Saturday, 15 November 2014

On the Road...

After two final garage sales, we packed most of our remaining possessions into a 10' x 10' storage locker. The remains made us well known contributors to Goodwill. The sensation of being able to pack your life into a 10' x 10' space was extremely liberating!

We rented a 30' RV, and conned my parents, and Leanne's parents to accompany us down to Annapolis, where we would find a boat... hopefully! SHOULD be an easy process. Given we had already attempted to buy a boat twice previously, I was a little nervous.

Off to Annapolis, on a hope, a prayer, and a rented RV.

First stop was at the Fort Erie border crossing. With an RV loaded with boating supplies, and necessities, we expected the worse. Fortunately, we got an agent who was fascinated with our adventure, and more interested in our sailing experience, than our crossing. After realising he still had a job to do, he came around to "see faces" inside the RV. Imagine the look on his face when he opened the door to see two full size Alaskan Malamutes waiting there to greet him... along with the seven of us. He politely closed the door, walked back around to the driver's door, handed back the passports, and wished us a good trip!

While our departure was scheduled for 7am, stuff happened, and we made a hasty departure around the crack of 4PM. As a result, we found ourselves scrambling to make up lost time. With a ten hour drive sandwiched between our departure, and scheduled boat search appointments we needed to make miles. We switched drivers a few times over the early hours, before I settled in for the night shift. Suddenly, that romantic image I had of driving down the open road in an RV lost some appeal. None the less, we made it to within 3 hours of Annapolis before stopping at a rest stop for the night. At 6AM we were awakened by a security guard, advising we couldn't park there for more than 3 hours. I wondered if it had even been three hours, but nonetheless, we had boats to see.

First stop was Tracys Landing, MD where we had arranged to see two catamarans. The Wildcat was a 36' with a beam at 24'. We were excited about it, as it seemed to be within budget, in good shape, and offer more than the space we required. What's that saying about pictures can be deceiving?

Next was a Gemini. Our previous two failed surveys were on Geminis. Still we held out hope for this one to be a good boat. Not so much. It was time to re-visit our plan, so we asked the broker to show us what our money would get us in a monohaul. He went back to the office to do the research, while we cruised through the small town of Annapolis in our rented 30' RV. Did I mention it read "Cruise Canada" and "Rent This RV" all over the side?

After hopelessly searching for parking for we finally found a spot where we could park the 'Griswald' mobile across 4 spots, hoping we wouldn't get towed. The dockside pub was across the channel, so we waited for a water taxi for my parents who couldn't walk around. That's when we met Duane and Julie, of Boomdiadah, who offered to ferry them across in their dinghy. We learnt they were also from Toronto, and doing what we hope to do.

We enjoyed a lunch on the dock, wondering if we would ever become like 'those people' anchored out in front of us. Upon heading back to see the broker, we wondered it much more loudly! Turned out, to achieve our primary objective of 3 cabins, our budget would need to be tweaked a little... and some! We selected two boats to see the next day, and made the 30 minute drive to the nearest KOA, and settled in for the night.

Next morning, we were up bright and early, to see our next two prospects. Both were Beneteaus, that were originally used as charter boats. We accepted the downside of buying a 'charter boat' provided it had 'good bones'. Both appeared to fit the description, but one had a new motor, and appeared a bit cleaner. Either could work. We pulled the trigger on a 2004 Beneteau 39, with a 2011 engine. It was now Thursday, and the earliest we could get a survey done was Monday.

Back to the KOA, we decided to enjoy some downtime... if there can be such a thing, with 7 people, and 2 Alaskan Malamutes co-existing on a 30' RV. On Friday, we headed to Washington DC, and let the world know we weren't 'from around here' when we tried to figure out the subway. On a plus side, we made it to The Mall, Vietnam Memorial, and Lincoln Memorial. There was a Vietnam Reunion taking place while we were there, so we got to listen into many stories, and thank the vets for their service. It was a long day, but well worth the trip.

Monday morning we headed back into Annapolis to meet the surveyor at the boat yard... with our fingers crossed! A couple hours later, while hanging around the boat yard in the 'Griswald mobile', we finally got word, the hull and deck were sound... save for the need of a new bottom! Didn't I say 'never again' after the one on Tranquilo in the spring? We scheduled a launch and sea trial for the next day. We also asked the boat yard if we could park the camper there, rather than making the 30 mile trip to the KOA each day. When they agreed, I am positive they had NO idea what they were in for!Long story short, if we wanted to let anyone know where to find us, "RV" was all we needed to say!

By the time the hull dried after the sea trial, we had come to terms on the final purchase agreement, and started scrapping the bottom. We started painting the next day, and had the bottom finished in two days. We had Ryajen in the water on the Friday. Nearly two weeks after we began living on a rented RV with 7 people and two malamutes! We were a bit anxious to spreadout. I'm almost certain our parents were MORE than a bit anxious to get back to normal living as well! Having achieved their purpose in seeing us get a boat, and launching her, they made plans to head back on the Sunday.

On Saturday we made plans for a bon voyage dinner, and to celebrate my inlaws anniversary. As  a final exclamation mark of the 'Griswald Family Reckneck Road Trip', we made quite a scene when turning a corner, heading back to the marina. Seems we forgot to close an outside locker on the RV. As we turned a corner, our possessions scattered throughout the intersection. I wasn't sure what to think when we stopped, and I saw a large, scruffy man approaching me with an axe, and camp stove... until I realised it was ours! Fitting end to a fun chapter!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Free At Last... Gulp!

We exited the 'Winter of Freeze' more determined than ever to avoid ever needing a winter coat again.. We listed our investment condo for sale in April, thinking it's sale would help finance our move to live aboard. Unfortunately, shortly after listing, there was a pending complex, that were sure to force a nasy special assessment. As a result, the property became poisoned in the eyes of most agents in town. We dropped the price.

As May came, we realized it was time to stop complaining about the winter, and prepare for summer. We started on preparations for the boat. First up was refinishing the bottom. It was a job I was looking forward to about as much as I was looking forward to three root canals, and a prostate exam on the same day! None the less, I set out. Not being one to leave till tomorrow, what I can have someone else do today, I paid someone to sandblast the bottom for me. It was a VERY good spend of $800.

After the bottom was prepped, the job went well, and well, and ok, and... is it done YET??!! We completed it somewhere between the time the Leafs (Toronto Maple) fell, and when the leaves began to fall. Did I mention it's a long process?

As May turned to June, we finally got launched, only to realize out depth gage was no longer working. The popular assumption was the transducer got painted over in the bottom process. A haul out appeared imminent. First, however I chose to start trouble shooting from within. Quickly I discovered that Autohelm instruments were old, and old meant not really worth replacing. I invested in a new Raymarine combo pack, as well as a new GPS unit. I scheduled a haul with the marina, to change out the transducer, and gathered the supplies to make the switch. One hour before I was scheduled to have the boat lifted, the marina called and advised they were double booked, and couldn't help us for about two weeks. No depth instruments in Georgian Bay can be a problem, so we were grounded until a solution could be found. Fortunately, the idea came over me, to try the new depth gage with the old transducer, and behold, it worked! Next up getting the new GPS working.

After tinkering around with various configurations, I settled on mounting it right beside the helm. Then I realized it was supposed to be three feet away from the helm. No worries, I only wasted two days routing the wires to the helm. None the less, we adapted. I also heard of a technique to run the transducer through the hull. It worked for a whole 30 minutes! It was time to sell the boat!

As August approached we still owned two houses, and a boat that was less than ideal for us. The concept of selling Tranquilo and buying a roomier option south of the border started to gain traction. We listed the boat in late July, at a price we could live with, and one we hoped would bring a quick sale. While we were trying to learn a life without deadlines, we set mid August as the drop date to make things happen. One week away from our deadline all seemed lost... we were certain another nasty winter was our destiny. Then the miracle happened. First, the impossible to sell condo sold! Next, we got an offer on the boat. Finally, we got an offer on the house. All within 3 days of each other. A little negotiating, and we were suddenly facing another reality. The reality that in a little over a month, we were homeless, without a plan!

And that story is a good one!

Friday, 25 April 2014

Everyone's Gotta Have a Dream: The Winter of More Winter

Everyone's Gotta Have a Dream: The Winter of More Winter: As fall turned to winter, the dread of another season hibernating was already setting in. Since I was a boy, I knew my destiny was of sun, s...

The Winter of More Winter

As fall turned to winter, the dread of another season hibernating was already setting in. Since I was a boy, I knew my destiny was of sun, sand, a life lived on or near the ocean. I tried to ignore the onset of winter, by riding my motorbike as much as possible, as late as possible. By early December, the bike was putting up a stern argument, starting only reluctantly.

We planned a trip to St Maarten, leaving December 7, to make up for the summer that wasn't, and research the island as a future destination. You may recall that Leanne has a dutch father, which could give us a pass onto the island. I had flown to the island 25 years ago, and remembered thinking we were landing on the water. I looked forward to this beach side landing again. Unfortunately, our window seat booking, ended up being a bulk head seat in between two windows... I'm sure those on the beach still enjoyed our approach. Fortunately our hotel was right beside the airport beach, so we had ample time to take in the many landings from the beach. The most exciting landings are when the 747's come in. I t'd up perfectly, an Air France approach, until my camera battery died, just before the snap of the perfect pick! Not to be deterred, I set up a perfect pick of the KLM the next day, until a woman jumped into my frame as I snapped. These planes don't lend much time for a do over!

While in St Maarten, we looked at some real estate, did some tours, and got a flavour of day to day life. Simpson bay is a beautiful location to anchor, in spite of the fact it was still sparsely populated in December. We were told most of the cruisers would arrive soon. Unfortunately, any real estate with a peek of the ocean, in St Maarten, was beyond our reach. We filed this island under the 'maybe one day'.

Upon our return to Canada, we were greeted by the first snow storm of winter. As you may recall, we were greeted by many more, as the winter wore on, and on, and on, and... I digress! Over the winter, we spent our time hibernating, and discussing every possibility, to ensure our escape from dreary hell, before the snow flies on the winter of 2014-15. It seems that I have made Leanne's head spin, as a result of my constant ideas, new ideas, and revisions on the new ideas. I'd like to think I'm just being detailed. She would like to think I would just figure it out, and get it done!

In February, we went to a seminar hosted by Florida Home Finders. We listened to a speaker tell us about what happened to the Florida Real Estate market. He also shared with us, some insight into buying property in Florida. As we investigated further, we came to realise the Florida market is still priced at approximately a 50% discount over 2006 prices. We picked up a book written by David Altro, and came to better understand the rules of owning Florida property, as well as do's and don'ts of everything from property ownership, to operating a business there as well. Perhaps we may have found our new home!?

However, I am the guy, allegedly, who makes Leanne's head spin with my many ideas? Not willing to rest on one idea, we also visited Dominican Republic in April. Through our many travels, we have seen a few excursions that do not exist in the DR. We felt it important to visit there, and investigate those possibilities. We chose to visit the Sosua area. I last visited Sosua 25 years ago, while in college. It had changed a bit! While there, we viewed some real estate, did some excursions, enjoyed the sun, and had a few mojitos. We fell in love with one penthouse condo, and thought about putting in an offer. Unfortunately, we still have two houses to sell in Canada. Rumour has it, financing in the DR is tricky at best. We also found a beautiful property in Cabarete, but still, we have two houses to sell in Canada. We settled for more mojitos on the beautiful Cabarete beach.

Thursday was excursion day, we ventured out to Paradise Island, for incredible snorkeling. Paradise Island is located close to Haiti, close to the fishing village, Punta Rusa. The village was once a thriving resort area, but the government shut it down in the late 90's, due to environmental concerns. The area is now coming back as a resort area, but the charm is not lost. As for Paradise Island, it is literally a sand bar, about 25 minutes from shore. It is in the middle of a large reef, and other than sand, there are only 6 tiki huts, and great snorkeling. The excursion features a 2 hour bus ride, 25 minute ride, in 'Dominican speed boats', and 2 hours to snorkel, drink, snorkel some more, drink some more. On the return to shore, they take you on a tour through a river lined by Mangroves. We witnessed the marine life, and raw beauty the island offers.

Leanne was not keen on the two hour bus ride, but I insisted we experience this excursion, as a means of evaluating the possibility of developing a similar excursion. She left with no regrets, after seeing just how special Paradise Island was.

Nearing the conclusion of our Dominican trip, we had many discussions about how suitable this country was as a future home, and location to start a business. Dominican has some beautiful country side, and even more beautiful beaches. It is still very much an affordable island, and it is clear the Dominicans are making an attempt to keep the island cleaner than has been in the past. While Dominicans are truly some of the friendliest people in the world, it is very common to experience Dominicans who will go to great lengths to con money from unwitting tourists. They often forget their English language skills, as soon as they are questioned or challenged. Perhaps con is a harsh word, since their ploys usually are innocent attempts to guilt a few bucks, or collect money for something that is free. But it can wear on you over time.

Corruption in the DR, is not the worst in the Caribbean, but it does exist. We left the DR feeling that perhaps there are better places to venture first, as we begin our adventure.

So here we are, 4 months away from our planned departure, with a framework of our plan, a boat we hope will cooperate, and a teenage son who THINKS he is coming with... maybe. Stay tuned, as we head into crunch time, and hopefully figure all this out!!

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Everyone's Gotta Have a Dream: A Peek Back, Glance Ahead

Everyone's Gotta Have a Dream: A Peek Back, Glance Ahead: As our 2013 boating season wound down, we headed out in late September, for a final cruise of the season. First I spent most of the day twea...

A Peek Back, Glance Ahead

As our 2013 boating season wound down, we headed out in late September, for a final cruise of the season. First I spent most of the day tweaking this, playing with that, pretending like I actually knew something about diesel engines. We had some company arrive late afternoon, just in time for a quick run up Penetang Harbour.

We started the engines as impressive as any time this summer, and they ran like roaring lions, as we un-did all lines. I pulled the boat out of the slip, and began our snake like route out of the marina. Round the entrance pillars, we ploughed toward the gas docks, for final pump out, and a diesel top up. As we slipped into fuel dock 1, I waited for the adventure. To my surprise, no stall, no threat of stall. No adventure! It was a flawless docking.

A few moments later, we were gassed up, stink free, and ready to give it a final run. Again, as we pulled off the dock, we were excitement free! We headed out into Penetang harbour, and revved up... the engine responded with a determined push. It was like Tranquilo was seeking our commitment to a return in 2014. Guess she had been left at the dock for too long in seasons past, and wanted to ensure we were planning to give her at least one more year.

We continued to the top of the harbour, where we realised it was getting late, and decided to head back in. The trip back to the marina was event free as the route out, and I began to worry that our summer of excitement was coming to an end. I slowed down, put Tranquilo in neutral, and anything else I could, to get a glimpse of the excitement that lied ahead. But Tranquilo wasn't playing.

As we entered the marina, the last dock supported a strip of about 6 boaters, sitting on lawn chairs, having a drink. It was as if they were there to watch an event. Not sure if this was coincidence, or if our reputation preceded us. If the latter, I'm sure they were disappointed.

We slipped round the last turn, into idle, to approach our dock, and nothing... er no stall! Into the dock slip, into reverse for a little burst, and still, no argument from Lady Tranquilo!! It was like a teenager not giving attitude about having to clean his room! I was stunned, pleased, disillusioned, and excited about a season ahead. It reminded me that sometimes boating is fun! We put Tranquilo to bed for the winter, the following week, and prepared her for winter.

Can't wait to tell you more about all the winter preparations in store, and plans for the season ahead!

Monday, 3 February 2014

A Season Past

So it's been almost a full season of boating since we last up dated. So much has happened. So many  expectations have been met, and some not so much.

Firstly, an update on our engines. We went out almost every weekend of the summer, through labour day. Every one of those weekends saw some sort of mechanical problem. Most of it was the engine stalling. In late August, I got to poking around the engine myself. I know about as much about diesel engines, as politicians know about modesty. None the less, I can read an owners manual, and have been known to poke around the Internet from time to time. What I discovered is that most diesel problems are a result of bad gas. Unfortunately, I discovered this after the marina switched out the fuel pump ($400), rebuilt the injectors ($1400) and tinkered with the boat for over 3 months.

Cedar Springs - Beausoleil Island
We replaced the fuel we started the season with, and added some Seafoam to help clean out any remaining residue. Almost instantly, we made progress. We headed out to Cedar Springs, relatively even free. Once we arrived at Cedar Springs, we positioned for anchoring, and stalled only once. Still once too many! Through the weekend, I continued to tinker, and discovered how to adjust the idol. I realised the limiter screw was loose, and tightened it up. We headed back to port, hopeful we had found the issue. We managed to go start to finish without a stall, for the first time all summer! However, we did have an engine warning light come on, just to ensure we didn't get complacent! After topping up the oil, we finished the trip.

Next weekend, we headed back out to Cedar Springs for Labour Day Weekend. The trip out was relatively calm, in spite of miserable weather. The engine coughed a couple of times, but no stalls. Starting to feel good!

We enjoyed a nice weekend with my in-laws. Leanne's parents, spent the summer deeply concerned about the safety of journeying out with us novices. Not being overly comfortable on water, it took us a full summer to convince them to visit. Once out on the water we enjoyed relaxing times on the boat, anchored closer to shore than we'd managed all summer. Sunday morning, we decided to head home, to prepare my son for his last year of high school.

The engine started, and we headed out. We managed to get the anchor up with little hassle, and less weed than we had encountered all summer. Out through the narrow channel entrance, and toward Penetang, we motored due to light wind. A quarter of the way back, another warning light. We had already discovered a leaking oil gasket, and assumed the warning light to be the oil indicator. On further investigation, I came to realise it was the temp light. Naturally, I assumed it was the impeller. Two weeks prior, we asked the marina to replace it. They took the impeller out, checked it, and put it back in, claiming it was fine, charging us $165.

I made a quick call to said marina, and believe a choice word or two MAY have slipped out. We put the jib up and used what ever wind we could muster, to keep our momentum, as I shut down the engine. We continued at a snails pace, but were moving toward our destination. As we crossed to main channel from Midland, to open water, and started into Penetang bay, the wind died. We may have still gotten in but I'm not sure my son would have gotten to school before the end of the first semester. As we needed a new plan, I recalled a conversation I had with our first boating friend, Cam, of Las Breezas, several weeks prior.

Cam had an impeller problem in mid July, and described to us how he was able to lash his dinghy to the side of the boat, using it to power home. I'd never done such a thing, but "lashed" was such a descriptive word, I was certain I could figure it out. We tied the boat on, forward, aft, spring lines each way, and started the outboard. I left my son man the dinghy, as I climbed back to safety aboard Tranquilo. As we picked up speed, I considered the possibility we might make it back. Suddenly we were at 5 knots!! Then we entered the inner harbour.

If you have ever been in the inner harbour of Penetang bay, on a weekend, you know it's a busy place. Factor in that it's a long, narrow harbour, being in a dinghy, lashed to the side of a 12 ton sailboat, isn't such a great place to be. What's more, I made a slight miscalculation in lashing the dinghy to the port side. It would be first to shoulder the large wakes of the many oncoming power cruisers. First there was a 35' Carver, heading past us, toward open water, as though there was a fire. The dinghy bounced, popped, nearly slid under Tranquilo, followed by a few more choice words. I issued a SECUITY that we were coming in with engine problems, dinghy lashed... many listened, and slowed right down. My already anxious son used more choice words, with others. My in-laws sat quietly, and Leanne expressed her feelings about two screaming maniacs, yelling like soccer fans! The conversations peaked with each of Leanne and Daeyten pledging that their "boating days are done", just before we entered the marina, sat beside the entrance, concerned for our safety.

For the first time in several weeks, I decided to captain this docking myself, and managed to secure into our slip, flawlessly. Even my mother-in-law said she was impressed. Not sure if she was impressed by my docking skills, or the fact Leanne didn't strangle us both! I felt it best not to ask.

We did what we've learnt best this summer, and toasted to another event filled trip in which we learnt, panicked, learnt more, and survived. Eventually, we each calmed down, and collectively decided none of us are giving up that easy! Then we did the only logical thing, popped a beverage, and relaxed in the sun.