just want to get started, so the next few days will be anxious ones. The preparation is done, only the sailing is left.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Love of the Sea

For 39 years, I have loved the ocean more than any other place I have known. It feeds my soul and spiritually connects me to the world. Suffice it to say, its a place I like to be.

I was very lucky to be able to know the ocean at a young age. I believe it is during this time my love for the sea took hold. Summer vacations were spent at my Grandparents house in Ft Lauderdale, FL. There, we would be on the water from morning to night. Their house was on a canal in the Las Olas islands, minutes from the ICW, Port Everglades and hundreds of miles of waterways to explore. My first boat ever was really the tender to my Grandparents 34 foot Hatteras. When I was old enough, I would row that boat up and down the canals till the light would go down and I had to be back home. I knew every boat in those canals and would look forward to going to bed so I could get up and do it all over again the next day. I loved that little boat.

When I was just a little older, I was let loose on those canals with a 6 hp Johnson outboard. That opened up my world tremendously and my "cruising" career was born. Now, I was able to travel miles up and down the ICW. Whether it was to check out the naval ships in the port (you could do that then), cruise over to Whiskey Creek for some beach combing or up north to down town, I went everywhere. The Broward patrol boats knew me by name and were always nice as long as I had my life jacket and air horn. Only now I realize the significance of Lake Sylvia to us cruisers but back in the day, it was a nice place to buzz around with out any hassles. I think about it now and I can never remember there ever being a boat anchored. My guess is that has changed.

Of course, I didn't just stick to the dingy, I would beg and plead for a trip on the "big boat". We would head down to Montey Trainers in Miami and Ocean Reef in the Keys. That was my favorite by far. We would run outside in the ocean and I would sit on the bow looking into the crystal clear waters. Occasionally, you would see a giant Ray or Dolphins on the bow wake. I would drive as much as I could, I never tired of it. Once we got into port, we would have a great dinner that my Grandmother would whip up and get ready for some exploring in the morning.

So, if you want to know where I got my love for the sea, that should sum it up. I thank my Grandparents for a lifestyle that I love and treasure. I never get bored of hearing about their adventures to the Keys, Bahamas and beyond. I hope I am as lucky as they were. I can say this though, I am very lucky that they can follow my adventures as they check this blog everyday for updates. I hope my stories are as inspirational as theirs were to me.

But it didn't end there. I always tried to stay near the water, so again I was lucky to get a summer job during college on a small charter fishing boat. I did that for a few years out of Oyster Bay Long Island. I would take care of the folks that came aboard and help the captain when anchoring and docking. That was a great gig and of course again kept me on the water.

Had an 8 year hiatus doing the work thing until I bought my first boat. That's was a 1971 Coronado 27. I knew it had to be a sailboat. I had not sailed before, but I knew the lifestyle and wanted in. Had her docked at CuttySark marina in Little Creek, Virginia. It was only a mile or so to the lower Chesapeake and a perfect place to learn to sail. I was on that boat everyday learning the ins and outs. Fortunately, I was very lucky to have a neighbor teach me the ropes. It was a great couple of years. I put a lot of miles under the keel till I sold her prior to moving to NC. She was a good boat.
Oh yeah, during that time, I was working as a mate on the Spirit of Norfolk, a dinner cruise ship that would tour the naval yards. When I was off, I worked right next door at Waterside Marina. That place was always hopping as it was where everyone would start their migration down the ICW to Florida. Mile marker 0 on the ICW. We had all the mega yachts come in and stay for a few days. One of Jimmy Buffett's boats came in one time and handed out shirts and CDs. That was a good day. :)

From there, it was on to NC and eventually Skylark. You know that story. So that's it, my life on the water.

Friday, April 2, 2010

New Pics from the Shake Down

Hey Ya'll,
Was able to get my hands on a few new pics and thought I would throw them up.