Monday, June 29, 2009

WOW! What a Picture

Burlington, VT

Below is a picture of a volcano seen from the International Space Station. It shows a plume of dust and steam that ate a hole through the clouds and seemingly was on its way to space.

It really blows my mind. I never could have imagined seeing a volcano from that angle before.

You'll need red-blue glasses to truly appreciate this 3D picture.

Read the full story about this pictur at here. Credit for the picture goes to : Expedition 20 Crew, Crew Earth Observations Team, NASA

Libby, First Mate, First Artist

Burlington, Vt

(click on the collage photo to see it full size)

Last spring, in Marsh Harbor, our friend Pat on Reflection taught Libby and several other cruising women how to make pine needle baskets. Since then, Libby has become a real enthusiast. Her skills improve all the time. The baskets get done in less time and they become ever more creative and artistic.

In fact, we had so many that Libby passed most of them along to our daugher in law Cheryl to sell at Farmers' Markets markets.

She even got me interested and I made a couple of baskets myself. It's great fun.

Kudos to Libby.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Skipper's Errors

Burlington, VT

My daughter Jenny protested about my recent blog story about the dinghy painter and the painter. I mentioned that I hadn't committed that particular error since 15 years ago on Lake Champlain. Jenny said that I forgot to mention who jumped in the cold cold water with a knife in her teeth. Yep, it was Jenny who paid the price that day. She wanted to spare her Dad the pain. Humble apologies Jenny. I didn't forget the incident but I did forget to put it in the blog.

What's the deal with the figure 8 on our GPS track in the picture above? Yet another skipper's error. While motoring across the lake we were towing the dinghy. We seldom do that. Usually we put the dinghy up on deck when travelling. This time we did, and this time the dinghy came loose and started to drift away.

Luckily, I noticed it right away. The figure 8 track documents how we swung back to pick it up.

So how did it break loose? Skipper's error. When I'm in a hurry, I use a slip knot to temporarily fasten a line to a cleat or to the sheet winch. It is relatively secure and much faster to make. However, towing the dinghy across the lake is not a temporary fastening. I forgot to change the slip knot for a bowline. Shame on me.

p.s. For the past few days we've been scraping, and sanding, and cleaning, and painting and waxing. We can't play and relax every single day. Boat chores need doing.

If you mainain, repair, replace, and modernize a Westsail and its equipment, it will last indefinitely. Also, when you live aboard and cruise like we do, you wear things out faster than you might expect. Bottom line -- we have a never ending list of boat chores and projects that need doing. As soon as we start neglecting them, the boat starts deteriorating.

I learned a long time ago that if you want to be a boater, then you must learn to enjoy the maintenance chores too.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Who reads this blog?

Porter Bay

I got an email last week. It said,
"My name is Chris, and I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now. I came across your blog while doing research on WestSail 32s. I had been thinking of purchasing a WestSail and tried to convince my wife that she would love the idea of cruising. Well, I have not really been successful, but am still working on her."

My primary intended audience are friends and family. They want to keep track of Libby and me. The secondary audience, are people like Chris who want to live the cruising life vicariously.

Blogger is a Google owned company. Google can't tell me who the readers are, but it does provide some interesting statistics about page use. I'm not going to reveal all my secrets here, but I thought you might be interested in a few tidbits from the most recent 30 days.

Number of visits: 27% of the visitors come to the blog once and don't come back. Presumably, those are people who are surfing, and who didn't find this blog of interest. On the other hand, almost 1/3 of the visitors check this blog once per day or more. They are the hard-core blog fans. I'm very gratified to have so many loyal readers.

How did they find the blog? 78% of the visitors come here directly, meaning that they have bookmarked the blog and come here deliberately. About 11% find it by search engine, and another 11% by a refering page, such as the site.

Where do these readers come from? Mostly the USA, but also 38 other countries.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Photo Trip Up Otter Creek

Vergennes Vermont

We love travelling up and down Otter Creek. I'll let the pictures below, taken yesterday, explain for themselves why.

Above, Purple Marten Lane

Eagle's Nest, occupied by Osprey

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Best of the Best, Vergennes

Vergennes, Vermont

From time to time we enthuse about our alltime favorite anchorages. For example, LaTrappe Creek, Maryland, or Valcour Island, New York, or Isle La Haut, Maine. All things considered though, this place in Vergennes Vermont is the best of the best.

We're sitting near the base of beautiful waterfalls. At night we're lulled to sleep by the thunder of the falls. I can think of no other place we've ever visited while cruising quite like it.

At the top of the falls, and immediately behind us are historic buildings from revolutionary times. In fact, we're sitting right on the site of MacDonough's Boat Yard where warships for the War of 1812 were built.

Around us are parks and a big lagoon at the foot of the falls. Scholl kids come here one by one to fish and in groups to practice rowing replica boats. Around that are very steep hills that form a basin that shelters us from even the worst storm winds.

The city also kindly provides free docks, with water and electric. Within walking distance we find grocery and hardware stores and a laundromat -- all the things that a cruiser needs are here. Skipper Bob books would have no doubt rated this place the best of the best. We concur.

But that's not the end of the special features of Vermont's smallest City. I'm sitting now in the Bixby Library. It is named after William G Bixby who bequeathed a very substantial sum to build an exquisitely beautiful library. Its beauty rivals the best we saw in Washington DC last year.

There is an opera house which we've yet to visit.

Even getting here is a pleasure. Libby and I love the passage up or down Otter Creek. I'll blog more on that later.

Wow, what a great place.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Work Work Play Play

Vergennes, Vermont Public Library

The North wind came up yesterday. It started blowing 25-30 knots and the lake got really rough. Since we are not on any schedule, our policy is to go where the wind takes us. Therefore, instead of fighting the wind, we sailed South once again. Our reward was a super fast passage from North Burlington to Porter Bay, averaging almost 7 knots using just the jib. Thus, up to lunch time we played.

After lunch it was time to get to work. We are repainting and revarnishing almost all of Tarwathie's interior and above deck exterior this summer. That's really hard when one is living on the boat. Try to imagine reuhpolstering the seats in your car while driving with two people inside.

Yesterday we repainted the ceiling in the main salon. We could do that without moving too many things around and while occupying said room. One thing which made it much easier was the excellent quality paint. We had the super premium Valspar paing from Lowes. I must say, we never before saw paint that covered so easily and resisted dripping so well. I guess that even paint technology has avanced.

We also have a color that is an exact with the old paint. We got that via a laser scanner at the store. Cool.

Today Libby is repainting the V berth while I'm beginning on exterior varnish. We're taking advantage of a temporary respite from rain. We emptied the V berth and put all the stuff on deck. Until we put it all back, the boat looks like a junk yard.

Hardest to accomplish will be the interior cabin sole (floor). I want three coats of bowling alley varnish for that. To do that, I have to paint the varnish from forward to aft, ending by painting myself into a corner with the exit door at my back. Then we have to leave the boat long enough for it to dry. For that operation, being here in Vergennes where they have free docks is perfect.

Use of the dock will also be handy when we repaint the decks. We have to clear all objects from deck, including the dinghy, then mask, then paint. The painting has to end with an exit down inside the boat. Then wait 3 hours, then go back for a second coat.

We also need to repaint the exterior of the dinghy. Last month we put on a new surface of epoxy resin. That needs UV protection. I'm unsure of what kind of paint to use. The smallest can of the cheapest bottom paint West Marine has costs $45 per quart, but I only need about 1 cup. I'm not going to pay $45 for that.

The weather too is a factor. The forecast says Tuesday and Wednesday dry, but after that 5 consecutive days of rain. Ugh.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Solstice Errors

Under Sail

Humans share a collective myth or a self-delusion. We believe that once we learn to do something reliably and expertly, and practice it over and over, that we'll do it right every time. Wrong. We may do things correctly 99.99% of the time, but it is human to fail at common tasks from time to time. For example, you may sleep in beds your whole life but the chance of you falling out of bed is nonzero. My son John is a soldier. He handles weapons every day. He and his fellow soldiers follow protocols for handling weapons, loading and unloading them. The protocols are designed to prevent injury in the case of very infrequent but inevitable personal screw ups. Another example: When I learned to fly I was surprised at how imperfect the pilots, and the air traffic controllers are. The system is designed to allow mistakes yet still avoid accidents.

You can already guess where this blog is leading to. My readers love to hear stories of how we screw up. Yesterday, the summer solstice, was just such a day.

First, it was Libby's turn. For the first time ever, she stepped from the dock to the dinghy and lost it. The dinghy shot away and her feet went from under her. Libby's butt was heading for the water and the back of her head was heading for a nasty hit on the dock. Luckily, I was in the right place at the right time to catch her under the arms, so nothing bad happened. Since living on Tarwathie, I estimate that Libby must have gotten in to and out of the dinghy 3600 times. Never before has she come close to falling in. Yesterday was her day.

Only 30 minutes later it was my turn. We approached the night's anchorage. Libby went forward to drop the anchor and I stayed at the helm. As I backed the boat down, I heard a sudden loud snap noise, and then the engine stalled. OH NO! I forgot that we were towing the dinghy behind us. I backed down on the dinghy painter and caught it in the propeller. The last time I committed that mistake was 10-15 years ago, also on Lake Champlain. I can remember to take up the slack on the painter 1999 times in a row and then forget the next time.

Libby didn't have to pay a big price though. I saved her from a dunking and a whack on the head. I wasn't so lucky. I had to dive in the water with a knife in my teeth to cut the painter away from the propeller. It is early in the summer season and the water is very cold. Very cold indeed. I had to do it though even though I hate swimming in cold water. The line had 10 tightly wrapped turns around the shaft so it took a long time to get it off. Brrrrrrr.

The dinghy's painter is ruined. Cut in three places. I'm going to replace it this afternoon, but I'll follow a very sensible suggestion that Libby made just three days ago. She asked, "Why isn't the dinghy painter make with floating rope?"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rock Hopper

Burlington, VT
Libby went gardening with Jenny. Gardening is one thing Libby really misses living on a boat. Jennifer, a certified master gardener, makes up for it. In the picture above, Jenny captured Libby's enthusiasm.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Micro Climates

Burlington, VT

Right now in the early afternoon, I'm looking across the lake to the West. I can see the closest Adirondack Mountains. I can see massive cloud

Right now in the early afternoon, I'm looking across the lake to the West. I can see the closest Adirondack Mountains. I can see massive clouds above the mountains. I can also see that the clouds stop at the Lake Shore. In fact, in this gray rainy day, there is a hole in the clouds showing a bit of blue sky. The size and shape of the hole rougly match the shape and size of the lake. That's a micro climate.

The visual effects are stunning. The closest mountains are about 3,000 feet high. The clouds go about another 15,000 feet higher. That makes a nearly vertical cliff-like face on the clouds 15,000 feet tall. Wow is that spectacular.

I've seen this micro climate effect many times before on Champlain. The most common effect is the one I just described, a cliff-like wall of clouds extending vertially abvove the west shore of the lake. At other times, the effect is the opposite. The surroundings can be clear while the area above the lake is covered by cloud or by fog.

Perhaps the most beautiful effect I'll never see again as long as we live on Tarwathie. That effect comes on warm sunny days in the early spring. The heat of the sun melts water on top of the ice, and then evaporates that water. One sees water vapor lifting off up into the air in long streaming trails. When it gets a few meters above the ice, it forms fog. A few tens of meters above that, the fog burns off and the air is clear.

A photograph? I'll try, but I've tried before to photograph these beautiful scenes, but the pictures don't really show the beauty.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Burlington, Vermont

Several times in the past we've blogged about dramatic or interesing Coast Guard rescues that we overheard on the radio.
Today we heard another. Perhaps this is the strangest of all.

On the VHF radio we heard the ferry Valcour call the Coast Guard in Burlington. The ferry said that they spotted a scuba diver clinging to a buoy in the middle of the lake. They said that no boat was in his vicinity. No dive flag. Nothing to suggest how the diver got out there. The Coast Guard responded right away. They sent a rescue boat to the indicated buoy which was less than 3 miles from the Coast Guard station. They searched but found nothing.

Boy, that story would make a great opening episode in a Clive Cussler novel. But in this case it isn't fiction. It is truth.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chased Out

S Burlington, VT

There is no good sheltered anchorage near Burlington. This week however, the winds have been very light. Therefore we anchored near the shore with no shelter from 3 directions.

Last night our good luck ran out. The wind came up and it started blowing us toward the beach. In recent years, milfoil weed growing on the bottom has made anchor holding chancy. Anyhow, our anchor started dragging. The anchor dragging alarm woke me at 0130.

Oh well, nothing to do but move. I woke Libby, we raised anchor and moved out. Being sleepy, I wasn't in the mood to go far. We went behind the breakwater in Burlington and took a mooring. By 0230 we were back in bed again.

The moorings there are free to use during the day but you have to pay for overnight. Last time we were here they charged $.50 per foot. When I went to pay today, I got a bad surprise -- $.75 per foot. That's way overpriced for a mooring with no showers, no laundry. So it's free for the day but overpriced at night. I'd call that poorly managed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


North Beach
44 29.38 N 073 14.23 W

Yesterday we met with Stephan and Lori. They are the couple from the yacht Twin Sprits that we have known for several years. Last summer they "went over to the dark side." That means they sold their boat and put the money into an RV. After 11 years of cruising by boat, they switched to cruising on land. Libby and I were very interested in their stories and curious about their reactions to the switch.

Not surprisingly, Stephan and Lori have been thoroughly enjoying themselves. They started in Massachusetts, then traveled to Florida, Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and back to Massachusetts again. Now they're preparing for another grand tour of the lower 48. They say that there are many similarities between the water and land based cruising life styles, but some important differences too. One disappointment was that they found it harder to make new cruising friends in the RV park. They say it is because the RV cruisers stay in one place only a short time before moving on, and because they choose from an infinite number of routes. East coast boating cruisers go up and down the same coast on roughly the same schedule. That means that they have many experienced in common and that they cross paths with familiar faces much more often. Interesting.

Anyhow, Stephan and Lori drove up here to visit us, and to explore Vermont a little bit. So far the weather has been uncooperative with scattered showers, and no good views of the mountains. I hope that improves soon.

I can't start our outboard motor. We haven't used it since the Bahamas. I suspect bad fuel. I'm going to go ashore now in search of a gas station to buy some fresh gasoline.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Our Groundings Seem Trivial

South Burlington, VT

We're always so concerned about running aground. But we usually manage to get ourselves off OK. Out troubles seem small compared to the Volvo Race boat in this picture taken today. I'm guessing that the damage to this multimillion dollar racing boat may be severe.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Food For the Soul

Lake Champlain
44 17.69 N 073 18.82 W

A week or so ago, I wrote about the joys of returning to home territory. More on that subject today.

We spent the night in Porter Bay. Porter Bay on Lake Champlain is a particularly idyllic place to anchor. The bay is about 1 mile in diameter, sheltered in all directions. There are no houses or structures visible. The perimeter is marked by cliffs, and forests and a marsh. Last night the wind was totally still. That meant that we could see and hear the surroundings particularly well.

We had the whole place to ourselves; no other boats. Just us and two ducks and a family of geese with 3 goslings. As the sun set, we were reminded anew of the sights and sounds of nighttime in the northeast. The crickets and frogs were all making noise the best they could. Ah yes, we thought, one forgets things like the sound of nighttime when visiting exotic places in other states and countries. In West Charlton, we used to have the joy of nearby peepers from May through June. Peepers are tiny frogs the size of your finger tip that can make extraordinarily loud sounds. No peepers here in Porter Bay but the other frogs made up for it.

This morning, before getting out of bed, we awoke to the din of a nearby flock of migrating geese. The geese are fond of putting down for the night in places like Porter Bay. About 1 hour after dawn, they're ready to take off again. Believe me, it is a very noisy affair when a flock of geese decides to take off.

What other rewards? Soon after departing, we caught our first glimpse of Mount Mansfield and Camel's Hump in Vermont. We lived many years at the foot of these two spectacular mountains. We climbed each of them several times, and I learned to fly planes and gliders in their vicinity. A few minutes later, we passed Split Rock Point. That is where one departs the narrow part of Lake Champlain, to the broadest part. Out in the broad part, one is treated to an unobstructed view of BOTH The Adirondack Mountains in New York, and The Green Mountains in Vermont. The beauty of that view lifts the soul. It is the reason that so many people, ourselves included, just love living in this area.

Today, we'll stop in Burlington and get to see our daughter Jenny for the first time in almost a year. Ah, more food for the soul.

p.s. Porter Bay was also the site of two of my all time favorite sailing stories. See "Opening Day", August 26, 2007, [] and "The Great Super Chicken Caper", September 2007[] Last night, we anchored at the exact spot of that super chicken caper, and it brought back strong memories of my departed father.

Friday, June 12, 2009

We're Here!

Ticonderoga, NY
43 50.31 N 073 23.33 W

Yesterday, Libby and I hugged and congratulated each other. Yet another goal accomplished. We said that we would come to Lake Champlain for the summer and now we're here. In fact, we're anchored under the cannons of Fort Ticonderoga, a very historic symbol of Champlain for a long time.

I'm still challenged about what verb to use for these mast up-down operations and states. Dis-masted, is the only generally accepted word that applies. Therefore, allow me to create my own dictionary.

Masted A vessel with a functional mast. A sailboat.
Dis-masted A vessel with a lost or broken mast.
De-masted Lowering the mast temporarily. [alternative verb: unstep the mast]
Re-masted Re-raising the mast of a de-masted vessel [alternative verb: step the mast]
Un-masted Converting a sailboat to a motorboat.

Thus, according to my definitions, yesterday we stopped at Chipman Point Marina in Orwell Vermont and re-masted Tarwathie. That made Libby happy. It made me happy. It made Tarwathie very happy.

The only down side about being here is the weather. Since coming north of Delaware Bay, the weather has been frequently gray, cool, rainy, and no wind. Extended weather forecasts for the Champlain Valley call for more of the same. Bummer. We're used to having plentiful wind sailing on this lake. Oh well, we have lots of maintenance chores. If we're smart, we'll focus on those while the weather is bad.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Eaten Alive

Whitehall, NY

Last night we were eaten alive by voracious mosquitos. They really got to me, and I stayed up to 3AM on search and destroy missions inside the boat. The most annoying thing about the destroy part was that most of the moquitos I killed were already gorged on blood.

All that despite the fact that we had the hatches and doors shut tight. The moquitos got in at dusk before we shut things up.

Actually, it is remarkable that we aren't bothered more often by insects. It happens to us only two or three times per year.

How is that? First, when we anchor several hundred feet from shore the insect problem is drastically reduced. Second, in Florida they spray vigorously for moquitoes. Third, we visit some of the buggiest places, like The Everglades, in the winter season.

Behind us on the wall in Whitehall is a pontoon boat. The crew is a couple. They said that they take two years vacation each year to camp on the boat. Camp on the boat? Yes they really mean it. At dusk, they erected a full size camping tent on the deck of the boat. At other times, they have clothes, and miscellaneous stuff hanging all over the place. Their boat looks like a family camp site. I admire those two --- they are really dedicated boaters (or should I say dedicated campers.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Project

Whitehall, NY
23 33.25 N 73 24.14 W

Last night in Mechanicville, our friends Carmello and Diane came to visit. We had dinner and then played games until late at night. It was fun to see them once again.

Today we passed the infamous Hudson River Dredging Project which has been underway for only 2 weeks so far. There is a lot of equipment at the site, tugs, barges, dredgers, moorings, floating instrumentation packages, a dewatering plant. Everything is brand new.

For Libby and me, the story of this project seems to have gone on for most of our lives. It has been in the news for 20-25 years. Here's the short form of the story. General Electric had a permit from the state to dump PCB waste in to the river. They did so for decades. Later, someone decided that PCBs are dangerous. Using a new superfund law, the government ordered GE to pay to remove the PCBs from the river bed. It made no difference that the dumping was legal when they did it.

GE fought and fought and fought the government in court. That's what made it drag on for decades. Eventually they lost all their appeals. The cost of the dredging is about $500 billion, and GE has to pay all of it.

An argument against the dredging was that it would re-suspend the PCBs in the water. In the 20-30 years since they stopped dumping, the level of PCBs in the Hudson waters dropped to nearly zero. Digging up the mud on the bottom could raise the levels again. Guess what? After 1 week of dredging, the measured levels of PCBs near the dredging site are only 150 parts per trillion; only 10% of EPA limits for drinking water. It sounds like all the arguments on both sides were phoney. On one hand, the dredging is pointless in the first place because the PCBs were entombed in the bottom mud that would not move. On the other hand, fears that dredging would cause new pollution have proved false anyhow.

What do they do with the mud? They take it by train to Texas, the closest politically acceptable place to dump it.

So what's the moral to the story? It shows how horribly wrong things can go when one mixes public fear and politics and lawyers.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

High Gear

Mechanicville, NY Library

Well, we continue to socialize with old friends in high gear. Last night, we had Mary Ann, and John, and Beverly and John for a lasanga dinner on the boat. Libby outdid herself, making an expecially tasty lasanga plus a delicious 7 layer dip. Luck me, I got to eat the leftovers for lunch today.

Tonight, our firends Carmello and Diane are coming to dinner here at the city dock in Mechanicville. You remember them, they sailed with us in an offshore passage from Cape Judith, RI to Cape May, NY two years ago.

According to the weather report, today is supposed to be really bad with intense rain and thunderstorms. So far it has been beautiful. The wind and river currents are still, so that the surface of the Hudson River became a reflecting pool. It was especially scenic and picture perfect.

The hospitality on the NY Canals is great. In Waterford, the offer dockage, electricity, water, toilets, showers, WiFi, and trash disposal, all totally free. In Mechanicville, it is free docks plus electricity. Most, but not all, towns along the Erie and Champlain Canals offer similar facilities. Libby and I laud North Carolina hospitality, but New York runs a close second. We bought a season pass for the NY Canals so we have no time pressure to move fast.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Old Friends

Waterford, NY

As you know, we constantly meet new friends while cruising. Nothing however quite matches the pleasure of spending time with old friends. Here in the capital district, we have lots of old friends.

Our social weekend started on Friday. Pete and Mary Ellen met us in Waterford and invited us out to dinner at a restaurant in Troy. That made a very nice evening and it allowed us to catch up with their news.

Sunday, we picked up my sister Marilyn to spend the day with us. It has been 9 months since we saw her too. We took her to breakfast at a Friendly Restaurant in Glenville, NY where we have been taking our family for nearly 40 years. Our children even remember that restaurant from their early childhood.

Then we headed to West Charlton to meet with friends and former neighbors and to attend the Charlton Founders Day Parade. I even got to stop at the fire house and say hello to my fellow firemen as the prepared the fire trucks for the parade. We met with Bud and Nancy and Craig, and Maggie, and Louie, and many more. We also drove by our former house and were somewhat shocked at how many changes the new owners made.

In the evening we went to have dinner with our oldest and best friends, John and Mary Ann. It is always a great pleasure to see them and it has been two years since we saw them last. Also, John and Mari from West Charlton also came to dinner so it made a great evening.

Tonight, still at Waterford, we may have a visit from Beverly, a very dear former colleague and friend, as well as follow up visits from Pete, Mary Ellen, John and Mary Ann.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder which is what makes reunions particularly sweet. We've been having fun.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Hudson Pictures

Waterford, NY
42 47.16 N 073 40.69 W

Where are we now? Right next to this sign.

Below is a panorama of the anchorage at Middle Ground near Athens. We saw deer and fox and lots of geese here. A truly beautiful place to linger. Click on the image to see it full screen.

The Cheaspeake is famous for lovely shore side homes. But we think that the Hudson has the best ones. Unfortunately, the best estates, owned by Rockerfeller, Roosevelt, Vanderbilt, Carnegie etc. have all allowed trees to grow in front of them. They can't be seen much from the river, nor do they have river views for themselves.

Some of the homes on the banks of the Hudson are ostentatious, some are modest. The collage below shows some of the prettiest. Click on it to see it full screen. Note the picture left, bottom -- look in the center and you'll see a child's playhouse -- just charming.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Intense Life

On The Hudson

I was sitting in the Athens Public Library yesterday, surfing the net and ordering varnishes for this summer's coming makover of Tarwathie's cosmetics. I plunked down my computer on a table next to some of the library's public computers. At 1430, a nice teen aged girl, perhaps 13 years old, came in and started using the computer next to me.

I wasn't trying to spy on the girl but I got a big education on how some young folks live in today's fast track anyhow.

The first thing that alerted me was the sound of the furious bursts of keyboard strokes as she typed. It sounded like she was trying for a record in speed typing.

Then I noticed that she was wearing earphones plugged in to an IPOD. Of course; I should have expected that.

The girl logged in to some kind of online gaming site. I thought, "Aha! That's how she'll spend her time." Wrong. She played the game for only 5 minutes. Then it was on to her Yahoo mail page.. Then she was looking at a list of the top 50 songs. Then to myspace. Then to movie listings. Then to a big list of I don't know what.

I forgot to mention that while all that was occurring, her phone vibrated every 15 seconds. Even though she was sitting 12 inches away from a sign saying NO CELL PHONES, she answered each buzz. 9 of the 10 buzzes she got were text messages. I was amazed as she read each and composed a reply in seemingly 10 seconds or less. Her speed with that phone's keyboard was amazing. One of her calls was a plain old fashioned voice call. That one took her 30 seconds to dispose of.

Whoops, now she's gone and a second girl, this one about 10 yeard old sat down. She's checking her myspace account. Two minutes on that, and now she's at Yahoo mail.

Of course I already knew that teenagers do all these things. The surprising part to this ancient old man was how speedily and intensely they do it. They act like people overdosed on caffeine, or like I used to act at work when I was in danger of missing an important deadline. How terrible stressful their lives must be.

I hesitate to make judgments because I grew up in a different era and because there are three generations between me and these young girls. Nevertheless, if I were their parents I'd be worried to death about these young people burning themselves out at much too young an age. I
would also fear that they could lose their ability to concentrate and listen
at school or to just sit back and enjoy single-tasking while reading a book.

Am I wrong?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Home Alone 1

Athens, NY

Twenty minutes ago I dropped Libby off in Hudson to catch her train to New York. Already I feel lonely on Tarwathie. Just kidding. I hope she has a wonderful power lunch in Manhattan.

This morning is exceptionally beautiful. I got up at six and took my coffee out on the deck. The wind is so still that the water reflects like a mirror, and with the sun just risen, the cirrus clouds high above look lovely. I took several pictures of the scene and the reflections on my camera.

I also saw for the first time a herd of whitetail deer on the island we've been anchoring near. It is the first time in several years that we've seen deer.

Also, when I pulled up at the public dock here in Athens, there was a pair of
geese strutting around with their dozen goslings. They look so cute, but they make such messes!

All and all, it makes for a glorious day to enjoy being home alone. I think I'll mosey on down to the Athens Stewarts store for coffee and a donut.

p.s. Libby and I read a fascinating true crime story yesterday in the Washington Post. It makes CSI sound like child's play. Read it yourself. Read here first. Read here second.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

In Synch With The Geese

Athens, NY

When we meet people who ask about our cruising lives, I’m fond of comparing ourselves to the geese. “We’re like the geese,” I say, “we go south in the fall and north in the spring.” This year, I’m happy to say we are truly in synch with the geese.

Ever since we entered the Hudson Valley, we've been seeing and hearing numerous flights of geese. That too is a familiar sound. I remember well past October sailing vacations on Lake Champlain in which the sounds of the geese honking seemed louder than that of the wind howling. I also remember life in West Charlton. The trees around our house made it difficult to ever see the geese, but we heard them all the time in the spring and fall. Behind us were big corn fields where the geese were fond of spending the night. In case you don’t know, they honk all night long.

The geese’s schedule has them flying south past New York in October, and north again in late May. In the past four years, Tarwathie and crew have been in the mid-Atlantic states during those months; therefore not truly in synch with the geese.

Just a minute ago, a flight of geese passed Tarwathie particularly low and close, inspiring this blog article. When seen close up, one can see how they use the honks to coordinate their flying to maintain the V formation. Each goose uses sight to maintain his position in the V behind birds ahead of him, and sound to know how he’s positioned with respect to the other geese behind him. The V shape is never perfect, it contains wiggles and curves that constantly appear and are constantly corrected by the birds.

The geese also made Libby and I a bit jealous. They fly north, while Tarwathie sits here with her wings clipped. What I mean is that yesterday we took the mast down. A sailboat without her mast erected is a sadly neutered creature. Don’t worry Tarwathie, we’ll erect it again as soon as we get to Champlain.

Today is a day of not moving. We’re hanging out in the Athens/Hudson area today. Tomorrow, Libby is going to ride the train from Hudson to New York City to have lunch with our daughter in law Cathy and Cathy’s friend. How very cosmopolitan. I wonder if this ladies lunch will be reported in Vogue?