Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I can not begin to express how important and how enjoyable our family vacation was. I love this week every year when we all get together with a real purpose of spending quality time with family. Distractions (work...responsibilities) were kept to a minimum, and the kids had a great time. Justin makes a short video every year. This years video shows how much our vacation is about the little ones...and how that makes for a great time for all the adults. All families have different dynamics, but I highly recommend quality time far enough away from distractions...the beach works for us. Disregard the laugh at the end...Justin is playing a joke on his sister. The video tells the story much better than I can.

Click here...

Friday, July 27, 2012

Vacation ends...six weeks left before we cruise.

We had a great day on the beach and then headed to Pier Park for dinner. We  wound up at Margaritaville where we had a great dinner then walked back to the condo. Tomorrow is our last day of vacation...sad but true.
Ava at dinner. 

  Jack on the beach.



 Justin and Libby

 Sara, Cash and Tommy

 Shirl and Pop Pop

Jack decided he wanted to jump. Not bad for three years old.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Life at the beach!

I was sitting on the beach yesterday watching the kids play and it occurred to me that we will soon be living in places that people choose to spend vacations. How nice is that? After decades of week long vacations, I am really looking forward to cruising. We are still planning to leave this fall...probably late September...there will be more of a firm date in a few weeks.  For now we are still in Florida and having a great time with family. It is so enjoyable to watch everyone relax and spend time together. The grandchildren are so much fun. If you have grandchildren, enjoy them...they are so full of life, discovering new things, learning everyday...personalities forming...such a blessing! Early next year we will add another. Libby is pregnant!

From the top...Jack, Tommy, Sara, Ava, Cash and Ella.

Ava, Libby and Justin.

Cash is walking! Cash is the youngest of the grandchildren. He will soon be one year old, and decided it was time to get moving! Click the video to watch. Count them ...nine steps!

Cash decided to go skinny dipping in the gulf.

Cash after a fall in the sand!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Random beach pictures...

We are having a great time on vacation. The kid's love the beach and the pool. We stayed in last night and Shirl made some awesome pasta for dinner.

 Jack loves the water!

 Ella playing in the sand with Ava in the background.

                                Playing in the sand. this typically beautiful beach has a lot of sea weed.

 Unky helps Ella with her surfing.

 Unky and Ava.

 Pop Pop, Ella and Jack.

We found a flip flop that can also be used as a life raft.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Blame Buffett will be a vacation blog for a few days.

I am at Panama City Beach with my family having a great time. We are spending time at the beach and the pool...the kids love to play in the pool. 

 Ava, Ella, Cash, and Jack...all the grandchildren love their time together. I am looking forward to a relaxing week with the family.

Shirl is making some of her beach time productive by preparing for our trip south...it will be a big change to live aboard. We will let you know what she thinks of the book.

Off to get breakfast at Pier Park.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I spent the last three days working on Serenity, or as I call it making deposits in the boat account. Preparation is key, and to me boats are like bank accounts. You make deposits by proactively fixing and maintaining the boat because you know at some point that you will be making a withdrawal, like rough water, squalls, high winds, or long hours of motoring...(Erie Canal), and you want everything to function well. So you make deposits...taking care of the boat ...and you make withdrawals...the boat takes care of you. I have been doing a lot to make sure I do not get over drawn in this account. We have to be sure to make more deposits than withdrawals...what a concept. Do you think we should maybe explain this to congress? 
A few deposits made this week.

I ordered a solar panel to help us be more energy independent, so that we could anchor at times and avoid having to stay in a marina, plugged in, which can get expensive. Above is the frame I assembled to mount the panel above the dinghy davits.

 This is the panel mounted and wired into the panel next to it. (The panel that was already on the boat.) This gives us a total of 270 watts of collection power. These panels are wired to a controller to make sure the house bank of batteries does not get overcharged. These should work well in Florida and the Bahamas. If necessary we can install a wind generator, but we are going to wait and see what our needs are. The panels can be tilted to get more direct sun light.

 The frame the panel sits on.

 Some of you have asked about the engine. Serenity is powered by a three cylinder Yanmar 35 horse power diesel. That is 1 horse power per foot. Keep in mind we plan to sail and use the engine as little as possible. The engine runs strong. I gave it the nickname of "Little Big Man" I used to name all of my cars when I was young...don't know why I got away from that. So when I refer to LBM on this blog we are talking about the motor.

 Top view...the hoses on the top heat water instead of the hot water heater when the AC power is not on and the engine is running.
Vic...study up on this engine so I can call you to trouble shoot if necessary. Hopefully it won't be necessary.
(Vic is our go to boat mechanic in Ky.) Do you make boat calls to the Bahamas?

 This is the water cooling hose that ran from the strainer to the water pump. At the time of the pre-purchase survey it was brought to my attention that the hose had bubbles...that is soft spots that had expanded, which makes a failure more likely. The hose is reinforced with wire, and after visiting four places that sell marine parts I finally found the hose I needed. It has to be stiff so that the suction from the water pump does not collapse the hose and stop the engine from getting water. West Marine only had the soft automotive kind of hose. ???

 While I was working someone sailed into the marina under main only on a 10 kt. southwest wind...pretty cool...used the diesel for around two minutes to put the boat in the slip. When Justin and I took sailing lessons several years ago in Marathon Key, we actually sailed into our slip which involved coming into the marina through a narrow opening and doing a 180 degree turn, about 30 feet from a restaurant, tacking, and dropping the main sail as we entered the slip.  Nerve racking but great fun...don't know that I would try that again...unless Justin is with me. What a great week that was!

 View from Serenity's cockpit as darkness begins to fall and I take a break with a couple of cold adult beverages with blue mountains.

Serenity is finished...ready to sail except for polishing the metal to help prevent corrosion in salt water, and the installation of AIS for safety. Every inch has been cleaned and waxed, wood treated, rigging tuned, repairs made, inside  cleaned and organized...thanks Shirl...and engine checked out. She looks good for 21 years old. I can tell she is ready to do what she was made to do...sail...and all that implies!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"Jimmy, some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way" Jimmy Buffett

Although I will be on Lake Erie for a few days finishing up the list of things I want to do on the boat before we begin our adventure, I wanted to post something a little different today. Yesterday I played in a golf outing, (The Big Nick), that is held yearly to raise money as well as to honor a friend (Nick), who passed away ten years ago at a very young age. The money raised is used to help families in need, in Nick's name. I had a great time, my son- in- law played as well, and our foursome was rounded out with an old friend, who I do not get to see as often as I would like, and his son.

Recent events have been causing me to think a lot about the magic and the tragic sides of life. I have had family members as well as friends who have recently had some health issues, and  Shirl and I have experienced as others  have, the loss of loved ones. I think we all realize that there are no guarantees...something can happen at any time, and at any age, that could drastically change our future. Since I have had more time recently relax and think...and do some self evaluation, I know that I sometimes "sweat the small stuff" that really does not matter...the little frustrating things that I waste precious time on, that capture my attention, but in the big picture are not significant and do not deserve my time. The last few years have made this more clear to me. I know that as I get caught up in the habits and routine of life, I sometimes do not appreciate the fact that although planning for the future and setting goals is good, living in the present and enjoying life now is much more important! Habits and routine are dangerous. They lull you into feeling that everything will stay the same...that life will somehow continue as it always has. This is not necessarily the case.

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans".
                                                                                                        John Lennon

 I will be vacationing with my family  very soon. Although coordinating schedules is very difficult at times, we have managed to pull it off again this year. We always have a great time together... the grandchildren love it!

This year Cash, who is almost one year old, joins the family vacation fun. 

I love our vacation, and am so happy that my family values our time together. My plan is to relax, enjoy the family time and think of nothing else... to stay in the present. After vacation...back to getting ready to cruise. 

If you are still interested, and reading this post, perhaps you are like I am and tend to get get fixated on things you can not control and really don't freaking matter. Maybe we can do better to live in the present while working toward our future goals. Hug your loved ones, and embrace the precious and fragile  life you have been blessed with... live it to the fullest! Have some fun! Maybe go cruising...ride that Harley...or  maybe just take a day to relax and think, or do something you have always wanted to do, but for whatever reason did not. Remember ...no guarantees!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is successful cruising based on preparation?

I have not had time to post lately. We are still in the process of preparing to cruise. There is a lot left to do and time seems to be flying by. I am currently involved in a project for grandchildren...a kind of indoor gym / play set for their playroom. It is not boat stuff but I will post a picture when it is complete. I have been ordering items needed for cruising. Today I ordered a Life Sling that I hope we never have to use. It hangs on your rail and is deployed in the event someone falls overboard. I also ordered personal tethers as well as jack lines, all safety equipment designed to keep us safely in the boat. I still need to order chart books as a back up to the Garmin Chart plotter that I received last week.
 I have been reading a lot about A.I.S. which helps with collision avoidance. A.I.S. stands for Automated Identification System. Since we will at times be in heavy traffic areas...shipping lanes...it would be good to know what other boats are in the area, which direction they are headed, and how fast the are going. A.I.S. gives you all that information.. Unfortunately it is expensive. Although I am trying to keep expenses low, I do not want to compromise where safety is concerned. I will order the AIS transmitter as well as the receiver, and do a blog post on it once installed.  I believe all commercial ships over a certain size are required to be on the system.
 A good thing to remember when buying a boat is that there are things you will want to do...upgrades...addition of equipment, most of which are expensive. Try to purchase a boat that enables you to have cash left over for improvements and additions.  It is true that all boats are a compromise, as well as the equipment/systems installed. I had planned to upgrade where safety is concerned.
Things still left to do:
Purchase and install A.I.S.
Make a decision on a radar upgrade. The existing radar unit is old (1996) and you have to go to the navigation station to read it.
Install a new engine coolant hose. The existing hose has a bubble in it...noticed at the time of the survey.
Re-position the existing solar panel so it is better balanced and more secure on the frame above the dinghy davits
 Install the new solar panel I purchased giving us a 140 watt panel in addition to the 135watt panel that came with the boat. Solar panels are getting less expensive, and will help keep our batteries charged. We want to be as self sufficient as possible. This will enable us to anchor at times and avoid costs associated with marinas. I bought the same model panel so the dimensions would be the same. It is rated 5 watts higher than the older model that came with the boat. 
Finalize the federal documentation on the boat...The US Coast Guard and The Department Homeland Security are running behind because of cutbacks...not sure this is a great place for cutbacks.
Buy a dinghy and a motor ...anyone have a nice used one for sale?
Install CO2 detector in the cabin of Serenity.
Get familiar with the chart plotter.
Wax the deck of Serenity.
Check into solar vents for the cabin of the boat to help circulate air.
Get the quarter berth cushions recovered. The previous owner supplied the material which matches the rest of the cushions.
Get used to no air conditioning, having no permanent address, and changing scenery!
Do something to soften the bed in the v-berth.
Doctors appointments
Dental appointments
So far I have been very pleased with Serenity. Although there are improvements to be made, she as well as her systems were in pretty good shape for a twenty one year old boat. The next decision...do we get a life raft and an EPIRB? We really want to be safe...but not so safe that we can't afford to cruise. I guess there is truth to the statement...go small...go cheap...go now.
I did order a new point and shoot camera that I had heard a lot of good things about. It is a Canon D20. I should be able to post a lot of pictures on the blog with this!
Sail on!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Don't worry about a thing, cause every little thing is gonna be alright."...Bob Marley

I recently read a great post on Mid-Life Cruising, one of the sailing blogs I follow ... http://www.mid-lifecruising.com/. Like us, the blog's authors are a couple preparing to cruise. The post discussed turning a dream into reality, why some people do and others do not....and the emotional toll that results from striving to make your dream a reality. The post mentions fear...of the unknown...of cruising...as well as other " brick walls" that can impede the progress of preparations to cruise. 
The blog's author  quotes Randy Pausch...

"The brick walls are there for a reason.  The brick walls are not there to keep us out.   The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something, because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don't want it badly enough.  They're there to stop the other people".    Randy Pausch,  The Last Lecture

This quote certainly resonates with us. If you have not read this book I highly recommend it. Randy Pausch was terminally ill when he did his last lecture, and his book as well as his lecture provides insight into living in the present, and focusing on and clinging to what is valuable in life...useful advice for all!

I follow a few cruising blogs and the process of making the cruising dream happen is different in each. As with any major life decision the "brick walls"  appear for all. Because individual circumstances vary,  obstacles that surface during preparations to cruise differ as well,  but can result in frustration and/or stress. I think that preparing to cruise by dealing with these obstacles is excellent training for cruising. ..an introduction to expecting the unexpected, and practice on proactively dealing with problems that arise. There will certainly be "brick walls" while we are cruising . Dealing with issues can only make you stronger...and being stronger will make you a better cruiser. Remember when we were young and we used to run through walls? For me it is definitely time for a more thought out approach.

One of the largest of the "brick walls" for me has been the comfort zone issue.  My comfort zone for 36 years has been working...doing something I loved to do.  The process of getting ready to cruise is easier for me than the process of getting used to not doing the job I enjoyed for so many years ... and maybe just not working in general. Don't get me wrong there is a lot of work I am doing, it is just not the structured routine I am used to.  Life is all about choices, but I guess some of us are creatures of habit. ( a great topic for another post) I know this transition will take  time. Time is what I have right now. 
My favorite Randy Pausch quote...

“The key question to keep asking is, are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have. ”   Randy Pausch

How do you know if the things you are doing are the right things to spend time on? I think the answer to that is you follow your heart. 
Thanks  to Mid-Life Cruising for a great thought provoking post.
If you love to read pick up a copy of "The Last Lecture." Even if you do not like to read give it a shot...it is a great book!

Don't worry about a thing...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I wonder if Jimmy does his own teak?.

Disclaimer: This is a technical post...boat stuff.
I spent the last four days working on Serenity. It was time for me to learn about teak. Teak is a tropical hardwood tree species, and used on the trim of many sailboats. Much of the wood inside the cabin is also teak. Teak is native to southeast Asia, but is cultivated in many countries. Costa Rica has a rapidly growing plantation market. The natural oils in teak help it resist decay because of exposure. The oils also make it termite resistant.. Teak must be maintained or it begins to look like the picture below...kind of old, weathered and grey. Not that there is anything wrong with old weathered and grey, (like me), it is obvious that the eyebrow, (trim above ports) and the bow sprit, (that long board that Jimmy Buffett hangs his toes off of and holds the anchors on Serenity) was in need of some TLC. I consulted Google and found the following technique.

The appearance of the eyebrow, with previous coating flaking off and the teak underneath a dull grey color. 

 There are chemical strippers available, but I was worried about getting some in the Lake. I used the heat and scrape technique, which although is time consuming works pretty well. After scraping off the varnish, I used a teak brightener to clean the wood and prepare it for varnish. I then used 220 grit sandpaper and lightly sanded the stripped teak.
Tools needed: heat gun, scraper, sandpaper

 The eyebrow was then taped off to avoid getting varnish on the fiberglass.

 The eyebrow after 4 coats of natural Cetrol and three coats of clear.

 As you can see the bowsprit was also looking bad. The same technique was used to refurbish it, however I did use eight coats of Cetrol...four natural and four clear.

The bow sprit as it looked after being stripped, cleaned and sanded. You can see that the wood is still in great shape.

The finished bow sprit. Looks a lot better!

Anchors and anchor chain back in place. The white plastic pieces you see are chain protectors to keep the chains from scraping the teak. You can see the electric windless near the bottom of the picture. And yes, I will hang me toes off the bow sprit! 
 There are different ways to keep teak looking great. There are oils that will protect the wood from sun exposure. Part of Serenity's teak was already done with Cetrol, so I decided to make it all the same. After the last four days, it would not bother me to have a sailboat with out teak...fiberglass may not look as nice but it is sure easier to maintain.

A Teak tree for those who are interested.

This was the sunset Thursday night on Lake Erie. More often than not there is a beautiful sunset over the water. We are looking forward to some Caribbean sunsets.