Velella's Drift

An account of Velella's voyage from Seattle to New York via Panama, 2009-2011

Archive for January, 2010

It’s Hollywood, baby!

My commitment to this blog is often the subject of debate between Meghan and I. I have no good excuse for my lack of posts, just that I’m “feeling it” less frequently than Meghan is. Still, seeing that the previous five posts were Meghan’s, it is inarguably my turn to contribute something.

We are in Los Angeles. We have been here for going on two months. And in my PERSONAL estimation, it’s not been so bad.

We’ve managed to find the only quiet niche in this gigantic city. Our slip in Marina Del Rey is off the beaten path, meaning no nearby roads and little commercial development. We are right next to the public restrooms, a minute away from a grungy coffee shop where we work on our computers, and two minutes away from a grungy but private beach. The privacy is the most appealing attribute of our new home. Rarely is anyone else on our dock. Yes, there are a handful of weirdos who hang out in the vicinity, but they are quickly becoming OUR weirdos. We have now made an acquaintance with most of them, so if we can’t avoid them on the dock ramp, at least we can address them by their first name. They are minor annoyances, all of them, but I know we will miss them when we move on. In short, we have a community.

It helps too that we are finding work. Meghan is starting her job at West Marine next week (distraught at the thought of having to wear khakis to work). I have a short stint on a commercial. We’ve both been doing odd jobs in the meantime. We haven’t yet found the money that’s going to get us out of LA, but it’s to keep us from sinking deeper into our savings. The best thing is that enables us to explore the wonderful world of freelance. We’re both submitting articles (though only Meghan’s are being published), and I’m submitting my first D&D adventure for publication while also wrangling up video work.

It’s a scrappy way to live. Instead of the all-or-nothing lifestyle of a salary job, where you either get a flat paycheck or else you’re fired, as a freelancer you fight for every dollar. You’re constantly on the hunt for a way to make a couple hundred dollars. And when you find something, you pursue it with full force. Every moment is a fight for sustenance: When you’re not writing proposals or working on your projects, you’re thinking of new ways to make some scratch. You’re never off the clock, but then neither do you ever have to do something you don’t want to. Is this project worth my time? The decision is yours and yours alone. It’s a new, very appealing way to live.

Finally, I enjoy the wheeling and dealing that goes on in LA. It’s all about networking, and I like that nobody pretends it isn’t. I knew two people coming down here, and had phone numbers for two more. I called up the phone numbers and invited them to coffee. Each coffee date got me three more phone numbers, and one of those got me the commercial I’m on next week. In the meantime I have people asking around for more video and writing gigs. There’s a world of opportunity, especially when you’re starting at the bottom. My ultimate hope for Los Angeles is that Meg and I can live so cheaply, we can save up for our departure by doing what we really want: Writing articles and peddling our ideas.

So there’s my two cents on LA and the trip thus far. It’s good. Getting better all the time. I don’t know how anything else in life could top this, but when we do finally arrive in New York, we’re going to be equipped to handle anything.


2010, Bigger than 2009

Our holidays were far from silent. We spent a week house-sitting in a friend’s swanky apartment (i.e. lounging in the rooftop hot tub and lavishing ourselves with hot showers, dishwashers, and other non-boat luxuries). Then we flew to Minnesota for a visit with the Cleary family, some cross-country skiing and hearthside holiday festivities, and to remind ourselves of one good reason to love southern California: it’s not 17 degrees below zero.

We’ve been in a limbo here for some time, a classic chicken-egg situation. We need land-based jobs but in order to do that we need a slip on land, which are hard to come by. We can’t sign a lease on a slip until we have land-based jobs and know we can afford it. This game of risk, on top of the hunt for a moorage and employment, has been wearing us both out.

Point Fermin, San Pedro

As if by some Christmas miracle, we met the godfather of dockmasters at Dolphin Marina. In a land of outrageous prices, unreasonable people, and far too many blondes, our dockmaster is none of the above. He’s basically agreed to allow us to pay whatever we can afford for the slip, and I don’t know how we could have stayed in LA (let alone survived beyond that) without his help. Securing a “home” here was half the battle and now we can half-relax.

I openly hate LA, especially “LA on a budget,” but secretly am beginning to like certain things about it. Our dockmaster is one example. The funny beach-bikes everybody rides is another. Most importantly, our new home in LA is in a prime location, nestled in a quiet neck of Marina del Rey with no roads. Everywhere you go here there’s a big busy road– and we’re pedestrians in city where everyone owns two cars. But our slip is a the edge of a pedestrianized walkway along the waterfront, with buildings behind, and a little-used cul-de-sac on the other side. There’s a miniature beachfront at the end of our channel that is nowhere near as glutted as Venice Beach, and a “mariners’ market” a couple steps away for necessities. Despite all the privacy, we are only about 5 blocks from the Big Beach–Venice Pier, a million volleyball courts, and mad surf.

We’ve been pedaling around as far as our foldable bike can reach to drop off resumes. I had a dream yesterday that if I was able to complete a Sudodu puzzle (a feat often tried on this trip but never surmounted by my feeble brain), that I would then be able to get a job. So I laid in bed and forced myself to place and undo the knot of numbers until I got them all to fit perfectly. And an hour later I got an interview. So Sudoku is my new religion.

Because things are looking up (thanks Sudoku), we’re in full-swing planning mode to skip town again next fall. Here is an *excerpt from our list. This is why we haven’t been writing so much lately:

-Buy/install self-steering wind vane

-Buy/install HF SSB radio transciever/antenna/modem

-Rebuild the head (yum)

-Acquire a whisker pole

-Make a chain-locker divider for the anchor rodes so we can carry both foreword in the bow

-Create screens for all the portholes (we ain’t in Washington anymore!)

-Sew a harbor awning and make long wooden fender-protector for shitty Mexican docks

-Touch up spar paint, re-varnish handrails and hatches, oil the coamings, and recaulk decks

-Haul out and repaint bottom, increasing the waterline, service thru hulls, zincs, etc.

And these are just the big things. As it should be, the list has grown to be proportional to the trip we’re taking. The trip kicked off in 2010 promises to be a big and sunny one, and it will take us all the way to New York without major 9-month layovers. Meanwhile, we have the Channel Islands at our doorstep, and the Pacific within earshot to ensure we will not be “swallowing the hook” in LA.

Entrance to Marina del Rey