Still Hard

July 17, 2017

Unfortunately, our timing for living on a 46 foot aluminum yacht sitting on the hard couldn’t have been worse.  The entire area surrounding Washington DC is in the midst of a heat wave.  Not just any heat wave but one of the worst they have ever seen.   On July 14, the mercury just about burst the top of the local thermometers as temperatures reached 100 degrees (one digit hotter than the previous 1954 record).  This didn’t factor in the notorious east coast humidity, which the weather person on TV kindly informed us made it feel like it was 105 degrees!

Fortunately for us, Borneo and Southeast Asia, had acclimated us to brutal temperatures and humidity for the past 8 years, so we actually have faired better in our aluminum frying pan than many around us.  It is the evil little bugs feeding on us constantly that threaten to be our undoing.  Normally, I am the preferred meal of insects; but in this case, Kris is the one who is speckled from head to to with little red welts, with many forming large blisters, causing such writhing and intense itching that a person nearly has to scratch their flesh completely off to find any relief!  You’d think Borneo would have been more of a source for bug misery than Maryland!

With temperatures on the surface of Exit’s deck reaching 110 degrees, the marina pool is beyond enticing.  However, because we’re not paying for a slip on the water ($50 a day compared to the $10 a day we were spending on the hard) the charge is $8 per person for a pool pass.  We have opted to go cheap and tough it out.  That having been said, we always try to find the silver lining, or at least a bit of humor, in every seemingly adverse situation we face.   Two very crafty ducks, far more gutsy than we are, seem to have come up with a solution.  Almost every night after the pool has been locked up, they slip through the iron fence constructed to keep out the riffraff, hop in the water and enjoy the pool all to themselves, thereby saving themselves $16 a day for pool passes.

Smart ducks!!

We continue to try and decipher the various systems aboard Exit, take inventory of everything aboard, and undertake what seems like endless daily rituals of cleaning and organizing…activities we will undoubtedly be doing for quite some time!  Though each day ends with us feeling hot, sweaty, dirty, exhausted and just wanting to be on the water, we repeatedly realize how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to really get familiar with the many of the basic systems below decks before undertaking the much more monumental task of actually becoming capable sailors.  It will certainly be a rewarding and long awaited moment when we finally splash Exit and return her to her rightful home…the ocean.  She’s been dry for, I believe, close to a year now and I firmly believe she may be looking forward to that moment even more than we are!

So far we have had very few guests aboard…but then again who wants to hang out on a sailboat in a gravel parking lot?!  Pete McGongle – our broker from Seattle stopped by when he was in Annapolis for business, took us to breakfast, dropped off complimentary Swiftsure hats and bag, and reiterated that “we just need to get in the damn water!” … Dave Skolnick – the captain who will be doing the additional training needed to sign us off for our insurance company stopped by for a preliminary meeting…  and Gene (the previous owner of Exit for 17 years), who graciously stopped by with his longtime sailing partner Charlie to try and lend some insight into what he described as a “quirky but incredible boat”.  Charlie, in a small world moment, declared he too was a WSU graduate and confessed with a laugh, “I have never seen Pullman, WA listed as a hailing port on the transom of any boat!”

Currently the plan is to sail to Back Creek, just outside Annapolis, once we get the final work done here and spend some serious time learning the above decks systems and electronics with Dave before extending along the east coast a bit (somewhere between Washington, DC and Maine) or even the ICS (Intracoastal Waterway ~ 3,000 miles of inland waterway which runs from Boston, southward along the Atlantic seaboard and around the tip of Florida).   Spending as many of our days sailing as possible, followed by anchoring or mooring near shore for the night, will help us get comfortable in our coastal explorations prior to attempting overnight passages or slightly further offshore excursions.  We have no reckless ambitions to head for the open ocean until we know much more than we do now!

As the summer starts slipping by and fall sets in, we’ll have the opportunity to head further south looking towards the Bahamas or the Caribbean once the hurricane storm season begins to wind down in early November…if we can just get in the damn water!!!!!!




The Hard Life

July 12, 2017

One week ago we arrived in Deale, Maryland.  Our delivery to Exit was a bit comical.   With five hundred pounds of possessions in tow stuffed into a dozen bags, we received more than a few strange looks from people.  Our standard line became, “Yes, quite an embarrassing load for a holiday…but not bad for moving!”  Still, with that much gear, the option of cheap public transportation out of Washington DC was just not gonna happen this time.  While we rumbled through state after state on the train Kris’ research uncovered a chauffeur service that promised us an SUV capable of hauling everything in one load.  At $150, it was financially like swallowing a golf ball…painfully uncomfortable.  However, the logistics of getting a rental car would be ridiculous; and the very real possibility of standing outside Union Station looking an Uber car jam packed, with bags still sitting on the sidewalk, forced us to bite the bullet.  The person Kris corresponded with must have been a rocker (or at least a musician), because he said he was going to give a discount (yes, the $150 was the discounted price!) based on the fact that I had a guitar among the luggage!! When our sharply dressed driver stepped out of a sleek, bad-ass black Suburban that looked like it was more at home shuffling VIPs and dignitaries, we had to laugh.

Traveling not so light

The plan seemed pretty straight forward.  Spend a couple of days going through all the lockers aboard to get a preliminary idea of exactly what was on the boat and where it was located as well as start familiarizing ourselves with the different systems and how they worked.  Unlike a lot of new house purchases where people find a plethora of junk left by the previous owners, Exit was loaded with stuff we really needed or eventually would or could need.  Having just returned from Borneo, we were certainly lean on typical “homeowner possessions” so we were ecstatic that linens, cookware, dishes and utensils, cleaning products, extensive parts and spares, and tools (a collection that would satiate even the most hardcore home handyman) were already aboard.

To the outside observer, it would have looked like a scene ranging from kids opening Christmas presents to an airplane passenger stepping into a 747 cockpit trying to understand what all the switches and levers were for! Typical comments included profound utterances such as, “What in the hell is that?”, “How do you turn this on?”, “Is it okay to flip this switch?”, “Where did I just see that?” and “Have you found ‘such and such’?”.

Still on the hard, Exit was scheduled to have a new propellor installed before we splashed her late afternoon on the 7th.  Our enthusiasm and excitement was palpable, as was our sense of overwhelming intimidation, awe and confusion.  The following morning we were to meet an experienced skipper we had made arrangements with, who would help us get Exit a few hours north to a less expensive area where we could tie up to one of the mooring balls owned by the city of Annapolis.  Here we would have easier access to supplies as well as being in close proximity to Dave Skolnick – a very experienced captain recommended by our broker Pete who could help us further understand this perplexing new vessel.

Ultimately, this made sense not only to us (a bit of guidance – or a lot – would save us a lot of grief, help to ease the learning curve, and gain us incredible insight), but it also was a requirement of the insurance company.  Apparently, insurance companies are exceptionally wary of taking on the liability of underwriting a six-figure sailboat with people who don’t know what they’re doing… go figure!

As it turned out though, our plans to launch went entirely to shit when the mechanic Jeff informed us that our cutlass bearing (which sits between the prop shaft and the prop shaft tube) needed replacing.  What made this even worse was the fact that he had passed this information on to the previous owners a week before the survey was to occur!  Regardless of the implications and frustrations of the situation, there was little we could do except deal with it while reciting one of our favorite recurring observations… “It is what it is, even though it’s not what I thought!”

Even more problematic was the issue that, for some reason, the cutlass bearing was an extremely obscure size.  After a great deal of hunting and calling, Digital Prop located one that had to ship from Europe; but this meant we were now looking at one to two weeks for an arrival time… Aarrgghhh!  And while we never felt even an inkling of buyer’s remorse, we felt compelled to joke about the can of worms a European built yacht had opened up regarding the accessibility and availability of parts – “those damn French must really hate Americans cause they constantly utilize parts, materials and techniques that we don’t have access to!”  In actuality, we again and again noted that our patience and willingness to simply feed Exit whatever she needed went much further than it would have with a ‘lesser’ boat we would have already felt compromised to be into.

Herrington Harbor North – Sunset on the hard

Incidentally, we can’t thank Danny (the owner of Digital Prop) enough for all his help to sort things out for us – even loaning us tools and a big floor fan to try to keep down the heat inside Exit.  Though he was relentlessly busy every day we stopped by, he always made time to talk to us, help walk us through the process of choosing between endless options, and even just take a break to chat with us.

Again and again, we found ourselves being offered unsolicited assistance from random people whom we had just met, repeatedly showing a side of human kindness that continually forced us to remember that there is a much smaller population of assholes than we may give credit for! Massive thanks to Paula and Tim of S/V Sprit for loaning us their small fridge indefinitely as ours couldn’t be used while Exit was out of the water!  Paula also pointed out to us, after hearing of our Borneo experience, that very few yachties can make the claim that their move aboard a sailboat represented a move UP in overall living space.  So true!

The delay was really a blessing in disguise, as we now had a much more realistic window of time to go through every locker and system much more thoroughly.  Becoming more familiar with Exit and her systems, as well as what was on the boat, allowed us a comfort level we certainly would appreciate once we got off the relative security of land and found ourselves finally on the water.


We made the best we could of the situation, traipsing up and down the ladder tied to our stern dozens and dozens of times each day for various tasks including mundane trips for ice, or the 100+ yard walk to the marina restrooms (our head was undergoing a lengthy process of becoming functional), or any other of a million different things that needed doing at any given time.

Exit Strategy

July 4, 2017

Deja vu.  For the third time in six weeks we are traveling across the USA…15,000 miles total.  Ironic considering Kris had only traveled to the East Coast once in her life.  Our initial trip of the three was the first time we climbed aboard Exit.  The second trip was a quick three day plane ride so we could be present for the sea trial and survey of Exit (similar to a house inspection prior to sale).  This is our third trip.  Back to Amtrak.  Same route.  Only this time we have one way tickets and 500 pounds of luggage spread out in twelve different bags and suitcases!

Wait a minute… I sense a bit of confusion building in you.

I can hear you thinking “But you said…”

It’s like pages are missing from the book, only this is a digital blog.  Ok…I do understand my obligation as a writer to actually fill in this gap.

First, let me say how fitting it is that we are making this passage on Independence Day.  While we were abroad, we joked that July 4th was the country’s day of independence, but ours was in actuality October 2nd – the day we left the USA in 2008.  Now we have two: October 2 (our first exodus) and July 4 (our exit to Exit).

Ya, ya, ya, ya… I know… more information!


Our initial conversations were largely on the lines of, “Shit. What have we done? There’s no way we should be considering buying this yacht.”  Which was not entirely  untrue.  But good decisions generally come as the result of a give and take process, thought out thoroughly and deliberately.  Very few are set in stone from the outset and rarely do outcomes not differ from person to person.  So it wasn’t just a cut and dry decision of right or wrong.

Purchasing too small a boat was going to potentially be a dream killer.  We had read about people living aboard 30-39 foot yachts very happily while successfully navigating the ocean.  However, we had been aboard dozens of boats by this point (in SE Asia on holidays and in the USA) and had done our training on 36 foot sailboats in Thailand.  While we had surprisingly learned over the past eight years just how little we could get by with, we had also come to accept the fact that we were no longer in our 20’s.. or 30’s… or me even the 40’s.  Twenty five years ago or if we were already salty sailing veterans then maybe.  But now…even a posh 50 foot yacht makes for quite a small house and, shy of sailing starting to turn back our internal clocks again, we will not be getting any younger.  So we somewhat arbitrarily agreed on a minimum length of 40 feet.

Purchasing too much boat was just as much of a real concern.  Financially, the initial purchase would deplete our reserves, annual maintenance and operation would be more costly, and as novices we had a tangible limit as to how much boat we could physically handle without crew.  In Thailand, the sailboats we trained on were 36 foot length.  Ten feet bigger was ambitious but doable; much bigger was overzealous or even dangerously foolish.  So, 47 feet became the limit we would consider.

With an agreed size range of 40-47 feet to work within, we also had to consider construction materials, layout, overall condition, and equipment aboard.  This was where the endless possibilities of prioritizing and compromise became critical.  Without getting too deep into a subject entire books are written about, suffice to say our priority was in strength, stability and safety.  If the yacht had these qualities, everything else could be added or omitted at later dates.  This gave us the ability to grow into the capabilities of our sailboat over time.

It’s amazing how quickly the field narrowed when confronted with our need to find a yacht that fit our size requirements, gave us the ability to live aboard full time, was not in need of major repairs or refitting, and would give us the strength, stability and safety for eventual extended blue water cruising to go anywhere in the world we chose…even to latitudes beyond 50 degrees.

An obvious strategy would be getting a smaller, simpler sailboat to learn on with the intent of selling it in time and acquiring something more suitable as our competence and confidence grew.  We considered this very seriously, and more than likely would have pursued this option, except for the experience we were already in the midst of.  It would become the exact same process repeated.  Yes, we would be much more knowledgeable about what would or would not work for us.  But the added complexity of living aboard the very sailboat we would be trying to sell, while locating the one we wanted to buy, as well as the need to perfectly coordinate a sale and purchase almost simultaneously (not to mention the financial hits of depreciation, broker fees, travel costs, blah blah blah) made for what seemed would be a convoluted mess that would be an almost certain recipe for disappointment, headache, and even disaster.  If we couldn’t pull it off, we’d have limited our possibilities or even derailed ourselves.

Exit  was listed at a price well out of our range but we had no idea what the final agreed to price could be.  The chance that they would lower the price by one third or half was not realistic so that left the option of us being able to justify raising our budget by a yet undetermined amount…

When we climbed aboard her, of all the boats we had been on (including even the ones we went aboard that were WAY out of our price range), this was the first time that it immediately felt right.  No, it wasn’t perfect.  Still it had everything we would need in the immediate future.  It was a visceral reaction but sometimes those are what speak to you the loudest.  This was an expedition style cruiser that would be capable of taking us anywhere we wanted to go when we were ready.

In the end, it became a question of how far we could stretch the budget and how far the owners would budge.  Our perspective became that, for us, the biggest risk of buying Exit would be running out of money.  This would result in us either having to earn more money (something we had always anticipated but just did not know when that would be) or having to sell her.  And, since we had already established an ability to gain employment in the very tropical locations we would probably be traveling to, the greatest unknown was simply when we would have to seek work again.  If the owners would come down in price enough, we decided that this risk and complication seemed more digestible than the turnover approach.

Oh ya, and the other complication being that, while we were racing toward the east coast aboard Amtrak, some underhanded and inconsiderate asshole had made an offer on Exit!!!!!!  Arrrrggghhhhh!

When we called Pete to touch base, he gave us a sliver of hope by informing us that the offer on Exit hadn’t been accepted and the owners and potential buyers were about $10,000 apart.  Therefore, we were still in a situation where we could make our own offer.  Kris and I talked and talked, trying to pull aside all the curtains of uncertainty, peeking in every nook and cranny to make sure we weren’t missing something, hoping the answer would illuminate itself for us.  Finally, we decided.

Exit is the right boat.  It is the most capable, best built, best equipped boat we could hope to find.  Only time would tell if it was a bad decision to get the right boat.  But repeatedly we have learned that nothing is set in stone.  And almost without exception, we have more regretted the things we didn’t ever try than the things we did.

So we put out an offer that equated to 20% over our intended budget.  Hopefully we would save some of that back by not continuing to hemorrhage money over the next six months trying to acquire a different boat.  And hopefully we would spend much less additional money after buying a boat that was so well equipped and required so little immediate maintenance.  But, in the end, we were willing to accept the fact that we simply needed to anti up a bit more to help insure long term success (and survival).

…and they accepted the offer!!!!!!!!

Suddenly, all the exhaustion and frustration of finding a boat became the exhaustion and frustration of buying that boat – the survey, insurance, arrangements with the marina, were just part of an endless list of things which needed to be organized.  Not to mention the logistics of Exit’s location.

Instead of a delivery to the west coast (either by truck across the USA or by skipper through the Panama Canal) which would have cost $20,000+, we realized it was going to be easier to get us to Exit instead of the other way around.  Pete also firmly believed that an East Coast start was in our best interest as marinas and safe anchorages on that side of the States were nearly endless compared to the rocky, often stormy West Coast with far fewer options which would be a much less forgiving environment for inexperienced sailors.

Ultimately, the consolation during all the exhausting research, frantic decisions, and stressful moments was the undeniable fact that this is actually happening now and we are really going to be the owners of Exit!!!!!!!!

Which brings us back to our third trip across the USA in six weeks.  4th of July.  On Amtrak.  Five hundred pounds of belongings.  Twelve bags.  Watching the sporadic bursts of both fireworks in the sky as well as magical fireflies flickering their lights alongside the railroad tracks as we wait on a cutout sidetrack for a freight train sharing the same track headed in the opposite direction to pass.  Headed for Maryland.  Headed for our exit…make that our Exit!!


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