Friday, April 30, 2010

I Stand Corrected

Previously I shared my "challenges" in updating our Garmin GPS. I believe I suggested that Garmin needed to work on their customer service. Well, they have and its G-R-E-A-T. They have opened a walk in customer service center at their Olathe HQ just this week. Yep, I suggested it via email a week and a half ago and they did it. I am a PC and Windows 7 was my idea. Ooops, I mean....I am GPS and a Customer Service Center was my idea!

I loaded up our 76cx and cord, Kim's 478 and cords, the new chip, the unopened chip, Little Blue (my mini laptop), and my receipts for HomePort (Garmin's charting software) and the duplicate chip and headed down there. Of course the boys in the service center didn't quite know what to think of me. They were all automotive GPS guys. However the CSC manager, Randy jumped in and we muddled through. He had not seen the HomePort software. In fact they didn't even have it loaded in the CSC. We downloaded to Little Blue and together began figuring it out.

The CSC had a display of GPS units that is primarily made up of Nuvi's. They did have a 76 like ours. These are to use with customers along with a customer computer station. I don't know how (I meant to ask but forgot) but somehow our GPS unit was able to get connect to the satellites inside the CSC. As many of you know, you must be outside to acquire the satellites. I can only assume that Min has arranged for some super, duper, high tech, direct satellite connection into their HQ. They don't actually sell products in the CSC at this time. They plan to in the future but only on a limited basis. Randy was pretty sure they wouldn't have any marine units or such because there is just no market for that here in KS. Yes that same old story we KS sailors hear all the time...."What? You sail where? Kansas! I didn't know people sailed in Kansas." **So all my KS sailing friends, please flood them with marine requests and maybe they will add those to the shop as it develops. I think it's strange that they wouldn't have one of all their products on display to play with. Probably a good thing for me they didn't as I half expected to end up buying something. What a let down that there was nothing to buy! Oh well.

I was able to get a battery for Kim's 478. And at no cost - SCORE!!

I really can't say enough good things about my experience. They were all very nice. Randy was willing to spend as much time as needed and even made a couple of calls to ask some specifics about HomePort. They told me to come back and I assured them I would. One of the guys is going for more training next week and part of that training will be on marine products. I told him he was my NEW best friend.

I grilled them for info on the pending purchase of Raymarine but they didn't know much or weren't giving it up to me. I thought about hitting a local bar close by for happy hour to see if perhaps some Garmin marine developer might wander in for some after work refreshment and then accidentally leave a prototype of a new marine chartplotter-GPS-radar-XMradio-BBQgrill-beercoolie combo in the bar. But then I realized if I had a prototype like that, I wouldn't need to go to happy hour as it would be happy hour all the time. Maybe by the time they roll that unit out, they will have all the marine products in the CSC and I can test it for myself.

**Yes, I really did have the guys at the CSC take my pic in front of the building! Dorky I know but I knew I was going to update my blog with this experience and I thought a pic to accompany the posting would be nice.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Nav Class put to use

As you can see from the pic, we really put our ASA 105 Coastal Navigation Class knowledge to use.
We opted for not one but two Garmin GPS combined with our other ships instruments and some very kewl iPhone apps.
Which brings me to my next point....sailing iPhone apps are kewl and useful!
My new favorites as of this trip...
1. Weather USA - gives coast weather reports including synopsis, map and radar.
2. Navionics Marine -simple rocks. I used the US Central that covers the FL panhandle. As good as both Garmin GPS.
3. JourSail - electronic log book. Still learning but seems kewl.
4. Boaters Ref- all things boatie that you might have to look up like nav aids and list of lights.
5. AccuWeather - I just dig the radar on this app. Especially during tornado warnings. **Oh, pretty colors, D-oh!
6. Kindle for iPhone - Some legendary sailing stories are now available for free! Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor and Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum.
Check them out if you are a sailor.
**However we did have onboard paper charts and all the stuff to do coastal navigation if we needed.

Maiden Voyage of Honey Ryder

We just completed the maiden voyage on Honey Ryder. And what a great beginning it was.

As I mentioned previously, we shipped 9 boxes ahead of time. The rest of the "must have" yacht gear we stuffed into 3 BIG bags as checked luggage. We added to the load with two, heavy carry ons each. Tom and I are used to traveling light. This was NOT light.

*Note Weather Channel's Jim Cantori in the right of the pic. Tom spotted him in first class, as we made our way back to cramped class when we boarded the plane in Atlanta. He came up to us at baggage claim because we have the same Costco duffel (ours is blue) and he LOVES his Costco bag and wanted to chat about what a great bag it is. He was very big on how kewl our bags are. Okay? thought was..."Hey, Jim Cantori is vacationing in the Ft Walton Beach/Destin area, I bet we are going to have great weather. " Turned out NOT - thanks a lot Jim!....but more on that later.

After picking up the rental car, shoveling down some fast food and a quick West Marine stop, we headed to Honey Ryder. The new name and hailing port are on and look great!

PO (previous owner) Matt had lugged all the 9 boxes we shipped to his house over to Honey Ryder and had them nicely stacked in the salon. WOW! We hadn't expected him to do that. Now the fun began...where do we put all this stuff? She is a much bigger boat than our C30 but OMG where do we start. But we did and soon things began to take shape.

I bailed on this fun after a short while for a major supply run. First stop was West Marine in Destin to get a much needed Garmin chip for our 76cx. I ordered one from Garmin but I didn't do it until Monday and it didn't arrive in time. I know, I know, I should have done it sooner. However, I tried over the weekend and couldn't make heads or tales of what I really needed. I could have NEVER figured it out on my own. AND Garmin customer support is only open M-F 8-6 or such. AND I would have thought I could have gotten it sooner with the HQ in Olathe but it didn't ship out until Thursday even though I ordered it on Monday (ok - late afternoon). I thought about driving down there on Tuesday and demanding to purchase the chip and get some help loading and understanding it all but I didn't think storming the Garmin HQ and having security called was the best plan with our trip departure looming. But honestly.....Garmin really needs some upgrades to their CS.
Anywho after kissing the Destin West Marine staff for having the chip I need and installing it for me in our 76cx, I headed of to Wal-Mart for the mother load. Three hours and a whopping shopping headache later I headed back to Honey Ryder to find Tom and Matt working on various systems. He stuck around until 9pm helping us learn all about Honey Ryder. Matt truly has been a prince of a guy to work with and we can't thank him enough for all his helping in getting us started on Honey Ryder and her systems.
A quick dinner at Fish Lips and we fell into bed.

Friday morning we were up early and back at it. Tom got our new car (aka the dinghy) down to be sure the outboard was working properly. The next major task was the 3 anchors and all the chain. Seems right in the middle of the 300 ft nice chain was a rusted ball. Tom messed around, switched some stuff out and called it good for now. More systems were checked, more stuff put away and a few additional errands were run before I turned in the rental car.

We departed the dock at 1:55pm. The wind was blowing 15 knots building to 20 so we motor sailed close haul with 1/2 main out and 1/2 head sail out.

We DEFINITELY made the right choice on Honey Ryder. As we pounded along close haul Tom went below to just listen and see what sounds she was making. Nothing but the water moving along the hull. No creaking, no groans, no squeaks, no banging of doors, nothing - simply a rock solid boat! We have been on so many boats that rattle, squeak and such when sailed under these conditions. Test one - passed.

We arrived at the east end of Choctawhatchee Bay, just this side of Hwy #331 bridge and dropped the hook at 6:35pm. *Sailors quiz - if you anchor in 7.1 ft of water with strong winds and no neighbors, how much anchor rode should you have out? How much could you have out? Answer? What is ALL your freakin chain! We opted to test it all. Yes, you heard correctly, we put out 100 ft of chain. Hey....the chain was not marked, we were testing all the anchor stuff (windless, chain, ect...) there were no neighbors and the weather called for storms. Well it worked of course. We held through the night. I can't say I got a ton of sleep, actually probably 45 mins total because of the storm activity, but that was just my worrying. Honey Ryder did great. Again, even with strong winds we didn't sail around a lot at anchor, there wasn't any clanging of halyards, lines, mast or deck gear. Test two - passed.

Saturday morning - We each had bowl of oatmeal and Honey Ryder had a belt. Ha!

We set off around 6:35 in heavy rain only to have to anchor again and change the alternator belt. Tom made quick work of that and we were underway again. Matt told us up front that Honey Ryder LOVES to eat belts. We had two spares and Tom has already figured out why so soon Honey will be going on a diet to help her cut back in the belt area. I should probably do the same to cut back in my belt area. Double ha!

The rain lightened up and by the time we entered "the ditch" aka the Inter Coastal Waterway, it stopped all together. The sun came out under hazy skies and we motored along.
This portion of the ICW is kewl. It looks like a river with high sand banks and pine trees on each side that fill the air with pine fragrance. It is remote with no development. Very pretty. Much better than the ICW I experienced on the east coast. The depth was good as well. There wasn't much traffic which made me wonder about the dreaded forecast - what did the locals know that we didn't. However with the banks on each side so high we were somewhat protected. We passed one barge going the other way and a fancy, fancy power yacht. Luckily this happened in a area wide enough.

As we came out the other side, the full force of the winds of the approaching storm hit us directly on the nose. The next 4 hrs across West Bay were slow going as we slogged along. The sustained winds were 27 with gusts well over 30, this made the bay very choppy and wet. However Honey Ryder took it all in stride and pushed on. Test three - passed.

Finally we approached the bascule (drawn) bridge at Massalina Bayou and our final destination this leg, The Laid Back Boat Club. We bumped bottom just outside the bridge on the south side but continued along ok. Test four - passed.

We circled around several times trying to figure out which of the slips were available to us and how best to dock Honey Ryder for the first time. Apparently if you circle enough, the neighbors get nervous and come out to help. Thank goodness. It wasn't a pretty docking but mainly because of me. I seemed to forget every freakin thing I know about docking. A complete docking idiot. Pisses me off still to think about it. I might as well have been deck fluff, too bad I don't have the bikini body for it. Cap10 Tom did awesome manuvering the boat into this very tight, funky shaped slip. He was wonderful to help me in my idiot state and the new neighbors were kind to help and encourage us. In the end we docked her without hitting any other boats or getting dock rash so that all that matters but no points were awarded for style of the program! Ha and double Whew! Must study up on that. Honey Ryder did great. Test five - passed.

After a much earned beer in the cockpit, we finished securing the boat and settling in after the voyage. Later we continued our boat chores with a grand inventory. Thank you again Matt for turning over spares, good gear and great equipment. Dinner and chilling were the only other thing one the agenda.

So it seems you can take the girl out of Kansas AND take the tornadoes out as well since we had tornado warnings and strong thunderstorms all night long. I worried about Honey Ryder bumping around in the funky shaped slip and was up often during the night. I didn't wander outside due to the electric storm combined with high winds and squall lines of rain. Honey Ryder did great riding out the storm. Test six - passed.

Sunday brought the worse part of all...our departure from Honey Ryder. This maiden voyage was a great bonding trip. She has turned out to be so much more than we originally thought and we look forward to many years of grand adventures with her.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What now?

So now we have our first cruising sailboat, what now? Well we have been making lists, adding items to lists, checking completed items off and adding more. We got boat and towing insurance. The bottom has been painted, the topsides buffed and her new name Honey Ryder added. We shipped 9 boxes of boat gear this weekend. Tom - "Do we really need all this shit?" Me - "Yes." **And if you haven't seen or used the flat rate boxes at the post office, you are missing out. I loaded all of Tom' s boat tools into two of the $14.50 boxes. The postmaster said normally based on weight alone it would cost $35 to $40 to ship instead of the $14.50 we paid. Woo Hoo! Good deal considering that we are hemorrhaging $$ at this point. We knew this would happen and planned for it but it doesn't make it any easier when we have been saving for so long. It's tough to let go of the $$.

Our boating friends have been very generous. Paul brought over a truckload (ok, actually it was a Prius full but still a lot) of cruising guides and charts for us to study. He is also loaning us a spare laptop with chart software so we can see if we like the software. Thanks Paul!!!!
Tim and Kim have loaned us their portable GPS/chartplotter. Kim and I were even able to find and evening last week to have an Evil Sailing Sisters GPS learning sessions. Way better than reading the dumb ole manual and the wine and cheese was an added bonus to the learning. Too bad I didn't have that in high school to motivate me. Oh wait....I did but it was doughnuts and beer during homeroom. That explains a lot doesn't it.
Patrick and Nancy sent a very kewl cruising sailboat book. It has tons of good info on setting up a cruising sailboat. We love it Patrick and Nancy.
Tim and Kim gave us a present we hope to never use - a bright red ditch bag. Inside were useful ditch bag items. These included several standard ditch bag items and a few non-traditional items such as Hot Pockets and some corn dog things. We think these are to induce vomiting as no sane person would ever eat Hot Pockets. Many, many inside jokes here and just like a Visa commercial, they are priceless. Finally there was a stuffed cat wearing foul weather gear made for a cat. There is no way to even explain this as it goes beyond inside jokes. But it was awesome. The whole thing. Thanks Tim and Kim. You two are funny freaks!

I have also completed my first boat project. I made lee cloths for Paul's boat. I plan to make some for Honey Ryder but I wanted to start with the ones for s/v Gratitude so I could prefect the pattern and in case I made any mistakes. What are friends for. Anyway, they turned out great. I made them from mesh fabric, the same used to make deck/patio chairs. I added a special feature that is now my signature feature - a snap on eyeglass case. I figured most crew wears glasses so why not give them a secure handy place to keep them so that when they get called up on deck, they can easily grab their eyeglasses and go.

The steps to buying a new boat

There are a million ways to buy a sailboat. There is no right or wrong. I am going to attempt to detail how we did it. Maybe this will help others. Probably not. And why should others be spared the the exquisite mind blow that comes from boat brain overload.
1. Endless research. Web, books, magazines, other sailors.
2. There is no perfect boat. It is a mater of use, location of use, sailing skill, comfort, priorities and oh yeah.....$$$$$$$$$$$$.
3. None of the boats are in the same place. Most are not even in the same state. Comparison side by side impossible.
4. Unlike a car, there generally isn't a test sail. Weird, I know!
5. Even like models of a boat are impossible to compare. Spreadsheeting is the only way to go but it will still bend your mind.
6. Too much research can cause analysis paralysis. We got it frequently as we zero'd in.
7. Shopping trip to see boats can be fun but soon add up if you are flying across the country.
***And I have already started to block out the other stuff since we now own her.
So once you find the boat, make the offer and come to an agreement, the real fun starts. It all happens very fast. Great if you live in the area. A bit tough if you don't.
8. We hopped a plane so we could be there for the sea trial and survey. Of course it was springbreak so flights were nice and pricey last min, hotels scarce and rental cars twice as much. But it was kewl to be there in person of all of that and very important.
9. Paperwork flew around via the internet, overnight and snail mail.
10. Boat porning didn't stop, oh no. It merely shifted. Instead of looking at Yachtworld, we now found ourselves searching for boat insurance, towing insurance, marina's, equipment, software, gpss', captains, boat haulers, cruising routes, etc.....
11. Clarification on taxes was big fun. Almost as much fun at April 15th each year! NOT!
But in the end it has all worked out and come together. The PO (previous owner) has been a great guy to work with and very helpful. And now the real fun starts.

Our First Salt Water Blue Water Boat.

Yep, that's right. We have FINALLY purchased our first cruising sailboat. A 1998 Caliber 40 LRC. We have renamed her Honey Ryder.
1. I use the term finally because we have been planning and scheming for it since soon after we purchased our Catalina 30 in 2001. We have been saving since that same time. And we have been looking casually for the past five years and seriously for the past three years. Cruising Yachtworld and the internet three times a day for a boat can develop into quite a habit. "Hi my name is Sabrina and I have a boat porn habit....response - Hi Sabrina."
2. The name Honey Ryder has been on our short list (of two) boat names for some time. Tom and I both like Ian Fleming/James Bond. Honey Chile Ryder is a character in the book Dr No. In the movie Dr No, Ursula Andress plays Honey Ryder. Just seemed like a kewl boat name.
3. Why is this the first mention of a new boat? Why haven't I chronicled all the crazy details along the way? The emails to For Sale By Owner (and sailors are loony), the emails & phone calls to brokers, the trips to see boats and marina, the offers, the emails? Well because buying a cruising sailboat is a very personal matter. More so than buying a car or house. What one sailor likes and wants, another doesn't. Bottom line....buying a boat is not a committee event. We sought advice where needed and wanted. And to those of you we hit up for said advice....thank you so much!
4. Why a Caliber 40 LRC? They are awesome cruising boats. A). The LRC stands for long range cruiser. Meaning we have some serious tankage in both fuel and water. In a tankage street fight...the Caliber 40 LRC will win. B) Caliber has some really well thought out features. Too many to list here. Go to the web site if you really want to see. C) We actually toured the factory in May 2008. Afterward, Tom stated it best to Kathy McDonald -"no reason to keep looking. The Caliber 40 LRC has it all." Now we actually did keep looking but Caliber stayed near the top of the list. D) Honey Ryder is a cutter rig. The staysail is actually a detachable. When not in use, it can be moved to the side.
5. Honey Ryder has some excellent add ons - two solar panels, wind generator and spinnaker. There is a bunch of other kewl stuff. She is basically ready to go. She is just wanting for us to get up to speed on all the gadgets. On Lake Perry we simple set out across the lake based on whatever direction the wind was blowing. No nav aids. No shoaling. No barge traffic.