Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Stuart, Florida

Pooped is not scatalogical, at least not in nautical jargon. I'm going to explain getting pooped today in preparation for a new article to appear in a few days.

As you can see in the above illustration, a boat is pooped when a wave breaks over the stern. In the case of a power boat like the one above, getting pooped can be disastrous.

Picture the boat above getting pooped. The weight of all the water in the stern will push the stern down. Push it enough, and more water spills over the transom leading to sinking. Worse the next wave and the wave after that will also poop the boat until it is sunk. Excess weight of water on the decks and in the cockpit also reduces the stability of a boat and makes it more likely to capsize. And to further ruin the captain's day, getting pooped is likely to flood the engine compartment and stop the engines. Talk about bad things; getting pooped can cause the boat to start sinking, capsize and lose power all at the same time.

Think of all the pirate, and sailing ship movies you've ever seen. The helmsman and the officers stand on an elevated deck in the stern that's called the poop deck (see below). The purpose of the poop deck is to make is harder for waves to break across the stern.

Blue water vessels, like Tarwathie, have built in defenses to survive getting pooped. Most notably, they have small cockpits. Thus if the cockpit gets filled with water it weighs down the stern less. They also have large drains and scuppers to get rid of water on the decks as fast as possible.

bulwark: n A railing around the deck of a boat to keep things from going overboard and the seas from coming aboard.

scupper: n Drain holes on deck, in the toe rail, or in bulwarks or (with drain pipes) in the deck itself.

Have you noticed the graceful and beautiful lines on Tarwathie's bulwark? In the picture above, see how the bulwark curves downward just above the E in the boat name. On the bow, we have the same curves. Those curves are not just decorative. They allow excess water on the deck or in the cockpit to slide off the boat without obstruction. That can reduce excess flooding much faster than drains or scuppers. Thus, those curves are also part of Tarwathie's defenses.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Stuart Fl

I'm going to change my will to leave instructions for how to deal with my body. I do not want it donated to science. I want it to be cremated. Then I want as much of the ashes that fit to be stuffed into my coffee thermos and then the thermos thrown into some body of water. I'll explain.

Long term friends who know me best, identify me with that unbreakable Stanley thermos. You see, I've had it for more than 30 years and another one just like it for 15 years before that. It traveled with me over countless miles on countless business trips. I used it as a potential weapon, carrying it with me as I walked the streets at night in strange foreign cities. I brought that thermos to work with me every day, both at home and abroad. I carried it in checked baggage on countless flights; never once being asked about it by security screeners.

Some friends and acquaintances may have never seen me without that thermos in my hand.

The original finish on my thermos was green. It had no handle. The plastic handle you see in the picture was an upgrade that I purchased in K Mart when the thermos was already several years old. The handle made it easy to carry but it wore down the protective finish and dirt built up behind the plastic bands.

Eventually the thermos became rusty and I painted it with white Rustoleum paint. Now it's rusting again. Disreputabull as it looks, I think it will last longer than I will anyhow.

You see, that thermos is one of the very few personal heirlooms that Libby and I have. A consequence of living on a boat is that we can't keep family heirlooms or familiar objects that become a part of your identity. We have some of Libby's father's hand tools, and one of my father's clocks. Libby has a stainless steel sauce pan that I gave her when we were 17. I have that thermos. We have our wedding rings. That's it; the complete inventory of objects with life-long associations that we still have.

Given all the above, I think you'll agree that it is completely appropriate that I should be interred in that thermos after I die.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thar She Blows

Stuart Florida

Kerry Rose sent me a link to a video of the demolition of the Champlain Bridge. Well, at least I don't need to worry about getting permission to sail under the old bridge any more.

Unsafe In Any State

Stuart FL

Below is a copy of a letter I sent to BoatUS today:

I try my best to boat safely and to be friendly to the environment. I find those ambitions to be significantly thwarted by federal regulations regarding the design and sale of gasoline storage cans.

My boat uses diesel fuel, but I also have an outboard motor and a portable generator that use gasoline. I have no safe compartment for storing gas, so I keep it in a jug that I leave up on deck. That way, if the jug leaks it should not cause an explosion hazard. For many years that system worked fine for me with a standard 5 gallon plastic jug with a pouring spout and a vent. Metal cans are unsuitable because of salt water corrosion.

Suddenly the vented cans disappeared from the stores. Instead, I could buy only the so-called self-venting type or the so-called no-spill type.

I tried first with a 5 gallon no-spill type jug (below). It turned out that the spring loaded pouring nozzle had a diameter larger than the fill pipe on my generator. I had to use a funnel. But the can was too heavy to lift and pour with one hand, so I had to hold the can with two hands while trying to hold the funnel in place with my knees while pushing down on the spout to trigger pouring. The result was spilled gasoline all over me and over my deck.

I switched to a 5 gallon self-venting tank (below). I stored it on deck with the pouring spout stored pointing in. The problem with that is expansion of the gas in the hot sun. Alerted by the smell of gas, I looked on deck and saw gasoline streaming out of the pressurized can as it warmed in the hot sun. The pressure was pumping the gas up the spout and through the cap. I estimate that two out of every five gallons of gas I stored in that can wound up in the atmosphere rather than in the engines, resulting in a thousand times more evaporation than an old-fashioned vented can would produce.

I tried storing the can with the spout removed. That way, gas would not be forced out when it expands. Sorry. Without the spout, the screw on top would not fit properly and when the boat heeled over gas spilled out through the gap.

I tried storing the can with the spout pointing out. That should solve the pumping problem. I capped the end of the spout with the little yellow stopper that comes with the can. Sorry. As the sun warmed the gas and pressurized the can I heard a noise like a champagne cork popping. It was the sound of the yellow stopper being ejected overboard.

My final solution was to store the can with the spout on the inside, but I had to drill my own vent hole to prevent pumping.

I bought a one gallon no-spill type jug to use for the outboard when in the dinghy. But after less than 6 months use, the spring loaded mechanism on no-spill spout failed. It wouldn't spill but nor would it pour. It was a choppy day and very bumpy in the dinghy. I was forced to try to refill the outboard from the jug with no spout at all. Of course, 90% of the gas spilled into the water.

Yesterday I checked West Marine, Wal Mart and Home Depot to buy yet another replacement jug. But now all three stores carry only a brand with a stupid kind of pistol grip spout (below). When stored on deck the upward pouring spout will collect rain water which I'm sure will get into my gasoline. Additionally the clumsy looking pistol grip spout is almost certain to be stepped on and broken off some day while I'm moving around my deck in rough weather. I refuse to buy it.

BoatUS seems to know its way around Washington. Please try to find a way to explain to the regulators that the needs of boaters are different from those of land based consumers who have places out of the sun and out of the rain to store their cans. Boaters need to be able to purchase the old-fashioned vented jugs with simple pour spouts in order to be both safe and environmentally friendly.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas To All

Stuart, FL

Several friends asked if we had a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit here in Florida. I answered, "Yes. We miss a white Christmas spirit. It's hard to get into the mood when you are surrounded by palm trees and pelicans."

Well I was wrong. The spirit was delayed but not defeated. Today, Libby and I woke to Christmas, exchanged a few gifts and MAGIC, it really feels like Christmas. Of course, we miss our family terribly on days like this. We'll drown our separation by going to the cruiser's pot-luck Christmas dinner this afternoon.

Libby and I offer best wishes, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our loyal readers.

The Veneer Effect

Stuart Florida
12.000 N 080 15.500

I've written several times about the veneer effect. That is, the fact that the view of America that we get from the water is so much nicer that the view that everyone on land has. It is as if a veneer of niceness was layered on top of a heap of ugliness.

Nowhere is the veneer effect more plain than in the neighborhood near here. Last week on Tuesday, we sailed down the Indian River on the ICW from Fort Pierce to Stuart. It wasn't the prettiest stretch of the ICW by far but it was still nice. We saw mostly mangroves, pelicans, and dolphins and we felt very happy about the nature. All in all it was America at it's best, or nearly so.

On Thursday I borrowed Don's car to drive back to Vero to pick up Christmas mail. I drove up route 1 from Stuart to Fort Pierce. Boy what an ugly stretch. Every inch of that 6 lane road is lined with stores, pharmacies, car dealers, and doctor's offices -- all institutions designed to extract money from the retired people in the area. Cars turned left and right everywhere and I was stopped by red lights every half mile. All in all it was America at it's worst, or nearly so.

In the picture below, you can see the Atlantic Ocean to the right, the Indian River and the ICW to the left of that, then the veneer, than US Route 1. Stuart is at the bottom and Fort Pierce at the top. I think that proves my point.

Whoops, blew that one

Stuart Florida

Regular readers know how often I mention how little space there is on a boat and how careful we must be about acquiring clutter. Well, this Christmas I ignored my own advice and did something really stupid.

Years ago, while in college, I learned to play the accordion. I loved playing that thing, hour after hour, just for relaxation. Unfortunately, an accordion is much too big to carry on the boat. Another obstacle is moisture and mold which tend to quickly ruin the paper used to make the accordion bellows.

I've been practicing with a harmonica. I've been getting good enough at it to realize that I can never be really good at it because of my denture.

I thought I had a bright idea. I looked on Ebay for an electronic music keyboard. I found a brand new one, bid and won it for only $25. I thought that was really cheap. I visualized a little thing about the size of a rolled up newspaper that ran on batteries. What I actually got is about 4x1.5 feet in size and uses AC power. Oh no!

It is completely unsuitable for the boat. I'll play with it a few weeks in Stuart and Vero, but then I'll have to get rid of it somehow.

Now, it occurs to me that a keyboard was not the right thing in the first place. If I had been thinking clearer I would have though of those devices that are wind powered but which have a piano keyboard. I believe they are called melodicas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Stuart, FL

Yesterday I explained a little about analemmas. I also said that I wanted to make one for Tarwathie. Here are my results.

Above is a standard analemma illustrating the classic figure-8 shape.

Above is a tutulemma (an analemma in which one of the sun exposures shows a total eclipse) Credit & Copyright: Cenk E. Tezel and Tunç Tezel (TWAN)

Above is a Tarwathielemma. The yellow line shows the actual position of the sun seen from the deck of Tarwathie throughout the year 2009. It is not a figure-8 because Tarwathie's position on the globe changes. For comparison, the dashed line shows a standard analemma as seen from Oriental, North Carolina.

In order to completely track the sun and squash the Tarwathielemma flat, we would have to travel 46 degrees of latitude each way. We actually travel only 20 degrees. Therefore, the Tarwathielemma is truncated.

Above are 2 Ammeleihtawrats (Tarwathielemma spelled backwards, plural.) It doesn't show the sun. Rather, it shows the locus of our travels for the past two years. The red line is 2008 (when we went to Maine for the summer) and the green line is 2009 (when we went to Vermont for the summer.)

Interestingly, even though the Tarwathilemma is truncated, our yearly locus is roughly figure-8 in shape. The center of the figure-8 is Oriental, North Carolina. Remarkably, our log book shows that despite traveling with no plans, we hit Oriental on the same calendar days each spring and each fall for the past 2 years.

Now, ain't that cool?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Analemma Idea

Stuart, Florida

We moved from Vero to Stuart, just for a change in scenery. More later.

Today, I want to talk about a great idea I just had inspired by the picture below.

I got the picture from APOD. It shows an analemma. I've published several pictures of analemmas before. I just love their beauty; what they reveal about our natural environment; and the artistry and skill of the photographers who make them.

In case you don't know, an analemma is made of multiple exposure pictures of the sun, all taken from the same place at the same time of day throughout a whole year. The proportions of the figure-8 depend on the observer's latitude. For example, at the Arctic circle, the bottom of the analemma would kiss the horizon on the winter solstice. The picture includes 32 such exposures including one which shows the sun in total eclipse. What skill and artistry. Kudos to Cenk E. Tezel and Tunç Tezel, who made it.

Anyhow, my idea is to make an analemma of the sun as seen from the decks of Tarwathie. Since we move between 45 north and 25 north as the year goes on, the shape of a Tarwathielemma would be a distorted morph between a 45 analemma and 25 analemma, with further distortions caused by change in longitude. The result would be unique to our travels. Wow would that be cool.

Before actually making it, what should I expect? Well, since we follow the sun north and south in search of temperate weather, my first guest is that our analemma would be squashed to nearly a single point in the sky. If we did a perfect job of following the sun, the sun's position at the same hour of the days would be fixed during the year. Our position on the globe however, traced through the year, would look like an analemma. How very very cool.

So, how could I make a Tarwathielemma from the deck of a rolling sailboat? Well, given a million dollars worth of electronics, instruments, servos, cameras and computers, I could make it directly. It would be an exceedingly difficult project. But wait; I could make a simulated one using my favorite program Stellarium. All I need is a history of our latitude and longitude from our log book, Stellarium, and then a little work with a program like Photoshop. I bet I could do it in 8-10 hours of computer work. The result would be totally artificial and it would lack the beauty of real pictures and a static landscape. Still, it sounds like a really fun challenge. I'll give it a try and post the result on this blog when done.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Vero Beach

Les P sent the comment below on my article about Weather Windows. I think he too enjoyed a bit of controversy caused by his provocative comments.


Loved your comments..I always do! I thought this thread would get some interesting feedback. As far as my exploits, I'm actually a very conservative cruiser. First, I wouldn't be offshore in a boat I didn't feel was up to the task. I know your Westsail certainly is. I also would never go without competent crew, the more days offshore, the more crew I would want along. I do watch the forecasts for weather that might be beyond my comfort one wants to get beaten up knowlingly. And, as far as my cruising resume is covers half a century and is certainly longer than many folks.

Love to read your posts Dick! do look a lot like Saint Nick.

Merry Christmas...Les P

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ho Ho Ho

Vero Beach

I love it. Around this time of year I catch small children looking at me as their eyes grow wide. I don't challenge them; I just smile and wink.

Today, Libby bought me a hat suitable to my image.

Ho Blog Ho

Open your eyes; fool.

I really do look the part, don't I?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Paradise Lost (Temporarily)

Vero Beach, FL

The reason why we're here in the south is to enjoy paradise -- namely the wonderful winter weather. I'm sorry to say that paradise is lost for a day or two.

Last night was one of the stormiest nights on board the boat in several years. It is cool. We had torrential rains. It blows gusts up to 25, soon to increase to 30 knots (15 m/s). Down in Hollywood Florida, just north of Miami, they have 3 feet (1m) of water on the ground. It is so flat here, where can the water go? More ominous, there are two tornado watches out, one just south of Vero and another just north of Vero. It sure doesn't feel like paradise today.

FLASH: Doppler radar just spotted a waterspout offshore near Cocoa Beach. That is extremely unwelcome news for boats under sail.

Apropos that, our son John expressed interest in brining his family to Florida during the school break in February. We could meet up and have lots of fun. It is usually nice here in February but there are no guarantees. Last year at the end of January, near freezing temperatures swept all of Florida, even down to Key West and even Georgetown, Exumas, Bahamas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Weather Windows

Vero Beach

Reader Les P asked the following provocative question. "I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts (and their excuses) on why so many of the residents living aboard there can't find a single "weather window" night to cross over to the Bahamas. I've been on numerous trips from south Florida to Beaufort and I almost can't remember even looking for a weather window. As long as there wasn't a nor'easter we just get in the boat and go. Surely, they could find a single night out of the entire winter to make the fifty mile trek to the Bahamas!"

I'm familiar with Les and his exploits. Les revels getting caught in a storm, and in keeping the Coast Guard and half of the East Coast on pins and needles listening to him on the radio as he attempts to gain safe harbor. Notwithstanding that, there is a grain of truth in his mockery; but only a grain.

Here's the situation. Libby and I, and almost all the fellow cruisers wait for favorable weather before crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas, or crossing westward on the way back. The wait for a suitable weather window can go on for weeks or months, or sometimes and entire season.

Our number one source of information is Chris Parker. Chris runs a custom weather service. Every day on SSB radio at 0630 in the morning, everyone can listen to Chris' forecast. Sponsoring boats pay Chris a subscription fee, and in return they get the privilege of asking specific questions over the radio. Most often the questions are of the form, "I want to get from point A to point B. When is a good time to go?" The rest of us freeloaders listening get to hear the question and the answers. Since there are a limited number of points A and B, it is highly likely that we hear the answer that we wanted to ask ourselves.

The bottom line, almost all of us wait to hear the word of a favorable time. Les, on the other hand, considers all days that don't have hurricanes or nor'easters as favorable. So what's the difference?

First, is a question of comfort and convenience. Most people would rather not go on days when they might get knocked about, or especially suffer from seasickness. Others, especially me, are loath to beat into a stiff headwind. In the worst headwind conditions it might take 40-50-60-70 hours to make a very uncomfortable crossing as opposed to 10-12 hours of pleasant sailing with favorable winds.

Second is the question of safety. The Gulf Stream must be respected. Every year people die out there and boats (sometimes very big boats) vanish without a trace in the Gulf Stream. Problems come when the wind blows in a direction opposite the current flow. In those cases very steep waves build up. The waves can break like they do in the surf. Even if they don't break they are so steep that the walls are vertical. Waves crashing on top of the boats can break the windows, and hatch doors, causing a boat to flood and sink in seconds. A true blue water boat like Tarwathie can take the waves withoug flooding but most boats, power or sail, aren't that sea worthy.

I heard recently that more water flows through the Gulf Stream than all the rivers in the world combined, and more energy than is generated by all the world's power plants. I haven't verified those claims, but I know it is very powerful.

Third is a question of responsibility. Tarwathie is more than a toy to us. It is our home. If this boat sank and we were rescued we would be homeless and devastated. We also consider it irresponsible to take risks where we depend on others to risk their lives to rescue us. Each captain should ask himself the question, "Would I start this passage if no rescue was possible?" If the answer is no, then don't start. A responsible skipper must also be keenly sensitive to the comfort and the fears of crew and passengers as well as their safety.

So Les is partially correct. 99% of the boaters could successfully cross the stream 99% of the days as long as they are somewhat oblivious to comfort, convenience, safety, and responsibility. "Somewhat oblivious," is a very flexible standard. Everyone has a different threshold. Les can I can be friends and respect each other while disagreeing substantially on the proper threshold.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Simple Living

Vero Beach, FL

As you know, I'm fond of writing about the pleasures of the simple life and the cruising life as if they were one and the same thing. The picture below, of somebody's house along the Erie Canal demonstrates that you don't have to live on a boat to enjoy the simple life.

Looks great doesn't it?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Toast To Helen & Grace

Vero Beach

My mother's name was Helen. Her sister was my aunt Grace. Grace lived in Hialeah, Florida, near Miami. Helen was a freqent visitor in the 1940s and 50s. When the two of them were together they had great fun partying.

One story that I and my siblings often heard was how Helen and Grace would drive from Miami up to Vero Beach to go to a certain restaurant that they really loved. It was the Ocean Grill. It just happens that the Ocean Grill is still there and that it is less than a mile from the marina where Tarwathie is moored.

Sunday was Libby's birthday. Coincidentally, it was also my brother Ed's birthday. To celebrate this double birthday I invited Ed to join us for dinner at the Ocean Grill. So Ed came with his wife Sally and his daughter Kristi, and Kristi's husband Phil, and Kristi's new baby, Natalie -- age 10 months.

We all had a great time. We imagined that we were sitting at Helen and Graces's favorite table and we raised our glasses in tribute to our much loved but passed away relatives.

Below, Phil and I clown around with Natalie.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tiller's Excelent Adventure

Vero Beach


Don, Margaret and Tiller on their W32 are rafted up with us. We have been friends since we met Don in Searsport Maine in 2006. In the past few years, we've had a lot of fun together here in Vero.

Tiller, the 3rd crew member, is a cat extrodinare. He is pretty, healthy, active, and he apparently loves the boats. When rafted up, he roams from boat to boat at his pleasure. He especially likes sleeping in Libby's lap.

Don told me about one peculiarity of Tiller's. He likes riding in the dinghy. Don figured this out after long experience. Tiller has less interest in going ashore in the dinghy than the dinghy ride itself. Well, yesterday Tiller really outdid himself.

Libby and I were out to lunch with our friends Dave and Jonni from Melbourne. I first met Dave while working on projects at NYISO. We have been good friends ever since. Yesterday, they drove down to Vero to meet us and then treated us to lunch at a nice restaurant right on the water in Sebastian. Thanks much Dave & Jonni.

Back to the story. When I returned to the boat, Margaret said "you just missed all the excitement." It seems that Tiller managed to set off on his own in the dinghy. He was drifting away all alone with no human on board and heading for the nearby mangrove forest full of alligators. Don and Margaret panicked and had to beg help from anyone nearby to launch a rescue mission to fetch Tiller and the dinghy and return them. The mission was successful.

So how did Tiller manage this feat? I didn't quite get that part of the story. Actually, I would rather not know and use my imagination instead.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Shown The Bum's Rush

Vero Beach

We still have a lot to learn about dealing with the Medicare health care system.
  • I was fearful of being able to find doctors who accept new Medicare patients. Since we travel so much, every time we need a doctor it is likely to be in a new city.

  • Our first experience with the "Welcome to Medicare" checkup went well.

  • I signed us up for AARP's Medicare Advantage system provided by Secure Horizons. My theory was that they have a nationwide network of doctors who would be required to accept in-network new patients.

  • Yesterday I showed up for a follow-up visit. I told the receptionist that since my first visit, we have new insurance from Secure Horizons. She abruptly told me that they don't accept that. Also, because we have Secure Horizons, Medicare won't pay for a doctor visit. She cancelled my remaining appointments, and told me to leave the building. That's called the bum's rush.

  • When Libby checked with her doctor about follow-up visits, they said the same thing.

  • I went to the Secure Horizons web site to find doctors who do accept their insurance. I asked for any doctor, any specialty within 100 miles. It came back saying "contact us." Uh oh, not a good sign.

  • I called Secure Horizons and asked for doctors in Vero who accept their plan. The man on the phone said, "Sorry none." I asked about Fort Pierce - "none", Stuart - "none", Marathon - "none", Melbourne - "none",Daytona Beach - "none."

  • I asked if we could go to a doctor not on their list and paid cash, would they reimburse me? "No."

  • Before giving up, I re-asked the question a different way. Are there any doctors who accept Secure Horizon even though they are not "in network." "Yes," came the answer. There are three, out several thousand in the area who do.

  • Libby called all three and on the third try, she scored. She now has new appointments and the first doctor will forward her records. "Whew," I was scared that I had ruined her chance to get medical help by signing up for the wrong thing.
I signed up for this AARP program to enhance our access to doctors. It actually had the opposite effect. It severely limited our access to doctors, almost to zero.

We never do well dealing with bureaucracy. Heaven help us in the coming years. If Obamacare passes it will be still worse, I'm sure.

p.s. Wish Libby Happy Birthday, Sunday December 13.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Google Dashboard

Vero Beach

Google seems to invent new services and features every week. Libby and I own stock in Google so we take delight in reading their news every week.

One new feature is Google Dashboard. It lets you see what private information Google has about your, and even to change or erase their records of you.

Just for fun, I looked up my Googling history for a day a year or so ago. I must confess that it makes me sound like I have ADD.
I wonder if you could psychoanalyze someone based on their search history.

Nov 23, 2008
1:03pm Searched for fairhaven ma library
12:05pm Searched for word usage - Viewed 1 result

11:38am Searched for newport nh
11:36am Searched for fairhaven ma library
10:40am Searched for link 10 battery - Viewed 1 result
Owner's Manual Link 10 Xantrex Link 10 Battery Monitor -
10:08am Searched for xantrex - Viewed 1 result
Xantrex Technology Inc. -
10:08am Searched for link 10 battery
7:50am Searched for singular value decompsition - Viewed 1 result
Singular value decomposition - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia -
5:08pm Searched for NIMH batteries - Viewed 1 result
All Rechargeable Battery -
8:30am Searched for
8:22am Searched for fear of long words
1:01pm Ludwig Boltzmann - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Notable and Quotable

Vero Beach

Overheard near the marina: "We have been together for 26 years. We've never been married. Now, we are going to find out if we are compatible."

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sandboxes Rated

  1. Vero Beach

Yesterday, I posted The 45-25 Box article about our sandbox. I gave the criteria for a sandbox as follows.
  1. Warm in winter, cool in summer.
  2. Numerous anchorages. We can't afford to stay in marinas very often.
  3. Allows us to avoid hurricanes and typhoons.
So, what other sandboxes in the world might meet those criteria? I mapped some out and rank them below. Please bear in mind that the actual size and placement of these boxes and my knowledge of their facts are only rough.

  1. US East Coast: This is our current sandbox. It meets all the criteria very well.

  2. British Columbia: This area is outstandingly beautiful to sail. Infinite free anchorages. Juneau, AK is very nice in the summer. Perpahs Seattle, WA is not warm enough in the winter.

  3. Chile: I think the west coast of the Americas is rough, with safe harbors many hundreds of miles apart.

  4. Brazil-Uruguay-Argentina: This part of the world may be very nice. I'm not sure about anchorages.

  5. Western Europe: I heard horror stories about sailing in the English Channel. I have not heard of any coastal places where one can anchor free. It may also be necessary to stretch to box to summer in the Baltic and winter in Portugal to achieve the weather we would need.

  6. West Africa: This doesn't sound practical. To get south enough to avoid the Namibian Desert, the lower half of the box extends into the terrible 40s of the Antarctic Ocean.

  7. East Africa: This area could be very nice. However, I'm afraid that political instability rules it out.

  8. West Austrailia: I hear that Perth is very nice, but the rest of the west coast of Austrailia is unknown to me.

  9. Japan-Korea-China: I fear that every place from Japan down to Viet Nam is prone to Typhoons. I would also worry about the politics of some of the countries -- we might not be welcome.

  10. East Austrailia: The Great Barrier Reef in winter and Sydney in summer. Sounds nice. I know nothing about the rest of that coast.

  11. Fiji-New Zealand: Fiji-New Zealand sounds very nice, but the attractions are on either ends with vast open ocean in the middle. Perhaps this box should have been drawn to cover just New Zealand. One could do the North Island in winter and the South Island in summer. I think it would be great to spend a year or more sailing New Zealand.

So there we go. There well may be other very attractive sandboxes in the world. Nevertheless, it is hard to beat zone A, the USA East Coast. If all the facts were exhaustively investigated, I suspect that zone A would rate #1 in the world.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The 45-25 Box

Vero Beach

It seems that we have fallen into a repetitive migration pattern. Despite a few exceptions, we seemed to be confined pretty much to the following sand box.

I call it the 45-25 box because it runs from about 45 degrees north to 25 degrees north. The East-West width of the box is less important.

Why this box? The answer is very simple; climate. We winter at 25 north, thus avoiding cold and the need for heat on board the boat. We summer at 45 north, thus avoiding excess heat and the need for air conditioning on the boat.

I'm certain that Libby and I have lost a lot of our tolerance for heat and cold. We both grew up in cold climates and the winter never seemed like a burden. Heck, I remember having a great time playing hockey on the river in Potsdam NY one night when the temperature was -45F (-42C). But now, our blood is thinned.

What about voyages out of the box? Sure, we think about that and we probably will. A voyage to Trinidad/Tobago, Panama, Belieze and back would be fun. A voyage to The Baltic Sea, Sweden and Finland would be nice. Don't rule it out.

A more curious question would be could we find similar climate boxes on this globe, and if so how would the sailing be? I'll address that question in the next few days.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Stars Like Dust

Vero Beach

Credit & Copyright: Louie Atalasidis

The Stars Like Dust is the title of a science fiction novel by Isaac Asimov. I thought of that title when I saw the stunning picture above on APOD. In the picture, you see somebright blue stars in the foreground. Behind them are countless stars packed so densely they do seem as bits of dust. The dark patches are true dust clouds. The view is toward the center of our own galaxy, The Milky Way.

Imagine how we would think differently about the universe if the stars in our neighborhood were packed as densely as this. Imagine how differently we might think about the practicality of interstellar travel. Imagine how much starlight we would have and what the night sky might look like in that stellar neighborhood.

Unfortunately, due to high levels of background radiation, it is believe that there could be no habitable planets near the galactic core. What a shame. What a fantastic place the universe is. Don't you agree?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Part of the Health Care System

Vero Beach


Well now I'm officially part of the health care system. I went for my "Welcome to Medicare" physical. That's the first time I've been to a doctor in 6 years. Things went well. I'm healthy. No problems found. Strange though, the Doctor said my EKG was "normal variant" but it looks like a heart attack. He advised me to carry a copy of my EKG in my wallet. In case I have an accident, I can show it to the EMTs to show that I'm not having a heart attack.

My only medical complaint is that my left heel gave me great pain three times in the past 6 months. Each time the achilles tendon swelled. Each time, I had to lay flat for a week or more to recover. I told the doctor that each time it happened after walking several miles. His medical advice was startlingly direct and to the point. He said, "Well, don't do that any more."

I was curious about general practitioners here in Vero. I read a recent article that said general practitioners (GPs) make only 30% as much money as specialists to. Since Vero is a very rich town, it crawls with wall-to-wall medical centers, and medical specialists like flies. I wondered what the GPs would be like. I learned the answer while waiting. The waiting room was full of brochures for botox, laser hair removal, eyelash enhancements and so on. Aha! this GP boosts his income by selling cosmetic treatments to the wealthy. Well, why not? I don't think those kinds of things burden the taxpayers, and it makes it possible to have GPs in a place like Vero Beach. Libby's turn comes later this week.

p.s. I repaired the Drinking While Driving post. The pictures were missing.

Turkey Turkey Turkey

Vero Beach Public Library

The leftovers after Thanksgiving are a big part of the holiday. I recall one time before retirement. We had a full house of family and friends for Thankgiving dinner; it was great. The following day I went to the refrigerator to get fixings for a Turkey sandwich. There was none. Libby was so generous that she gave the leftovers away to our guests to take home. I wasn't happy. This year she made up for that; here's how.

We went to the cruiser's pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner. It was great, but of course we returned home with no leftovers. On Black Friday Libby went shopping; not to the mall but to the grocery store. She was looking for turkey on sale. She came home with a six pound turkey breast.

We cooked it in the oven Friday night. I carved it. Man oh man what a breast. This must have been the Dolly Parton of turkeys. We had lots of meat. We had turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry for dinner that night. Yum yum. In the following days we had turkey sandwiches and turkey soup. We invited Derek from the rafted boat next to us for hot turkey over biscuts with gravy. Yum yum yum. I think I'll be able to have turkey sandwiches for lunch every day this week. I'm happy now.