Sunday, June 26, 2011

Been AWHILE! Im in New Mexico!

Well Well Well, where do we even try and begin?????

The short story is, my girlfriend Adriana is visiting me from Monterrey, Mexico for the summer and I decided to take a big road trip with her through some states I have never been in. We left the Houston area on June 20th and headed for the border so she could renew her permit. After we got all that straightened out we headed to camp for the night in one of my favorite places; Bandera.

We stayed a night in Bandera then another night with a good friend from Mexico who has a 120yr old ranch house around Medina Lakes!!!! Then we hit the road again for west texas and New Mexico and it was quite a drive through some very beautiful ranch lands. I took her to see the famous Luchenbach, Texas (of the song "lets goto luchenbach") and some other cool things. We made it to Hobbs, NM around 12am where we crashed out in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

We headed out to Cloudcroft, NM the next day but most of the national/state parks are closed right now due to serious fire hazards and currently burning wildfires. We found a small RV park on the Apache Reservation that let us camp for $15 so we decided to stay the night there. We parked high up on a hill with a good view of 3 mountain peaks and warmed up some chili with red wine, romantic I know! We left again in the afternoon after a run through the mountains with Adriana that almost killed me.

After Cloudcroft we headed out through some beautiful areas of new mex and visited some ancient ruins of the Anasazi Indians. Then we headed north to Moriarty, NM and jumped on old Route 66 into Albuquerque,NM. We had dinner that night at a fantastic "New Mexican" restaraunt that just blew our minds, especially with the chili sauce. We listened to a really cool musician play who gave me a cd for giving him a $3 tip! The owner of the restaraunt came and personally talked to us about the food and to Adriana because she is from/lives in Mexico. We camped that night again in a damn Wal-Mart.

We arrived in Taos sometime the following day and promptly checked out the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge which definently made both of us nervous walking on. Around 680ft above the river and some 1200ft across, its a doozy of a drop!!! We camped again in a Wal-Mart (Im not advertising for them I swear! Cheap camping sites are a little hard to come by around here) and in the morning we headed out to check out the Taos Pueblo, the oldest continually inhabited place in the USA. Some of the adobe buildings are over 1000yrs old! The Tewa indians are great people if not a little secretive and guarded over their history and lore but who can blame them after the suffering the Spanish and later White settlers inflicted upon them. They claim to have started the revolution against the Spanish with freed all of the Pueblos in NM until the spanish later re-conquered them. Then when the US Govt had control, they assasinated the then Govenor of the territories.

We checked out the Earthships (sustainable livng homes Ive been researching for awhile) and plan to do a tour tomorrow morning before we head out to Colorado. In all its been a pretty awesome trip and we will be at it for the next month or so before we head back to Texas and then Adriana heads back to Mexico. Ill try and get this thing rolling again and see where it may lead and I will try and blog as much as I can from the road!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Boat Work and Thinking About Surf

Been thinking about all that surf Ive been missing lately while Ive been working on this boat. Heard the Pacific is still strangely quiet or so and Mexico hasnt been producing much except for known big spots. Bleh...

I really need to hurry and finish my work here and get this boat to Colombia so I can start working on my summer trip. Ive decided to take a big road trip through the Four Corners area and the pacific coasts of Oregon and Northern California if there is time (and money for the all the freaking gas).

Frankly, Im going stale again. Im drying out. I need to get moving.... do something... see somewhere new. Dammit.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Been Awhile... Yet Again

Been awhile....

Things are going well with the boat, just one day at a time. Its hard not to be totally overwhelmed on a boat this size with work that needs or could be done so Ive just forced myself to take it slowly.

I need a surf soon.... my gills are drying out. Water is warming quickly here, approaching trunkable range in another week maybe so I might be able to start getting some Florida Panhandle beachbreak ... .Until I get over to east coast at Jupiter Inlet, where I here there are several good warm water breaks!

Formulating plans....

Gotta get rolling again soon...

Too long in one spot.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Work on the boat has been progressing quite well and Im pretty confident I will hit the deadline for everything that is very important for our trip. It has been a long and often cold road but I see light at the end of the tunnel.

The first leg of the trip will be me taking the boat to Jupiter Florida for some serious overhaul work where we will disassemble the boat to rebuild beams and such. I should learn a lot during this time about rigging and boat building in general, especially about Wharrams. After all of that fun stuff, its south to Colombia!

Im pretty excited lately because I have a bunch of fun things coming up. This weekend Im headed to Biloxi to stay the weekend with my brother and his fiancée. We will be attending BeerFest, which is a big festival put on for all the local microbrews to show off their work and products. It should be a full on drunken fest which I wont lie, Im pretty excited about that and hanging with my bro. I need a break from this boat and it will be good to get out of Florida and back around familiar faces for a while.

Im also excited because my love from Monterrey Mexico will be flying in to stay a few days with me while I take a small vacation from boat work. Adriana will take a bus from Monterrey to Houston and from there will catch a flight to Panama City Beach, FL on Saturday afternoon in a few weeks. I wish she could stay longer but she has some commitments back at home to work and school so that’s ok.

I have been working on some plans for this summer and it looks like Ill be taking a 1.5 month road trip with Adriana so we can both see the western United States. Ill be heading through New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Oregon and Northern (possibly southern) California and then back to Texas. Im pretty excited about this but I wish I had more than just 1.5 months so Ill have to make due. It should be a fun trip and Im pretty excited about it.

Ive also been lining up some ideas for the fall like helping my buddy Chris rebuild his Crowther trimaran. We need to build an ama and do general restoration work including a new mast so it should be fun. I figured I could light a fire under his butt and get him moving if I volunteered all my labor for free. I mean, who in their right mind would turn down hundreds of hours of free labor?? Im hoping it will be enough and we can get her ready for a sail before I head off in search of my next great adventure.

I have been seriously craving surf lately and its driving me nuts. I have been watching videos and looking up places where the swell is good and ohhhhh man do I miss Mexico. I need to get back in some waves and soon!

It is amazing that now Im out and living my dreams, I have found that I still cannot get the time together to do all of the things I want to do. Being on this boat has really got my boat blood boiling and Im dreaming yet again of a small but capable multihull to do some coastal cruising and a Bahama run. We shall see! Financially Im doing well and I think I can maintain this for another 2 years before Ill be looking for serious work. I may have found a niche that I would like to slip into with consulting computer work and chasing a few seasonal type jobs. Some of the locals here in PCB have been telling me of the hundreds they make nightly working in restaurants etc. I mean, its not the work I want to be doing that’s for sure, but if I could make a couple grand quickly by working 2 months, that’s enough for me to run off and travel somewhere for the rest of the year or so. Like I said we shall seeeeeeeee!!!

Feb 5th was my 6 month anniversary since I quit my job from the city of Conroe, man how time flies! I took a look at my bank account and here are some numbers for ya!

180 days traveling

Total spent = $4500

Monthly = $750

Daily rate = $25

Not bad considering that’s not even factoring in the $1300 I spent on van repairs back in September in Zacatecas, Mexico!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Boat Work and Life Philosophies

Ive been steady working away on the boat and trying to get my list of projects knocked out without adding too much to the list in the meantime. It has been very difficult for me to separate my emotions and just do the things that need to be done vs. things I would do if it were my boat. I have to constantly ask myself, is this necessary to sail and act accordingly.

Ive been tearing through the electrical system and basically it will be rebuilt in the upcoming days. The old electrical system was ok but monitoring batteries, charging and usage was really only capable if you know about electrical systems. The solar controller for the panels was old and basically worthless so everything is being updated. The panels will be separated into charging and breakers and will have meters showing incoming amps from solar/wind and outgoing amps via battery banks so the owner can try and keep an eye on battery usage. I found some digital voltmeter panels for not a bad price so I will be grabbing a few of these to indicate battery states. While not always 100% accurate (you must use a hydrometer to be 100%), battery voltage is a good indicator of where you stand and will usually suffice for the average person. For instance, observe the following.

100% 12.7v

90% 12.5v

80% 12.42v

70% 12.32v

60% 12.20v

50% 12.06v

40% 11.9v

30% 11.75v

20% 11.58v

10% 11.31v

0% 10.5v

To maximize the life of a battery bank you must never use more than 50% of available amp hours. One of the banks on the boat for instance is 230Ah, so we can use 115Ah before the voltage of the bank will indicate 12.0-12.06vdc, thus telling us 50% of the capacity has been used. Amp meters will indicate draw on a bank so you can guestimate your usage by hour. After some testing last night, Im a little worried about our draw when sailing at night during the trip to Colombia. I had the running lights on, GPS/Radar and 1 incandescent lamp in the starboard hull on and I was pulling 13A per hour! That’s a little high, especially to not even have the autopilot running either. If we sailed with all of this going for 10-12 hours, that pretty much depletes our bank every night (10hours X 13A/hour = 130Ah). The main draw of that was our running lights as they were pulling around 6-7amps alone. Ill work on a solution for this as time allows, possibly look into replacing our running lights with super bright LEDs.

As it goes right now, I will be taking the boat around to the eastern side of Florida to Jupiter Inlet sometime in early March. We have to deal with the rot in one of the beams and a bottom job so we have decided to take her to the Wharram experts at Boatsmith Inc. Im really excited about this because after speaking with the owner Dave, they are going to teach me some basic carpentry/wood working and boatbuilding, which is a dream of mine. Ive been dreaming about building a boat for some time now as my buddy Chris got me interested in multihulls and homebuilding. During the refit, many things will be checked and analyzed especially the rigging. Right now Im doing some research about rerigging the boat with synthetic standing rigging vs. stainless wire. The synthetic is now at a point where it is stronger and cheaper to rig with this so I might convince the owner to go this route. Some of the big advantages are no swaged terminals to trap water and you can visibly see problems with the lines, whereas with stainless it takes a special dye and a professional to see cracks before it snaps and the whole rig comes crashing down. I dunno, the jury is still out.

Tonight something special happened to me. I have basically 1 one warm pair of clothes to wear and I try my best to keep them clean. The good thing about the cold is Im not sweating hardly at all, so my sweat pants and sweater stay pretty clean overall. When I shower, I change boxers and undershirt and throw the original crap back on. The whole time Ive started this adventure of living in my van and traveling around, I occasionally see people look my way with weird expressions on their faces. I attribute these to my general appearance and living situation and basically shrug it off.

Tonight I was walking into the bathroom of the marina with 2 plates and a bowl to do some dishes. As I was walking, I passed by a mother of more affluent background getting into her mercedez with her kids and she goes “oooo looks… errr yummy”. I got inside and started washing my dishes and looking at my reflection in the mirror, walmart sweatpants and standard white t-shirt, hair wild from the 20kts winds but clean shaven. Im still carrying my Mexican tan so Im darker than most people around here but I guess that gives me the look of a beach bum or a person who labors outside. I thought about the look of pity on her face when she saw me walking to the bathroom with dirty dishes and I wondered what she must think of me. That is when I realized, I am becoming a strong person. Here I am, 6 months into this adventure of life and experiment on living and living at quite low standards at times. To cut back and save more money, I have been eating canned tuna/chicken with mayo and I actually love it! The craziest part of all of this, and what I realized when thinking about that woman and her Mercedez, I CAN END THIS ANY TIME I WANT TO! And yet, I trudge on.

Im very proud of myself tonight for another reason and that is because Im constantly being taught a lesson in humility. I used to be very vain when I was younger and I hated to be seen as “poorer” than someone else. Slowly but surely, I have been letting go of this and what a place to be taught! Im surrounded by retired and rich people, some of whom are living part time on 50+ft boats! Im squandering in the face of utter luxury, and yet I continue down my path and ever so slowly, Im letting go of my worrying about what they think of me. Cheers!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Good Day! Lots of work done.. but lots more problems

Today was a good day for me and the boat. I was able to get the 2 remaining hatch frames scraped free of old sealant and caulking so they will properly glue down to the deck when I put them back on. It was a cold morning and I awoke to find a huge puddle of ice and icicles from where the marina turned on the water on my dock to keep the lines from freezing.

I got up and went straight to work on scraping and just trying to get it over with. Its hard work and with the cold weather my hands are in constant pain from being numb and working the screwdriver and utility knife. I made some calls and am now waiting for quotes to send in the hatch frames to a local company to have them sandblasted and then powder coated black again. The original paint is chipping off at a rapid rate and they don’t look as good as they could so if the price is right we will have them painted.

I made some calls to West Marine and had them do some checking on me for our Garmin GPS Chartplotter which doesn’t seem to want to turn on for me. I have checked at the plug in that I have 12vdc and I do but the unit refuses to power up. I tried the factory reset HOME+POWER keys for 30 seconds or so and still nothing. Im researching to whether or not Garmin can honor the factory 1 year warranty but I doubt it as the West Marine guy confirmed that the serial number shows a manufacture date of 2007. There is still a dim hope that this unit sat on a shelf for 2 years but I highly doubt it. The good news is Garmin will honor the fact that we purchased this unit and will take ours and send us a refurbished unit for $500 with a 90 day guarantee. That’s not a bad deal considering a brand new unit will set the owner back $1800 so I guess we are heading down this road.

I also undid all of the steering lines today to get ready to replace them. I demounted the wheel steering until so I could disassemble it but I ran into problems yet again. I need to disassemble the home-made unit so I can remove and repair the Raytheon AutoHelm that is attached to said wheel. However, a few of the set screws that hold the whole thing together are severely seized so I ran it to a local welding shop only to find they were closed. Im considering checking into having this whole thing remade or just making another one from glassed plywood. The drum that the tiller line wraps around is slightly out of sync with the wheel and I think the whole thing can be made to steer a lot better. However, Im trying to save the owner money so I will just try again at the shop tomorrow to see if they can heat the metal and get the set screws out of there.

My problem lately is my infatuation with this boat. Im having so much fun that Im forgetting its not mine. I want to redesign so many things and change this and that to make it even better but then I have to remind myself that this is not my boat and the owner is already throwing a fit over the money he is putting into her. I have tried many times to reassure him that this boat is worth much more money than he paid and anything he puts in is just an investment into the boat and her longevity.

Jason, the owner has paid local author, carpenter and boat builder Scott b. Williams from Mississippi to come out and advise us about some of the damage and rot I have found inside one of the main hull beams. Im pretty excited about meeting him because I have read 2 of his books and been following his blog for about 2 or 3 years while he has been building a very similar boat but at extremely high standards. He should be coming out next week sometime when the weather is supposed to be a little warmer and better. Im also excited about the warmer weather because I have literally been freezing here on this boat and working in 40F everyday with inadequate clothing. Sure I could go buy more but at the rate of pay which I am receiving it would be literally several days boat pay just to get some good working clothes so I have decided to rough it out. When it gets warmer next week I will start preheating my cans of epoxy and hardener and try to keep them at or around 70F so it should go on nice and smooth when I begin glassing the wooden deck frames for the hatches to sit on. A lot of water gets trapped under here and I would feel better if they were sheathed in epoxy before I reseal everything.

Well that about does it for this post. Im headed to my brother’s place in Biloxi this weekend so I should have something fun to write about afterward.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cold and Wet!

Today was a tough day to get out of bed. The weather has been horribly cold lately, especially this morning. I woke up around 7am and took a glance at my digital thermometer which was indicating a snug 36F inside the hull. I really had to pee and it took about 5 minutes of thinking before I was able to convince myself to get out of my shell of blankets and sleeping bags.

I returned to bed and woke up about an hour later and I promptly hit the deck to begin working on the hatches once again. I was surprised to find a decent amount of frozen water in containers that had been sitting out all night thus ending the debate of whether or not it actually dropped below freezing last night. I worked hard until 11 at scraping off the remaining 5200 Marine Sealant, which is a mixture of silly putty and badass glue. Its extremely difficult to make it come off in large segments and I found myself with a small flat head screwdriver removing bits and pieces from all the sections of a 24”x24” hatch frame.

I went to the nearby McDonalds for lunch at noon. Not so much to eat but to use their free WiFi they have. I sat in my van while checking my email, talking to Adriana and researching a few things for the boat. I made my lunch which was tuna and salteens and I highly enjoyed it! Amazing that such a cheap lunch can do it for me. I need to stick to this because I have been spending a tad too much cash here and I need to save as much as I can for when I get to South America.

The weather has been very cold lately and even just sitting in my van at noon was almost unbearable after half an hour or so. I decided to leave after I noticed my MorningStar SunSaver Duo solar controller flip out for a second and surge my house battery to near 16volts! This caused my inverter to overvolt and my laptop charger stopped working for a bit. My solar controller will “float” charge at 14.5v but this also depends on temperature and it was pretty cold today so 16v might be normal. I need to do some research about possibly some type of circuit protection to ensure nothing higher than 13v hits my lights and inverter.

The boat has been coming slowly as I have been finding a bunch of problems. It’s a 42ft boat and there are a ton of systems that need to be checked and repaired. Right now Im after the electrical system and deck hatches because they leak like crazy. The electrical is fine and working but I just don’t like some of the setup. I also have been doing some checking and it looks like the boats solar controller is on the fritz because it refuses to even try and charge the bank of batteries. The boat has a nice solar setup too so basically its tons of power just going to waste. The AIR-X Marine wind generator was cranking out high speeds the other day so I decided to check it with my multimeter. 5VDC?!?!?! It should be around 20vdc+!!! I isolated the circuit right at the generator and same thing, 5.6Vdc. I have to get her hooked up straight to the batteries because it has an internal regulator so that might have something to do with it but I highly doubt it. Right now I have it shorted and is self braking to prevent wear.

Ill try and get back on this thing because I know I haven’t been writing much lately and I can tell. I need to get these fingers moving again!!!!