Casa Quirky

So we've moved on to yet another "What the fuck were we thinking" opportunity. As any of you who know us know, we like to jump in with both feet and figure out all the pesky little details later. So, about a month ago, we put in a bid on a foreclosure property on an online auction. It's a 1/2 acre in the south valley part of Albuquerque, in the Bosque along the Rio Grande, with a 1965 era hacienda-style part adobe house. We'd had a chance to walk the property the day before and it was a mess. Downed trees, half finished projects, a horse corral, a pile of crap that looked like it was supposed to be an outdoor kitchen but wasn't, there was so much going on that it was hard to know where to look first. We were the 'winners' of the auction. 

It's been one of those 'hurry up, then wait' months since the auction. Hurry up and get all the paperwork and financial stuff in to the auction site, we had 24 hours for this. Wait 2 weeks. Hurry up with more paperwork. Wait again. Sign the closing papers. Call the utilities. Wait. Call the general contractor to get an electrician. Wait. Get the electrician to the house. Waiting for the estimate now. Waiting for power to get the well pump going. Waiting for electric and water so the gas can be tested.

Meanwhile, a company that had been contracted months ago to clean up the house and yard before the auction, showed up and took all the trash, brush, old appliances, AND the crap-pile outdoor kitchen! How much stuff could there possibly be, you ask? It took 3 guys almost 4 days. We saw them at the house when they were working, but didn't happen mention that the auction had already taken place.

So we've been cleaning up the little casita in the back (did I mention there's a cute casita?) so we can move into it while we work on the main house. The casita will eventually be an apartment/guest house, although I think our daughter, Hannah, has her eye on it for now.

It's an old house and yard and it's had lots of owners. There are lots of things to make us go "hmmmmmmm, what were they thinking?" so I've started calling it Casa Quirky, in honor of it being in Albuquirky, of course.

Casa Quirky from the outside.

The living room, with several of the unfinished projects: a window seat, a strange wood box and sort-of built in's by the fireplace.



Time to move on, again, or

"The world is your oyster". We've heard that more than once in the last 2 weeks, and while we do know that and we do realize how fortunate we are, we are both still really PO'd over this turn of events. We ended up moving off the joyless boat the day the BPO Rally was leaving Key West. We'd planned for so long for the Blue Planet Odyssey, and spent so much money and sold Celebration to make it all work out, that we've really been thrown for a loop here.

So how did this happen one might ask? Right up front we'll be critical of us. In hindsight all the signs were there, but in our enthusiasm and excitement at the change of venue, we didn't see it. Here is a great time to say a sincere thanks to all of our friends and followers as not one time in the last couple of weeks have we heard an "I told you so" in spite of the fact many of you did tell us so before it all began.

We have no doubt we made the right decision to not sail. In the end it came down to us losing trust and confidence in the captain/owners of the vessel. There were just too many undone things, too little knowledge, and too many statements made which turned out untrue. Learning the owners had owned the vessel for almost 10 years we assumed they would have sailed and known the boat. Nope. We asked for thru-hull locations and they referred to the owners manual! Fail...an owner/captain needs to know where and be able to find them in the pitch black of night with water above the floorboards. There will be no time in an emergency to discuss and certainly not checking the owners' manual. Do they work? "I believe so", another fail...so we don't know for sure the valves work, are properly assembled, no corrosion, double clamps, and sure the handle actually moves the ball, the ball's not corroded away, and it actually shuts off the water. Oh and I would be much more comfortable if they had proper backing plates/blocks with the valves lagged/bolted to in order to protect the boat from taking on water if an impact shears the outer flange. Joyless has no backing blocks let alone having the valves attached. How much anchor chain? "300 feet". Nope...150 when we (Lynn and Steve) pulled it out and measured. "The refrigeration works great and has for nine years"...nope. "We're not camping" we'd been told (one of our primary requirements/motto) but the stove hadn't been used and the owners appear to have not stayed aboard during most of the preparation. Do we have a spare alternator"?  "Do we need one"?  Yes, and here is a long list of other spares we need.  Eventually, or as Lynn describes: in an unshakably, unwaveringly ploddingly slooooooow about getting anything done...they eventually got ordered. (Pedantic became our private catch phrase.) Several critical spares (starter, seawater pump) didn't make it in time of course but the owners still believe they were ready. Then there were the lengthy and unexplainable disappearances. But the kickers: moving dock cart after dock cart of  "stuff" off  the vessel (literally filling a car all three seats and trunk as well as two giant dock boxes) before the safety inspection by Jimmy Cornell only to move it all back aboard after the inspection...deception; and where it all began "the boat is ready", "it came from the factory ready", "we'll reimburse your crew fees if something happens and we're not" we were assured in August 2014 before we wired our money to the Cornell organization. As seasoned, off-shore, licensed, mariners the vessel and more so the owners, are still far from ready.

As volunteer crew it never occurred to us that we would have to go through all their stuffed full lockers and tell them what to keep and to what to give away. They had been buying and buying and buying with no record of what was bought or where it was put or how many they bought. A lot of the stuff was still in the packaging. Yet we had no spare engine starter, alternator, or right sized ground tackle. We did have seven safety harnesses. Although to be fair, there were only five to start with but upon departure from Ft Lauderdale they couldn't be found in all the mess, so two more were bought. We had 26 life vest whistles. We had 500 spare batteries for all the various electronics, (this was after Lynn threw away about 100 that had leaked all over), but we didn't have a spoon to stir a pot. Which we understood after learning that the stove had only been used ~three times in the last nine years. Not only did the owners not cook on board, they didn't sleep there either. They were camping. They had never cruised the boat. We don't believe they'd ever sailed her either.

Why so far behind? Our opinion is a failure to embrace responsibility as captain and owner for the outfitting, preparedness, and seaworthiness of the vessel and the safety of it's crew. From an overly lengthy time in the yard where so many other items which consumed the last month of time could and should have been done (HAM License, water-maker, thru-hull checks, HF mail software familiarity, SSB installation and familiarity, engine and vessel spares, sorting and stowing necessary and personal items, measuring anchor chain, right sizing the anchor, etc., etc.) to the reason the canvas leaks (in spite of it being years past it's expected life span) were all repeatedly recited as the responsibility and fault of others. For many, and we certainly believe it to be true in this case, the dream of a circumnavigation, of the pageantry of the flags snapping in the wind and of playing music on remote islands for admiring locals, is so much more palatable than the actual doing.

Our departure from Joyless was not because of some real or perceived personality conflict. We invested a lot of equity, both in dollars and emotional capital, into supporting this dream and fully intended to make the two plus year journey. Our direct outlays in travel, storage, and crew fees (all non-reimbursable) plus the sat phone and contract well exceed $15,000. Our opportunity cost i.e. the amount of professional advise and labor donated to the effort would be invoiced by me to anyone else at $36,000 and that is entirely without any weekend or holiday differential. On top of all that we sold our beautiful seaworthy vessel and home Celebration to do this and spent months packing, transporting and storing our own lives in order to crew with Joyless. We are indeed sad, even heartbroken that we are not going but we have too much at risk with a vessel/owner/captain who is unprepared. We willfully volunteered our time and effort as crew with the excitement of sailing for the first time in years without the responsibility and liability carried by the owner and captain. We expected it to work well given what we perceived as the experience aboard having no idea she'd been sailed so little by these owners and they knew so little about her. If at the end of the day an accident or disaster occurred and the owner winced at accepting responsibility, we as the licensed mariners aboard might be held accountable and liable for the lives lost and/or damage incurred. While we have spent so much in time away from our own dreams, money, and the month of 60 hour weeks already donated toward this dream, we could not put our lives and financial future at potential risk.

So we've moved ahead a few years in our plans. We're currently in Albuquerque, looking at property and/or teardrop trailers and/or another boat and/or other crew opportunities, getting to spend time with Hannah, seeing the Revolutions Theatre Festival for the first time, eating great food, and taking it easy after the last couple months of non-stop work. Life really is good.

And there is a new blues tune in the incubator: What the Fuck Were We Thinking, We Must Have Been Drinking, When We Said We'd Crew...

Steve & Lynn

Postscript: We are being so straight forward here not so much to be critical of the owners but to let our friends and fellow mariners know some of the story. We all know good crew and good captains are not found on the internet but through word of mouth and reputation. We could provide more details and our recommendation to crew considering sailing aboard this vessel should they be interested. Our closest of friends, those we have worked with and those who watched this process from nearby boats on the dock know this situation well. Many wondered what took us so long to bail, and the offers to help us and the encouragement flowed from every direction when we moved off. In the end it is our hope to keep others safe. Of course there may well be a dissenting opinion. Please note: there are copious notes (from lists of required spares not aboard when we joined the crew to diagrams of resistance in the ground circuits) priority lists, and many photo's. Consistent with keeping a clean wake, they do not need to be public and won't be.


In a nutshell

  The last 6 months have been eventful, to say the least. Celebration has gone to a wonderful set of new owners, Jurgen and Katherine Murach. She has been renamed Amaroo and is underway to The Bahamas. I hope the three of them have as much fun and as many adventures together as we did.
Steve and I spent a great Thanksgiving in Minnesota and North Dakota seeing almost everyone in both our families. In spite of temps in the 10's is was too short a visit. We did miss seeing the Bernhard clan of Arizona, but I do understand their reluctance to go north in November.


Jurgen and Katherine in the process of renaming Celebration.

We moved aboard Joyful a week ago and have been really busy getting the boat ready to make some really long passages. We brought Joyful to Key West last week and we're working our asses off at Stock Island Marina Village, building shelves in a hanging locker, tracing down some wiring/alternator ghosts, insulating the freezer, sorting and purging the bulging lockers, and figuring out where to store enough provisions for 4 people for up to 30 days. I'm also trying to find enough hiding spots to store 2 years worth of Cheetos. No luck so far. Any suggestions are welcome.


Sights of Maine: food

The Farmers Markets here are overflowing with fresh organic produce. We went to the one in  Stonington last week and came home with all kinds of good stuff. Sweet carrots, garlicky pork sausage, fat blueberries, dense crisp cabbage and garlic strong enough to die for, if you're of the vampire persuasion.

     We stopped at the local Lobster Pound on the way back to the dinghy and got 10 fresh ones to go.
Ten fresh 1 1/4 lb lobsters were $53.

We spent a couple of hours steaming and picking the fresh lobsters. Yes, they do turn orange when they're cooked. Ten cooked lobsters yielded around 2 pounds of meat.

                  The fruits of our labor produced a stir fry worthy of Emeril,

                                    and enough blueberry muffins and pancakes for a week.

                                        It is true, sailors travel on their stomachs.


Sights of Maine: harbor seals

One of the great things about being out in the boonies of Maine is the wildlife. No moose so far, but we've seen eagles and osprey swooping in to fish, guillemots winging by with their inky black bodies and bright red feet, ducks by the hundreds, geese, and harbor seals.

I think the seals are my favorite because most of them are so shy. Their heads are hard to spot amid all the lobster bouys anyway, but at the slightest sound, they disappear beneath the water without even a ripple. They seem to be very social with each other, but they don't like humans. Up close they're bigger than you'd expect, up to 6 feet long and up to 300 lbs. They have such cute faces with their big dark eyes.

These guys were sunning themselves on the rocks behind us one morning. The 9 foot tide was rising so one by one they floated off for a day of fishing. I couldn't find any reason why they like to sit with their body arched up like they do, hind flippers and head in the air, it doesn't look comfortable.

                            A nice soft kelp bed. This one was watching me as I was watching it.

                    The rock is almost gone, but they'll hang out for all the sunlight they can get


Yes, the rumors are true

We've sold Celebration. This may come as a surprise to some of you, I haven't written anything for so long that I'm sure you assumed we were out doing our usual socializing, eating and drinking. And you'd be right. But in between all that... OK it's a long story, so I'll start at the beginning.

Last November at the SSCA Gam in Melborne FL, we met a nice couple, Anne and Jeff Posner, who were looking for crew to do the Blue Planet Odyssey with them on their boat Joyful. We were very interested but this is a 2 1/2 year commitment, so we took a lot of time to think about it. We thought through about how bad it could be, on a small boat, in the middle of the Pacific, with crazy people. But we also thought about how good it could be, on a small boat, getting to know some great people, seeing the world at a snails pace. So we did our usual and jumped in with both feet, well, in this case, four barefeet.

We had planned to put Celebration on the hard somewhere while we were gone, but after adding it all up: the costs of insurance, storage, and maintainence, and then the fixing of all the deterioration that happens to a boat who's neglected, we started  to have doubts about this plan. We moved on to thinking that maybe we should sell. We talked to a boat broker (they're like real estate agents, but for boats) and signed on with one at the end of June. The Plan was to come to Maine for the summer and laze about eating lobster, then take the boat back to Annapolis, move off and put her on the hard at the brokers office.

On the way to Maine we stopped, per usual, at our friends, Gary and Alex's house in Amesbury Mass.  Aside from being perfectly wonderful people, they have a mooring and dock on the Merrimack river behind their house, an awesome collection of friends, an awesome garden...the list of reasons to go there is long. We were there on the dock one afternoon, working away on projects small and large that we wanted to finish before we offered her up to be picked apart by prospective buyers, when a man walked down the ramp from the backyard and said "Hello, my name is Klaus and I used to own this boat".

As it turns out, Klaus' boat, Ludus amoris, was hull number 58 and Celebration is hull number 68. Klaus and his wife Maria circumnavigated twice and he's written a book about their travels (unfortunately for us, the book is in German, but is currently being translated to English). Klaus and Maria are from Germany, but their daughter lives near Amesbury so after they sold Ludus, they moved here. Anyway, on this particular day Klaus was driving on the bridge over the Merrimack about a block from where we were and saw us on the dock. He made a right turn and came to say hi.
(A funny story about that: Klaus knocked on the front door of the house, (no one ever uses the front door), he had a copy of his book in his hand, was nicely dressed and was driving an old VW camper van. Gary thought he was a Jehovias Witness and was reluctant to answer the door. Once Gary figured out Klaus's real purpose, he sent him down to see us.) Klaus came aboard to chat and look around. He mentioned that about a year ago he'd gotten an email from a friend in Bavaria asking if he, Klaus, still had his boat for sale. He didn't. Steve mentioned that Celebration happened to be for sale. Klaus looked around some more and then invited us over for dinner the next evening at his home. I knew he had been a real cruiser because when I asked what I should bring to dinner and he replied "your laundry".

We were very surprised to get an email the next morning from Klaus's friends, Jurgen and Kathrin. They were looking for more information on the boat. We sent it and forgot about it. We had a great dinner with Klaus and Maria and got to see some wonderful pictures of their trip. The next thing we knew, J and K had booked tickets to come to Boston to see Klaus and Celebration. We did not get our hopes up. Besides, we already had a Plan. AND our daughter, Amanda, was coming for a rare visit and we didn't want anything to mess that up. It turned into a very fun, chaotic, wacky week. In short we went from "maybe we should sell the boat" to "holy cow, I think we sold the boat" in about 6 weeks.

The really weird part of all this is that when I called our broker to tell him all this and ask what we should do next, HE YELLED AT ME! Really. Yelled. He wouldn't listen to me at all and kept yelling and threatening to put a lien on the documentation, take us to court, etc. We never had any intention of not paying him (until then of course) but we did want to talk about a reduced fee since he had had to do NOTHING so far. Suffice to say, we settled, by dealing with his partner, and we no longer have a broker.

So the new Plan. We'll stay on the boat and deliver her to the Miami area in November. J and K hope to come back and take possession then. We can move to Joyful at the same time. For now, we're in Maine, socializing, eating and drinking.
Below is a picture of Amanda from our quick drive to BaHaBa, because every blog needs a picture.


On the northward migration

Our winter in Marathon sped by really fast. When we got there, our 5-6 month planned stay seemed to stretch endlessly before me, full of possibilities. Chances to learn to basket weave, to spend long, unhurried hours chatting with friends, to blog daily about all the interesting people we would be meeting, to get some of the long-put-off boat upgrades done. In 5 months we managed to get a lot of that done.
As with all boat projects, the new fiberglass dodger took much longer to build than we had planned. We spent so much time working on it in the project room at the marina that by the time we were done, we'd met everyone at the marina and just about everyone from the  mooring field. We met lots of people who would come through daily to check our progress and give advice, lots of advice. Lots and lots of advice. I tried the Tom Sawyer trick daily, trying to hand over my resin roller or paint brush, to get a demo from one of the advice givers but I never got a taker.  I think next time we have to do a big fiberglass 'something', I'm going to call it a class and charge for attendance. The end result is wonderful and we are loving the added protection off shore and the new hand holds for safety. The pictures show the new stuff, but if you really want to see how beautiful it is, you may just have to come and visit.
We left Marathon about a month ago, spent a fun week in Miami with friends Bill and Sarah on Moonlight Serenade, made our way up to St Augustine for another couple of weeks and are now back in Oriental NC. to see more good friends. This trip north and south takes longer each year as we meet more and more people along the way that we want to stop and see each time we go by. 

From this, old canvas dodger.

...to the new awesome hard dodger.
Oriental has a new free dock and we spent 2 nights there. It comes complete with 2 pair of beautiful white ducks. They wander freely around the Oriental Marina and Inn grounds, stopping to quuwack and flap at anyone who gets too close. They were very entertaining to watch, but they got up way too early.
                                                                       Fuel duck.


Looking north at the outer dinghy dock, Marathon City Marina from the water.

We've settled into our new winter home pretty quickly. The Marathon City Marina is a big place as far as mooring fields go. There are more than 200 moorings in Boot Key Harbor. The map below is courtesy of the city of Marathon. The picture above, is looking from the middle of the black dots, north to the circle with the Boot Key logo. The mooring field isn't full yet, but more and more boats are arriving daily. The cold weather up north is chasing the cruisers our way. We're on mooring K-1.


We picked Marathon for the winter because of it's facilities and the ease of getting around and getting supplies for all the projects we have on the list for the next 4 months. The marina has large project rooms where cruisers can spread out and do work that none of us have room to do on our boats. You want to fix a sail? There's a floor for that. You need to work on the dinghy motor? There are motor stands and workbench space for that. Fibreglass repair? Ditto. Free wifi? Yep. Laundry, yes. (But it makes me cringe to pay $6 for one load. When I think of all the washers and dryers I could have bought with just the money I've spent  in laundromats in the last 5 years. Definitely cringe-worthy.)

The view from above the tiki hut, looking south. Celebration is just right of center.

The inner dinghy dock, with the shower/laundry building and project rooms on the right.


After our very fun, event filled summer, getting back to the boat yard and going to work on Celebration was a definite let down! It's a good thing we met some really fun, party loving fellow sailors, who were also in the midst of boat repairs or overhauls. You know who you are Billy, Bill, Lori, Edgar, Hela, Wendy... the list is long. Thanks for making our yard time go by so quickly.
We splashed Celebration on a very rainy day, in the middle of a very rainy week, that unfortunately  happened to be in the middle of a very rainy month. We didn't see the sun for the next 3 weeks.
We headed south on Chesapeake Bay to Norfolk and then into the ICW system of rivers and canals that takes boaters inside of Cape Hatteras. It's beautiful back country of swamp grass and marsh but it was still raining.

                                        Norfolk Navy Yard, grey ships on a grey day.

Air craft carrier in dry dock, they're so big on top, it's a surprise to see how little is under water.

                                 A kettle of anhingas, wondering where the sun went.

As is usual on our way south, we ended up in Oriental, NC, for a visit with Beth and Jim on Wild Haggis. We lucked out and got onto the free town dock for two nights and we even managed to be there for a pig-pickin at Dick and Jackies. The weather was improving as we made our way south and we were very ready to be back in shorts and flip-flops.

          Carolina Beach, NC, even the geese were heading south, they passed  us daily.
We left Carolina Beach and did a 5 day sail all the way to Marathon. It was a great trip, pretty good wind, pretty calm seas and we managed to average more than 5knots an hour.

                                               Our new morning-coffee view, over Boot Key.
We've settled into our home for the winter, the mooring field at Boot Key Harbor in Marathon FL. We've spent s lot of time in Florida, but haven't really explored any of it and I'm excited to get to check out all of the Keys.

Just a shot of the inside of the boat after our 5 days off shore to Marathon, the sea berth on the left with lots of pillows to keep us from rolling and our piles of cold weather clothing we shed as we got south.


They say that time flies when you're having fun

 And we're having a lot of fun, so the days are slipping through my fingers at a scary fast rate. How can it be that 2 months have gone by since we put the boat up on the hard? Didn't Hannah tell us just yesterday that she was getting married? And more importantly, where has all the rum gone? This summer was a whirlwind 8000 roadtripping miles of family, fun, good friends, and amazing scenery. Once again we started in Virginia, headed to Minnesota and North Dakota to see our families, turned left and made our way to New Mexico, where there was a big party with a small wedding in the middle.
Our family grew by many as we welcomed not only our new son-in-law, Cameron, but his entire family into the fold. It was a very beautiful Hannah/Cameron/New Mexico wedding: a beautiful clear blue sky, a gorgeous estate, green and cool, a beautiful bride and her handsome groom, family and friends dressed in the very best of elegant picnic attire, a Dia de los Muertos bride and groom piƱata, fish tacos, rum bar (courtesy of the bride's parents), sack races, wild flowers bouquets and dancing outside on the grass under the twinkling lights and stars. We, of the older generation went home by midnight, but the party went on into the wee hours and, from what I understand, continued the next day. As my dad said, after watching his first grandchild get married, "The bar has been set pretty high for the rest of the grandkids." 

After the wedding we continued our "wear out our welcome" tour of our families. We headed to Phoenix for a bit and then back to Albuquerque and on to northern New Mexico where we spent some time looking at land. We'd like to find somewhere to build a cabin and eventually do 6 months on the boat and 6 months off.
In between family visits, we were camping again. We usually stay at the KOA campgrounds, having a fondness for bathrooms and showers and such. Most of the KOA's have some kind of a gift shop with local kitsch for sale. It actually might be a requirement: the dusty forgotten gift shop to the left of the check-in. I've never bought anything but, I always look, I just never know what to expect. In the KOA in Tucumcari NM, I found a treasure, the new mug I've been looking for. It's bright sunshine yellow with a big red Zia sun on it. I love it!

Currently, we're back on the boat, but still in the yard. The picture above is the view from the cockpit, looking around the yard. There are lots of people here, working on boats in varying states of seaworthiness.  We'd planned a quick bottom paint job and then back in the water, BUT as with all things boat, the plans changed. It goes like this. We have a new anchor, it's bigger than the last one and it doesn't fit on the bow as well as it should. The anchor roller needed to be removed and moved back and re welded, so the anchor could fit properly.  Enter our friend, Billy, who has a shop with a TIG welder. Off came the bow spirit. It'll be another week.
The picture below is of Celebration on the hard, minus the bow spirit.