Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry Christmas... in photos...

Merry Christmas! (photo from our trip to the Bahamas)

Christmas Day backcountry skiing

Kala is always ready for some fun in the snow!

Quick rest stop while skinning up the hill.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

“Such a Long Long Time To Be Gone And A Short Time To Be There”

I’m not sure whether it is the tragedy in Newtown, the greyness of the winter skies or the workload at the office but I’ve found myself thinking more about trying to actually live now, more than ever before. I’ve been back in the office-bound work world for only four months now and realize how hard it is to take the time to step away and think about what is really important in life and how to put those things front and center in my day-to-day outlook.

 When you’re head down into work day after day, week after week, with meetings and tasks backed up, it is hard to see past the next day, let alone the next several years. I guess this is one of the reasons that corporate strategist schedule off-site retreats for their executives when strategy planning or how some employers encourage employees to take vacation in blocks of at least 3 to 5 days, so that a period of reflection can occur.

Fortunately for me, I’m way too much of a slacker to let work interfere with my moments of reflection and have tried to completely disengage from the morning rush to work, to have a few moments to myself, albeit on the drive into the office.   Right now, I’m sad.  I’m sad for our world, for our environment, for our children and for our animals.  Mass murders, environmental destruction, senseless overproducing and slaughtering of animals. To me, the end is so obvious if we continue on this path, why can’t our leaders see it?!?!  Humans really suck as a species.  

So with that mental backdrop, here are a few large scale realizations I’ve had on my drives in to work. I don’t want to negatively impact anyone, people, animals or the environment. I don’t want to have my existence perpetuate the destruction of the world or perpetuate the “buy and spend” mentality that drives the US economy.

What good are realizations without a plan, so here is what I’m doing about it… Molly and I are eating a plant-based diet. Some people call this being a “vegan” in that there is no meat and dairy, but that term creates negative images or associations with a lot of people so I’ll just say “plant-based”. We have sold most of our cars and motorcycles and only have one vehicle that Molly and I share now. Admittedly, this one vehicle is a van that gets poor gas mileage but we have a contract to sell our house so hopefully soon the van or the boat will be our home. We have added more solar and wind to the boat so that we don’t have to use the diesel engine or gas generator to charge the batteries and have made a mental commitment to sail more and motor less when on the boat.  We have given, or are giving, many of the things we worked hard for and had looked forward to buying, away. “Minimalizing” if that is a word.

Nothing I’m doing is really going to make a bit of difference to the big economic and environmental perspective but what it has done for me is to create a significant mental shift. I feel like I want fewer physical possessions.  Clothing, furniture, toys if they are not absolute necessities now seem to just hold us back from living. We have been tied to the continual upkeep and maintenance of junk. From an American perspective, we still have lots of crap but by divesting ourselves of things that we didn’t need, could do without or were just plain burdensome, we have been allowed to see much more of the outside world.  Maybe it’s one to many veggie burgers, an overdose of tofu or perhaps there really was something  mind altering in what that guy passed me at the Furthur show, but this perspective feels very comfortable and natural like I’ve tapped into some cosmic energy flow.

I realize more than ever that there are roads to be traveled, oceans to be sailed and beers to drink.  I’m not at my stopping point; this is not where I want to park it.  I’m not sure what is out there next, but life has been pretty damn good so far and with this new perspective and ethos, I’m more than ready to see what’s next… and soon.

We are all on this planet for such a short time and I can only think that if we all try to love each other more, protect the animals and earth, that this would be a better place and have more of a future than the path it is now on.

Cheers my friends, thanks for reading my ramblings. Happy holidays, Namaste and hope to see all you like-minded souls out there sometime soon.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Happy Herbivore Abroad!

Three months ago if someone would have asked me to stop eating cheese, I would have responded with a nasty glare, a shriveled lip and said something to the effect of "Why would I ever do that?".  In just that short amount of time, shorter actually, only about 2 months, I have become educated and aware and have made choices that will change our lives.  Baxter and I have moved to a plant-based diet.  At first, we were happy with just becoming vegetarian, but after further research (I'd be happy to share with those who are interested), we have moved to only plant-based foods.

As I was researching a vegan diet and it's benefits, I found some amazing recipes and suggestions from Lindsay S. Nixon, author of Happy Herbivore, Everday Happy Herbivore and newly-released Happy Herbivore Abroad.  Not only was I elated when her new book was published, but I immediately responded when she asked who would like to participate in her blog tour.  Lindsay's recipe's in Happy Herbivore Abroad are amazing and include flavors from all over the world.  My favorite recipe so far has to be the bread pudding (England) on page 156!  It is so easy to make and the ingredients are things most people already have in their kitchen.  Another nice feature of the book is that Lindsay includes stories of how the recipes developed and how her travels around the world have changed her as a person - an idea most people who live on a boat (aka cruisers) can identify with.

Over the last 24 months, we have spent a considerable amount of time living on our 37-foot sailboat, Stella Blue, traveling up and down the east coast, through the South Pacific (aboard Mahina Tiare III) and from Florida down to the southern Exumas so I have a particular interest in how a plant-based diet adapts on a boat.  I know many cruisers who have limited refrigeration, limited storage space and of course, everyone would like to eat a bit healthier.  I asked Lindsay about those issues and more in our interview.  As a note, Lindsay is giving away a free-copy of her new Happy Herbivore Abroad to one of our blog readers.  Just post a comment below and I will draw a winner on Friday, 12/7/12.  


Have you always been a vegetarian, or what inspired you to move to a plant-based diet? I was a vegetarian for most of my life, but lapsed back to meat-eating in my late teens due to family pressure and peer pressure. A serious health scare in my early 20's brought me back to a vegetarian diet and about a year later I adopted a totally plant-based (vegan) diet. I was motivated mainly for health reasons, but I also care about the environment and am moved by the plight of farm animals. 

What is your favorite aspect of cooking plant-based recipes? I don't have to worry about food born illness when cooking. I used to be so fearful that I didn't cook meat enough, or I'd get sick from eating cookie batter, or that I didn't clean my cutting board sufficiently after chopping up chicken and following with onions. I don't have to worry about those things anymore! 

What do you find the most difficult aspect of eating vegan? There's nothing really difficult about eating a plant-based diet. It may not always be the most convenient option, but I'd rather a little less convenience if it means better health. 

Do you have an ultimate favorite recipe? Asking a chef what their favorite recipe is, is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child :) 

What do you consider your staples for your recipes? The basics: vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, whole grains and plenty of spices! 

What advice could you offer to someone who would like to follow a plant-based diet but does not have refrigeration? I imagine it would be difficult following any diet -- specifically one with meat, dairy and eggs -- without refrigeration (since those foods MUST be refrigerated). The good news is that fruits and vegetables do not require refrigeration. Similarly, dry grains like rice, and dried beans and lentils are shelf-stable. You can also buy shelf-stable tofu. 

Do you feel like you sacrifice any part of your diet by not eating animal-protein? No. I feel like I only benefit. I eat a much wider range of food now on a plant-based diet than I ever did as an omnivore. Plus nothing tastes as good as being plant-based feels. It's such an amazing feeling -- you can't get this glow without a plant-based diet. 

How do you respond to people who think all vegans are hippie liberals and will eventually realize the error of their ways and go back to eating animal protein? I don't look like a hippie liberal so that sort of silences that stereotype with people around me :) I have had people come up and say things like "you're vegan, but you look so normal" I really try not to laugh. Most of the time, people are busy asking about my glow, or my complexion, or how I stay so trim and healthy -- and I tell them my big secret-- I'm plant-based! and then they're curious to hear more. 

The impact you've had on other people's lives by educating them and helping to change their diet is significant. What is the most important message you would like to convey? Every time you can eat a plant-based or vegan meal, do it. Your body will thank you.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Times They Are A-Changin'

We've had a great time in Utah but we can hear the ocean calling...

Vegan Waffles!

Hiking in the snow
Molly and Kala on a sunrise walk.

BASE Jumping in Moab

Vegan Cooking Injury! (she's okay)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kala's 15 Minutes of Fame

Since we have lived on the boat, we get most magazine subscriptions digitally through Zinio.  They are automatically downloaded to the iPad and they don't have to be mailed to a random location.  We get them faster and cheaper.

One night in June, Baxter was casually turning the pages of our new July issue of Cruising World, only to see Kala's sweet smile.  We had forgotten all about that post on Cruising World's Facebook page - but apparently they liked it.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

ad·just·ment noun \ə-ˈjəs(t)-mənt\: a correction or modification to reflect actual conditions.

These are the blogs that we submitted to one of our sponsors, Mountain Khakis, as part of their Ambassador Program...

After spending the winter on our boat in the Bahamas and South Florida, we found ourselves back in Utah on the best powder day of the year.  The contrast between the two lifestyles couldn’t be more different and we love every minute of each of them.  However, it does take a minute to adjust to being back in the mountains and living in a house.  For example, our refrigerator can now hold enough food for months AND keep it cold.  What will I ever put in there?  Or…Kala can stand up and walk out the doggy door to go outside and enjoy fresh green grass – no more waiting for the dinghy to take her to shore. 

We did adjust, quickly.  We started hiking more in the mountains and I even entered a local 5K just to shake the dust off my land legs.  I set a new PR (personal record) and took first place in my age group – pretty good considering I hadn’t run a step in at least six months.

With our Tartan 37, Stella Blue, now “on the hard” (out of the water) for hurricane season, it would probably be a good idea for me to get a job and ramp up next season’s cruising kitty.  So I am writing this blog from the four walls, well three actually, of a cubicle.  Sometimes the mountain life means putting your head down and working hard so you can find your way back to adventure – whether it’s just the weekends or a long term plan of getting away for a couple years.  The memories are fresh in my head and motivate me to get back there.  


Back in the Wasatch

Throughout the winter, my wife and I traveled along the east coast of the U.S. in our Tartan 37 sailboat.  We made our way from North Carolina down to Key West, back to Miami and over to the southern Exumas and finally to the Gulf Coast of Florida.  At the end of February, it was time to leave the boat and head west to Salt Lake City.  We arrived February 28, and purchased our spring season pass at Snowbird the next day, just in time for what our friends told us was the best powder day of the season with over 60” of fresh, dry, deep, fluffy Wasatch snow.  It reminded me how much I love Utah.

Unfortunately, that storm passed quickly and the ski season would only last a couple more months due to the abysmal snow totals for the year.  I quickly transitioned my toys from skis and snowboards to my wingsuit, skydiving rig, paraglider, B.A.S.E. rig, running shoes, hiking boots and started to prepare for my new adventure of kite boarding.   I have started moving into kite boarding which involves learning to fly a traction kite and then eventually moving on to the water.  Fortunately, Salt Lake City provides the venues from beginning to end and I can practice throughout the summer.  

With the warm weather, we decided some of the other toys also needed to be aired out.  We drove up to Skydive Ogden and I got in a couple wing suit skydives.  It's great to have the toys at hand and I'm ready for the summer!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Stella Blue's New Portlights

I'm still recovering from 5 days of hard, hot work on Stella Blue so I'll make this a short post. 

Last week I flew from Salt Lake to Port Charlotte, Florida to spend a week on Stella Blue and install the new stainless steel portlights that we had ordered at the Miami Boat Show from New Found Metals. The replacement of the portlights was a great improvement in both the look and functionality to Stella Blue.  

Now I need to go scrub my hands and try to get the rest of the black caulk off of them. Enjoy the photos and let us know what you think!

First was a stop at Wal*Mart for a weeks worth of food. I ate 12 PB&Js and wanted to go for 15 but my stomach started rebelling at 9.

Here is what our old portlights looked like. This is the best one as most of them were cracked and leaking.

I clamped a template to the removed portlight space, traced the area to be cut with a sharpie and used a RotoZip to cut through the cabin top.

This is what it looked like with the port side portlights removed.

This is the template in the head. Fiberglass dust went everywhere and since I was staying on the boat during the work, it made for some itchy nights until I could do a complete cleaning.

All of the portlights were 4"x14" but the aft section of the cabin top had extra space and I wanted to try and squeeze in a 6"x15" on either side for more light and ventilation. This required a bit more cutting and fitting but worked out great as you can see in the next few photos.

6"x15" portlight over the galley. You can compare the 6"x15" size to the 4"x14" to the left (forward) and see how much bigger it is. 

Starboard side view before I have cleaned all the butyl and Life Caulk off of the portlights.

Cover Girl!

Molly is on the cover of the May issue of Cruising World magazine!

Last summer when we were sailing into Huahine in French Polynesia's Society Islands, Amanda Neal got a great photo of Molly on the bow looking for coral heads as we came through the cut. Huahine is a pretty neat place in that it is where Jimmy Buffett wrote "One Particular Harbor" and also served as the inspiration for the CSNY song "Southern Cross". 

John and Amanda Neal have a great boat, a 46' Hallberg Rassy, Mahina Tiara III and are world famous sailors, having logged almost more sea miles than any other living couple.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dolphins like The Grateful Dead

We were playing Touch of Grey and they started dancing on our bow...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Project Planning

When we were out sailing on Stella Blue there were several major items that we wanted to fix when we had enough time to haul the boat and work on her. (We have an endless list of smaller projects but these are just the two biggies.) Now that we are at Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage for a while, we have begun planning for our two major projects.

First we want to remove the old engine and install a new one. This is called “repowering” in the nautical world and we’re really looking forward to our new engine.  The original Westerbeke was a great engine but it was long in the tooth and we knew it was just a matter of time before it started having issues that our limited skills would not be able to easily fix. Also, with our desire to cruise to more remote places we really felt that we needed an extremely reliable engine. We have selected the Beta Marine 38 for our new engine. We have numerous friends who have Betas and everyone seems to find them reliable. The Beta will have more power, lower fuel consumption and is designed to be easily serviced.

Beta 38. You can see how all the items we will need to have access to
for servicing are at the front of the engine.  Baxter is SO excited!

Our second major project is to replace all of our plastic portlights with stainless steel portlights. Currently, we have several of the plastic portlights that are so sun damaged that you can’t see through them.  The damaged portlights diffuse the light below badly making it darker below than it should be. Additionally, several of the lights leak and, if we were to keep them, would need to be rebedded or replaced. 

A pretty cool company in Washington state, New Found Metals, makes a stainless steel portlight that is a direct replacement for our plastic ones. When I say “direct replacement” I mean that a new portlight should fit in the current portlight’s hole with about 8 hours worth of labor for each portlight.  The portlight replacement project is worth the time and money involved, as it will improve the safety and appearance of Stella Blue. 
Pretty stainless New Found Metals portlight.
Compare the new portlights with the old look and you can imagine what a difference this project will make!

View of the starboard side old ports.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On The Road Again...

The next day we put the boat on the hard and packed up.  I went to get the rental car while Baxter took the canvas off, and secured the boat for us to leave it for a few months.

We made our way to Atlanta to see Baxter's parents and to pick up our truck.  As the hours moved on, we were adjusting to being on land more and more and missing the simplicity of being anchored on an island somewhere.  Our diet got worse with fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner but that's just what you have to do to move forward.

We left Atlanta with a stop in Jackson and then we moved on to Salt Lake City.  As we got closer to Utah the forecast indicated a huge winter storm headed that way.  We drove to beat the storm and we were happy that as we pulled in, the snow began to fall.  It would be a fresh powder day Thursday and we would be ready to ski.

What a difference just a week makes...from being towed on a sailboat in 80 degrees to skiing down a 3,000 foot mountain, complaining about frozen toes.  I love our life!

Can you believe how much stuff we had in cubbies?
After all those miles, her bottom paint is still shiny and the best part - no crab pots on the shaft!

Canvas and headsail removed.  Van ready to be packed.

On the road again


It's been 6 months since we've seen this sign

Wasatch foothills.

Hidden Peak

Back on the lift

The Hardest 180 Miles...

We dropped the mooring ball in Dinner Key and made it over to No Name Harbor to go south down Hawk Channel.  Our estimated mileage for the day would be 67 nautical miles which is a long trip in the winter, with only 12 hours of sunlight.  We found an anchorage called Indian Key which would set us up to go through the Channel 5 bridge the next morning and then onto Yacht Channel.

We anchored in Indian Key about 5:45 p.m. - just before sunset and made sure to set the anchor hard, just like we do every time we drop it.  We had dinner and sat down to relax when our anchor alarm started to go off, indicating our anchor was probably dragging.  There was only one other boat in the anchorage and they were about a mile away, so that wasn't a concern, but if we dragged to shore and ran aground, it would be bad.  By this time it was pitch black outside and we were surrounded by crab pots.  If we moved the boat and ran over a crab pot, it could get wrapped around the shaft and could damage the prop, engine, etc - its not good, but we didn't have a choice, we had to reset the anchor.  Baxter went to the bow while I stayed at the helm (no, I couldn't even see him because it was so dark).  We pulled up the anchor and started moving guided by the chart plotter.  Baxter yelled for me to turn and I did, but the wrong way.  He ran back to the stern and said we had just run over a crab pot, at which time we both looked back to see bits of styrofoam and line being spit out of the stern.  UGH!  However, no time to deal with that as the anchor was not down.  We found a place to drop it and as we reversed to set it, it just bounced across the ground.  About this time I am really missing the crystal clear water of the Bahamas where you know what kind of bottom is below the boat.  Apparently, we were trying to anchor on old dead coral that was now just rock and our wonderful Rocna anchor wouldn't grab.  We proceeded to give it a try four more times.  We were not sure our next move if it didn't set.  On the fourth try, it appeared to hold.  We set the drag alarm again and went below.  I hesitate to say we went to sleep since I was awake every 10 minutes looking outside to see if we had moved.

The next morning we woke up, glad to have that anchoring experience behind us and on to a new beautiful day.  We went through Channel 5 bridge and had plenty of depth on the other side (Everglades National Park in Florida Bay.)  There were crab pots everywhere but since we could see them, we could deal with it.  The channel was charted at 6 feet and we saw between 7 to 9.  Yay!  Then we found a section that was a bit shallower at 5.9 (depth alarm starts beeping).  Then another at 5.6...I won't bore you with the continual decrease in water depths.  Basically, the alarm went off for about 30 minutes and we got as low as 4.4 feet - don't forget our draft is 4.2.  I think I could have reached over the edge of the boat and picked some grass off the bottom!

Well, the depth sounder stopped going off and all was good.  Until I heard the noise from the engine.  At first I couldn't figure it out - bilge?  No.  Pots in the sink?  No.  Hmmm...I took the engine cover off and YEP, there it is.  Baxter heard it now too - loud and clear.  I took the helm while he examined the damage.  There were bearings that were very unhappy and it seemed to be near the water pump.  So - our options at this point are 1) Go back the way we just came and risk running aground as the tide was now going out.  2)  Call Tow Boat U.S.  - oh wait - no, that wasn't an option we were in the Everglades.  3)  Sail - oh wait, not an option, there was zero wind.  4) Keep going.  So we chose option #4 and continually monitored the engine gauges (which were all normal at this point.) hoping that we could make it another 150 miles to Port Charlotte. We decided also to keep going through the night, despite the crab pots.  We didn't want to depend on the engine any longer than we had to and there were no ports within 80 miles of where we were and we had not seen any boats for hours.

We made it through the night on very little sleep and continual scanning of the water with a Q-Beam to see whatever crab pots we could.  As the sun rose, we were only 35 miles south of the entrance to Port Charlotte, scheduled to arrive at 1:30 p.m.  We had some breakfast and coffee and were pretty happy to be getting closer to our destination.  Kala had been on the boat since Tuesday (it was now Thursday) and was a bit ready to get off.  Baxter opened the engine cover to check on it, and all I could see was a cloud of smoke and then I heard him emphatically telling me to "TURN THE ENGINE OFF", so I did.  I asked if the engine was on fire and he said "Almost."  As he had opened the engine cover, the alternator belt flew off and apparently the alternator had seized.  Baxter was able to "McGyver" a bypass of the alternator using some line around the fly wheel and water pump, then running our Honda 2000 generator to power the electric fuel pump.  It worked - he is a genius!!  But, we were reluctant to push the engine above idle speed and we were going into a harbor we had never been.  Also, we had Tow Boat U.S. - GOLD UNLIMITED.  We called and they said they would take us to any marina we would like at no charge.  We were going to Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage that was inside locks and canals with a small dock.  No problem at all.  If your engine ever dies on you, I hope you have the same circumstances we did.  It could not have been any better - we had 7 knots of wind on the beam with relatively calm seas and we were about 8 miles offshore.  We decided to sail to the sea buoy and from there Tow Boat U.S. would meet us and pull us in to the harbor.

So, they pulled us in going about 6.5 knots and we went through the lock system and the canals as two boats tied together.  We arrived at Charlotte Harbor Boat Storage around 4 p.m. and were so tired.  Kala had been on the boat for 72 hours straight and was happy to go to shore.  We didn't have the energy to cook so we ordered a pizza and went to bed early.  We would figure out what to do with the engine the next day.

Flat waters of Florida Bay and my personal nemesis, a crab pot.
The make-shift solution Baxter rigged.  It worked!
Baxter folding the mainsail right after we hooked up to the tow.

Tow Boat U.S. after shortening the bridle to take us around corners and through locks.

In the lock (View of the stern) Tow Boat U.S. is on the bow.

Strictly Sail

The reason we picked up a mooring at Dinner Key versus anchoring was so we could dinghy to shore and catch a cab to the Apple store. Saturday a.m we received a text from our friend Steve, who lives in Key West on his Valiant 40, Chandara, and he happened to be in Miami for the Strictly Sail show. He offered to pick us up and take us to Apple. After weaving our way around the barricades of the Coconut Grove Arts festival, we met up with Steve and his friend Patricia and headed over to Dadeland mall. It turned out our video card was bad and the laptop had to be sent off to be serviced - ugh! We left it behind and Steve drove us to Little Haiti on a crusade to find a vegan restaurant - again a true adventure. The restaurant was closed so instead I found one downtown close to the boat show. Afterwards we stopped by the show hitting up Beta marine (unpredictable foreshadowing), Newfound metals and Hot Wire. We found out later that John and Amanda Neal who we sailed with last summer in the South Pacific had also been at the show but we just missed them. On display at the waterfront, they had the new Tartan 4000 which got Cruising World's Boat of the Year (Go Tartan) and we went for a look. Beautiful boats but we still love Stella Blue. By this time, we were anxious about leaving Kala so we took a cab back to the boat to take her for a walk before dark.

The next couple days involved waiting out high winds with trips to West Marine for West Florida charts, an unsuccessful attempt to find a dog park, and looking for Internet cafes. While we were at West Marine, one of the people who worked there suggested we go through Channel Five bridge and through Yacht Channel to Florida's west coast versus going all the way down to Marathon and back up. That route would save us a day and a half! That bit of info was well worth the trip to West Marine. We celebrated our last night in Miami with a big lunch at Scotty's Landing and then went back to Stella Blue, put the route in the chart plotter and were ready to head out the next day.

Love restaurants that give her water.
Love restaurants that give us beer.

Back to the States

We left The Berry's and set a course across the Great Bahama Banks heading west. It was a smooth mellow sail, which is always nice for an overnight passage. We arrived at North Rock at 4 am and despite the moonless dark sky and the fishing boats around us, we cut through the shallow inside section and our AIS and radar kept us safe. We turned south paralleling the Bimini coast line until the sun came up. That gave us a bit more southward drive than trying to fight the strong current of the Gulf Stream that would push us north.

The Gulf Stream was so calm. We have been very selective with our crossing window and it has paid off. I have seen the Neuse River in North Carolina look much worse than what we had across the Gulf Stream that day.

As soon as we had a cell signal, we took our phones off "airplane mode" and called US Customs to get permission to come back in the country as well as the Apple Store to make an appt for the next day. The ease and convenience was nice to have but we could already feel the twinge of missing the simple life the Bahamas offers, not to mention the friends we made and the wonderful experiences we enjoyed.
Taking a quick nap while Baxter is on watch
Miami skyline
Taking down the Bahamian courtesy flag in the Gulf Stream.