Saturday, December 31, 2005

Big City Life 12/31

Hollywood, Florida, N26 01 W80 07
December 31, 2005

Today was errand day. We went to NAPA for parts, Kinkos to post blogs,
and to the bank and to the post office. We bought groceries. We bought
charts and chips at Blue Water Charts and Books. We went to Boater's
World. We poked around in Sailorman. We refilled the propane bottles.
I went to the airport and returned the rental car. I drove a total of
150 miles. At the end of the day there wasn't enough time to do the
engine project, so I went to the beach and lied in the sun and sand for
a while. I really didn't go there to look at the bikinis. I really
didn't have one eye open while napping. I swear.

It was an expensive day. The rental car cost a bundle because we don't
have homeowners or car insurance any more. I paid $44 for the car plus
tax and $42 for all those optional insurances. What robbery. If we
have to do this all year it will cost us about $500/year just buying
those overpriced car rental insurances. Has anyone of you heard of a
kind of policy that we could buy independently? I'm used to being
covered by my employer and/or by my homeowner's and car insurance
policies, so I always declined the rental company's insurances before.

Blue Water Charts and Books is a unique institution. They have stores
only in Newport RI and Fort Lauderdale FL. I can't speak for the world,
but I'm pretty sure that there's no other store like it in the USA. At
Blue Water they have charts for the entire world. Both flat charts, and
chart kits and books of bound charts. Any chart they don't have in
stock they print on the spot in just a few minutes on an HP large format
plotter. They also have every brand of electronic charts and can burn
any compatible chart onto any compatible chip for your GPS plotter.
Best of all, their salespersons are sailors and many have
circumnavigated themselves. Therefore a trip to Blue Water is like a
consultation with an expert. They can give advice on your voyage as
well as sell you the charts. They know which detailed maps are
critical and which you can skip.

We bought enough to get us up the west coast of Florida to Pass
Christian Mississippi and after that to Mexico, Honduras, Belize, Panama
and Costa Rica. We already have the GPS chip for Hawaii and Alaska.
We're missing only paper charts for Hawaii, and for the trip down the
west coast of North America after Alaska. It cost us $580 today. That
makes it about $1500 we spent this year on charts and navigation chips.
It is a very major part of a sailor's budget. Admiralty and NZ charts
are the worst. They charge $40 per chart, double the USA NOAA price
and triple the price of most other countries. Furthermore, there are
numerous complaints about admiralty charts not being updated since the
19th century. Maybe someday we can print needed charts as we go on an
onboard HP plotter. Maybe someday we'll have color digital paper that
can be printed online using a satellite phone.

We found a section of Fort Lauderdale where every business had something
to do with boats or boating. Speedometer companies, fender companies,
engines, instruments, rigging, even one company whose sign said "Line
Cutters" I had visions of their employees sitting around all day
cutting lines. Even the West Marine store here is the size of a Wall
Mart. We stopped at a place called Sailman. There they have used and
salvaged equipment of every kind. It appears that they strip abandoned
boats and sell the parts. It's like a giant junkyard for boat stuff.
You rummage in the junk in the boxes and shelves. When you find
something to buy, the man up front scratches his chin and quotes you a
price. I could have spent days there. We only had an hour and we only
spent $38.

I returned the rental car only to find that their office closes at noon
Saturdays. I had to take the car to the airport and take a taxi back to
the marina. Thus it cost us more than $200 for the marina, car rental,
gas, and taxi for this shopping day. There are countless expenses that
we avoid living on a boat, but the occasional need to be an
automobile-oriented American citizen has a high cost also. It will be
interesting to see if those costs are less in other countries.

The man at the boat next door said the he and other boaters go to walk
on the beach for New Year's Eve. It sounds like fun I think we'll try

Friday, December 30, 2005


At Sea
December 30, 2005

The depth sounder started playing tricks on us when the depth got very
deep. We were crusing along at 450 feet deep water (150 meters) when
the low depth alarm came on signaling less than 7 feet. That woke me
up in a hurry. It stopped after a few seconds. The alarm came on again
and again. We thought that something must be swimming under us. I
turned off the depth sounder. An hour later I turned it on again in 500
feet of water. It alarmed, showing 3.5 feet for a few seconds, then
switched to 500 feet. I conclude that it is not a fish, it is the
result of a very weak echo return at the limits of the depth sounder's
range. The weak signal caused it to lock on to a false echo every once
in a while.

Our speed has slowed to 3 knots. That will get us to Lauderdale mid
morning. No need to heave to.

There are a lot of airplanes out here descending for the airports. West
Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. When their landing lights are pointed
directly at us, they are very strong. It looks like we're about to be
run over by the Titanic.

We've been less than five miles offshore since leaving Fort Pierce.
It's amazing how many people live along the Florida coast. Parts of it
look like a walled community with high rise apartment buildings forming
the wall. Anyhow, it makes navigation at night very easy. Just sail
parallel to the line of light.

The only significant traffic we saw out here were two gambling casinos
and a barge. The casinos go out past the three mile limit then sit
until their clients lose their money. The barge overtook us from
astern on a crossing course. In that situation it is extremely
difficult to estimate the true course of the barge. It looked to me
like he would run us over. I hailed him four times on channel 16 and
four times on 13. No reply. He reminded me of Crazy Ivan so I changed
our course 90 degrees to avoid him.

The Beach

The Beach
Hollywood, Florida, N26 01 W80 07
December 30, 2005

Well we made it to Fort Lauderdale. This is where we started last
February when we bought Tarwathie. It took us 24 hours to get here
from Fort Pierce. The channel coming in was very crowded with big ships
going every which way.

We found a slip at a marina to the south of the entrance. Half a block
away is the beach so Libby and I took a walk on the beach. The beach
was crowded. Lots of people, lots of bikinis, temperature in the 80s.
Just like one pictures a Florida beach to be. We had to break out our
summer clothes that we had stored away in the boat waiting for warm
weather. We found it!

The engine is giving cooling troubles again. We can only make three
knots without overheating. It must be that when we grounded in Vero
Beach that we sucked up some mud into the engine. I'll have to back
flush it while here at the marina.

Our main mission here is to visit Blue Water Charts, the biggest store
in the USA for nautical charts. They can help us plan the trip to Pass
Christian and to Alaska. I hope they can also help us economize on
chart/chip costs.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Boneheaded Stunt 12/29

Fort Pierce Florida, N27 28 W80 19
December 29, 2005

It's starting out to be one of those days. I set the alarm for 0500 so
that we could weigh anchor at first light and beat it out of the inlet
before the tide turned against us. The first thing I did was listen to
the weather report. Darn, the forecast changed. The favorable winds I
was counting on are arriving 12 hours late. So, we had to alter the

My first action was to go back to bed, but I couldn't sleep. I decided
to motor from Fort Pierce to Palm Beach (45 NM) then to go out to sea in
the evening and sail overnight to Fort Lauderdale. We could use Friday
to do the errands we want. If we miss Friday, then there's a three day
holiday weekend that we'll have to wait through.

I still couldn't sleep so I decided to clean the raw water filter. I
noticed that the engine had been running a little warm since our last
grounding. Sure enough, when I got the filter out I found it half full
of grass. I cleaned it and put it back. At 0800 we weighed anchor and
set off.

At 0804 I heard an ominous and strange sound I never heard before. It
took only a few seconds to recognize it as steam coming from the exhaust
instead of water. I forgot to re-open the seacock on the raw water
after cleaning the filter. I hurriedly gave the helm to Libby and
scrambled to re-open the seacock. No good, the engine continued to
spit steam for 30 more seconds and I shut it off to prevent damage.

Now we were adrift in the middle of the channel. Our first thought was
to anchor, but we were upwind from the place we departed minutes before.
Therefore we raised the jib and sailed back to the anchorage. We
botched a jibe so I had to take the sail back down and put it up again.
Despite the Chinese fire drill, we were back at anchor where we had just
left 15 minutes before.

I let the engine cool for an hour and started it up. Now water flowed
normally and the engine seems to be working normally. I'm sure that
the overheat didn't do it any good, but we shut it off so quickly that
we probably escaped serious damage. What a boneheaded stunt. The next
time I clean that filter I bet I'll remember to open the seacock when
I'm done!

But now it's raining and the wind is changing and our ETA to Lake Worth
by motor is 10 hours. I'm going to change the plan again and wait until
noon then go to sea from here. According to the weather report we'll
have 24 hours of good wind, plus 12 hours of light wind in the right
direction. After that, the forecast calls for wind in the wrong
direction for the next 5 days in a row.

1900 At Sea
Well the rest of today turned out better than it started. By 1100 we
were out at sea again. We had a cloudless sky, temperature in the mid
70s and 15-20 knots of wind. We sailed on a close reach the whole day,
all of it on starboard tack. It was very pleasant. Tonight we should
have less wind on a broad reach. We'll reach Lauderdale about 0300 at
the present speed. If so, then we'll heave to outside the port entrance
and wait for the dawn to enter.

Just a few minutes ago I was surprised by powerful blinking lights from
astern. It was a Coast Guard boat. He pulled along side and asked if
we saw any flares or any boat in distress. We didn't. I turned the
watch over to Libby. She said, "Oh it's nice to be warm."

I tried calling the marina close to Pass Christian today to ask about
facilities for the boat when we arrive there. The marina's phone was
disconnected. That's an ominous sign.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Captain's Chair Battleship North Carolina

 Posted by Picasa

Kite Boarder

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Christmas Dinner

We went to a pot luck Christmas dinner at the marina. These people are fellow cruisers. It was a great party with a marvelous variety of food. We notice that most cruisers apear to be very fit and very happy people. That's good. Posted by Picasa

New canvas

You can see our new doger and bimini sunshade. They'll help keep the sun off our heads in the tropics. They were also quite welcome in rainstorms. The dodger is big enough to dodge behind.

Expensive stuff, but very welcome onboard. Posted by Picasa

Fully Gimballed Christmas Tree

The tree is Libby's invention. It is decorated with objects we found along the way like water chestnuts and cotton balls. It is the first fully gimballed tree I ever saw. p.s. Our new cabin heater is visible too. Posted by Picasa

Vero Beach Harbor

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Surfing the net.

WIFI doesn't work below decks and the sun is too bright above decks. My solution is the blanket. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day

Vero Beach Florida, N27 39 W80 22
December 25, 2005

The wind was fierce today and we were anchored in an exposed spot, so we decided to move southward. The next anchorage downward was at Vero Beach. Actually, it’s not an anchorage but a municipal marina.

The trip down was slow. Because of the wind we only made 1.8 knots made good. When we got here, we were supposed to take a left turn to find the channel into the marina. We turned too short and bam, we were hard aground within seconds. Darn. Time to launch the dinghy and do the kedge thing again.

Before we got very far, a rubber raft pulled up and a nice man named John volunteered to help us. John took the anchor and 100 feet of chain and dropped them away. Within 3 minutes we were afloat again.

We pulled into the marina, and wow was it full. Almost every mooring ball had two or three boats rafted together. We never saw such crowding before. The only mooring with one boat belonged to, guess who, our friend John, so we rafted up to his boat. John and his wife Eve are from Oregon. They’ve been cruising since 1993. Eve is a nurse and when they run out of money she gets a short term contract at a local hospital and replenishes their kitty. Nice.

John and Eve told us about a Christmas pot luck supper at the marina office, so Libby cooked our turkey and we took it in to the pot luck. It was lots of fun. There were about 100 people there. Lots of food and lots of laughter. Most of the people were like us, around 60 years old and whose kids had grown up. Many were not headed for the Bahamas, but rather just liked to hang around on the ICW.

We did all our family Christmas calls today. We spoke to Ed, and Nancy, and Marylyn and John and Jenny and
David, and everyone else they had home with them. It’s especially hard to be away on Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

Indian River, N27 43 W80 24
December 24, 2005

What a nice day. It was sunny and warm with the temperature in the mid 70s. Even the nighttime temperature was in the 60s rather than the 30s. It was probably the nicest weather day since last September.

We really enjoyed our lazy ride down the river today. Libby had the helm and I sat on the foredeck sewing. I sewed a reinforced strap and a ring onto our staysail bag so that the bag can be hung in the air for stowage. Yes it’s true. The needle and thread work on the boat has become my task. I really enjoy it.

We didn’t sail all day. In the early afternoon we pulled into a side channel behind an island and anchored. We both wanted to fish. It worked again. Within 10 minutes I caught a catfish using a piece of shrimp for bait. We ate it for supper.

After an hour’s fishing we turned to a less idyllic activity. We changed the engine oil. Christmas eve hardly seems like the ideal time for that, but we’re actually overdo. We’ve been putting off the chore for a week. Regular blog readers know what a mess I made of oil changes in the past. This time we resolved to let Libby do it. Actually, we worked as a team. It went relatively well. We only made a big mess instead of a HUGE mess. Tomorrow we’ll wash off the black handprints and footprints from the decks and the cushions.

We found a broken coil spring under the engine. I have no idea what it came off of. Everything seems to function normally. I’ll have to study the manual. We also seem to have a fuel leak. There were a few quarts of diesel oil in the pan under the engine. We looked all over and can’t spot the leak. I think we’ll have to seek out a diesel mechanic once again this week.

Now it’s Christmas morning. We miss our family! That’s the hardest part to acclimate to with our new life style.

Still it’s very nice - 60 degrees and sunny at 7AM. Libby is making pancakes for breakfast as a special treat. We’ll head south to Lake Worth today, anchor and try some more fishing.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Landed Life

The Indian River, N28 00 W80 33
December 23, 2005
Now we’re thoroughly spoiled. We’ve just had four days of enjoyment ashore in the area of Melbourne Florida.

Tuesday we put in to Melbourne Harbor Marina. I didn’t want to do that but Libby rebelled. “I want a hot shower,” she said. I had to admit that it has been a long time, 12 days since we were last in a marina, so I relented. Soon after we got settled in the marina my brother Ed and his wife Sally called and invited us out to dinner. We all went to Red Lobster and had a fun evening.

The next day was the time for errands and projects. Ed graciously took the day off work to volunteer as a helper and chauffeur. I wanted to replace the bushings on the Monitor self-steering system, and to go grocery shopping, and to buy a fuel filter, and to change the oil, and to restore the backup of my old computer onto the new computer, and to go to West Marine and exchange a boat battery that I thought was defective.

Poor Ed; he didn’t realize that he got himself into so much. Everything turned out to be harder to accomplish than we thought. The West Marine project alone turned into a nightmare involving 4 trips to the stores plus three trips to the boat. Late in a very busy day we got back to Ed’s house where Sally had a nice spaghetti dinner waiting for us. Later in the evening, Libby and I did a slide show using the pictures on the computer.

The next day we left the marina and anchored out in the river. We were treated to a great show because there were three guys paraboarding near where we were anchored. The sport could also be called kite skiing. The boarders stand on a small surfboard, and hold on to the tether to a large kite. The kite is formed into the shape of a parasail by battens. The wind was 15-20 knots and the parasailers were rushing through the water at 20-30 knots. Wow were they fast. Every once in a while an extra strong gust of wind would lift them up in the air. They would soar 3 to 4 meters above the water and do flips and somersaults. I’d love to try it, but I think one needs the athletic body of an 18 year old to be good at it.

In the evening our friend Dave Hackett picked us up and took us home to his wife Jonnie. We had dinner and a very nice evening with the Hackett. We have a lot in common. Dave and Jonnie, like Libby and I, were high school sweethearts. Dave and I both spent our careers in the power industry and we have a lot of friends in common. Libby and I pumped their brains for lore about fishing gear. It’s crazy for us to live on a boat and not fish. Dave and Jonnie were very gracious hosts and we had a wonderful time with them.

Yesterday, I imposed on Ed and Sally one more time. They took me to Wall Mart where I bought fishing gear. It was the last shopping day before Christmas and very busy. After shopping they took me to Ozzie’s biker bar. Ed and Sally go to Ozzies every Friday where they serve a free lunch. They must be very popular because when we walked in everyone shouted, “Hi Sally.” When I got back to the boat there was just enough time to rig up one of the fishing poles, and to bait it with a piece of shrimp. Like magic, in less than 10 minutes Libby caught a very nice catfish. She thought it was a shark. This is the first time we caught a fish since 1962.

Thank you Ed and Sally and Dave and Jonnie. We had a great week.

Our next goal is to work our way down to Fort Pierce and then to Fort Lauderdale. In Lauderdale, I must visit Blue Water Charts, the foremost store in America to buy nautical charts and books. They can help us to plan our passage to the Florida keys, Pas Christian Mississippi, then Panama, Hawaii and Valdez Alaska.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wired Again

Melbourne Florida, N28 08 W80 37
December, 21, 2005
I’m finally reunited with my PC after a month getting it repaired. It feels very good to be wired again. For the past month my only access to computers was at public libraries where they limit you to 30 minutes per day. That’s not enough for me.

To catch up on recent history: we sailed back down the St. John’s river from Jacksonville to Blount Island, close to the sea. It was our intention to go outside (to sea) and sail down to Cape Canaveral. It would have been a 30-25 hour voyage. Unfortunately, the weather turned against us again. The winds were OK, but the forecast was for cold and rain. With great reluctance, I decided that it would not be prudent to go to sea. We would be short handed (I’ve come to accept that the two of us aren’t enough crew for offshore voyages), on top of that it would be cold with below freezing temperatures at night, and then it would be wet. Those things in combination made it too risky.

The backup plan was to use the Intracoastal waterway (ICW) so that’s what we did. It was cold and wet sailing on the ICW too. It took us three days to get 160 miles to Melbourne. As I listened to the weather reports during those three days, it made our decision sound better. The weather at sea worsened from the early forecasts. There were gale force winds and 12-15 foot seas.

Despite the weather, we made good time on the ICW. We finally learned to time our trips to take advantage of tidal currents, so we managed to have 1 to 2 knot currents with us almost all the time. We also had the foresail up and a stiff tailwind. With motor plus wind plus current, we were able to exceed 7 knots over the ground much of the time. That’s excellent speed.

Between the Saint John’s river and the city of Saint Augustine, the Tolmato River is lined with closely spaced houses. Most of them have a dock and a boat in their back yard. The wealth of the landowners varied from very rich to very poor. It was interesting to note that the poorest people seemed to project the image of the most warm and fun loving. On the other extreme, the homes of the richest people appeared formal and sterile. We didn’t see the people, only their backyards, so the observation is based only on the image projected by their yards.

In Saint Augustine, we anchored for the night just south of the Bridge of Lions. That bridge reminded me of one of the most ignoble and most embarrassing moments in my life. In 1985, we were living in Sweden but on vacation back in the states. We bought an old junker van to use for the vacation, and we drove from New York to Florida. We had a lot of trouble with the van during the trip. One problem was with the fuel line. It leaked. I did a temporary repair with duct tape, but the glue from the tape partially blocked the fuel line. The only way I could prevent the van from stalling at low speeds was to keep my foot full on the throttle.

One day, I crossed the Bridge of Lions in Saint Augustine. I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of people walking on the bridge. Some of them were walking on the roadway. I would have slowed or stopped for them, but the van would have stalled. Therefore, instead of stopping I leaned on the horn and made the people jump out of the way to avoid being run over as I barreled through at 40 mph. When we were nearly over the bridge I suddenly realized that the people were doing the Special Olympics. Well, I felt one inch high as I drove away, thoroughly ashamed of myself, but there was nothing I could do to undo the damage or to apologize.

Further south, as we passed Titusville Florida, we looked to the shore of the river on the west and saw what must be the world’s best lawn ornament. There was an office building near the river with a space shuttle sitting on the lawn. That sure beats a plastic pink flamingo. It even beats a plaster Virgin Mary. I think the shuttle was real. The building was next to the NASA causeway bridge and only a few miles from the NASA airstrip and the Vertical Assembly Building. Perhaps they took the shuttle to the shop for an oil change. If the shuttle on the lawn was only a model, it was a full scale model.

In Melbourne, we’re visiting with my brother Ed, and my sister in law Sally. We’ll also get to visit Dave and Jonnie Hackett. After that we’ll resume the southward trek.

Last week, I looked at the calendar and realized how unrealistic my timetable was to get to Pas Christian. I had been saying we would be in Pas Christian by New Year. That’s not even close. It will take several more weeks to get there. I guess I’m learning to live life as a retired person, or as a sailing cruiser. The days and weeks slip by, and I hardly notice. Perhaps one of these days I’ll be saying we’ll be there soon (this year, next year, the year after that, it’s all soon.) For a person who for many years, drove one project after another on hurried timetables, that’s a very big shift in attitude.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The JAX library

Jacksonville, FL Public Library

December 15, 2005

We spent last night on the Ortega River. It was one of those rare chances to find an anchorages within walking distance of a shopping center. Libby was able to do her Christmas shopping. It only took two hours, compared to what used to take two months when we lived in a house on shore. There are thunderstorms and gale winds coming tonight so we returned to the free dock at Jacksonville to ride them out.

This Jacksonville Library is an amazing place. It is a huge building in the old Andrew Carnegie style of architecture, yet the building is brand new. It has only been open since November 12, 2005. The ceilings are so high that it reminds me of the entry foyer to the Ministry of Information in the 1984 film Brazil.

The facilities in the library are elegant and extensive. So many books. So many Internet terminals. So many rooms. So many alligator chairs and couches. The terminals are the fastest Internet connections I've ever seen. I could go on and on. I recommend this library as a tourist destination. My friends know that I'm no friend of governments, and public spending, but I must say that this library looks like the best use of public money I've ever seen.

Odd sights

Jacksonville, FL Public Library
December 15, 2005

Odd sights: We wrote some about the interesting characters we meet along the way. We also see interesting things. One such sight we saw on the night we headed south from Cape Fear. As we passed Charleston, South Carolina around 0400 I saw a lot of boat lights up ahead. I assumed that it was a fishing fleet. As we got closer though I realized that they were all big ships, including some cruise ships. Cruise ships are lit up at night like Times Square.

All the ships were just sitting there. I checked the charts and sure enough we were just outside the outermost buoy for the Charleston entrance. Then I understood. The ships were waiting for river pilots. The pilots are necessary to navigate big ships on the rivers. It was the weekend after Thanksgiving. I presume that the holiday weekend meant that most pilots had the holiday off, thus causing a traffic jam at the entrance. Perhaps not. Perhaps the jams are there all the time.

The next night we saw another traffic jam of ships outside the entrance to Savannah River Georgia. Many of these ships were actually anchored in 50 feet of water. Landlubbers never get to see these sights, and since the jams happen out of sight from the shore, the never suspect what's going on over the horizon.

It reminded me of Lands Ort, the place in Sweden where the pilots live and where the pilot boats all leave from. I wonder how long the ships there have to wait for a pilot if they arrive in July during the national vacation period?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Repairs At Sea

Jacksonville FL Public Library
December 14, 2005

We set off Tuesday morning from the St Mary's River Inlet bound for Cape Canaveral, 170 miles away. We had a 48 hour weather window before the wind was forecast to reverse, and I reckoned that it would take us 35 hours to get there.

The day before, I noticed that one of the control lines for the Monitor self-steering was chaffed. I rushed to West Marine, and purchased new line to replace both control lines, then installed them on Tarwathie while at the dock waiting for the canvas man to install the dodger.

About one hour out, one of the Monitor control lines came loose. It had been anchored by a stop knot, and the knot must have come untied. Tsk tsk, shame on me. To put it back was tricky. It had to pass through a hole in the Monitor gear that is 2 feet behind the stern and right down at the water level. There was no way to reach it from up on deck.

I put on a life jacket, and had Libby start the motor and point us up into the wind. Then I climbed off the stern and held on to and stood on the monitor rails while I tried to fish the control line out from behind a block. It was very bouncy out there. With each passing wave I was dunked in the water up to my knees. I had to hang on very tight to keep from falling off.

I didn't succeed in getting the line that way. The only other options to fix it was to jump in the water (hopefully with the engine stopped) or to launch the dinghy and try to fix it from that base. The water was too cold for me to appreciate swimming. The dinghy idea would be very risky. With the stern rising and falling, if it fell on the dinghy's rail it would flip the dinghy over in a second.

We resolved to give up and sail back inland to do the repairs. The next stop was the St John's River entrance to Jacksonville. So that's what we did. By 1600 we sat at anchor and by 1700 I repaired the Monitor from the dinghy. Alas, we lost our weather window. Therefore we changed plans. Today we sailed 20 miles up the river to downtown Jacksonville. There's an anchorage here within walking distance to a shopping mall. Tomorrow, Libby will do her Christmas shopping, then we'll check the weather for another window.

I consider the Monitor as highly critical equipment. If it doesn't work, standing the watches is much more tiresome and would add to our fatigue problem on long voyages. I don't know if I can find a better way to repair the Monitor at sea, but I'll try. It sure would be easier if we had a young, strong, (and perhaps foolish), crewman willing to do things like jump into the cold water. I think of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing 16 Tons, "a mind that's weak and a back that's strong." Any nominations?

A truly prepared crew is ready to repair or replace anything and everything onboard. That's a nice ideal, but before being prepared for every repair at sea, I have to have at least one practice doing the same repair on land or at anchor. That will take years to accumulate that much experience. Joshua Slocumb set sail around the world along, but after retirement from a lifetime's experience at sea.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Fernandina Beach Library

December 9, 2005

One more project done. The cabin heater is installed. Now, the next time the temperature dips too low, we can warm up.

The hard part is that everything takes so long and is so expensive. The heater cost $400, but added small parts cost another $132, labor (help from the boatyard) cost $500, and docking for a week while we waited on the parts and labor cost $171. It wuld be very nice to be a more self sufficient handyman but one also needs a car to drive to the hardware store.

Next Monday we'll have the canvas work complete, and be ready to head out. Weather permitting, we'll go outside at St. Mary's river and sail 40 hours to Canaveral. We'll be in the Melbourne area by Thursday or so.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Common Sense

The other day I was trying to disassemble Tarwathie's emergency manual bilge pump because I couldn't draw enough suction to prime it. The going was tough. Parts were stuck and not coming free. Access space was very limited. The rubber parts I wanted to replace seemed to be glued in by a sealant. Worst, I feared that after success in taking it all apart, it would be hell to try to put it back together.

In the midst of that, my mechanical common sense kicked in. I had not been terribly thorough in trying ways to prime the pump. I had assumed that whatever the problem was, that I could not figure it out without first disassembling the pump and looking at the parts.

But wait, the functioning of a diaphram pump is very simple, and obvious by just looking at the pump. It was not common sense to presume that I didn't know how it worked. There are two rubber check valves with two diaphrams between them. Either the diaphrams were cracked or the valves leaked. I felt around and determined that the diaphrams were OK by touch.

I took of the discharge hose and used my palm as a secondary check valve. Aha, within seconds I was pumping water. There was nothing wrong with the pump, more than the valves were a little dry. If I prime it once per month and keep the rubber flexible, it will be OK. I can also use my palm as a backup priming device if necessary.

I realized that having spent four decades as an analytical engineer working on the theoretical side of things made my mechanical hands-on type of common sense atrophy. Worse, my confidence eroded to the point where I presumed that I couldn't figure out how mechanical things work and presumed that I couldn't fix them. Being a volunteer fireman in recent years helped me regain part of that. Maintaining my boat will force me to restore the rest. The pump was a good object lesson.


Fernandina Beach Public Library
December 6, 2005

A great benefit of this life style is that we get to meet so many nice people and so many interesting ones. Most interesting are the free spirited nonconformists. Come to think of it, we qualify for that description now. At home in West Charlton there is only one person I know who I would call free-spirited, nonconformist and unpredictable. I won't say who, guess yourself.

This weekend we met a truly interesting free spirit here in Fernandina Beach, his name is Baird. Baird is single. He has a 40 foot ketch. He has a history of building unconventional houses. He says that he is the king of straw bale house construction. He says he built a three storey house in Taos New Mexico entirely from glass shower doors that he bought from Good Will for $1 each. Baird said that the Taos house was featured in Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1985.

Today, Baird lives in a shack that he designed and built himself. For starters he bought a two acre lot of land at the end of a dead end street in a bad neighborhood. That make the property cheap. The lot is beautiful. It is densely wooded with palms, live oaks, pecan trees, and exotic tropical species I don't know. One side of the lot fronts a salt marsh, that's part of the estuary.

Baird's shack is 16x20 feet, a single room surrounded by covered porches on all four sides. It's completely charming. A resort hotel would call it a jungle bungalow and charge a fortune to rent it. The jungle comes right to the edges of the shack. He has a non-attached bathroom. Baird built the foundation from telephone poles. He built the doors and the windows. The sinks and toilet are made from brightly colored Mexican pottery. Everything about the house is original, and unique and charming.

Behind the house is a 20x40 building Baird built as a workshop. He earns his living doing projects for people.

Baird should have built his house in Sedona, Arizona, or Oregon. If he built it in Fairbanks, it would fit right in with the typical iconoclast architecture. In Florida, on the waterfront things are different. Baird ran afoul of City Hall. He had no permits, not environmental impact statement, and he ignored each and every building code ever invented. The city of Fernandina Beach had no mercy for Baird. Someone else could have built a multimillion dollar palace on that land and generated lots of taxes.

The city is cutting off Baird's electricity and water and boarding up his house tomorrow. They treated him like dirt. Baird has little hope of stopping it. Baird will have to adopt our life style and live aboard his boat. I'm sure the free style of the cruising life will appeal to him, but he'll be limited in the number of building projects he can do to satisfy his creativity. A realtor told him that the land might be worth as much as a million dollars if the buildings were bulldozed. I hope he succeeds in getting it.

What a dirty shame that our modern world is so hostile to free spirits.

p.s. This is project week. We replaced a chain plate. We refinished the bowsprit. We're installing a cabin heater (that's what Libby wanted for her birthday.) We're also spending a bundle to have a new dodger and a bimini and sunshade made. It's a lot of money but Tarwathie is our home. We need those things to live in the extremes of hot and cold weather.