Our mission -- Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enter .. OOPS, sorry, I got carried away. Let me start again.

Our mission -- Warm Waters and Great Weather: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Motor Vessel Traveling Soul. Its five-year mission: to explore strange warm waters, to seek out new forms of recreation and new civilizations, to boldly go where no Brown, Applegate or Higgins has gone before.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Traveling Soul's Summer

The reason we didn’t write about our adventures on Traveling Soul this summer is because … well … we didn’t have many adventures on Traveling Soul.  The most important adventures we had this summer were ashore and away from the boat. Here is a quick summary.

In May, while our boat was still in Oriental, NC, we rented a car, drove to Northern VA and attended a retirement party for one of my last professional mentors, Andrew Marshal. Those of you who are in the national security business might know, or might have heard, of Andy and the Office of Net Assessment. I worked there for several years while on active duty and even longer as a contractor in support. Anyway, Andy is truly a legend in the Defense Department and I could tell you a hundred stories about his tenure – but most are so classified that I would then have to kill you and someone would have to kill me. So, let’s not go down that particular path. For those of you who are not affiliated with DoD and know nothing about Andy, let me just say that he is, and has always been, a strategist’s strategist and one who spoke “truth to power” to more Secretaries of Defense than most of us could name. He was and remains a national treasure.

The other great aspect of Andy’s retirement party was that I had a chance to see many of the folks with whom I had worked while at SAIC. I am not going to list all of them for fear of accidently omitting someone, but it was fun seeing so many of the young men and women that I had hired – or to whom I had given an initial work experience – and who have since developed into national security professionals. It was also great seeing the folks who were my colleagues back then – including and especially my former bosses Jeff McKitrick and Jim Blackwell. Good luck and God Bless, guys. I hope we meet again.
Picture from the Aerial Tramway

In June, after returning to the Chesapeake, we left the boat in the capable hands of Rick Nissan for repairs and upkeep, and headed out west to visit our west coast family.  Initially we stayed with my mom in Tucson, AZ. We then went to visit our daughter, Lisa, her husband Dave and our three grandchildren, Nik, Maddie and Trent, in Twenty-nine Palms, CA. Now, I wouldn’t say Twenty-nine Palms is in the middle of nowhere, but you pass Death Valley to get there. I’m just sayin’. Anyway, while there, we not only visited the kids, but Lisa took us on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which took us from an elevation of 2643 feet to 8516 feet in ten minutes! It was hot as Hades in the Valley and downright chilly at the top. All in all, it was a great trip. After that, Ann went to Portland, Oregon to see her mother and sister while I came back to check on boat repair progress.

Now I am convinced that this blog has four types of readers. The first three are: family and friends who are interested in what we are doing (and trying to figure out why in the hell we are doing it), boaters who are trying to determine if they want to follow in our footsteps, and finally, those who kind of enjoy our retirement antics. There has to be, however, a fourth type – the orthopedic surgeons (and their groupies) who track the progress of my Achilles Tendon. I am sure they had a betting line on whether or not I would need a fifth surgery this summer. I have to tell you that it was close. It wasn’t until May or June that it became clear to me that there was yet another batch of pseudomonas bacteria on the attack. So, the answer is … (drum roll please) … “Yes,” I spent another week at the National Military Medical Center at Walter Reed and another six weeks aboard Traveling Soul with a PICC line in my arm, using various types of walking devices (crutches, a walking boot, etc.) to get around. I know, I know, this is getting old, right?
Gavin's Birthday aboard Traveling Soul

Okay, I know what the rest of you are waiting for. You want to know what we had done to the boat this year. The answer is, “a lot.” Actually, that’s not quite right. There weren’t that many things, but together they cost a lot of Boat Units. I am just going to give you a few highlights.

·       The front of the flybridge had developed a number of “micro-cracks” in the gelcoat. It didn’t happen because of anything anyone did, it was simply the result of 25 years of exposure to the Florida (and Virginia) sunshine. The repair folks had to sand, epoxy, sand, then paint the front of the bridge. The cost? Lots.

·       Part of the deck of the flybridge had become discolored and ugly. We had them re-gelcoat the deck. The cost? Not quite as much as the paint job, but still, lots.

·       Left unattended, the bottom of any boat can develop algae, barnacles and all sorts of growth that slows the boat and is generally yucky. As a result, every other year (or so) boat owners either paint, or have painted the bottom of their hulls with special paint. This was our year for bottom-painting. Cost … not THAT bad (comparatively).

·       There were a few places where it leaked into the salon (living room) when we had a rain storm. I think those are pretty well fixed.

·       We had a couple of things done to the generator – and it is causing us a lot fewer problems now. We also changed our starting procedure. We used to press the preheat button for about 10 seconds before hitting the “start” switch. The preheat button heats up the glow plugs, increases the oil pressure, and starts the fuel flowing. It recently occurred to me that our problem might be that we were flooding the engine with too much fuel, so I started pressing the preheat for five seconds rather than 10. You know what? So far so good (knock on wood).

·       Finally, we made one major IMPROVEMENT, rather than just a repair. We added two big 150 amp alternators to the engines. Alternators generate electricity that can be used, inter alia, to charge batteries. Long time readers will recall that we have always had electrical issues of one sort or another – usually associated with getting enough electricity to the batteries. In turn, that meant we had to run the generator a lot. With a couple of big alternators, we do not have to run the generator as much.

o   Now, the boat had alternators previously – but they were rated at only 40 amps, which wasn’t very much. Moreover, there was an even bigger problem – they were both broken. Well, we decided to have the alternators replaced with two 150 amp alternators. Now, 150 amps is something! (Remember the Tim Allen TV show? “More power! … hehehe”). Anyway, many of our electrical problems have now been solved. When we run the engines to move the boat from one point to another, our batteries arrive at the new location fully charged!!!

o   The new alternators have solved a second problem – what to do on the case of generator failure. If you will recall, our generator has failed twice, once outside of Georgetown, SC and once at Great Sale Cay in the Bahamas. In each instance we had to get to a marina quickly before all the food in our refrigerator went bad. Now, all we need to do is crank up the engines and let the alternators charge the batteries and that will take care of the problem.

o   The one big problem that the new alternators do not solve is when we are sitting at an anchorage for more than one day. At anchor, we still drain more power than I want, and are likely to have to use the generator more than once a day. We will address that problem later this winter – in the Bahamas.

Dolphins playing in the wake of Traveling Soul
The real reason we made this entry to our blog was to clear the decks so we can start reporting on this year’s adventure. We are heading down the Intracoastal, enjoying Thanksgiving at Vero Beach, FL, then hopefully waiting for a weather window to cross to the Bahamas. Once there, we want to spend a little time in the Abacos, jump over to Eleuthera, then to the Exumas, and finally, to the Ragged Islands and back home. More about that adventure as it unfolds.

Rather than always write her own notes, Ann has decided, once in a while, to let Spot have a corner of the blog. So, without further ado … here’s Spot.

Remember: Dogs have Masters; Cats have Staff

Meeoowww … I have a pet peeve that I must get off my chest. My name is Spot, but some people use "nicknames." For example, Dave Wolf – one of my associate staff likes to call me Spot-o-saurus. That makes it sound like I can be like a dinosaur. Good heavens, I am a nearly perfect cat --  not a lizard!! The male member of my staff sometimes calls me Spotticus. Sorry, kind of boring. Since no one will come up with one that I like, I think I will make up my own. Personally, I like, and think I will use Spot the Magnificent.
Spot the Magnificent on the aft deck

I am nearly one year old and over that year, I have seen things that few felines ever get to see. I have seen all kind of birds, big ones, little ones, fast ones and slow ones. I have seen dolphins – dozens of dolphins. I have seen sunrises and sunsets like you wouldn’t believe and I have seen birds – did I mention that already? I have seen boats and bugs. In fact, I am becoming renown for my bug catching ability. I also chase windshield wipers and ping pong balls.

Anyway, this is my first entry and, unlike my staff, I don’t want to write too much and bore you, so I think I’ll call it quits so the male can get this published.

And since the female staff member is not here …

Traveling Soul … Out