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Looking Forward While Celebrating 2010

As we look forward to what 2011 has in store for us, we reflected on our blessed-beyond-belief 2010. This has been a year of big changes, new beginnings and celebrations galore.

Looking forward to a walk like this soon

The first part of our year was filled with starting more projects than we finished on Kaleo, learning as much as we could aboard, as well as through Seven Seas University courses, and spending a few freezing weekends planning for warmer weather projects.

Spring brought warmer weather, some great sailing in Galveston Bay, the wedding of our dear friends, Amy & Jeph, and Christie’s parents’ 35th wedding anniversary in April.

May was a landmark month as we became officially debt free, gaining financial freedom. We also moved from our 1,400 square foot townhome to a 650 square foot studio apartment to better prepare for our life aboard Kaleo. And, we celebrated our first wedding anniversary at The Joule, were we stayed on our wedding night. Of course, we spent a few weekends completing some boat projects along the way.

With the Texas summer heat came lots of family and friends visiting the boat, marina BBQ’s, and more boat projects. And in June, the “Cyclin’ Sailors” geared up for our 4th annual Urban Assault Race in Austin!

The Fourth of July was shared with the Wilborns by sailing and watching incredible fireworks shows while anchored out in the bay. Then, we jetted to Coeur D’ Alene, ID to celebrate the newest Butchers, as Matt’s brother Jeff married his bride, Meloney. We topped off the trip to the Northwest with an incredible experience of sleeping 50′ off the ground in the boughs of a giant, old Washington Red Cedar Tree at Cedar Creek Treehouse and touring Mt. Rainier National Park. Of course, we spent a few weekends completing some boat projects along the way.

While the summer heat continued to bake us, we enjoyed a shakedown cruise to Galveston with the Kryzaks and a sailing weekend with The Powers. Of course, we spent a few weekends completing some boat projects along the way.

The fall brought a trip to Minneapolis to celebrate Grandma Butcher’s 90th birthday, visit with family and to Trader Joe’s to stock up on our favorite snacks. The realization that we were now within one month of tossing the docklines helped us get a lot of boat projects wrapped up almost every weekend.

October was a big month as Matt took his leave of absence from work, Christie resigned from her job, we moved out of our land home and aboard Kaleo full-time, sold a car and put another one in storage along with our belongings. We soaked up treasured time with loved ones and were given three outstanding Bon Voyage parties. We also got to celebrate the marriage of Ben and Carly (Matt’s cousin) and spent time with family in San Diego. Of course, we managed another trip to Trader Joe’s for more provisions.

November 8th marked the beginning of our cruising life. Before leaving the dock, we met up with some cruising mentors, The Sittons, and celebrated Christie’s birthday with family and a dear friend, Crystal, aboard. The month was filled with a host of new experiences – from adjusting to life aboard to overcoming unknown challenges and navigating new waters to connecting with new friends along the way. We topped it off with a roadtrip from Mississippi to Texas to spend Thanksgiving with family.

The year wrapped up by crossing the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and into Florida. It was on those passages that we learned to love the open ocean, more fully appreciate warm days and spent time digging our toes into our first white sandy beach. Christmas with shared with family and friends in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida and we were back home aboard Kaleo on New Year’s Eve.

We welcomed the new decade with the most unusual of celebrations for us at this time of year. The clock struck midnight as we pushed two carts down the isles of a 24-hour Walmart. We laughed and shared a little “Happy New Year” smooch in the canned goods aisle and continued provisioning in preparation for the Bahamas and beyond. Yes, really. Oh, the cruising life ;o).

Thank you for joining us as virtual crew along this adventure. It means a lot to us. We wish you peace, blessings and togetherness in your new year!

We’re ready for 2011 and believe the best is yet to come. God has even more amazing things He wants to do in and through our lives so we’re straining to what is ahead. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Labor Day Lessons

Labor Day weekend offered a great opportunity to get some cruising under our belts. We set out for Offatt’s Bayou anchorage on the southern tip of Galveston Island along with two buddy boats from our marina (s/v Pan Cogito and s/v Jolly Mon).

Christie enjoying An Embarrassment of Mangos

About an hour into Galveston Bay, the motor overheated. But, determined to keep going, we tacked back toward Kemah to try to fix it en route. Matt managed to crawl into the smoldering engine bay, while being tossed around by the choppy water, to diagnose and replace the seawater impeller.

We gained a boost in confidence after the engine was resuscitated and ran at the proper temperature. We enthusiastically tacked back toward our original course toward Galveston and set out to catch up with our friends.

Matt enjoying the downwind sail

We eventually got to the anchorage, set the hook and had dinner with Mike from Pan Cogito. The next morning, we set out for the Gulf of Mexico. At over 20 knots of wind and lumpy seas, we managed to still have an outstanding sail. We logged over 9 hours of sailing and more than one soaking from water coming into the cockpit. Though there was motor trouble and restless sleep, the trip helped us learn more about the boat and ourselves when anchored out.

Our first drawbridge crossing

Our track

Lesson’s learned:

  • Going forward, we will need a set of welders’ gloves (more heat protective and arm covering) to work on the hot engine without being scorched.
  • Working on the engine underway is like threading a needle while riding a hobbyhorse in a personal sauna.
  • The first night in a new anchorage probably means Matt won’t rest easily.
  • After showering without a hot water heater, we’re now researching the best one for our boat. Even in the summer heat, it. was. cold.
  • Drawbridges operate on their own schedule. And while you’re in a holding pattern (think elephants tracking tirelessly in circles at the circus) don’t be the one to stray closest to the channel’s edge. An unwelcomed shoal will be waiting for you.
  • Always fully recharge the handheld VHF. Not doing so may lead to it powering down just as you need it.
  • Always monitor channel 16, especially when there are tugs bigger than you around the next bend.
  • Leave earlier than you need too. There is bound to be something that holds you up or at best, you get there early enough to get the best spot in the anchorage.
  • Ocean spray leaves layers of crystallized salt on EVERYTHING. And while Christie enjoys a good salt scrub, this can be more exfoliation than necessary in one sitting.
  • Buddy boats are there to accompany each other, not to play follow the leader.
  • You can see your destination l-o-n-g before you get there.
  • Know your reefing system BEFORE setting sail as trying to optimize it underway way is nearly impossible.
  • Holiday weekends attract the most careless boaters. Get out there early to avoid as many of them as possible.

This foray into cruising is turning out to be pretty exciting. We’re one day closer!

Galveston Shakedown Cruise

Our friends Jeph and Amy joined us this weekend for the 5-hour tour along the Houston Ship Channel to our home for the night at The Galveston Yacht Club.

Here is our route as tracked by our Spot GPS tracker

This mini-cruise was intended to hone our navigation skills in a channel with very big ships, to give the motor a test after last weekend’s cooling system rebuild and to have some fun with friends. We easily accomplished this and the motor had even more run time as there was little wind so we motor-sailed for virtually the entire 10 hour roundtrip.

Both days began with an early start in hopes of avoiding the mid-day heat and getting to Galveston with some time to explore. After our first encounter with a huge container ship, the rest were quite benign and not as intimidating as we were expecting. The motor-sail down was fairly uneventful, though we were treated to a playful dolphin escort into Galveston. Some even swam right alongside Kaleo! After arriving, we checked into the marina, tied up at our assigned slip, showered and promptly took a long nap in the A/C.

After recharging our batteries, Christie’s aunt Cherie, who is staying in Galveston, was kind enough to pick us up at the yacht club and drive us to The Strand, Galveston’s tourist district. After some serious sugar at LaKing’s Confectionery, Cherie lent us her car to explore the island where we toured the historic homes along Broadway and drove along the Seawall. We wrapped up the evening with a great seafood dinner at Gaido’s and a family visit at Aunt Cherie’s beach house.

Sunday was the reverse of Saturday but a lot warmer and Matt brought home the sunburn to prove it. We cruised past the largest ship of the trip, the Nassau Spirit, weighing in at 810 feet long! It was a fantastic trip which helped us learn that sailing harnesses are a must, even on calm days, big ships aren’t so bad if you stay out of their way, and confirmed that we really enjoy sailing to and exploring new destinations.

Renaming Weekend

Our friends Lacey and Jeremy recently joined us aboard for some sailing and to take part in our official renaming ceremony of Kaleo.

Lacey and Christie prepping Chick ‘N’ Spuds for dinner

By the end of the weekend they got a lot more than they bargained for as:

  • Matt and Jeremy practiced their diesel mechanic skills for the better part of Saturday, installing and testing the rebuilt heat exchanger (helps keep the engine cool).
  • However, within 5 minutes of leaving the dock to go sailing the engine temperature alarm let us know the heat exchanger wasn’t working as planned.
  • We immediately returned to the dock where Matt and Jeremy went back to work. It seemed that they simply hadn’t added enough coolant to the motor, or so they thought…
  • With coolant topped off, Kaleo left the dock again headed for a special appointment in the bay – her offcial renaming ceremony. The name Kaleo had just been put on the boat a few days before and as good sailors we had to pour some champagne on the bow and into the sea.

  • We hove to (parked the sailboat in the wind) and gathered on the foredeck to toast and offer champagne to Neptune and Anemoi (the wind god). We even went for one of the more esoteric practices of having a virgin pee on the bow. Thank goodness Lacey is about 7 months pregnant, so baby Valley helped via Lacey and a cup. Naturally, Jeremy was in charge of pouring the cup over the bow.

The hand-off

Thanks Valley

  • After going through the fun renaming ceremony we said a prayer to the one true God for safety and prosperity of His Kingdom on our travels.
  • After a few hours of lovely night sailing, we turned on the motor to head back to the slip and surprise, the cooling system wasn’t working! That left us no other choice than to sail back to the slip, or at least as far as we could. After sailing all the way to the Kemah bridge, we limped to a nearby yacht brokers’ dock to call TowBoatU.S.. After a smooth tow in, Matt washed the bow very well and we called it a night.

All-in-all it was good practice for when plans take a detour, we enjoyed having friends aboard and our Kaleo has been officially christened.

What Would John Brown Do?

We just spent a full weekend aboard where we gained greater confidence and even more excitement about our sailing dream. In short:

  • We bought a great outboard motor for the dinghy and explored the waterways around our marina with it
  • Discovered the Clearlake Shores Farmer’s Market where we found fresh, local food to enjoy and share
  • Reached new heights as Christie was hoisted up the mast to plan for mounting our new LED tricolor/anchor light
  • And were coached and challenged to sail Kaleo to her full potential with a sailing lesson from John Brown of Sea Lake Yacht Sales

Christie’s view of Kaleo from the top of the mast

We started Saturday early at the Farmer’s market, then Christie’s parents joined us for breakfast and delivered our boat registration stickers. They stuck around for the show as Christie was hoisted up the mast. After snapping a few photos and taking in the view she came down so we could prep for our sailing lesson with John. John is a yacht broker and ASA certified sailing instructor who came aboard to spend the afternoon teaching us how to trim (sailing term for adjust) and shape the sails.

This was one of the most beneficial afternoons sailing and I’d recommend it to any sailor, no matter your skill level. We expected that John would show us just how far Kaleo could heel (the way a sailboat leans when sailing) while going faster but it was quite the opposite. He coached us on how to sail the boat with less heel, while going faster, making us more efficient sailors. We were also challenged to point higher into the wind than we’ve ever been able to. We even got to fly our (very bright) spinnaker and ran wing-on-wing back to port. We really enjoyed having John aboard as he has a wealth of knowledge and generously shares it. If you sail in the Galveston Bay area, we suggest you book a lesson with him.

That evening turned into a neighborhood gathering as a few of us got together in the cockpit of a neighbor’s boat and talked until the wee hours. During the conversation we made a plan for a three boat trip to Freeport in about a month. It will be another chance to build and refine our sailing skills. Sunday we wrapped up a few boat projects and planed for Matt to rebuild the anchor locker next weekend.

Friendly Crew, Family and Great Sailing

We shifted gears this past weekend from all our recent projects to focus on time with family and friends aboard Kaleo (a welcomed change of pace). Crystal and Mel joined us for a weekend of road tripping (wouldn’t be complete without a pit stop into the infamous Buc-ee’s!), family fun (always includes several feasts), and of course sailing!

The Admiral and her crew

Shortly upon arrival the fam joined us at the marina for BBQ and a fireworks show. Christie’s dad, Craig, brought a brisket that was cooked to perfection and large enough to feed everyone plus Matt well into the week. Mom brought coleslaw, Nana always brings some sweet Italian greatness, Miss Penni brought fresh fruit, Aunt Veronica and cousin Natalie cookies and brownies, Aunt Cherie brought tamales, and well you get the idea … We had a feast at the marina cabana and chatted late into the night with an exciting fireworks show intermission over Galveston Bay.

Saturday quickly brought on the Texas heat so we all cooled off and relaxed by the marina pool. (Of course before Matt joined, he finished up one quick project of replacing the cable that shuts down the engine.) After a lunch/early dinner we made ready for sea and headed out around 4:30. Out on the bay, Matt was the best cap-i-tan by sailing us down to Redfish Island while ensuring our sangria glasses didn’t spill a drop. The winds were blowing steady and I helmed the speed record for the day and for our ownership of Kaleo – 6.1 knots!

As the sun started to set we all agreed that it was far too perfect of a day to end just yet and our decision was confirmed by a dolphin sighting. Much to our excitement, two dolphins crested and swam in front of Kaleo. With the temperature cooling, the winds steady and a gorgeous sunset, it was some of our best sailing we’ve had aboard Kaleo yet. Proven by the fact that we didn’t return to dock until after 11:30. Hopefully it’s a taste of a life to come.

Water Pump Weekend

This Saturday we wrapped up the fresh water system refit that has been ongoing since last summer. Matt installed the fresh water pump and accumulator tank, which now supplies water to the recently installed galley double sink and bathroom sink and shower.

We also managed to wash and scrub the entire deck, cleaning it of winter grime and dirt. Scrubbing 34 feet of boat deck took the better part of the morning but Kaleo shined like she hasn’t in a long time. Christie finished the to-do list by installing one of her Valentine’s Day presents, a new stainless throttle handle.

All this work was capped off by a great sail in Galveston Bay, where we saw Captain Kidd, a two-masted schooner. The sail also reminded us of how well the Aloha 34 is designed as she balanced herself (stayed on a course without any input from us) on the tack out and back in. The sail was capped off by the best slip-parking job to date, if only they all went that smoothly there would be a few less scratches on the hull.

On Sunday, we spent the afternoon at Christie’s grandmother’s house celebrating the most important date in history, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Everyday we thank Him for our talents, abilities and the desire to pursue this dream.

A little work and a long overdue sail

Over the past few months our time aboard Kaleo has been spent working on the boat, measuring for parts and anticipating our first sail of spring.

This past weekend we got the best of both worlds by getting some projects checked off the list and getting to go for a great sail in Galveston Bay. We both were able to take Friday off, drove down Thursday night, and had three full days aboard. Friday was spent finishing the install on the head (bathroom) sink counter, setting the actual sink in place and hooking up the water lines. We also picked up our dinghy from Triad Marine, where it had been repaired.

Saturday we had hoped to go sailing but the tide was far too low to get the boat out of the slip. During the winter a strong North wind blows and forces a lot of the water out of Galveston Bay. This gives exaggerated low tides and our keel is literally sitting in the mud, so we can’t go anywhere. Nevertheless it was a beautiful day so we fit the companionway doors, cleaned up the mess left from rebedding the chain plates, finished up some misc. projects, took the dinghy for a test row, visited our broker Carolyn at their new office and got the boat ready for her first sail of the year.

Sunday turned out to be a perfect day for sailing so we made for the open ocean (really just Galveston Bay) at first light (really about 10:00). The wind was 6-9 knots and blowing from the East. In fact the wind was blowing from exactly where we wanted to go. We had decided to make for Houston Ship Channel #59, the best entry point for pleasure craft headed to Galveston Island. It dawned on Matt that this was the first time we have ever had to tack Kaleo to a destination. All the other times sailing her we just went at the best angle to the wind with nowhere in particular to go to. This was good practice for us as you can see below the track we recorded on iNavX, an iPhone navigation app, turned out the be pretty spot on. We also practiced our two bearing fixes for coastal navigation.

Our tack path to Marker 59 & back

A Christopher Cross Kind of Afternoon

Our first solo sail adventure aboard our Kaleo in Galveston Bay. Looking forward to many more!

We were intrigued by the shrimp boat & wished they’d share with us. A little afternoon dancing on deck. We tossed aside the dock lines this afternoon & set sail for nowhere in particular … just a relaxing, fun & confidence-boosting adventure.

A True Salty Dog

Our marina, as with any marina we assume, is filled with curious fellas. We’ve noticed this guy takes his pup for a dingy ride through the neighborhood each morning while enjoying his pipe. There are many more to write about but we’ll introduce them in time.

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