Thursday, July 30, 2009

Good News and Bad

Willsboro Bay, NY
44 23.95 N 073 23.50 W

Suddenly, our crew count jumped from 2 to 8. We were joined by our son John and his family, Cheryl, Nick, Sara, Katelyn and Victoria. No, we're not all sleeping on the boat. We rented a camp here in Willsboro as a base. John's family wants to learn to sail, so for the next few days I'll be running Dick's Sailing School. I'll probably also be blogging less than normal because I'll be busy and because family life, aside from cruising life, should not be a bloggable topic.

Also, let me share something. Some thing that is part of being retired and living the cruising life. I got a package in the mail that says on the envelope, "Welcome to Medicare." "Good," I thought, "that should be a relief to have medical coverage for the first time in 5 years." But as I read the material in the package, I became more and more hot under the collar.

Medicare has four parts. Part A covers 80% of hospitalization and it is free of charge. Part B covers 80% of doctor charges. The good part is that parts A and B cover us in all the states we visit in a year. Private insurance won't cover non-emergency costs outside your home state. The bad part is that since government intervention in health care, inflation adjusted medical costs have soared so much that my premium plus 20% of the costs are far higher than 100% of our medical premiums plus costs used to be in the 60s.

Part C is medigap insurance. It covers most of the 20% share. The cost is variable, from one hundred up to several hundred dollars per month. However, all of them seem to have the property that all non-emergency care must be provided in one's home state. That doesn't fit our life style at all.

Part D is prescription medicine. It's costs also varies from one hundred to several hundred dollars per month. We're not too interested in that. I estimate that we spent only about $400 dollars for prescription medicines in the past 20 years. The part D premium would be more than 10000% more than our current budget!

Now for the infuriating part. The material says that if we do not choose to buy the optional Part C ad Part D coverage right away, that we will be penalized for the rest of our lives. That's right. We have free choice, but my benevolent government chooses to begin a new relationship by me by leading off with threats. I do not respond kindly to being threatened. We also have a constitutional right to privacy, especially regarding personal medical information. However, to use one penny of the Medicare benefit one must waive his privacy rights.

@$_*!&%)^#!@$(!!! Is there any wonder why I'm so libertarian?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sailing Stories 4

Burlington, VT

You may remember some of the stories we posted previously about Art and Don, those two great sea farers that we met in the Bahamas. Here are links to stories 1 2 and 3. We only got to chat with them for an hour or so, but the stories just poured and poured from their memories. If I could spend a few days with them, I'd have material for a great book.

Anyhow, as you know from reading this blog, experience hardly conveys immunity to stupidity and embarrassing moments.

We were sitting in the cockpit of Don's boat, Road of Isles. I was drinking in all the great stories of their adventures. As I listened, my eyes were drawn to an inscription on their binnacle. It said RUD in big block letters. I tried for a while to guess that that might mean, but nothing came to me. Finally I asked Don. Here's what he told me.

"We have a hydraulic steering system on Road of Isles. At night when sitting at anchor it makes a very annoying clunk clunk sound as the wave action pushes the rudder from side to side. To sleep I must get up, go into the engine compartment, and open the bypass valve that disables the steering. However, on three departure occasions, we cast off our lines from the dock, engaged the engine, and motored off only to discover that we had no steering control. As the boat drifted out of control, I had to dash down to the engine room, crawl under the engine and close the bypass valve. The RUD inscription on the binnacle is supposed to remind me to never do that again."

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Skunk

Burlington, VT

I can't resist telling this non-sailing story.

Around 20 years ago, I was driving home one night after a late day at the office. It was just around dusk, and it was just cooling off after a very hot day. I drove up the steep hill on Burlington's Main Street with my windows open. As stopped for a stop sign I was astounded to see a skunk trot across the street right in front of me. I sat and watched. The skunk crossed the street, crossed a lawn, and continued right up the steps of a fraternity house and in to the open front door.

It was one of the funniest things I ever saw. I couldn't help thinking that in a million years, none of the boys in that fraternity house would ever believe that the skunk walked in there on his own. They would forever believe that it must have been a prank by a rival fraternity. Tee hee.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Really On Top Of History

Burlington, VT

We decided to spend a second night ashore. Can you imagine that? But that meant that I had to return to the boat to run the engine for a while to recharge the battery. With a freezer and fridge on board, and only 50w of solar power, we must recharge every day.

When I returned to Tarwathie, I was surprised to find a team of scuba divers swimming around and under her. "What could they be up to?" I thought. After talking with them, I learned that is was a class learning marine archeology, and that they had found a wreck directly under where Tarwathie sits in 8 feet of water. There are numerous wrecks in the immediate vicinity so it was not a big surprise.

Anyhow, I told them that they would be welcome to an architecturally significant old zinc if they were willing to remove it from Tarwathie and to screw on a new replacement zinc I have ready to go. Too bad, they were too smart to be fooled by me :)

Friday, July 24, 2009


Burlington, VT

This morning we returned to Burlington. Our intention was to leave Tarwathie on a city mooring overnight while we enjoyed a anniversary dinner on shore. (It's our 44th today.)

Anyhow, we picked up a mooring and prepared to go ashore, the harbormaster boat came by. They said that we would have to leave -- all the moorings are reserved for a regatta. Oh well.

We moved a half mile away and anchored. The winds are not supposed to be strong tonight, so leaving Tarwathie at anchor and without the protection of the breakwater should be OK.

Going ashore, I got another unwelcome surprise. It seems that my rescue of the Honda outboard motor was not complete. Our 2HP motor has no forward-neutral-reverse. Instead it has a centrifugal clutch. Well the clutch slipped like crazy. It must be full of water. We had to use almost full speed on the motor to make the dinghy move at all. Darn. I'm not sure yet how to remedy that problem.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Brain Switched Off

Appletree Bay, Vt

This morning we woke to find dense fog at Valcour Island. That provides motivation for sleeping in late and taking lots of time with our morning coffee. Finally, around 10 o'clock, we were ready to go. We started hauling up the anchor. Uh Oh. It was stuck.

I used our super powerful windlass in low gear, suitable for pulling stumps. It didn't help. A man on another sailboat leaving shook his head. He shouted over, "I can see your stern sticking up in the air. Your anchor must be stuck. There's a rock there. It is a very dangerous place for anchors." Double Uh Oh.

I started using the engine to move Tarwathie forward and back, hoping to break the anchor loose. No effect. I was about to try harder when a man and woman approached in a dinghy. They were Quebecers but their English was passable. The man said, "Don't bother. I have a mask and snorkel and I can dive down to free it." Wow! I thought, how nice of him. He prepared to dive but before jumping in he eyed our anchor buoy.

You see, we sometimes attach a line to a hole in the front end of the anchor, and attach that line to a little buoy. It helps to mark where our anchor is, which helps others to avoid anchoring too close to us. It also helps to trip the anchor should it become stuck on the bottom. That's why they call it a trip line. WAIT! What was wrong with my head. The first thing to try was to pull on the trip line. The man in the dinghy realized it sooner than I did. I guess my mind was just not in gear.

To make a long story short, the helpful man gave one slight tug on the trip line and the anchor pulled free immediately. Duh. Thank you kind sir for saving my from my stupidity.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ay Ay Caramba

Treadwell Bay, NY

You'll remember that a few weeks ago I screwed up and allowed the dinghy painter to get wrapped around the propeller. I had to dive with a knife in my teeth to free it. Guess what? We did it again. Except that this time Libby was the culprit and she did it much more thoroughly than I ever did.

We were anchoring in Treadwell Bay. We were hurrying because of an approaching rain squall. I was tending the anchor snubber. I yelled back at Libby to move the boat forward a bit. She was not at her station at the helm, she had ducked inside to avoid the rain. When she heard me yell, she leaned back out into the cockpit, and without looking around, she engaged forward.

There was a big crunch sound. I knew something bad happened but I couldn't see what. Libby yelled, "Help!" I looked back. The dinghy was inverted and sunk, only the front of the bow stuck above the water. Ay ay caramba was what Ricky Ricardo would have said.

Libby, feeling about as large as a beetle, imagined the worst. She asked, "Will we have to hire a diver to go looking for the outboard motor?" Until that time I hadn't thought about the motor, but peering over the side I could see it still attached.

Well, there is really no choice what to do about such a situation. We couldn't even wait for the storm to pass because the dinghy was rubbing against Tarwathie with every passing wave and digging a gouge. In to the water I went, knife in teeth.

The first thing I did was cut the painter lead to the dinghy so that I could move it out of my way. Then I had to saw and saw and saw to get the multiple wraps of rope away from the propeller. We carry a super sharp knife, never used for just such occasions. However, since that knife was used last month, it wasn't so sharp any more. It took me 15-20 minutes to get all the rope cut away from the cutlass bearing and to verify that the propeller shaft rotated normally.

Next job, rescue the motor. Libby dropped a line over the side. I dove down and tied it to the motor with a bowline. [Attention all you sailor wannabes. You need to learn your bowlines so well that you can tie them upside down, hands behind your back, in the dark and under water.] Then I loosened the screws and Libby could haul the motor up on deck.

Finally, we tried bailing the dinghy. It was no use. She sat so low in the water, tipping from side to side, that water ran in faster than we could bail. I dove again, and fastened a line to the stern cleats. Then we attached the halyard to that line and hauled the dinghy out of the water using the halyard winch. It's waterproof compartments were full of water. It had been ready to sink to the bottom.

Finally, I had to rescue the Honda outboard. After submergence, the motor can be rescued with no damage by getting the water out immediately. I removed the carburetor and cleaned out the water. I removed the spark plug, and pulled the cord several times. Then I changed the oil. Then I started it. The Honda 2HP is air cooled so I thought I could run it OK out of the water. It started, hooray!

I checked the oil. There was water in the oil. I changed it again. Then started the motor. I checked the oil again. Water again. I changed the oil for the third time. Finally, I decided to just let it run for a while, hoping that the heat would evaporate any remaining water. That was a mistake. It appeared that I melted some kind of plastic seal down around the propeller. Darn, another trip to the mechanic for that.

After all that, I let the motor run at idle speed for an hour. It has a centrifigul clutch so the propeller doesn't spin at idle speed.

All of this took about 3 hours. Did I mention that during all that time it rained continuously? Ay ay caramba, what a night.

But hey, what the heck. adventures like that give us stories to tell.

The looser in all this seems to be Tarwathie. She has a fist size gouge in the hull near the water line that exposes fiberglass under all the layers of paint and gel coat. I'll have to repair that soon.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sharing the Wonder

Appletree Bay, VT
44 29.83 N 073 14.95 W

We love having company. Yesterday, we had a visit by Rich and his family. Rich is a former boss from NYISO. It was a great day.

Before their arrival we fretted about the weather. There has been so much rain and so little wind. Well, it turned out fine. It was a splendid day yesterday, no rain, much sun and just enough wind. I was very glad that our visitors got to see the views of the mountain ranges to the East and the West.

Early on, things got a little dicey. We were sailing across the lake to Schuyler Island. The wind picked up really good, to about 20 knots. Jack, the oldest son was learning to handle the helm and he thought that going really fast and heeling over was cool. His mother, Diane, had a dimmer view when we heeled over 30 degrees for the first time. Actually that's a quite normal reaction for mothers with children on board. It takes time to build up the confidence that the boat won't tip over.

Anyhow, after a nice lunch and exploration of Schuyler Island, the wind calmed down and we had a really relaxing and gentle sail back to Burlington. A great day overall.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Wonders of Valcour

Burlington, VT

Valcour Island is a jewel. Although part of the island was farmed once, it appears that much of it is virgin forest or at least mature forest. Valcour's micro climate resembles sub-arctic regions except that the trees are much bigger. I've blogged before about Valcour's wonders. Here's some recent pictures.

From Guys Sail

From Guys Sail

From Guys Sail

From Guys Sail

From Guys Sail

From Guys Sail

Friday, July 17, 2009

My Honda

Burlington, VT

We finally got the Honda outboard motor back. The mechanic said he cleaned the carburetor. Wait, didn't I clean it myself? Yes I did, but he took it completely apart and let it soak in an ultrasonic cleaning machine for 30 minutes.

When I cleaned it, I found some pink goo in the float bowl. My theory on the cause is that ethanol in the gasoline dissolved part of the 1 gallon jerry jug that I used to transport gasoline. The motor itself is OK with 10% ethanol, but I never thought about the portable jerry jugs. If you too are having ethanol caused problems, I recommend discarding all your portable jugs and buying new ones certified for ethanol. What a pain.

By the way, Tom and his wife Shelly at Tom's Marine Service in Vergennes Vermont are very nice people. If you need such service, try them, but leave enough time to shoot the breeze with them a while.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Recent Pix

Vergennes, VT

An approaching storm, Willsboro Bay

A quiet day on the Burlington Waterfront

The Hilltop View in Vergennes

A strange swimmer in the middle of the lake

Jenny gets a little sun

After the storm

Rainy in NY, but not here

Uh Oh, That Looks Ominous

The Vergennes Library Where I'm Posting This Blog

John and Paul Off To Explore Valcour

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Champlain Is Better

Otter Creek

I wrote a non-blog local article in Vermont in which I said, "No matter what exotic and beautiful place we find ourselves, I keep thinking Champlain it Better." That's a statement I'll stand by. It is so beautiful here. It beats Maine. It beats The Florida Keys, and The Bahamas and The Virgins. It beats the Stockholm Archipelago. It beats Lake George and Sacandaga, Lake Ontario and The Thousand Islands region. I hear that Georgian Bay on Lake Huron could be better but I haven't been there yet.

I know that a lot of our cruising friends think we're bonkers to go to the time, expense, and trouble to get way up here; especially the part about having to take our mast down and back up again. All I can say is they are wrong. It IS worth it.

It's raining again right now as we motor up Otter Creek. How dreary. On the other hand, when it is raining on someone else's head and you can see that from a distance, it is beautiful. In the Florida Keys, and The Virgins, and The Bahamas, and Maine we also get treated to views of local rain squalls from a distance. Here though, we get to see them and also get to watch them interact with nearby mountains and valleys.

Last week, John, Paul and I sat on Valcour and watched a rain squall sitting stalled above Essex Junction Vermont. (See below) It was otherwise a sunny day in all directions except in that one place. The squall sat still and rained on Essex Junction for 4 hours before dying out. It was fun to watch from every vantage point except Essex.

Also last week I saw a cold front pass over the top of a nearby mountain. The mountain peeled off the bottom side of the clouds. In what remained, I could see a definite whorl. The whorl was not tight enough to be a tornado but it could have developed in to one. It was like seeing a cross section of a storm cloud that has been dissected in the laboratory.

Yesterday, Libby and I sailed down the lake in clear air. We could see numerous rain squalls over the Adirondack Mountains in New York. They were so local, that I could see slopes of the same mountain, partly in rain and partly light by bright sunlight. I could which which vantage points in New York where I would have been able to see brilliant rainbows.

Champlain is better.

Monday, July 13, 2009

For My Bucket List

Burlington, Vt

Everybody has a bucket list; right? The list of things you want to do before you die. Big on my list is to see flowing molten lava sometime. And what better place to anchor Tarwathie than the one shown below with a view of Anak Krakatau.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Willsboro Bay
44 23.94 N 073 23.58 W

Yesterday was a big success. I think that John and Paul had great fun sailing. It made me happy to be able to provide the opportunity for them. In addition to being John's dad, I was happy to do something good for these two career soldiers who spend their entire career sacrificing for our benefit. They deserved a break. Maybe somewhere else in our travels we can find soldiers who would like a free day on a sail boat.

Libby and I returned to Willsboro under sail. Part of our trip was after dark and the night time sail was very pleasant. We even got to see the Space Station. Third night in a row for me, the first time ever for Libby. We also saw another strange and unusual sight. In the middle of the lake we came across a baby deer swimming across the lake. It wasn't an infant; I guess it was 1 year old. I circled it debating whether to attempt to do anything to help this poor animal in peril. In the end, we decided that attempting to help might do more harm than good. Anyhow, the deer seemed to be swimming strongly and to know it's sense of directions. We left it alone.

Wednesday night, at Valcour, John, Paul and I watched the people from the boat anchored next to us. There was just a young woman and a little girl on board. Around sunset, we saw them climbing into their dinghy. I cearly saw a transparent plastic bag holding firewood. Big red block letters on the bag said BURN RITE. I sneered at the thought of such an urbane person being out here at Valcour. They went ashore where there is a shelf of rock by the waters edge, just perfect for a little campfire. I watched as the woman emptied a bottle of charcoal lighter fluid on the wood, then threw a match at it. Tsk tsk, I thought, typical city person. WHOOSH, the fire exploded into flame. After a few more minutes a deeper truth dawned on me. She and the girl were sitting on the shore enjoying a delightful little fire, while I and the others were sitting on the boat not doing what she did. It's a good lesson in life. I can't think of an aphorism to express it, but I bet my readers can suggest one. The contradictory aphorism is "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right." What aphorism means, "Even if you can't do it right, doing is better than not doing."

Just a moment ago, a Hunter 41 sailboat from Charlotte VT came in to the bay. It appeared to carry an elderly dad and his daughter. Libby and I were sitting in the cockpit, so we watched as they maneuvered the boat and dropped anchor. I could tell even before he dropped that the skipper had misjudged. Sure enough, after the anchor pulled up tight their stern came up much too close to our bow for comfort. I wanted to jump up and yell, "You're too close!" Instead, I bit my tongue and said nothing. I did however stare at them while trying to look nervous and attempting to send them a message by telepathy. The skipper looked troubled. Good. Then he went back up in the bow and pulled in some of his anchor rode, thus shortening scope. "Oh No," I thought, "That's the wrong choice. It will make things worse." I redoubled my telepathic efforts. It worked. The skipper looked disappointed but he raised anchor, and their boat moved away a safe distance and re-anchored. Good for him. What he may miss from lack of experience he made up for with good judgment.

We're expecting storms and 40 knot sustained winds shortly, so we're sitting tight. We invited our good friend Carol, who lives nearby to come for dinner. I hope that it's not too stormy when she arrives.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Right Stuff At Last

At Lake
44 32.18 N 073 21.80 W

John and Paul are indeed very lucky. Today is a spendid sailing day. Sunny. Warm. Winds south at 15 knots. Just ideal. It is only the second such day of the entire summer season so far. Tomorrow, we are forecast to have storms and gale fore winds at 40 knots.

My son John has been sailing with me for more than 30 years, so he's an experienced sailor. Paul, on the other hand, is a novice. One can't find a better day to introduce a novice to sailing.

We sailed from Valcour Island down to Schuyler Island. We dropped the hook and ate lunch at Schuyler. After that, all of us enjoyed a short nap. It felt great. Now, we're heading downwind. We're taking our time and have no goal in mind other than to meet up with Libby at 6 oclock.

Oh, by the way, last night it was very clear. The nearly full moon rose as a beautiful orange sphere. Around 10:30, we got to see the Space Station fly over again. This time, we could see it through the entire sky. We used Paul's night vision scope to look at it. With that, one could almost make out the solar panels on the space station. It was spectacular. I think that tonight, Libby and I might get to see it again.

I think that these two soldiers that I have on board are beginning to think that a cruising life might not be so bad after all.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Ah, Nice Weather

Valcour Island, NY
44 37.37 N 073 24.42 W

John and Paul are lucky in that the stretch of days they picked on the calendar have had nice weather. Nice weather is in short supply this summer season.

Yesterday, we motored up from Willsboro to Valcour. It was gray but we didn't get rained on much. We did get treated to spectacular views of thunderheads and anvil clouds visible in the distance. Around sunset, the skies began to clear.

We set our watches to catch a special event. At exactly 22:00:59 last night, the International Space Station (ISS) was directly overhead. It was also exceptionally bright (magnitude -3.4) because it was in sunlight while we were in the dark. We were lucky again. We scrambled up on deck just in time to see it. Alas, much of the sky was obscured in cloud. However, at just the right moment the ISS appeared in a hole in the clouds directly overhead. It was moving very fast and it was indeed very bright. We were glad indeed to have seen it. We'll try again tonight. The skies are perfectly clear at the moment. (By the way, my source of information about the ISS was

Today is dead wind wise. That didn't stop us from having fun though. We took a hike this morning on Valcour, enjoying its wonderful rock formations and its mature northern forest. We went down to Smugglers Cove to see the Nomad Memorial. Do you know what that is? If not, then I'll give you an internet search assignment (I have no Internet today to do it for you.) Search for information about a Canadian War Ship named Nomad that served in World War 1. Also ask why the memorial to this Canadian ship should be located in the USA on Valcour Island.

This afternoon, I returned to the boat for a nice quiet nap. Paul and John are circumnavigating the island.

Tomorrow promises to be both warm and windy (at least 5-15 knots they are saying) That would be a perfect capstone to the expedition.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


Willsboro Bay

A big thunderstorm came rolling across Willsboro Bay as we sat here yesterday. I wish I had a video of it as I watched it come in.

Just to the West of us is a big mountain that blocks our view to the West. The storm came rolling in over this mountain. If not for the advance sound of thunder, it would have come upon us by surprise with only moments notice. Anyhow, I sat in the cockpit and watched it approach. Part of the scene took my breath away. The up drafts from the storm tore bits of moisture away from the mountain side and carried it up to the sky as bits of newly formed cloud. The velocity of those ascending cloud bits being sucked up into the maw of the storm stunned me. I used to be a glider pilot and I'm used to seeking out vertical wind currents to lift the glider. These currents however were so swift that they would likely rip the wings off the glider resulting in a very expensive and possibly fatal accident. If the wings didn't rip off, the glider would have been sucked to the top of the storm, perhaps 25,000 feet where the pilot (me) would pass out from lack of oxygen. Then it would be pushed to the side of the storm where the down drafts are. Use your imagination to fill in the rest.

Change of subject. Listening to the radio while not seeing TV or newspapers makes one pay attention only to the sound of words. In the past few days the news talked about the conflict between the Chinese Han and Uighurs. My heart goes out to all the people suffering there. I would never make a joke about them. I can however, joke about American culture and American Media. As an American, and as a consumer of American media, I was struck by the word Uighur. My first reaction was that a Weeger (pronounced Veeger) is a silicon based life form that tunnels through rock. Mr Spock did a Vulcan mind meld with an ailing Weeger once and Mr. Scott healed it with a trowel of concrete. What an image -- Chinese versus Weegers. Today I heard someone on radio pronounce the word as Weegos. That conjured up a very different image. I though of WiiGos; the little cartoon figures that you create in a Wii game to represent yourself on the screen. Imagine hoards of WiiGos versus the Chinese Army. Tee hee. My apologies to the Uighurs for making fun with their name.

Another new subject: Today, my son John and his friend Paul are coming to Tarwathie for a 3 day sail. It will be a guys thing. Libby is taking their car back to John's house. She'll spend time with the grandkids while us guys ply the lake. Tomorrow's forecast is bleak, but Friday sounds better. I really hope we get some good sailing weather for these two soldiers. They deserve it. After Friday, the extended forecast calls for 4 more gray cool days with 30% chance of rain every day. Bah.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Dreary rainy days

Willsboro Bay
44 23.91 N 073 23.57 W

Today is another of those dreary rainy days. We're holed up in Willsboro Bay waiting for John and his friend Paul to arrive tomorrow. Libby is making more baskets and I'm working on varnishing and projects.

Sunday, Jenny came out for a day sail. We had a wonderful day for that; the best day of the summer season so far. It was sunny and warm, and we had just about perfect breezes. Our views of the mountains to the East and to the West were the best this year. We sailed across the lake and back, just enjoying the environment. It mattered not that it was the Sunday of a holiday weekend and that every possible boat was about. The open waters of Lake Champlain are big enough in area that they never get crowded.

Libby and I both noticed that the exhilaration of just one day like this on Champlain makes up for the time effort and expense of many weeks of travel . Of course we hope for many more such days, but the very first one replenishes the soul.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Language Stresses

Burlington, VT

I know how the Bahamians must feel when they look out into their harbors and see nothing but American boats. Around here in the past few weeks 19 of every 20 boats we see are Canadian. Worse, many of the people on board those boats speak only French, or at least they don't speak English very well.

Even when people are nice, and friendly, and open to making new friends, language is a barrier. The party forced to speak a language they're not fluent in feels stressed and embarassed. The other party feels embarassed for the first party.

We learned this lesson first hand when we moved to Sweden with our family. It was very stressful trying to converse in Swedish with Swedes at the start. The stress and fear of stress tended to make us avoid social situations. Fortunately, most Swedes speak excellent English and we had many dear friends who helped us acclimate.

It was much easier to converse in Swedish with other immigrants who were no better at the language than we were. Being equally inarticulate removes the embarassment.

Actually, the Swedes capitalize on this when they design Swedish language courses for immigrants. It was a wonderful experience, and very effective learning. Each student is part of a group who have no common language other than Swedish but who all share the immediate experience of having recently imigrated to Sweden. They are highly motivated to communicate and to make friends with fellow students, but the rules of the school were that they must do so in Swedish. It worked! We made many dear friends who we'll never forget, and we learned the Swedish rapidly.

Later, Libby taught English to Swedish immigrants. They had discovered a cruel truth. Upon arrival, they were told that they had to learn Swedish to get a job. OK. But later they learned that good jobs require English.

It has been a long time since I spent time overseas, so I don't know if that has changed. I suspect that the ubiquity of American TV makes it more deisrable to learn English, but it also provides a passive form of learning.

I'm reminded of an old man I met a long time ago in Sweden. He was the night desk clerk in my hotel. He loved practicing his English on me. Actually he was quite good except he had a very peculiar accent and vocabulary. Finally, I understood why. He had learned his English exclusively by watching Western movies. He spoke like John Wayne.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Close Quarters

Shelburne Bay

Today it was supposed to be rainy. I decided to do painting chores instead of trying to sail.

I painted the bathroom and the area where we store clothes and towels. Boy was I a mess when it was done. The spaces that I painted are extremely tight. Every time I moved I hit my elbow or my shoulder or my butt someplace where there was wet paint. Fortunately, I had three advantages. First, modern paint and those little foam paint brushes don't drip as much as the old fasioned kind. Second, modern paint is water based so smears and drips wash right off. Third, the paint dries rapidly so that before going to bed tonight we can put all the stuff back and remount all the wall and ceiling hardware that had been removed.

Oh, you can guess the rest. It only rained a little bit. Otherwise it would have been one of the best sailing days of the season so far.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Rained Out

Shelburne Bay
44 25.59 N 073 14.92 W

We came to Burlington today for tonight's fireworks. We invited Jenny and her friend and Mat and his girlfriend to watch from the boat. Since the fireworks are over the water, a boat is an ideal vantage point.

Alas, it's too rainy. We already sat through two squalls, and now the forecast says steady rain for the rest of the evening. Too bad, we had to cancel.

I can't remember a wetter summer. It has been threatening rain almost every day since June 1. Next week, through July 9, the weather calls for more rain rain rain. What happens when we get to 40 days and 40 nights of rain?

Now I'm tuckered out too. One of the rain squalls made our anchor drag. We tried to re-anchor 4 more times, and now after moving to Shelburne, we've re-anchored for the 6th time this afternoon. I have a knot in my back where an overextended muscle is complaining.

It used to be no problem anchoring in Lake Champlain. Now, because of the weeds growing on the bottom it is getting harder and harder to get the anchor to bite.

We're also undecided what to do for the weekend. On July 4 weekend, every place we might like to go is likely to be overly crowded with other boats. Working folks look forward to holiday weekends, but we don't.

Mumble grumble. I guess I'm just grumpy because of the rain and because of all the trouble anchoring.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Common and Uncommon

Vergennes Vermont
44.176603, -73.247652

While in Vermont, I discovered Vermont Commons. It is a web site and a newspaper and the home of libertarians and secessionists in Vermont. In case you didn't know, there is a quite active movement for secession in Vermont. It is quite in character with the kind of independent orneriness that has always been present in Vermont. Anyhow, I've been writing for their blog and now I'm writing an article to submit to their newspaper.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.
Credit: NASA / ESA, CXC, JPL-Caltech, STScI, NAOJ, J.E. Geach (Univ. Durham) et al.

I also found this stunning picture of a Lyman-alpha blog as my daily screen wallpaper. To find out what it is, read here.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Big Storm

Vergennes, VT

Monday, I revarnished the cabin floor inside Tarwathie. Since we had to let it dry for 24 hours before use, we left Tarwathie on a mooring in Burlington, then Libby and I stayed on shore at Jenny's house. Jenny even let us borrow her truck so that we could run errands. Thank you Jenny!

Late Tuesday afternoon we returned to the boat. We intended to leave and head south to Porter Bay. I went in to the boat house to pay for the mooring. While there, they showed me a radar view from It showed a very intense thunderstorm, all red in color, coming right up the middle of the lake from the South. Somebody said that Crown Point near the Champlain Bridge was experiencing 60 knot winds. Yikes!

We changed our minds about leaving. We hurridly rowed back out to Tarwathie. Then we put the dinghy up on deck, and secured all loose things on deck in preparation for a real blow. The last time we sat out a 65 knot (75 mph) thunderstorm while at anchor it blew away our canvase sun shade in the back.

Anyhow, the end result was that I sat in the cockpit and watched the storm come north right up the middle of the lake. However, it stopped just to the west of us, so that we got only a little rain and I could still see good. Violent thunderstorms are sure scary, but they can also be very beautiful when you can see them from a distance.

This morning we returned to Vergennes. Along the way we stopped at Tom's Marine on Otter Creek. I dropped off our Honda outboard for Tom to repair. I gave up on trying to fix it myself. I had thoroughly cleaned out the carberator, and checked everything I could think of in the fuel system, but it did no good.

We are also in search of a clock repairmen in Vergennes. Our beloved ships clock that sounds the ship's bells stopped.