Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The only bad thing about Boobs - Mammograms

Here lately, we've been trucking along by taking it easy and not doing much of anything except seeing doctors, home health for dressing changes, and a physical therapist 2 to 3 times per week.  But during the drudgery of the rehabbing schedule, Tami was due for her mammogram.  She has been pretty diligent about getting her exams and she figured while we were available to get it done, that we might as well get it done now.  So I took her down last week for her appointment.

The back history of these exams with Tami is that about 5 years ago she had her first examination.  Even though she was really getting this done before the age that they recommend, (if I remember correctly, its because the results are not as reliable due to the density of the breast tissue before the age of 40 - I think that's right) she has such a strong history of it in her family, she thought she would be a little bit more proactive in this area of her medical wellness.  Well 5 years ago, they found an area of calcification that required a biopsy (yeah, we were freakin' out just a little.)  It turned out to be nothing to worry about and of course we both could breathe a little better.  Seems like whenever there is a medical scare like this, every aspect of your lives gets put on hold until somebody tells you there's nothing to worry about, then its life as normal.

But her latest examination was this past Thursday - and when it was over, you just hope they don't call again - no news is good news.  But that changed on Friday.  I was taking her to the dentist when she got a call from the mammography office that she needed to come in for additional pictures and a sonogram - they had found an area of granulation tissue that needed a closer look.  So then the worry sets in.  From the small bit of information I could gather off the internet (while Tami wasn't looking), they can't really tell the difference between a cyst and cancer, so they take additional pictures and order a sonogram to distinguish between the two.  The next appointment available was this past Monday - so we got to spend the weekend not talking about it and hoping Monday didn't get here too soon (in fact, Tami didn't even know I was worried about it like I was.)  But it seems that the "worst case scenario" kept running through my mind - "ya know, she's young, even if there is something there, she'll get through it, and besides, this would still be in an early stage because she gets her exams pretty regularly."  

But soon after the call on Friday, Tami admits that "cancer is the last thing I need right now."  But I really didn't want to alarm our boys - because there was really nothing to tell anyway, no sense in worrying for no reason - so I didn't tell them.  

But sure as shit, Monday did quickly arrive and we found ourselves back at the breast office.  I tried to keep myself busy surfing the internet on my phone, but its easy to get distracted.  To make matters worse, about 45 min after Tami went back, I was called to the back also.  That's when bad things really started to enter my brain at break-neck speeds and promises and prayers quickly come to the defense.  

In the end, the areas of concern were nothing but harmless cysts and there is nothing to worry about.  But the reason for this post is to let you know how good God is.  He answered this prayer with a "yes."   And to keep my promise that I made to him over this past weekend, here is my post officially thanking him for it.

Now we can get back to this sailing plan we have - life needs to quit getting in our way, we're ready to go.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fold up Bicycle and Bruce Van Sant

"Where'd I find this?  Some kid back in town..... traded the van for it straight up.  I can get 70 mpg on this hog."

Actually, I gave $75 to a college girl up around the University of North Texas.  These usually go for around $170-$200 depending on location and shipping, so I couldn't pass it up.  But I'm not quite sure how I'm getting it to Key West.  

Brandon tearin' it up

After we fold it all up, we're hoping it fits in a checked bag, but our bags are already getting full from the other stuff I plan on taking - I've got to stop accumulating boat stuff here in Texas.  Although it looks a little awkward with the little wheels and tall handle bars, it really rides pretty much like anything else - it won't set any speed records, but it should do exactly what it is designed to.  But I have no idea why somebody in North Texas needs a fold up bicycle (we were not expecting one to be 30 min from our current location) although I guess folded up is how I got it home.  But the demand for them here is not as great as it is in Key West - a quick search generated more people looking to buy a fold-up bike than were selling them.

Also this week, the postman delivered our homework for the next month (how long does it take to read a book?)  Its The Gentleman's Guide to Passages South and have heard about this book off and on for a few years now - I just wish I would have purchased it the first time it came into my consciousness.  It's just packed full of everything you ever wanted to know about island-hopping from Florida to South America and seems to be the perfect guide for doing exactly what we are planning.  

Should've have invested in this book sooner
Time to get back to the guide and my lazy Sunday.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Anatomy of a T-shirt

Ok, so I may have my priorities all screwed up, but when you've been working so hard for so long and waiting so patiently for what seems like forever, I tend to go overboard on unimportant things.  So when I bumped the idea off my wife about doing some boat t-shirts I was a little nervous.  Its not that she didn't want "crew" t-shirts, she just hates spending money on nonessential items. But when you think about it, everybody needs t-shirts and I go through them very quickly - mine get dirty and messed up very quickly because its all I wear.  Of course when it came right down to it, I couldn't just order different sizes of white t-shirts, my wife insisted on pink ones for herself.

Perfect location

So when it came time to designing t-shirts with our boat name and logo on it, I couldn't wait to get started.  First of all I needed something to go on the front pocket area.  I at least needed the name of the boat and probably the word "crew" in that area.  I figured every shirt can be labeled "crew" because that's what we all are - and plus, it just keeps the cost down.  But when it came to a picture of our boat, I really wanted something simple, but not necessarily two dimensional.  I've seen some t-shirts that use a simple profile with lines that gives the impression of a sailboat, and those look cool.  But I wanted something that was a little different and that showed the double hulls of a catamaran.  I began by running through all of my pictures of sailing Venezia's  that I had saved on my computer (since ours is still on hard ground next to a building.)   I decided on one I thought would look good for the purpose, and began cropping and modifying.  

The picture I began with
After cropping

Final rendering after tracing it, removing the original imagery, and adding my hardtop and solar rack - simple but effective.  I also use this image for my blog's favicon

From here, you just add in your text and save the file.  But for the back-side, I wanted our logo and our web address.  The only question is whether or not we'd go with black and white or color.  This sounds like a no-brainer, but when the t-shirt company charges for each color in the picture, charges can start adding up quick.  In the end, we decided on b/w, but after receiving the t-shirts, the end product didn't come out enough like what was approved.  After notifying the company (we used the guys over at www.Rushordertees.com - awesome to work with) they quickly offered us a great price to re-do the t-shirts in color with only a modest increase in cost - basically giving us the first order for free.  The final t-shirts done in color are awesome and we couldn't be happier.

Tami assumes the position and displays the back-side

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

New Toys - its lookin' like Christmas around here!

The list of things we need to finish the refit that we started at the end of last year is beginning to shrink.  After another nationwide search from Ebay to Craigslist, I finally found a great deal on a second Raymarine E90W that will mount in the cockpit.  It was used but never installed and got it shipped here lickitty-split in perfect condition.  

I love opening FedEx boxes these days!

I was also able to snag a NavPod from Ebay for a fraction of the original price.  I used my wait-till-the-last-second Ninja bidding skills in order to swipe it away from the previous high bidder - oh I love winning items on Ebay that way, makes me all tachycardic and shit.  Only thing about the NavPod though, I'll have to modify it just a bit - it was originally for a Raymarine C80 - which is just a bit taller and a bit narrower than my E90W is, but it looks like it will be damn near a perfect overall size.  

What it should look like once mounted

One of the other items I've had my eyes on was a Sirius XM weather receiver for the Raymarine network.  It wasn't at the top of the list, but something I've considered after doing a bit of research.  It would hook right up to my existing backbone and offers weather forecasts, wind, sea, and of course the XM radio channels.  During another one of my Craigslist searches I came across somebody upgrading to another electronics system and had one for a really good price.  I sent him the funds via Paypal, and he promptly delivered the parts to my boatyard.  Damn, I love Craigslist.

Raymarine SR100 XM Receiver

This next item is one I haven't bought yet but will right before we head to Florida.  I can buy it brand new from Bed Bath and Beyond and have it shipped to my boat at no cost.  But finding it has solved a space issue that is hard to come by in a boat.  Currently, we have an old microwave and a toaster oven, and while you don't really have to have either on a boat, we like the convenience that each offers.  But that's two items, and while they are both small, they do take up double the real estate.  But then along comes Cuisinart.  Its a combination microwave, convection oven, and can also be used as a grill.  And to top it off, its small.  Can't wait to throw the old units in the trash and to start using this work of "Cuisin"-art (thank you, I'll be here all week.)

I've also have been looking for a replacement dinghy for months now.  We've spent tons of hours searching Craigslist - everywhere from Fort Lauderdale to Key West.  There have been times when both my wife and I have been on two different laptops doing daily searches.  I've seen tons of boats, but everything was usually too new and expensive, too old, or too heavy - we could never find that perfect size, condition, and price.  I'd love to have one of those solid inflatables - some are either aluminum or fiberglass, but they are few and far between and above my price limit.  But then I came across these high performance inflatable catamarans.  The two biggest brand names are Thundercat and Hammerhead.  They make a casual version and a performance one.  I'd passed up on a couple of them already because they were too far away to look at and I wasn't in the area at the time.  But then I also discovered that the "normal" size Dux Hammerhead was 13'6" - too big to fit between my hulls as I only have 12' on the nose, and no more.  In fact, we measured that distance about 4 different times because I couldn't believe that I didn't have at least that much to fit one of those boats there.  I became very frustrated.  

But then, I found it.  It was like finding the Lost Ark of the Covenant.  Could it really be the one - this has got to be the one!  It was a Dux Hammerhead Performance version and it was listed as an 11 footer.  "How can that be?" I asked myself.  Eleven feet?  That's not possible, these boats are over 13 feet long.  So I called the owner of the listing and he assured me that this was indeed an 11 foot Hammerhead.  In fact, he said it was specially requested to be that specific length, and actually the title said it was 11 foot 6 inches - even better!! 

A very kick-ass 2009 11'6" Dux Hammerhead

So is this the perfect dinghy?  My wife is having her doubts.  Its got an open transom (its the performance version remember) and they're known to be a little rough and a little "splashy."  But they hold a shit ton of weight for when we have it loaded with scuba equipment and anything else.  And it could not be more of the perfect size even if I had ordered it myself.  These boats are also supposed to be fun as hell to play around with - some even use these in place of a personal watercraft - my crew should have a good time on this thing.  Plus (and this is the best part) how cool will it look to have a performance inflatable catamaran hanging off the davits of my sailing catamaran??  Sounds completely bad-ass to me!  And hey, if it doesn't work out, I really don't have that much invested in it.  It would have cost me more to get my 10' Caribe re-tubed than this cost total.  

All this will start coming together soon when we head back to Florida to begin the last phase of the refit.....and we can't wait!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Leibster Award Recipients

My "Sexy" pose on the bow
Here is a treat for you: a rare posting from me, Tami - the better half to my husband who normally posts to this blog.  I was asked to try out my skills and reply to us being acknowledged for the Leibster Award.   We've seen this award being passed around to other bloggers we read and now have the fortune of being nominated for the award ourselves by the good people at Diving into Cruising.  At this time, we're only blogging friends but hope to someday meet them in person and share stories.  They have been hard at work for some time now on their own project boat down in Florida and wish them best of luck and want to thank them for the nomination.  

So what is The Leibster Award Its an award given from one blogger to another in hopes to recognize and spotlight hard working bloggers.  To accept the award, the nominee must link back to the nominating blogger, answer 10 questions that they asked, and nominate other bloggers to receive the award. 

The questions that we are to answer are as follows:

1. Introduce us to your crew. Who are they and what role do they play in your operation?

We are a crew of 4, myself 43, my husband 45 and 2 boys (grown boys, but still my boys) they are 20 and 25. We have always been a very close family and this is just another adventure that we are going to embark on.  The roles each of us play in the operation are still being decided as we continue to work some of that out since none of us have really sailed.  As of now my son Justin 25, is going to be the mechanic and help with maintenance of the boat, he also wants to get his captain license. My son Brandon 20, will be helping with the everyday maintenance and cleaning of the boat and cooking, he also wants to be a dive master. My husband Kevin 45, says he will be perfectly happy as the navigator for us. Tami 43, (thats me) do not have much of a role at this time. I am still recovering from the accident I had on 2/6/14, (check out the blog) and the outcome of my foot is still to be determined, but I am great at telling everyone else what to do and how they should do it - I guess that means I'll be captain :)

2. What sort of boat do you have and would you recommend it for other adventurers hoping to live aboard?

We have a 42' catamaran, it has four double cabins, two heads, and 2 singles in the nose of the hulls. The single berths are currently being used for storage and for the A/C units.  But in the main cabin and berths, there is plenty of room for family and guests alike.  My recommendation for any other adventurer hoping to live aboard is to find the best boat you can for the best price (not really new information here) and we had our hearts set on a catamaran.  This fit the bill for us in size, engine location, condition, and price and I would most definitely recommend it for others.

3. Where are you now and what are your sailing plans, if you have any, for the future?

We are currently in Irving, TX waiting for November 1st and the 2014 hurricane season to be over-with. We currently have a few things we are talking about - but the plan right now is to get it in the water in November and hang around Key West for a bit until we get a few shake-down sails under our belt.  When we're comfortable with that, we'll start moving her up the coast of Florida and making our way to Miami.  From there, if all is going ok with the boat, we'll cross over to Bimini and make our way to Nassau. Then from there, we have no idea.  

The catch of it all is that we will be needing a licensed Captain (and/or a husband/wife team) to come aboard with us until we know the ropes and until he/she/they are convinced we can competently handle our own boat - any volunteers?? The Captain or the Captain Team would be able to live aboard while we're in Key West and would have the opportunity to travel along with us to who knows where.  They'd also be offered their own private cabin during this journey although they might have to share the head with one of my sons. So if you or if you know somebody that wants to help us out, tell them to contact us - we should be needing services sometime toward the end of November.  In the meantime, we'll be finishing up the refit in September and October and be hitting the Captain schools and the yacht clubs in search of our volunteers.

4. How do you support your lifestyle while sailing and cruising?

We have been planning this for about 8 yrs now and have been setting up for this adventure this whole time. Kevin went to nursing school to become an RN as this would allow him to work in different places or be a traveling nurse during hurricane season. He has been a nurse for almost 3 yrs now and just went PRN (as needed). The hospital he works at requires PRN nurses to work at lease 3 days a month so he tries to work his 3 days at the end of one month and at the beginning of the next one.  This allows him to have 6 weeks off at a time during which is spent down in Key West working on the boat for extended periods of time.  But our main source of income is our five rental properties. We plan to store the boat during the off season and stay in our motor home at which time Kevin can go back to work to build up the cruising kitty a bit before we take off again.

5. What’s the best experience you’ve had while living aboard?

The best experience/adventure I've had so far was when my son Justin and I originally drove from Texas to Florida without stopping (except for gas and food).  It was the first time we saw the boat after the purchase was completed and we knew we needed lots of tools and also a vehicle in Florida to complete the refit - so we loaded up our trailer with everything we could, and headed east.  We pulled up to the boat just after dark having no idea about how a boat worked. We went aboard found a power cord and plugged in.  Then we started turning on breakers and wallah! after some looking around and pushing buttons, we had lights. We threw some sleeping bags on the beds and went to sleep on some nasty mattresses.  It was definitely a weird experience  - how many times do you get to pull up to a 42' catamaran that's been sitting for years and say, "That's our home now."  It was quite the mini adventure but I still have to rank it as the best experience so far - at least until we put this puppy back in the water that is.

6. Name the most challenging experience you have had while living aboard and what did you do to overcome it?

The most challenging experience that I've had since the purchase is obviously falling off a ladder and breaking my heel.  But that should have only kept me away from the boat about 2 months max - then I could have rehabbed back on the boat.  But the allergic reaction that necrotized my skin is what has been the most challenging thing for me to overcome in my life.  If you've kept up with this blog you know its been quite a challenge for me and my family.  I still don't have skin on some of my foot and I'm not sure I'll ever have complete use of it again - but whatever the degree of use it ends up having, or no matter how much of the constant pain still exists after my wound has healed, I will be doing the best I can aboard Catchin' Rays.  My family has been extremely encouraging during this whole ordeal and we've never really focused on the negatives too much. We're all still alive and still pretty capable of operating a sailboat - and then you do the best you can.

7. Is living aboard and sailing an alternative way of life for you, an escape from the system, or is it just a temporary adventure?

This is a hard one to answer because the truth is we have no idea if this is a temporary adventure or not.  On one hand, we have a tendency to be realistic and know that most sailing adventures last between 2-5 years - we hope to get about 4 years out of it, but it could be longer or it could be shorter.  It really just depends on if we enjoy it and if we can afford it.  Its definitely not an escape from the system - we don't really have a problem with the system its much more about going on an adventure while we are still able to do so and while the opportunity presents itself.

8. Any big mistakes you have learned from that others may learn from too?

The biggest mistake that we've made so far is not using scaffolding while working on the hard.  I was working on the boat at the top of the ladder when I fell and broke my heel and then all the complications ensued.  We vowed to only work from scaffolding from that point on and are a little disappointed in ourselves for not making this decision prior to the accident.  The truth is, we've worked on numerous rent houses and renovations and have always worked from ladders of all sizes - at heights much taller than when I fell, and we took for granted that nothing ever went wrong.  But you learn that it only takes a second to change your life permanently.  So for those out there doing their own work on the hard, don't be afraid to ask somebody in the yard if you can borrow some scaffolding and if not, worst case scenario you have to go buy some yourself.  If it keeps you from having an accident like I had, you'll be glad you spent the money.

9. What advice would you give to youngsters just finding their place in the world? College, skill/trade, world travel on the graces of good luck?

We've always  been advocates for young people going to college.  When my husband and I were making our way in our early 20's, a degree didn't seem as necessary back then as it does now - it was a different time.  My husband had a good job straight our of high school that his father helped him get and I always did clerical work at mortgage companies and such.  It made enough to build a good life for ourselves and our children.  But we learned later in life that the truly successful people in this world are the ones that went and got a degree and we also learned that the degrees in the medical field were the most flexible and secure ones out there.  Although neither of our children have gone to college or plan to go to college (they don't listen to us very well) they've also been waiting on the "adventure".   But as far as the young people making their way:  go get a medical degree of some kind - you'll always have it, its flexible, and it will always be able to fund any kind of adventure you'll ever want to do.

10. What motivates you to blog and what tips can you offer fellow yachty bloggers?

Actually my husband is the one who created this blog - he asked me to do this one because he is starting to enjoy making the YouTube videos much more and wanted to get my perspective on the answers. But what motivated him in doing this blog is that he has always enjoyed writing even though he doesn't consider himself a good writer.  But I asked him this question and his answer was that ever since he read Bumfuzzle's journal, it motivated him to try and follow through with this sailing adventure, but it also inspired him to write down his own story if we ever made it to this point.  Even if people don't read it, it's something that the kids or grandchildren may be able to look back on and get a kick out of it.  It's telling a story - and my husband has always liked telling stories (even if nobody was listening.)

For other bloggers out there:  make the blog easy to navigate, make it easy to read, and have enough pictures to tell the story.

Now for our own nominations, but to be honest, most of the bloggers that my husband and I read have already been nominated/awarded the Leibster Award.  So I had to refer to my husband on this list as he reads more of them than do I. 

Here are the ones we would nominate for this award:

This Rat Sailed  (previously nominated)
Cream Puff
The Nomad Trip 

The questions we have for the ones we've nominated are the following:

1.  Who's on board, how old is each of the crew, and how much sailing experience do each of you have?
2.  Do you sail full time or part time and how do you afford to sail? 
3.  How long do you plan to sail?  And if the answer isn't "forever" what are your plans after you get done sailing?
4.  What's the best method you use to make people aware of your blog?
5.  What gave you the idea to sail in the first place?
6.  What made you decide on the type and brand of the boat you own?
7.  This one is for the guys and the girls to answer:  if you had to pick one crush or man-crush, who would you choose?  Brad Pitt, Zach Efron, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Johnny Depp
8.  What are your favorite meals to cook while sailing?
9.  Do you or have you sailed with dogs?  and if so, where do they potty?
10.  What method do you use to track and forecast weather?