Hard Time
April 28, 2007

Counting down the days

RE : M/V Pacific Hope 10/April/2007 

You would think that it wouldn’t be a big deal waiting a few more weeks for Makara to arrive from China. After all, we started the search for the boat over two years ago, contracted for the boat over 16 months ago and she has been under construction since late August 2006. WELL THINK AGAIN! Anxious does not even come close to our emotions as we await the arrival of our new boat. We feel like we are doing "Hard Time". Be it a soldier at the end of their tour, a prisoner scratching the last few marks on his cell wall or two people who have been dreaming of this moment for twenty years. It is the same feeling that all short-timers experience - a combination of impatience and anxiety.

Pacific Hope cargo shipOur feelings have intensified as the expected arrival date approaches and it is down right painful every time a delay occurs. When we last left our story we were waiting for the end of Chinese new year for Makara to be put on a ship to the Port of Baltimore. Unfortunately there were no ships going from Xiamen (actually she was trans-shipped to Kaohsiung) to Baltimore. As a result Thom decided the best course of action was to ship Makara to Port Everglades Florida where Wagner Stevens has their winter commissioning facilities, and then truck her up the east coast to Annapolis. On March 30th Makara was loaded on to the Panamanian freighter MV Pacific Hope (appropriate name) bound for the Sunshine State with short stops in Seattle and San Diego. When we checked the progress of the Pacific Hope we found it had to divert around a large Pacific storm which added over a week to the delivery schedule. Talk about a bummer. Oh well, you take what life gives you. In our case this means about two additional weeks of waiting. Rest assured, we will survive but the anticipation is killing us.

To give an idea of exactly how long the overall planning of the dream has been in progress, we were looking over our strategic schedule for the “get ready” for cruising part of our odyssey. We are currently within 30 days of that plan. The spooky part is the plan we were looking at turned out to be a version put together in 2005 and was based on building a Valiant 42 in Texas! I guess our project management skills are still pretty good. Just to be honest, between the both of us we have over 60 years participating in and often managing major systems engineering projects. All that hard work we’ve done for “the man” may have actually benefited our own adventures. None the less we were still amazed at how close we are to our original schedule.

So, what do you do while you wait. One thing that has occupied us has been reviewing the specifications of the systems on Makara in order to prepare ourselves to manage her commissioning once she arrives. Key areas that get built/installed once the hull arrives include the mast and rigging, sails, electronics and a myriad of other little details. We want to be sharp and make sure all areas are covered by Wagner Stevens quite capable commissioning team. Considering that our perspective on these systems continues to evolve, it is essential we finalize our specification prior to the start of the actual work. We have spent a lot of time reading, getting ideas for what and how to test Makara’s system, her crew (us) and nice little “tricks of the trade” to consider as we outfit her for the push off for cruising. We are at least 18 months from the earliest possible departure date yet the time seems so short! So much to do, and the most frustrating thing is there is no boat to do it with!

The fact that we can glimpse the beginning of our adventure represents another kind of hard time. Recently we have begun to feel like short-timers now that the date and time of our release into the open ocean is within sight. We have spent a lot of time looking at departure scenarios and we are definitely at the beginning of the end game. Our departure is governed by the start and end of the hurricane season. We have always planned on doing our circumnavigation in an east to west direction, and as a result our window for departure from Annapolis is from November to February. Any earlier than this and there is still the possibility of encountering a late season Hurricane. Any later than this it wouldn't be possible to position ourselves on the western side of Panama in time to make a Marquesas run in the trade winds of the South Pacific.

We knew Makara's production schedule made hitting the 2007 window for departure just plain silly. With what is now effectively a July delivery of a brand new boat only a fool would begin a multi-year circumnavigation with only 4 or 5 months to prepare. As a result our target window was always a November 2008 departure. The downside is that if we miss that date we are delayed a full year until November of 2009 to head for the Panama canal. We would likely not delay that long to start cruising, as we could begin with a northward trip to Maine and Nova Scotia in the spring/summer of 2009.

The result of these weather cycles is that we can clearly see our departure window which is 18 months to no later that 30 months. While this may seem like a lot of time, given everything we need to do, it is not. Remember these are the dates that we cut the dock lines and leave the US for a period of 3 to 7 years.

Preparing for stepping off translates into a thousand details as we have touched on in previous logs, but most significantly we know this means our careers in high technology end at least three to six months prior to final departure. Each of us has been working for the last 30 years and it messes with your head to know that you will only be working for another 15 to 25 months. Look at it this way - worst case 93% of our work life is done. Not that our work life has been hard time in the classic sense but we both work VERY hard. You don't rise high in the executive ranks of a major corporation or earn a PhD and become a domain expert in your industry by slacking off. And now that it is almost over, it is becoming even harder.

Another aspect that makes this time particularly difficult is that we are now financially in a position to go cruising. I have done a huge amount of research into what it costs to cruise as I wanted to be sure that once we started to live the dream that dream could continue until we were ready to dream another dream. Makara herself and the equipment necessary to take her on a circumnavigation that will likely touch both horns (Cape Horn at the tip of South America and the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of Africa) is a substantial financial investment. But once that investment has been made, and paid for, the ongoing costs to cruise are fairly modest. Recently we reached a trip point where we are in position to meet both financial demands. Rather than that being a freeing moment, it just has made the waiting for Makara all that much more difficult.

Lately it seems that in every free moment thoughts and conversation drift to Makara. But nothing is going to slake our desire to get our hands on Makara…nothing but Makara.

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