Karma economics

pearson ariel 26, cruising the icw
The answer is out there somewhere, I just gotta find it.

I want to be so close to a manatee that its snot gets on my face. That’s what happened to Tabatha, age 9, who lives aboard a 46-foot Hunter with her 11-year-old sister Elizabeth and their parents, Ferrel and Phil, from Austin, Texas.

“The manatee nibbled my hair!” she said giggling.

“You’re not supposed to touch them but it’s okay if they touch you,” her sister chimed in. “They got so close that one’s snot got on Tabatha’s face when it sneezed!”

I looked at this boat child in disbelief. She nodded in earnest.

“You’re so lucky,” I said and the saloon erupted in the little girls’ laughter.

pearson ariel 26, live aboard
Pirating the dock in Georgetown, SC.

Michael, onboard an Irwin-something, was in the same part of town as me. I’d walked to the goodwill in an effort to find a pair of rubber boots. I passed an Aldi’s on the way and convinced him to meet me there and share his Uber with me back to the marina. I went crazy on canned fish, peanut butter, coconut oil, crackers, and introduced him to the magic of this discount store for provisioning.

I bought a canned ham because it seemed sailor like and promised we’d cook it together for Michael’s thirty-second birthday this week.

“Except it’s already cooked,” he said.

bi polar the dinghy

On Saturday we launched Bi Polar. By we I mean myself, Kourtney, Pete, Pete’s 15-year-old daughter Ava, and her teenage boyfriend, Liam. How excited these people get a fixing problems astounds me. I stared at them in awe as they methodized how to remove some tight fitting rubber from the oars. I’d just have cut it, but they excitedly interjected different suggestions and strategies until it was done. I sort of felt like I was watching an act, but it was real. These people don’t give up.

Bi Polar is, of course, a dinghy. The dinghy of my dreams, actually. A double-ender, eight-foot, salty little row boat. The dinghy once belonged to Kourtney’s friend Scotty. Scotty taught her how to row. Scotty recently died. Scotty liked to drink so we drank champagne in honor of him and the relaunch of his old boat. Kourtney has had Bi Polar for ten years. It will soon be the tender to the 25-foot Pacific Seacraft she has gutted and is rebuilding from the ground up. But for now it is my loaner dinghy until we come up with a permanent dinghy solution.

It was kind of like a dream. These people showing up in their magical VW bus, helping you solve your problem, and then leaving you there alone to row your dinghy in peace while dolphins swim alongside.

In the hullaballoo of getting to the pre-launch dinghy preparations in town, one of my rubber boots managed to detach itself from my backpack. In an effort to locate the missing boot I made signs and retraced my steps, but to no avail. My efforts were merely cathartic it turned out. I may have lost my sea boot but I’ve gained so much.

The magic bus

The girl I’m working for now, Jillian, is 31 and owns her own yacht services company. We wax sport fishing yachts and sailboats and oil teak. She does so much more than that, but right now that is what keeps us busy. She brought me to the ocean and we ate warm soup in her van on a day we got rained off from work. She is connecting me with another sailor and possibly more work painting his boat.

I only found her because Kourtney brought me to the used marine store and the owner gave me her number. I called her, told her my story, told her who I know and the next morning she came to meet me even though she had just learned her friend died. We looked out at my boat from the seawall and she gave me a job.

Space wax

I am continuously humbled by the kindness and friendship from strangers. – January 14, St. Augustine, FL

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Self Steering for Sailing Craft

sheet to tiller steering

While sailing on the Chesapeake Bay I was gifted a book that I’d been keeping an eye out for over a year. Self Steering for Sailing Craft by John Letcher is a timeless gem that deserves a space on the shelf of any yacht’s library (unless of course you’re on a boat like mine which doesn’t really have shelves). In the book Letcher uses anecdotal tales to impart sheet to tiller steering methods he used on his voyages through the Pacific Ocean aboard his homebuilt 20-foot cutter Island Girl. 

Over the course of reading the book I learned a lot, but while I was reading it I started to wonder–is this guy one of those engineering types? I’ve met a lot of engineers on boats. I envy them. Their minds just work differently than mine and they can pretty much figure out anything. When in doubt, ask an engineer, but I am not in touch with that side of my brain.

Turns out Letcher was an engineer with a Ph. D. in Aeronautics. So I wondered, does one have to be of that mindset to use his methods?

While my auto pilot, Jane, has been a most lovely companion she simply cannot keep up in some conditions and requires a constant supply of sunshine to run off my ship’s battery. Plus, she’s electronic and subject to corrosion and she’s not exactly water proof. I’m not getting rid of Jane, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with her as my only form of self-steering if going to sea.

I wanted to see if anyone had tried sheet-to-tiller on an Ariel and found this guy. Again, another engineering type. His methods seemed a little complicated with all types of custom made equipment. I thought this was supposed to be simple? I found myself slightly disenchanted with the idea. Then I met an engineer on the dock who has circumnavigated and just finished the NW Passage. He said, “don’t bother with sheet-to-tiller, get a windvane.”  And so I moved on to that idea for a while.

I know of one vane unofficially for sale for very cheap in New Jersey but it’s owner basically said, “you’re going to have to engineer the shit out of it to get it work and I’ll be very surprised if you do because I didn’t.” Then I wrote a very flattering letter to Yves Gilenas of Cape Horn Wind Vanes in hopes of scoring one at, ahem, “cost.” If I can’t find a wind vane either for cheap or free I may find myself in a bit of pickle because they cost more than my hull.

Picking up Letcher’s book again now I am thinking sheet-to-tiller may be the best method on Vanupied. It certainly would be cheaper and at second glance doesn’t look too complicated. A friend recently sent me this link which shows the method in very simple terms.

I’m getting ready to begin the second stage of the refit to this little boat and I wonder what method self steering method I will wind up adopting.

Dirty Jersey

I think I was allergic to New Jersey. Or at least something in it. I’m not just saying that as a native New Yorker. In Atlantic Highlands I woke up with my eye swollen shut. I thought putting turmeric on it would solve everything, but it just made me look sick with jaundice.

“I think you should see a doctor,” several sailors told me once conditions worsened. They still insisted even once I explained the yellow stain was from the herb. Two urgent care clinics who refused me and a trip to the ER later I was loaded with prednisone and antihistamines. On my way to recovery and ready to go to sea! The only symptoms that lingered was my constant fear of it coming back.

By Atlantic City, I had another inflamed, itchy episode this time on my hip. I managed to heal that one on my own mostly by constantly cleaning it and pumping myself full of Benadryl for five days at anchor waiting for gales to pass. (A month later and the skin where the rash was is still a different color than the rest of my body but whatevs…battle scars)!

In New Jersey I learned something else–that while the ocean scares the shit out of me there is still something strong, strange and undeniable that draws me towards it. Regardless, I was incredibly happy to be done with the Jersey Coast. Few good inlets, autumn gales, allergic reactions. Inland waters were waiting to welcome me with open arms once again.

PASSAGE NOTES: Oct. 10
Atlantic Highland to Atlantic City
80 miles, 19 hours 

1500- No idea where I am. Where is green buoy number one? Heading SW 210 degrees. Light NW swells. 3.5 hours left of daylight.

16:30 – 40 18.874 N , 73 55.616 W

1700- Ocean big and scary. Just want to go in straight line. Wind light. Going two knots sails flapping. Dropped jib. Under power and main. 4.5 kts. Soon I’ll be blind. Entrusting my compass, GPS and nominal navigation skills. Will have to refuel sometime if wind doesn’t change. Black flies are tempestuous. Alone on the ocean. I could easily end up in the shipping lanes if I’m not careful. Will I ever relax and enjoy this?

1800- 40 12.017 N , 73 56.304 W
Hailed sailboat off to port on VHF. Capt. Logan, youngcruisers.org. Headed to Norfolk. “You’ll know what’s right,” he said to me.

19:30- 40 6.097 N , 73 51.151 W
I keep calling it a “sight” when I go down below and plot my position on the chart. I attached battery power nav lights, fearing mine would drain the ships battery and I’m relying on autopilot. When I see lights I turn the masthead light on too. That may be confusing to other boats but…

21:20 – 40 2.270′ N , 73 57.591 W

2200 – Two ships passing in the night. Going along nicely. Vanupied skipping across the swells. She was made for this. Pretty stellar out here. Stars, bioluminescence. Fog seems possible. Don’t want that. See a little light to starboard catching up.

0000, 39 51.933 N, 73 58.391 W. Accented commercial vessel captain yelling on the VHF. Gotta make port before the gale tomorrow. I could live out here.

0300- WHO ELSE IS OUT HERE TRAVELING THIS LONELY BLUE HIGHWAY!? Squall line in Maryland. Will it reach me?

0600- About to make my approach but waiting for sun to rise. Blood red sky. Ninety-seven percet humidity. Mosquitos, flying beetles, and moths fall out of the sky onto my boat. Is this my own personal rapture? Nah, there’s a dolphin, too.

Oct. 11 PM

My boat danced like a pony cross the sea all night. I made it into the inlet just a conditions began to deteriorate. Now, GALE.

Only tiny riplets in the marsh during a 30 hour gale in Atlantic City

Lentils win

Row over and examine abandoned boat, or stay in cabin with warm tea, alcohol heater, and make lentils? Lentils win.

smallboat galley, pearson ariel 26

No wind today. I didn’t care. Was happy to be under way. Was happy to have made some progress to the engine. Was happy it was running so well. The sun made an appearance. Twenty five miles left of the Chesapeake. Anchored in Pepper Creek–sketchy depths. Came in at high tide but leaving closer to low. I may find myself waiting to float off the ground tomorrow with the afternoon flood…Wind forecast perfect for tomorrow, minus some rain. Hope it sticks. My last November northerly on the bay. Hope I find myself just lingering out there tomorrow again, not quite ready for it to end.

cruising guide chesapeake bay
A rare Chesapeake calm in November

I’m wearing an old Pendleton I got from my friends in Matthews, VA. I’m like the son they never had. No, really. I feel like a boy. At least a tom boy. I put in eye liner to go to shore the other day and looked more like I was leaving the coal mines than trying to look presentable in society.

I’m scheming again to take Vanupied far, not this year though. I can’t stop thinking about it. It would be real easy to shorten the cockpit, move her scuppers. I designed a sort of locker in my head that would double as storage while reducing the size. I want to replace her standing rigging, at least some if not all. I’m on this kick about using Dyneema to do it. A backup cheapie auto pilot and sheet to tiller steering (double redundancy). Short wave radio for Chris Parker weather reports. Already got a receiver on the backstay (which unfortunately I think indicates the age of of my shrouds).

I don’t know, though. I still need her looked at with a keener eye than mine. It’s a process. For now I know what needs doing in the immediate future and I have lots, and lots, of ideas.

Back to the abandoned boat. Pretty grey hull with a sorry looking paint job. No mast. Sixties or seventies era. Strong, sturdy hull with pretty, traditional lines. Hell, she could even be an Alberg! Don’t think so, though. Her sheer is slung differently. More elegant.

Maybe it belongs to the creek person I just saw. He was catching oysters on a homemade barge constructed from an old dock and an outboard motor.