What a week! An e-mail came from a friend declaring that he’s on track for his scheduled departure for a year-long cruise to the South Pacific and back. Another pal sent me a blog about his small armada of friends in yachts leisurely circumnavigating Vancouver Island. Rodger and Ali have arrived with ‘Wave’ in Hay River, are all rigged up and waiting on winds to ease so they can leave on their odyssey. They’re probably out there and at it as I write. One more friend has spontaneously decided to leave on Monday for two weeks in Portugal. Tony and Connie, on ‘Sage’ are in Langkawi, Malaysia trying to get some paint on their boat during the Monsoon Season. Well I love you all and wish you well but I’m still in Silva Bay singing ‘Sitting on the dock of the bay watching the tide roll away……’ you know how the song goes!

Hold on to the dream

I am grudgingly admitting that while the dream is very much alive that I have to fall back to Plan F. I’m destroying myself trying to find a way to raise funds and get old ‘Seafire’ ready enough to safely and boldly venture forth this fall. Many items on my ‘To do’ list are slowly osmosing on to the ‘Mexico Mañana list but some things must be done here first.  I’m finding life too stressful, and I’m too miserable, as the days whizz by with not enough happening and the departure window of early October rushing toward me like a train in a tunnel. If a sack of money falls on me, (And doesn’t kill me) I can still meet the challenge. However the present reality will probably prevail (Now there’s a mouthful!) I cannot meet the deadline as things stand at the moment. It’s time to back up and reload. So, still clinging to Plan A, I’m now considering sliding toward F.

Plan F involves working on ‘Seafire’ until the winter rains become horizontal then laying the boat up for a couple of months. I’ve acquired a little old Nissan 4×4 truck in good shape which is perfect for Baha driving conditions. I’m thinking of also finding an older small travel trailer and meandering down to the San Carlos/Guaymas area  at the top of the Sea Of Cortez. I can leave the truck and trailer there and then return to fetch the boat. If I can get ‘Seafire’ as far as Astoria Oregon for the Fisher Poet’s Gathering at the end of February, then I’m definitely on my way. The Columbia Bar and the entire Pacific Northwest Coast is an ugly piece of work at that time of year. I’d much prefer to stay 300 miles off the beach until abeam Los Angeles then angle in to Ensenada, Mexico to clear customs. However, if I were to tip-toe from port to port southward from Astoria along the Oregon Coast, making one final jump in a good weather window to San Francisco I can hang out there for the summer. It is a great place to tinker up the boat with a ton of places to check out between the Bay area and the Sacramento Delta. Hurricane season in Mexico lurks until approximately mid-October so you don’t want to be too far south too soon. So, Plan F for Frisco Bay. Of course there are plans B through E and failing to plan is planning to fail; right? And…too many plans are like no plans at all.

On a definitely upbeat note, I think I have finally solved my dinghy and life raft quandary. I had a fine little inflatable boat with a hard aluminium bottom. I loved it and deemed it perfect for pulling up on rocky shorelines anywhere. The problem was carrying it on open water passages. I’ve also been unsure about what to do for a life-raft.

There are three enemies on a lightly-crewed vessel:

-Fatigue, which leads to all sorts of dumb-assed mistakes even to the  point of       sitting on your own shoulder and watching as you wilfully do something stupid and dangerous.

-Fire, the most serious dumb-assed mistake. For whatever reason a fire starts, there are only a couple of minutes to get it out or it is time to abandon ship . I feel that an onboard fire is more reason to carry a life raft than the possibility of sinking. If you’ve ever seen a small vessel, especially fibreglass, catch fire you’ll never forget.

-Chafe, yes even on various body parts when failure to maintain good personal hygiene, (Probably due to fatigue) produces debilitating symptoms. More importantly, there is chafe occurring to all moving parts of a boat during the constant motion of being at sea. It is especially critical with sails and rigging but like anything else, an inflatable dinghy will wear somewhere.  Stored on deck and deflated it is still in the way and chafing somewhere. Hanging in davits over the stern of the boat it is even more susceptible to chafe and is also likely to be swamped with a big wave. Not only does one risk losing the dinghy, there is a good chance of seriously damaging the mother ship where the davits attach.

Life rafts are a great idea but even on a forty-something foot boat like ‘Seafire’ storage space is a challenge. Rafts are expensive, must be regularly serviced and not entirely reliable. In fact, in heavy weather they are a terrible place to be and are not especially inclined to stay right-side up. If you’ve ever sat in one afloat you know that bobbing around in a life raft with a few other puking people might be a fate worse than death.

So, I’ve compromised.

I was able to sell the dinghy I had in the hope of finding something more suitable and also able to serve as a life raft should the need arise. There are two types of material used in the manufacture of inflatable boats: Hypalon and PVC. The latter is much less costly but very susceptible to wear and punctures. It is especially unable to tolerate even moderate exposure to UV damage. If you are heading south, you are going to have trouble. A boat made of Hypalon is approximately twice the price but it will live an infinitely longer time. There are some here in the marina easily twenty-five years old looking a bit scruffy but still going strong.

I looked feverishly everywhere for a good used boat or an affordable new boat which meant accepting a big compromise in quality and so ultimately, value. While checking all the online advertisements twice daily one boat suddenly leapt out at me. The timing was perfect and I’m taking it as a good omen that I’m moving in the right direction. I now own a ten-year old, but never used, 11-foot Achilles Hypalon inflatable boat. It has a high-pressure inflatable keel and floor so it is dead easy to store and to inflate on the decks of ‘Seafire’. It came with a set of wheels for rolling it up the beach and even a second, electric pump for rapid inflation.  The price was reasonable and so I’m set. All I have to do is figure out a  bright tough canopy which will install easily and it can double as a life raft. Now I have to see how she goes with the outboard motor I have. I’ll be back shortly…

First ride, barnacles and oyster shells, Perfect!
First ride, barnacles and oyster shells, Perfect!

Well she goes like hell ! The Achilles is a virgin no more. Even with a full load this little baby planes easily and scoots along nicely. The floor flexes a bit like a flying carpet. It’s a keeper. ‘Seafire’ and her tender ‘Backfire’. Progress in the right direction, hope springs eternal.

???????????????????????????????Passing neighbour

I’m definitely not one to be impressed with high-end, look at me boats, especially power boats. ‘Fart Parkersons’, I call them. On a rare occasion I’m forced to make an exception. I arrived back at my boat  the other day to discover I had a temporary neighbour in the form of a gleaming perfect blend of burgundy fibreglass, varnished teak and polished stainless steel. No strutting skippers or bikini-clad trophy barbies aboard, just a very nice couple meeting some family arriving on the float-plane. The boat is a 40-something foot Hinckley ‘Picnic boat’. So there are folks who can manage affluence and civility all at once. Now I know having money isn’t everything, but I could sure stand a change of problems!

Hinckely logo in teak
Hinckely logo in teak

Let me add that managing poverty and civility is also a bit challenging. If only my dog knew how well-off he is. ‘Eat it, copulate with it, piss on it, have a nap’.

Not a bad philosophy at all!

Fetch yer ass!
Fetch yer ass!