Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bringin' it Home

The title really should be "Bringing HER Home" :} Boats and ships have been referred to as 'she' and 'her' since ... umm .. well, .. forever I guess.  That's just the way things are in the world.

Here begins a saga; the culmination of weeks of paper-chasing, faxing, emailing, phone-calling, banking, documenting, insuring and talking taxes. There is a lot to this. I did not know how deeply involved I would get into the process, but I am glad I did. It'll certainly help when the eventual "we have to sell her now" day rolls around (hopefully a long time from now). Since I opted not to engage a broker for myself, it was a huge learning process. Luckily I was surrounded by some good (and honest) people and the folks involved were very meticulous to make certain that when the delivery day finally rolled around there would be absolutely no questions about clear title, insurance, financing and ownership. Some pieces were overly legalistic, I think but in the long run I am glad I sought out professional maritime legal counsel and that the contract process was so thoroughly worked through. This is a big-ticket item; we are rolling all our dice and are all-in with this. To make a big mistake would be devastating.

To begin with, we finally found the boat.  Robin and I flew up to Providence, RI and rented a car to spend a couple of days with the sailing vessel "Challenge" in Newport.  We had been warned that the weather would be rough and were not disappointed. Blizzard-ish best described the conditions for our visit. Still, it was warm and cozy below and we poked around and visited with the broker/owner, Richard, for some time.

He graciously gave us a tour of the area showing us the amazing 'Mansions of Newport' area. With our extra time we too drove around and scouted some cool places to visit. On the second day of the visit we informed Richard that were serious about a purchase and would strongly consider this boat. ... then we left. ... Then we went back ...

Our second visit was much like the first. Even though we 'sort-of' knew our way around a little, it was still foreign territory; both geographically and from the buyer/broker part. The boat was still covered in shrink-wrap and winterized for the cold weather (and at 14 degrees, it was pretty darned cold). We visited some more, formulated and asked more questions, got more history and got more comfortable with the idea of owning a boat that was a> quite a bit bigger than we had originally planned and 2>quite a bit more expensive than we'd originally planned.  Still, we had a heart for this make and model having become familiar with another one just like it, only older, down in Annapolis.
A few months earlier we'd visited a smaller version of this boat and liked it really well. As a matter of fact both Robin and I were rather upset when we found out it had been sold to someone else (even though we weren't ready to make an offer, we still liked it well enough to be disappointed that it was no longer available for us to consider). I think that was the day we realized that we liked this brand enough to settle in on it and find one for us.  We enjoyed our time with Richard and the new boat and thought about it even harder.  Then we left.

A couple of days later I emailed an offer, it was countered and we accepted it. Then the wheels began spinning! 

We returned to Newport to oversee the survey (where the boat is inspected by a professional familiar with the model) and to begin setting up contract pieces.

It took a couple of weeks, but we got the down payment made, put the right signatures in the right places and eventually closed on the boat. SHE WAS OURS! ...  ok, now what ???

We had to get enough stuff on board to permit us to travel from Newport, RI to Deale, MD. This would be a relatively easy 3 day trip (so we thought) but we needed to prepare for very cold running. We shopped for cold weather gear, which is counter-intuitive to going sailing in the tropics, and waited for a hole in the storms to show itself so we could bring her down. We waited .... and waited ... and waited ...  but it was one storm right after the other. To make the best of it, we secured an early occupancy agreement and made a truck-load trip from Virginia to come start claiming the space.  It was fun, it was cold .. actually, it was pretty miserable in the snowstorms but it was nonetheless fun thinking about what we were doing. 

 Then, we fell down ...

After having made numerous trips from the truck to the boat and back, and after having spent 3 or 4 days on this most recent trip we were getting pretty used to the cycle of a snowy blizzard followed by rain followed by a teaser of blue sky. Wash, rinse repeat for a week. ..  On this particular day, it had cleared out and a lot of snow had melted from the dock and we'd been happily loading bins aboard while not having to trudge delicately on the frozen path cut out by the snow blower.

Important to note that the step off of the back of the boat is just about the same height as the dock. There is about 18 inches of open space (into the water) between the dock and the boat and we'd been cautiously but confidently making that step in the worst of weather. On this occasion, the dock looked clear and dry but was actually coated with black ice. With my arms loaded I stepped from the boat and onto the icy dock with my right foot which promptly shot out from under me. My left leg raked the edge of the dock wood from ankle-to-knee and the fall absolutely knocked the air from lungs with pain. I knew Robin was behind me, but I could not speak to say the simple word "ice" to warn her and she stepped out after me and fell as well. Now we were both down on the dock, at night and injured. I could not move much and did not know how bad the injury might be yet.

It took a few minutes, but we both got our wits about us and struggled to our feet and quite literally skated back to the truck, The dock had frozen again and was treacherously slippery all the way along.  Thankfully, Robin was not dinged up as badly as I was but nonetheless it was going to be a sore morning for both of us.  My injury developed into a rather serious infection which I am still battling some 10 weeks later.  Robin suffered some bruising and scrapes but was thankfully spared the infection part. Then .. I left.  I had to go to work, after all.  Boy was it an uncomfortable few days.

OK; when all this was said and done, and April was fast coming upon us, it was time to move the boat.  We elected to take on a 4th crewmember because it eased the watch rotation and we left Newport at 8 A.M. on 3/29/14 after having fueled up and filed the water tank the day before.

Robin, Richard, John and myself set out for a 360 nautical mile journey that would take us out of the Newport harbor, past Block Island and out into the Atlantic. We would pass east of Long Island and enter the Delaware Bay, rounding at Cape May, NJ. From there we would head north up the Bay until it becomes the Delaware River and cross through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (C&D) and enter the Chesapeake east of Wilmington, DE. After that it was a straight (well pretty much) run south on the Chesapeake to enter Herring Bay and our marina; Herrington Harbor North..

The morning was beautiful and perfectly calm ... and freezing cold (again). Even as early as the 2nd hour I was fully appreciating the money we'd spent on top end cold weather gear.  There was some warming by the sun, but that would soon run away with the approaching front. We left the bay south of Providence and headed into open water. This would take us a bit farther from shore than we'd been before and was to be our longest non-stop run ever. We've boon out on open water in both the Pacific and the Atlantic, and we've been aboard for a longer stretch, but this was to be our first actual 'passage'. Exciting :)

It clouded up and started to rain in the early afternoon and the wind was finicky for a while so we motor-sailed along making 8 knots some times. Then it began to rain steadily and the wind seemed to stabilize and increase so we ran some sails for a while. The waves increased and the rain started to become 'driving' so we knew we were into a bit of a storm system. It (the storm system) continued to develop overnight and it was a genuine Nor'easter before too long.  I think everything would've gone so much better if we would've waited a week, but we had what we had (time off work, end of the dock lease and the availability of Richard and John. I am not a fan of 'get-there-itis' because it most often leads to trouble, and in this case we were inconvenienced by some rough weather, but never threatened. In fact it worked out for the best.

The first night was rolly and tippy and we sailed with strong winds and a good amount of 'heel' which made sleeping comfortably quite impossible. We were on 3 hour 'watches' at the helm and my watch was from 3 to 6 (A.M. or P.M. Between watches you were expected to rest and pretty much nothing more except find food and maybe take care of minor chores. It worked out pretty well for a first crack at passage life, although I must again mention that it was just plain cold all the time and I couldn't wait to get snuggled into the sleeping bag and warm up.

When we rounded Cape May, we went dead into the wind and were facing 30 to 40 knots on the nose. The waves in the bay were not big, really, but they were spaced and shaped in a way that would let us pretty much fly from the top of one into the side of the next. This is the perfect definition of 'pounding' into the waves and it went on for many hours.  My watch that night was dark, cold, rainy and a very rough ride. Earler, when I was sitting below I was nearly lifted from my seat then slammed back down hard enough that I feared a back injury .. well, at least it felt that way to a cold, tired crewman.  My watch took me into daylight and I saw the wind and rain subside and made the entrance to the C&D canal.
Finally some peace and quiet and I handed off the helm to Richard to take us through.

We opted to stop for fuel, not because we really needed fuel, but because a short break would be really nice. Then we ran ever so softly aground in the shallow marina at low tide and had to wait an hour or so to get lifted the extra couple of inches we needed to proceed in :). Fueled and ready for the last leg, Robin motored us out of the canal and south down the Chesapeake where it was finally a sunny and warmer experience (actually into the 40's!). 

Crossing under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge is a pretty cool thing considering the times we'd driven over it and looked at boats below

. Now we knew we were getting looked at, maybe with envy and maybe as foolhardy but it didn't matter. It was a kind of 'coming full circle' moment and it also meant that the home gate was soon at hand.

We got in just at dark and were tied up at a temporary dock by 8 P.M. ... mission accomplished!

Thinking back, I am so very glad we had the rough weather on this trip, with the watchful eye of the captain and previous owner who knew both the route and the boat.  The trip served to demonstrate to us, as no sea trial could, how well built and stable and solid this boat really is.  Twelve foot seas, 40 knots of wind and driving rain and we stayed dry, on course and confident. This was probably the best way it could've happened and I am sure we have been shown that we can trust this vessel to go where we want to go. If we do our best to avoid the rough stuff, we may not have to demonstrate the real capabilities of the boat but if something comes up and we get into big water and nasty conditions we know now that she is up to the task and will shake it off and pull us through. That is what she was built for after all :)

Delivery complete; now we begin moving aboard and preparing to set sail!!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Big Reveal

The big reveal.

Want to try something really hard? Come up with a name for the boat that is going to be both your home and caravan for the next few years.
I’ve given it years (literally) of thought and finally came up with the name … …. Umm … wait … I can’t just do it this way …. YOU have to read through the whole background; the logic, the thought-tossing and dock wandering episode, before you can learn this.
OK, sit right back and I'll tell the tale … It became readily apparent during our early planning stages that we would likely rename any boat we purchased. The names we walked by, read about and tossed around were pretty much common ones with the occasional extreme of innovation mixed in.

As I understand it, “Obsession” is the most common boat name, and for a sailboat “Wind catcher” or “Dream Catcher” comes in a close second. We’ve seen some really cute ones too (i.e. the “Black Squirrel”, “White Rabbit”, “Island Time” and “Pier Pressure”). Leave it to people to be creative … “Arrrr! Rated” was a favorite and “Yachtsea” and “Pair a docs” are clever. There are websites devoted to boat names much as there are books and websites devoted to baby names. It’s a big deal to have the boat named (OK, I guess some of them aren’t named, but it is rare … and most folks even name their dinghies!). Boat naming is all about personality; either that of the owner, company, situation or of the boat itself. Certainly “Drifter” can be about any of those situations but “Money Pit” is likely to be a gas-guzzler :)

When Robin and I decided to chase a new name for the future boat, we wanted it to reflect the whole package; who we were as a couple, where we were in life’s journey what the purpose of owning a sailboat was all about and what the temperament of the boat should be. Easy-peasy, yes? Not quite … I’m not sure if I volunteered, got volunteered, or just mentioned that I was thinking of a couple of good candidate names if we ever got a boat, but suddenly I found myself in the position of trust and writing down every kind of name that came into my head. Seems it would be my job to come up with the name. Robin said she trusted me to come up with a good one and that we’d go with whatever I decided. Really??

OK, game on! So … while it didn’t really become an ‘obsession’, it did occupy my thinking for a while. I just started hearing things that sounded promising but nothing really jumped out at me. Every time I walked the docks at either the home marina or at any of the ones we visited, I had in the back of my mind that I might stumble across someone else’s idea that would work for us. What I discovered though, was that I wanted a name which conveyed more than just a cuteness, quip, or status symbol ("Legal-Ease", etc...). I began to formulate a line of thinking about this that moved into a “making a statement” mode. What I wanted was for the name of our boat to speak to those who know us, know where we’ve been and to those who will come to know us and to some degree define us by our chosen name. This … is a tall order.

It’s not that we haven’t been down this road before. Those who attended our wedding know that the theme was ‘The Pieces Fit’. Now, we didn’t originate that idea, but when we heard it (thanks forever, John) we knew immediately that it was appropriate and was a perfect match for what we were about to undertake. The puzzle theme wedding was awesome and worked well to describe where we came from and what we intended to so. That’s what I wanted to capture for the boat naming.

Well, inevitably it happened. The idea started to congeal and I actually began to 'work' on some really great themes. I got to thinking about some of our favorite places, things, songs, movies, quips and activities. I thought about some of our 'pet' sayings, favorite movie quotes, kids names' acronyms and tributes to someone or some thing that has made this journey possible. I started a list and ... it grew. I pulled from several different, wide-ranging themes while grasping for that elusive 'perfect' name. Falling back on our wedding theme, which was based on the idea that 'the pieces fit' with respect to our lives and dreams, I liked "Puzzled", "The Pieces Fit", and even "Ongoing Honeymoon" as candidates. I considered using the theme from what is ostensibly "our" song, 'A whole New World', from the movie "Aladdin" and cosidered "Magic Carpet" and "Whole New World". Robin and I don't have a huge, long history together, less than 8 years of marriage as of this writing. They've been exciting and very full years though and we've had the chance to see and do some amazing things as well as had the chance to work through some trials and hardships.
What we've both discovered though, is that we really cherish the times when we're not on the go so much; when we can relax and take things slowly (think "Island TIme") or take some time away from the demands and worries to play carefree for a while (think "Hakuna Matatta"). I'm sure you can see where this is going...
The list grew. Ultimately, it came down to a day when I had the idea that yes, I'd like to name the boat in such a way as to reflect our goal for the sailing lifestyle. That is; slowing down, taking it kind of easy and letting what comes along be enough adventure for us. We also know that sailing can be demanding and take a lot of skill so gee .. how do those two concepts mesh. I finally found it in music.

Robin and I have both been relatively musical by nature. She has a great voice and plays piano and I can indeed carry a tune in a bucket and given 6 properly tuned guitar strings can pull off a C, F and G chord pattern well enough to do a tune. Music has been part of our relationship all along and that's what I thought should go forward with us. I finally found a name. And I sat on it for a year.

Now, it was a different game; I had one, was pretty settled that it was exactly right and now wanted to test it against other options, both on my list and what I was seeing on the docks. It held up and I told Robin I had selected a name. She didn't want to know ... I sat on it for another year. Finally, when it was becoming apparent that we had found the boat that we wanted, she let me know that she was ready to learn the name I'd picked. Is this pressure or what? I wrote her a letter (some of the material within is a re-hash of what's been said, but I figure the full text is best in spite of any redundancy). I read it verbatim while we sitting aboard our current boat and dreaming about our next boat. This was about 6 months ago:

     “Robin, I chose this name : Today I have the opportunity that is seldom afforded the average person. It's truly a "much ado about something" event, and has been surprisingly consuming over the past few years. Robin, you have been incredibly gracious, patient and trusting as I decided on and then lived with this boat name in my head for what has been, now, over two years. We've seen a lot of boats in our wanderings. They're named after people, places, jobs, or whimsy. Some have been very creative and some have been questionable; who wants a sailboat named "Storm Rider"? Still, to each his own and it's not OUR boat. I wanted a name; not just to identify the boat, but to identify us. I wanted a name that would speak, in one word, to the chasing after and realization of our dream and that reflects our new life aboard. I wanted a name that people will "get"; that they'll understand and go "yeah, that's a good description".

I gave it a ton of thought. I made lists, studied boat owner's forums, magazines, boat sales websites and even "most popular boat names" Google results. I wrapped up boating with music, our favorite movies, Star Trek, and stuff from our jobs, families and friends. But, as in all things, one day it hit my list and I knew the search was over. I decided this would do, and that I'd sit on it until something maybe changed my mind. The opposite has happened, actually.

OK ... enough blather. Here's what I have: The word is a musical term. Perfect because we both like and come from musical backgrounds. Perfect because we both want to be in tune with each other and with our situation, perfect because we both understand the rythym and tempo and dynamics of our lives together. Our lives have been a clear example of wanting to live in the slow lane and finding ourselves swallowed up by the frenzy of making a living, dealing with life from one crisis to the next and trying to keep to our plan along the way. We've been surpirsed, dismayed and diverted along the way, but somehow we've managed to come to this point intact and still looking forward to the next step. The lead up, or prelude, was amazing; getting married, setting up life and then thoroughly enjoying it. The next steps were all part of this symphony of life we call marriage; the sonata, or opening composition, that was orchestrated to keep us going forward and the rondo, or section that has held us to the allegro pace in our jobs and the routine that is day to day life and then the minuets; the vivacious and social outgoings with cherished friends and awesome acquaintances that we've been blessed to know in our years together.

This leads us to the next section of our musical masterpiece, this thing orchestrated, arranged and scored specifically for us by God who knows what plans He has for us ... those plans to prosper us. I chose this name from the movement of a symphony that means: 'slowly'. We've talked about 'Life and Walking Speed' since the beginning, and I wanted to make sure that was reflected in out boat's name. But I also wanted it to speak to the idea that it was US, as partners in this amazingly choreographed dance called life and as soul-mates heading into the new life defined by slowing down, taking in the sights and sounds, and resting from the 'presto' pace of the rat race.

The name means: literally, "at ease" in a musical sense. That portion of a musical work marked to be played in a graceful, leisurely manner but not to the point of 'Grave', not a crawl but a relaxing walk. To me this captures what we have been chasing after; ending the madhouse chase and coming to things at a completely unhurried pace.

But, there's a second definition: While this name is a tempo mark denoting a slow, leisurely manner of things it is also a definition of dance. “That dance being between a man and a woman on the ballet floor”. And although I've never thought of myself as a candidate for the ballet floor, I have .. and we have, been very aware of the dance we've been doing in our lives together. That dance, sometimes involving slow cheek to cheek moments and sometimes a frenetic juggling act has been what others see as our togetherness. For the most part, outsiders have witnessed our dance and wanted to know how we do it, why we smile and what music we follow that keeps us happy. I know we are happy to share when we can and I expect that'll continue to happen; maybe even more. The dance, a part of the pas-de-duex that is slowed down, involves the ballerina and her partner performing slow, lyrical movements requiring great skill, balance and timing; the movements of these partners demonstrating great control and ease.

This is what I wanted to capture for us and this is where I believe we are headed and this is why I've chosen the simplest of names: ‘Adagio’." I hope you like it. ...
 … We are now in possession of our new boat (see that blog entry) and she is registered in the state of Rhode Island and documented with the U.S. Coast as "S/V Adagio". We still have to put out to open water to do the renaming ceremony, but that's the fun part!