If you're lucky enough to live to 100, the years between 50 & 75 are your third quarter. That segment in life could be the waning of your physically agile years, so it's a good idea to stay active. It's also a good time to challenge your brain to keep things limber up there - by mastering something new. We decided to go sailing, and this is a chronicle of our journey.


US Coast Guard Auxiliary Classes: Navigation (paper & GPS)

Two phones, the same compass app, in the same location, with different readings.
Last weekend, I took a Navigation course at the US Coast Guard Auxiliary in Oxnard, CA. Up until a few months ago, I had no idea the Coast Guard offered affordable and comprehensive boating courses to the public.  For two days, my brain was marinated in latitudes & longitudes, fathoms, soundings, range bearings, magnetic vs true compass readings, GPS, Radar and plotting courses with a parallel rule, dividers and a pencil on paper, etc. It was excellent. Challenging, for sure, especially for my math-phobic gray-matter, but I learned so much.

Electronic chart (Nobeltec) showing the shipping lanes in Santa Barbara Channel
Taking a class on navigation has equipped me with a full course back up plan, and a side dish of confidence.  If GPS goes out while we're floating somewhere in the sea in a fog bank, due to electrical failure, a lightening strike, military activity, or this summer's predicted solar flare GPS failures, I can figure out where we are, and where we need to be, and how to get there with a chart, a rule, a compass & a pencil.  That peace of mind is a good thing.  (I don't know how to use a sextant yet, but just you wait.) 

The first weekend in June, Don and I took a USCG course on Boating Skills and Seamanship, which included ID of buoy systems, ATONs, understanding light & horn communication from other vessels, and rules & regulations on the water, etc.  That course was also excellent, and the quality of the curriculum and instruction was confirmed when I saw many of the same people we met in that first class attending the Navigation course.  

Buoy Rest Stop for Sea Lions
Each of the Coast Guard classes cost us $40 apiece, which pays for the in-depth book on the course subject, so if two people take the course and share one book, it's $40. (And if you insure your vessel with BoatUS, they'll give you a 10% discount refund check on your insurance for completing the course.)  The instructors are members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and they come from a variety of backgrounds with a broad range of interests and specialties.  If you're new-ish to boating, have a look at taking a course through your local Coast Guard Auxiliary. Most of the other attendees in the Navigation class were seasoned boaters, and they all agreed that they learned a lot and it was well-worth the time. Since the US Coast Guard has been on the water since 1790,  I like to think about the breadth & depth of knowledge they have. That's an abundant well to draw from.

The book used in the Navigation Course - it's excellent.

The instructors and fellow attendees shared useful resources on a variety of boating topics.... here are a few:


National Weather Service Brochures, Publications and Pamphlets

Annual Boating Accident Statistics

Free download; USCG ATONs (Aids to Navigation) Manual, including buoy markers, beacons & symbols

Details on compliance for a safe vessel, and complimentary vessel safety checks from USCG

s/v Florian headed back to Ventura CA 


Pursuit of a Dry Bilge - Part II (& a blueberry mojito cocktail)

Searching for the source of unpleasant oder; we found it.
After the last post in our ongoing endeavor to dry the bilge, we were feeling smug for halting the weeping water tanks. I grinned to see a 1/2 cup of water, instead of a gallon or two in the bilge. But, as everyone with boats knows, there's always another surprise waiting around the corner. Our beautiful sailboat started to smell. The kind of stink that made my nostrils constrict without any help from my pinched fingers. 

Looking under the galley sole at the Pink Water. Ick.
By the 2nd weekend, we found pinky/orange water in the bilge, with stuff growing in it. Since we aren't on the boat during the week, organic materials have 5 days to putrefy. It was a bad-smell-party all week. We searched high and low for a source, and found standing pink water under the engine compartment. There was enough to flow forward over the top of our glassed-in holding tank, and into the bilge. Our first suspicion was the stuffing box.  But it wasn't leaking. A relief, but what else could it be?  The hot water heater? Nope; this was not fresh water. A leak in the hull? Why is it pink? What would you guess?

Siphoning stinky-pink water from under the engine
How do you get under there?

Boat Yoga; climbing into the engine compartment with hoses.
Everything on a boat is better as a two person job.
The source of the pinky-orange tint;
a socket wrench submerged under the engine.
 We removed all the smelly water, and rinsed the hull sides and hoses with fresh water and mold inhibitor before we had to leave for the work-week. The following weekend, she smelled a little better, but not much. We worked on other projects, searched for leaks & found none. Just before heading home, while running the engine, I climbed into the aft end of the engine compartment with a flashlight, and found a stream of salt water coming from the lazarette locker, and running down the hull to the void under the prop shaft. The area we had just emptied was full of water again.

The transom is on the left; water appeared to be pouring out
of a hose juncture on the Espar Heat exhaust.
Out in the cockpit, we took turns hanging upside down in the lazarette with a flashlight to trace the source back, and found water pouring from the Espar Heater exhaust hose (see above). We shut everything down and went home to start the work week, totally perplexed, because there is *no water* in the exhaust system on an Espar Heater, and it was brand new. :(  What the heck.

Standing over the lazarette, wondering how to get in
without getting stuck, or breaking things mounted inside.
Note: if you do this alone, always have your cell phone on you. :)
 I took a mid-week trip out to the boat, with a gopro video camera mounted on a pole to get close ups in an area we couldn't physically climb into, and the footage revealed the problem. We had used our new Espar Heater a few times on chilly evenings, and the exhaust hose was installed too close to the Vetus Waterlift Muffler. The hot exhaust hose melted a small hole in the top of the plastic muffler gooseneck & "glued" the insulation cloth to the muffler.  Sea water was escaping the muffler through a hole, filling the insulation cloth around the Espar hose, and flowing into the lazarette. It *looked like* the Espar exhaust hose was leaking water, but the source was the engine's muffler system. The area where the Espar hose & the muffler made contact was behind the Vetus gooseneck where we couldn't see it. Of course.

Looking up from the base of the lazarette at the contact point between the Espar & Vetus
The culprit.
A new Vetus muffler was installed, and angled farther to starboard, and the Espar Exhaust was re-wrapped with new insulation and bowed farther to port. They broke up, but the relationship is amicable. :) All of this was done by someone we hired who is a lot smaller than we are. I watched him fold, twist and shimmy into the lazarette with awe. Now that I know how it's done, I can climb in there too. (See images here.) I'm not sure how well I'll do if we're bouncing around on the Pacific, but at least I know I can scrunch enough to squeeze in and get access to the systems in there. If you have an Espar Heater (we love ours), be sure to give the exhaust hose lots of room. :)

A hard day's work deserves rewards. This is a Blueberry Mojito reward.

Blueberries, lime juice, & mint leaves - the aroma is all about summertime
This delicious recipe is from a wonderful blog called The Novice Chef.

Here's what you'll need:

1 cup of fresh blueberries (& extra for garnish)
4 oz of clear rum
10 fresh mint leaves
2 tsp of sugar
Juice from 2 limes, and extra wedges for garnish
6 oz club soda

Use a blender to puree all but a few of the blueberries, and set aside.

Add 8 mint leaves and the sugar to a cocktail shaker (or a bowl if you have none). Use a muddler (or the end of a wooden spoon) to muddle the mint and sugar together.  
Add the lime juice, and the rum, and the pureed blueberries; shake vigorously in the cocktail shaker (or stir in the bowl).
Pour ice and club soda into tall glasses and then pour the rum & blueberry/lime/mint mixture into the glasses. Stir gently and garnish with lime wedges and a mint leaf. Serve immediately.
These go down smooth and lip-smackingly easy, so enjoy them carefully. ;)

Preparing for sunset on s/v Forian

Our favorite bar book, by the founder of the 

London Academy of Bartending - 
Douglas Ankrah: Shaken and Stirred.