Jan 012017
 

Those who know me will vouch, I’m not a New Year’s Resolution kind of guy. There’s no difference between the 31st and the 1st in my book, no reason not to make decisions and take action when you think of them no matter the time of year.

That said, time off life and work that is typical this time of the year does lend itself to more contemplation and introspection ……

2016 has been a watershed year for for myself and my sailing. This was the year I finally bit the bullet and moved Ocean Blue down to the coast. A very good year in that regard. Somewhat less good because I’m still stuck up here in Jo’burg slaving away to pay the bills.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on when and how to move the rest of life down to the beach to join the boat. As with all things in life, it’s rarely simple, rarely just as easy as saying “Sell up everything and go”. Well at least for me it’s not that easy even though I know it’s possible and been done a thousand times by a thousand sailors.

Several more years of ‘varsity commitments remain. Those are best dealt with while the corporate salary trickles in.

Sandy, although she’s slowly getting into the Table Bay sailing, is not of the same “sell up all to sail” school. She likes her house by the beach and if she had to choose it would be that rather than the boat. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d like to only have the boat. The land base by the beach also appeals to me. (Shhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone)

Lastly, South African legislation imposes prohibitive penalties on early withdrawals of retirement funds and annuities before the age of 55. That means that whatever I decide to do I need to make the greatest effort to keep up the payments for at least the next 7 years. Whether I stick it out at the Jo’burg job, find another in Cape Town or find a way to make sipping martinis from the hammock pay, either way I need to generate enough cashflow each month to keep the investments going. Anything else just doesn’t make financial sense.

People looking in on the dream from afar may well believe it’s not happening. It might appear that it’s stalled and we’ll never get it right. But that’s not true. Yes it’s slow. Much slower than I would ideally like. But it’s happening. Most definitely.

The most very hard and difficult thing though is I miss the boat and I miss sailing her. Living an hour away when she was on the Vaal is nothing compared to the gulf of time and space that now separates us. No longer can I just pop in for the weekend to check the lines, see if the bilges are dry. No longer an easy weekend escape from the rat race and a leisurely overnight anchorage in Bunny Brook to take the edge off a hard week in the office.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. But I’d be lying if I said that the current transition is easy.

I harbour ambitions to cruise the West Coast, see St Helena, perhaps cruise Ilha Grande and further south. To do this, there are a thousand-and-one things to do on board. Repairs, improvements, upgrades. With me in Jo’burg and ‘Blue in Cape Town, that preparation phase is very, very difficult. Almost impossible.

And that’s the thing I’m finding most difficult. This period between moving the boat and moving myself. It wasn’t easy in 2016 and it wont be easy in 2017.

As usual, life is all about finding balance and so, if ever there was a resolution made, it’s to try and keep the dream moving forward while keeping the stash growing and future finances healthy. The moral of the story though is “Don’t bury your dreams.” Find a way to make them happen. After all, what will you achieve if you spend all your living days working, saving, hoping one day to find the time to live and youtr time runs out? Many people gamble that way and for some it works out. For many others the gamble fails due to accident, ill health or other circumstances.

Tomorrow may never come. Build your dream today. Take action and make it happen no matter how slowly.

Happy New Year to you all and may 2017 be good to you and your dreams!

Apr 152016
 

Adventure bikes. Once again my brain under the misconception that I don’t “adventure” out because I dont have an “adventure” bike in the stable.

The life one observes out there sometimes seems a lot like that, especially true of me sometimes, but it’s totally bogus. The reason we don’t venture out is because it’s a little bit hard, a little bit uncomfortable. Having some cool (read very expensive) new toys may well propagate an ”adventure” or two in the short term, but once the honeymoon period is over all that normally remains is remorse, bills and clutter.

The ZR7 is not ideal. But then I truly believe all bikes are a compromise, a little like sailboats. There is absolutely no reason I couldn’t do the CT run on the Kawa. No reason at all other than I fear the uncomfortable numbness!

This is a recurring thought pattern in my life, this justifying. Fortunately I’m at a stage where I finally realise the folly of this this pattern. It’s not the adventure bike I’m after but rather the adventure itself. And even then, sometimes I fear it’s not even the adventure that I’m after but rather just on escape from this miserably monotonous daily corporate grind.

The plan just can’t happen soon enough at this stage!

Nov 222015
 

The things we find hard, difficult to start, those are generally the things that bring a sense of satisfaction and achievement at the end of the day.

The default way we modern humans deal with our lives is by whipping out the credit card for consumer therapy. It’s a very short-lived solution to a long term problem. We have this continual sense of uneasiness, a feeling of something missing. Instead of properly understanding where it originates, we step out and self-medicate by shopping. Problem solved, at least in the moment. The modern world’s easy solution.

Living with a sailboat is not like that. It’s a lot harder. Sure-you can pay someone (in which case you’ve regressed to credit-card-junkie status) but if you do -it-yourself then it’s an entirely different ballgame.

On a visit to ‘Blue yesterday I decided it time to take down the sails. She’s not going back into the Vaal sewer so it’s best to store and protect them off the boat until the grand land-voyage to FBYC. Taking the sails down →It’s not so hard, but it’s not all that easy either. The main, being loose-footed, was fairly simple to remove but the genoa, at three times the size, is a different beast. Then comes the monumental task of trying to fold them while a howling NW ‘|y sweeps the boatyard. Finally, the job is done, not perfectly folded but at least small enough that I can cram the sails into the car.

There are many seemingly inconsequential tasks like this, ultimately satisfying, never actually quite as difficult as feared. The hardest part is always in the starting.

My point is → you need to overcome the ever-present inertia and excuses that present when starting an important job♤. There’s always a sense of it’s too hard, there’s not enough time, what’s the point! It’s always easier to just give up, sit on the couch and promise to try again another day! It’s seldom the best way!

So yesterday evening, after returning with the sails and re-folding them with the help of B and the gang, I tackled Cottage-253’s east windows. Small job, big results in the “I made progress” department.

So, why the persistent amnesia? Why the struggle to get up and do the important things that in turn bring satisfaction and happiness? It’s a mystery !

The important thing is to remember this tendency. When you notice yourself in its grip it’s probably an indicator of something!

Mar 202015
 

The world is full of “rules”, full of agendas, full of unspoken pressure to conform.

A direct “Do things my way” is typically quite confrontational and so most sheep resort to various other means to try and create conformity. A frown, silence, hints and insinuations. Peer pressure is a well used one, the art of conformity.

We don’t like you behaviour, your hair, your jeans. We all wear corporate black trousers, white collared shirts. You want to fit in here? Well read the signs……

Granted, some people will deny this exists. Some people will be better at dismissing all of this as a pure figment of the imagination but let’s not kid ourselves that it doesn’t exist. You leave the sheep pen at 15h30 while the rest of the flock are still slaving away in endless, uncoordinated panic and very soon you’ll feel the disapproving atmosphere. It’ll seldom be directly communicated but will certainly be clear in pointed comments [apparently made in jest], raised eyebrows and misguided dislike.

Which of all this intangible “feeling” is important is up to the individual to decide. Most comes from low-ranking sheep but the top-dogs are also not disinclined to have a go. Almost all of it is insinuated rather than directly communicated with openness, integrity and honesty.

Some theory advocates that humans have this instinctual need for acceptance in the group, a consequence of our caveman past where [so the theory goes] to be ostracised almost certainly meant death. I’m not too sure I totally agree with that. Just as today you find independent individuals I’m pretty certain you found lone cavemen skilled and adapted to living life on their own terms.

I’m pretty sure there was a caveman or two saying “Stop hounding me! Stop telling me what to do! Stop pushing your party agendas on me! Stop, Stop, STOP!!” And when they wouldn’t I’m pretty sure he left the cave for a better life on his terms. Sometimes you just need to stand up and say “Leave me alone!

You can live your life fearlessly and “free” only by choice. If there’s not enough bravery in the flock to communicate desires directly then why should one even consider that they might exist in the first place?

FREEDOM – INTEGRITY – TRANQUILITY

Jul 092014
 

This has been one of those weeks sent straight from the depths of hell itself.

There has been the usual unpleasantness trying to get the entire crowd into the car.

Sunday night underneath the phsyco-tenant was painful. Abusive noise until the wee hours, all in an attempt to make our stay unbearable.

Monday night was a direct face-to-face, followed by an angry threatening visit. (Got that recorded for future use)

Tuesday night the Isuzu stood alone in Fishoek, unable to start.

Monday and Tuesday were busy, early ’til late, dealing with unhelpful agents, abusive tenants and signing up lawyers at some cost. The legal issues are only starting and the work needed to drive this thing forward is still going to take some time and effort this week.

But the tide seems to be turrning…….

We were lucky to fix the car ourselves for R95 this morning. That made life feel a little better. Last night was also better. At least there was no upstairs evil noise and we managed a full night’s sleep. And finally, five days after we left Jhb, Sands and I finally got a run together, even if only to go and find and fix the car.

It hasn’t been a holiday week and that’s for sure no maybe!

Sometimes it really seems that the universe is totally hell-bent on testing one’s limits. Everything, altogether, always. Never just one manageable problem at a time.

They say it’s how you respond that defines you. I don’t know about that. All I do know is that there’s nobody who will sort things out except yourself. You can sit back, swear, blame the world for being unfair. Or you can just keep slogging away at what needs doing.

Being accountable for your life and your actions is the ultimate freedom. Empowerment. Choose to take responsibility for life. That’s the only way we know how. That’s the only way we respect.

Not hoping to jinx things, but today has been better, more relaxed. Time for a walk on the beach with the pups. Right now, life is better. Let’s hope the rest of the week follows suit.

And sitting here, overlooking a gentle south-easterly rippled ocean, it’s worth the battle. This place is magic. It’s where we long to be. We can ride through the current challenges. This is going to all be worth it.

Jul 022014
 

Some Chris Rea lyrics spring to mind as S and I talk about the day yesterday.

…….
Well my wife returns from taking
My little girl to school bedford
She’s got beads of perspiration
As she tries to keep her cool
She says that mess it don’t get no better
There’s gonna come a day
Someone’s gonna get killed out there
And I turn to her and say texas glencairn
She says what?
I said texas glencairn
She says what?
They’ve got big long road oceans out there
…….

Time to get serious and move on!

Jun 142014
 

For a while now I’ve been trying to convert a planned overnight cruise into reality. Three weeks have slipped by, circumstance dictating changes to the plan. It’s not that I haven’t visited the yacht over the last three weeks, it’s just that time has not allowed for an overnighter.

Roll on this weekend, time for the planned cruise.

As is usual, I’ve been trawling WindFinder and WindGuru to forecast the best spot to anchor. They both agree. We’re in for robust W’ly to SW’ly winds this weekend as a minor front sweeps through from down south.

_forecast

The forecast doesn’t look too bad for an overnight anchorage, but chances are we’ll get more than the predicted 6-10kts overnight. That calls for an anchorage well protected from the W through to the SW. Bunny Brook looks like the best option and I’ll be putting down 2 anchors tonight!

There’s always a part of me, a part of every human I guess, that looks at the 25kt+ forecast and thinks “Let’s give this weekend a miss, that looks like cold, hard work”. Sitting here in my cosy, under-floor heated kitchen that won’t drag the anchor tonight, that won’t battle the rising frontal winds as they sweep through, I’m battling a mental block that says “Call it off, it’ll be a struggle”.

Can I handle the conditions? Yes, I think so. Can the boat? No question. Yes, it’s a little harder in restricted waters than out in the wide-open ocean. If things get out of hand, you can’t just drop sail, bang closed the hatch and sleep it out. You need to be on your toes, deal with the issues, get out of the rocky shallows. Yes, I am concerned about my anchoring [still] with this Miura. I haven’t had much joy to date. So, this will be an active sailing weekend for sure.

Thing is, if I can’t get over this mental hurdle, if I can’t deal with the wind, the anchor, the sailing on the Vaal, then I’m wasting my time with the dream. If I give up on this weekend for the fear of some hardship, then I should certainly just sell up now, cash out of yachting and not waste any further time, money and effort on moving OB back ‘home’ to Simon’s Town.

I’m fond of telling people “There’s no such thing as bad weather, it’s only bad clothing”. Now’s the weekend to prove myself a doer rather than a dreamer. The yacht is prepared and able, the cold-weather clothing is there. It’s just the skipper that needs to step up.

_BunnyBrook I think, for this time of the year, with this front, we’ll have some wind during the night. Forecast says 6, gusting 10, but that could easily be a couple of points higher. Bunnybrook has always been a good anchorage and with the forecast looks to be secure for an overnighter. Plan tonight is to set the CQR in about 5-6m with plenty of dragging room to the east. Then, I’ll be taking the dusty Danforth out of storage and rowing that out slightly SW of the main anchor. If that doesn’t hold us overnight then it may really be time to cash in the sailing chips?

By now I guess you would have concluded [and rightly so] that it’s not so much the boat handling, the larger-than-normal winds, the sailing, that has me in this mental place. It’ the nagging uncertainty that I’ve forgotten how to anchor, to stay put overnight. All I know for sure is, the all-chain, CQR route has not worked for this boat since I came into her life. Tonight it’s “try something else” or why would you expect anything different?

Lest I fill myself with regret, I’m packing up and heading out. Hope I get back to give an update here.

—ooOOoo—

The awesomeness that was sailing this weekend defies description. Beautiful and steady 18-20kt breezes on Saturday dealt up a 16nm sail around the island, finishing up in Bunnybrook at around 16h00

OB Sailing 15-20kt

The boat performed flawlessly, averaging 5kt and topping out at 7, all with a reef in the main and the corresponding rolls in the genny. Speechless.

But, no weekend on the water is without it’s challenges. Only this time, they came from very unexpected quarters. Besides the usual cuts and abrasions that seem to appear on the sailors fingers and hands without explanation, two incidents from unexpected quarters …..

As we were rounding the north of the Island, close-hauled, a big puff had the autohelm working hard to correct. Suddenly, bam, the attachment to the tiller sheared off. Nothing but hand-steering from this point on.

Second incident occured the next morning as we were weighing anchor for the return voyage. As promised, I’d set two anchors but still had a restless night, up every two hours to check on position and weather. Up just before dawn, the morning cuppa down, I hoisted the main and then hauled in the CQR and 30m of chain. Then I discovered my error, the boat now sailing downwind, snagged on the Danforth trailing somewhere astern. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the boat turned head to wind and so, in a last ditch attempt to avoid disaster, I quickly transferred the rode to the stern and winched the boat back to the anchor using the cockpit winches.

This time the wind was light enough to let me get away with it!

Note to self: When next setting 2 anchors, haul the first in before setting the main.

Second note to self: get over this ‘use the CQR’ thing. The Danforth is the way to go!

—ooOOoo—

There are a lot of life-lessons to be learned from sailing. All the planning and goal-setting for the future, all the concern [worry] about what might go wrong often has us hesitant to strike out on the path. That’s a big mistake. The rewards of the journey are fantastic and the problems that crop up are never the one’s you’ve prepared for or have concerned yourself about. The challenges always crop up from the least expected quarters. No. Live your life in confidence, live it with enough buffer and capacity to deal with the issues that will crop up, but never not live it !!

100_1656_2

Apr 172014
 
The unseen costs of your 9-5 job

The unseen costs of your 9-5 job

Sure, owning a car is expensive and if you want it to last it needs maintenance. But there are more cost effective ways of doing it than relying on the official agents. I think that will be the last visit to the dealer for routine maintenance. In future it will be either my own labour or that of a trusted independent workshop.Isuzu 195000km

One of the keys to validating the ER-Plan is a proper understanding of which expenses are a necessity for your chosen lifestyle and which are really just there because of the way life is at present.

That brings me to a niggling thought that  just won’t leave me lately. The Isuzu, while filling a future ER dream of 4×4 touring off the beaten path, is currently not put to that use and is expensive overkill for the present home-to-office commute. Expensive to maintain, expensive to fuel up. In a sense this is tantamount to ‘pre-purchasing the RV or the golf club membership’ prior to retirement. Maybe not the way to go, especially with a machine that has a very good chance of wearing out / failing before there’s ever the time to realise that travel goal ? Yet, now that it’s done, does it make sense to sell it and get something else? I’m not so sure.

Gut-feel tells me it’s always cheaper to keep and maintain the vehicle you currently own rather than giving in to the temptation to get something different. Besides, I still hold to the belief that an old 70’s gas guzzler is greener than a new hybrid because the hole for the former has already bee dug in the earth. I’ll need to follow this up with a detailed xls calc [such an engineer I’m told], but I think I know what the outcome will be. Deep down it’s just this irrational emotional urge to buy a ‘new’ car and it’s the tricky bits looking for rationalisations to justify this.

Our present life and future vision is what it is, what we’ve chosen it to be. Take the yacht as a similar example, or even Glencairn. It’s also ‘pre-paying the future’ dream. Is it the wisest strategy? In terms of some of the ER-thought out there it’s ridiculous. Rather used the value in the boat to bring your ER-date closer. On the other hand, I am me if I’m making any sense here. I’m human and just like all humans everywhere, I have irrational personal quirks when viewed against the popular ‘science’ of ER’ing.

The yacht is a big part of me, my lifestyle, the way I want to live. For me, what purpose is served to spend the next 5 years without Ocean Blue in my life? It’s not a sacrifice I choose to make and I believe that where I am now is the best balance for me between my interests and my need to pump the stash to step off. When I do step off then I want no debt on Glencairn and so we’re compelled to get it behind us now, using the space in the current mortgage facility to access ‘cheap’ money.

Easily rationalised for the sweet little boat and the dream pad by the sea but requiring a bit more mental gymnastics to apply to the Isuzu me’thinks.

Anyhow, in terms of road transport, my current philosophy is “if it aint broke then don’t fix it”. While it’s reliable and not emotionally draining I’ll stick with and be happy with what I have – ‘Suzi and ZR7 – here’s to many more miles together.

Apr 172014
 

It’s been excellent catching up with old friends and colleagues since starting the new gig. Great that, in spite of the Crusty Introvert Me, there has been an overwhelming “Welcome! Good to Have you back“. [Sort of cements the no-Woolley Masses approach to life doesn’t it?]

It’s hard to hide where my head is at with the ER-Dream [firstly I’m totally and passionately committed and secondly I’m putting myself out there to give myself some form of ‘public accountability’ to strengthen my resolve and ability to carry through with this] and so this has come up in several of the discussions quite easily and naturally because the obvious question is “Why are you back?

The answer is easy. “Because the stash needs to grow a little bigger“. But it always leads to [perhaps only internal and unvoiced] thoughts such as “Life is so expensive and out of control there will never be enough so why even try” or “What’s the point? I need more than I can ever hope to stash away so I might as well not stash anything” or “There’s no point in planning because nothing ever works out as planned” etc.

It’s abundantly obvious the grip this modern consumer lifestyle has on us all. I’m no exception. I like my luxuries and toys and continually strive to balance saving for tomorrow with enjoying my material wealth today. Just like the rest of the flock. I’ve been there myself, buying the BMW as a “reward” for the hard work and long hours, so I’d be a little hypocritical in judging anyone too harshly for doing the same. But, the bottom line is that this “spoiling” yourself today has very real consequences and impacts your ability to step off in the future should you want to. No doubts in my mind that had I taken my brother’s unsolicited but well-intended advice to heart back in my early twenties and ploughed every cent I ever spent on cars into building the stash, then my ER-Date would probably already have happened.

This is not about regrets or unhappiness at life in the present. It’s just fact. The past cannot be changed and the future is always there, in the future. Life is good today and the ER-Dream is a powerful and common goal for me and S, something we earnestly want and are willing to sacrifice for. Is there a little bit of regret about past decisions? Perhaps ‘Yes’ if I’m totally honest. but certainly not misery and unhappiness. It’s more just a quiet acknowledgement of the impact of past actions on the present reality. And I think that important in steering the present toward the desired future. After all, those who repeat the ‘mistakes’ of the past are doomed to re-live the same-old same-old in the future. Will the future turn out exactly as we hope, dream and plan for? Can’t say. Will we be happy in that future? Definitely and with certainty because happiness is a conscious choice determined neither by wealth, nor poverty nor circumstance.

And that is what I find so sad in many of the people around me, this belief that there is no use in planning for the future, no use in stashing away R150 rather than blowing it on some piece of cheap Chinese plastic. The unconscious negativity that silently and unknowingly limits a person’s quality of life today and into the future is so obvious in the comment “But R5.8M in 50 years time is worth nothing so why bother”.

I know I probably come across as judgemental but that’s the last thing I want to be. It’s not my business to change others nor give unsolicited advice. But, it is my business to fully understand myself and what makes me tick. Rehashing and journalling my impressions and thoughts on these interactions with people allows me to explore and understand myself better. We are all where we are today because of our decisions and actions taken in the past. Our future is predominantly created by our habits and actions taken in the present. So, unless we understand our past and how we got to our present, there is no sound reason to believe that we will be any different in our future.

I’m no “New Agey, positive thinking solves all” kind of person. Sure, you need the right attitude. But positive thoughts sitting on the couch with your hand in the potato chip packet are just not going to cut it. Positive thought requires positive action and any kind of improvement or change means hard work, pushing through the barriers of discomfort, pain and uncertainty and staying in the game long enough to eventually win.

No, I don’t know with any certainty what the end score will be. What I do know is that we will step off this treadmill a good decade or so earlier than the working masses not because we’re any better than them but because we’re totally committed to the additional freedom it will bring and are willing to make the sacrifices needed today to make that future happen.