Jan 312018
 

A few things leapt out at me during a recent interaction:

  • Our business is very dependant on our client’s shut-downs. We typically install and commission during the March-April Easter break and over the December Christmas/New Year period. Oh, and we often do smaller jobs on weekend shutdowns.
  • This company is really good. It’s pensionable age is 65. The previous company I worked for was 60. It gives me a whole further 5 years to save for retirement.

There were many other things said, many other topics discussed and explored, but ultimately these two statements are indicative, I think, of the environment.

The people, I’m sure are personable and friendly, most likely a good team to work with if…. If you buy into their world view, which appears to be – You work your career, full-on, nothing else but work. Then you retire at some arbitrary age in the future and you then live and enjoy life.

It’s always dangerous to jump to conclusions, to make judgements based on a short two-hour meeting with someone, but in many situations it’s all we have and decisions need to be taken based on those short interactions.

What struck me again is the overriding inability of most corporate sheep to even consider that something else is possible. After all, what on earth is normal about accepting that the company takes preference over all your limited weekends and public holidays?

I really don’t think I could go back into this type of environment, irrespective of whatever the offer might be. I know, I just know, I’ll be miserable there. The initial contact was certainly no time to interrogate their attitudes to unpaid leave, flexible working hours, remote-work but I have seen enough of the culture in that one brief meeting to understand that it’s not something they have up until now considered let alone would embrace and allow.

So I pretty much know all of this, even before I went in for the chat. So why do I do this to myself? Why even waste the time?

Well, partly because much of this could actually still be only in my head and I may well be wrong. It’s always good to have a particular stance clearly and directly articulated by the other party rather than assuming what it might be.

The other, less desireable aspect, is that the money [or lack thereof] really does have a serious hold on me. It’s been extremely hard considering a future with no income and there really is this inner concern that I will not be able to replace a standard job/salary by my own efforts. Again, perhaps all in my head and not a current valid concern until I’ve tried and tried again. Unless I’ve tried and repeated failure has proven this point, perhaps I’m imagining things that may not be?

None of this makes it any easier. None of this allows me to easily just say no to one of the very few opportunities that have popped across my path.

Mmm! Living in my head. Not perhaps the best thing to do all the time. Perhaps it’s best if I give the independant, self-earning path a full go before I take the coward’s way out and run back to the coporate?

Nov 132017
 
“They’re thinking of selling their Astove 31,” a friend tells me.
“What’s the plan?” I reply.
“Thinking to maybe one day head offshore” he muses.
“What’s wrong with the Astove?” I wonder.
Same thing holds true for dual-purpose motorcycles. If you don’t have at least 1000cc underneath you then you can’t possibly tour the remote places of the planet.
4×4? same thing. Have to get all the gear before you can think of going outside the parking lot.
In my opinion, bigger isn’t always better or even necessary. That’s why I’m happy with my 30’Miura [and we will cruise offshore one day], my tiny x300 [yes we will adventure far and wide and on the dirt] and my aging Isuzu 4×4 [perhaps we might even head off-road one day].
The irony though; even I cannot possibly have enough time in my current life to use all these properly. Even by going small I’ve crossed some paradoxical line.
Perhaps going nothing at all would have been better under the current circumstances?.
Certainly – bigger is not always better. Sometimes though even smaller isn’t better. Sometimes total abstinence is the only logical path.
Why is that so hard?
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…….

Feb 232017
 

I suddenly realise why it is I keep going back to Art of Hookie – it’s for the reminder that jumping off and “living the dream” is a perilous undertaking.

Here is some random dude, supposedly broke, who talks big but, in reality, is struggling with life in general. Just like everyone is. Perhaps more than most is the impression? And yet, he is doggedly pursuing his version of the dream, no appologies, no excuses. That’s inspiring.

It’s a constant reminder to me that it is possible to live a non-mainstream life. Its a reminder to throw yourself at your dreams. It’s also a reminder that if the safety net is not strong (especially the financial one & the health one) life can get pretty miserable, pretty fast.

It’s hard to feel that things aren’t coming to a head at the Big S. What with the old project wounds still fresh and new project politics looming. I’m making ‘friends‘ enemies throughout the global organisation now. Not just locally. Not that I particularly care but, it is unpleasant! And to cap it all I didn’t sleep well. Food poisoning? Stress? Either way, not happy.

The power has been out since shortly after midnight. I write these words to the hissing of my Camping Gaz light. Coffee courtesy of the matching stove. The day ahead is most likely to be filled with friction. Unhappiness over the schedule. Anger about the order cancellation………

I think of the boat, of the Freedom Fund. I’m glad for the upcoming long weekend, a chance to escape for a short while. A chance to clear my thoughts, to potter away on the little tubby yacht that seems to be the only place I’m truly content.

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.

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?

Aug 222016
 

I’m sworn off boats, for today at least. The discovery of yet another structural leak (or two) has me seriously depressed with this entire boating thing. What was to have been a super-pleasurable “living the life” thing is turning into an emotional and financial disaster.

I’ve patched it with wax-based sealer (seems that’s my go-to solution these days). What I really need to do is find some ”underwater” epoxy to mix up and do some kind of botch job with.

For now, I’ve cancelled today’s sailing for fear of disturbing the leak even further. Emotionally and financially drained, I need ‘Blue to sit on her mooring for the next few months while I figure out the next steps. And to do that she needs to keep the water out, at least keep it slow enough so the bilge pump has a fighting chance.

…..

Even the under-water epoxy doesn’t do the job. After hours of sanding in the most inaccessible of places, I seal the source of the leak and it shows me the middle finger, migrating out of the delaminated fibreglass a couple of millimeters away. Anyway, it’s (possibly) contained to a couple of drips an hour, not enough to sink the boat or stress the bilge pump too much.

It’ll need to be addressed eventually, but not now. In a huff I lock up and leave. You’re on your own for a while ‘Blue!

Leak #5

Leak #5

Jul 232016
 

While I wouldn’t say life has become immeasurably harder, there can be no doubt that it’s harder than it was before now that the boat is in Cape Town.

When ‘Blue was moored in Deneysville, a mere 100km away, it was, while painful, ultimately very easy to hop in the car and check on the bilges. Now that she’s moored at RCYC it’s a whole new kettle of fish.

On the whole the move to Cape Town has been an overwhelmingly positive experience. The sailing in Table Bay has been challenging and satisfying.

There has been one negative though – ‘Blue is leaking, and quite badly.

She’s always taken on a little water during motoring, a natural and desirable thing I’m told. In her previous fresh-water life this has never been an issue. A couple of mops of the bilge and a week later she’s been dry as a bone. Not so at present. The stern-gland leak (an unproven assumption still) seems continuous and threatening at the moment. It’s not stopping at all and seems to let in about 15-20 liters per week. Not conducive to an easy nights sleep when the next trip down was only planned for 4-6 weeks time.

Cazzie did a visit yesterday – lots of water again. It can’t wait until August, and so I have a flight booked to see if I can stem the tide and prevent a disaster.

I unsure at present why it’s taking on so much. Logically, the stern gland seems to be the most likely source of ingress. There has been no evidence of leaky through-hulls and the raw water valve seems sorted. So it must be the stern gland right? Heaven forbid if it’s keel bolts that have loosened!?

This hastily convened trip is first and foremost a fact-finding mission. I need to isolate, beyond a doubt, the source. That’s the first step to fixing the problem.

I’ve never worked on the sterngland before and so, if that is the problem, I fear I don’t have the necessary tools to effect a repair. Just in case, I’ve raided the 253 toolkit and have my plumbing wrench ( dont laugh…it is a water leak after all ? Besides nothing else is large enough) and on oversized pair of gripping pliers. I don’t have too much confidence in these but they offer more hope than my bare hands at least. The plan is to fall back on the ubiquitous toilet-pan sealer if these don’t work….not a permanent solution but a stop-gap that may be better than nothing.

Ultimately, if needs be, I can always have the yard slip her.

Because of the fact that ‘ Blue has always been bone dry in the past I’m unsure of whether the auto -bilge setup actually works or not. I religiously make sure the pump runs every time I leave the boat but I honestly cant say I ever remember it tested with a bilge full of water? That’s another item to check!

This is not an unmanageable situation, just a bit harder because of the travel and logistics involved. The pain is especially felt in the wallet……weekend flights are not the cheapest but at least they are there, allowing the hastily planned visit.

I just hope they let my wrenches fly.

Jul 022016
 

I woke up this morning to find all the posts & pages on NWM missing and IS totally dead.

Mmmmm!?

I’ve never made any backups and never been too concerned because, well, this is a personal project which, while visible to the world, remains [I believe] unread and unmissed should it disappear.

Except that’s not true. As soon as it was gone I missed it.

Luckily it’s back after a few database “repairs” and a re-coding of the WP-login code on IS to recreate a user name and password.

Needless to say, I’m waiting for a backup to download to local storage while I type this.

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!