Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Vero Beach

I’m having trouble getting inspiration for new blog articles while we sit here in Vero. Sorry to let my readers down. I know you expect something daily.

Projects: We haven’t been entirely idle while waiting here. There are always maintenance chores to do on a boat.

Deck paint: Last year we repainted the non-skid areas of the deck. The job was a disaster. Even before we put down the second coat, the paint started coming off areas where we walked and where we dropped the anchor chain. Apparently, we didn’t de-wax or sand or otherwise prepare the surface well enough. Preparation is everything.

This time, we made use of our new Honda generator to use a power sander. We sanded down the whole surface thoroughly. Then I put down a polyurethane deck and floor paint from Home Depot (horrors! it is not marine paint) sprinkled with a non-skid material. This time it worked better, although the paint came loose in places where we had heavy traffic or where we set down the generator feet within 24 hours. We retouched those places.

Chain paint: For more than a year we have been trying to find a place to re-galvanize our anchor chain. It is rusty and it stains the deck every time we use it. We have 220 feet of 5/16 inch BB chain. To replace it with new chain would be very expensive, as much as $750. Worse, there seems to be only a handful of places in the USA who can do the job properly and affordably, and with a reasonable turn-around time. A proper job means shot peening the chain to remove rust, then hot dipping it in molten zinc, then allowing the dipped chain to cool on a powerful shaker table. The shaking prevents the chain links from fusing to each other while the zinc is molten. To do all that at today’s rates would seem to cost as much as new chain. The only place I found on the web that sounds suitable is Acapulco Mexico.

I decided to try to paint the chain to get a few more years life out of it. The paint probably won’t work, but I have little to lose by trying. First I bought some wrought iron fence paint and dipped the chain into it. That put a thick coat of paint on the chain that will probably flake off as we use it. That covered 80 feet. For the rest, I’m going to try Rustoleum primer paint. I hope that will soak in and leave only a thin coat.

Bowsprit and Sampson Posts: I wanted to refinish these critical wood components to protect them from rot. I found three spots of rot on the bottom side of the bowsprit. They are about 1 cm deep. It makes me worry. Again we took advantage of the power sander to get the old finish off. Part of the job I had to do while standing in the dinghy. One time (you guessed it) the dinghy shot out from under my feet and I had to grab the bobstay with both hands to keep from falling in. The sander fell into the salt water, still running. Luckily for me I didn’t fall into the salt water too with the 115 volt AC current nearby.

I took the sander out and dipped it in fresh water to get the salt out. It is a DeWalt sander, the top quality brand. Thank goodness, it runs fine and does not seem to be hurt.

Replumbing: The rubber hoses that carry water for the sinks and heads are very old. The hoses that bring salt water to the toilet for flushing are disintegrating. I decided to replace it all and to re-plumb the head and the galley. At the same time, I decided to add a salt water faucet to our kitchen sink. We use fresh water for cooking but salt water for washing. I encountered the usual problems when taking the old things out. Hose clamps were rusted frozen. Some copper elbows were so rotted that they crumbled. The faucet on the sink has and end ready for ¾ or 5/8 inch hose, but the hose was ½ inch. There was a real Rube Goldberg rig on that.

I drilled a hole in the counter top for the new faucet. Then I found a bulkhead brace directly under the hole. I had to drill a second hole in a different place. Now I have to find a way to plug the first one.

I have a week to wait for the new faucet/spigot I ordered for the sink, so this project is still not finished.

Polishing: We polished and waxed the stainless steel deck hardware and the below deck brass. Libby also did her slimy-grimy trick on the hull to get rid of the brown stains near the water line.

Battery Charging: When we bought the Honda generator, the first thing I found was that it took forever to recharge the batteries. I took a closer look at our battery charger that worked off of shore power and I found that the nameplate said that its output was only 5 amps. I never noticed that before because when using shore power we were always hooked up for 24 hours or more. However, since we use about 40 amp-hours per day, we would have to run the gasoline generator for 8 hours every day to keep up. That would be ridiculous.

I replaced the battery charger with a new one rated at 25 amps. It actually puts out 35 amps at the start of the cycle. This was a good match for our 800 watt generator. That worked much better, but I noticed that the charging would halt at a voltage of 13.5 volts rather than 13.9 volts. I measured and found a 0.4 volt drop between the charger and the batteries at 20 amps. The wiring was inadequately sized. I ripped out the old wiring, and found that it was only size 14. Tsk tsk, another thing that Al Hatch did less than perfectly. I replaced it with number 6 wires and now the voltage drop from charger to batteries at 20 amps is less than 0.05 volts.

I also replaced the the charge controller for the solar panels. The old one I suspected was not controlling and it allowed our gel cells to get overcharged and thus ruined them.

Still to do:

Dinghy: We want to repaint the inside of the dinghy and to refinish the oars. We also bought new canvas bumper material to line the gunwhale. This project is hard to get started in Vero because we use the dinghy every day. The oars in particular would need to dry for a couple of days before applying finish.

Hatches: We need to redo the varnish on the cabin hatches.

Stained glass: Libby bought a kit to make hand painted stained glass inset for the galley porthole.

More wiring: I still have an intermittent problem with a one half volt drop between the batteries and the buss bars in our power distribution center -- even at zero load. It is hard to fix because I have a hard time identifying the supply wires to the busses. They are routed through inaccessible places where I can't trace them. The 0.5 volt drop only occurs about one day out of five. It has to be broken strands or a poor connection some place. I just have to find where.

Projects while living on board: Everything is more difficult to do when you live on board while doing projects. For example, so far I made six trips to the nearest hardware store (Home Depot). Each trip takes more than half a day on the bus. If there was no hardware store nearby, I would have to postpone the projects or rent a car for every trip to the store.

It is also quite delicate to paint the walking surfaces of the deck when living on board. Deck stored items can not fit below, and we can not abstain from walking on deck for a whole day. Plumbing can not be put out of service for more than a few hours at a time.

Not to mention that all these projects just keep us busy until the really big engine project next month.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Blue Topaz

Vero Beach

Last night we visited Blue Topaz with her crew Reggie and Terry. First we had drinks on board Blue Topaz then the four of us retired to Tarwathie for dinner. We had a marvelous time. Reggie has a voice and a manner of speaking that remind me of Garrison Keillor presenting the news from Lake Wobegone on Prairie Home Companion. He also sounds like Morgan Fairchild, the actor who narrates stories. Reggie, Garrison and Morgan all make great story tellers because the audience loves to listen to them.

Blue Topaz is a wonderful boat. She is a steel hulled schooner perhaps 38 feet long. The first thing one notices about her is the sparking paint job. Her hull gleams in deep blue and the top decks gleam similarly in sparkling white. Although the paint job is not brand new, it looks that way. It gives the impression of a very well maintained boat.

The interior was designed by Reggie. He thought things out very well. She has lots of storage room; what Libby calls cubbies. According to Reggie, they can store provisions for two people for 12 to 18 months. In addition they have room for a good collection of pots and pans, books, clothes and other things. She has a deck hatch leading to the sail locker and chain locker on the forward deck. She has an aft cabin with a berth and the navigator’s table. The aft cabin opens on to the rear cockpit.

Best of all was the engine room. I was stunned when I first saw it. It was huge, with lots of empty space. It provided easy access to the engine from all angles. It was also clean like and operating room. It was far cry from the cramped and greasy space we have for Tarwathie’s engine. Ask Carmello and John, both sailing companions who went down in that engine compartment with me.

Reggie and Terry are from Toronto. Terry was a photographer and Reggie had a consulting business. They retired and have been cruising for 9 years so far. Libby and I learned a lot from them about the Bahamas. We hope to put that knowledge to use soon.

We also compared notes about the cruising life and we found that we all agreed about several key elements. Reggie said the first, "Boaters are happy because they are doing what they want to do. Nobody forces you to be here out on a boat." How true.

Second, "Boaters get along with each other better than average
people." It is obvious when you think about it. One couldn't stand to live in such close quarters with no privacy. Unless you and your partner get along very very well it would not last long.

Third, "Boaters are healthier than most people." One only need to look around at the people at any marina compared to the people one sees at the nearest shopping mall to observe the difference. Reggie said that an old couple once told them, "The years living aboard the boat don't count with respect to aging." That might not be 100% true but is probably better than 70% true.

Right now, Reggie and Terry are waiting for repairs, like we are. When that is done, they are heading for the Bahamas and points south. They hope to end up in Venezuela or the ABC islands before long. Good luck Blue Topaz .

Libby and I look forward to seeing Reggie and Terry again while we’re in Vero.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Vero Beach

At times we feel underprivileged as we row our dinghy around when almost all the other cruisers have outboard motors. Ordinary row boats seem old fashioned. If one doesn’t have a motor boat nowadays, he/she has a kayak instead. It is true that we would like to have an outboard for longer trips or when it’s really windy. However, most of the time we are better off rowing.

Our dinghy is a Fatty Knees. It is a hard shell row boat that’s 8 feet long. When under way in Tarwathie, we carry it up on the deck under the boom. Other cruisers recognize and remark on it. “Is that a genuine Fatty Knees?” is something we hear often.

A great benefit of rowing is the exercise. It is great for general physical conditioning, and upper body strength and for back muscle strength. When I watch others using their motors for short trips I am reminded of the people one sees at work who cruise in the parking lot for 5 minutes in search of a parking spot closer to the door. Then at the end of the day they pay money to go to a gym, or perhaps return home to get a workout on their treadmill.

A second benefit is the peace and quiet while rowing. It is like the difference between flying in a glider as compared to flying in a small airplane. The peace is at its best when the wind is still, and the water surface is like a mirror and at night. In those conditions one can just glide along silently admiring the stars. In the harbor at Vero Beach we can also hear the sounds of the dolphins when rowing at night. Dolphins come to the surface every 30 seconds or so and breath. The sound of their breath whooshing through their blow holes is easy to identify.

We don’t set speed records when rowing. The hull speed of our dinghy is about 3 knots. After much experiment I conclude that one can expend very much more effort rowing without exceeding the hull speed as much as 0.1 knots. On the other hand, not much energy is saved by rowing slower. Therefore, our speed through the water with zero wind is about 3 knots, no faster, no slower.

I never tried to paddle a kayak or to row a racing shell. I’d love to try it some day. Nevertheless, our dinghy is used for more than sport. We use it for transportation and cargo hauling. The enjoyment is a side benefit.

It is important to have a proper boat and proper oars to enjoy rowing. Most cruisers have inflatable rafts with flat, or nearly flat bottoms and very short emergency oars. They row terribly. The oars on those rafts are pretty must for emergency use only. We also have 7.5 foot long oars; the longest oars we can fit on the dinghy. Those are key for enjoyable rowing. For some reason, most people with any kind of dinghy choose oars that are too short. The minimum length should be 1.5 times the beam of the dinghy, but I recommend the longest ones you can stow onboard without sticking over the gunnels.

Ease of moving around in a dinghy is highly subject to wind, wave and current conditions. As I said before, rowing in still wind is the best. When the wind blows more and more, the difficulty of rowing goes up rapidly. Against a 20 knot headwind I can only manage to row about 1 knot made good. Once in Burlington I had to row about 300 meters to return to Tarwathie against a 35 knot wind. It was a very arduous task. It took me about 45 minutes and it took almost all the strength and endurance I had. That was one occasion when I really did wish we had a motor.

Rowing with the wind behind you or on the beam is not much more fun because the wind tends to blow the bow into the wind. It makes it hard to steer.

Rowing against currents isn’t so hard as against winds. However, our maximum speed through the water is 3 knots, so if we are rowing against a current of 3 knots or more, we’ll move backward.

Rowing in choppy conditions can be difficult and wet for some boats. We see people in their inflatable boats standing up in rough weather to try to keep dry, or at least drier. In those conditions, the Fatty Knees is superior. It has a high freeboard and we almost never get wet, no matter how choppy the waves.

Rowing a row boat is unlike riding in a motor boat or even paddling a canoe or a kayak because one faces backward. That means that you can’t see where you are going without pausing to twist your head around. I confess to having run into other boats, other dinghies, piers, docks, walls and day markers when rowing. Too bad.

I have a pretty reliable, albeit uncelebrated, speedometer when rowing. Every time I reach the end of a stroke with the oars and lift the oars back out of the water, it leaves a circular swirl on the surface surrounded by three little whirlpools. I can usually see three to five consecutive swirls in my wake. At top speed of 3 knots, the linear distance between swirls is about 4 meters. Therefore, my speed in knots is approximately ¾ knot per meter between consecutive swirls.

Not everyone takes naturally to rowing. One such person is my niece Lena. Lena is a very talented person. Among other things, she plays the violin so well that she was invited to join a symphony orchestra at the young age of 14. Lena is also an athlete and an excellent soccer player. So here’s the story.

Once upon a time, at the Isle of Shoals in New Hampshire, we allowed Lena to take the dinghy to row herself and her mother to shore. The shore was only 60 feet away and conditions were calm so it shouldn’t have been a problem. Lena though had never tried to row before and nobody gave her lessons. She couldn’t figure out that she had to coordinate her left and right arms, or that she had to lift the oars out of the water to return them for a new stroke, or that she needed to twist the oars in her hands so that the blades were perpendicular to the surface. Poor Lena floundered like she was trying to row the boat like she plays the violin, with the left hand doing something entirely different than the right hand. Her mother, Libby and myself, watched her flail the oars ineffectively for at least 5 minutes in silence. We didn’t want to embarrass her or to stress her out her with unwanted advice. Finally, we became afraid that the current would carry them away out to sea and her mother took over.

If only we had a video recorder, we could have posted the top video of the day on youtube. The only thing we do have is the single still picture below.

Sorry Lena to pick on you, but this story had to be told.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hurry Up and Wait

Vero Beach

Well, it's official. We will wait until after February 19 for the engine project. My friend Pete Lemme said it will be hard for me to make people feel sorry for us while we sit here in the warm sun and spend our days on the beach. OK I won't try.

Yesterday I tried surf fishing for the first time ever. I went to the bait store and said I was a novice. The guy sold me some frozen squid for bait, and a pompano leader/hook rig, and some pyramidal sinkers.

I put all the stuff in the dinhy, packed a lunch, and rowed over to the beach. When I got there and I was walking to my spot, a local man came by and threw cold water on my idea. "Ha," he said, "what do you think you're going to catch? It's rough out there." That wasn't helpful.

It was rough, the waves were far apart but when they broke they reared up to about 7 feet high. I waded out as far as I could stand without being knocked off my feet. I cast the rig out, and it was a great cast; I estimate 60 feet. However the rig started immediately drifting to my right and onshore. In just a couple of minutes it washed almost all the way up to shore. Obviously I should have had a much larger sinker. I'll buy a bigger one and try again.

On the way back, I had two squid which had thawed and I couldn't keep, so I put them on hooks and let them drag behind the dinghy as I rowed back. When I got back to Tarwathie, surpise! I had caught a nice catfish. I cleaned it and we ate the meat in the jambalaya that Libby made for dinner. Yum.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Risks Unaccounted For

Vero Beach

We got bad news yesterday from Bud Taplin. Bud is Mr. Westsail and he offered to help us install the new engine if we bought it from him. Yesterday, Bud said that our new Beta engine will arrive two days too late to meet the time window that he had available to help us. After that, Bud is away on a trip until late February. Oh no!

Oh no! We chose to do it this way because the installation would be nearly zero risk with Bud's help. I didn't think to account for the risk of a delay such as this.

So now what do we do? We have Bud's complete instructions and the parts to install it ourselves, but I don't feel adequate for that without a mechanic's help. Therefore I'm shopping for a local mechanic who is (a) experienced, (b) willing to work on a Beta, (c) available in the next few weeks. I got turned down by one this morning. We'll keep trying.

Worst case, we may have to wait here in Vero yet another month. :-(

Monday, January 15, 2007

I Can't Believe He Read The Whole Thing

Vero Beach

Two weeks ago I got an email from Dean Chapman. Dean was a friend retired from Niagara Mohawk that I met at the NYISO. Dean and I worked together on my last project. Dean had just heard about our blog and wrote to say hello.

A week later I got a second email from Dean. He said, "I have spent every spare moment in the past week reading the entire blog history of your adventures, starting with your departure from NYISO. It is a fascinating and entertaining story. You really need to compile it into a book and publish it. "

Of course flattery is always welcome. Thanks for the kind words Dean. Actually I'm amazed that he read all of the blog articles. There are 470 of them out there.

Be assured that I maintain an archive of back blog articles (including a backup) and that I have thought about turning them into a book someday. The logical problem is when or where to end the book?

My son David also wrote from Kuwait. He said, "Do you notice that people call you or email you less often because they feel like they are in constant touch via the blog?" Yes, it's true and it works two ways. When I write to the blog I feel that I am reaching out to touch my friends and family, even though I can't say for sure who will read the articles or when.

Too bad they didn't invent blogs a long time ago. I created a personal web site in 1994, but it took an awful lot of work to write content for it. I had to do all the HTML by hand. As a result, the amount of content I posted there was small.

For another outstanding blog-like idea check out this site. This man took a picture of himself and each family member once per year. The sequence of pictures documents the appearance of family members from youth to old age. What a great idea. I wish I had one for our family. I recommend that everyone of you with kids should start doing it, even if you don't have the pictures starting at birth.

If you want to get rich as a dot com king, start a company to make doing this easy for people. They could get started with scanned photos from their family album. The site could help edit the pictures to make the size, crop and lighting appear similar year to year.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Vero Scenes

Above you see some of the local Florida wildlife.

With the Hacketts at Driftwood resort.

Chores. Libby works at repainting the nonskid surface on the deck.
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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Vero Beach

Yesterday I conducted research regarding my own question about energy dissipation in the surf. The picture shows me hard at work.

Here are my research results. My friend John is ruminating on how to calculate the energy, but I think I have the answer to why the water isn't warmer near the shore. I stood in the surf up to my hips and paid close attention to the sensations. I could tell that the current was onshore from the knees up but predominantly offshore from the knees down. In addition, there was a significant component of the offshore current parallel to the beach. The net result is that the undertow plus scattered rip currents must indeed thorougly mix the beach water with colder water from offshore. It is not the same water at the beach merely moving back and forth.

Today we had a visit from Dave and Johnnie Hackett. They drove down from Eau Gallie t o have lunch with us. We went to the Driftwood Resort for lunch and sat outside in the fresh air next to the beach. In a few minutes, a rain squall approached. We and everyone else eating outside were chased inside.

It was fun to see Dave and Johnnie again. They are great people. My opinion is not at all influenced by the delicious citrus fruits they brought us from the trees in their yard.

Here is a funny story I told at the lunch table. I got it from the Wall Street Journal.

Idiot was actually once a clinical term that referred to someone on the far left (of the bell curve). It was the lowest grade of "mental deficiency," as a table we found on this page shows:

IQ range Classification
70-80 Borderline deficiency

50-69 Moron

20-49 Imbecile
Below 20 Idiot

Today "deficiency" is called "retardation," and the classifications are as follows:

IQ range Classification
50-69 Mild

35-49 Moderate

20-34 Severe
Below 20 Profound

So, the next time you are tempted to call someone an idiot, get modern and call them profound instead.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Heavy Rigs

Vero Beach

Our sailing background was like most people’s. We started small and worked up. Our first boat was a 19 foot O’day Mariner. Our second was a Clipper Marine CM 26. It was an extremely lightweight rig that I could trailer, launch, step the mast, unstep, and haul out single handed. The hull in places was only 1/16 inch thick.

Our third boat was a Tanzer 27. Compared to the Clipper, it felt much bigger and more solid. Nevertheless, the Tanzer is still a very lightweight rig designed for inland sailing. The total displacement was on the order of 9000 pounds. We also had some experience with larger boats in Sweden when sailing the Baltic. Boats in the 30 to 35 foot range, yet still lighter rigs designed for inland and coastal sailing.

Three times we went to the British Virgin Islands and rented bareboat charters. Those boat were huge and heavy. We had a Morgan OI 41, and a CSY 37 and a CSY 44. However, we always had ample crew, and the dock hands from the charter companies do most of the close in maneuvering in any case. I recall how impressed we were watching those deck hands manhandling those huge yachts.

In many respects it’s best to learn on a small boat first. Everything happens faster and more delicately on a lighter boat. That forces you to learn better. On the other hand, disasters like running aground tend to be less serious on smaller boats. I recall how pleased I was to bring my Clipper and my Tanzer into a slip under sail, or to sail through a crowded mooring field to pick up my buoy. I’m also proud of the time when my Clipper’s rudder broke and I sailed her home and right up to the slip with no engine and no rudder. It became almost a contest to see how far into the year I could go without starting the engine.

On my smaller boats I always had only outboard engines, and when I did use the engines I could spin them around 360 degrees to put force in any direction I want.

Tarwathie is our first truly heavy rig blue water sailing boat. She weighs 20,000 pounds empty and probably 26,000 pounds when loaded and provisioned. She also has a full keel and a skeg rudder which gives her very different handling characteristics than a fin keel spade rudder sailboat.

With Tarwathie, everything is different. She is much heavier and harder to stop. Bumping into things is much more likely to cause damage. We have to be very careful to resist the instinct of using arms and legs to fend her off from other objects. That worked well on the lighter boats but it likely to lead to broken bones on a heavy rig.

In light winds Tarwathie is much more subject to currents than to the wind. The full keel is intended to make her want to travel in a straight line, and she does that very well. The downside is that she doesn’t like to turn. Fin keel / spade rudder boats can turn on a dime but Tarwathie needs a very large turning radius.

On the other hand, out in blue water Tarwathie sails a fairer course than those fin keel boats, even against heavy seas or following seas. That’s what we should expect, Tarwathie’s designed is optimized for sailing in the open sea, not for sailing inside marinas.

It is vital for the skipper to learn about his/her boat’s steerage way. In other words, how fast does the boat have to move to make the rudder effective. If the boat is not moving then the rudder has no effect. A skeg rudder unfortunately, needs more way to be effective than a spade rudder does. Our skeg rudder also has only a tiny bit of its surface immediately behind the propeller. That means that we can’t use the common technique of turning the rudder then revving up the engine to create artificial way for steerage. It is sometimes scary to move the boat faster than seems prudent in order to maintain steerage.

It took me a long time, but finally I learned to make use of Tarwathie’s large moment of inertia. Once I get her turning at a particular rate, say 180 degrees per minute, she tends to keep turning at that rate even without power. Therefore, I can use forward speed and rudder to begin her turning, then shift to neutral or even reverse to allow her to continue to turn on her own axis. She’ll continue turning another 45 to 60 degrees before stopping. Thus, using forward and reverse the right way, I can turn her around in a very short radius.

Another trick I have learned by hard experience is to allow the wind and current to help whenever possible. If I see that the wind and current are moving us in the right direction or turning us in the right direction, I just wait and allow it to happen. I use the engine and rudder only to move her opposite the way wind and current would take us. Believe it or not, such patience is hard to learn. When maneuvering in close spaces, the helmsman tends to be nervous and anxious to get out of danger as quickly as possible. It takes courage to be patient in such situations to let the wind and current help instead of revving up the engine.

Of course, close space maneuvering on Tarwathie can be done, but done slowly using lots of time. It won’t work well in a strong wind or a strong current. Therefore, we have to learn to be prudent and to stand off from docking or to refuse to leave a slip when the weather conditions are such to make it too risky. I never had that problem with my light weight boats.

One advantage we have on Tarwathie that we never had on smaller boats is our anchor windlass. It is a manual windlass with two speeds. On the low speed it can crank up an amazing force with little effort. Using my anchor chain and the windlass I can easily apply as much as 5,000 pounds of force in any horizontal direction. That’s very useful, especially when kedging.

I get jealous seeing the captains of other boats maneuvering in the marina using only sail, no power. There is no way that we could do that with Tarwathie. When I’m feeling that way, I can always put up the sailing rig in our dinghy and go for a ride. Last week I took her out for a harbor tour and I got stranded when the wind died completely. I had no engine and no oars and the tidal current was carrying me away from home. I just moved the tiller to port and starboard in a sort of rowing motion providing a very slight forward thrust. That technique wouldn’t move a heavy rig at all, but it is enough to move a very small boat. 15 minutes of sculling got me home safely. If that had failed, I could have jumped overboard and swam home towing the dinghy behind me.

There is still one more level of expertise in heavy boat handling that we haven’t learned well. It is called warping. It involves using numerous lines (ropes to land lubbers) to pull the boat this way and that, and moving those lines from one fast point to another. In theory one can warp and size rig anywhere in almost all weather conditions. The Self Sufficient Sailor, by Lin and Larry Pardey extol the virtues of warping. We have those learning adventures still ahead of us.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Former Lives

Vero Beach

Last night we had, Stephan and Lorrie, the crew of Twin Spirits over for dinner. This couple we met in Marathon last year and again in Oriental NC this year.

Twin Spirits is a catamaran and we had fun comparing notes about cruising on a monohull versus a catamaran. They also told us about several places on the Intracoastal Waterway that we didn't know about. Hmmm, does that mean that we need to do the ICW again to see them?

Of course the favorite question among cruisers when they get together is "What did you do in your former life?" We meet people from all walks of life and it is fun hearing about them. However I noticed that as soon as I say that I was a power engineer and that I helped keep the lights on, the questions from others seem to dry up. Sigh; that's the way it has always been. To most people, electric power is terribly boring unless there is a blackout or a rate increase or some kind of crisis.

I heard from Bud Taplin that we probably can't install the engine until the week of 1/22. The week after that he goes away on a trip for a month. I sure hope that we don't miss that window.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Wave Energy

Vero Beach

We're working on several small projects while waiting for the engine. I put in a new shore battery charger. We're repainting the non-skid areas on the deck, refinishing the bowsprit, and we're going to paint the anchor chain. I'll write each of these up in the blog as they get completed.

Both yesterday and today we spent part of the day at the beach. The weather has been very warm so the beach sounded nice. Besides that, Vero has a nice beach and it's only a mile away.

Today, on the advice of other cruisers, we took the dinghy north and east of here into a network of canals and fancy waterfront houses. About a mile away there is a public park where we could beach the dinghy. Across the street from that is the town beach. It's all very pretty and nice.

The sea water temperature was (I think) warmer than average for this time of year. One could stay in the water for a half hour or more without getting chilled. I did exactly what I liked doing as a kid. I stood in the water up to my waist and let the breaking waves wash over me. Boys of all ages like doing that.

Today I was wondering about all the energy dispersed as waves break on a shore line. Waves we know carry lots of energy and all of it must be dispursed as heat on the shore. When the surf is high, it would seem that the water close to the beach should be warmer than the water temperature further out. Is that because the energy is small, or because the mixing with offshore water is so great?

That made me wonder further how to calculate the energy in a single wave, or the power of a series of waves. There was a time when I was a fresh engineering graduate that I probably could have calculated that using only the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics as a reference. I sure couldn't do that today. I bet my friend John Undrill could still do it. John is one of those guys scoring 100% on his professional engineering exam more twenty years after graduation. (John, would you like to do the wave calculation for me now?)

My favorite physics problem was what I called the teapot problem. After several years simulating the dynmics of boiling water nuclear reactors, I became very involved with the physics and the dynamics of the problem. I even remember dreaming about it, visualizing the steam bubbles in the boiling water expanding as they approached the surface. Actually, a teapot is a bad analogy; a reactor is like a pressure cooker.

I remember having a very elegant closed form solution for the dynamic equations based only on first principles -- mass, energy and volume balances. It worked fine unless the gas and liquid phases were not the same temperature. I could never find any physics or experimental information on the heat transfer for a (boiling) liquid - gas surface. It also didn't work if there were any non-condensible gasses (like air) in the vessel.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Cruiser's Trivia

Can you identify the location of this scene? If yes, then you must be a cruiser.

A Family Visit

Vero Beach

Yesterday we had a nice visit from my brother Ed, his wife Sally and Kristy, his daughter. They live near by near Melbourne.

Kristy is almost finished with her studies to become a kindergarten school teacher. The kids will love her I'm sure.

The five of us went out to Panera Bread for some brunch, then we went for a walk on the beach. It was a lovely day and a nice visit.

In the background of this picture is a restaurant that Ed says was a favorite of my Aunt Gracie and my mother Helen. I'll be darned. I never would have known that.

Thanks Ed for the visit.

Later in the afternoon I had this rude encounter with a bird of paradise.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Florida Is Nice

Vero Beach

I found myself scratching a mosquito bite today. Then it occurred to me, this is the first bite I can remember getting in Florida. Ah, it's so easy to forget that the natural state of Florida is infested with lots of flying insect. The unnatural state is man-made and involves lots of spraying.

It's hard to overstate how nice Florida is for us cruisers. I had the chance to move here 40 years ago. On the other hand, living here in a house is not like visiting here on a boat. The traffic is terrible and gets worse every year. The crime is terrible and gets worse every year. If I lived here I'd probably complain about everything.

Still, the climate is delightful and the nature is wonderful. Especially when there are no mosquitoes around and no hurricanes on the way.

p.s. I picked up an engineering magazine in the sailor's lounge today. It was about design and factory automation. If I were starting again as a young engineer today, I think that factory automation would be a very fun field. The kinds of gadgets and the methods used today are 99% the same as they were in the 1970s. However, the gadgets are so much better, and so much easier to use and so well supported by software and by CAD tools that it would be a pleasure to do the work today.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

On Board Film Library

Vero Beach, N 27.66247 -80.37239

I'm trying an experiment. Click on the word Vero Beach above. It should take you to a satellite view of where I am. If this works well, I'll make it a standard feature.

Once in a while, we enjoy putting a DVD movie in to the PC and watching a movie. Being Scotch by nature, we do not buy movies except when they're on sale for $4.50 at Wal Mart, or unless it is a very special movie that we would like to watch over and over again without limit. It reminds me of our son John in the late 1970s. We took him to see the premier of Star Wars, and after that he saw it again 17 times in the theater. I'd hate to ask him today how many times he's seen it to date.

Anyhow, with that criterion, our list for an on board film library is rather short. You can see it below. From that list, you can deduce our taste trends. Do you have any nominations that you think we should add to our list? If so, please send an email.
  1. Brazil
  2. O Brother Where Art Thou
  3. Young Frakenstein
  4. Little Shop of Horrors
  5. It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World
  6. How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying
  7. Doctor Strangelove
  8. Rocky Horror Picture Show
  9. A Fish Called Wanda
  10. The Blues Brothers
  11. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  12. Fawlty Towers (the series)

Monday, January 01, 2007

Finally, a Problem Fixed

Vero Beach

About a year ago our head (toilet) started leaking clean salt water. The head has a lever to operate a piston for flushing, and a foot pedal to step on to admit salt water for flushing. The first year we were on Tarwathie it worked fine. Then a year ago it started letting in salt water even when not stepping on the pedal.

The problem is quite serious because the head is below the water line. If the leak had started when we were away from the boat it could have sunk her. It would let water in continuously, overflow the head into the bilge, and the bilge pump would pump it out until the battery was drained. That's why when leaving the boat we always close the sea cocks. Every thru-hull fitting has a sea cock.

Fortuantely, there is another shutoff butterfly valve for the head, positioned near the floor behind the head. (Yes there are three valves, the sea cock, the butterfly valve, and the foot pedal valve. We were able to open and close this every time we used the toilet in lieu of the foot pedal working. However it was unpleasant for us and even more unpleasant for all guests we had on board in the past year. My apologies to all guests who had to put up with it.

I tried to fix it several times before. For each try I have to take the head apart and carry it up to the cockpit where I can see it in daylight. It weighs almost 100 pounds so the job was difficult. Thank God the design of our head is such that I could do that without having to touch black water. It is a Wilcox and Crittenden Skipper head, very expensive, but very solid and well designed.

Well designed or not, I had no success in fixing the leak. There is a rubber valve that controls the salt water. It has two rubber flappers with metal buttons riveted into the center of each. There are two metal fingers attached to the foot pedal that push on the metal buttons.

My first attempt was to remove sald and/or lime scale from everything. No effect. Then I replaced the valve with a new one. No effect. Then, because the valve appears symmetrical, it can be inserted in any of four orientations. I tried all four. No effect.

Today, I tried once again. I took it apart once again and just stared at the mechnism. I worked the pedal back and forth many times. I tried to build up a 3D mental model of how the valve worked. I'm not good at that. Even though I'm an engineer by training, I'm not a mechanical engineer. I've always had trouble seeing the relationship between the function of gadgets and their shape. Even things I helped design I had trouble recognizing when I see them. This time however, I just kept at it long enough to finally succeed.

I decided that the metal fingers weren't pushing on the buttons hard enough when the foot pedal was released. I cleaned them off with a wire brush, then I applied a dab of J-B Weld to the end of each making them about 3mm longer. I let the J-B Weld (the quick formula) dry for a couple of hours and put it all back together. Success! The seal appears to be tight. We can go back to using just the foot pedal and forget the butterfly valve. Hooray!

I should also thank J-B Weld. It is the most remarkable product. Over the years I've used it to repair many things. I don't know if they sell it outside the USA. I think every handyman should have J-B Weld in his/her toolbox.