The Old Man and the Sea

Yes, Kevin Koski is blogging again! But as you may have noticed the blog is not about cycling anymore, but sailing!

It’s a long story which I won’t bore you with but 2019 was a step back in terms of adventure traveling. I was working from home and delivering food for DoorDash (interesting job by the way). But in December I started seriously looking for a boat as a home and to sail around in. I’m still fascinated by the world and its cultures so that part will continue.

I haven’t done much sailing in my life but the times I’ve gone I loved it. In 1989 I was invited by a couple Boeing colleagues to go to Belize and sail around the reefs and islands there for 10 days. I was a bit skeptical at first. Ten days? I was afraid I would get bored. But I went and it was great. Sunny warm weather, tiny uninhabited islands, clear blue seas, fishing, catching lobster, snorkeling, hiking around the islands, trimming the sails, navigating…I was never bored.

So as I planned my retirement I knew at some point I would start sailing. My plan was to tour by bicycle until 2030 then get the boat but as I mentioned in my cycling blog, it seems like the roads have become more and more crowded and dangerous. At first I thought it was my imagination, that it just seems like there are more people. But then I looked it up and was stunned to learn that when I was born in 1960 there were 2.9 billion people on earth. When I took my first bike tour in 1980 the population had risen to 4.5 billion. Today there are 7.7 billion people on earth. So in my lifetime the global population has more than doubled. It is a scary picture:

The upshot is that on my last global trip I was disappointed to find very few quiet roads to cycle on. Even in places I thought would be remote: Ontario, Canada, the Southwest USA, northern Japan and Australia. Even there I was beset with cars, trucks and busses a good deal of the time. I found that I did not enjoy riding anymore. Plus it was difficult to find secluded places to “free camp.” Added to that I was nearly sideswiped many times during the trip and I felt it was just a matter of time before I got whacked by a passing car or truck. So in January 2019 I decided to put the bike away and start looking for a sailboat.

I knew almost nothing about boats then, and I am still pretty ignorant, although I have read several books and watched tons of you tube videos. I started looking for boats on line and found a handful that met my criteria: monohull sloop, 33-34 feet long, fiberglass production boat. Nothing special or fancy, and less than 20 years old. My plan is to spend the first 2-3 years just sailing around the Caribbean and learning how to handle the boat in different situations. I would eventually like to cross the oceans but I may have to get a different boat for trips like that. Cheap fiberglass boats are fine for “coastal cruising” but to travel the oceans I may need a stronger boat designed for rough ocean seas, a “blue water” boat. These could be steel with heavier rigging and sails, and larger storage capacities for water, fuel, etc.

But for now, all I need is a basic fiberglass boat that can handle Caribbean coastal cruising. So I spent a week in Jacksonville, Florida in early December and looked at several boats. One in particular stood out and I made an offer on it. The offer was accepted and in mid January 2020 I hired a surveyor to examine the boat. If you’ve ever bought a house you are familiar with the inspection process. Well, the same for a boat. The surveyor checked out all the systems and structural integrity of the boat and gave it a 8 1/2 out of 10 which is pretty good. Hull, keel, sails, deck, engine, plumbing, electrical… mostly good with several minor repairs needed. So a few weeks later, after doing the paperwork and forking over $60,000 I had my new home, a 34 foot Beneteau 343:

Yes, my bike is going along for the ride!

My first night was a bit traumatic. I got to the boat in the evening and only had time to move half my stuff on board. It was total chaos. Then the toilet wouldn’t work. Luckily the marina had a bathroom. Then that evening a major storm blew right over Jacksonville, bringing 70 mph winds and a tornado watch. I was up half the night checking to make sure my boat was secure to the dock. It wasn’t just paranoia—the cleats holding a 50′ boat not far from me busted off the dock and the boat drifted into a patch of mud.

But I survived the storm and am currently trying to figure out how everything on the boat works. It is quite complicated. You have a plumbing system, with water tanks, shower, sink and toilet with a waste holding tank, electrical systems for lights, navigation, radio, etc, a diesel engine with everything that goes with it, large batteries for powering everything, a propane gas system for the stove and oven, and of course the sails and rigging to sail the darn thing. Not to mention anchoring, docking, navigating, weather, tides and emergencies. To say I am overwhelmed would be an understatement.

My plan is to hire an instructor in the next few days to take me out and show me the ropes. I am quite literally scared to death.

3 thoughts on “The Old Man and the Sea

  1. S/Y Salty Lass February 10, 2020 / 5:55 pm

    It is all quite straightfoward. Learn how to tie springs (docklines), close and open through-hulls (seacocks) and use the gas stove safely.

    After that, everything else will seem easier

  2. Donald Kilpela Sr. February 10, 2020 / 5:59 pm

    If you are heading south, we are in Lake Worth. There are places you can just anchor and moor near the shore. I’ll check that out for you. Maybe we’ll take a drive up there to take a look at her. Jim might come down here in April so we would hope to see you. You have my phone and email. Capt. K

  3. Laura Orton February 11, 2020 / 4:24 pm

    I’m ready to crew. Bernard and I loved st John and the BVI.

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