Oct 222017
 

Markus awakes yet again to the cold sweat of fear.

He finds himself in a long, dark corridor, right at the very end. No matter which way he looks, he can perceive but two options.

Former colleagues, knives out and heads like snakes, block the return to a bright and cheery cubicle hell. Worse still, some advance with malicious intent.

At the dead end, a vast and intimidating fire escape door emblazoned with the words “Exit Only. No Return!”

Unable (or perhaps unwilling) to fight his way back to the light, Markus rests one trembling hand on the door release, sensing full well the turbulent vortex beyond, waiting to suck him out. Its a drastic move he now contemplates, with no turning back once it’s done.

The unknown looms fearfully on the other side. A drop to a grimy sidewalk eleven stories down? A sailboat voyage to tropical paradise? Or something unknown in between?

Uncertain and afraid, Markus pulls the covers up and returns to restless sleep, hoping with all his being the situation might resolve itself, but knowing full well that only he can change things by opening that damn door…….

Dec 262016
 

South Africa at Christmas time is a dead-zone. Total shutdown. Zero interest. Things may revive during the first week of January but don’t count on it.

So what happens when the main pipe between the turbo and the intercooler gives out in the middle of the Karoo?

Getting a tow might not be impossible. Getting a replacement might take a bit of time.

Having a bit of ductape, a webbing strap and a little ingenuity…!? Well that will get you home 900km later.

Makeshift turbo repairs

Being self-sufficient isn’t always about the money. It’s about freedom. It’s about safety. It’s about personal satisfaction. It’s about keeping going when the rest of the woolly masses are either out of action, too expensive or incapable.

In the context of a roadside breakdown the world is pretty much organised to assist. For a fee. That same kind of breakdown at sea? Well you had better be able to fix it yourself or jury-rig a solution because nobody is coming to help you out there.

Not everything is fixable.

The more complex the systems the less likely it is that you will be able to fix them on your own. Tinkering and fixing also don’t just magically start the first time you have a breakdown. It’s a skill that requires nurturing, a muscle that must be exercised, a mental attitude that needs cultivation. As a result there is some value gained by living with your stuff, by getting to know it, by learning to fix it instead of scrapping it at the first sign of trouble.

Old cars are a pain. They break down. But after they breakdown in a certain fashion several times, as long as you have been paying attention, you learn how to fix them. Yes, perhaps it is easier to just buy a new one with a warrantee and a service plan. Perhaps. But that takes resources and time perhaps better spent on other endeavours?

The trick to all of this is having redundancy.

If the car breaks you want to have breathing space while you source the parts or find the most cost effective repair shop. A trusty motorcycle waiting in the wings allows mobility while all this is happening. Or a bicycle.

At sea, on the sailboat? Build redundancy into your systems. Keep everything as simple as possible. Know how to repair everything on board yourself. And I mean everything. Have a plan if the rudder breaks, if the hull springs a leak, if the mains’l tears straight through.

And in daily life, cultivate the ability to diagnose and repair by practice. Don’t delegate repairs to others by default and before you know how or what needs doing yourself. If you do that then at the very least you’ll know to keep the reapairman honest and above-board while forking over your hard-earned cash. Out at sea that habit just might save your life.

Take personal control of your finances, your tax returns, your life, everything you can. Reject the nanny-state and remain accountable to yourself. There’s power and freedom there.

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!

Feb 152016
 

I’ve been sucked down an endless rabbit hole of analysis, speculation and opinion on the current state of China, it’s society, it’s government, its environmental destruction and, most of all, it’s declining economy and the associated impact on the rest of us.

While no two analysts agree in full it’s clear there is a large and looming correction both currently on the go and likely to extend well toward the end of the present decade. With the world economies so tightly coupled even we here on the southern tip of the Dark Continent will not escape the escalation of the current trauma. Ours is a mining-based economy and when China sneezes we live with the cold.

Besides the slump in resource prices and lower volumes, we are also having to contend with an absolutely diabolical exchange rate, the worst drought in living memory and government corruption and ineptitude which is off the charts.

No matter what anyone says it’s going to be a tough 4-6 years ahead. Food prices are already noticeably higher (despite the drop in the diesel price), sub-standard municipal services continue to cost more and wage increases are likely to fall far below inflation as they have since 2007/2008.

The worst possible thing for the man in the street right now is to be in over his head in debt and have his only source of income, his job, at risk. And in the South Africa of 2016, if that’s the case and on top of that he happens to be white, then heaven help him over the next few years.

On the personal front one often asks the question “How is it possible to cut back further monthly spend?” After all, I need the car (with the resulting payment) so I can’t possibly cut back further (one of several examples….car, house, yacht, two homes etc).

The real problem is not whether it’s possible to scale back further. The real problem is that it’s not yet a real and tangible emergency.

There is still this thought that “I’ll lose too much by selling now. Its not too bad yet, lets try and maintain the current lifestyle. Better to carry on while I still have the income and while the doom, whatever the real probability, is still somewhere off in the future”.

Now I’m totally not qualified to judge and make decisions for Joe-Average. All I know is, if I didn’t personally have a plan and 4-6 months F-you money in a fund, I’d be very very nervous right now.

Should I by some strange chance be asked what to do, I’d respond; “If you cannot survive being kicked to the curb right now (something i believe is a very real and present danger) then you probably need to go into survival mode and jettison your anchors and reduce your upside-down debt situation as much and as fast as possible, no matter what!” And that’s a difficult ask of anyone so I fear many will suffer the consequences of a lifetime of spending to the limit without too much thought for the future.

Us personally, I think we will survive. We may wish to extract some cash because the F-You fund is currently in a unit trust and taking a beating. But for sure, now is probably not the best time to be buying that Ferrari on terms (or perhaps borrowing to move a yacht to the coast or going further into debt to fund children’s educations) ?

There is undoubtedly doom ahead in the gloom. Just how much remains to be seen!

Jul 172014
 

Winter is a difficult time! Watching the sun set below the western Johannesburg skyline as early as 17h30, waking to a cold darkness that only begins to feel the light of dawn by around 06h30 makes it hard to feel that life in the cubicle is not sucking all that is good.

I’m playing secretary and delivery driver much of the time on this current project. Organising ahead to ensure people are there to deliver to often has them saying to me “Anytime, I’m there from 6am” or “Of course yes, I’m working late tonight, here until 9pm“. The scary thing is that these are not isolated long work days for these people. This is the norm in the project/engineering industry. The comments are normally made in such a way as to garner firstly, a little sympathy, but secondly and most importantly, they seem to demand some kind of respect. It’s as if all this ongoing effort and 80hr work-weeks are somehow a badge of honour, an indication of their commitment to their career, their team, their corporate masters.

I don’t bother to reply at all to such nonsense anymore. Inwardly I just give a wry smile and plan to live my life as best I can while still in this cubicle hell. That means 40hr weeks, max, for this slave. Don’t expect me to deliver your documents by 6am on a cold winter’s morning. I have better things to do, a life to be lived, some better kind of balance to be struck.

Even though I pretty much have managed to achieve this particular form of balance in the last ten years it’s just not enough anymore. The pressures of even this 40hr work week and life in “the world class shitty” have worn me down. The last 2 weeks have been grim, filled with a myriad of obstacles and challenges to the good life, darker and colder than the depths of an arctic winter.

As a sailor there is one thing I am sure of. Storms will blow at the most inconvenient of times. They will test you to your limits, threaten the safety of the boat, take you to the edge of sanity. But then they are gone, the wind and waves calm and the feeling of satisfaction one feels having managed the yacht through the roughest of patches is a rare and awesome reward to one’s soul.

So too must this current rough patch, this life-storm come to an end.

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this sun of York !”

Lets hope Shakespeare was right.

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.

Jun 262014
 

Yesterday was one of those days, a blue Monday in the middle of the week. One of those days where everything seems set against you and your purpose.

It’s interesting that these kind of days always seem more likely when one isn’t quite so happy with the way things are.

Coming off a bit of a grumpy day after closing down the MX-5 opportunity disaster [and to be honest, berating myself a little for my weakness and inconsistencies] yesterday just flowed on from there.

The factory in China is the bane of my existence at the moment. They debate every little request, usually with ‘No’. It’s super-frustrating trying to meet a customer project specification with a crowd like that who doesn’t even address the project specification but just forge ahead with their standard concept.

Anyhow, that’s par for the course as a PM, so no real complaints other than I’m tired and want to try something different down in Glencairn. Biggest challenge is, and remains, the wonderful back-office staff and unfathomable procedures, processes, forms and ‘rules’. On top of all the other frustrations, when someone cannot give me a good reason or cannot explain what a piece of data required is for other than ‘That’s the form, that’s what is required, I don’t no why” then I find it hard not to show my frustration.

The point of all this whining ?

I’ll tell you why. Because I care! I care to be seen as a competent professional. That’s what I do and to a certain extent, it reflects on my abilities when I cannot focus the team all in the same direction. I don’t buy into the CMA management approach, a woolly masses “as long as it’s someone else’s fault” approach. I’m invested in the job while I’m here and take it’s success seriously [probably too seriously if I’m honest with myself]

I suppose the other thing that grates, a lifelong ‘wound‘ that gets prodded with regularity, is the fact that no-one listens. I hate that, especially when their stance has no logic behind it [and let’s be honest, “because it’s always been done this way” is just plain stupid, like a parent telling their child ‘because I told you so‘].

After a stint away from this specific corporate, I certainly was under no illusions that things would be different in the back-office on my return. What I do find strange in myself is that the frustration levels seem similar to those when I left. This is surprising. The role I left behind, a middle management position, had a direct requirement to address the engineering and project management efficiencies and as a result it was difficult to take the ‘not listening‘ to heart. Returning as a bottom-feeder, there is no such requirement, no reason for me to feel it my responsibility to identify and correct broken and inefficient processes. And yet, there it is, the same feeling of frustration?

Life is too short for this. I’ve made my choices and I’m satisfied with where my career job is and will be. It’s not always like this and as life progresses, this kind of knee-jerk response becomes less and less frequent, an aberration in what is normally a fairly relaxed, stress free life. The challenge is to withstand the constant barrage of this for another 5-10 years and then, let’s be honest, the new life will have different challenges.

As in all things, living on the edge is fine in short bursts, but when it’s done continuously, living with no buffer, no breathing space any small thing can turn into a major life-threatening crisis. The buffer in this case is a Cape Town break. The decision to not do the China trip is taken, no matter the consequences. Time to forge ahead and take a couple of days to recharge that buffer.

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

May 192014
 

The old guy, the invalid, sitting in his wheelchair in the bus stop, piled up high in blankets. He couldn’t have done that himself. That means somebody had abandoned him there? That image is haunting me this morning. So much sorrow and hardship in this world and I have the gall to be dissatisfied with my luxurious royal life.

With so much need in the world, so much need right here on my doorstep, it’s hard to keep up. At every traffic light a beggar. How does one distinguish between the truly needy and the “give-me’s”? The “give-Me’s”. My word, I dislike the “Give Me’s”.

The tragedy and suffering touches even Brad, at the level of his friends. Broken families who have walked out on their teenage kids, leaving them to fend for themselves. Every now and again he notices and acknowledges the good life we live, the good life he lives.

But living in Jhb is making me cynical, hard and bitter. no, it already has. “City of Johannesburg, a world class African Shitty” !! Where everyone is on their own mission to enrich themselves and to hell with the impact on those around them. The neighbour’s gardener: “Eish. Sorrreee. I deedint know these was a house” while he’s taking a chance and dumping rubbish over the fence. The state hospital that is Jhb Gen. What a crock of shit. The missing manhole covers that have been that way for years. The ruling class and their million rand Range Rovers……!

And in the midst of all this it is possible to live a good life, but at what cost? It’s pretty much worn me out and, no matter the financial sacrifices needed, a move is on the cards and imminent.

But in the meantime it’s important to remain compassionate and charitable. The need on the streets is real and overwhelming. One can’t change the world overnight but you certainly can make a difference in one person’s life today.

 

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.