Tuesday October 24. My plans after the successful hull repair.

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 24th, 2017

Besides yesterday’s good news on the repair progress, I can also report good news on my back injury recovery. For the first month after the surgery there was no noticeable improvement. 

My daughter, Jeannine, is coming to spend Thursday and Friday with me here and lend a helping hand and then take me back to their home in Chesapeake. I take the train from Newport News to Baltimore airport on Monday the 30th and arrive that evening at Sea-Tac for a 40 day visit. My return flight on December 12th comes in late and I may rent a car to make a short trip to New York/ Rhode Island to check out potentials for my engine replacement. I had planned to be back in the water by now and move the boat back to Portsmouth, Va. where I am closer to supplies for the repairs to the interior. Now I will probably not be ready to sail away until well into the Spring. If it becomes too close to the start of the Hurricane season I will probably make the loop into the Great Lakes I had intended for this year. Rose Marie, my second oldest daughter, turns fifty on February 3rd. and just like with Lisa’s 50th birthday it will most likely be another family celebration and I count on flying again on a pass from Laura to the Northwest.

In my August 2nd blog I detailed the financial challenge in resurrecting “Fleetwood”. The insurance paid the $19,400 for the wreck removal, and I paid the towing company $19,000. The surgery bills took a good bite out of my savings, even after the Medicare payments. Since the shipwreck I have drawn down my savings from $ 10,000 to $ 4,000. It would have made more financial sense to walk away from “Fleetwood” and purchase a $ 10,000 or less fixer-upper. But I have no regrets, yet. “Fleetwood” launched in 1980 has been part of me for nearly half of my life. If I pace my self with the help of each month’s almost $ 2,000 social security check and find a reasonably priced engine replacement I might not need any more financial help. In 2010 I had to replace my old Renault Couach engine in Romania on the Danube. That cost me $ 8,000 but I managed to pull it off without donations. But if the well runs dry I will take you up the offers I have already received. I will do my very best to keep entertaining you with my adventures. Treating yourself or as gifts with my books “SoloMan” and/or “The Mastmakers’ Daughters” helps the cause directly. Also I am available for slide show presentations of my adventure for the privilege of selling and signing my books.

In my August 2nd blog I wrote: “I am looking to replace the one cylinder 10 1/2 HP engine with a two cylinder 12 to 18 hp, Kubota (Nani N-14) or Mitsubishi (Sole Mini 17) block, Westerbeke 12-D or a Yanmar YM2GM or similar in a good used or rebuilt engine. Preferably near the Chesapeake Bay.” If anyone has any leads for me, please, contact me. So far I have not had much luck finding this. My Schadenfreude side hopes that some salvaged engines from the hurricanes will show up in the market.  Maybe someone knows of a marine industry company who would like to be on my sponsor section for a discount on a new engine. The blog and my Youtube videos get around. Since I started my first Go-Pro videos a year ago I have attracted an active following. One video has had over 5,576 views. Richard Spindler, founder of Latitude-38, has given me lots of exposure and I run into sailors all over the globe familiar with the boat name.

Monarch on their migration to Mexico

Monarch on their migration to Mexico

Cotton ready for the picking.

Cotton ready for the picking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a couple pictures taken with my $29.95 Wallmart smart phone or my Akaso EK7000 action camera. Both are only good for short distances. I have postponed spending money on a direct reflex camera like the old Nikon D-50 I ruined in the wreck. If you happen to have one extra to give away or trade for my books , in the Northwest, you’ll be getting real photography again.  

 

Monday October 23rd. The hull repair of “Fleetwood” ‘s stranding was a success

Written by Jack van Ommen on October 23rd, 2017

It has been a while since I posted my last blog. Over a month. I had expected to have the good news, of the successful repair, weeks ago but I ran into a number of delays, figuring no news is good news. There was a lot of doubt if I would be able to pull it off, not in the least on my part. So, today is a big day and I look forward to long list of work to do, now the main repair is accomplished, and equipment to procure to get back on the water.

I have a 7 minute video of  the repair at: https://youtu.be/Ia64vaUW3bw showing details of the repair, including today’s carbon fiber reinforcement. I had a lot of help and advice from Todd Dhabolt who built the boat from a kit I had sold him in 1984 and from George Whisstock, the creator of the NAJA kit. 

I have also had a lot of help here from the people of Cape Charles Yacht Center. The town and surroundings have grown on me and I have made up a 13 minute video that will give you a sense of the unique location:  https://www.youtube.com/edit?o=U&video_id=OrUT82hXjfM

There is also a 2 minute movie on the unusual flying inflatable/ amphibious ultralight/annexe volante/fliegendes Gummiboot: https://youtu.be/5sgnnhnlHLw

It is getting late. But I wanted to get the good news out. Tomorrow is supposed to be a rainy day and I’ll follow up with my visiting schedule to the Pacific Northwest in November/December and my plans for the rest of the boat repair and plans for the coming year.

 

Tuesday September 19. Along the way of José.

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 19th, 2017

White caps, rain squalls and bent over pine tree tops from the western edge of the northward path of José. Just in time, yesterday, the keel-stepped mast was lowered and the wasted diesel engine removed. The crew at the Cape Charles Yacht center did an excellent job. This was the first time the mast was unstepped since “Mariah” was launched in 1986. FHD0028

I am getting closer to start the repair of the split chine. This takes the weight of the mast off the keel and places it on the part of the boat above the split. The plan is to use a combination of a hydraulic jack and the support stanchions to close the gap.  

Since my previous blog, on the Labor Day weekend, there has been no reason to go back to Chesapeake. I had my physical therapy consultation on the 5th and have a program to do daily exercises.

Last Sunday was the annual parish picnic for the Saint Charles of Borromeo church. My new friends, Ralph and Jeanette, came to get me for the gathering at the nearby Kiptopeke Sate Park. Father Michael Breslin said mass. The parish latino marriage singers accompanied the liturgy and songs in Spanish. At communion they played and sang my very favorite, Spanish/English hymn, because it is so very appropriate in my life style. http://”Pescador de Hombres” or “Lord you have come to the sea shore”, just like I reported in my blog last January 16th from Puntarenas, Costa Rica

I get goose bumps at:

Señor, me has mirado a las ojos
sonriendo, has dicho mi nombre
en la rena, he dejado mi barca
junto a ti, buscaré otro mar

O Lord, in my eyes you were gazing, Kindly smiling, my name you were saying;  All I treasured, I have left on the sand there; Close to you, I will find other seas.

Here is a short video of the six teenagers performing a traditional Mexican folk dance at the picnic.

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Sunday September 3rd. Labor Day weekend.

Written by Jack van Ommen on September 3rd, 2017

Last weekend I returned to Chesapeake to attend the funeral service for a friend-parishioner of St. Thérèse church. Back in Cape Charles, it has been raining and windy practical all week. But there is plenty of work still to do inside the boat. Still ripping out wiring and cabinetry. Friday I spent the afternoon just to try and remove the top of the chart-table that turned out to be fastened with contact cement. It took for ever breaking it loose with wooden wedges. I started in the bow and now have the quarter berth and under the cockpit sole left to remove the last of the mud and salt deposits.

I have been attending the local St. Charles of Borromeo church here, established in 1886. Very nice friendly community. Pitch pine 1x 3 and 1x 4 T&G flooring and pine pews. When I get a better camera again I’ll post picture of the roof of the sanctuary, which make the bowed triangles look like the inside hulls of old fishing dories. On the occasion of the national holiday we sang “God Bless America” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. I find today’s second reading very appropriate in these troubled times, from Paul’s letter to the Romans 12:2

“Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect ”  

Rev. J.Michael Breslin

Rev. J.Michael Breslin

There is a brisk cool breeze blowing from the west. We are promised a better sunnier warmer day tomorrow on Labor Day. I will go back to Chesapeake tomorrow evening to have my first consultation for a physical therapy regime to improve my back. 

 

Sunday August 27th. In the Sunday newspaper.

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 27th, 2017

By Toby Tate
Correspondent

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Imagine being out to sea alone on a 30-foot boat and waking with a jolt at 4 a.m. when your vessel suddenly runs aground in pitch-black darkness.

That was the scenario experienced by 80-year-old Jacob “Jack” Van Ommen on June 24 as he was leaving Portsmouth, Va., on his way to a boat show at Mystic Seaport, Conn.

“I had cleared the lower Eastern Seaboard peninsula sailing N.E. and felt safe to set the alarm and take a one hour nap,” Van Ommen wrote on his blog.

Van Ommen’s boat was near Mink Island off the Va. coast when he felt the boat jerk him awake. By the time he discovered the problem, it was already too late.

“When I saw the water coming in, at first slowly, but then faster, I figured the boat would be lost,” Van Ommen told The Daily Advance. “And that is when I called the mayday in and set off the alarm on the De Lorme In Reach satellite tracker.”

Already exhausted, Van Ommen managed to drag his life raft from below deck and deploy it as the water reached knee-high level. Twenty minutes later, he heard the rotating blades of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from the U.S. Coast Guard base in Elizabeth City.

The incident happened so quickly, Van Ommen was able to salvage a few things, including the ship’s log—unfortunately, he didn’t have time to find his pants.

“All that I wore was a t-shirt, wool sweater and my under shorts and boat shoes,” he said.

Van Ommen recently had a chance to personally thank the crew of the helicopter at a press conference held by the Coast Guard on Aug. 16 in Portsmouth and attended by several Hampton Roads TV news channels.

Included in that meeting was Petty Officer 2nd Class Brittany Wygand, who received the distress call, and Petty Officer 3rd Class John Fuller, the rescue swimmer who brought Van Ommen in.

“I remember that it was very early in the morning. We got a call saying ‘Mayday’ over the radio,” Wygand told WAVY TV10.

Fuller said he was amazed and inspired to rescue someone as interesting as Van Ommen.

“He’s an 80-year-old man who’s been sailing all over the world these past few years. He’s seen so many things in his life,” Fuller said.

Van Ommen, originally from Holland, has been sailing since he was a teen. He traveled all over Europe until the of age 19, when he moved to the U.S. and was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1961. Although he still travels the world, his homeport is in Gig Harbor, Washington.

But this is not the first time Van Ommen has lost a boat—the first time was on Nov. 16, 2013, during an around-the-world trip which ended on the island of Tago Mago, off the coast of Spain, with his boat smashed and Van Ommen climbing treacherous, slippery rocks to safety. This shipwreck, strangely enough, also happened at 4 a.m.

Not surprisingly, Van Ommen is already rebuilding his boat, The Fleetwood.

“‘Fleetwood’ because I have been in the wood business from age 17,” he said. “Plywood remains my preference, for weight, aesthetics, strength and a lot simpler to repair than fiberglass. Also my first car I owned was a Chevrolet Fleetline.”

Even at 80, and with a compressed spine caused by a nasty fall during a storm, Van Ommen said he has no intention of slowing down.

“I will keep on sailing until I drop,” he said. “It is the least expensive way for me to have a roof over my head and at the same time I can move around and see more beautiful places and meet more interesting people. I do not plan very far ahead.”

He also has some advice for other, younger would-be boaters.

“Curiosity is what drives me, the sailing is fun but it is more important as an inexpensive way to see the world,” he said. “You need to be properly prepared and know something about sailing and navigation and start with a small boat. Keep it simple. The sailors I have seen stuck forever in the same spots are the ones with too big a boat with too many delicate conveniences that keep breaking down and are too difficult to handle when the couples grow older.”

Van Ommen, who has been married once and whose granddaughter recently returned from deployment aboard the USS George H.W. Bush, said that his faith is what keeps him afloat and gives him the strength to go on.

“God seems to take care of me and every apparent setback turns into another positive outcome,” he said. “My faith is the most important assist in my life. The main thing I find in my faith is gratitude for all that the Creator provides for free and the promise of a better life in the resurrection. I therefore also have no fear of death.”

Van Ommen wrote about his amazing life beginning as a child during WWII through his exploits as a boater, in “Soloman,” a memoir available in both English and Dutch from Amazon in eBook and paperback.

His first book, “The Mastmaker’s Daughters,” reveals the life of his mother, gleaned from her own journals. A survivor of the Nazi concentration camps in WWII., she was given over to the Germans by her own cousin, a Nazi sympathizer. ( note by JvO: This is incorrect, the leader of her resistance organization was betrayed by a family member)

Van Ommen’s blog, which features his ongoing adventures, can be found at www.cometosea.us .

 

Saturday August 26th. A weekend break in Chesapeake.

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 26th, 2017

This week I worked from Wednesday through Friday on the boat repairs in Cape Charles. There are no more back consultations or deployment home comings on the agenda and I expect to stay for a spell at Cape Charles. I am still in the clean up process. In order to get in all the nooks and crannies it requires disassembling all the built ins, the galley, head cabinets, under berth lockers, removing the holding tank and kerosene heater a hundred wires, etc. Some of the brass screws have corroded in the saltwater and are impossible to bring out, involving drilling off the heads. Very time consuming but it will be a good excuse to revarnish the interior, repaint the ceiling and replace the original pink… formica after the structural repairs are done.IMG_20170823_101028

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Before and after. The mud has been scraped and vacuumed then in the 2nd picture washed down with the water hose and scrub pads and sponge. I do this in as little clothes as is legal and feels like warm water therapy in a mud pool.Next I hand pump the bilge water overboard.

If I abandon this foolish project and leave unpaid bills behind you can blame my oldest daughter, Lisa. Like many other concerned family members and some friends they wonder and suggest that I could save my self a lot of hard work and money by buying an other boat. On the telephone a couple days ago I argued with her that I don’t want a plastic boat, I want nothing but a Naja and that there are none to be had any longer, I meant North America. After I hang up she sends me a mail with the following ad: http://www.apolloduck.nl/boat.phtml?id=503172  $5,000 wit a little work and an engine replacement, in England. With my second shipwreck I must have stilled the appetite for Apollo Duck to mention that another Naja, the “Fleetwood”, has circumnavigated. I saw this on a couple ads in Europe for used Najas before. 

IMG_20170825_063444This is a photograph of a picture hanging in the harbor master’s office at the Cape Charles Yacht Center. I added the texts. This shows the entire southern tip of the Virginia Eastern Shores. 

I have found a shortcut to walk to breakfast in town, the beach cruiser has a flat front tire, along a railroad track. And I keep discovering new plants I have never seen before. There is so much more variety here in the wild flowers, trees, butter &-dragon flies and song birds, compared to the West Coast. Since I have arrived here on June 2nd there has never been a need for watering the lawns and everything is lush and green. I want to reincarnate a farmer in eastern Virginia, growing lush crops of corn, cotton, peanuts, soy beans, tobacco every conceivable cereal. The accented scents by the warm humid air. I like it here.

note the fruits/seed pods on this vine

note the fruits/seed pods on this vine

note honey bees

note honey bees

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Buckeye

Buckeye on the inside of the netting on my tent, next to “Fleetwood”

a water spout off Cape Charles Yacht Center, photographed on 8/25 by Rob Maguire, the Harbor Master

a water spout off Cape Charles Yacht Center, photographed on 8/25 by Rob Maguire, the Harbor Master

 

 

Monday August 21. Homecoming of a sailor girl.

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 26th, 2017

My granddaughter Gabrielle came home today on the USS George W. Bush aircraft carrier from a seven month deployment. And another 7,999 sailors she shared the voyage with. The parents, my daughter Jeannine and her husband Sean McDonnell joined the crew as part of the 600 relatives/significant others on the “Tiger” cruise from Mayport (near Jacksonville) Florida for the home leg. 

The atmosphere and enthusiastic crowd are best seen on this short video which I put together with the help of Gabrielle’s friend, Elizabeth Seebo: BUSH WELCOME 

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Saturday August 19th. Cape Charles Cup regatta

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 24th, 2017

The 14th annual Leo Wardrup Memorial Cape Charles Cup participants are coming in to the harbor. Eighty four boats registered for this 20 mile sail from Little Creek on the north shore of Norfolk side of the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. This evening they are dining and partying at The Oyster Farm Marina at Kings Creek and racing back the same way tomorrow. The event draws many visitors and a band concert is given in the town’s park this evening. 

The schooner “Virginia” won her class, she always does because she has a class of its own. She takes up 122 feet of the Cape Charles Yacht Center dock.

Virginia state flag on starboard spreader and California on port. Apparently a west coast passenger. But not sure what the (looks like) USA flag is for on the forward mast port spreader.

Virginia state flag on starboard spreader and California on port. Apparently a west coast passenger. But not sure what the (looks like) USA flag is for on the forward mast port spreader.

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Wednesday August 16. On the evening news.

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 16th, 2017

Shortly after the shipwreck I was invited by LTJG Brad Millikken of the Portsmouth Virginia, Hampton Roads sector, US Coast Guard station, to meet the crew who coordinated the rescue with the Helicopter personnel. Today I had the pleasure to thank the men and women. The chopper crew stationed in Elizabeth City N.C. sent the rescue swimmer Sam Fuller out to our meeting. I was very impressed with the command center. It looked like pictures we have seen of the Cape Kennedy Space Center. At least ten men sitting behind their computer screens monitoring the traffic and emergency calls. The three main TV stations were present to cover the encounter.

You can view the streaming of their part of this evening’s news at:

Local Channel 10 WAVY.COM -FOX. This is the most complete coverage.

Local Channel 3  WTKR-CBS This is a shorter version

Local Channel 13 13newsnow.com This is an excellent photo gallery 

With Sam Fuller, the rescue swimmer

With Sam Fuller, the rescue swimmer. Photo by Channel 13news.com 

 

 

Wednesday August 16. Enjoying my free gifts.

Written by Jack van Ommen on August 16th, 2017

When I am asked: “What is your favorite spot you visited on your travels?” I answer that my very first stop, the Marquesas, tops the list and that Romania is next. The Marquesas steep volocanic formations covered with magnificent lush tropical splendor, in an unspoiled isolation are an obvious contender. But Romania needs an explanation. You need to look up the details and photographs in “SoloMan”.  In a nutshell: I spent parts of all four seasons in Calafat and Zimnicea, about 50 miles apart on the most southern part of Romania on the Danube. It is also an unspoiled isolated part of the world. You will not find it advertised anywhere as a tourist destination. Only a handful of European bicycle tourist pass through here on their way to the Black Sea. It was for me the first opportunity to watch the changing nature, the fall harvesting, winter plowed fields, Gypsy farmers collecting firewood, spring blossoms, summer fruit. Growing up in the city I never experienced this progressive scenario. This long stay on the Danube was caused by the time it took to try and revive my old Renault engine and then to install the replacement.

I am getting another taste of it here in Cape Charles but hope that it will not end up in another of Vivaldi’s Le quattro stagioni. Time stood still in Cape Charles. Until the Chesapeake Bay bridge/tunnel was built it was the rail ferry terminal for the Atlantic sea board. But it has changed since I stopped here on my 2008 Chesapeake Bay cruise. It has a world class golf course, tourism is on the increase, and the Cape Charles Yacht Center has become a popular destination for the sail and power boat cruisers. They recently brought one of the 75 ton super large travel lifts across the continent from the Port of Skagit county, Washington. “Fleetwood” is sitting on a large grass field. I managed to get the port bunk cleaned up enough to sleep on board. It is on a dead end road and the only noises I hear are the crickets and cicadas during the night. Behind a strip of tall Pine trees I hear the braying of a donkey as soon as I stick my head out of the companion way.  You might consider a donkey as an upgrade from your guard dog. My favorite stainless steel folding bike went to the dumpster, this stainless steel does stain. The Marina has a nice beach runner bike for their visitors and I have been able to get around much better than walking across the rail road tracks to town. Yesterday morning, on the road side, I came upon these glorious glorified morning glories and it turns out they are related, Wild Potato Vine. Their roots are very similar to a sweet potato and are edible. For these kind of pictures I wished that I still had my Nikon D50, instead of my cheap smart phone. When there are still savings left after the rebuild I shall look for a replacement.IMG_20170815_074943

There are cotton fields all around the area which are now in bloom, pretty white and red flowers. I have seen cotton fields just before and after harvesting but never green plants with colorful flowers. The other crops here are peanuts, soy beans and potatoes. Lots of Ospreys and I can still fool them with my two finger imitation of their shrill calls. 

I love the Northwest but the southeast has more bird and flower variety. When I was waiting for the insurance decision I’d take my first caffè latte to the porch at my daughter’s house at the crack of dawn, say my prayers and watch the squirrels. The neighbor across the street must have a rabbit lair. IMG_20170808_181851One morning I saw one of this year’s crop stand on his hind legs and rub his front paws just like he saw the squirrels do. One of them made it into our backyard. The mocking birds sing, the incredible bright colored cardinals fly across. One evening at dusk I saw a fire fly, which I have not seen since I was a child. The ground and vegetation smells are much more pronounced than in the lower humidity of the Northwest. 

It seems that the fewer “things” I own, the more I enjoy and appreciate the apparent small free pleasures of God’s creation.