Kids, Don't Try This At Home!

Hi, and welcome to the adventures of "Triton", a 45' Robertson & Caine Leopard catamaran we purchased in July of 2007, in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. We sailed her back to Emeryville, California, located in the lovely San Francisco East Bay area, worked a few more years, then set off cruising in the fall of 2014. This journal is the story of our ongoing adventure, the folks we've met along the way, and the hardships and joys of that journey. Please read along and let us know what you think!

You can click
here to start from the very beginning of the entire adventure. You can navigate from post to post simply by clicking the NEXT or PREVIOUS phrases at the top or bottom of each page. To find out what we've been fixing, changing, upgrading, click on the Triton Boat Work link under Related Websites. If you want to subscribe to this blog (and get emails letting you know whenever we update it) just click on the icon that says "subscribe to: posts (atom)" at the bottom of each page.

Sunday, October 19, 2014



Away from the dock at last!

We are running out of time. If we hope to make it to San Diego in time to meet our crew, and ultimately start a sailing adventure from which we hope never to return, we must set sail immediately.  Projects that aren't absolutely necessary (like connecting the wiring for the solar panels, or getting the water maker working, or even finishing the refrigerator install) need to be put on hold. They aren't critical to our safety. We can generate power from other sources, carry water in the tanks, and buy ice for the cooler.  It is now or never, so we must cast off our dock lines and head for the open sea.

This is the emotional equivalent of standing at the open door of a plane, ten thousand feet above the earth, the wind buffeting your clothes as much as your confidence, and realizing that you actually need to voluntarily commit to jumping out of a perfectly good air plane.  You have come to the point where all those practice lessons on how to jump, how to deal with your chute not opening, how to land safely, etc., are either going to keep you alive, or prove a complete waste of time and you will die.  So you either jump out into space, or in our case, head for the open sea, or forever remain a wannabe, and eventually die at the dock.

Our new fuel tank, about to be installed.
So we headed for the open sea, by which I mean we motored towards the fuel dock, about 100 yards north of our berth, still safely within the confines of our marina, where we filled the starboard tank (the port tank is installed, but the epoxy barrier coat is still drying and we can't add fuel to it for at least another four days) and topped up as many diesel jugs as we thought necessary.  Once satisfied, we turned towards the fairway and began our journey, only to have the port engine stall. No trip ends smoothly that doesn't include some confusion in the beginning, and it turned out that a fuel valve had been left closed when we put the new tank in place. A quick adjustment and all is well.

We made our way out through the sea wall but soon realized that the tide was running against us, so we headed towards Angel Island, and the very well protected Ayala Cove on its northern side, to wait for slack tide. Going out the gate with four knots running against us is asking for trouble, so we tied up to the shore side dock, finished a few last minute items, and grabbed a few moments rest.

Out wedding party on Ayala Cove, with Triton in the background.
Ayala Cove has been a favourite anchorage of ours, and holds many fond memories for us. We got married on the shores of Angel Island, not one hundred yards from where we sit, and have spent countless afternoons entertaining friends while tied to a mooring ball in the cove.. We will miss it dearly, along with the spectacular view of the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island, and the San Francisco waterfront we've come to take for granted.

There are three of us aboard-- myself, AnnMarie, and our neighbor Michael, who is relatively new to sailing. This will be one the longest times he has ever been at sea, and I think he is excited to get out the gate and test his sea legs, but it is late at night, and I'm a bit anxious about going out to sea in the dark, in a boat with so many new and untested systems. Fortunately, the seas were "relatively" calm inside the gate (the real fun didn't start until we got off the coast) as we bid farewell to our home of over twenty-five years. It is hard to describe the feeling of leaving a place you've come to call home, knowing you might never reside there again. Both AnnMarie and I grew up on the East Coast, she in upstate New York, myself in northern New Jersey, but we realize now that we've become as much Bay Area residents as any third generation native.
Michael on deck.

And we'll miss this place. We will always have a soft spot in our hearts for the strange antics of the cooler-than-thou, mocha-swilling, bike-riding hipsters of the city, the geeky, socially-inept code monkeys of the Silicon valley, the less-than-tolerant politically-correct residents of Berkeley, the laid back, unwashed, TTITD-going artists, and the other ten thousand maniacs in our tribe. There will always be interesting places in the world, and all towns have their own charms, but there is no place quite like here.

Writing this now makes me realize just how big a change this is in our lives. We have given up so much of the predictable security we've come to take for granted, and are now on the cusp of a new life without any guarantees of stability, safety, or support, from those friends we've come to love as family. There is comfort in kith and kin, and stepping away from what you know has its own pensive moments, but there is a strange excitement as well, much the same as those last few moments as the roller coaster ponderously grinds to the top of the first hump. Tonight, lying here in our bunk, listening to the fog horn, feeling our catamaran roll with the swell, we hold each other and hope that everything goes well.

Ten Thousand Maniacs in our Tribe.

We will find that out all too soon, once we head out the gate and turn left, but for now, we rest as the waves rock us to sleep. It is a bit cold and damp, but AnnMarie is warm and we snuggle for a few hours before the real journey begins.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Road Goes On...


There is a great scene in one of the Lord of the Rings movies where Gandalf is standing atop the castle wall, gazing out at the enemy, anxiously waiting for the battle to begin, and says “The deep breath before the plunge”.
Just days before we are due to leave and there is still shit
tossed everywhere.  It will never all fit on the boat!

Well, the months prior to going cruising are nothing like that, mostly because you don’t have the time to think a lot about what’s next; you are too busy trying to get shit ready right now, and your event horizon doesn't include thoughts of the future, stopping to take a breath, or plunging in any direction.  If anything, the entire process is very much like running up a cliff that continues to get steeper while gasping for breath.
We've removed all of the head liner (including the owner's)
in order to install the bimini plumbing

For the last few months we've been furiously upgrading, installing, revising, redoing, rebuilding, repairing, and replacing various parts of our boat and haven’t had a moment to reflect on what was coming, or how quickly it would arrive.  But we are now only a few days away from leaving, and dreams of sugar plums dance in our heads.

Of course, those sugar plums include things like getting registered for the Baja-Haha, the cruising rally of approximately 200 boats going from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, on the tip of Baja Sur, in Mexico.  It also includes obtaining the necessary permits to cross our southern border.  We think we have, although the Mexican website for doing so leaves a lot to be desired.  We’ve also had to make sure that our crew, AnnMarie’s older sister Judi, and Judi’s boyfriend Marco, have supplied us with all their proper paperwork.  And managing all this via the interwebs using Gurgle Translate is no joy either.

Nothing is more fun that fixing things
in small, cramped spaces!

We also need to take care of lots of little details like closing out various accounts, cancelling car insurance, and all the myriad details involved in going off for an extended cruise.  When I say we, I really mean AnnMarie, who has been handling almost all of the paper work involved.  I mostly lift heavy things, force various bits of metal or fiberglass together, and/or absorb toxic substances.  Honestly, I think I got the better job, and don’t envy her, as her task is on par with filing out a complicated IRS form, except in Spanish.

But it has been overwhelming, and we are starting to get a bit ragged.  A friend of ours, while trying to console us, recently said “Don’t worry, once you go sailing, all your problems will be behind you”.  I’m sure they meant well, but what will “be behind us” is our schedule, which has not kept pace with the calendar.   A lot of things are not done and won’t get done, but hopefully we won’t need them for the sail down to Mexico and can finish them once we are there.

We attended their wedding and then tried to leave town
When we were in this same situation last year, we doubled down, working twenty hour days, trying desperately to get nine women to make a baby in one month.  That didn't work, and we decided, quite at the last moment, to take another year to get ready.  That wasn't welcome news last year for our crew, which included Mike (who also sailed several legs on Triton) and his sweetie Melissa. 
They had taken time off to make the trip, and we felt horrible about it, begging forgiveness and promising we would make it up to them.  Ironically, our shove off date this year was (initially) October 12 th, which is one day after their wedding, so at least there was a happy ending!

Three boatloads of shit in a two boatload boat
It also forced us to realize just how much crap we had accumulated in our lives, and how little of it we actually needed.  We have spent the last year and a half giving away various treasures, keepsakes, tchotchkes, and other paraphernalia that we were storing in various places in our life.  It was amazing how much stuff we had. 

It was made worse by the fact that we had (at the time) two boats, several dock boxes, two storage containers, and a very large office with an even larger storage room attached to it.  Last year shocked us when we attempted to sort through all of it, but what we found even more surprising was how much stuff we still had to jettison this year. 
We now follow what we have come to call “The Robb Kane Container Theory Of Life”, which says that everything you own should have an appropriate container that will protect it and preserve it, that you should not over-stuff the container, and that the choice of the proper container is as important as the thing it contains.

To that end, all of our clothes are in Snap Ware containers.  We’ve found that if you leave clothes in cabinets on a boat, you end up with moldy clothes. 
But if you put them in air tight containers, you will have fresh smelling (and more importantly) dry clothes when you discover, about six months later, that the deck had a small leak, and that everything is floating inside the cabinet.  Sounds silly, but it works.  So we have lots of containers for everything, and everything is labelled.

This is another thing that has amused many of our friends, but when you are tired, seasick and just slightly drunk, and its dark inside the boat, and you need to find something without digging through everything, you’ll be glad you took the time to be so anal retentive.  Okay, so its beyond anal retentive.  Its epiglottis retentive.  Yet it works. But I digress.

In retrospect, delaying the trip last year was the right thing to do, and yet that year has sped by.  You would think that by now everything would be done and we’d be picking out matching Hawaiian shirts with our boat name on them.  Instead, we find ourselves working just as hard, and just as frantically trying to cram everything in at the last moment…just like last year.   But the difference this year is that although we have a lot still to do, and a lot of projects still got put on hold, we believe we've got enough things ready to safely sail to Mexico.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The bimini almost completely installed! Finally!!
This time last year, we realized that the hard-top bimini project couldn't possibly be finished, and we contemplating bringing the unfinished pieces with us and completing it in Mexico.  We now realize what a mistake that would have been, and are glad to say that the major fiberglass work is done, the bimini is installed, and ready to have the solar panels laid on top.  We haven’t had time to put more than a single coat of primer on it, and it still needs to be sanded and painted but that is something we are bringing with us and can do at anchor once we get there.   The important thing is that the bimini is in place, and we can walk on it if we need to.
The fuel tanks, on the other hand, were not completely finished.  This wasn't a show stopper, but we’d really rather not leave without finishing at least the port side (the old tank rotted away and was removed), and if need be, we can complete the starboard side sometime later on.  But here is where we were touched by an angel, or, at least a mensch.

Our hero!
As any reader of this blog will recall, our dear friend Jen Jackson sailed with us (on the leg from Trinidad to Panama) when we bought the boat and brought it back to the S.F. bay area.  She has continued to sail as crew on various boats around the world, even crossing the Pacific on one trip, and has become quite the consummate sailor herself.   In fact, she recently bought her own boat, and much to our delight, just offered to join us as crew on the Haha!

She also started dating another sailor named Harry, a former fishing captain, who lives on his own sail boat.  Harry is, like Jen, one of those people who can do just about anything he sets his mind to.  He has awesome fabricating skills, and is able to work crazy long hours with almost no breaks.  And he did just that.
Jen throws in some tacks on the tank

When he realized that we were struggling to get things finished on time, he immediately offered to help, spending unbelievably long hours with me in the shop building the fuel tank along with various other projects on the boat.  Even Jen pitched in (when she wasn't at school or working) helping me fabricate the tank.  She had been taking an aluminium welding class at the local college at the time and showed up knowing the right TIG welder settings for what we were doing, which also saved us a lot of time and frustration.

More importantly, both of them really knew what they were doing.  When you are building something mission critical like a fuel tank, or a bimini, that kind of help is invaluable.  In fact, a number of friends stopped by to help, all of them having the kind of competence and skills that made it possible for me to hand them a task and know it would get done right the first time.  Having their help made it possible for me to focus on getting other things done without having to constantly double-check what they were doing.  To that end I also need to give a big shout out to Jeff, Kate, Felix, Mota, and a few others whose names escape me at the moment.  If I've overlooked you, please know that your help was still greatly appreciated, we are just too brain-dead exhausted to call it to mind.

The finished port side fuel tank waiting to be installed.  UGH!
So, we trudge on, working on those things we think too important to leave to others, throwing money at the things we think need doing that we just can’t take on ourselves, and putting (too many) other items on hold for when we get to Mexico.

The dead line approaches, our nerves fray, our resolve deepens, and the road goes on…

Cheers for now,

Robb & AnnMarie

PS.  Life on a sail boat is fraught with the three most corrosive elements known to man, namely UV radiation, salt water, and divorce lawyers.  Lest we've painted too rosy a picture, the stress is very real, and it takes its toll on us and the relationship.  Unless you are able to joke about it, that kind of pressure can break you apart.  Instead, we have adopted a gallows humor response. When we first started this project, our term of endearment was “I love you more.”  Now, we say “I hate you, but I'm stuck with you.”  Sometimes we can go as long as four hours before saying it to each other.   Lately it has morphed into "I hate you more, and I'm still stuck with you."  Its a funny old life.