Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Merry Christmas!

What a year this has been!  There is so much to be thankful for!

With any luck - this time next year we'll be hanging with THIS Santa!

Merry Christmas to all - and may your New Year be filled with love, health and happiness!!

All our love,

Brittany & Scott

Monday, December 21, 2009

If I could have a moment on a soap box...

Scott, my sister Chelsea and I watched the movie "The Cove" last night.  It was incredibly powerful and devastatingly sad.  There is a mass slaughter of dolphins (yes, "Flipper") happening yearly off the coast of Japan and it is wrong on so many levels.  If you are passionate about the ocean, keeping its ecosystems intact, and these magical, magical creatures - you need to watch this film and support this cause.  The synopsis says it best:
This riveting documentary (winner of the Audience Award at Sundance) follows a group of animal activists to a scenic cove in Taijii, Japan, where they use surveillance equipment to capture footage of a secretive and heavily guarded operation run by the world's largest supplier of dolphins. As the daring group risks their lives to expose the horrifying truths behind the capture of dolphins for the lucrative tourist industry, they also uncover an environmental catastrophe.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rules of the, water...

I just started reading William Seifert's incredibly dense and informative Offshore Sailing:  200 Essential Passagemaking Tips Having just barely scratched the surface of this book - I can already tell it is going to become a "bible" onboard Rasmus - meaning we will reference this daily for information, inspiration, and solutions.  It's laid out like a text book - but reads more like an interesting "how to" guide.  He lays things out simply and clearly, like these basic rules that will pretty much ensure you have a good (and safe) journey:

1)  Keep the water OUT of the boat.
2)  Keep the crew IN the boat.
3)  Know where you are and where you are going.
4)  Keep the rig in the boat (for all you non-sailors, the "rig" is the mast, sails and all that fun stuff).
5)  Keep the keel on the hull and the deck intact.
6)  Be able to control the vessel's direction.
7)  Have enough experience or crew with experience on board so that passages are pleasant and not terrifying.

He then goes on to say "If you can do these seven things, the rest - with a little effort - will generally take care of themselves".  However, exactly how EASY are these seven things to do?  There are SO many unknowns in nature.  I read an article the other day about a race to Mexico where a J105 ran into a pod of whales, got hit and sank within 5 minutes (everyone was fine).  How the heck do you prepare for, let alone aviod, a pod of migrating whales!?!  There are horror stories of all sorts of flotsam and jestsam lurking a just a few inches below the water's surface - waiting to put a hole in your boat.  Then there are rogue waves, microbursts, and all sorts of other "freak" weather phenom. While these thoughts are unnerving - statistically speaking, we are in significantly MORE danger driving our cars to and from work every day.  Sobering.

The main point Mr. Seifert drives home is, essentially, to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  Control what you can and don't waste too much energy trying to control what you cannot.  Important lessons to heed both at sea and in life.

Brittany & Scott

Monday, December 14, 2009

The ocean is calm and serene...UNLESS...

Sigh.  Nothing like video simulation to really bring the point home.

Brittany and Scott

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

On Planning...

Sigh.  Oh plans!  I have always been more of a "fly by the seat of my pants" type of girl.  I like to dive in head first and just get downright and dirty with what I'm gettin' into.  I have found the chances of backing out are significantly less when you are, well, immersed.  A toe in the water is easy to take out - but a whole body?  Now that is commitment!

I have lots of examples in my life of this working.  Backpacking in Europe at 18 with a few ripped out chapters from a Lonely Planet and a Europass...running a marathon with no formal training save for a weekly phone call to my cousin (who WAS formally training) asking "how many miles you running this week?"...moving to East Africa with nothing but a hope, a dream and 3K in travelers checks...travelling solo through South East Asia for 3 months with little more than wanderlust and a grin from ear to ear...hopping off a sailboat in Argentina and travelling around that neck of the woods for 5 weeks solo...oh, and I bought a 35 year old sailboat just to get the ball rolling on THIS plan.  All of these things I did with very little (if any) planning.  Sure, I had a rough "skeleton plan" of what I wanted to do, accomplish and/or see.  But I didn't slave over maps, guidebooks, and travel forums - I just don't have the patience or energy for all of that, to be quite honest.  Not to say that planning is bad, but if I've learned anything - it's that plans change.  Especially when it comes to travel.

Which brings me to THIS next chapter.  Sailing around the world.  It really does people's heads in!  They always want to know exactly where we are going and when (some even reach for the nearest map or globe) and we always just laugh and say, "we don't really know" - because, we really don't (if you want our loose itinerary see this post).  We are approaching this journey as a runner does a marathon.  You don't start a marathon and think "here I am at mile zero of 26.2" - you break it down into little segments.  Mile by mile.  Piece by piece.  So we most likely won't ever know our "exact route" - we will chip off one leg...and then plan the next.  And when we get to that destination, we'll kick back with a few cold (or warm) ones, chat with other cruisers, consult our myriad of crusing books and guides, and come up with the next leg of the journey.  There are SO many places to see, and SO many different ways to go. We know the how of the journey - and we want to remain completely and totally open-minded about the when and the where.  I know this might seem careless, but I assure you it is not.  There is a difference between planning and preparation.  We are preparing for this trip, little by little - the way we see it, it's impossible to actually plan it.

All that said, there are obviously two different schools of thought on "planning" - as illustrated in these two quotes:

Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans - John Lennon
He who fails to plan, plans to fail - Proverb

Hmmmmm.....What side of the fence do you fall on?  I always liked John Lennon myself.

Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Ladies and Gentleman: The Gate Valves have Left the Boat!

To say we have been busy these last couple of weeks would be an understatement.  Not only were we thrwarted into wedding planning bliss (insert large, toothy, purposefully strained grin) but we had the holidays, family parties, out-of-town guests and - well, lets face it - our upcoming July 24th nuptials took precedence the end of November.  Wedding planning, FYI, is not for the faint of heart!  Did you know there are brides out there that book venues BEFORE they get engaged?  Yeah.  Enough said.

Anyway, this past couple weeks of wedding induced chaos has put a monkey wrench in boat work.  HOWEVER, we have hired a wedding planner (hooray for me and my sanity!) and now, boat work can commence!  And boy oh boy did it ever on Sunday.  First of all, we arrived at Canal Street and the magic elves at the marina shrink-wrapped our little beauty so we can work on her in rain, sleet or snow (sounds fun, right?).  Our boat is now a super-cool fort! It was great timing really, as it was rainy on Sunday - and there we were, working away on deck completely dry.  Sigh.  Luxury (Not quite, but it's all relative).

The big news is we removed 4 of the 5 seacocks in our boat!  What is a seacock you ask?  Well - it is a valve on the hull of the boat that can either allow liquid to flow in (for engine cooling intake, for example) or out (from the bilge, for example).  Our seacocks are of the "gate valve" variety and have been on the boat for 35 years.  They are old and need to be replaced before we shove off.  It is incredibly important to have your seacocks in top condition, for if and when they "break" you have either a VERY wet boat (at best) or a very sunken boat (at worst).  We're not taking any chances.  We're replacing them all.

Using a huge pipe wrench, a sledge hammer, a phillips head screw driver and a LOT of elbow greese and brut strength, we finally got all those tricky buggers off!  Now they can be replaced with shiny, new ball-valve seacocks!  Hooray for small victories! One item down, 2,624 more to go!!


Brittany & Scott

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Proposal: An Engagement Story begins at 6:30am with our alarm going off...we are getting up early to make the drive to Detroit for Scott's niece Nycole's 5th birthday party and we have to hit the road early.  Ugh.

"Should I shower?" I wonder out loud, deciding against it since a) it buys me a couple more minutes in bed and b) we'll be sitting in the car for 5 hours.

We get ready, throw a few things into our bags and get into the car.

"Oh!" exclaims Scott, "Let's swing by the boat and get those measurements for my mom" he looks at me, and sees a faint look of 'lets just hit the road' - and says, "It's on the way, and we've put it off so long". Okay, no biggie. We do keep forgetting those measurements.
The "measurements" are for cockpit cushions that his mom (bless her!) wants to have made for us.  She has been asking for them all summer, and we KEEP forgetting to get them to her. So this is a legit "excuse".

On to the boat we go.

Once we get to the boat yard, I tell Scott, "I'll just wait in the car" (as he knew I would - am I so predictable?) and he proceeds in without me (after a few unsuccessful and frantic tries to unlock the gate, he finally gets it - phew!). I just sit back and flip my way through my new Women's Health, basking in the November sunlight as I read about excersizes that are sure to keep my butt in shape over the holidays.

About 5 minutes later, my phone rings. It is Scott. "Hon, I need help with these measurements, can you just come up here quick and help me?"

I do think it odd that he needs help with something as simple as measuring, but it raises no suspicions, and I reply "Sure, be right up!" and to the boat I go.

Let me preface this by saying I could not have ordered a more beautiful day. There is not a cloud in the sky, the sun is casting that perfect golden morning light across everything, and already the temperature is 60 degrees!!  It is only 8am!! Heaven!

I climb up the scaffolding to our boat and see a smiling Scott.  I clamor up and over the life lines and onto the deck and immediately see rose petals EVERYWHERE.

Then I knew.  Holy crap.  This is really happening!

I gasp because I did NOT see this coming.  (I mean we have very seriously talked about marriage and knew it'd happen, but I didn't suspect this day, this morning).  Scott gets down on one knee, procurs a box with a ring, and with a little quiver in his voice says, "Brittany, I am so in love with you and cannot imagine spending my life with anyone other than you. Will you marry me?"

With tears of joy in my eyes I throw my arms around Scott's neck and exclaim, "Yes!".

Aside from trying to put the ring on my right finger, it goes off without a hitch. It is perfect. I couldn't have dreamt a more appropriate way for us to get engaged; in a boat yard next to the river, on our boat, on pretty much the most perfect day that 2009 has given Chicago. Scott brings out a bottle of champagne (the good stuff!!) and, true to form, we drink the whole thing.  Bliss.

We sit in the cockpit - hugging, kissing and making excited phone calls to close friends and family.  All with giant grins plastered on our faces.

About an hour later, we drive to Michigan (we still had a 5th birthday party to attend at Chuck E. Cheese's). We play one game of "Deal or No Deal", choosing the case that represents our special day, 14. We win.  The crowd of tweens and toddlers go wild as 50 whole tickets spew out of the machine.  High fives all around.  We think we have hit the jackpot but apparently, at Chuck E. Cheese, 50 tickets will get you little more than a few stickers or a plastic commemorative spoon. 

Either way, we think its a good sign.


Brittany and Scott

Friday, November 13, 2009

To Do List - Good GOD.

Well – here is a list of what I can think of that we need to do to our boat this winter/next spring. Is there anything I am missing!?! For the love of Jesus I hope not. Krikey.  I am posting it here so we can add to it and check things off as neccessary.


1. Replace/rebuild engine
2. Replace engine mounts
3. Replace Seacocks to Gate Valves
4. Replace ALL hoses
5. Figure out steering system – hydraulic vs. cable!?! And fix or replace (currently hydraulic)
6. Install 2 self tailing winches
7. Reconfigure propane tank in forward locker
8. Buy/Install windlass
9. Rewire all electric to single panel at nav station
10. Install outlet system according to ABYC E-11 standards
11. Replace GPS/Chart-plotter
12. Replace/fix instruments (wind speed, boat speed...etc)
13. Fix FM radio
14. Make sure we can shower in head (bilge pump in proper position - does it even work?)
15. Fix leaky faucet in galley
16. Water-proof the engine hatch
17. Fix boom vang
18. Fix DC outlet in cockpit
19. Forward light doesn’t work in v-berth (figure out what kind of bulbs we have throughout might need to replace as I feel they are strange and European)
20. Figure out why the autopilot has a life of it's own - fix or replace
21. Strip and re-paint the bottom (anti-fouling)
22. Replace forward hatch?
23. Zincs?
24. Life lines?
25. New sails??


1. Replace curtains
2. Sand/Varnish – Bright work
3. Carpeting cleaned
4. Build additional teak shelving for galley/v-berth/saloon


1.  Win lottery or actually run into a legit Nigerian banker scam thing


1. Remain sane

For the love of all things holy,

Brittany & Scott

Monday, November 09, 2009

Engine Haul Out 101

You will need:
a) A lot of time (approximately 6 hours, give or take)
b) About 4-6 able-bodied (and patient) people (In our case, us, my Dad, my uncles Bill and Bob and my two cousins Austin and Zack)
c) A litany of tools including (but not limited to):  Every size wrench (original and socket), every size screw driver (both flat head and Phillips), hand saw, heat gun, label tags and electrical tape (to label the hoses and wires you remove - do NOT make the assumption that you will remember, because you will not), digital camera (to take photos as back up to the labels you create), 2-3 feet of pipe (to use as a handle extension/lever when dealing with very stubborn bolts), a hammer (regular and sledge), extra line or "rope", 5+ feet of chain, at least 2 VERY STRONG straps (1000+ lb weight), tape measure, cardboard (to cover seats and surrounding area), duct tape (because what job doesn't require this!?), WD40 (to loosen stubborn bolts and screws), ratchet, wire cutters, pliers (needle nose and regular),  and lots of ziplock baggies.
I am probably missing a few things here - but you get the idea.  Basically, you need a local ACE Hardware's worth of tools.
d)  Coffee, donuts and bagels
e)  A giant "cherry picker" crane capable of lifting thousands of pounds (this is ideal, you can remove an engine without this - but I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy)
f)  A few pre-cut 4x4 pieces of wood to place over engine compartment for safety (once the engine is out)
g)  A skid to put the engine on once it is out of the boat.
h)  LOTS AND LOTS of paper towels, a bucket, sponges, scrub brushes, rubber gloves and grease-combating soap (we like Simple Green) to clean up afterward.
i)  Beer.  Don't ever forget to bring the beer.

What to do:
Step 1:  Remove all doors, panels and associated hinges that encase said engine and cover surrounding area with protective layer (like cardboard) - secure with duct tape.
Step 2:  Get down and dirty in the "engine room" and unhook all hoses, electric wires and pipes.  Be prepared for interesting liquids and goos to come from the cut hoses. (It is highly advisable to have a very flexible person do this as Cirque du Soleil type moves are required in order to get to some bolts)
Step 3:  Depending on your engine and engine compartment - remove all extra "things" that make the engine "big" (like the prop shaft, cooling compartment, fuel filters, throttle cables, gear box...etc)*
Step 4:  Remove all the engine mounts (ours has 4 - waaaaay down under the engine)
Step 5:  Position hoist above the engine and gently lower crane down
Step 6:  Place at least 2 VERY STRONG straps around the engine, both forward and aft (the engine will pitch one way or another)
Step 7:  Secure straps to the crane (this might need some creative engineering as every engine and engine compartment are different - we needed to lift ours out awkwardly because it was bigger than the actual engine opening)
Step 8:  Hoist engine from its housing (this might require some elbow grease and nudging to get it off its mounts - especially if it has been there for 35 years as ours has)
Step 9:  Lower engine to the skid
Step 10:  Clean up the bilge and engine room.  You will have dropped MANY tools, bolts, screws and washers down there and you DO NOT want to find them clogging the bilge pump next season.

*If you do not know your engine like the back of your hand and don't have your engine manual on hand (wince), be prepared to spend over an hour trying to remove something that you discover cannot in fact be removed at all. This is an exercise in patience.

Piece of cake, right?  We simply can NOT wait to put it back in!! (Insert huge toothy sarcastic smile)

Getting closer!
Brittany & Scott

PS.  This is NOT an official engine removal guide.  Please DO NOT treat it as such.  Thank you in advance.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gutted and Stuffed!

Last weekend, Scott and I "gutted" our boat to prepare for our engine haul-out which is going to take place November 7th (rebuilding an engine is akin to getting a BRAND NEW ENGINE - this is very exciting for us).  We drove over to Canal Street Marina in the morning and hauled out every cushion and rug (who doesn't have wall to wall in their boat!?); each bag, box or morsel of food, every article of clothing, and every single book, magazine and manual.  We then proceeded to STUFF (and cram, and jam) all of it into our (two door) vehicles.   We still have more too off-load, but due to the fact that we only had my VW bug and our dear friend's Saab - we   The point of removing all this 'excess' is to have a blank canvas in which to work (and to save our beautiful upholstery from damage), since - as I mentioned about 100 times - we have a lot to do.  Have you ever tried stuffing 14 boat cushions (plus gear, plus canvas, plus books..) into a VW bug?  I thought my little car was just going to bust open with foam and fabric! 

Though the photos don't *really* do justice to the "stuff job", you can definitely see the difference in our once homey and cozy interior! Stay tuned for "Engine Haul Out 101"!


Brittany & Scott

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Now that our boat is safely out of the water, Scott and I can breathe a sigh of relief.  But don't let this fool you folks, this is the calm before the storm.  I am and always have been a sort of "fly by the seat of my pants" kind of girl.  I put my trust in the Universe and I just *know* things will work out.  However, our boat will not "fix" itself.  I am not, and will never claim to be an expert on boats.  In truth, I am far from it.  This fact, I believe, is both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing in that it allows me (and Scott) to dream freely and without the contraint of "is this even possible", a curse because - as my dad says - "I don't think you fully understand exactly HOW much we need to do to this boat to get it safe and ready to go by next year".  And he's right.  I don't. He rattled off his punch list of things - half of which involved parts or systems I had never heard of. 

This past weekend I was in Arizona with my mom basking in the warm desert sun and I got a call (the resort, mind you, was "cell phone free"...Shhhh!).  I hid behind a friend by the pool and checked the message. It was Jeff, the boat mechanic at the yard calling to say he couldn't start our engine.  Grrreeeat.  I wasn't too concerned because I know our boat is one of those old "quirky" ones that take a little nudge here, a little kick there and voila! - it starts.  Sure enough he got it going.  But a little while later he called back.  This time with a list.  A nice, lengthy list of things he'd like to see fixed, tuned, replaced and removed.  Awesome.  Don't get me wrong - we'll take all the input we can get - and we appreciate it, really, we do.  The problem?  Can you say, CHA-CHING!?  As I whispered into the phone (again, this resort was cell-free) that I'd take note and get back to him, I began to realize the magnitude of what lies ahead.

People who have bought "fixer-uppers" probably can relate.  You look at a house and while it looks a little rough around the edges, you know that a little elbow grease here, a little love there and some dirty work in between will make your home worthy of an HGTV episode.  But then reality sinks in and you find a leaky crawlspace, an unknown mold problem under the bathroom tiles, insufficient heating...etc. etc.  And here, all you thought you needed to do was update the kitchen the bathroom and maybe do some landscaping.  PshhPuuuhhhleease. Well, that's where we're at.  All these little projects add up - and each of them take time.  From replacing the leaky faucet on our sink to "securing the wiring every 18 inches" to replacing every single hose to rebuilding the engine (this will be underway as of November 7th! Whoo hoo!) to fixing light switches to replacing instruments...the list, like the beat, goes on...and that's not even HALF of it.

But sweet little naive me just knows that it will all get done.  Because it will.  And we will do it.  We don't have a choice.  And I, being the "dive right in" type of person I am have learned that in life, when you have no choice but to 'git 'er done - you do just that. 

Brittany & Scott

Monday, October 05, 2009

Rollin' on the River...

I don't think non-sailors truly 'get' how sad and depressing it is taking your boat out of the water.  I have always said that there is nothing more heartbreaking to me than a cold, empty harbor - and nothing more exciting than seeing boats trickle in as the season opens.  Being from Chicago - you'd think I'd be used to this ebb and flow - but nope.  It's still so sad to say "bye bye" to summer, and specifically your boat...siiiiigh.

HOWEVER, if you are going to take your boat out of the water, why not temper it with some great friends, a fun trip down a historic river and about 1,000 mimosas?  YES PLEASE!

On Saturday Scott and I got up bright and early to take our boat to Canal Street Marina, where the Rasmus will spend her winter in hibernation.  We chose Canal Street based on both logistics (it's close and easy to do the multitude of boat work we'll be doing this winter) and reputation.  They are located on the Chicago River (in Chinatown - guess who'll be experts by the end of this winter?!) and as such, you need to navigate the river to get there.  This was my first "river" trip and boy oh boy was it fun!

We had to be at the first lock at 8am (Yes, the Chicago river has a lock due to the fact that they reversed the flow back in 1900 so you need to be "lowered" to the river level before you leave the lake) in order to make it to the first bridge by 9am.  If you are familiar with down town Chicago, you know how many bridges there are.  If you are not familiar - there are 25.  Yes, TWENTY-FIVE.  Because we are a sailboat, these bridges must be opened to accomodate us.  I'm not sure if it's lore or what - but rumor has it, there is ONE DUDE who runs from bridge to bridge opening and closing each. and. every. one.  Mulitply that by 25 and you get the picture.  It takes some time.  Lukily, we were well stocked with good company, good tunes and bad champagne...

What is also interesting is that, because the bridge schedule is so exact (each bridge opens only once a day, 2 days a week during the month of October) - there are a multitude of boats all going along at the same time together.  Which is fun, unless you are a boat like ours which a) doesn't maneuver b) doesn't maneuver and c) doesn't maneuver.  Did I mention we don't maneuver?  All these other little racer-cruisers with their fin keels and nice tight turning radius's zipping this way and that ASSUMED we were just like them.  Well - we are not.  We won't ever be.  And we're cool with that, really we are.  It did make for some good laughs (after we wiped the sweat from our brows) and we came to the realization that we need a sign that says:
In all honesty though - it was a fantastic day.  Just so much fun.  Sun, mimosas, laughter, home-made Twix bars (yum!), more mimosas, music and good peeps.  We had some wonderful friends join us (thank you Dana, Eric and Melissa - we love you guys!) and I can honestly say it was one of the best days this summer/fall!  I can't wait for the return trip in April!!


Brittany & Scott

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lofty Lessons on Preparedness

We all know that, no matter what, you cannot and WILL not be prepared for everything in life. The Universe throws monkey wrenches into our spokes, and usually, at the most inopportune times. The same goes on a boat. I have mentioned in this blog a few sailing truths that we have learned both by first hand experience as well as by reading about others.  These are, namely, a) mother nature is #1 - no matter what b) boats and their mechanics are prone to wear and tear and, ultimately, breaking and c) as such, you must always be diligent about checking rigging, gear, lines, bolts, pipes, valves and screws...etc. for signs of wear and tear and replace them regularly so that they don’t snap, crackle or pop when you need them most (i.e. in a storm at sea).

However, sometimes "shit happens" (pardon my French) that no amount of preparation can ready you for.  This past weekend, Scott and I were humbled by one such occurrence.  We were out with about 12 friends sailing, jib only, on my dad's boat.  The wind was blowing 15-18 knots out of the North and the seas were lumpy, choppy white-caps with some intermittent rollers in-between (welcome to Lake Michigan!).  Not very pleasant for a sunset-booze cruise.  We had just decided to jibe around and head back in when all of a sudden we heard a loud "CRASH" followed by what sounded like glass breaking.  For a split second we all thought "party foul!" - but then realized, a split second after that, that our main sheet (the line that controls the main sail by positioning the boom) had completely broken off of the boom.  This probably doesn't mean much to non-sailors - but, imagine if you are wind surfing and suddenly you let go of the sail.  It's something like that.

It was dark, choppy, and suddenly we had a boom that was loose and ready to swing wildly like a pendulum across the deck.  A few of us held the boom steady as we pitched and yawed and eventually we secured it with a spare line.  Disaster was averted - thankfully.  However, as the person responsible for all the people in the boat (most of whom were not sailors) I was a tiny-bit shaken.  Had we had our main sail up we could have had one heck of a time getting that boom in and...Well, suffice it to say it just could've been ugly.  Could've, would've, should've.  What we realized once we were docked safely in the harbor and after close inspection was that the bolts securing the turning block to the boom had COMPLETELY sheared off.  It was as if the tops of the bolts just popped off, leaving bottoms of the bolts were left in the mast.  WOW.   What was most humbling was the fact that there was no real way we could have prepared for or foreseen that - despite the fact that this little incident had probably been in the making, slowly but surely, for the past 4 years.

My dad, who designed and built the boat (a custom Kanter 47) - never one to get phased - simply responded, "Well, you guys get the record for the most things broken on the boat!" and, while rolling the top half of one of the sheared  bolts between two fingers thought out loud, "Hmmm...I guess I need bigger bolts".  Needless to say, he's been around the block a few times and when it comes to boats - he hasn't seen it all - but he's definitely seen a lot.  His "ho-hum" reaction to this little episode made me feel better.

Another lesson not so much learned, but definitely confirmed...No amount of preparation will ever ready you for exactly what lays ahead.  Life is full of surprises; big, small, tragic and terrific.  It's how you handle them that really count. 

Brittany & Scott

Friday, September 18, 2009

Follow the Leader!!

Is it just me or are there a LOT of people sailing around the world these days!? Perhaps this is due in part to the fact that since Scott and I are two such people, we are more "in tune" with others doing it...but I still get the feeling there's a trend developing here. And what's more - these circumnavigators are getting younger and younger...and younger still!

There is Zac Sunderland, arguably the most famous thus far for being the youngest to circumnavigate at 17, then there is his sister, Abby, who, at 15, is apparently setting out to squash her brother's record some time next year (how's that for sibling rivalry!?). England's Mike Perham also completed a solo circumnavigation at 17 shortly after Zac. Then there is the controversial 13 year old  Laura Decker who is trying to set sail, but (last I checked) the Dutch government has intervened and prohibited her from doing so on the grounds that she is just too young to endure such a challenge. And even before this slew of young adventure-seekers there was Aussie Jesse Martin who, in 1999, was the youngest to circumnavigate - completing his journey at 18. Most recently, however, there is Jessica Watson, a 16 year old Australian girl who - on her rather inauspicious "shake down" voyage - was run down by a super tanker in a shipping lane earlier this month. She (thankfully and luckily) survived and still plans to continue on later this year...

This last chick got me thinking. Call me crazy, but if my 16 year old daughter collides with a tanker on her first "real" attempt to go to sea solo, I think I might reconsider her qualifications and stick her back in high school. That's just me. A collision with a ship is a very very real threat and concern for any little sailboat heading into open water. Not only do they rarely (if ever) see you (both visually AND on radar) - but if they DO hit you, they won't even know it until they get to the next port and see a little paint on their hull. Scary. It is always better to assume that your safety is up to you and you alone. If you do see a ship on the horizon (or on your radar) a) try to hail it on the radio (this doesn't usually work though, as they rarely speak English) b) take a sight from a stanchion or something else to determine if you are on a collision course and c) GET OUT OF IT'S way (even if it means turning completely around until it passes). The fact that Jessica got in the way of hit by this boat is, in my opinion, no one's fault but her own...But I am getting away from my point...

While all these "kids" might be getting the glory, the press and no doubt amazing life experiences, I sort of prefer the way Scott and I are going about this. We don't want to break any records, we don't want to re-trace someone else's journey and we certainly don't want to do it fast. We plan to just amble along leisurely - stopping wherever we'd like and staying as long as we want. We're taking the Bernard Mortissier approach:
"I have no desire to return to Europe with all its false gods. They eat your liver out and suck your marrow and brutalize you. I am going where you can tie up a boat where you want and the sun is free, and so is the air you breathe and the sea where you swim and you can roast yourself on a coral reef...."
While he might be a tiny bit dramatic, we like his style...

That said, if there are any sponsors, individuals or organizations out there who would like to give us money, swag, kit or anything else - feel free to contact us! (wink)

Your friends,
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

For the Greater Good...

Being good is commendable, but only when it is combined with doing good is it useful.
~Author Unknown

When we started planning our adventure, Scott and I decided that we wanted to sail "for a cause". While we like the idea of having a really fun super-extended vacation we really like the idea of helping someone or something along the way. The only problem is - what, who, and how?

There are so many causes, people and organizations to fight for in today's world. We got to talking about this over Dairy Queen Blizzards and, thanks to the art of the brainstorm (and, perhaps, the Blizzard?), an idea was born! We loosely determined that we would like our "cause" to be human in nature (as opposed to, say, environmental) and that we would like to help children specifically (they are, after all, our future).

Once we decided on those two critical pieces of the puzzle I recalled how I volunteered for an orphanage in Africa for a few weeks, a heart-wrenching and eye-opening experience to say the least. "What about orphans?" I wondered aloud...Orphaned children are everywhere - especially in developing countries - and their needs are great. Scott was on board! So, now that we have the "who" and the "what" - we just have to figure out "how"...stay tuned, this is only the beginning...


Brittany & Scott

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cruisin' for a Bruisin' - Or: "Lessons Learned during our Shakedown Cruise"

"It isn't that life ashore is distasteful to me. But life at sea is better."~Sir Francis Drake~

So, as you know - we had our first and last "pleasure cruise" last weekend. First of all, let me say - it was AMAZING. Just the best time. We were joined by our friends Rick and Shawn, and let me tell you - you couldn't have asked for more kindred spirits to spend a weekend cruising on a sailboat with...but I digress...

It never ceases to amaze Scott and I how much we discover EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. we are on the boat. This past weekend was no different.

Here are some *very* important lessons we learned:
(I realize that these are pretty basic and will only highlight our naivete - but I don't care)
1) Have some "Standard Operating Procedures". We lost our engine not once, not twice but FIVE times on the trip across the lake. At 4am I took out our engine manual and found a page with a little list of things to check, monitor, change or top-off at various times. We realized we had been neglecting MANY of the suggested items. Once such item was the cooling system. Not only had we never checked it, but never even thought about it. When we finally did check it in the wee hours of morn it was empty and instead of water, it produced a sludgy oil mixture. Not good. We now know how and when to check this (cough - every day) - we also are pretty certain our engine needs to be rebuilt...moving along..

2) Carry Spares. Everyone keeps telling me that "diesel engines are pretty simple and straight-forward" and while I don't quite see the simplicity in that big, huge, hunk of piping, valves, rods and metal in the belly of our boat - I'll take their word. When a diesel ceases (as ours did...FIVE TIMES) the first thing you should usually do is check and replace the fuel filters. Not all diesel is alike - you CAN and WILL get bad fuel and when you do, it's not good - these "filters" are the boat's kidneys, taking out all the bad stuff and providing clean diesel to our engine. When an engine ceases - most likely the fuel filters are over soaked with ick and need to be replaced. Hence the spares. Which we did not have. Lesson learned. We should always carry at least 4 spares at a time. But, knowing me - we'll probably carry 6-8.

And, AHEM...speaking of bad fuel....

3) Diesel and Gasoline are NOT the same thing (wince). At 4:30am, while our guests were snuggled in their bunk, Scott and I were in the cockpit - me with a head torch sliding off my forehead and my nose in the engine manual reading aloud and Scott poking and prodding at our engine from various angles and positions - exasperated. We were at a loss. So there we are, staring at our engine blankly as if willing it to get better and Scott looks up after an "a-ha" moment crosses his face and says, "What color is diesel?" Perplexed I answer, "Pink". Pause. Pause. Paaaauuuuuse. "Ummm...I think I topped off our tank with gasoline." Wow. After some investigation - it turns out that Scott INDEED "topped off" our tank with diesel's cousin, gasoline. 3 gallons to be precise. 3 gallons out of 70. Enough to make our engine a little sick, but not enough to kill it, thank God (much more, however, would have so we are VERY lucky). Apparently, before we left, Scott motored over to the fuel dock and just absentmindedly said to the attendent "Gas please" - not even realizing the implications of not specifying. From now on, we will ONLY ask for DIESEL. Pretty, pink, non-combustible DIESEL.

4) Know where you're at. I don't mean physically know where you're at, I'm talking engines here. We had a mechanic come and take a look at our engine the next morning and he asked us questions like: "When did you last flush the system?" "When was the last time you changed your fuel filters?" "Was the coolant system full of oil last time you checked?"...all of which elicited blank stares from Scott and I followed by a few mumbles and finally "Uh...we don't know". We have now decided that we are going to rebuild the engine; take it apart, check all the gaskets, hoses, whosits, and whatsits and replace them. All the time making notes in our trusty "Maintenance Log" so that we will always know precisely "where we are at".

So...those are the top lessons we learned this weekend. After we realized the engine issues were related to gas tainting our tank and we just needed to let those little filters do their work and add more diesel, our engine worked like a charm. What ensued was fabulous weekend full of laughing, sailing, wining, dining and just BEING. There is something so magical about sailing and making a boat your home - even for a couple of days - I reallly don't know how to put it to words. Our friends Rick and Shawn officially "Get it" and are already planning on joining us somewhere around the world...

"Come cuddle your head on my shoulder dear - your head like a golden rod,
And we will go sailing away from here, to the beautiful land of Nod..."~Ella Wheeler Wilcox~

Love love,

Brittany & Scott

Friday, September 04, 2009

Pleasure cruise!

This weekend marks our first (and, incidentally, last) "pleasure cruise" for the Summer of 2009. We and two wonderful friends are heading across the lake tonight, bound for St. Joseph, Michigan (where Scott and I met 2 years ago!). It's a 60 mile jaunt which doesn't seem far at all, but on a lil' boat that maxes out at 8 knots - that's about 8 hours under power. We are, simply put, so excited.

Last night Scott and I went to the boat to get her ready - he put on a BRAND NEW Deep Cycle 12 volt marine battery for the engine (WHOO HOO - starts like a charm now!) while I jam-packed our cabinets with all (non-perishable) groceries for the weekend and disinfected the head with my awesome head cleaner (see previous Borax post). And that's not all folks...we also have a BRAND NEW main sheet (the original one was over THIRTY feet short!) and we have brand new battens...We flushed and disinfected our water tank, topped off our fuel, tinkered with our wacky autopilot (which isn't working properly anymore) and found a blown "mystery" fuse (Is it European!? Do they even make these anymore!?). Every single time we are on the boat two things are certain to happen: 1) we learn something new and 2) something breaks/acts funny/malfunctions. Keeps things interesting, ya know?

From St. Joseph we're going to head over to Saugatuck, Michigan to enjoy the simple cruising life for three days: quaint harbor towns, nights under the stars, local townie bars, beautiful sunsets, wine in the cockpit, great conversation, the sound of the wind through the rigging, the gentle rock of the boat as you drift to sleep, and that wonderful misty morning feeling when you pop up on the dew-covered deck and the world is quiet as a mouse and the sun begins to peek over the horizon to start a brand new day...

Wish us luck - we'll be back in Chicago on Monday!!

With love,

Brittany and Scott

Friday, August 21, 2009


Tell them I’m living in the islands, somewhere the days are always bright, no use writing letters or using the telephone, tell them anything that you might - but be sure and tell them I’ll be all right…

Morning of the Earth, Brumfield

Beautiful, right? Not sure what it is about this quote but it really strikes a chord and gets me giddy with excitement. The magic, the mystery, the sheer freedom...


Brittany and Scott


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The More You Know...The More You Don't

Summer is winding down in Chicago and Scott and I have been busy ringing the sun and fun out of these last few weeks. Last weekend was spent in Saugatauk, Michigan with friends, this past weekend was Chicago's Air and Water show entertaining a bunch of friends on my dad's boat (ours is too small to host 15 people!), this weekend we head to Northern Michigan for the Traverse City Triathlon, and next weekend we head to Wisconsin for camping and Jimmy Buffett (I am not ashamed to say I am a *HUGE* fan). Phew...and it doesn't stop there folks...things don't ease up until September for us.

While all this is exciting, all these weekends chock-a-block full-o-fun have left us little time for our boat. We have gone out for a sail here and there which means we continue to find new issues to add to our never-ending "to do" list. Because of lack of time, however, we just sort of sweep these issues under the rug for another day. What we are learning with this method is:

a) avoidance does not make issues go away
b) exactly how much we don't know.

How to charge our batteries, for example, while we are at the mooring? Sure, we run our engine in and out of the harbor - but how long is enough? We know we need at least one solar panel (because relying on running the engine isn't sustainable), but what kind? We know we need a new main sheet - but how long is long enough? Not to mention our radar and autopilot have been acting, for lack of a better word, "finicky" which we *think* has to do with the fact that our battery is not fully charged, but don't know for sure. We STILL have to calibrate instruments (!?!?) and bleed the air out of that blasted hydraulic steering system. Then there is the rig: how to check it, maintain it and tune it properly. And our FM radio? KAPUT...the AM works fine, but not the FM...why? We have no clue. One day we were sailing, rocking out to John Cougar Mellencamp and POOF! It just stopped transmitting. No reason. Power was on, AM still worked, we hadn't hit a weird wave or anything...A mystery. Sigh. None of this is stuff we can't figure out - but all of it requires TIME.

So we have made an executive decision to spend September working on the boat. We will enlist the help and expertise of friends and family (ahoy mateys!!) and roll up our sleeves and get down and dirty. We will continue to fix and learn in a Fibonacci-type sequence and inevitably, continue to discover just how little we know.

Your friends,

Brittany and Scott xox

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Light Reading...

Those who know and love me know I have a flair for the dramatic. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that these are the types of books I can really sink my teeth into. This particular book (pictured) is what I brought aboard my dad's boat for the infamous "Chicago to Mackinac" race. Which is a distance boat race. The longest distance boat race in a fresh water lake. So, while we were beating up-wind in the middle of the lake in sheer darkness, I was reading harrowing excerpts of books (most that I had already read) about, well, Near Death on the High Seas. What can I say? I believe reading about adventure inspires it.

Reading about the foibles, follies and disasters in extreme adventure books not only gets me more excited for our journey (backward, I know), but also reminds me that we will always be at the mercy of the sea and the elements. Sort of a not-so subtle reminder that life at sea isn't always gentle breezes, uninhabited islands and tropical slushy rum drinks...(just *most* of the time).

Some other FANTASTIC adventure sailing books I have read over the past year or two that I *highly* recommend to any sailor or adventure enthusiast are the following, in no particular order:

Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum - a definite classic. Just beautiful and amazing at the same time. There is still so much to learn from this book and it's author.
A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols - the cover reads: "Nine men set out to race each other around the world. Only one came back". Yeah. Intense.
Godforsaken Sea by Derek Lundy - this is the gripping story of the deadly 1996 Vendee Globe race and follows the journeys of all sailors and each of their trials and tribulations in the Southern Ocean. It's a great "pre-read" to the next book on my list.
Close to the Wind by Pete Goss - a true hero's tale. This is the story of the incredible rescue of Peter Dinelli (by Pete Goss)during the 1996 Vendee Globe around the world race. You will find yourself holding your breath. No joke.
Kon Tiki by Thor Heyderhal - this is a real-life Indiana Jones-style adventure. Six men set out to prove that Ancient Peruvians could in fact sail across the Pacific to Polynesia by making a raft to the exact specifications the ancient Peruvians would. What they learn and endure is just amazing. This has been a favorite of mine for years.
Adrift by Steve Callahan - Insane story of survival at sea about a man (Steve Callahan) who was shipwrecked and drifted around the Atlantic in a leaky life raft - for SEVENTY SIX days.

There are so, so, so many more that I could recommend - but these should keep you busy for a while!

All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality -- the story of escape. It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times, how to escape.

~ Arthur Christopher Benson ~

Happy reading,

Brittany and Scott
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