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May 13, 2007

Making Sense Of It All

Launching Raven

How Did I Ever Get Here?

Taken at face value, so much of life can appear random and disconnected. Perhaps that’s all it ever is, plain and simple. As a thinking being, however, I like to think that I can make sense of it all. When I look back at the seemingly random events that led me to life aboard a Raven, they now seem so clearly connected in a purposeful progression. What begins with the question, “How did I ever get here?” now feels like the culmination of a grand scheme that should have been apparent all along.

Launching Raven

I have always been drawn to the world on the other side of the window pane. I much prefer being directly engaged with the “rest of the planet,” rather than holing up in the climate controlled artificiality and virtual numbness of today’s suburban landscapes. Without a doubt, I have a thirst for adventure. I’ve always been open to new experiences, but there are other themes at play as well.

I value self-reliance more than most other qualities. I’ve never liked being dependant on others for the fulfillment of my basic needs. For me, physical security comes not from having the financial means to pay for the services of others, but rather from my own ability to provide those services myself. I like having the skills to build things and to fix things. I like knowing how things work. I like simplicity and purity in design.

Launching Raven

When I look back on the hobbies that I’ve been drawn to since childhood, those same themes are present. Hiking, bicycling, kayaking, and sailing. They all put me in close contact with the world beyond the window pane. Through each pursuit, I have been able to pack my bags in a minimalist way and head for the horizon in search of adventure. Each “vehicle” is pure in design, self-contained and easy to understand and maintain.

Looking at the evolution of my lifestyle, I suppose one could say that I’ve progressed to the point where the things I’ve been most passionate about have moved beyond hobbies or limited recreational activities. They have become part of my everyday life. Walking and bicycling are my preferred mode of transport. Kayaking and sailing have become the foundation for my business (sea kayak touring and sailing charters). Today, even my homes are the result of that natural evolution.

Over the years, I have lived out of my backpack for entire summers. Twice I have pedaled across the country, completely self-contained and human-powered. My kayak has allowed me to explore the entirety of Lake Champlain and much of the U.S. east coast with everything I need tucked securely inside. Today, my sailboat, Raven, and Gypsy Rose have now allowed me to convert that temporarily self-contained, self-reliant lifestyle into a year-round way of life. I now live in intimate contact with the world around me. All systems are self-contained and self-maintained. My ecological footprint is minimal, and, as Marion is quick to remind me, it’s always an adventure!

Launching Raven

Launch 2007

This year’s launch of Raven was delayed a couple of weeks due to weather. A Nor’easter settled in just as the ice was leaving Shelburne Bay. We needed a solid week to get the boat ready but we had to wait for the weather to dry up before we could begin.

Launching Raven

Preparations for the annual launch began on April 22nd. Marion and I had an ambitious “to-do” list. We started by prioritizing and putting the tasks that require the boat to be out of the water at the top of the list. That included installing the new speed/temperature sensor in the hull and all of the annual scraping, sanding, and bottom-painting chores.

Next came the checks on the diesel auxiliary engine. During the winter lay-up, I’d had some concerns about the raw water path through the heat exchanger (long story). All checked out good this spring, however, and the good ole 30hp Yanmar fired right up without a problem.

Launching Raven

We had to repair one of the foot-operated water pumps for the galley sink and while we were at it, we discovered a problem with the electric water pump’s automatic shutoff switch. Marion and I approach things in a different, yet very complimentary way. I started right in by pulling things apart while Marion dug out the manuals and searched for schematics. The problem was fixed and we now have a much better understanding of the complete water delivery system.

Launching Raven

Among the system upgrades for this year, we installed a new battery charger. The original (1988) charger would take upwards of 24 hours to recharge a fully drained battery bank. We installed a new charger that can accomplish the task in about 25% of the time. That’ll mean a lot fewer hours on the Honda generator over the course of a year.

Launching Raven

Maintaining and upgrading Raven’s systems has become the basis for what we’ll eventually have in place “aboard” Gypsy Rose. Our intent is to recreate the primary systems that have been so successful and efficient aboard sailing vessels in our cottage on wheels. Like Raven, Gypsy Rose will be self-contained, self-maintained, pure and simple.

Launching Raven