Sunday, April 30, 2006

St. Simons Island

St. Simons Island, Georgia 31 17 N 081 22 W
Dick sent his computer to be repaired (he's been dropping stuff in the water since I was a kid...). Estimate 3-4 weeks until he's back.
Heading for Savannah, Charleston, Cape Fear.

Posted by John.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Gas Prices

Saint Augustine Harbor, 29 53 N 081 18 W

Tomorrow the drawbridge opens again and we can get out of here. Hooray! That's funny, when we arrived here 12 days ago our reaction was Hooray!

This laptop is showing evil symptoms of something very wrong. Two days ago the LED light in the mouse stayed on even after I shut the computer off. In the morning the battery was drained. Yesterday it shut off right in the middle of my typing. It refused to turn itself back on. Not even the power light would come on. A few hours later it started OK. Just now when I turned it on, it said that it couldn't find the hard disk. I retried and it booted normally.

So, what might you ask does this blog article have to do with gas prices? Nothing at all. I thought it might grab your attention. Maybe the search engines will find it and label my blog as a political commentary on the news of the day.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Saint Augustine Harbor, 29 53 N 089 18 W

Ants. Ants. Ants in my pants. Monday morning I had a dentist appointment, so we remained at the marina. Tuesday our week was up and we had to leave the marina. The trouble is that the drawbridge on the Bridge of Lions is closed for work until Friday morning. We can't leave. Even Friday's weather doesn't sound good for traveling north so we may have to wait until Saturday. Soon it will be May and we're still in Florida. Will we arrive up north soon enough to do New England, or will our plans be spoiled by being too late again? Will we have to shoot up the coast skipping all the scenery just to make up time? Ants. Ants. Ants in my pants.

The prospects for having sailing company this summer are improving. We already have a promise from the Undrills. We have a tentative date from Sten-Orjan Lindahl, he does an annual pilgramage from Vasteras Sweden to Idaho Falls, Idaho. He can sail on the way back from that. Yesterday I talked to Pete Lemme and with our daughter Jenny. Today we heard from the Allens in Syracuse and from Pete Vonie in West Charlton. All of them hope that we can connect someplace up north for some sailing. Our granddaughter Sara and grandson Nick get out of school for the summer mid June. We've yet to contact our friends the Dobberts, my sister Nancy, my cousin Warene or my cousin Brian regarding sailing in the Northeast. With any luck our social calendar could be quite full. It makes us very glad that we aborted the trip to Belize, Panama and the Pacific. We could have been in exotic places, but longing for company.

p.s. Soon I'm going to send my laptop away to get the keyboard repaired. Be prepared for 2-4 weeks with no blogs.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Wow! The Picture

Recently, in the blog entitled The Cities Within . I discussed the contrast between the scenes we see from the water and life on land.

I just pulled down this picture from Google Earth. It shows where we were anchored on Peck Lake. That was the place that inspired us to write Florida's Best Beach It proves my point better than mere words.

Study the picture to see what was visible from the anchorage (see the flag). We could see almost nothing but nature. We rowed into shore and walked to the unspoiled beach visible on the picture. The Google Earth picture also shows that masses of crowded humanity were just to the west of us hidden by the mangrove trees. We had no idea.

By the way, Google's technology continues to amaze me. Were I 30 years younger I'd love to have been a part of that startup. Those guys must be on such a high. Libby and I put some of our retirement money into Google. Not much, but just enough to make us feel like we have a small part of the excitement.

Portuguese Man-of-War

Jonnie Hackett saw the picture I posted on the blog and provided the correct identification. Jonnie said, "Dick, those baggie things are Portuguese Man-of-War. STAY AWAY from them. The have tentacles like a jelly fish and will leave red burning welt lines on you. People who have severe reactions can have breathing and cardiac arrest (quoting from a web site). Their tentacles can be long even when they blow up on the beach."

It's a good thing we didn't touch them just out of general caution, although I did stand too close to one on the beach in bare feet. Tsk tsk.

Thanks Jonnie.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Baggie Creature

This is one of the baggie creatures that I wrote about in several earlier blogs. This one is on the beach at Peck Lake Posted by Picasa

Tourists in Saint Augustine

Today we played tourist. Saint Augustine is a delightful tourist town. Libby found a neat sculpture. It is a bronze statue of three boys playing with a ladder. The boy on top has a pea shooter. Too bad but we don't have room on the boat for life size sculptures.

 Posted by Picasa

Help, Where Can We Buy These?

On the boat we use towel holders like the ones shown in the picture. They're very convenient. You just jam a corner of the towel into the groove.

The trouble is that they don't last. All but one of our holders is broken.

Libby and I can't find a store to sell replacments. Do you know of one? If so, please tell us at

Dick and Libby Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Oyster Creek

Oyster Creek Marina, Saint Augustine Florida, 29 53 14 N, 81 19 34 W

We wanted to put into a marina for a day to do laundry and showers. Our friends Chris and June said that they spent a week at Oyster Creek Marina recently. That's a good reccomendation, so here we are.

When we got here we found so many friendly people and the location seems so good that we signed up for a week's stay. The weekly dock rate here ($6/foot) isn't bad. The electricity price $5.50 per day is sky high. Tarwathie uses only 0.6 kilowatt-hours per day, so the $5.50 fee is nearly 50 times their cost. Ouch.

Oh well. I think we'll have fun here. Saint Augustine sounds like a great place to be a tourist. For today however, we're luxuriating in the pleasures of dockside life. This is our first night at a real marina since Little Creek Virginia in early November. Here we have electricity, fresh water, showers and more. I washed down everything exterior on Tarwathie with fresh water. Then we went and showered ourselves in warm fresh water. Tonight we even get to wash dishes in fresh water. What luxuries.

By the way. This morning we saw a sailboat at anchor with a 30 foot wooden extension ladder stowed on deck. That must win tthe prize as the most inappropriate item of boat equipment I ever saw. I recall trying to handle such ladders with three firemen. Ugh.

Another by the way. Several of my friends will recognize the name Oyster Creek. Besides the marina, the name describes one of G.E.'s earliest boiling water reactor nuclear power plants. I was at Oyster Creek once during construction. I was told that the construction workers, as they exited the gate on paydays, would have to drop fistfulls of cash into the open windows of three black limos parked outside. Tsk tsk. Crime is less flagrantly obvious today.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Saint Augustine, Fl 29 53 N 81 18 W

Boy, that last 56 miles into this harbor was the hardest 56 miles I ever sailed. The wind was very fickle. It changed directions and/or velocity seven times while we were sailing in. My judgment was terrible. Each of those seven times I made a decision for how to act. I decided to sail for Saint Augustine, no Jacksonville, no Augustine, no Jacksonville, no Augustine. I put sails up and took them down. I reefed and unreefed. I motored and sailed and motorsailed. Every one of those decisions except the last one I regretted and reversed myself when the next wind change came. Our course track on the GPS screen looks like the mark of Zorro gone wild.

The bottom line is that we are here and safe and resting, but we could have been here 20 hours earlier and we could have sailed less than half the linear miles we actually did. It was not one of my finest days as skipper.

One problem that I must figure out is that Tarwathie's performance to windward stinks. It is much worse than a year ago. I have no idea why.

An unfortunate side effect of this trip; Libby's back is hurting her a lot. She suffered from her hours on watch as the boat pounded up and down beating into the waves. As the boat pounds, and if you're not laying down, your spine takes up a lot of the shock. How and where you sit can alleviate it some, but when Libby is on watch she feels compelled to sit where she can see the instruments. She sits upright and braces herself with stiff legs and feet on the far side of the cockpit. That directs the shock load directly to the spine.

When it first started to hurt her, I tried to take all the watch time, but even I must rest sometimes, and there is no one else onboard to take a turn. Eventually she did a second watch starting with a hurt back and that aggravated the problem. I hope she'll be better tomorrow. We need to find a remedy to prevent any recurrences. Does anyone have suggestions?

On the bright side. Tomorrow we play tourist and tour Saint Augustine. The dinghy dock is nearby and there are lots of carts and trains that carry the tourists all over the interesting parts of the city. This time we'll be customers.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

It's The Current, Stupid

At Sea, 29 45 N 080 18 W

Sometimes jinxes work in reverse. Yesterday, just after I posted the blog complaining of no wind, the wind came up.

We had a splendid ride last evening. With the wind at our aft quarter and with the Gulf Stream current we hit a peak of 11.2 knots!!! Average speed was about 8 knots. Outstanding.

Around 10 O'clock Libby called me on deck to see a jellyfish light show. We were in the middle of a school of fish that could blink on and off. It was spooky to see the blue-green light coming from under the water. Once before, in the Florida Keys we saw blinking jellyfish.

After midnight the wind shifted to the west. It shifted too far! The forecast said SW, but the wind was 22 from the West. It made it impossible to start heading back into shore. For the next 15 hours I tried to do something about it. I tried one tack, I tried the other. Nothing worked. Finally I resolved to just wait for the forecasted SW wind that should come late Sunday.

Around 1500 on Sunday the wind shift came. It blew at 14 knots from the SW. However I failed utterly to find a combination of sailing point and wind trim to make use of it. I had three alternate destinations in mind and I was unable to make the boat go in any of those three directions. I felt as if I didn't know anything about sailing. The frustration felt complete. I gave up, dropped the sails, started the motor and made way for Saint Augustine, 56 miles away. That put me in a thoroughly foul mood.

Three hours later the winds suddenly changed again. I was able to stop the motor, raise the sails and set a reasonable course and speed toward Saint Augustine. Everything worked as expected once again. After all the adjustments, the truth finally hit me. That was no second wind shift, we had sailed out of the Gulf Stream.

Ay ay ay. My 30+ years of sailing experience provide me with a lot of instincts about how sailboats behave in different conditions. That is except in conditions of strong currents. My instincts were all wrong in this case. Worse; I didn't recognize the cause. I still have much to learn.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

On The Mark, Ready ...

At Sea, 27 47 N 79 52 W

Well we're at sea again and heading north but there's not much action. There has been little or no wind so far today.

We had to motor out into the Gulf Stream. At least here we're making 3.8 knots of progress free without any wind.

The verdict is still out on how far north we'll go this passage. It depends on the wind, the current and the weather reports.

We tried fishing today. There was a little shark hiding in the shade under our boat. Any lure or any bait we dropped into the water he came out to see but he never bit on anything.

I put on a trolling lure and dragged it behind us for 6 hours. No bites. When I reeled it up it had snagged a clump of sea weed.

Hopefully tonight a breeze will come up.

For the first time I trolled a lure behind us.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

The Cities Within

Fort Pierce

I took a long walk through downtown Fort Pierce today. Ugh, another boring place like Jensen Beach. The main street, US 1, is lined with failing businesses and factories. City Hall is vastly oversized and elegant suggesting an out-of-control local government. The city marina caters only to power boats. One bright spot is that the active factory downtown squeezes orange juice. Visually it isn't pretty but the orange aroma is wonderful. I love the smell of oranges.

Another bright spot is a little diner I found for lunch. The sign outside says just "Diner." The menu inside says just "Diner." The walls were covered with artwork depicting diners. However I saw the black proprietress carrying out a dish that looked delicious. I asked her what it was and she said "Fried fish. Would you like a sample?" "Sure" I said. The sample turned out to taste just as good as it looked. If you drive through Fort Pierce on US 1, stop at the "Diner"

I bought a local newspaper and my opinion of Fort Pierce plummeted. I read of the anguish the residents experience due to overpopulation, rapid growth and too mush traffic. I read of high crime. There were rampant drive by-shootings in the neighborhood near where Tarwathie anchored. It makes me want to weigh anchor and get out of here. Nevertheless, I must admit that it is still pretty and charming out here in the Indian River. From out here, there are few or no hints about what life is really like onshore.

That made me think of the other places we've cruised to. It seems to be generally true that the face presented to waterborne inhabitants is radically different than the face seen by land bound inhabitance for nearly all places. Shorelines can be classified as nature, residential, industrial, urban condos, or urban. Regardless of the realities of the place visited, the vast majority of shoreline shows nature. Residential waterfront property is often charming, and always interesting but largely inhospitable to boaters. Industrial shorelines are varied and interesting. Waterfront urban condos tend to be ugly and hostile but there aren't many miles of them. The worst ones we saw were Harlem and North Miami. We saw urban downtown shores only in the midst of major cities. Many are ugly like New York and Jersey City, and some are beautiful like Newark and Jacksonville.

To give a rough estimate, I say that 75% of the shorelines we see are attractive and 5% are repulsive.

In addition to the scenery, boaters are immune to the horrors and expense of car and truck traffic. Sometimes we see the cars backed up on the bridges and highways visible from the water. We also hear the daily traffic reports on the radio. I'm very glad not to see or hear about the traffic from a distance. Another fortunate fact is that very little of the crime on land seems to leak into the waterways. Where there are exceptions, such as North Palm Beach Florida, the cruising guides warn boaters to stay away from those places.

The underlying truth seems to be that America's waterfronts by and large present a much more pleasant view of life than can be seen from America's highways and streets. I can say the same thing about Sweden based on my memories of living and sailing there. One could say that boaters live in a fantasy world, oblivious to the ugly realities of real life, but that would be wrong. What the boaters see is just as real. The remarkable thing is that both realities can coexist in such close proximity.

Fiddly dum fiddly dee, the boater's life for me.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Dinghy 911

Fort Pierce, 27 28 N 080 19 W

This afternoon Libby and I were hauling the dinghy out of the water. Suddenly the wind blew my Little Ceaser's Pizza hat off my head, across the whole boat and into the water. I quickly called for the dinghy to be re-launched, and I jumped in and chased the hat across the harbor. The only thing I lacked was a red flashing light and a siren. Fortunately, this hat floated so I was eventually able to retrieve it about 100 meters away from Tarwathie. I've lost lots of hats overboard over the years, this is the first time I've been able to rescue one before it sank. Consumers Union should rate hats according to buoyancy. This past year hasn't been bad though. I can remember loosing 3 hats in the past year.

At Sacandaga Lake I used to plan on loosing one hat per day, so I bought them by the dozen at the dollar store.

Well I promised Libby that we could spend a night in a marina where she could do laundry and take a shower. We tried at the Fort Pierce City marina but they said no. They can't take any boat with a draft more than 5 feet. The only marina here that could take us is Harbortown. Unfortunately they cater to mega yachts. Their slips are 60 feet long and unaffordable. Oh well, we'll find a marina some other place.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Jensen Beach

Jensen Beach, 27 15 N 080 13 W

We traveled the grand distance of 12 miles today. It was not a very ambitious day. The reason is that the weather forecasts say that we can't go outside in the Gulf Stream again until Saturday. So we had Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to kill. Also, travel Northward in the ICW is difficult because of fierce head winds.

We decided to spend at least some of the time being tourists and sampling the delights of the tropical paradise cities along the way. This afternoon we toured Jensen Beach. We're sorry to report that it only deserves a D as a tropical paradise. We saw lots of shops and businesses, but very few were charming. In fact I bet 100 of them were fingernail polish emporiums. Oh well, too bad.

Thursday and Friday we plan to visit beautiful downtown Fort Pierce. We'll see how that shapes up.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Florida's Best Beach

Peck Lake Florida, 27 07 N 080 09 W

Well we just returned from an afternoon at the nicest beach we ever saw in Florida. Here's the story.

When we got up this morning the weather was awful. The wind howled and it blew from the North. We almost decided to sit in Lake Worth one more day, but I was antsy. I thought that if we motored up the ICW that we would find some shelter from the North wind.

I was right, and the day turned out to be nice. In fact, the wind turned to Easterly and we were able to sail and motor.

This is the one portion of the Florida East Coast ICW that we haven't seen before. It was very nice. I never saw so many boats before. Jupiter Island, which forms the ICW east shore from Palm Beach up to Jupiter Inlet seems to be one long dock, as if it were a giant marina. The homes along the shore are also especially pretty with nice green lawns and beautiful palm trees. Of course the were all million dollar and multimillion dollar homes but they looked much nicer than we've seen in other high rent districts.

Just north of Hobe Sound is Peck Lake where we're anchored. Coming in we cleaned a few barnacles off the bottom of the keel, if you know what I mean.

What a neat place. We're anchored about 150 feet from shore. The shore is actually a barrier dune only 100 feet wide. On the other side of the dune is a lovely unspoiled beach. If I strain, I can hear the surf breaking from where we're anchored. Considering how inhospitable breaking surf is to sailboats, it's remarkable that we can anchor safely so close.

We took the dinghy to shore and walked over to the beach. The beach extended as far as the eye can see north and south, and we only saw a dozen or so other people on the whole stretch.

We found lots of the baggie creatures that I've been writing about washed up on the beach. I have some pictures and I'll post them next time we have WI FI.

We walked the beach and waded out to our waists. The water was delightfully warm. We didn't swim however because the surf was rough and there may have been strong rip currents.

The weather out to sea looked fine to me for sailing. Darn that weather report.

There is a condo compound on the other shore of the ICW and they have a pontoon boat that the run as a ferry to take condo residents to the beach. We saw the ferry cross three times in 30 minutes. That must be a very expensive perq for the residents.

The weather forecast is frustrating. North winds most days, with short 18 or 24 hours of east or south winds in between. We need a bigger window to go for Cape Canaveral so we'll have to wait a few more days. We'll take the leisurely tour instead. Peck Lake today, Jensen Beach Wednesday, Fort Pierce Thursday. Then wait a little. There may be a weather window open on Saturday to allow us to go back outside in the Gulf Stream Saturday.

Click here for an aerial view of Tarwathie's anchorage and the nearby beach.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Staying Put

Palm Beach, 26 46 N 80 03 W

Well, for today at least, we stayed put here in Lake Worth. It is a gray, rainy and blustery day so it would not have been much fun to travel anyhow. If it looks better tomorrow, we'll motor on the ICW up toward Fort Pierce.

The weather here reminds me of how much nicer it was in the keys. There were very few thunderstorms in the keys. Indeed, there were very few clouds. The nice weather may have something to do with having to pay 5 cents per gallon for water in the keys. Some marinas charge 10 cents or even 20 cents per gallon.

We're anchored so close to the mansions of the rich and famous I thought that some of them might have come out to invite us for tea or cookies. Sadly no. Nobody from the Kennedy compound, nor Rush Limbaugh, nor the Whitneys, nor the Mellons, nor Warren Buffet came out of their houses to welcome us. Humph. Perhaps we should row ashore, knock on their doors and invite them out to Tarwathie for supper. Perhaps not.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Wild Ride

Palm Beach, 26 46 N 80 03 W

The gold standard for small cruising boats our size is to travel 200 nautical miles in a single day. We didn't quite reach that but we did do 203 nautical miles in 28 hours. Thank you Gulf Stream. This progress was despite light winds most of the time. Last night and this morning winds were only 8 to 11 knots, yet our ground speed was 8 knots or more the whole time. At one point I noted 8.0 knots apparent wind but 8.2 knots ground speed. It makes me wonder how much further we could have gotten if we had 20 knots or more of wind behind us.

We saw flying fish and the baggie creatures, just like in the Gulf of Mexico. I guess that makes sense. They may be born to take a lifelong one way trip on the Gulf Stream.

There was lots of ship traffic as we passed Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The majority of the vessels appeared to be casino boats. Casino boats wander aimlessly offshore at night all lit up like a Christmas tree. In any event, it made us keep a sharp eye out. This time fortunately there were no near collisions and no emergency maneuvers necessary. I plotted a course dead center on the axis of the Gulf Stream and stuck to it. We never needed to go more than 28 miles offshore.

Alas, the reversal of wind direction in the weather forecast moved forward. At first it was supposed to arrive Tuesday, then it was Monday night. Now is it late Sunday and the forecast sounds nasty. It will be a strong cold front passing, the same one that caused tornadoes and deaths in Tennessee in recent days. The Gulf Stream is no place to be in those conditions. We were forced to abandon our hope of an uninterrupted trip northward. At first I thought that we could reach Fort Pierce before the front arrived. It's only 50 miles more. But that would cut it too close so around noon we put in at the nearest harbor, which is Lake Worth. Palm Beach and West Palm Beach surround us. No sooner had we set the anchors and secured the gear when thundershowers began. It was just as well that we didn't push for Fort Pierce.

This is a very nice anchorage with lots of room. Coincidentally, we are anchored just a few hundred feet from the spot we anchored the evening of our maiden voyage on Tarwathie more than a year ago.

After an afternoon map, I checked our phone and found a voice mail from June and Chris on Albion. They are up in Saint Augustine and they wanted to warn us about the cold front. Thanks June for worrying about us.

Unfortunately, the north winds are now forecast to continue Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The first chance of a respite is Thursday. This is exactly the situation where my antsy impatience plagues me. Inaction and indecision drive me nuts. Will we sit here and wait? Will we motor against the winds on the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW)? Will we foolishly try to put to sea again before the weather changes? Stay tuned to find out.

There is a boat anchored near us that seems to have suffered a major collision. There are patches on both port and starboard side that appear to cover up holes. The bow pulpit, bowsprit and lifelines are piled in a junk heap on the forward deck. The hull shows rust stains that make it look like the boat sat here for a long time without moving. It may have been victim to one of the hurricanes. My presumption is that the owner is a live-aboard cruiser like us and that he doesn't have the resources to repair the damage. It is a sad and sobering sight for any cruiser to see.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Energy Boost

At Sea, 24 49N 080 26W

We're getting an energy boost today but not from drinking Gatorade. We're riding the Gulf Stream. It's great in these conditions. The winds are only 13 knots from the south, but we're moving 6-7 knots eastward. Soon we'll begin turning north. I can't say for sure how much boost we're getting, the knotmeter is gunked up with barnacles again, so we only have speed from GPS. My guess is 2-2.5 knots boost. It could be as much as 4 knots in the right conditions.

Our nice southerly winds are reputed to turn northerly on Monday so we won't be able to make it up the coast in one passage. We'll put in (hopefully) at Lake Worth (West Palm Beach) or Fort Pierce. Darn, if we had only left 24 hours earlier we would have had a shot at a nonstop passage.

The Gulf Stream is one of the true wonders of the world. It has a major influence on all the world's weather. The Gulf Stream transports heat and salt from tropical waters to subpolar regions. It starts off Northwestern Africa and it passes north of Venezuela it is turned north by Central America where it becomes the Yucatan Current (of which we had some recent experience) It is turned eastward again by the coast of the USA, turned north in the Florida straights between Florida and the Bahamas. It leaves the US east coast and heads for Northern Europe around Cape Hatteras.

The warm water from the Gulf Stream is what makes Western Europe's weather so mild. Think that Rome is at the same latitude as New York but Rome is much warmer.

In the northern Atlantic, the Gulf Stream waters are cooled, and they also get mixed with fresh water from Greenland and the polar region. Cold fresh water is more dense than warm salty water so it sinks to the bottom of the sea. Then the current flows southward following the sea bottom all the way to Antartica, westward across the Indian Ocean and northeastward across the Pacific Ocean. In the North Pacific the water rises to the surface again being warmer and saltier than the surrounding waters. The current then reverses its path, this time on the surface, until it returns to Northeastward Africa.

Because of the Gulf Stream, Western Europe and Western North America have mild climates whereas Siberia and New York have colder climates.

Historically, the Gulf Stream has abruptly stopped and reversed directions several times. The reversal brings on a new ice age. I hope it doesn't happen tonight when I'm sleeping (ha ha).

I wish I knew how many joules per second of energy is transported by the Gulf Stream. Perhaps one of my blog readers can google that question and email me the answer. If we could harness it, we could perhaps supply all the energy needs of the whole North American continent. Of course if we harnessed more than a small fraction of the Gulf Stream's energy we would cause massive climate changes.

Hmmm, another interesting engineering project. If the Gulf Stream current boosts Tarwathie's speed from 5 knots to 7 knots, how many joules per second (watts) of energy am I harnessing? I think that answer is somewhere around 5 kilowatts.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Hit The Road Jack

OK all projects are done, the weather appears right so tomorrow morning we leave Marathon.

Our plans are very loose. First stop, the state park at Islamadora where there are supposed to be nice coral reefs for snorkeling. After that, we'll go out into the Gulf Stream and stay there as long as the winds blow from the south. We get an extra 2 to 4 knots free ride from the Gulf Stream current all the time we're out there. We'll come back in when the first of two events happen, (1) The wind turns around and blows from the north, or (2) We get to Saint Augustine.

We never spent time in Saint Augustine, and everyone says that it's nice. We also hear that the Intracoastal Waterway is nice in Georgia, and we never did that. We'll have to make up our minds on that. The Georgia ICW is full of 2-4 foot shallow spots to run aground on. If we go there, we'll have to travel past those spots at high tides only.

By June we should be able to make Long Island Sound. We can spend the summer exploring New England. Hopefully we'll get my sister and cousins and uncles who all live in MA and NH to come sailing with us. Also, we may be able to attract some of our NY friends to come sail with us too.

By September we want to be up by Baltimore so that we have a leisurely time to explore the Chesapeake.

Caveat: All plans are subject to repeated and radical change. The only true objective is to have fun.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Webster's Dictionary lists one of the definitions of refine as "to improve through subtle improvements." I love the fact that sailboats are so refined. Humans have been sailing boats for at least 12,000 years, perhaps much longer than that. The ideas behind sailing, sailboats, and sailboat hardware have had the time to be refined again and again.

Tarwathie is an outstanding example of this refinement. She has a conservative and well tested design, and her interior, I'm sure was designed and implemented by an experienced cruiser. Everything onboard is extremely functional, well designed, and extremely practical. One can admire the refinement in everything from latches and shackles, to drawers, floor layout, proportions, fittings, fixtures, portholes, hatches, bins, and even decorations. Many items have more than one use.

I admit to surprise at how easily we can live aboard in such a small space and with so few possessions. The refinement has a lot to do with it. There is very little waste of space and very little dysfunctional or marginally functional stuff aboard.

One of the annoyances of living in a small space is the way we store things. Take my tool bin for example. My tools and spare parts are stored in two bins, and each bin is filled right to the top. It seems like every time I need something, that I have to remove every piece from every bin to find it, then replace all those parts in the bins before I do everything. Some days I empty and refill those bins a dozen times. It becomes tiresome. The labor saving alternative is to have storage with lots of pigeonholes or drawers or a big flat surface so that pieces can be accessed at random without moving any other pieces. But that alternative is anathema in boat life e because it uses far too much space.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Guest Editorial

In a past blog, The Net, I ended with a question. What would you have done? I got a very thoughtful reply from June (onboard Albion). June has given me permission to excerpt from it here. June's advice is good for all cruisers and world travelers. Thank you June.

About the Mexican asked a couple of questions at the end of the story, and I'd like to make some comments. First of all, no I don't think you are a fool, but you were tired and felt bad about running over his net.....yes I think you did get taken however. $200 was probably what he makes in a year, or a least a season, and there's the possibility that he is now considering a career in planting nets in the path of future cruisers, if he has the opportunity!

The thought crossed your mind that you probably should have pulled out a $20 bill initially. I think so too. Chris and I have traveled a bit and we have noticed a huge difference in money value and expectations in different countries. Here are some examples: In Ethiopia, before I met Chris, hotels (nice ones) wanted to charge me $70 to $90 (American dollar equivalent)per night. I got the rooms for the equivalent dollar price of $10-$15 a night instead....because my companion was Ethiopian and argued for the Ethiopian rate.

In Thailand, I had a beach cottage for 150 baht,(the equivalent of $3 then, per night). And beach vendors tried to sell me donuts for 250 baht each. They didn't expect me to pay that and expected me to bargain, which i did, and my donuts cost me 20-50 baht each. As I sat there eating them, I listened to the vendor sell donuts to some German tourist. He bought several at 250 baht each! I also bought sarongs for 50 baht each. I watched the same vendor sell sarongs to a Portuguese woman who was on holiday with her Norwegian husband. She bought 4 or 5 for 200 baht each. Then she GAVE the vendor the same amount, that is, 800+ baht as a 'tip". The vendor was shocked, but she didn't say 'no'! My point is, many countries do not expect you to give them what they ask...and through bargaining you do finally learn where the limit is.

Chris, when in Nepal, and also in India, noticed that vendors always first asked him where he was from. The price, he found out directly from a vendor in Nepal, was different for visitors from different countries. Americans and Germans were always charged more-Brits less. It was the perception of the vendors that certain nationalities were richer than others. Also, they expect bargaining, and some nationalities, like Americans, don't bargain. My suggestion is, pay a fair price for things-fair by their country's standards. $200 isn't much for us to lose, but it throws things out of balance somehow when Americans and Europeans throw huge sums of money around. You have to have an idea of what people make before you visit their countries.

I respect the voice of experience. However, Libby and I both have such an aversion to bargaining (haggling) that we would rather avoid going to places where it is necessary. Since that's not possible, we must learn to overcome our inhibitions and to adapt our own behavior to the local norms. That sounds like sound advice for all travelers.

Monday, April 03, 2006

John Undrill's Retirement

I just returned from a trip to Albany to attend John Undrill's retirement party. It was a great trip. But the logistics were difficult. There is no airline flying from Marathon so I had to ride the Keys Shuttle limousine to the airport. I had to get up at 0300 to catch the shuttle at 0400 arriving at the airport at 0700 for an 1100 plane. It was very inefficient. Similarly, on the way back, my plane arrived at 1700 but I didn't get back to the boat until 2300.

The retirement party was great. There were 50 to 75 people there at the Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia. After dinner we heard seven speeches praising and/or roasting John, one of which was mine. The praise was lavish, and John was overcome with modestly. However, all the praise was deserved. John has always been the smartest guy in the room, and his career achievements rival those of Charlie Concordia and Paul deMello. The power grid has been called the greatest engineering achievements of the 20th century and John is one of the top power engineers of that century. I hear that IEEE will honor John soon.

It was also a great weekend for family contacts. I spend Wednesday evening and Thursday morning with my oldest son John and his family which includes four of our five grandchildren. I had missed them so, and Libby still does. After John's party, I stayed at the Undrill's house. On Saturday I surprised my sister Marilyn with a visit. I took her out to Wall Mart and to a dollar store and to Oliver's. Oliver's is Marilyn's favorite restaurant in Glenville. Marilyn is very popular, everywhere we went she was recognize and people called out "Hi Marilyn."

It was also a great weekend for family contacts. I spend Wednesday evening and Thursday morning with my oldest son John and his family which includes four of our five grandchildren. I had missed them so, and Libby still does. After John's party, I stayed at the Undrill's house. On Saturday I surprised my sister Marilyn with a visit. I took her out to Wall Mart and to a dollar store and to Oliver's. Oliver's is Marilyn's favorite restaurant in Glenville. Marilyn is very popular, everywhere we went she was recognize and people called out "Hi Marilyn."

My daughter Jennifer drove down from Vermont and met up with Marilyn and me. We fetched some stuff for Jenny out of our self storage locker and then went to Undrill's for a nice afternoon and evening. (See the picture.) The Undrill's and the Mills essentially form an extended family so everyone was very happy to see everyone else. Too bad that Libby wasn't there. She would have loved it. I did however extract a promise from the Undrills. They will sail with us in the September/October time frame. Libby jumped for joy when she heard that news.

On the trip back I had a happy surprise. Howard Halstead, a friend from PTI and NYISO days was on the plane to Orlando with me. We had a lot of fun catching up on events with each other.

While we were having all that fun up in New York, poor Libby was babysitting the boat. Poor poor Libby. On the same day I left, the engine sputtered and died. We use the engine to keep the battery charged so that's a big deal. Libby managed it OK though. She shut off the refrigerator/freezer which is the major power drain. She used the oil lamps instead of electric lights at night. She bought ice and put in the refrigerator. With all that conservation, the solar panel kept the batteries almost fully charged. She also tried several times to get a diesel mechanic to come out to the boat and help, but they stood her up twice and never came.

This morning it was my task to get the engine started. I rapidly found the root problem. We have port and starboard fuel tanks and manual transfer valves for fuel feed and recirculation return that select port or starboard. Libby was savvy enough to think of that but she didn't realize that there were two valves. When I looked it was feeding form the port tank (which was dry) and returning to starboard. That was easy to fix, but there was more work to do. All that cranking the engine sucking on a dry fuel tank filled the fuel lines with air. I had to bleed and prime the entire fuel system. It took an hour, but then she started right up.