The Life After

I know: I had sworn to stop writing this cruising log, mostly because we are no longer cruising. But then people kept asking me if I wouldn't keep writing. "You should keep the blog going with the daily grind!" they said, almost demanding that I continue. This mob of fans kept wearing me down until I had little choice but to bow to the will of the public. Okay, okay, so it was only two people, but that's still a fairly large audience when you consider how busy folks are this time of year, with the holidays and all.

So here we are again, except I'm sitting at a big desk instead of the cramped dining table in the boat. Ah, the boat! Yes, once there was a boat...and for those who haven't slogged through the whole cruising log, suffice to say that for two years the boat was our life, and our life was the boat--or at least what it represented. For two years we sat and slept and ate and traveled on the boat, wondering only occasionally what would become of us afterwards.

Now we're home and living the life after. Instead of a boat, there is a house where everything is unbelievably easy and convenient, and inside the house is that big wooden desk where I sit and contemplate.

October 11, 2007
This is our last night living aboard the boat. Tomorrow we'll start moving into our newly purchased house and this warm little space of polished wood and fiberglass will again become a place we visit instead of our home. Laura is going to school at Montessori, and I have started a new job at UTC doing tech support for a grant project in the School of Nursing. Annie went back to her job as a Systems Analyst at Erlanger Hospital in June. We'd both sworn that even if we came back to Chattanooga we would get jobs that were completely different from the ones we left, but in the end it's not so easy to start a new career.

One year ago tonight we were anchored at Mattawoman Creek on the Potomac River, poised to motor a few miles upstream for a wonderful visit to Washington, D.C. It was getting a little chilly at night there, as it is here now. We had the river to ourselves. It wasn't quite winter yet, but you could feel the cold air whispering against your skin...telling you it was time to move on, get south to the islands where untracked sand was waiting for the touch of your bare feet. I hear that same whisper now, but the boat remains tied motionless to the dock.

October 15, 2007
After a long three days of moving--I thought we got rid of all that stuff!--we are living in our new home in Red Bank, just five minutes from downtown Chattanooga. What are we going to do with all this space?

Laura's Playroom

Above: Laura had a fantastic time opening box after box of toys and spreading them out all over her new "playroom."

October 22, 2007
Laura and I were at the Aquarium last Friday when I noticed a cruising sailboat, a stately 36 foot Gozzard named Ombre Rose, tied up at the public pier below. I dragged Laura down there ("You brought me all the way over here just to see a sailboat!" she exclaimed) and spoke briefly with the proprietor of the ship, which was headed south on the Great Loop. They had made a detour up to Chattanooga and in fact would be wintering the boat here.

It was a beautiful vessel, and I stood there staring at it just as I used to look at the sky when I wanted to go flying, the clouds and the blue drawing my eyes to them until I could barely bring myself to look away.

October 27, 2007
Laura with cat We visited our lonely boat today, but only to get another car-load of stuff to carry home. There was a brisk northwest wind, yet Annie had unloaded the freezer and I knew that Laura would have no interest in going sailing. Across the way was Ombre Rose, the Gozzard I'd seen at Ross's Landing, so I went and talked for a while with her captain, Bob Bergoffen. They are leaving the boat here at Sale Creek for the winter. Then I went back and just sat in the salon on our boat, trying to believe that we had once lived and sailed aboard her. Laura would have none of it.

"Come on!" she said. "We're ready to go home!"

On the thirty minute drive home I played our CD of Doug Hill from Misty Blue. It's all the same songs that he played for us in his cockpit during those wonderful happy hours a hundred years and a few thousand miles ago.

Photo: Laura with her new cat "Harley," which we adopted from the Cats Are Totally Special folks here in Chattanooga. I prefer to call him "Topper," short for Sir Toppum Cat.

October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween 2007!

November 2, 2007
You may have to tell your web browser that it's okay to use "active content" to see what's below: an short (21 second) video about my new job at UTC. I spent about fifteen minutes doing this with my new iMac and iMovie.

If you see absolutely nothing below, your browser doesn't have permission to show the video...but in truth it's not that big of a loss. If you do see the video player, click on it to play.

November 10, 2007
We're visiting Annie's family on the Mississippi Coast, where two years after Hurricane Katrina life is getting back to normal, at least for some people. Today we drove the thirty miles of beach from Waveland to Gulfport, and there are now a few homes, a few businesses, and yes, a few gigantic condo complexes built and occupied. Unlike some countries, everyone has access to plentiful supplies of food, electricity, and running water.

All of which leads into another of my small essays, Living Large.

November 18, 2007
Long ago, as documented elsewhere on this site, I spent much of my leisure time squeezing, climbing, crawling, and strolling through several hundred caves across the southeast. Over the past decade I had come to my senses, but this weekend I had a momentary relapse.

Laura had been caving once before when she rafted into Sinking Cove Cave, but when we were invited by my former hang gliding instructor and good friend Alan Bloodworth to join his family on a trip to Howards Waterfall Cave, I heeded the call. Owned and protected by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Howards is a good cave for the kids, with just a few places where the adults need to keep an eye out for them. It had been a dozen years for me, but I remembered most of the cave as being just tall enough for a youngster or large dog, a good fit for kids. Actually, with Alan's help, we mananged to see a good bit of larger cave this time. The kids had a great time and we are looking forward to attending the Christmas Party at Cumberland Caverns next month.

Howards Waterfall Cave

Photo: Laura and the other kids loved Howards Waterfall Cave. Note to self: remind the kids not to hug the formations next time. It's not good for them (the formations, that is...doesn't really hurt the kids).

December 12, 2007

If all is well, you should see our Holiday Greetings across a background of the south anchorage at Warderick Wells. I've been playing with Flash animations (part of my job to know about stuff like that). Something this simple, without any audio, could have been done with an animated GIF, but for some reason I can't get that to export correctly from Flash.

December 14, 2007
Sunday night, and I feel like I've just run a marathon of home improvement. Since leaving work Friday afternoon, I've been to Lowes at least five times. The project: building a closet in the downstairs bathroom. Last year around this time I was installing a raw water pump and changing out engine mounts; this year I am hanging drywall, installing doors, and painting. I'm no expert myself, but much of the renovation done here in the past was not exactly up to code, so I'm spending a lot of time correcting problems.

Not not much else to show for my efforts, although I am making progress on my cruising video now that I'm working in Adobe Premier and hope to have it done by Christmas. I did have an opinion piece in the Chattanoogan that generated some e-mail from folks I haven't heard from in a long time. See

I was amazed recently when I looked at the stats for the website. It's not uncommon for StationR to get over 10,000 visits a month. You have to wonder: who are all these people looking at this stuff?

January 1, 2008
We are home after a ten day trip to Virginia and Rhode Island. Pigs! Lobsters! Clams! They were all there, although not all at once. It was such a fabulous holiday that it seems very dull to be back here at home.

Janet and Rhonda's house

Photo: Our gracious hosts Janet and Rhonda of s/v Promise decorated this year with an undersea theme in honor of their cruise last year.

January 29, 2008

I must report that I was disappointed today when I found out that my video, Learning to Cruise, which has consumed so many hours of my life over the past six months, did not even place in the Cruising World video contest. Having viewed the competing videos, most of which were sincere but not particularly well edited, I was not-so-modestly expecting to win. However, Cruising World is a tough market to crack. First and second places went to decent videos, both of which I liked, and third place went to...well, to me...for a 30 second video on a weekend overnight to Bueno Nemo that I had spent about 30 minutes producing.

I actually wrote to Michael Lovett, the editor in charge of the contest, to tell him I was surprised at the choice. Mr. Lovett was kind enough to write back and tell me that after viewing hours of viewing videos, the 30 second Bueno Nemo was a "breath of fresh air." My flagship, Learning to Cruise, which attempted to condense a 19 month, 10,000 mile cruise into 13 minutes, was too long. Yeah, I'll bet that's what they said to Columbus, too--it's a fact that like me, he was never published in Cruising World, either.

Photo: Like Annie said over dinner tonight, it's February 2006 all over again. First the sand sculpture, now the video. Jeepers, that was one fine sand sculpture, wasn't it?

February 1, 2008
Being generally angry at the sailing magazines for failing to recognize my genius (I try to laugh as I write this, as if I am making a joke), I remembered a little essay called "Making Friends at Anchor" that had been rejected by Cruising World and Sail. One of the opinions I expressed was that a boat should never anchor close to another without asking for permission first. Just after I submitted the piece, I read a essay expressing the opposite view in Southwinds magazine. The author (sorry, I've forgotten his name) talked about how preoccupied he and his fellow Americans had been about anchoring space, then related how he had mellowed out as he got further south in the Caribbean. As he was writing, he said, there was a French boat anchored with its stern six feet in front his bow but with his new, enlightened attitude, that was perfectly okay.

Well, I've never been south of Luperon but I can tell you that my fellow anchoring author is absolutely nuts. Unless everything is perfect (same length of chain out, boats of similar weight and windage, no current of any kind, and certainly no fifty knot squalls) it's nothing more than luck that keeps boats from serious damage when they are only a couple of boat-lengths apart. Personally, I think five boat-lengths is a lot better.

At any rate, since no one (except maybe Southwinds) is likely to publish my essay, I may as well publish it myself here.

February 6, 2008
While I'm (still) on the topic, here's an actual sentence from a sailing magazine, edited by professionals paid to make meanings clear and concise:

"One of the things that makes it this way is the threat it poses merely because it is unclear what is what."
I'm not sure the irony of that sentence was intended, but maybe it makes me feel better about being rejected so often by the supposed experts.

February 12, 2008
Arg! Here are some fear-inspiring YouTube links which aptly describe my mood: sailboat rolled, other boat too and She's sinking, Captain!. I came across these thanks to the amazing Gerry and her excellent blog Clinging to the Wreckage. Gerry, by the way, was the winner of the $500 prize in the video contest. Her video was (aside from my own, of course) my favorite, too.

February 20, 2008
Another contest, another bewildered blogger. The three judges for January's Cruising World Photo Contest inexplicably passed over our entries, but Michael Lovett liked one of them enough that he asked permission to use for the heading of their monthly newsletter. So here's what you'd see at the top of the page if you were a subscriber to their online magazine...that's Seaductress at anchor at Cat Island, Bahamas:

Reckonings Title

Seriously, there were a lot of good photos in the contest (aside from our own entries) and I still can't figure out what Cruising World is all about. Are they truly experts with practiced eyes? Was there something about that picture of a little dog on boat that I missed? Ah, who knows--I am so over their dumb website and stupid contests!

Yeah, right.

February 29, 2008
Okay, finally some encouragement (not to mention a nice little check). Our article on cruising to Acadia National Park appeared in the March issue of Lats and Atts. If you have a high speed Internet, you can view the issue in their online archives at (click on "Cruising Maine's Coast" on the cover).

March 4, 2008
Last Sunday eleven of us had a fine trip Tumbling Rock Cave in Jackson County, Alabama. I had not been inside Tumbling Rock in 32 years, but the cave was just as I remembered it. Okay, I actually didn't remember much, but what I remembered seemed about the same: a very big, pretty cave. Thanks in large parts to the efforts of the amazing Jay Clark, the property is now being managed by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy.

On our trip were five kids ranging in age from five to eight years old. They did great! We went all the way in to the Kings Shower and counting the round trip, probably covered two miles of cave. Laura and I had gone with our friends Bill and Norman to Hermit Cave the weekend before, so we have become quite the cavers again.

Kings Shower

Photo: Here's part of the group at the Kings Shower, almost a mile from the cave entrance. That's Laura in orange. The hole in the ceiling leads to the Topless Dome, which contains a 400 foot tall waterfall.

March 28, 2008
For lack of any other counter-productive things to do this afternoon, but I sent this to Cruising World:

Mailbag, November 2007: writer Ben Zartman is severely taken to task for neglecting to mention any of the severe medical risks (joint pain, infertility, brain damage) associated with pouring molten lead in his backyard. Shoreline, March 2008: four issues later, Jack Thompson spins an amusing tale of smelting lead in his backyard, again with no mention of any health hazards. This sequence makes me wonder if the editors might have done their own lead smelting sometime in the past.
They still owe me a copy of the latest Cornell book for using my photo on the masthead of their CW Reckonings newsletter, so I reckon I'm entitled.

April 14, 2008
Argg, the bad karma is catching up with me. We went out to the boat to sail in the River Raising Regatta on Saturday. The day was pretty, the winds were blowing, and the water stopped flowing through our raw water cooling circuit as we motored out into the river. Laura was down below watching a DVD but popped up in the companionway to announce, "I don't see any fire but there is smoke down here." I felt the cover over the raw water impeller and it was very hot, so we shut down the engine even though the water temperature gauge was still almost normal. The smoke turned out to be diesel exhaust, which had come into the boat because our Vetus LSS waterlift muffler had melted. When you buy a waterlift muffler you've got a choice between stainless steel (which corrodes), fiberglass (which might or might not catch fire) and plastic (which I now know will melt quite quickly) should you lose the water that's being injected into the exhaust.

We managed to get over to the starting line and race, but as usual the other boats sped off ahead of us. We were neck-and-neck with Sassafras, an O'Day 23, for about an hour, but finally got over the finish line. The wind was a steady 15 knots for the second race, but we decided to break for lunch and attempt to fix our engine. I got the water flowing again and after our meal we motored back to the dock with lots of smoking coming out of the cabin and the bilge pump working to get the exhaust water out of the boat (always good to test the bilge pump once in a while).

So now I've got to procure and install a new muffler and fittings, plus an impellor, and I need to go over the entire raw water circuit to find out what clogged it in the first place. Vetus sells a gauge that goes in the hose that could alert us to the problem in the future, but the gauge costs almost as much as a muffler. It would be well worth the money if you could prevent a meltdown, fire, and having to take apart the heat exchanger to get bits of impeller out of there.

Hoping to take my mind off of all this, I organized a family hiking trip yesterday...whereupon both of the girls yelled at me for taking them up a muddy, poorly-maintained trail.

Oh, Karma--what can I do to make it up to you?

April 21, 2008
I think my boycott of the Cruising World website is finally paying off (yes, I'm kidding). The May issue of the magazine had a link to my profile on their site at Okay, so William F. Buckley got a bigger spread in the same issue, but of course everyone thinks better of you when you're dead, so that's not necessarily a positive thing.

With the boat out of commission (although my new $300 Vetus muffler and fitting has arrived and awaits installation!) we spent this past weekend at the Dragon Boat races in Chattanooga, the Four Bridges Art Festival, and (amazing even myself) I went out to the training hills with Alan Bloodworth and flew a hang glider for the first time in years.

May 19, 2008
The 14 miles of the Appalachian Trail across the Roan Highlands (just north of Roan Mountain in far northeastern Tennessee) is one of the most varied and beautiful trails I've ever hiked.

Roan AT

June 18, 2008
Last weekend we went out to the boat with not just one kitty cat but two kitty cats. A couple of weeks ago Laura got a little yellow kitten named Tangerine to keep her big cat company, and the two are now great friends. So we took them out to the boat for the night while I attempted to take apart our heat exchanger and exhaust elbow to see why the engine hasn't been pushing enough lake water through the system.

The cats were happy, the parts were removed and taken home for cleaning, and one day (soon, we hope!) the boat will be able to leave the dock again.

June 23, 2008
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Jenks, whose daughter Melissa had written to me earlier about the fate of her 33 foot Ranger Secret, which is anchored in French Wells on Crooked Island in the Bahamas. At that time, Paul was just a few days away from leaving with his wife and daughter to try to "rescue" the boat. Paul is himself an adventurer and rescuer (he is President of the missonary/rescue organization AMG International), and he came to me for advice on what to expect as they try to move the boat at least part of the way towards Florida before hurricane season begins to get serious. I'm not sure how much I was able to help him, but I very much enjoyed pondering the quest with him.

French Wells is just about as isolated of a spot as you can find in the out islands, a seven mile row from town...and this is a town that doesn't really have much in the way of facilities. George Town, a long overnight sail to the north, seems like Miami in comparision. Melissa and her partner Karl had left the boat anchored while they went back to the states for Christmas, but Karl had fallen ill and they had been unable to return as planned. For over fix months the boat has been alone down there in French Wells. Melissa is a great writer and I highly recommend her blog at As of today, her last entry from Nassau as she made her way down towards Crooked.

The issues with Secret include gunk in the fuel tank, a roller-furler that that doesn't turn, no outboard for the dinghy, probable dead batteries, and possible theft of anything and everything left on board. As I worked to reinstall our heat exchanger on Seaductress this weekend, I wondered how things were going for the Jenks on Secret. What did they find when they arrived at the boat? How have the cleaning and repairs been progressing?

I guess it is a sign of our true return that I am now living vicariously through the websites of others who are still out there adventuring!

Melissa and Paul were never able to get the engine started, so despite all the planning and good luck and bad the Ranger 33 Secret remains at anchor at French Wells tonight. Sometimes it happens that way. Sometimes the cruising dream, like Bojangle's dog, just ups and dies on you.

July 14, 2008
Meanwhile, our own Seaductress has been laid up at the dock for three months now, ever since we lost the raw water cooling and melted the waterlift muffler. I had installed that most expensive piece of plastic, the new muffler, but wasn't happy about the amount of water coming out the exhaust, so later I took apart (for the first time ever--what a novice I am!) the heat exchanger and exhaust elbow on our Volvo diesel. As usual, the disassembly was no was the reassembly that got a little tricky. After getting new gaskets from Vosbury Marine I finally got everything back together this past Saturday. Then I took it all apart again, put it together correctly, and with just a little more tinkering the engine was running for the first time in 12 weeks!

clogged heat exchanger

Here's a closeup of the heat exchanger (note the muck and even a bit of grass that somehow got through the raw water filter). One tube at the bottom is neatly plugged by a piece of rubber impeller, which may have been there for years since I've never torn up an impeller to my knowledge. Although there are 48 little tubes through which the raw water travels, the water is directed through 1/4 of the tubes at a time, making 4 complete passes from one end to the other before it's done, so that's really just 12 tubes at a time carrying the entire flow.

Looking for cruising?
If you've scrolled all the way down here looking for actual cruising activities, you'll need to go back at least as far as the last real update to the cruising log: July 9, 2007.

Copyright © 2007 by Rodger Ling. All rights reserved.