(Just Like) Starting Over

Long time readers will know that sometimes the efforts to bring our cunning plans to fruition can be hard.  It isn’t always Mexican beer and Scrabble games aboard Galapagos.  Especially as our departure date grows ever closer, actions that we once just talked about, we now must do.

This past week I celebrated my twenty year work anniversary at Boeing.  Two days later I told my manager that I would retire at the end of April.

That’s a real diamond folks. A real tiny diamond.

I have been thinking about this day for a long time, maybe three years, and still I was not prepared emotionally to hear those words come out of my mouth.  In fact, I struggled to get the words out and had to excuse myself to go for a little walk. I was overwhelmed and surprised by the intense emotions after having worried about this day for so long. After I got a grip on myself, I returned and we had a longer chat to explain my future plans.  My manager was very kind; disappointed I would be leaving but excited for the cunning plan we have laid out.  I was relieved that she took it so well. It’s hard to tell people you like that you are leaving. There’s always that niggling doubt that you are going to be letting them down in some way. I am grateful that she was so supportive.

Like most people my age, I feel as though I have been working for my entire life. I spent twenty years at Boeing, and the twenty before that working or serving in the military. To say, ‘I no longer have a job.’  really does feel like starting over: Exciting and a little terrifying all at once. If you do the math, you’ll see I’ve been working since I was 16 years old. Practically an entire lifetime.

Melissa and I have been the doing all the responsible grown up things for 35 years now and the plans we have set before ourselves are simply not a part of the typical American narrative. But who said we have to be typical? Where is that written? Youth, it is said, is wasted on the young, but I don’t buy it. Melissa and I have not wasted our youth. We have used it to build a beautiful life for ourselves and our children. And now we get to start over with a new kind of life.  It is a bold move but there is magic in boldness.

When we were young, hip and didn’t know what the hell we were doing. Evanston, Wyoming, 1981.

So we tamp down our fears about what we are giving up and grow excited about what we are taking on.  Living aboard these last few weeks has been lovely, despite the cold weather.  It reminds me our first apartment together in Biloxi, Mississippi. We were newlyweds. I was in tech school for the Air Force. Our apartment was only a little bigger than Galapagos.  It was a time for us to practice being adults and figuring out who we were as a couple.  I think we did okay.

In our first apartment together in Biloxi Mississippi in 1982. Melissa taught me how to sew and I made the Hawaiian shirt I am wearing.


The title of today’s post is from a song written by John Lennon.  I  must have a little DJ living in my head that queues up just the right song to capture how I feel.  One day I am sitting at my desk perseverating on the enormity of how our lives are changing and the next thing you know, Lennon is goofing on Elvis while Yoko makes animal noises in the background.  It was a pretty good song from 1980 and the hook just spoke to me. Be warned: this blog is family friendly, but John and Yoko, well, you’ll remember that they were not shy. You might want to close your eyes toward the end of the video.


220. 221. Whatever It Takes.

“I hear loud banging from your boat…are you trapped? Do you need rescuing?”

It’s so nice to live in a neighborhood with people who care.  I was taking my evening constitutional along the Foss Waterway when I received that text from one of our neighbors in the marina. Mike was alone on Galapagos. Was he imprisoned and struggling to free himself against dastardly criminals? Not this time. The sound she heard was the one that a small sledge hammer makes when it hits thick fiberglass below the waterline. Sound travels well by water and Mike was in full demolition mode while I was gone. In spite of how it sounded, he was not actually destroying the hull. It’s simply this: we’re back to boat projects.  It’s not enough to actually live on a sailboat. We need to be working on it as well. It’s been a nice break during the holidays but fun time is over for now.

Just look at this useless bottom shelf.

Mike was giddy with excitement when we moved aboard. He couldn’t wait to get up at 5:00 in the blessed AM, walk to the train, work a full and boing day analyzing airplane data, reverse the commute, then come home and start working on the boat. His pleasure is sometimes my pain, but I still don’t know where he gets the energy for this. It was with a certain amount of glee that he began our current demolition job. I say ‘our’ only because I get to watch, hand him the shop vac, and then I will get to do much of the finish work. Mostly at this point I praise his efforts and manliness when he is destroying things.

On the short list has been a desire to remove these huge fresh water foot pump enclosures from beneath each sink. They exist, right there in the middle of the easiest-to-reach storage space, should you want to have fresh water in the tap without using electricity. We understand the desire to be able to circumvent the electrical pump system should it break down, and we’ll be putting a hand pump at the sink in the galley during that coming refit. (We will also be carrying extra water in jugs, because that’s how I roll to appease my Amy G. Dala.) Our boat was built in 1974, a time when people had fewer choices in terms of creating their own electricity on their vessels. These foot pumps would have been necessary while at anchor back in the dark ages of my highschool years.

Now we have solar panels that crank out the amps, and pumps that draw very little power. The water to these foot pumps has been turned off for so long that the valve to turn it back on is almost frozen in place. To try to turn this valve will be to break this valve. That’s how much the foot pumps have been used.  Every time I go to put something away underneath a sink I’ve been irritated by these ungainly fiberglass housings. Why did they need to be so darned big? Seems Demolition Mike was irritated, too, so out came the tools of destruction.

One thing about our 1974 boat: everything is built hell for stout. Those Greeks really knew how to build boats to last. Mike had to power through close to an inch of fiberglass and heavy mahogany plywood. His tools of choice: the handy Ryobi multi-tool with flush cutting blade, a bottle jack for putting pressure on the cut pieces, a small sledge hammer for when the pieces fail to yield to the bottle jack, a pry bar, shop vac, and extra batteries for the power tools.

It felt a bit like sacrilege to remove such well built equipment. The original  pump, made in France,  was plenty corroded on the bottom, but it would probably still work if cleaned up. There are no moving parts. Just a seal to create a vacuum. The stainless fittings, however, are now a permanent part of this unit as the marriage of dissimilar metals put together has taken hold and they have become one.

I think it literally causes Mike pain to throw equipment like this out. We’ll probably put this on the free pile in case some soul is in need of an extra boat project.

These cabinets will finish out nicely and the extra, easy to reach, storage will be welcome. We can store a ton of toilet paper here! Or big bottles of vinegar and stuff. So excited! It’s the little things that bring joy.

Oh yes, we know those hoses need replacing. It’s on the list. We’re not very happy about it because it’s going to be a right pain in the butt considering where the thru hull is located.

Another small project has been replacing light fixtures. Why have only one project when you can have multiples? We live in a world of plenty. The boat came with several boxes of replacement bulbs for all the various types of light fixtures on board. We have incandescent lights, florescent lights, and halogen lights. They are all taking up too many precious amps, and there are too many different kinds of bulbs, some of which may be obsolete for all we know. Many of the fixtures have seen better days, like the sconces in our main cabin. The plastic shades are cracked and even more yellow than they should be due to age. So even though they work fine, we’re switching them out to these new ones with LEDs.

We found a nice source of attractive LED light fixtures on Amazon and ordered some to test out. We are quite pleased with both the quality of the construction and the quality of the light, especially for the price. Of course, we are not talking ‘marine’ lighting here. But when you consider that the light will last for at least 50,000 hours and there are no bulbs to replace, this is a bargain for us. Mike was sold on the amp draw: just .24 amps. Does that mean I get to use my milk frother while at anchor? Since we have extra amps and all…

We’re replacing some of the reading lights in the cabins with these little fixtures below.  They are smaller than they look but they put out good quality light that is the right color. I avoided LEDs in the past because the light was always too far on the blue spectrum for me and I didn’t like it. Blue light can be agitating. The technology has caught up and by choosing a warm white color we’ve been entirely pleased.

In addition, we tried these nifty little LED bulbs that work with our incandescent fixtures as they are also size ‘e27’, referring to the screw base. The quality of the light is very good, and they look like a regular bulb. We chose the warm white bulb and are quite happy with the results although they are very bright. We may see if this brand has some that put out a little less light. But this ‘win’ means we get to keep the fixtures we already have in the aft cabin.

I have a couple of larger projects on my list that I’m seriously procrastinating on. One involves paint and one involves that aft cabin. I’d like to tell you more but it’s making me tired to think about them.

For your amusement:


Clothes Make the Woman?

My first dream of the New Year is a textbook study in letting go of the old self and trying to find the new one. I won’t give you all the gory details, but it involved having no clothes on, bleeding profusely out of my ‘whatever’ after having something surgically removed from my body, and frantically trying to find a place called ‘ Fusion Target’ to buy some clothes so I wouldn’t show up at my post-surgical doctor’s appointment completely naked. Oh, wait, I was wearing a Target bag. But it wasn’t covering much. In these kinds of dreams everything goes wrong and there is a great deal of frustration. In my dream I was also trying to get around on some kind of small sled-like thing that reminds me very much of the cafeteria trays we used to go sledding on in college.  Oh, how Carl Jung would have loved to get hold of all those archetypes! Fabulous. I could hardly wait to wake up.

Stunning vases at the museum of glass in Tacoma, right down the street.

This dream came after a pretty wonderful day of ‘fusion’ living that went better than expected. (See what I did there?) We’ve moved out of our house, but we had been helping the kids get settled and prepare for a New Year’s Eve party at their new digs. We have been marveling at the creative way they have used the space. The garage is now an extra living space, complete with a sofa that won’t fit in the house, lights, a table for ping pong (Ok, beer pong. Have it your way.), and a heater. It’s actually pretty awesome. We stopped by in the middle of the day to give our dog some love and say ‘Happy New Year, Enjoy Your Party’.  Then we went back to the marina because we had our own plans for celebrating.

Now that we live within walking distance of downtown Tacoma, we’re committed to getting out and about and enjoying what this little city has to offer. It’s part of our ‘live like a cruiser’ identity shift. In this case, in spite of my dream of no clothes,  the clothing needs are simple: it’s bloody cold so layers of wool and down are the best options. I’ll remember that in my next ‘identity loss’ dream. Being naked in dreams is right up there with being chased by invisible monsters when it comes to dream discomfort. I’d say, ‘no, thanks’ to all that, but we all have to be reborn sometime. And that generally requires a change of clothing.

Blue footed boobies! Like they have on the Galapagos Islands! Like we have on our boat logo!

Every year Tacoma puts on a big New Year’s celebration called ‘First Night‘.  It’s ‘family friendly’, meaning all the acts are appropriate for children and middle aged people who just want to be entertained. There is music, performance art, fire juggling, food, the world’s longest game of musical chairs ‘in Tacoma’, and demonstrations of one kind and another. The Museum of Glass is open for free during the day.

In all the years we’ve lived here, we’ve never attended because things like having to drive in and find parking and be in enormous crowds of people seem to get in our way. We gave up big events in Seattle years ago because the irritation/fun quotient became way out of whack. I mean, we still go to the Boat Show in Seattle, but that’s almost mandatory. I’m not saying we actually enjoy it.  Living in the marina, all these good things are within walking distance, even in the cold of winter. We’re practicing being cruisers and saying ‘yes’ to new experiences. So we went. And it was fabulous.

This octopus, from the In the Deep exhibit.

If you haven’t visited Tacoma’s Museum of Glass, you don’t know what you are missing. Right now there is an exhibit called ‘Into the Deep’ where artists have created sea creatures from glass. But the star of this museum is the hot shop, especially when it’s snowing outside. The museum staff artists spend all day every day making beautiful glass art and supporting the work of visiting glass artists from around the world. Watching the artists at work is mesmerizing fun.

After dinner on the boat, we walked up to the theater district in Tacoma to enjoy the festivities. Tacoma has kind of a gritty, dystopian steam-punky vibe that is great fun. The energy of the crowd of about 20,000 people was just right. There were enough people to make the whole thing feel festive, but not so many that it was terrifying/irritating. We strolled from venue to venue, taking in music and art, deciding not to stand in line for over an hour for a donut from the Lakewood House of Donuts, wondering why the protestor for Jesus was advertising hate and fear rather than love, and generally mingling with the natives and having a grand time.

2016 Effigy Basket. Insert hopes and dreams for 2017 here.

This year, for the first time in many, we stayed up to kick the previous year to the curb with relief and welcome in the new baby year. Tacoma artists had built an effigy of 2016 in the form of a basket made of strong paper and sticks. We added our hopes and dreams for 2017 to the basket; written on small cards and placed carefully inside with hundreds of others. In the Chinese Zodiac, 2017 is the year of the Rooster. I’ll let you make what you will of that. But roosters…strutting, crowing, fighting, puffing themselves up to look large…go ahead and run with it. We’re going to Mexico.

During the countdown to midnight, the basket was set fire and all those hundreds of hopes and dreams for the future soared into the night sky straight into the arms of the gods. May they be listening. May they be pleased with us.

Can you guess what we wrote on our cards? I’ll bet you can. And I’ll bet you can also imagine what kinds of clothes I might find in my future dream when this new identity is solidified. Clue: there will be fewer layers.

I’ll leave you with some of my favorite YouTube videos from Tacoma’s First Night 2016. I’m a little partial to the Seattle Rock Orchestra.

And come visit the museum during this cold winter. You can get warmed up in the hot shop, then come by and say hello to us on Galapagos. We’d love to meet you.