Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Light Tricks

Vero Beach, Florida

Look at the picture below. It shows one of two gimballed oil lamps we have on board, and the light patterns on the wall when the sun streams through the portholes and the lamp's globe.   We see the same patterns with both lamps and with light coming from any one of six portholes.

As you can see, the pattern is dominated by horizontal lines.  No such lines are visible in the glass.  Both oil lamps make similar patterns.  I've tried cleaning the globes with vinegar to see if it might be dirt on the glass causing the lines.  Nope.  

The porthole glass is tempered.  I suppose it is possible that the light coming through them is polarized.  But I can't see how that plays any role.  Besides, the different portholes would have random polarization orientations, but the lines are horizontal no matter which porthole the light comes in.

You can see in the picture that light from the portholes that does not go through the lamp globe has no pattern.

I just noticed that the picture shows something that is not visible to my naked eye.  I see spider-web like connections between the lamp and the wall.  It looks like the light rays cross forming an X pattern in the air.  Hmm, very interesting but I still don't see how that makes the lines.

Could it be constructive/destructive interference as light rays reach the wall via two different paths?

To me, this is an unexplained mystery.  Why the lines in the light pattern? Is this something a PHD candidate could write a thesis on?  I could spend days staring at that pattern trying to understand it.  What do readers say?  Please comment.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Our Traditional Dilemma

Vero Beach
27 39.650 N 080 22.279 W
We might be ready to depart on Tuesday. However, the next weather window to go outside won't come until Friday at best, and even that is iffy. Should we sit and wait for a window? Should we move on up the ICW looking for a window day by day?
We have agonized about exactly that dilemma many times in the past. We've made the former choice and regretted it. We've made the latter choice and regretted it. There is no right/wrong answer.
One major factor, from here north to Cape Canaveral we can go outside and jump into The Gulf Stream. If we did that, and if we had favorable winds, we could be in Beautort, NC in three days.
If we go up the ICW north of Cape Canaveral, the coast goes NW while the Gulf Steam doesn't. Going outside at Fernandina, the Gulf Stream is more than 100 miles east. It means that using the Gulf Stream's boost is impractical. With favorable winds, we could sail from Fernandina to Beaufort in 3 days, the same number of days as if we had just sat and waited here! So what't the point, why justify the expense of motoring up the ICW for three days?
On the other hand, we can sit here and come Friday we find that the window dissapeared. Wait another week, and that window disappers too. All the time, we are feeling more and more antsy. There is no upper limit on how long the wait might be. Hard core cruisers who almost never use their engines, need flexibility of departure/arrival dates of +/- two months!
But what I said is not totally true. I recall one skipper of a W42 (sorry, I forgot his name). He was not afraid of being stuck at sea with too little wind, nor afraid of being stuck out there in a storm. Not even north winds opposing the Gulf Stream currents would discourage him. He would go out at Fort Pierce and head for NC, not caring if it will take 3 or 30 days to get there. Hats off to him, but it's not for us.
Commercial delivery skippers are also different. They tend to depart on the first possible day, and hardly look at the weather forecast. But deliveries tend to have ample crew on board, and none of the crew are their family, and the vessels they risk loosing are not their homes.
So, which choice will we make this time? Stand by.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Feels Like (Yet Another) Home

Vero Beach, Florida
I've been through this before. Long time blog readers have too. Where is our home? Whatever the answer to that, Vero Beach feels like home. I could walk around much of this city at night, blindfolded, without stubbing my toe.
Yesterday we got into a real mess on the Saint Lucie Canal. We came to the end of the canal behind a tug pushing two barges. But the lock seemed to be jammed up. It seems that another tug pushing two other barges in the other direction arrived earlier in the day. It pushed one of the barges into the lock, then backed off. The barge was so big, that nothing could fit in the lock with it.
So the lock lifts the barge. What now? There was no way to get the barge out of the lock. On the Erie Canal, locks have powerful electric windlasses that can pull vessels without a tug boat. If they had one here, it wasn't working. Apparently, the barge had been in the lock most of the day. There was a huge backup of boats on the other side waiting to get through.
Finally the tug in front of us agreed to help. But it would take a half day to do all the maneuvers before it would be our turn. We gave up, and pulled into a slip at the Corps of Engineers Camp Site which happened to be right there.
Today, was a fine day on the water. We feared heavy holiday boat traffic near the Saint Lucie inlet, but traffic was light.
We'll stay in Vero just a few days to do errands, and to buy clothes for the coming year, then we'll head north. Ideally, we'll be able to go out to sea at Fort Pierce and go nonstop to North Carolina. But the chances of the weather cooperating that much are slim. We'll see.
By the way. Vero is a very rich town. The Salvation Army/Goodwill/consignment shops here are excellent. I joke that Vero has the only Goodwill with a Gucci section. We buy all our clothes here. Amazing bargains.
Both Libby and I need new glasses. We'll get our eye tests here, order online at zenni optical, and have them shipped to Dave & Cathy in North Carolina.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Hate NWS

Clewiston, Florida
26 45.401 N 080 55.218 W
Well, after two excellent nights at Labelle, and two times at the Log Cabin BBQ Restsurant, we decided to leave. Out plan was to go to Moore Haven, spans the night there and cross Lake Okechoobe tomorrow. You see they forecasted thunderstorms this afternoon and tomorrow afternoon, and we don't want to be on thst lake during a severe thunderstorm. Part of the plan is to be well past Saint Lucie Inlet before Easter Sunday. That place is on of the worst for holiday boat traffic.
My plan was flawed. The place I thought we could tie up in Moore Haven wasn't there. So, we planned to tie up to a barge. That turned into one of the most frightening experiences we ever had on the boat. I'll blog about it someday, but not today. Anyhow, we were forced to continue another 12 miles to Clewiston and tie up at an expensive marina. I called ahead to reserve a place.
Now for the angry part. Looking st the radar, I could see a huge rainstorm coming from the south, clearly, it would reach us before we reached the dock. There are no safe places to anchor or tie up in the canal we were traversing. So I checked the National Weather Service.
Sure enough, they warned about a severe thiunderstorm, damaging hail, frequent lightning, and strong winds. Damn. We were very exposed, and I couldn't beat the storm, the only thing to do was to be stoic, and not tell Libby about the warnings. In reality. I was very worried.
Well, the storm hit us. It was mild. Just rain, no hail, only a few lightning strokes, and the wind speed dropped from 15 to zero. Those people at NWS are forever overdramticiazing their warnings. I'm sure it is a matter of CYA. They can't get sued for over warning, only for under warning. But it tees us boaters off.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bella Bella Labelle

Labelle, Florida
26.7606 N 081.4392 W
According to Libby and i, this tiny city of 4.570 people is the most charming place we know in all of Florida. It can't compete with Marathon as a haven for cruisers, but in pure charm it wins. Consider a few of the following facts.
Lavelle offers free docks with electricity and water for boaters. Those docks were completely rebuilt and modernized last year.
I'm writing right now from a coffee shop one block away from the dock.
The sidewalks in Labelle detour around the roots of live oak trees instead of cutting through the tree's space.
Labelle is the home of the best restaurant in America (according to us). It is The Log Cabin BBQ. I started salivating just thinking about that as we passed through Fort Myers. We ate there last night, and will again tonight. I'm thinking about lunch.
The speed bumps in Labelle have signs that say "Traffic Calming Area"
The air conditioned library is only 100 feet away from the dock.
The town fills up with hoards of Mexican agricultural workers on some days. Numerous local businesses cater to them. It's like a vacation trip to Mexico.
Labelle hosts the Swamp Cabbage Festival.
Consider the dress and attitude. The picture above shows a man in the coffee shop. He was a tall man, with a ten gallon hat, big boots, a middle aged belly, and red suspenders. In Texas he would have been an LBJ lookalike and quite an intimidating presence. In Labelle, he wore short shorts and his legs looked like Flamingo legs. That makes quite a different impression.
A nature trail a few blocks away leads down to the river. It compares with Cumberland Island as a nice trail.

We can buy mangrove honey here.  This is the only place in the world we know of to buy that.
The approach to Labelle is on the Caloosahachee River. Life along the banks of that river appear to be the best that Florida offers. I compare it to the charm of Otter Creek in Vermont.
Ok, I confess. It was the desire to visit Labelle that made us choose this indirect route to come north from the keys. We will cross Lake Okechobee to reach the East Coast after leaving here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Great Start

At Sea, 25 50.351 N 081 45.478 W
Monday, April 14, 11 AM
It has been a while since we were at sea. Last night was a great start.
We are sailing from Marathon to Fort Myers Beach. A distance of about 110 nautical miles (117 statue miles). The winds are light and we are motoring while sailing.
We departed Marathon Sunday around 5 oclock. (I miss Marathon already!!!) That gave us about three hours of light to get out of the harbor, under the bridge and on course. We chatted with our friends Bob and Sandra on Carpe Diem. They were anchored at Coconut Key for the nighgt. They and we appeaered to be the only vessels in Florida Bay. Amazing. The sky was clear blue and the water turquoise.
As an added treat, we had a nearly full moon. Libby and I love sailing at night with a full moon. It's really beautiful. The moonlight competed with the phosphorenct light in our wake. At first I thought we would be treated to a sight we've never seen before; a lunar eclipse while at sea. But I misread. The eclipse is tonight, not last night. We'll probably be sleeping tonight at 2AM.
Right now, we're passing Marco Island. We should arrive in Fort Meyers Beach after dark. That could be a problem. We may decide to put in at Naples instead because we could be there in daylight. But we've never been in Naples harbor before. We'll see. Tomorrow afternoon might be stormy. We don't want to be exposed then.
One bit of bad luck. We snagged a lobster trap. It must have happend after I went to sleep around 4AM. Libby didn't notice. She turned on the engine, pushed up the throttle and continued. When I got up around 7, I immediately saw that the speed was too low and the engine was laboring too hard. Something was wrong, and I suspected a lobster pot.
So, we stopped the engine. I stripped naked, put out the boarding ladder, put on my mask and snorkel, deployed the boarding ladder, grasped a sharp knife in my teeth and dove in the ocean. Romantic huh? The water was warm which I appreciated.
I checked the propeller and shaft. It was clear. I checked the rudder. Aha! We did have a trap and its line was jammed in the 1/2 in gap between hull and skeg rudder. We have a metal tab that crosses that gap to prevent lines from getting in there, but sometimes it happens anyhow.
During the day, we keep an eye out for lobster traps and avoid them. At night, we can't do that. Many cruisers refuse to sail at night because of that risk. But they have fin keels, spade rudders, and exposed propellers. The likelyhood of them snagging a trap is higher and the severity of the damage is more, than on Tarwathie.
If my memory is correct, this is the fourth time in 9 years and 45,000 miles of cruising that we snagged traps. The worst was in Maine where I nearly succumbed to hyperthermia while cutting it free.
I dove down and cut the line. It only took five seconds. (Having an extremely sharp line-cutting knife on board is very important.)
That fixed, the problem. Speed and engine power returned to normal. I estimate that we must have dragged that trap 15-20 miles. I'll have to train Libby to be on the lookout for such events. But in this case we would have had to wait until daylight to dive. I never would have spotted that black line in the water in the dark.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ready To Leave. Maybe

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida
I really don't want to leave here. It is so nice. But summer and hurricane season approches. Sigh.
I was planning on leaving Monday, and heading for Fort Myers and the Okechobee Waterway, just because we like that. But weather forecasts said it would be better to leave today.
  • Solar panels stowed Check.
  • Go up the mast and inspect the rigging. Check.
  • Test run the engine after the recent work we had done on the alternator. FAIL!
  • Tell the cruisers net that we are leaving. FAIL!
  • Put the Honda generator away and bolt down the cockpit floor for sea. Check.
  • Retrieve my bicycle and check out from the marins. Pending.
  • Put the dinghy on deck. Pending.
  • Re-clean the bottom and prop. Pending.
But wait, what about the two fails? I found a wiring mistake. The alternator lead was hooked to the wrong side of the current measuring shunt. That means it worked OK, but was not measured correctly. If fixed that.
The cruiser's net failed because of some problem with the power wiring to the VHF. It is intermittent. I rewired it a month ago, and it has been working fine until this morning. I'm going to have to rewire it again before leaving. If that doesn't work, we'll have to cancel today's departure.
Gotta run. More work to do. We can leave anttime before dark. By the way, there should be a beautiful full moon tonight. That will be very nice.
If we do leave today, next blog won't be before Tuesday.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Protecting Yourself from Heartbleed

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

I was about to be stampeded into changing all my passwords, when I got the following information from Lookout Mobile Security.  As you can see, changing passwords too fast may work against you.

How can you protect yourself?
Look out for communications from the services you use. As companies patch this vulnerability and secure their own systems, some may send emails or other communications to let you know. Not all services will be communicating about this vulnerability, but you can always contact them to ask if their systems are secure.

Get a new password ready. If you receive communications from any of your service providers telling you that their systems are secure, this is the best time to change your password. Changing your password before a system is secure could actually make your new password easier to intercept.

Download Lookout's Heartbleed Detector. The OpenSSL vulnerability also impacts some Android devices. Although the likelihood that you will encounter an exploit is low, our Heartbleed Detector app will let you know if your operating system is affected by the Heartbleed bug and if the vulnerable behavior is enabled. You can download the app in Google Play now.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Revenge on Murphy

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida
Like all engineers, I'm a big fan of Murphey's Law. If anything can go wrong, it will. I even like to speak as if Murphy was some kind of God-like super being looking down at us and laughing. But another thing that I'm fond of saying is that Murphy's law also applies to Murphy himself; its recursive. Ha ha LOL.
So, it is with particular pleasure that I can report having bested Murphy when finishing my recent deck painting project. In this case, I bought a quart of very expensive Interlux topside paint for $49. I also had a quart of naptha, and a top quality $15 paint brush.
In normal circumstances, the project would require 1.25 quarts of paint and naptha and the brush would harden halfway through. That's Murphey's law. Not only would I be forced to buy more stuff, but I would be forced to carry the leftovers in my paint locker on board the boat for years.
But in this case, I finished the job with less than one ounce of paint and less than one ounce of naptha remaining, and the brush was just beginning to get hard. I was able to trash all three with a good consience. No leftovers for the paint locker.
The mere fact that Murhpy wins 90% of the time makes it more delicious when we win the other 10% of the time.

Monday, April 07, 2014

A Place For Everything. Everything In Its Place.

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

In addition to refinishing the top deck surfaces, we've done quite a bit of rearranging.

  • We stopped carrying our 6 person life raft.  The placard on the raft says that it needs to be certified every year (maybe every 2nd year, I forget).  But the certification costs $850.  We are not about to spend that kind of money unless we are making an ocean crossing.  Therefore, we left the raft in Dave's garage.
  • Without the raft, we found that we miss a key function -- being able to use the raft as a step platform for viewing, and to make it easier to climb the mast.
We also have wanted more on-deck storage.   I thought of a fiberglass dock box.  We see those everywhere, including on boats.  But those boxes are too large for the space and far too expensive -- $400-$1200.
  • I got a quote form a local company to make a custom box from starboard.  It would be on the order of $500.  Too much.
  • Finally, it dawned on me that the dimensions of a box that would fit are almost identical to a common ice chest cooler.   I checked online.  Bingo!  I found a Coleman Marine Cooler almost exactly the specified size.   I bought it for $35 delivered.  Outstanding
Here you see the cooler in its new permanent position, just in front of Tarwathie's mast.  It is strong enough to sit on or stand on.  We can store broom heads, mop heads, gloves, a hammock, a kettle bell, and a tarp in there.  It is securely bolted to the life raft chocks.  By the way, you see two circular ventilation ducts on either side of the cooler.  The one on the left has a winch handle sticking out of it.  We find that to be a very handy place to store the handle for use on the mast winches.

 Behind the cooler and in front of the mast is a secure place to store our canvas sun shade tarps.  Those used to be stored on top of the Turtle and under the dinghy when under sail.

Here you see the turtle.  It is the big square white box between the dinghy chocks.  The turtle covers the companionway hatch and prevents water incursion in case a breaking wave swamps the boat.  We used to store the  tarps there, but now that space on top of the turtle is used to store solar panels when we are under way.

When in use in Marathon, we hang the solar panels on the starboard side, and prop them up at an angle of about 60 degrees. (You can see one of the panels on the left side of the top two pictures. When in use elsewhere, we put the solar panels on top of the flaked mailsail on the boom. They are too big to store below decks, and there is no suitable place on Tarwthie to mount them permanently. This dual in-use and in-storage arrangement for the panels seems to work well.

So, a place for everything and everything in its place.   Life is good.