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!

Dec 172016
 

Like Lin & Larry said, “As long as it’s fun”.

Ocean Blue at sea

Ocean Blue at sea

And Thursday’s sail most definitely was fun. It wasn’t epic when you compare to world circumnavigations but for us, a circumnavigation of Robben Island**, is the first step to cruising further afield up the west coast.

We’d initially planned to sail earlier in the week but Tuesday’s 25 to 30kt SE’ly had us changing our minds. Not that SAM wasn’t keen to sail if I was, but baby-steps dude, baby steps. Last thing I want is to scare her off now that she’s started getting enthusiastic about being on board. So we delayed until the Thursday and what a good decision it was. Super sailing in a 15 to 20kt south westerly with enough time on our hands to tackle a milestone [even though insignificant and small compared to the adventures of others].

Robben Island Circumnavigation

Robben Island Circumnavigation

The trick is to ramp the experience up slowly, to build the confidence in the boat, the skipper and the crew in tiny increments to that it remains fun. Sailing is hard enough when it all goes right let alone when things go wrong. It’s not that you want to never test your limits, never sail in that 30kt SE’ly. You need to, eventually. But there’s no sense in taking it on too early in the game, not if you want to keep her on board.

SAM was on the helm virtually the entire voyage. And a fine job she did. She’s getting a real feel for the boat now and, despite us both feeling a little sick-at-sea for a brief while there, we had a really pleasant voyage. Table Bay sailing is never totally flat, not the same way False Bay gets. There’s always some swell rolling in from the Southern Ocean, always that “open ocean” feel once you head a little west and out of the shelter of Green Pt and this got to us both a little west of the island.

We didn’t get dolphins surfing our bow wave yet, but at least we sighted other marine mammals. Pity the whales we sighted were so far off. I really need to replace the binoculars with something decent so we have a better chance of seeing the wildlife. The tally on this day: at least 3-4 whales, seals, birds and a lone penguin bobbing off the north of the island.

I tried out the autohelm for the first time since ‘Blue arrived here without much success. Even in the 1-2m swells [i.e. pretty much a total calm for this coastline] ‘Enry became very, very active, driving his little rack-and-pinion arm full travel across each crest. That’s a surefire way for him to wear himself out or drain the batteries. Perhaps there’s a setting that will damp the action a little?

No breakages, no bleeding, no vomit – that’s first prize in “keeping it fun”. Robben Island done and dusted. One step closer to Dassen!


**Navigation around the island is fairly straight forward with very few off-lying dangers. There’s a south cardinal marking a wreck at roughly   S33.84069 E18.38536 and about 0.34nm north west of this mark is Whale Rock which breaks even in calm weather so it’s visible and easy to avoid. The west of the Island seems pretty much clear of dangers and as long as you keep a prudent distance off it’s easy to avoid the large breakers crashing on the shore, generated by the infinite fetch from South America. There’s a wreck washed up on the beach on the north-west shore, proof that things can go wrong and a visible caution to the complacent sailor but rounding the north of the island is pretty straight forward as well. Turning south and beating down the eastern side we, in retrospect, maybe followed the shoreline a little too closely because we didn’t really keep a good watch on our depths. Off the south eastern shore there are some rocks close in that could be dangerous, but you have to be really close inshore for them to be a problem. Next time though, we’ll aim to keep in at least 10-15m of water rather than the 6-10m that we did cross and in a south easterly you’ll definitely want to keep a greater margin in hand. Oh, and keep an eye out for the Robben Island Ferry. It’s quicker than your sailboat and travels on the direct route between V&A and the little harbour in Murray Bay. In good visibility it’s no problem but I’m guessing a sea fog changes all of this a little.


 

Nov 182016
 

So that was a very rough sail yesterday. And it wasn’t nearly all the ocean could have thrown at us.

The 10-15kt forecast proved to be a joke. It started off well enough but then, as we tried to head toward Sea Point, we stalled, totally stalled in the wind shadow of The Mountain. At that point we thought it better to head back toward Milnerton and the wind we could see over there. Good choice if it was wind we wanted because soon we had a steady 25-30kt screaming in at us.

There’s no real panic when you’ve got space and time and with the boat hove to, or sort of, we tucked a reef in the main and rolled even more of the genny away. Even so, this was certainly life on the lean, wild and wet as we beat back toward Milnerton light.

The point I’m trying to make is, that even though it was fun with a full crew and many hands, it was damn hard work. On reflection it really has me asking again “Is this really what I want to do?” This is no Vaal Dam cruising here, it’s real, it’s hard, it’s potentially life threatening if things go wrong.

We nailed the docking, even in the breeze.

A strange mix of emotions I guess. There’s a real sense of satisfaction and achievement in handling the boat well, in dealing with the elements and getting where you wish to go. The flip side – things can go wrong in a hurry and you need to be prepared. The damage we sustained was minor and didn’t really require anything other than cranking up the reefing line to reset the sail as best we could. At the back of my mind though is always the scenario planning, always the PM paranoia of what next and what will we do then? That’s why you hoist the main in the harbour, why you only take it down when you’re back in.

And the point of this? I don’t really know. If the boat is well prepared, if the crew understand what could go wrong and have half a plan to deal with things, well, there’s no reason not to venture forth. There’s no way that you can foresee every little thing, and to tell the truth, no way you’d want to because what a boring life that would be.

So, right now I’m somewhat ambivalent. I’m not scared off by any means but I reckon, as C also said, “Don’t think S would have had much fun yesterday”. C and B seemed to relish the fresh conditions. R not so much and perhaps G neither. I would have battled on my own, seriously battled. I don’t think my autohelm is up to the conditions here and I honestly cannot see it coping. I haven’t tried it yet but just looking at the physical, ongoing challenge it is helming here and I have to wonder. That makes running the boat alone much more of a challenge. It’s not that it couldn’t be done. Heck, there are solo sailors all over the world. But, one’s level of preparedness needs to be that much greater.

Mmmm.Yes. What do I want from life? An easy comfortable time or wild and wet challenge?

Nov 072016
 

The thought did cross Markus’s mind that riding the ‘bike was way more dangerous than battling the south-easter under sail.

Why then, he mused, did the butterflies make their appearance every time he sailed from port and yet they were strangely absent each day he hit the traffic?

Oct 082016
 
Trapper vs Miura

Trapper vs Miura

In my opinion the more beautiful of the two is the Trapper, her sleeker lines and proportions just look right.

‘Blue is a tubby boat and vastly better for the sailing I have planned, but I’ll always fondly remember the years spent with Sole.

Jul 162016
 
We're in the south Atlantic now

We’re in the south Atlantic now

As they say, the Cape weather is a fickle mistress!

The day started out cold and wet with low lying cloud and fog curling around the mountain into the marina. By 12pm the sun was out, the temperature up and the wind down. 2pm had the halyards and flags in the marina whipping away to a 15kt SW’ly, gusting 20kt.

Should we sail or should we not?

Considering the availability of skilled crew, considering the boat is far from home when we’re back in Jhb, considering the sooner we experience heavy weather and get it over with the better, we tucked a reef in the main and set course for the open South Atlantic.

This little Miura is superb. She’s not without her shortcomings, as with all things in life, but in these waters and conditions she’s in her element. A stiff 19-20kt SW’ly blowing over a short, steep two and a half meter swell had us hanging on tight while moving around the boat. As usual, the camera batteries died and so I had to revert to the phone to get a bit of video footage of the conditions.

It’s funny how things are. Often, there’s a hesitance to set sail. The “should we” or “shouldn’t we” mental debate rages, especially when the wind is up but, once out there, it’s always “Why did I even think of not going out?”

It was a little rough out there as we cleared the lee of Mouille Point, a steep and short swell blowing in from the SW. With a reef in the main and two thirds of the genoa out I thought that maybe we’d be a little slow, but no. The GPS track and data below show my fastest recorded max ever on Blue. Pity this GPS system doesn’t show exactly where that was achieved?

Max Speed !!

Max Speed – 8.1kt!!

The fore-hatch leaks, the bilges seem continually wet and things rust within 2 seconds of coming aboard but so what. Overall Blue is everything I’d hoped she would be out here. Can’t believe I waited so long to make the move.

Crash 'n Splash

Crash ‘n Splash

Jul 142016
 

10-15kts westerly with a 2.5m swell. Super sailing. ~9nm covered at an average of 5.2kts, maximum speed of 6.3kts. Super little ship this Miura.

The best seat in the house

The best seat in the house

Doesn't appear very grand, but for me, and especially my crew, it's huge.

Doesn’t appear very grand, but for me, and especially my crew S and C, it’s huge.

Sandy had the helm for the entire voyage, actually loving the feel of the boat as she rose over each crest and swooshed down the back into the troughs. To be honest, I was a little nervous going into the day, fearing scaring her off before our life aboard had even begun. But all turned out well. And that, more than anything was the reason for “a very good day”.

 

Jun 252016
 

With total financial independence (FI) perhaps the end goal, one needs a strategy to keep you focused and sane on the (long) journey to that end result.

Enter the concept of financial flexibility (FF)

You’ll never reach FI unless you constantly improve and grow your FF.

FF means the ability to make choices, to explore options that perhaps pay less but allow more time, that perhaps sacrifice some income but allow relocation closer to the beach and the boat.

Too often in this world life is portrayed as an all-or-nothing race. You’re either FI or not. And if you’re not (and considering how the end goal is so far off and apparently “unachievable”) then you may as well give up and return to the woolly masses. Extreme sports, celebrity, top-ten business, richest man in the world, blah etc blah – we are inundated constantly by stories of the outliers, the extremists, the top performers – with the implied message “nothing else is worthwhile“.

Not true! Life is always more complex and multi-faceted than the media stories portray. It’s important to remember that. Almost everything you read, almost everything “marketed” to you, shows a selective, out-of-context extract of someone’s life. That aspirational solo-trek to the north pole often doesn’t show the rest of life and the resultant sacrifices made to achieve that one event. The martini and the palm fronds with the sailboat at anchor in the background – that is just a very small part of the story.

So ‘Blue now lies impatiently waiting in her slip in the South Atlantic. There’s an immeasurably long road trip that now separates us and a constant mental tweaking of the budget to figure out how often I can afford to fly out to visit and sail. It’s hopefully just a temporary state of affairs, a stepping stone to something else.

I suppose some people do go for the all-or-nothing approach, selling up everything and moving the whole of life in one big bang. I understand that but for us, right now, the time is not right to do that. Perhaps tomorrow, perhaps never? But in the meantime we are constantly chipping away at the huge boulder that is the present, slowly carving out a life we both keenly desire.

While day-sailing in Table Bay once a month may not be the ultimate, final desire, it sure beats not sailing in the ocean at all. Just like FF, it may end up being all that is possible or, just maybe, a state of total FI one day may enable a season or two at anchor in Baia da Ilha Grande?

Jun 212016
 

So, the big road trip is finally done and dusted and ‘Blue is settled in her new home.

IMG-20160609-WA0000

Splashing the hull. Thursday 2016.06.09

All’s well, no transport damage and the furler and head-stay even made the trip. It wasn’t cheap but I think I made the right decision to use the trusted locals. Andrew organise and coordinated cranage and mast stepping which made life a lot easier.

Splashing the hull, Thursday 2016.06.09

Splashing the hull, Thursday 2016.06.09

 

'Blue looking undressed without the stick

‘Blue looking undressed without the stick

It took the rest of launch-weekend and another day of the next weekend to make her sail-able again. Not everything is returned to working order [some of the mast-lights defy logic or repair] but good enough to sail and so, with beautiful sunny weather and a 5-10kt NW’ly, the maiden voyage into Table Bay, to settle everything down and check that all working ok.

IMG-20160617-WA0016

Maiden Voyage. Friday 2016.06.17

5-10kts is way too little wind with a 2-3m swell running and so, despite the overcast and rainy conditions, we set sail again on the Saturday afternoon to see what Cape sailing is really about – 20kt NW’ly and 3m swells. Super sailing!!

Table Bay, NW'ly 20kt, Super sailing. Saturday 2016.06.18

Table Bay, NW’ly 20kt, Super sailing. Saturday 2016.06.18

Despite the cost, a move well made I think.