flexibility

What Kind of Dinghy Should I Get?

Our dinghy was the first boat we had together, or at least we had all the  parts of the dinghy as our first boat.

When we graduated from college and drove across the country to Texas from Virginia, we had hours to discuss our plans. We’d already decided we were going cruising, and the moving truck we’d rented had all of our college furniture inside it. That we had found some of that furniture on the curb where someone else was throwing it out didn’t matter one bit – we were just going to deal with it for another couple of years. Why buy new?

Part of the conversation was about the dinghy.

When you’re cruising, your dinghy is kind of like your car. Scratch the “kind of” – it IS your car, unless you’re planning on marina hopping all over. You anchor the boat somewhere, then get in the dink to get you to shore, or to a neighbor’s boat for sundowners, or to find the cool river to explore. It’s what takes you and snorkel gear to nearby reefs, and helps you maneuver in tight spots. We’ve used it to scout anchorage entrances, armed with a boat pole to check depths. (Side note – some people use awesome handheld depth sounders*. This sounds like an excellent birthday or Christmas present.)

This might be on my wish list.

This might be on my wish list.

But the question about what kind of dinghy is about as fraught with “IT DEPENDS” as the big boat question. And, like much of the cruising lifestyle, there is not one right answer.

We moved to Houston and in with Jeremy’s parents until we could find our own apartment. Jeremy’s job had wanted him to start even before graduation, which wasn’t happening, so our available time to housing-hunt was non-existent. We arrived on a Saturday, unloaded the van into the garage on Sunday, and Jeremy was off to the office on Monday. It took weeks of driving around (this was before the Internet) and calling to finally find the perfect spot, which had a spare room.

The dinghy room.

Jeremy had his heart set on building a dinghy. He’d ordered plans from WoodenBoat Magazine for a 7.5’ long dinghy and talked about the craftsmanship he’d employ. He loves working with his hands and building things, and this felt like a way to really focus the boat-owning experience if it took a long time to find the boat we wanted. 

Heck with finding the boat, which was ours within 9 months. It took a long time to finish the dinghy. So long, in fact, that he put the finishing touches on it (permanently installing the bench) in Naples, Florida, about 3 months after we’d shoved off the dock from Kemah. Putting the last planks in was a matter of rushing to complete it before our apartment lease ended; it needed to be stable enough to move to another storage spot.

Dinghy #1: A wooden dinghy. These are fabulous and tough, beautiful to look at gorgeous to row. You can fit a sailing rig to it, and even a small outboard motor. They’re traditional, relatively stable, and simple. If you’re going to use it for snorkeling a lot, you will want to figure out a ladder system so you can actually get yourself out of the water, but this is a challenge even on an inflatable. 

See both dinghies?

See both dinghies?

When we got to Grenada, we were a little tired of the wet, slow ride our gorgeous dinghy afforded us with its appropriately-sized 2 horse engine. We’d pulled out the sailing rig exactly twice. We hate rowing. These are good things to learn about us and how we work. Time to investigate the idea of an inflatable.

Inflatable awesomeness.

Inflatable awesomeness.

Inflatables come in a number of flavors, most of which have to do with the floor you choose. You could choose just a flexible floor (think a pool toy raft kind of floor), but I don’t recommend this option for active cruising. You’ll be carrying trash to shore, water and groceries and laundry  to the boat, and schlepping people around. Choose a floor. You’ll be happier.

There are rollup floors, with slats of different materials. There are inflatable floors, or air floors. There are solid floors, called Rigid Inflatable Boats, or RIBs – which basically pair a solid floor and keel with buoyant tubes. You’re looking at a compromise of price, weight, convenience, and size.

We’d heard that Trinidad had great prices on engines, and that the place to buy a dinghy was Venezuela. Since we were loosely planning to go to both of those countries, operation buy-a-dink was set into high motion.

You’d think, with a 28’ boat, that we’d be looking at small, light, and stowable for our inflatable. A small Zodiac, maybe, or an Avon roll-up. 

No. We chose the biggest dinghy, with the biggest engine, we could conceive of. I don’t know if back then there were dinghies with consoles, but in any case that felt insane even to us. We decided on a RIB, either 9 or 10 feet long, that we’d buy in Venezuela, where Caribe and AB both had dealers or manufacturers – the details are a bit fuzzy. And for either of those dinks, a 15 horse motor is absolutely the right size.

Why a RIB? Jeremy had horror stories about Avons that didn’t hold air, and a Zodiac that was a nightmare to pump up every time they wanted to use it. We wanted a dinghy that was ready to go always, no pumping required. And the wet rides in Soca, the wooden boat, made us long for a planning hull. A RIB it was.

We bought the motor in Trinidad a good 6 weeks before we headed across to Venezuela, building a custom bracket for it to sit when we were on passage. 

There's our 15 HP motor, on its bracket. How I love this engine.

There's our 15 HP motor, on its bracket. How I love this engine.

The engine for the boat? A 10 horse, single-cylinder, hand-crank Sabb. The dinghy, weighing just about 100 pounds, would have more power than our 14,000 pound boat. Ah the irony.

And when we got to Venezuela, sniffing out chandleries in Isla Margarita where other cruisers had told us they’d bought their dinks, it didn’t take long or much justification to go with an AB (we liked the interior volume and the bow locker) that maxed out our size range. We’d have kids eventually, we reasoned. Go big or go home. What’s an extra foot? The cost difference was negligible, the weight difference also tiny. Toby, the beagle, would love the space.

We looked very funny for the next year or so as we towed around 2 dinghies. Coming up the ICW to the Chesapeake Bay, a trip that’s marked with more motoring than sailing, we got in the habit of hauling the dinghies out on either side, looking for all the world like a weird trimaran. We got used to the cracks about the dinghy being larger than the boat.

We were a 2-dink family

We were a 2-dink family

There were issues. Stowing the big dinghy, which we call Chutney, is a pain. It fits on the foredeck barely, rendering the windlass and the staysail unusable, so last minute lashing happens after the anchor is up, and coming into an anchorage means dealing with the dink until we can get it all done. And not having the staysail, for a boat designed to sail her best with the use of one, is just not sustainable.

So now, 25 years after we first bought the boat, 22 years after we brought our first dinghy on board, we are back in the conversation about what dinghy to have. Our plans include crossing oceans. We need to access the windlass. The staysail is an important part of our sailing world. As much as we LOVE Chutney, the bigger-than-life RIB we bought in Venezuela, a country that currently sits on our personal “off limits” list? It’s too big. 

So we’re measuring. Thinking. Asking lots of questions at boat shows. 

Here's the thing with dinghies, and it's like a lot of other boat conversations. 1) There's not one perfect answer for anyone. We started out wanting a wooden one, to show off skills and have it fit with the look of the boat. We shifted to wanting as large a dink, with as big a motor, as we could figure out how to use. And now we're onto the idea that the dinghy needs to stow well in a certain area (under the boom), be light enough to deal with effectively, and doesn't need to be huge.

As our lives have changed, so have our requirements for a dinghy. Don't think you're stuck forever with whatever you decide to get now. Flexibility is important for so many things in this wonderful boating world of ours.

Meanwhile, we’ve got 2 dinghies for sale. A wooden gorgeous one, and a 10.5’ RIB. Anyone want one?

Cruising Venezuela, with 2 dinghies

Cruising Venezuela, with 2 dinghies

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

 

 

 

Privacy Concerns

One of the things we take for granted living in a house is privacy. Doors lock, the walls are thick, there’s another room you can escape to if you need your own space. On a boat, sometimes that privacy is hard to come by. (Read about living on a boat here!)

There’s privacy and there’s alone time, and for the purposes of this blog I’m using the terms somewhat interchangeably. I think of privacy as, well, things you want to keep to yourself. These tend to be items of the bodily function type, but they can be emotions and reactions as well. Alone time is just that – solitude. Feel free to shift the vocabulary to suit.

Space and quiet and your own thing to do.

Space and quiet and your own thing to do.

When I’m living aboard, it’s on a really small boat. There’s not much inherent privacy in a space that’s 28 feet long from end to end (37 if you stretch from the tip of the bowsprit to the end of the boomkin), and one where there’s not a single door other than ones on cabinet fronts to be found. And I can promise you, as much as I love my husband and my children, there are times when I Just. Want. To. Be. Alone.

 

Granted, you are likely dealing with a larger boat than I am. What I’ve found, though, is that there are a lot of  similarities when you’re talking about boat living, no matter the size. Whatever boat you’ve got, there’s less privacy than in a house.

 

On land it’s easy. Different work and school schedules often result in at least some time where you’re alone in the house, no matter who you are in the family after about age 13. On a cruising boat, when your schedules are the same and there is little space that doesn’t serve multiple purposes, it’s a little harder. On land, you can escape easily by going for a walk or even just closing the door to your room. On a boat? Not so easy! Don’t fear! You can attain that much-desired level of privacy on board even a boat as small as Calypso, and though it takes a bit more work than it might on land, the trade-offs are well worth it. 

You might choose to solo sail.

You might choose to solo sail.

First of all is the “take yourself for a walk” option. On land, you strap on your shoes, open the door, and off you go. On a boat, it’s more involved. Unless you’re tied to a dock, you need to get into the dinghy (whatever that entails) and head off. Wow is it worth it for everyone! It provides alone time, recharge time, for the person staying on board as well as the person zipping off somewhere in the dinghy. There are some natural times when this happens. Dinghy expeditions with a fellow cruiser, walks on the beach. Going off to help another cruiser with a boat project, or heading into land to clear customs. Laundry or shopping! I’ve had times when I’ve volunteered to stay on board to “mind the watermaker”, content to pass up a shore activity; Jeremy has done the same when I’ve had some small errand to run.

 

This aspect of alone time requires transportation, unless you’re in a marina or all you’re doing is snorkeling off the boat (which is a very fine excuse!). If you’re traveling with a family, having a second dinghy of some sort is a really worthwhile indulgence. It can be a simple kayak or even a stand up paddle board*, but a way to get ashore or off the boat is so helpful to keep tempers in check. This means that if someone has the big dink, someone else can also escape. Even on Calypso, we carried a kayak (2 of them) as well as the inflatable, and though we grumbled at times at the space they took up we loved having them – the kids could go off on their own and often did. At anchor in the Abacos, our son wanted to go build a sand fort; having that kayak meant he could just go do it. Another memorable moment was in Eleuthera, when our daughter, age 8, took a kayak by herself and went to the library in Governor’s Harbour. Safety angles for those who are concerned? We’d gone in as a family earlier in the visit, so she knew exactly where she was going. We could see her all the way in, and she had a handheld VHF which she knew how to use. She felt such a sense of independence, plus she loved having her own thing to do. Her mood was so much improved when she returned from that expedition!

Kayaking (and swimming) in South Carolina.

Kayaking (and swimming) in South Carolina.

Even now, as we plan the next trip which will be just the 2 of us on board, we know we’ll have another transportation “device”, likely one which doubles as a water toy. They’re just good to have!

 

One thing worth mentioning – communication is key. Not only communicating where you’re going and when you’ll be back, but also respecting someone else’s need for alone time. If an invitation of a shore jaunt is passed up, don’t take it personally – it could well be that the other person just needs to chill on the boat without you there. And taking a handheld VHF is a very good idea.

 

What about times when you just can’t get off the boat? The high wind or nasty weather times. The passage times. The it’s almost dark and not safe to go off times. These times happen, and somehow it’s during those times when tempers run hot and privacy becomes critical. What then?

Good headphones are awesome!

Good headphones are awesome!

 

Where in a house you can head to your room and close the door, boats sometimes don’t have doors. They sometimes don’t have dedicated rooms either. Our v-berth is the workbench, the head, and the spare food storage area. The quarterberth, where Julian slept, was also where we tucked the watermaker and the batteries. Though your boat might have more defined use spaces, my guess it it’s still much closer quarters than even the smallest apartment.

 

What we found, both cruising before kids and with them, is that each of us gravitated to a certain space on board. If our daughter needed to feel like she was really on her own, she took herself to the foredeck or tucked herself into the v-berth and hid behind the bulkhead. I snuck to the cockpit, wrapped in a blanket if needed. Julian and Jeremy pulled out computers and lost themselves in a game or video. There were times when the kids (ah, when they were small!) cuddled together in the quarterberth, laughing at some episode of "Gilligan’s Island" or a Looney Tunes dvd. The visual break was the critical piece for us.

 

When we were on board Totem in Panama in February, with 9 people on board, the same idea of space held true. Behan had her desk in the aft cabin while Jamie worked at the chart table. Mairen and Siobhan each sprawled on a separate settee. Niall had his space in his cabin, and Julian found a spot on the foredeck to call his. Bee claimed the v-berth for painting; Jeremy and I pursued our own stuff in different parts of the cockpit. We might not have had a physical barrier separating us visually from each other, but our attitudes and respect made it all work.

Focus.

Focus.

To add to that visual separation, try some kind of audio blanketing. Good earphones or headphones, noise canceling ones, can be worth their weight in gold for keeping crew members happy. Fans in the head can help with the body noises we all would rather forget. Do they mean you don’t hear a thing? No. But it gives you the edge you may require to tune stuff out.

 

Privacy on a boat is mostly in the respect we afford each other. It’s about pretending you don’t hear the noises from the head. It’s staying in the cockpit while a modest crew member is changing clothing down below. It’s allowing your partner, or your kid, or your parent, who is deep in a project or book or something, the time and space to do that without interruption. It’s working to give people privacy instead of just assuming it’s there. And it’s communicating early and often about what you need to make it all work, including understanding that you might need an extra dinghy-like “thing” on board.

 

Still, in my opinion, it’s worth all the hassle.

 

See you out there.

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Fit2Sail - an Introduction

Fit, in the dictionary

Fit, in the dictionary

Welcome to Fit2Sail, where I’m all about making you be ready to grind winches on an America’s Cup boat . . .

No. Back up.

My name is Nica Waters. I live, for now, in Charlottesville, Virginia, with my husband, Jeremy, our 2 kids, Julian (18) and Bee (16), and a recently-adopted 18 year old deaf cat named Noonie. We have owned our Bristol Channel Cutter, a 28' Lyle Hess designed fiberglass cutter named Calypso, since 1992. She's taken us on 2 extended cruises and we're gearing up for the next one. We spend a lot of time working on her, talking about working on her, and buying things to work on her.

                            A very old family picture, when the kids were both shorter than I am.

                            A very old family picture, when the kids were both shorter than I am.

 

I spend a lot of time working on being fit to go cruising again.

When I say that, when I say being fit to go cruising, what do you think of? Do you think of grinding winches and effortlessly hoisting sails? Gracing the bow of a boat looking all photo-shopped and muscle-y perfect? Not succumbing to seasickness on a daily basis?

 

Sure, there’s that. Maybe. But that’s just a part of a larger picture. When I talk about being fit to sail, fit to cruise, I’m talking about every aspect of being FIT. Adapted, appropriate. Physically sound and healthy. Suitable, happy, felicitous.

                                         Happy cruiser, doing schoolwork at anchor.

                                         Happy cruiser, doing schoolwork at anchor.

Being fit for cruising encompasses things like mental attitude and aptitude. Preparation for a different lifestyle. An attitude of adventure and possibility. It means being physically ready to handle the rigors of life aboard – which has absolutely nothing to do with what you weigh or what size jeans you wear.

 

I was in college when the idea of chucking it all and sailing into the sunset was first broached by my now-husband (for more of that story and how it all played out, check out the “When Does Cruising Really Start”!). After the initial euphoria wore off, the worry set in.

 

What did I know about sailing? What did I know about living in a small space? What did I know about cooking on board? Budgeting. Anchoring. Provisioning. Crossing the Gulf Stream. Mail. The list went on and on.

 

I muddled through. Learned a lot. And when we returned from that first cruise, in 1997, the world had changed – the internet had exploded onto the scene. Suddenly information that once took days or weeks to acquire and was limited to what books were available in your local library (hint, not many) could be found literally in minutes. Blogs appeared. Google became a verb.

 

When we decided to head off on our second cruise, this time with 2 kids on board, we chronicled our adventures on a blog. A chance encounter with a boat in the ICW that once would have been relegated to a line in the log book became the impetus for an email-enabled meeting in a far-flung island in the Bahamas – and we’re still close friends with the family from that boat. The internet has its place, there is absolutely no doubt.

                                                 Calypso, Osprey, and Kaya in the DR

                                                 Calypso, Osprey, and Kaya in the DR

It was on that second cruise, though, that I began to really realize that many people don’t realize that lifestyle is something you need to be ready to take on, with all the ups and downs it encompasses. It’s not all beach walks and sunsets – and it’s not all rogue waves and hurricanes either. Ease of access to information lulls some into a false sense of security; when you’re used to looking at wunderground.com for your weather each day, the idea of needing to learn and plan and research is a totally foreign concept. Stories of people who buy a boat for $1 and set off to sail around the world make you think anyone can do it – but what you don’t see is the hard work, endless setbacks, and horrifying amounts of money that go into making that dream a reality.

 

I’m a personal trainer and wellness motivation coach, so sure, I’m interested in the physical fitness of people aspiring to live the cruising lifestyle. But it’s so much more. It’s about confidence and understanding. Attitude and willingness to learn. Acceptance of the tough times, and gratitude for the moments of beauty and grace.

 

Cruising successfully takes a special kind of person. One who is truly fit to sail. Can't wait to see you out there.

Is Cruising Really Healthy?

                                                               Salad by the water

                                                               Salad by the water

I’m a member of Women Who Sail, a Facebook group for women only where topics related to boating are the name of the game. We have cruisers and racers, dreamers and planners and wistful rememberers. The subject of how to exercise on board comes up frequently, and there are often answers along the lines of, “Oh, it’s so healthy! You’ll get all the exercise you need! Just go swimming and walking and you’ll be fine!”

 

Sure. There are aspects of the “cruising is so healthy” which are true. There’s swimming to do – if you’re in a place with clear water. There’s walking to do – if you’re in a place where you want to explore, or the roads are good, or the hiking is fabulous.

                                         Yes, I sometimes wear shoes other than flip flops.

                                         Yes, I sometimes wear shoes other than flip flops.

And as to the general question of whether cruising is healthy or not, just as with the exercise part, there are aspects of it that rate high on the health scale.

 

For starters, you’ll likely spend a large part of your day outside. Even if you’re choosing to cruise at higher latitudes, where you think of clothing in terms of multiple layers and socks are standard, chances are you are in the cockpit or on deck a lot. I’ve seen some fabulous photos lately of people sailing their dinghies with icebergs in the background. Brr. But I digress. Being out in the fresh air, even if you spend a lot of that time sitting in the cockpit, has got to be better for you than breathing in the recycled air in most homes and office buildings.

 

Cruising is, in general, more physical an existence than land dwelling. The movement of the boat, even in a marina, is constant, and your body will be making small adjustments all the time just to stay stable. Lack of space makes for tetris-like storage challenges down below – and the number of times you need to move cushions or settee backs to access something critical has to be experienced to be believed. Laundry generally means either bucket washing (and wringing. Oh the wringing!) or schlepping to a laundromat. Bringing provisions on board usually involves at the very least a whole lot of walking, if you’re in a marina, or a combination of walking, back-pack hefting, dinghy loading and unloading, then storing it all away. Life is more physical on board, just with day to day activities. 

                                                            See the laundry hanging?

                                                            See the laundry hanging?

As far as the food aspect of health is concerned, this one can be a bit of a tossup. If you’re cruising in places where fresh food is scarce (say, the out islands of the Bahamas, many of which are uninhabited and prime places to tuck into an anchorage for a week at a time) or very expensive, you may find that you’re relying on your long-range provisions more than you’d like. The bonus, from a health standpoint, is that you’re likely cooking all your own food. There’s no pizza place on speed dial, no drive-thrus, which means you get very familiar with exactly what you’re eating. You can control the amount of salt and excess “stuff” all you want. As I’ve gotten accustomed to cruising and cooking as if I were cruising, I find that the “packaged” food I keep on hand tends toward things like tomatoes, beans, and pineapple, along with the occasional package of Thai curry mix. Sorry, Chef Boyardee canned ravioli  . . . Mostly, though, I prefer to create my own chili out of those ingredients rather than have endless cans of Hormel chili aboard.

 

For all of the aspects of cruising that rank high on the “healthy living” scale, there are those that tip it in the other direction.

 

Here's the thing, though. For all the movement you’re doing on a boat, you’re also doing a heck of a lot of sitting. It might be sitting outside, bracing yourself as you sit on the high side of a heeled sailboat. Sitting in the dinghy on the way to shore. Sitting on the beach with new friends, chatting away. Sure, it might be bursts of energy as you deal with a dragging anchor or digging out a can of tomatoes from under the bunk or diving in to check on the anchor, but there is a WHOLE. LOT. OF. SITTING.

There’s also a whole lot of socializing, at least in our experience, socializing that frequently involves food. Share an anchorage with just one other boat, and there’s likely to be at least one evening of shared sundowners. More boats? Maybe a beach potluck or a dinghy drift. You might get lucky and find your soul mate boat companions, with whom you loosely travel in company, popping back and forth for dinners and appetizers in the cockpit. A favorite memory of our last cruise, where we took the kids and went to the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic for 10 months, is sitting in Calypso’s cockpit with Wendy and Lizz, washing dishes from dinner under a star-studded sky. The 6 grownups had gathered on the smallest boat in the 3-boat flotilla for dinner while the kids whooped and hollered and settled down for a movie on Osprey. It was the 4th time we’d had dinner all together in the 2 weeks we’d cruised in company. Boat size is not an obstacle for entertaining . . .

 

Even if it’s just you and your partner on board, hanging in the cockpit with a nibble and a libation (alcoholic or not) at sunset every night is definitely a thing. It’s relaxed time, connection time, appreciation and gratitude time, all of which is great stress-relief, but it’s food intake time nonetheless.

 

Ahh, stress. Possibly the biggest health hazard of life in modern society, triggered by everything from terrorism and politics to unreasonable demands from a job to not enough sleep to eating junk food because you don’t have time to do anything else. Hop on a boat and sail away to the sunset and that all goes away, right?

 

Not so fast. The thing with living in “the world” is that a lot is taken care of. You flip a light switch, the power is there. Your toilet just flushes. Turn on the faucet and water gushes out. Need food? Hop in a car, drive to the store, and buy whatever you’ve decided you want. Your house doesn’t move, the weather is just an annoyance. On a boat, you’re responsible for so much of what we take for granted on land. Electricity. Waste. Water. Stability. 

                                                                Projects abound.

                                                                Projects abound.

And communication can be really, really tough. I’m not talking about communication with non-cruisers, or even other cruisers, but with your partner. The conversations you’ll have to have on board about things like safety, privacy, boat maintenance, anchoring, weather are different and deeper than any you’ve had to have on land, with more at stake. It’s an unexpected stress.

 

All of these “less healthy” aspects of cruising can be helped a lot by a regular, disciplined exercise routine. This can be spending 20 minutes a day on the foredeck doing yoga. It can mean anchoring somewhere where you can get in your run or walk every day, rain or shine. It can mean creating (or following!) a circuit routine that encompasses cardio and weights, all taking your special on-board circumstances into account.

 

Yes, cruising can be a healthy lifestyle. Being physically fit allows you to maximize the health aspects of it, and minimizes the challenges of the less healthy parts. Don’t diss the exercise routine just because you’re living on a boat!

 

                                                       Me, I like my  video workouts . 

                                                       Me, I like my video workouts

Being Flexible About a Cruising Vacation

At anchor

At anchor

About a year and a half ago, our friends on S/V Totem  (check their website!) came for Thanksgiving. Behan and I had "met" while serving as admins together on the facebook group Women Who Sail, met in real life at the Annapolis Sailboat Show in October of 2016, and when it became clear that they'd still be in the US (and even in the relative geographical area to our landlocked Charlottesville) we invited them for Thanksgiving at our house.

Hanging out with cruisers is a joy. The vocabulary, the shared experiences, even the sense of flexibility in space-sharing and cooking together is something that is hard to translate. Behan and I have the kind of friendship that feels effortless in many ways. It's hard to believe we haven't known each other forever.

Movie time!

Movie time!

During that visit, we casually talked about their plans to go through the Panama Canal and joked about coming down to help them transit.

That joke solidified into something approaching a plan. We've purchased plane tickets, told work (and school) we are taking 10 days off in February to go through the canal with friends, and started assembling the stuff we need. Stuff like masks and snorkels, easy-to-dry towels, and all the goodies they might want us to bring down.

There's an old adage that cruisers and schedules don't mesh well. Trying to get somewhere on a schedule can mean making poor decisions, ignoring weather, or pushing past discomfort in ways that might not be safe. As cruisers (only TEMPORARILY land-bound), we get that, of course - it's far easier for us to be flexible than it is for them. 

This may read as weird, if you're not a cruiser reading this. It's easier for a job-and-school constrained person to be flexible? How? Last I checked my boss was not exactly hot on me saying, "Hey, I'll take vacation next week. Or it might be tomorrow. Or maybe in a couple of weeks. That's cool, right?"

Cruisers moving their boats, though, are moving their homes. A move that on paper is "only" 20 miles away might take a week of waiting for the right wind, current, waves. As a land-based traveler, a change might be  an inconvenience; for a sailor, a change might be disastrous.

Part of the extra challenge with a canal transit for a sailboat is that you're dependent on the canal authorities for everything, from getting measured to getting a transit time and even getting a (required) pilot on board the boat. There is just no way to say, "Hey, let's go through on xxxx date" and have it magically happen. This makes it tough if there is crew flying in, with the need to get airfare at a decent price but not knowing when the transit can happen.

The phone call came in on a January Saturday, about 2 weeks before we were supposed to fly down to help go through.  The word from Totem was that the lag time between measuring and locking in (to start the transit) was running an average of 15 days, not the 7 days that's a traditional average. The weather was crap, making movement difficult and uncomfortable. If Totem was to move as quickly as they comfortably could, they'd get to the marina in Colon to be measured no sooner than the next Thursday, and with the 15 day lag time that put a transit right at the tail end of our existing flight schedule.

So we had a choice. Change flights (which may or may not be possible). Or fly in on our already-booked schedule and figure out getting to the Guna Yala (San Blas islands) where we can play with the Totems on board, in cool islands with amazing culture but miss a transit. 

Bahamas cool islands. Not the Guna Yala.

Bahamas cool islands. Not the Guna Yala.

Both were options. Both required more planning than either of us had anticipated.

But this, when it comes down to it, is sort of a cruising reminder. Best laid plans need to be cast in sand on a tidal beach, with flexibility required for all involved.

IMG_5728.JPG

Whichever we decided, the crews of Totem and Calypso were together again soon, this time in Panama. Keep reading!

The kids are all taller now. The next picture will be an interesting one!

The kids are all taller now. The next picture will be an interesting one!

Flex Friday, Boat Project Style

Flexing. 

You want your plans to flex, but not your hull.

You want your muscles to flex, but not your head.

If the word "flex" can mean twist and turn, how is it that sometimes that's good and sometimes it's bad? 

We're working on changing the interior of Calypso, moving where we sleep from the v-berth area to the main salon, putting in a pull-out pilot berth like is on factory-finished boats. It is requiring flexibility in thinking, and flexibility in maneuvering. Flexibility in sourcing a mattress.

Where there's no flexibility is in the need for 4 berths, even if those berths aren't always available. I know we're going to want our kids to visit and stay on board.

Sometimes you flex, sometimes you don't.

See you out there.