Thursday, January 31, 2008


Marathon, FL

Tonight (Thursday) we went to a stargazing party at the Crane Point Research Center. The keys are an ideal place for stargazing because the night time temperature is so pleasant. I wore shorts and t-shirt and I was plenty comfortable. No mosquitoes either.

We got to see a beautiful view of the Orion Nebula through the host's telescope. However, we didn't get to see any galaxies. I've never seen a galaxy directly. I'd love to do so. Supposedly, we should see Andromeda with the binoculars, but I can't find it.

That reminds me of another stargazing event. If you look in the morning sky just before dawn around now, you can see Jupiter chasing Venus up the sky. On February 2, Jupiter will catch up to Venus. What happens then, a collision? No. Not that, even though depth perception doesn't work on planets, Venus and Jupiter are still very far apart from each other. However, the two will visually merge into a seemingly single super bright planet on the morning of February 2. Get up early and have a look.

p.s. The weather forecast for Marathon for the next 10 days, is 10% chance of rain, high 80F, low 70F; identical forecast for the next 10 days in a row.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Dr. M.S.A.A. Hammam

Marathon, FL

With great regret I have to tell you that my professor and mentor, Dr. M.S.A.A. Hammam (Shawky Hammam to friends) passed away last night at the age of 94. The funeral is today, and sorry I have no details about that.

I was one of Shawky's first power engineering students that he pushed through his program at Clarkson. Another of the first was my classmate Gerry Allen. Gerry and I graduated in 1966. Shawky, acting like a father, chose the right places for Gerry and I to start our careers and arranged for the jobs. He sent Gerry to Niagara Mohawk and me to General Electric. Shawky's judgement and diplomacy was perfect in both cases.

Through the years I and Gerry (especially Gerry) have stayed close to Shawky. We have been greatly distressed in the past eight months as Shawky's health declined. I last visited him at his home in Washington D.C. (see the picture here)

What happens now? Gerry Allen is working with Clarkson to set up a memorial scholarship fund in Dr. Hammam's name. Shawkey would love that idea. Planning is in the very early stages right now. What Gerry needs most is a list of Shawkey's students to contact. If you are one of Shawkey's students, please contact Gerry at

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Harborage Yacht Club

I promised a follow up blog on The Harborage Yacht Club, that we stayed at in Stuart.

What a place this marina is. It is so new that all the slips are empty. We are probably the first boat to occupy this slip. The yacht club even has a dress code for the dining room. We don't even own clothes fancy enough to be permitted in; not that we would want to enter a place like that. We also have to hile 1/2 mile from our slip to the bathroom. At least, the dock hands were helpful and friendly.

The WIFI works, but their login screens are broken. When I clicked on Register to log in, it took me to a folder on their server's hard drive. (See the pic) I didn't explore what mischief I could have done on their hard drive. I called the vendor, Turn Key Systems, but they were clueless. After 36 hours, it was still broken, and every time I called I got a different answer. What a bunch of losers.

I hiked to the showers and Captain's Lounge. They are very fancy, but they still have bugs. For example, the clothes hook in the shower was more than 7 feet off the floor. I couldn't reach it. I understand that new places have bugs, but it would be fairer if they offered an introductory rate while debugging.

Along the hike to the shower, I realized that the nearby condominiums are all vacant. This place is indeed brand new, and probably having a hard time selling condos because of the sub-prime crisis. Then I heard some juicy gossip. The condos sold for up to $750,000 each, but the owners bought them sight unseen. Then they found out that the condos are right beside a railroad track where very noisy freight trains pass often. That makes them unlivable according to their standards. They also found out that the docks were built on the site of a marina wrecked in the last hurricane; which means that they are prime candidates for being wiped out in the next hurricane.

The reality of the whole thing rattles my faith in capitalism. Libby and I are firm believers in capitalism. We believe that letting rich people be rich causes them to invest their money in things that expand the pie that we all share. The Harborage seems to suggest otherwise. It suggests that there are so many people with so much excess money that they can't help but invest it foolishly. They waste their money on foolish things that benefit no one, and do no public service with their investments. Does that mean that liberals can be right? Horrors :(

Monday, January 28, 2008

Wow; What a Trip!

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL
N 24 42.391 W 081 05.683

What a fast ride. Without any help from the Gulf Stream or other currents, we did 156 miles in 28 hours. That's flying for a 32 foot sailboat.

We left Lake Worth yesterday at 0800, and within 30 minutes of leaving the inlet a cold front passed. Besides getting cooler, the wind came from the north at 15-20 knots, very steady. That was ideal. We put out only the fore sail, and bam we were making 6.5 to 7.5 knots. There was no need for any other sails. The only trouble was that with the wind right behind us, Tarwathie was hard to steer. Neither the Monitor, nor the electronic autopilot could keep her on course. We steered by hand until
we passed Key Biscayne, and our course began to turn toward the west.

Last night,the sky was clear and it was cool (very cool). Actually the temperature must have been about 60, but the wind chill temperature out on the water was only 30-35. I put on long johns, a wool shirt, a jacket, and I wore socks on my hands for gloves. With all that stuff on, I was perfectly comfortable.

For once, we didn't have to take any evasive maneuvers to avoid ships. As a matter of fact, three big cruise ships departing Fort Lauderdale and Miami diverted their courses to avoid us. How nice.

This morning, as I slept, Libby encountered a problem. Our speed abruptly dropped from 7 knots to 3 knots, even though the wind stayed steady. We had hooked a lobster trap on a catch at the bottom of our rudder. It was dragging behind us. Libby kindly decided to let me sleep and sailed on at three knots for three hours. When I did get up, I spotted the line dragging behind us. I dropped the sails and we drifted free. The trap did not come unstuck. Hesitantly, I tried using the motor to
back us up. That was a risky procedure because the line could wrap around the propeller. Still I tried.

I backed up a while, then I put it in forward. The engine made a strange sound, so I immediately put it in neutral. I looked over the side. Darn; I did foul the line with the propeller after all. I could see the end of a cut line sticking out. Oh well, at least the trap was gone. We sailed on to Marathon, but we could not enter the harbor until the propeller was cleared. We sailed up to a lee shore in 10 feet of water and dropped the hook. I put on my wet suit, mask and snorkel, gripped
a knife in my teeth and jumped in. Surprise! There was no trace of the lobster trap or the line. It had not fouled the propeller after all.

By 1230, we were inside Book Key Harbor, and tied up to a mooring. The sun shone brightly, and the temperature was about 75 degrees. Life is good. Libby calculated our 156 mile progress in 28 hours. That was impressive. We could have done it in 26 hours if it hadn't been for that lobster trap. Normally, a boat this size can't do more than 100 miles per day.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Look out Marathon; Here we come

At Sea
N 26 17 W 80 03

Yesterday we repaired the Monitor self-steering apparatus. We also spent a half day cleaning and repairing the bottom side of the dinghy. Leaving the dinghy in the water for long periods, as we did in Vero, is tough duty. Most people have inflatable rubber rafts. We have a very nice fiberglass hard dinghy of the Fatty Knees brand. It is excellent to row, roomy, and it can haul big loads. However, the fiberglass is paper thin and it gets injured with every hard knock and ding. So, like everything
else on a sailboat, it takes a lot of maintenance.

Today a cold front passed by and the wind shifted to the North. So off we went. Right now we're doing about 6 knots and coming up on Fort Lauderdale. The sun just came out and the wind is freshening. It's really nice. We passed the edge of the continental shelf a ways back. 3 miles off shore, the depth is almost 400 feet, rather than 80 feet typical when we cross over the shelf. It's very apparent in the water color. Rather than turquoise, it is dark blue.

We have friends on Viking Rose and on Raven and Heron who we would like to buddy with to cross over to the Bahamas, but they are all more than a week behind us. Impatience rears it's head. We don't want to hang around for another week.

Both Libby and I have the urge to go to Marathon before doing the Bahamas, so that's where we're heading now. If the winds hold out, and it we don't decide to stop and snorkel, we should be there by tomorrow. Look out Marathon; here we come.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Prudence? Convenience? Omen?

In Lake Worth, Palm Beach, FL
N 26 45.50 W 080 02.63

Today was a beautiful one. Sunny; a bit cool; and winds NE at 15-20 knots. I returned the rental car, then we set about to prepare Tarwathie to go to sea.

By noon we were at the intersection of the ICW and the St. Lucie River, and the St. Lucie Inlet channel. I'm chicken about ocean inlets. The wind, tides, currents and waves all conspire to make it the most hazardous conditions we voluntarily face. Worse, the sand dunes shift around causing shoaling. Therefore, our paper charts and electronic charts refuse to chart the areas around inlets. They change too fast.

I called the Coast Guard for local info. They said that we would have enough depth, but that the shoals shift every week causing the CG to constantly move the channel buoys. The girl I talked to sounded hesitant to recommend it. What the heck I thought, can't be too chicken too often. So out we went. The traversal of the inlet went without incident. The water was deep enough, it was high tide. The buoys and day markers were adequate. By 1230 we were out at sea and under sail.

Tarwathie loved it, and we flew southward at 7 to 7.5 knots. I reckoned that we could be in Key Biscayne by 0400 tomorrow morning and we could even continue to Marathon and be there in only 30 hours. Tempting.

Around 1600 Libby was on watch and she called for help. The control line of the Monitor self steering rig had broken. Darn, that is the third time that line broke while at sea. It is impossible to fix at sea when the boat is pitching. So, looking at the chart, it was 90 minutes until sunset, and only 3 miles to the Lake Worth inlet. We probably could have continued, but it sounded appealing to pull in to Lake Worth, get a good supper and a good night's sleep, and repair the Monitor on Saturday.
The weather should be good for sailing once again by Sunday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Day Sail

Stuart Florida
N 27 12.864 W 080 15.458

The weather has turned very nice. Nice indeed, and very welcome after recent days. We had a short and pleasant sail from our anchorage down to Stuart.

When we got there, the city marina with their mooring field was full. We took second choice and anchored in the river just past the marina. What a lot of trouble we had setting the hook. We dropped anchor 3-4 times in a row, but the it refused to bite. It slide on the bottom as if it were the surface of a Teflon pan.

Finally I had to settle for dropping two anchors. They held us in place long engough for the anchors to sink down in to the mud. After a few hours of sinking, then they bit OK.

That was more trouble than we've ever had before anchoring. Worse, I wouldn't feel at all secure there if a strong blow came along.

Anyhow, after I was satisfied that the boat wouldn't drift away, we hopped in the dink and motored over to downtown Stuart. Stuart is a very upscale touristy kind of place. It is filled with little gift shops and art galleries, and the Lyric Theater. We enjoyed poking around in the stores for several hours. I think Jenny had a good time.

Today, we're in an entirely different situation. We met up with Jenny's dear friend Marianne from Vermont, and Marianne's brother Al. They came aboard for lunch and for a day sail. To make it easier for them to get on board, we moved down the river a bit to the brand new Harborage Marina and Yacht Club. We then left the marina and spent 2-3 hours merrily sailing up and down the Saint Lucie River.

The river is deep enough and wide enough to make sailing really fun. The winds started out at only 5 knots, but pretty soon along came a black cloud with one of those famous Florida sun showers. The cloud brought with it a nice breeze at about 12 knots, and soon we had Tarwathie beating upwind at 6.5 knots. Great fun.

Al especially enjoyed it. Al has a lot of sailing experience. He even told me a story of when he and another man ran their mast in to a 30,000 volt power line. Ay ay ay; what a nightmare. Fortunately (miraculously) nobody got hurt and Al is still here to tell about it. Al is also a fan of Westsail 32s; that makes him first class in my book.

What a coincidence; our dock at the marina is directly accross the street from the parking lot where we spent two days parking cars at the Stuart Boat show a couple of weeks ago. It's odd how very different threads seem to lead us to a few semi random geographical spots over and over again.

In the evening, Marianne and Al treated us to dinner at the Wahoo restaurant next to the yacht club. We had a great time. Thank you Marianne and Al.

Today (Thursday), we rented a car and drove Jenny to the Miami Airport to catch her flight home to Vermont. We had a nice trip, but it was hard to let her go. Jenny would make a very pleasant member of our cruising family. On the way back, we stopped at Bluewater Charts in Fort Lauderdale to buy a copy of the chartbook for the SE United States inlets. Our regular charts don't chart the inlets.

Then we continued on to Fort Pierce to stop at the Marine Liquidator place. There we bought a nice piece of canvas to sew up a new sail bag for our staysail. The liquidator place has a bin of miscellaneous canvas and dodger covers for only $10 each.

Then we went to Dino's Family Restaurant; a favorite place. I had liver and onions and sweet potato fries. It was absolutely delicious and it is a dish that Libby will never ever make for me. We recommend Dino's to all cruisers who stop in Fort Pierce.

Finally, we stopped at the market to replentish groceries, and made it back to the boat by 1930. We're plenty tired now.

I'll write more about the marina here at a later date.

p.s. Jenny complained that the blog only gives my point of view; hardly ever Libby's. I agree, but it's hard to convince her to write. Send an email if you want to hear more of Libby's writing.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Escape from Vero

Saint Lucie River
N 27 10.745 W 080 11.580 see the map

0600 I woke at the first sign of light in the sky, and turned on the weather radio. Hooray! The forecast sounded OK. I roused the others out of bed and set about the business of preparing Tarwathie to be mobile once again. By 0750 we were under way.

Not only that, but we got to sail for the first time using our new roller furler and new fore sail. There was plenty of wind for it, between 20 and 25 knots most of the time with occasional gusts to 30. All we needed was the fore sail, no motor, no main sail. We rocketed down the ICW at speeds ranging from 5 to 7 knots; hitting a peak of 7.87 knots. WOW! Tarwathie was feeling her oats.

It felt very very good to be under way and under sail once again. Libby enjoyed it a lot. Jenny was a little intimidated at first by the strong winds, but she soon relaxed.

Jenny got a good lesson on how things can build up to overload on a boat. We approached the intersection of the ICW, and the Saint Lucie River and the Saint Lucie Inlet. Within the space of 120 seconds, we spotted a pod of about 25 dolphins near the boat. Jenny got excited and ran for her camera. We had to make a right turn at the appropriate buoy. A big power boat came up behind us and decided to pass by cutting the corner on the inside of the turn. We had to jibe the fore sail and start the engine after turning. Just then the depth sounder alarm came on. It showed 5.7 feet and our depth is 5.5 feet. We were right in the middle of the channel where we were supposed to be. We had too much speed and too little room to maneuver to do much about it. Fortunately, we passed the shoal without bumping the bottom, but those were tense seconds.

Around 1500 we got to this place on the Saint Lucie River. It has good shelter from the ENE wind and it it out of the way of river traffic. We are surrounded by mega mansions of the rich and famous. I turned on the WIFI and found 8 signals to choose from. Life is good.

Tomorrow, we'll be in Stuart in the morning and we can spend the day exploring a new city.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jenny's New Look

Vero Beach

Libby and Jenny went to the beach and to a fancy lunch, and to the hairdresser today (leaving me all alone by the way).

Here's Jenny's new look after her hair cut.


We didn't do much on Sunday. Just hid out from the bad weather. Even the WIFI didn't work.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Why are we here?

Vero Beach

My friend John is away for a month's holiday in New Zealand. He sent an email yesterday saying that they were having a very good time. He also expressed surprise to find that we are still in Vero.

I was about to reply to John, saying "We are still in Vero because..." Then I realized that I don't know why we are still here, and I can't remember anything special we've done in recent weeks. Wow. It's time to get out of this place. The Tarpit Harbour syndrome is too strong. Today's weather forecast indicates that Monday morning should be the time to leave.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Lousy Weather, Good Company

Vero Beach Public Library

Jenny is not the seasoned traveler that she used to be. She was bringing us three pints of genuine Vermont maple syrup. However, she decided not to check her bag. When she got to the security check they said, "Sorry, no liquids," and threw all that excellent syrup in the garbage. ):

Yesterday, we took a walk around the neighborhood behind the marina. Jenny is a gardening and landscaping enthusiast so she really appreciated the beautiful yards of the homes in that neighborhood. Collage below.

In the afternoon, Libby and Jenny and our Margaret from SV Heron went to McKee Gardens; the botanical garden that we visited a week or so ago. I think they really enjoyed it. On the way back, Jenny got a shock. The three of them boarded the bus and according to Jenny, everyone on the bus said "Hello Jennifer. Welcome to Vero." She didn't know how these strangers on a city bus knew her name. I know the secret, all those people are fans of this blog so they knew she was coming. Tee hee.

This morning we listened to the weather forecast. It is dismal. It is stormy today (Thursday), then again on Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. That is likely to kill our plan on sailing to Miami before Jenny's return. For now, we'll stay in Vero and make a day-by-day decision of whether to stay or go.

The problem is that there are no good places to hang out on a stormy day south of here. No Name Harbor is good but we heard that there are 50 boats down there waiting to get in.

We really want to leave Vero, but we seem to be stuck here. I'm reminded of the song below which is very apropos today. You can buy the song on a CD at Eileen Quinn's web site.


Well the holding is good and the water's pretty clean
it's an easy dinghy ashore

the French bread is fresh
and the laundry is cheap
there's a well stocked hardware store

feels so familiar, almost like home

and I can't quite remember.
what I left home for

Tarpit Harbour has sucked down my anchor
and with it my will to be free
there's some what goes sailing
I seem to go anchoring
stuck in the muck this side of the sea

Monday there's movies Tuesdays the potluck
Wednesdays I play volleyball
there's the luncheon on Thursday happy hour Fridays

Saturday the market's got my favorite stall
Sundays I look at my list of boat projects
then lie down and try to recover from it all

Chorus: tarpit harbour ....

well I'd have been long gone if I hadn't been waiting
on boat parts from overseas
now my tools are all rusted autopilot's busted

and the freezer refuses to freeze
but I would have remedied
all of these problems if I wasn't so busy shooting the breeze

Chorus: tarpit harbour ....

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Vero Beach

Yesterday was a very good day. I drove to Orlando to meet our daughter Jennifer at the airport. Jenny will spend 9 days on board with us escaping the Vermont winter.

We drove back via Cocoa Beach so that we could drive down A1A by the beach. We even stopped once and went for a walk on the beach. That's always fun, especially for someone who just arrived from snow country.

On another note, reader Bill on his 46 Bertram Motoryacht sent the following practical tip on water pump impellers. "If you think the impeller is dry ( winter storage or new ) put liquid soap on the vanes or take one of the hoses off and pour liquid soap down into the pump. That will give it enough lubrication until the water gets there." Thanks Bill.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Uh Oh, Must Be Careful

Vero Beach

This weekend I did the long-term maintenance on our new engine for the first time after 850 hours of use. I changed the transmission oil, changed the secondary fuel filter, tightened the alternator belt, drained the primary coolant, cleaned the raw water strainer, and removed the heat exchanger tube stack for cleaning. I had been putting that off because I'm chicken to take things apart for the first time. I'm always afraid that I won't get it back together correctly.

The good news is that there was almost nothing to clean from the raw water strainer. Those things collect sticks and weeds, but mine was nearly clean.

When I removed the cap at the end of the heat exchanger, I was shocked to see two rubber bits sitting there. They were plainly the tips of the raw water pump impeller vanes. Uh Oh, that's bad. Even worse, the bits were on the opposite end of the heat exchanger from the pump, and the bits were much too large to fit through the tubes. It is a mystery to me how they got there.

Needless to say, I scrambled to take the raw water pump apart and remove the impeller. A picture of it is shown below. You can plainly see the broken vanes and the broken bits that I found separately. Fortunately, I had a spare impeller and I installed that.

Now for the lessons learned. The water flow seemed adequate and I never noticed any reduction in flow since the installation was new. I have no idea when the vanes broke. It is possible, even logical, that they broke the very first time I started the engine when the pump was completely dry, getting no lubrication from water. I guess the lesson to be learned is to keep spares on board, but more important, to take apart and inspect the pump impeller more frequently, perhaps every 100 hours.

Another shock. I felt the rubber exhaust hose. It is supposed to be very stiff and it is reinforced with internal wire. A section about one foot long was completely soft, and nearly collapsed. I discovered a long time ago that a bit of the hose rubbed against a bracket and had chafed a hole. I plugged the hole and put up chafing cloth to prevent recursion. I didn't think however about the bit of reinforcing wire exposed by the chafe. In the months between, about 18 inches of that wire had turned to rust inside the hose and made it soft. Tsk tsk, shame on me. Inspect inspect inspect all things that might go wrong and do it frequently. Also, just because things are brand new, does not mean that the inspection frequency can be reduced.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

An Honest Day's Work

Vero Beach (wikimap)
27 39.646N 080 22.224

At times we work very hard to maintain our cruiser life of leisure. The weeks of the repowering project come to mind. However, working for yourself on projects of your own choosing and without pay doesn't count as real work. This weekend, Libby and I both signed up to do real work at the Stuart Boat show.

Libby worked one day and I worked two days. We got paid $12/hour. It gave us the chance to earn a few bucks and also to get a change of pace and a new experience.

Our primary job was to be parking lot buddies. There were three impromptu parking lots that the show had borrowed. Our job was to figure out how to pack as many cars as possible in to the limited space, to direct the drives, and to greet visitors with smiling faces. I liked it. It was fun and I considered the people in my lot as "my clients." I had extra fun by whispering in the ear of all the small boys who came with their parents. I whispered, "Tell your dad to buy you your own boat."

I also worked the boat show grounds with a broom and dustpan, policing the area to keep it clean.

Upon arrival on the first day I immediately recognized the carny culture of the show arrangers and felt fight at home. My very first full time job was when I was 14 years old. I worked at an amusement park. I learned the carnival culture there and I soon became an enthusiastic carny myself. Now 50 years later, I've come full circle.

At the end of the second day, I realized the big irony underlying the whole reality. You see, all the workers at the show (there were 50 to 100 of us) were cruising boaters like myself. The clients to the power boat show tended to be men who arrived in BMWs, Corvettes, Mercedes, and even Bentleys. On their necks were heavy gold chains and on their arms were glamorous and nubile women. All those women had 100% natural nubility (if you know what I mean.) I always presume 100% natural unless I get direct sensory evidence to the contrary (if you know what I mean). Alas, the evidence never comes my way so as far as I can vouch for, they are all 100% natural.

Anyhow, almost all these women also (through sheer coincidence) had 100% natural blond hair.

Now for the irony part. The people acting as servants at the show were cruisers like myself. We parked the cars and swept up the cigarette butts of the clients. However, many of those clients were at the show to dream about becoming cruisers. If their dreams were realized then they would have the honor and privilege of parking the cars and sweeping up the butts for those who haven't made it yet. :)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Good Luck Mr Gorsky

I came upon a story so good I have to share it. It is not true, but it is funny.

Everyone knows that when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon, he said "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." However, following that, he said "Good luck Mr. Gorsky." Nobody knew what he was talking about. NASA could find no record of a Gorsky in The American or Soviet space programs and Armstrong refused to explain.

Twenty six years later, a reporter asked the question again. This time Armstrong said, "Mr. Gorsky is dead, so now I can tell you the story."

"When I was a boy, we played baseball in the back yard. One day the ball went over the fence and I went to the Gorsky's yard to retrieve it. As I picked up the ball under the Gorsky's open window, I heard Mrs. Gorsky shouting at Mrs. Gorsky."

She said, "SEX! You want sex? You'll get sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!

Changing Plans Again

Vero Beach

Just the other night we were enjoying dinner and a Balderdash game on board Viking Rose with our friends Dave, Hilde, Penny and Richard. All three boats are going to the Bahamas and it is the first time for all of us. We talked about what fun it would be to travel together since we were all leaving about the same time.

Well, one of the pleasures of cruising is that you can change plans at the drop of a hat. We were planning on leaving this week. Then, Libby and I signed on to work at the Stuart Boat Show this weekend. We can pick up a few pennies and have fun at the same time. That means postponing our departure a few days.

Then, we got a call from our daughter Jenny. Jenny wants to escape the cold and sail with us for a couple of weeks. Horray! We always love to see family, especially Jenny. She's coming next Tuesday so we'll delay our departure a few additional days.

Then I heard from Penny that they will delay their departure a few days for reasons of their own.

I haven't heard from Dave and Hilde on Raven if they've changed their plans too, but I wouldn't be surprised.

p.s. The cruiser's nickname for this place is Velcro Beach. I wonder how that came about?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mckee Gardens

Vero Beach Public Library

We had a busy weekend. I suspected that our main batteries were bad after less than a year of service. Therefore, we rented a car for the weekend so that I could drive the batteries to Fort Pierce where we bought them to have them tested.

It turned out that the batteries tested good; the problem must be that we weren't letting them charge enough. However, when I put the batteries back in the boat and started the engine, they charged up to 14.5 volts. Heretofore, they never showed more than 14.0 volts at full charge. Could it be that we had an improper high resistance connection all this time that caused us to lose 0.5 volts? May be.

Today we still had the car so we took advantage of it and rode to the botanical garden just south of Vero. The garden was something we spotted last year but never had a chance to visit. We took our friend Don from Heron with us. It turned out to be a delightful visit.

McKee Gardens has 18 acres of tropical wonders. We walked around admiring the beautiful and strange plants. At least they are all strange to us; we grew up in northern climates.

Some composite pictures are below. Also, check out our new photo album Vero07 with all the pictures we've taken down here in the past couple of months.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Carbon Footprint For Cruisers, Part 2

Vero Beach Public Library

Continuing Part 1:

But those web page polls are very superficial, and they make a ton of unmentioned assumptions. There are numerous other factors that make shore based living more expensive and polluting. One can get a handle on that by considering the many things that a typical middle class American own and maintains that cruisers do without. Here's my short list.

Air conditioner, ATV, bath tub/shower, cars/SUVs (2 or more), cable/electric/sewer/water hookups, CD player, clothes washer + dryer, de-humidifier, dishwasher, electric coffee maker, electric mixer, electric shaver, food blender, foot bath, furnace, garden tractor, hair curler, hair dryer, humidifier, Jacuzzi bath, jet ski, lawn mower, lawn sprinklers, leaf blower, microwave oven, phone (land line), pressure washer, snow blower, snowmobile, space heater, surround sound, toaster, TVs (3 or more), vacuum cleaner, vaporizer, VCR/DVD+DVR , video game console, outdoor lighting, ceiling fans, not to mention a house and garage.

Now offset that with the list of things that cruising sailors need that homeowners don't. SSB radio, VHF radio, radar, chart plotter, anchor light. It hardly balances, does it?

Even beyond gadgets, it takes energy to provide us with the things we consume; food, clothes, etc. How do we get a handle on the total footprint? An op-ed article in the New York Times called What's Your Consumption Factor? from 1/2/2008 NYT by Jared Diamond. Mr. Diamond said "The average rates at which people consume resources like oil and metals, and produce wastes like plastics and greenhouse gases, are about 32 times higher in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia than they are in the developing world." Based on that 1 to 32 scale, I think sailing cruisers consume about 4.

But the real benefit of the cruising life goes beyond expense and pollution. Cruisers enjoy the simplicity of their life style and the freedom from responsibility to acquire and maintain such an enormous pile of stuff that you don't really need.

George Carlin said it best. He said, "A house is a pile of stuff with a roof over it." I think that many (perhaps most) people become prisoners to their own collection of stuff. I you want to escape that trap, then start cruising.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


Vero Beach

We shouldn't whine. We've seen colder weather before, and our friends have braved whole winters of cold on board their sailboats. That said: brrrrrrrrrrrrr boy is it cold!!!

Last night it snowed as far south at Daytona Beach, and the temperatures in the low 30s made it as far south as Miami. To make it worse, a merciless NW wind is blowing 20-25 knots.

We had dinner with our friends Stephan and Lori on boad their catamaran Twin Spirits last night. We had a lot of fun. After dinner, Stephan lit their propane heater and we all played Balderdash in the toasty warm environment. At the end of the evening though Libby and I had to get back in to the dinghy and to make our way across the harbor to Tarwathie. By the time we got there we were chilled to the bone.

It's not supposed to be like this in southern Florida.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Carbon Footprint for Cruisers, Part 1

Vero Beach Public Library

Cruisers tend to be a laid back lot. They don't care very much about politics, and certainly don't worry about being politically correct. Nevertheless, as the rest of the world goes crazy over global warming and worries about how to reduce their greenhouse gas emission, some cruisers like myself, can't help being curious about how they stack up among the world's polluters. After all, living full time aboard a sail boat ought to make us rank pretty high, since our transportation is provided "free" by wind power.

I decided to find out what my carbon-footprint was. It didn't take a lot of work. I went to Google and searched for "carbon footprint." It came back with 267,000 hits. Many of the web sites listed include free carbon footprint calculators.

Using these calculators proved to be a bit of a challenge. They primarily consist of multiple choice questions, and the correct answer to most of them for a cruiser would have been "none of the above." Here's an example:

Which housing type best describes your home?
  1. Free standing house without running water
  2. Free standing house with running water
  3. Multi-story apartment building
  4. Row house or building with 2-4 housing units
  5. Green-design residence

Since "none of the above" was not a choice most often, I had to improvise answers to the questions. I started with estimates of our energy use as follows.

Three years ago, Libby and I sold our house, cars, and all our land-based possessions. We have been cruising on our Westsail 32 ever since. This year, for example, we went from Marathon in the Florida Keys to the Erie Canal in New York, to Montreal on the Saint Lawrence River, and back to Florida. Although we like to say that our transportation is provided by wind power, a lot of that travel on canals, rivers and the Intra Coastal Waterway requires that we make way under power. From my logs, I see that we use about 400 gallons of diesel fuel, 20 gallons of gasoline, and 40 pounds of propane per year. Those, fuels (plus wind) provide us our transportation, electricity, heating, cooling and cooking needs.

We also have a solar panel. We have a portable gasoline generator that we run only when we stay at the same place for a week or more. We spend as few days as possible tied up to slips in marinas using shore power; perhaps 10-15 days per year. Two or three times per year, we rent a car for a day or two.

Our grocery shopping and consumption is about the same as it would be if we lived up on the hard. We almost never buy clothes except those recycled from the Salvation Army store.

Last and most, we took a Thanksgiving trip from Florida to Fairbanks Alaska to spend the holiday at my son's house. That trip accounts for more than 50% of our energy use for the entire year.

Anyhow, I used that basic information and used it to improvise answers to a dozen or so of those carbon footprint calculators. The questions asked at the sites varied a lot. Some of them seem to be more interested in political correctness than scientific objectivity. The answers they gave in absolute units also varied. I was surprised though to see that my projected footprint compared to the average American's footprint was remarkably similar from the different calculators.

Here is the basic result. Our footprint is about 4.8 tons of carbon per year for the two of us, or about 2.4 tons per person per year. Compare that to 20.4 tons for the average American, 11 tons average for industrial nations, 7.5 tons for residents of Sweden, 4 tons global average, and 0.9 tons for residents of Bangladesh. According to Al Gore's friends, the global average must be reduced to 2 tons per person per year if we are to avoid Armageddon.

Continued in part 2

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Cold Maine Story

Vero Beach

Happy New Year everybody!

This morning I passed by the sailor's lounge. They had a TV on there tuned to the weather channel. I saw a picture of some people skiing on the beach in Maine. The snow went right up to the surf and that's where they were skiing. It reminded me of the pictures below.

Here's the story. On our honeymoon, we set out to go to Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine. We never made it. Along the way we found so many other interesting places that we ran out of time. On two other occasions, we took vacations with the family with Acadia as the intended goal. Both times, the same thing happened to us. We saw so many things and had so much fun along the way that we dawdled and never got that far.

Two summers ago, we sailed to Maine on Tarwathie. We had a great time. We got as far north as Isle Au Haut. That island is actually part of Acadia, but not the central part. We loved the island so much that we dawdled there for four days, and never did sail the remaining 10 miles to get to the real part of the park. That made four attempts to get to Acadia without success.

However, Libby and I have been to Acadia. One December Friday in the early 1990s, I came home to Burlington, weary after several stressful weeks at work. I needed a short break, so we decided to take a three day weekend. Libby and I enjoyed traveling by the spin the bottle method. We got in the car, started the engine, then spun a bottle. It pointed ENE. How perfect! That course would take us across Northern Vermont, Northern New Hampsire, and Northern Maine directly to Bangor and Acadia national park. Best of all, the route took us nowhere near the coast so we would not be distracted or diverted.

We drove straight through to Bangor, and by the next morning we were at the gates of Acadia National Park. The only trouble was that it was bitterly cold and windy. It was a Nor'easter. Oh well, we weren't bothered by crowds. We were the only tourists in sight.

We finally reached our goal when we came to the sea shore. We got out of the car and walked to the beach. It was hardly an idyllic marine scene. The wind howled, we were very very cold, and visibility was only a few hundred meters. Most amazing, we saw balls rolling down the beach. Closer examination showed that balls of foam were being blown from the breaking wave tops. The balls froze in mid air into rigid sphere which the wind blew down the beach. The pictures above show us enjoying our private day (and only day) at Acadia.