Monday, September 21, 2009

Dutch Invasion!!!

Kristen here - Today is Monday 9/21/09. Nope, I didn't jump off a bridge after my last post. I was mad at the world and needed to vent. Thanks for listening. I figure what good is this blog if I don't say what I'm feeling. It would be kind of boring and fake. Cruising, like life, has its ups and downs and I'm gonna share them both.

This weekend we went to visit Chris's grandpa, my children's great grandpa. This guy is simply amazing. He is 97 years old and is still quite together. He can still remember everything and even read without glasses! He was in the hospital because he fell, and is having some other problems. The funny part was that he was upset because he was missing bingo back at the assisted living home. I'm glad we're here now and able to spend some time with him while we still can. Everything happens for a reason. He needs blood transfusions more and more frequently, so I'm guessing that his lucidity won't last much longer. I can only hope that we're in such good shape when we're 97!

On Sunday we had two birthday parties. I was so excited for double birthday cake day! Birthday cake is my absolute favorite. And if you pair it with chocolate ice cream I will just go nuts! I woke up that morning with a big smile and thought to myself, "MMmmmmmm today is double cake day!". Then I went for a four mile run in preparation for the massive amounts of cake.

The first party was for a friend of Kaitlin's. Her friend's dad is part owner of a Games2U van, and that was the party. The van is loaded with monitors and video screens. It also comes with outdoor laser tag, and a giant hamster ball. The hamster ball is the biggest attraction. Once that thing comes out it's all over. The kids don't want to do anything else. But can you blame them? It's a giant blow up ball with an inner chamber that you strap yourself to the inside and roll around in. The kids just go wild over it!

The next party was my brother's birthday. His children set up a restaurant and served everyone dinner. We had fresh mozzarella and tomatoes from their garden for an appetizer. There was a choice of quesadillas, lasagna, or burgers for dinner. Finally dessert was a sugar cookie with fresh whipped cream and blueberries! It wasn't cake, but my gosh it was super yummy! While we were there, we told them about our penny stove. They thought it would be a great project for my nephew's boy scout troop, and asked Casey if he could teach it to the group. Casey was a little worried about so many kids working with sharp cans and dremmel tools, but I think he was a little honored too. And, yes, we mentioned the explosion and they weren't even phased! I have a brave brother and sister-in-law

When the kids and I got back from my brothers house, we discovered quite a bit more boats at the yacht club. Chris said that while we were gone, and while he was at the laundromat, a fleet of Dutch boats arrived. Apparently they were going to dock a little farther up the river, next to Albany, but someone miscalculated and didn't take the bridge into consideration. Most of their ships wouldn't fit under it! Bonus for us though! These ships are simply amazing. They don't have keels under the ship, they have flat bottoms. Their keels are boards on the side of the boat that can be pulled up to enter shallow water.

Apparently the Dutch boats were shipped over here and then they sailed up the Hudson River to Albany. I think they're going to be here for a while, so if you're in the area, come down to the Yacht Club and check them out. They are beautiful! On the downside, there is a lot more competition for the showers in the morning now!

I find it kinda funny that Kaitlin is supposed to be studying New York history this year, particularly the Dutch and Colonial periods and already we've seen Dutch ships, gone to a Dutch museum, gone to the NY museum, and the Hudson museum in Kingston. All that and we haven't even started school yet! Although when I asked her how long ago Henry Hudson sailed here, she told me 4 years ago. I think she needs to pay a bit more attention at the museums!

Today was Monday and it was back to work. I kinda look forward to Mondays though. It's a whole week to get things done. Things are picking up, and work is getting accomplished. I have a good feeling that this is a turning point and things will only get better. Don't tell Chris I said that though, because he'll say I'm jinxing us!

Thanks to everyone for hanging in there even though we're not sailing. We'll be out on the high seas again soon enough I'm sure!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm still alive!

Kristen here - Today is Thursday 9/17/09. I've learned a lot since we've come back. I've learned that I hate sitting on by butt all day. I hate being indoors. I hate staring at a tiny computer screen. I hate driving to get my groceries. I hate not having time to do the things I enjoy. I hate being stressed and yelling at everyone because I have no patience. I hate being hyper emotional because I don't know what our future holds. I hate trying to figure out how I'm going to work full time and still home school the children. But most of all, more that all these things put together times a million, I hate not being with my husband and kids all the time.

The fact that this is so heart wrenching to deal with tells me that families were meant to be together like we have been. Even after a few days of being apart, Casey and Kaitlin said they hate not being with us. I felt the same way. I try to tell myself that this is not forever, it is only temporary. We used to live like this, we can do it again for a while. We've only been gone for 8 months. Snap out of it.

At the office, when I'm sitting at my desk, every time I hear footsteps I hope it's one of the kids coming to see me. I can chat with them for a bit, but then I have to ask them to return to the training room so I can work. They've been spending most of their time in the training room, playing on the computers. We also have an x-box set up in the kitchen area. Tomorrow I think I'll bring some school books for them to peruse.

We're still in the process of obtaining this years school books. As soon as we get them we'll officially start school.

I think back to when we went to the last Annapolis boat show. We went to a cruising family seminar. I sat and listened to one family talk about how it was no problem to transition from a cruising life back to a land life. I remember thinking at the time that they were insane. I was right. Either that or they were being paid off! When we visited our friends from AllyCat after they returned home, they said they were having trouble being back as well. Now I understand.

I miss the simple life. There were few choices, so you rarely had to choose. OK, so there was the occasional life threatening storm, but its worth it. We had to pull together, deal with the storm and then it was over. Now the threats are more complex and dealing with them is out of our control and they go on forever. There is no definitive end. Now there is no satellite weather showing when the cloud will pass over you. Come to think of it, there is no warning when the cloud will hit either.

I guess I can't expect sympathy. Everyone has to work, it's a fact of life. But to have found happiness and have it ripped away from you is difficult. When we left I was at my wits end. Maybe that's why I wanted to go so badly. Then I found a life where I didn't have to exercise my butt off at 6 in the morning to remain skinny. I could sit and read a book for more than 5 minutes and not fall asleep. And even if I did fall asleep it was OK. My husband was happy. The children were learning, happy, and being active. Now its back to wits end again.

The good side? I've learned that Chris is truly a changed man. He is much happier dealing with all of this than I ever dreamed he would be. Our trip really has changed him. I would almost go so far as to say he has become an optimist! Well maybe not that big of a change, but he has a better outlook on life than he used to. It's funny because I used to be the positive one, and Chris would be the one planning on the world coming to an end. Now I'm the one curled up in a little ball, and he's the one saying that I'm crazy and everything will be fine.

Time will tell, and it's nothing short of "H E double hockey sticks" working and waiting to see what happens. And even if we end up stopping here, I will always be grateful for the life changing opportunity we have had. But that won't happen, and I know we'll be back out there soon!!!!!!!!!

On the lighter side, Casey and I made this totally awesome camp stove this past weekend! If you go to and look up penny stove you'll find it. It really works and it's free to make. So far we've roasted marshmallows and crescent rolls dipped in cinnamon sugar over it. The thing is truly amazing, and it collapses into the size of a three inch tall juicy juice can! Oh, and we only blew it up once. Remember...not *too* much fuel in the priming area.

So life isn't too miserable. We're having fun still when we can. I apologize for not writing, but it's much easier to ignore everything rather than hash it all out again here. Keep your fingers crossed, and stimulate the economy! Poke it hard if you have to! Buy a car! And if you know of anyone who needs an IT solution in the upstate NY and surrounding area, send them to Buy a router! We need to keep sailing!

I'm working on it...

Chris here... Amazing how much work it is to work! We're leaving every morning at 8 or 8:30, and then we don't get back until 6:30 or 7 every night. I apologize for the lack of blog entries. I'm working on getting Kristen to do one soon, but I'll update y'all shortly if she doesn't. Real quick - we're still plugging away but things are starting to come together at the office. We MAY be able to get out of here at some point, but we're still looking at October at the earliest. We may be chasing everyone down the waterway in the snow again, but at least we're hoping to be back out.

Friday, September 4, 2009


Hello all! Chris here! What a couple of weeks it has been. Kristen and I have been mostly full time at the office, and we've been working to keep the kids somewhat entertained during the entire time. Between hanging out with friends, going to Kristen's parent's house and sitting them in our office break room with the XBox, pool table, air hockey and other fun stuff, we've covered everything except for school. It's been a couple of weeks since we last sat them down with their schoolbooks, but we figure that we can call it Summer break.

We're holed up at the Albany Yacht Club for the next few weeks. It's a good place with decent facilities and the people there have been nice to talk to. What more can you ask? It's been kind of strange having two cars (we left them in the care of one of the people from my office when we left) when we're mostly used to walking or using public transportation in most places. I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing - when you have so much accessible to you, you feel like you need to take advantage of it. I think it was a wonderful decision to bring Pelican up here since coming home to her always puts a smile on our faces. Also, having her here allows us (and Poppi) to do some work on her, such as refinishing the cap rail, and maintenance on our dinghy outboards and generator.

Speaking of maintenance, we found a small problem when we were in Norfolk. Apparently, since we haven't used it since we left Florida in February, the cap on our holding tank pump out (which allows us to get rid of all of our stored "waste products" without pumping them out to the surrounding water, a necessity when you're in closed waters such as the Hudson River) was frozen shut. We tried a million different things, including the use of our gentle persuader (rubber mallet) and our not-so-gentle persuader (hammer) and it just wouldn't budge. We almost used heat from our propane torch until we remembered that the tank would be full of methane gas. Probably not a good idea to put fire near that! Anyway, we ordered a new cap and took the old one off the end of the hose from the holding tank and gave it to Poppi to try to open. From what he told us, it took heating it to red hot and then banging on it with a sledgehammer to finally open it! When he did, he found that the "stainless steel" cap was completely rusted at the base of its threads! Knowing that there are a few varieties of stainless, he took it to his trusty magnet and found that the cap was magnetic. Apparently, it was most likely 304 stainless, which can rust, as opposed to 316, which doesn't. Unfortunately, the new cap we bought is slightly smaller than the old one, so we'll have to epoxy the old spot and drill new holes. Oh well - no boat project is easy.

Getting back to work has been interesting. I find the parallels in cruising and business to be amazing! I'll share with y'all a few things that cruising has taught me over the last nine months. I apologize in advance for possibly coming across as preachy, but when I find a soapbox I enjoy standing on it.

Lesson one: Always be ready to change. I posted on my Facebook account the other day that "Meeting about change is not the same thing as changing." Over the past couple of weeks I've noticed a big aversion to change at my organization. Everyone wants to talk about it, but few step up and embrace it. Decision making goes right along with this too - everyone wants to talk about the fact that a decision has to be made, but nobody wants to be the one to do it. I used to be the same exact way, but cruising has changed that for me. In the fairly unprotected waters of the Bahamas we'd listen to Chris Parker's weather forecasts on a daily basis. When arriving at most islands, we'd want to stay for several days, but every so often Chris would forecast nasty weather or wind arriving in a couple of days. We were always ready to pull up our anchor within 5-10 minutes and to move to a different location. If we didn't make an immediate decision, and we weren't willing to change our location, we'd potentially put ourselves in danger. If we waited to make the decision, the opportunity to change would pass us by and it would be too late. In business, we tend to be the same way - we have meeting after meeting about what we need to do, but the opportunity to take advantage of a situation often passes us by before we seize a hold of it.

Lesson two - Always be prepared, always have the right tools - and know how to use them - to understand your situation, and always hope for the best but prepare for the worst. A couple of weeks ago we got hit by a storm packing 70mph winds. We knew it was coming since we had been watching it all afternoon on our Sirius satellite weather system. We had contacted the Coast Guard to ask them what to expect and they told us 12mph-15mph winds. Looking at all of the reds, oranges and yellows, and all of the lightning strikes, showing on the satellite display, we knew it was going to be much worse than that. We hoped we would be wrong, but we decided to prepare for the worst. We shortened our sails. We tied everything down. We discussed in great detail what everyone's roles were if we got hit badly. And then it hit, but we were ready so we all knew what to do and nothing was damaged, and we weren't hurt. We had prepared. In business, all to often I find people surprised when something happens - we don't get a purchase order in when expected, we don't get paid on time, someone calls in sick on the day of an important meeting. We need to spend more time preparing for the unexpected. We need to understand the tools we have available to us to predict what we don't see today. We need to get the tools we don't yet have.

Which leads me into lesson 3 - Communications is key. Do you think if I had kept my mouth shut when I first saw the storm on the Sirius that we would have made it through? Do you think that if I didn't call out wind speeds and what Pelican was doing while we had 70mph winds pushing us along that we would have survived? I can say the answer to both questions is a qualified "NO". As soon as I saw that we were on a course to potential danger, I spoke up. That enabled the rest of the crew (Kristen and Poppi) to also watch the storm and allowed us to have the opportunity to prepare. There was no reason to weather it myself - everyone who would have a part in our path through it needed to be involved as soon as the I saw the danger. Likewise, if I didn't share with Kristen and Poppi how Pelican was steering and what the windspeed was doing they wouldn't have been able to adjust the sails accordingly and we could have easily broken our rig. Instead, we communicated everything, to a fault, before and during the storm. In business, people often see that an organization is having an issue with something - whether it's customer service related, employee related, financial related, short-term or long-term, is irrelevant. It is absolutely critical that everyone in a business speak up as soon as they identify an issue, large or small, to give the people there the opportunity to fix it. Period. There is absolutely no excuse for anyone at any level to keep their mouth shut. I actually run my business this way, with communications occurring at all levels, from myself down, and I expect from my engineers and account team up.

Lesson four - control only what you can, and don't let the things you can't control get you down. Weather, wind, waves, etc. are all things you can't control. There is absolutely no reason to let things you can't control upset you. There's nothing you can do about them, so why freak out? One of the most overused phrases these days is "it is what it is", but I think it's fairly accurate in most cases. So you can't go to the next island right away. So you miss an event that you wanted to attend. Oh well! The only thing you can affect is the future, not the past (unless you're the press), so why get in the dumps about it? Business is the same way. So you lost a deal - find a new one. So an employee quit - use it as an opportunity to find someone better. So business sucks - figure out why, and fix it! You can feel sorry for yourself, or you figure out a way to make things better.

Last but not least, one of the most important lessons I think - lesson five - A day is what you make of it. If you pay attention to lesson four and don't let everything bug you, you can keep your days incredibly positive. Everyone keeps asking me how I can be so jovial every day, considering that our business is having issues, we're taking a break from our cruise, and we have to work again every day. If I let it get me down, every day would just, well, suck! I have no interest in every day sucking, so I enter each day with a positive attitude. I walk into my office with a big smile on my face, and I do my darndest to keep it there all day. It is absolutely amazing how infectious a positive attitude can be!

So - we're here, we're working on making our company better, and we know we can make it happen if we listen to our own rules. We still need to find a ton of new business to get things better, but we're working hard to make it happen. By the way - I'm looking for new "Linked In" buddies, so look up "Chris Labatt-Simon" and "Kristen Labatt-Simon" on Linked In and send us an invite! Talk to y'all soon!