Catalina Graces

DSCN0787Moored in Avalon harbor and perched comfortably on Seamore Pacific, I’m ready to handle a bit of multitasking: journaling; scanning the waterfront to marvel at Avalon’s beauty; and people watching, specifically other boaters.  Arriving just two days ago, a Catalina routine has taken shape.   Parts of the routine are enviable and other parts, not so much.   Our Catalina shakedown cruise has been true to it’s name.  It has shaken loose a few of my whims, wants, and obsessive compulsions.

Captain Chameleon has long accused me of throwing things away, including the  sandwich he is eating if it isn’t nailed down.  Guilty.  However, after Monday night’s 72 nautical miles (14 hours) I have new insight into  the error of my constant de-cluttering.  I’m humbly and eternally grateful for two items he salvaged from the give away pile they had been banished to.  First, a brown goosedown comforter that came with Seamore Pacific (previously the Bobby McGee).  After a washing it still smelled a bit musty and the color too drab for adventure seeking.  Second, a tangled mess of line and metal hoops, otherwise known as his and hers  harnesses; ones that sailors rely on to reduce the chance of being thrown overboard.  Captain Chameleon had acquired them when he purchased his Moody 33 and with our move to Phoenix they followed, ultimately  hogging precious shelf space in the garage.   Sentimental to him, they had been saved from my de-cluttering wrath only because  they harkened a chance of going to sea.

Thank you Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for the brown comforter that provided warmth, relief, and security from the dense, dark, and chilly  night.  The ocean air was damp and windy, but it was my inner  timid state and waiting for “the shoe to drop” that was the real cause for feeling chilled to the bone.   And thank you for the harnesses that safely tethered us to Seamore Pacific as she sliced, rolled, and rocked through westerly moving rollers.  Finally, thank you for Captain Chameleon’s understanding of my whims, wants, and trivial obsessions in life.

Safely making it to Catalina and having the good fortune to enjoy her beauty has caused me to reframe whims and wants.  Internet access doesn’t come easy these days for Seamore Pacific.  However, I’ve quickly come accustomed to our Catalina routine of dinging ashore, walking to the library, and logging in as a temporary Los Angeles library card holder.  Swell!

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Chocolate Chip Cookies at 2 a.m.

DSCN0742Leaving for Catalina Island this evening.  It is our first voyage with Seamore Pacific and a shakedown cruise before next month’s jump off to the Sea of Cortez.  18 days ago I was biting at the bit to sail to Catalina, but little did I appreciate how many details still needed to be tended to before taking a new (to us) boat on a 70 mile crossing at night.

Depth Sounder snafu fixed-check. New batteries and solar set-up adequate at keeping navigation instruments going-check.  Lines leading to the sails non-chaffed and strong-check. Windless and anchors ready-check. Radar and reflector ready-check.  Ditch bag packed-check (the one thing I pray we don’t need to use).  Chocolate chip cookies and party food- almost.  I’ll be baking chocolate chip cookies this afternoon.

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Captain Chameleon says he will sleep under a comforter in the cockpit when I’m at the helm; instead of going below.  It will be my first time to navigate at night and dodge freighters.  Sounds a lot like a kid’s sleep-over party, huh?

Traffic on the Nines

DSCN0661 I woke up this morning with an Ah-ha that I haven’t been listening to Traffic on the Nines and I didn’t go to bed last night asking cosmic fashion goddesses to send inspiration on what to wear to work.  Astonished, that two activities with the same familiarity as putting milk back in the fridge would become instantly forgotten when I took a leave from work.  The theory, Survival of the Fittest explains it for me.  Avoiding traffic snarls and appearing professional contribute zilch to surviving the perils of crossing a vast ocean in a 36 ft. fiberglass cocoon. While it sounds contrite, preparing for the experience has shown otherwise. The last few days of 6-8 hour sailing, studying navigation charts, and docking a 9 ton vessel without losing life, limb, or property have been daunting because they aren’t second nature to me; such as putting the milk back in the fridge.  This week’s events have been scary at times, humbling always, and challenging to what I’ve sometimes taken for granted. But, I’m getting there.

What helps to quiet my fears is perspective thinking.  Monitoring channel 16 on the VHF is my new Traffic on the Nines.  Having a Naval Warship hail Seamore Pacific on the VHF for a bit of “chit-chat” on how to avoid a traffic snare with a United States warship is just a more personalized traffic report. Right?

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Another internal pep talk is, that if I didn’t break a sweat when I drove a hunk of metal 65 mph, a few feet from another hunk of metal going 75 mph, with another hunk of metal going 90 mph cutting in front of us, and another hunk of metal that suddenly slows and weaves when it’s multi-tasking operator is busy texting, eating, and applying mascara; then I can sail this boat across an ocean and park it into a skinny slip…all while painting my toenails with Sailor-Red polish.

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Enough pep talking and day dreaming.  Time to get back to work on getting Seamore Pacific and her crew ready for Mexico.  Next on the list is to anchor tomorrow night at La Playa Cove.

Surprise! It’s Not Miami Vice.

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Sailing to distant islands isn’t just about sailing.  Instead it is about reaching compromise, preparing for if the boat takes on water, and sleeping seals.  Was I ever clueless when twenty plus years ago I dreamed a fabulous notion to live on a boat and sail hither and fro.  Fortunately after the notion struck me, I met Captain Chameleon.  He successfully introduced me to the real world of sailing and living aboard.  And frankly, it isn’t always for sissies.  Or, impatient folks, such as myself.

Scaling back on our excess of material possessions, I’ve been reminded this week of a time that I should be trying to forget.  It was what I wore the first time on Capt. Chameleon’s sailboat.  Being an avid fan of Miami Vice and new to the Miami area,  the first thing I did after receiving an invitation to join him for dinner on his boat, was an emergency trip to Dadeland Mall. I was fortunate to encounter a sales lady possessing the same appreciation for Miami Vice  and who was in the ‘know’ of proper boating attire.  Capt. Chameleon’s eyes must have surely wanted to pop out of his skull when he saw me.   But, he was too kind to show it and didn’t bat an eye to my Miami Vice fashion disaster.

Long gone are the days of high fashion on the high seas.  Storage on Seamore Pacific is a premium and I now understand the importance of having tools, spare parts, thru-hull plugs, and Chanel on board.  Yes, Chanel.  I’m content to be limited on clothing, because when my olfactory sensors register the scent of Chanel, I’ll feel as though I’m dressed to the nines.

The next part comes with a Parental Advisory (Mom & Dad- just skip over this part).  With installing the water maker this week, I gained new appreciation for thru-hulls and what to do if one fails while out at sea.  It boggles my mind that a boat contains holes in the hull.  Holes (thru-hulls) allow for the depth sounder, water intake, boat speed, etc.  In the past, the thought of a thru-hull failing was a fleeting thought   Now it is about being prepared.  There is peace of mind knowing that ‘sailing’ this week included preparing for the what-ifs.  We now have a wooden plug secured to each of the five thru-hulls so that in the unfortunate event one fails, allowing sea water to come rushing in,  I would be able to calmly and nonchalantly locate the plug and shove it into the gaping hole.  Holding it for dear life.

Moving onto more pleasant thoughts, it was a bit of a novelty to step off the boat and come across a seal sleeping on the dock, two finger piers down.  The bigger novelty was talking to the lady (skipper) whose boat was in snoring distance from the seal. She described what it was like to go to sleep in her berth along side a seal, separated only by fiberglass.  “Eerie,” was how she described it.  Single and elderly, she exudes having a life enriched by adventures far and near.  I can’t be happier than when I run into her on the dock and we exchange hellos and what’s on the to-do list.  I truly hope that sometime in the next few weeks, perhaps over a cup of coffee, to learn more about her journeys at sea.

A foggy morning at the marina.

A foggy morning at the marina.

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The Wino & I Know…

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There is nothing quite like it, when a song instantly takes me somewhere.  Somewhere can be anywhere.  Somewhere might be a memory, a distraction, a ‘gee wouldn’t that be neat’ feeling, a catalyst for change, or clarity about something or someone.  10 years of private piano lessons and 7 years of playing a clarinet in the school band did little to move the needle on my musical talent.  But, pop culture music sent me packing.  It was Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills, and Nash that actually got the needle to move.  The needle moved me to Miami and in the path of Captain Chameleon (and Hurricane Andrew!).  Captain Chameleon has a similar story- private violin lessons did little for him other than maybe entertain the notion of cutting off his own fingers so that he could be released from practice.  But Jimmy Buffet songs are relevant and hold meaning for Captain Chameleon.  Like the ice cream man who’s a hillbilly fan, a wino, and a farmer that knows the pain of his pick-up truck rusting- Capt. Chameleon knows the joys of the ocean.  The Wino and I know remind me of Capt. Chameleon’s story of enjoying the ocean; on a 26 foot Columbia he set sail from Houston.  Taking his time along the Gulf coast, he eventually sailed to the Bahamas and then back to the Florida Keys, where we met.

The Wino and I Know


007The water maker for Seamore Pacific just arrived.  A song isn’t coming to mind that offers any real inspiration for Monday’s project of installing our little oasis.  On second thought, having ample amounts of clean water aboard and not dying of thirst does wonders to inspire me.  I can do it.  I can face our next romantic boat project without a song.  Uh, oh.  A song just came to mind…Boat Drinks by my hero Jimmy Buffet.

Blurred Lines

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The evening’s routine includes taking Ruby to the grassy area outside the marina gates and going for a walk that would make any hound dog happy. A few months ago, during our walk, Robin Thicke’s song, Blurred Lines could be heard playing from the patio of the Bali Hai. The thumping music, racy lyrics, and whooping and hollering of a bride and her bridesmaids, elevated our subdued dog walk to another level. Looking obvious and out of place climbing over the hedge to join their party, we opted to stay put. Shadowing the lights of America’s Cup Harbor, Ruby and I enjoyed our own dance party. Not surprised by impromptu dancing, Ruby’s tail was gleefully wagging as she pranced in unison to my obvious enjoyment of the music.
After hearing Blurred Lines over and over, I came to realize that I have very little in common with it; except for the title. It’s a great title. If the naming of Seamore Pacific had not come from sentimental origins, I would have proposed to Capt. Chameleon naming her ‘Blurred Lines’.  The title captures some of the strangeness of being back on a boat. Transition lenses aside, today’s nautical endeavors are different from our earlier years. How is it different?  Squint between the blurred lines of Seamore Pacific’s cruising diary for the answer.

The size of the boat:     4130552_-1_20121031125021_0_0[2]

The broker listing stated Seamore Pacific was a 36 ft. sailboat. However, the surveyor insists she is 38 ft., bow to stern. Captain Chameleon, once a Hoosier, but challenged over the years with the wife’s Show-Me view of the world, took out a Stanley tape measure and confirmed Seamore Pacific is indeed a 36 ft. vessel- two feet shorter than the USCG vessel documentation reflects.  If the boat is 36 or 38 ft., does it really matter?

According to the Captain, it matters.  Every extra inch, foot, and yard gives him that much more space from the newest family member, Francis the wildcat.  In the Captain’s mind, he has served his time,  by once sharing a boat in Florida with two persnickety Siamese cats.  Capt. Chameleon has experience with blurred lines.  Saying, “I do” to a girl from Missouri, who is crazy for cats, will do it.

One head instead of two:     

Opting for a smaller boat means making do with one bathroom. Which, is perfectly fine for our leisure cruising. Years earlier, living on the hook in Boot Key Harbor, we worked multiple jobs and insisted on the luxury of two heads, and a separate shower.  Now, aging and romanticizing about our adventures on the high seas in a 36 (or 38) foot sailboat, and claiming to still have our youth, the lines blur yet again. This go around, the Capt. and crew will be sharing the boat with a toilet trained cat. 

Toilet training Francis

Toilet training Francis

Picture the blurred lines of Capt. Chameleon when he takes a bathroom break from the helm, to find Francis finishing up his bathroom business (and the Wall Street Journal).

Skipper-Chart Reader- Movie Star: 

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Never, in a blurred line dream, did we plan to find Wilson. Yes, the one and only Wilson, and sole companion to Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) during his 4 years of being stranded on a deserted island. Sadly, Wilson accidentally rolled off their makeshift raft (6 or 8 foot?) and drifted out to sea…

According to Wikipedia, Wilson was created for the movie Castaways; by screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. when he deliberately stranded himself on an isolated beach in the Sea of Cortez.  How appropriate that Wilson, a Sea of Cortez native will be a skipper on Seamore Pacific. With Wilson, overnight crossings and stretches at the helm will be less lonely and blurry eyed.

Question: What straightens blurred lines?
Answer: An impromptu dance party with Wilson.