Sunday, December 30, 2007

Vero Scenes

Vero Beach

Last night we had a special treat. Dave Hackett and his wife Jonnie came to have dinner on board Tarwathie. We had a great time and it was nice to see them again. Alas, I forgot to get out the camera and take pictures.

That reminds me, I have some pictures to be posted.

Libby and I walked on the beach and we saw some spectacularly beautiful plants and landscaping in the yards of the neighborhood behind the marina. Above you can see some shots of two palm trees in one of the nicer places. There is also a shot of our mooring buddies, Peter and Don talking with Libby at the Christmas pot luck dinner.

Above are a few shots of Christmas Eve when we spent the day in Melborn with my brother Ed and Family. The inside shot shows the scene as they opened presents.

Heron, the W32 sharing the mooring ball with us is captained by Don, and 2nd mate is his cat Tiller. Tiller comes over to visit us regularly. We find him on deck and down below sleeping on our bunks. One day, Tiller fell overboard. Don fished him out. In the picture, you can see Tiller trying to salvage his dignity.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oh, We'll Never Eat Again

Vero Beach

It was like a Swedish Christmas. Monday, Christmas Eve, my brother Ed picked us up and we went to his house. My sister in law, Sally, made a great big breakfast feast. I overindulged with two helpings. Then, in the afternoon, she served a full Christmas feast with ham and turkey and everything. Ed drove us back to the boat in time for Libby to cook for the guests we had invited for a Christmas Eve dinner. On Christmas day, we went to the sailor's pot luck dinner. Everyone vied to make their best dishes, and of course we had to try everything.

Ugh. I feel that I won't need to eat again for a month.

Just kidding of course. It wasn't an ordeal, it was great fun and we had a wonderful time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Wishing You Happy Holidays

Vero Beach (wikimap)
27 39.646N 080 22.224

Dearest Friends,

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Feliz Navidad, Glad Jul och Gott Nytt Ar, from Dick and Libby Mills aboard SV Tarwathie. If we could have a Christmas wish, we would wish that we could be able to visit you over the holidays. We miss you!!!

Like last year and the year before that, Christmas day will find us in Vero Beach Florida. This is a very nice place to stay while doing projects, maintenance, celebrating holidays, taking trips, or waiting to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas.

Unlike last year, we are determined to actually get to the Bahamas this year. If you remember, last year we got stuck replacing the engine and that project took the whole winter season. Almost all the other cruisers here in Vero are also headed for the Bahamas, so we’ll have lots of company.

So what about next year? We don’t pretend to make plans any more, but here’s a hint. We’re tired of traveling north every summer. We haven’t sailed the Caribbean yet. Friends of ours on Moon Song sailed to Trinidad to wait out the hurricane season and they said it was great fun.

We have a lot to be grateful for this year. Our family is fine. John is serving 6 months at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan Republic. (Check your world atlas.) John’s family is doing fine at home waiting out the winter for John to return. Jennifer and Christian are doing remodeling on Jenny’s house and appear to be enjoying life. David just returned to Fairbanks Alaska from a year’s duty in Kuwait. Libby and I just returned from a Thanksgiving week trip to Fairbanks to visit David.

In addition, we’ve enjoyed an especially fun year cruising in Tarwathie. This summer we went north to the Erie Canal. We visited many friends and family in upstate New York, making it kind of a reunion year for us. We intended to decide between the Great Loop Trip and the Little Loop Trip when we reached Lake Ontario. The Great Loop takes one through the Great Lakes to Chicago, on the Illinois River to the Mississippi River to the Ohio River to the Tennessee River, to the Gulf of Mexico. The Little Loop takes one up the Saint Lawrence River to Nova Scotia, then down to Maine. We chose the Little Loop after realizing that the Great Loop would have made us travel another 3,000 miles motoring with the mast down.

However, midway through the Little Loop trip, just north of Montreal, we came to a junction of rivers where one could continue to Nova Scotia, or turn right and go to Lake Champlain and Vermont. We were overcome by homesickness, and turned right. I’m sure that we missed many lovely sights on the Little Loop, but we enjoyed sailing our “home” waters on Lake Champlain even more.

All in all, it has been yet another lovely year living the cruising life. What’s more, neither one of us are getting tired of it. Aside from not seeing friends and family often enough, it is a truly wonderful life style. We also love to hear from you. You can follow what we do on this blog.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Mars Occultation

Vero Beach

The other night a spectacular full moon rose just after sunset. Right next to it was Mars. The light of the moon obscured all the other stars in that part of the sky, so that those two objects were the only thing visible.

As the night went on, we could see an interesting thing. Mars was catching up with the moon. We eventually went to bed and didn't actually see Mars disappear behind the moon, or to be occulted.

A careful observer could see this any night watching the moon occult stars. To a casual observer like myself though, the identity of individual stars near the moon is indistinct. The result is that I can see the moon move in it's orbit night to night, but within a single night it's motion relative to the stars is not apparent. This special occurrence of the occultation (boy what a tough word!) of Mars however made it easy because only Mars and the Moon were visible in that quarter of the sky.

What a delight it is to see more of the sky again, now that we live closer to nature and further away from bright lights. When I was a boy, I had great fun camping out with my friends. We would lay in our sleeping bags looking up at the sky and wondering at the things we could see. I'll never forget when we saw the Echo 1 Satellite. That was a spectacular sight.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Power Management

Vero Beach

Our friends Richard and Penny on Viking Rose like Christmas lights. Who doesn't. They had accumulated a good collection of string lights to hand along the Viking Rose's standing rigging. When the lit, they looked wonderful. (See below.)

According to Richard, he then went below and checked the battery draw. The lights were drawing 40 amps! Ay ay ay. When we are on shore and drawing power from the wall plug, we are mostly unaware of how much power we use. On a boat, it's a different story. Now, Viking Rose has a Honda portable generator that can be used for many things, including lighting the Christmas lights.

Just think of how much energy we could spare if everyone first drew their power from 12 volt batteries, then recharged the batteries later.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Duh Moment

Vero Beach

I'm having trouble with my second laptop computer. It is going the way of the first one. It is developing vertical lines on the screen that are the result of hardware failures.

I called Circuit City today to make a warranty claim. I was hoping to swap it for a new computer, no questions asked, like my friend Gerry said they would. Instead I came to a support center. There was a long wait on the phone, so I decided to try their online chat form of support.

I got to chat with a technician right away. I described the problem. He said, "OK, now disconnect everything, the mouse, the WIFI, the power cord and the battery." I asked back, "How do I maintain this chat contact with you if I do that?" Duh, was the only possible answer.

I tried again to get service by phone. That worked better. The good news is that they'll repair it free. The bad news is that it will take 10 business days, plus shipping. That will keep us in Vero longer than I wanted.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Foot In Mouth Disease

Vero Beach

Boy, did I get in trouble today.

I needed to go up the mast to replace the bulb in the anchor light. I started by getting our the bosun's chair. Libby saw what I was doing and came up on deck to help me. I brushed her aside and said, "I'd rather have burly men help than you." I then called for help to the two other boats rafted with us. I got three men to help, and up the mast I went.

When I got to the top I was surprised to see Libby rowing away in the dinghy. That was odd. I didn't expect her to go anywhere. Three hours later she came back still with steam pouring from her ears. I can't remember when the last time was that Libby was so mad.

It seems that I underestimated just how serious Libby's proprietary interest is in my safety, and how much pride she has in looking out for my hide. I really trampled on those feelings when I refused her help.

Sorry. Sorry. I'm really really sorry Libby.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


On NPR and other news sources, I've heard several times about ego surfing. To ego surf means to look up your own name on just to see what information there is on the Internet about you. It can also become anti-ego surfing if your own name turns up way down the list (see below).

Of course, being an early adopter of almost all things computer, I ego surfed Dick Mills long ago -- as early as 1998. My name figured prominently in the results up through the 1990s, but has been slipping ever since.

I ego surfed today and found that my highest ranking on oogle was 61. That means that 60 other references to other Dick Mills' ranked higher. It's fun to list who the other Dick Mills' are that ranked higher.

  1. Dick Mills Ministries
  2. Dick Mills, former Red Sox pitcher.
  3. Dick Mills (born 1936) is a British sound engineer, and star of the Doctor Who TV program on BBC.
  4. The Interpet Encyclopedia of Freshwater Tropical Aquarium Fishes by Dick Mills
  5. Dick Mills neither read the newspapers nor followed the news ... The wild story made Dick Mills furious. ...
  6. Dick Mills: Application Support Manager at American Electric Power
  7. Dick Mills's Hydrant Collection

  8. Dick's Mill also became known as Dick's Ford or Dick's Crossing. The ford -- near the county's southern boundary -- afforded one of the few relatively safe crossings along the Great Miami River before bridges were built.

  9. Dick Mills, Editor of Keep the Republic Newsletter.

  10. Dick Mills mechanical engineer and software developer.$$
  11. Dick Mills: Date of Birth 1936, Gillingham, Kent, England, UK
  12. Dick Mills: Georgia Automobile Racing Hall of Fame Assoc
Of course, it would be sexist to not do the same for Libby, but it wouldn't be the same because Libby has never been active on the Internet. I did it anyhow, and surpise! Libby ranked 11 on Google compared to my 61st place.

  1. Art Beads & Jewelry by Libby Mills.
  2. About Libby Mills President & Professional Wellness
  3. Naturalist, Libby Mills
  4. Libby Mills - Journals and Periodical
  5. Libby Mills (26 FEB 1905 - )

Darwinian Defect

Vero Beach (wikimap)
27 39.646N 080 22.224

We love herons; especially the Great Blue Heron. We used to have a heron that visited the pond at our house, just outside the kitchen window.

As we cruise the US East Coast, we encounter lots of herons. I've learned to recognize the angry kraaaaaak noise that they make when they are angry or disturbed. One thing about their behavior though, leads me to fear for their survival.

When one sails or motors in a boat along a river, creek, or canal, one frequently comes upon a heron standing on the shore. Herons are shy and don't like you to come close, so they fly away. The problem is that the herons fly several hundred meters away in the direction away from the boat, then land on the shore. Of course, that means that the boat will catch up to this new position in a few seconds. The heron flies away again, and again and again until finally it decides to fly in a different direction or it resolves itself to stand still and let the boat pass.

I think this is a Darwinian defect. The heron's behavior magnifies its stress many times over. Seemingly, all the other birds and animals have better evasion strategies than does the heron. Let's hope that herons survive long enough to evolve a better strategy.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Long Distance Trash

Vero Beach

Yesterday, at noon, a weather front passed causing the wind to shift to westerly. At last! For the first time in more than a week, the red tide spores were blown away from the beach rather than towards it.

Libby and I took advantage of the nice weather and took a trip to the beach. While she sunned herself, I went for a long walk.

I found a Coke bottle in the water. I thought it was dropped by a careless beach stroller. I picked it up. Looking at the label I see that the bottle came from Ecquador. No, there was no note in the bottle.

This morning it turned cold. Temperatures in the 40s overnight. We act like Floridians now. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Sail Till We Drop

Vero Beach

According the local paper, Floridians are bracing for the arrival of winter. Next Sunday, the forecast is for the temperature to sink to the low 50s at night. ;)

Last night Libby and I were enjoying dinner at the nearby Ocean Grill, right on the beach at Vero. That restaurant was a favorite of my mother Helen and her sister Gracie many years ago. It is still a very good restaurant and we enjoyed the evening celebrating Libby's Birthday.

Anyhow, the dinner led to a discussion of our life style choice. It has always been my plan to sail until we drop -- in other words indefinitely. Libby, on the other hand, assumed that we would get bored with sailing after a few years and return to a "normal" retirement on land.

Last night for the first time, Libby said that she couldn't imagine returning to land based life -- it would be terribly dull. That's really cool, now we're truly operating on the same page. Now all we need is continued good health and a bit of luck and we can say that sail till we drop is our action plan.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Red Tide

Vero Beach (wikimap)
27 39.646N 080 22.224

Is there ever trouble in paradise? Sure there is. Now it's our turn. There is a red tide spreading from Cape Canaveral southward, and it has reached us here in Vero.

The symptoms started appearing a few days ago. Libby started having a cough. Then, we noticed that many other people were coughing and sneezing too. It even affects me once in a while.

Then we learned that the coughs were a symptom of allergies caused by red tide. We have been getting onshore winds for the past few days, and the winds blowing across the breaking surf at the beach release the allergic toxins from the red tide alge in to the air. The closer one is to the beach, the worse the symptoms. Nobody is swimming.

Our daughter Jenny frequently has allergy problems. This would not be the place to be for her right now.

What about all those people who paid millions of dollars for beach front apartments? Should we feel sorry for them?

How long will the red tide stay? Local experts say that it is impossible to tell. However, if the wind shifts direction, it might blow the stuff away from us.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Where To Hide The Presents?

Vero Beach

Well, we learned yet another new facet of the cruising life today. Libby went ashore this morning and came back with two enormous cardboard boxes in the dinghy. The boxes were bigger than she was. People on shore came rushing out with their cameras to snap pictures of the spectacle.

Now the problem is that the packages contained Christmas presents for me. The presents aren't as large at the boxes, but they are plenty big. She had to open the boxes and discard the packing because the boxes were much too big to get through the door. Now, the problem is where to hide those presents so that I won't see them before Christmas. That's rather difficult in a boat. Imagine trying to conceal something like a bicycle in your Volkwagon.

We have lots of company down here now. Yesterday a whole bunch of boats arrived from up north. The bunch had been waiting for the shuttle launch but now they gave up. We have 6 Westsails in the harbor! More friends are coming. Dave and Hilde are on their way south on the ICW. We had hoped to see Chris and June on Albion also, but they're stuck in St. Augustine with engine troubles :-)

Rafted up with us is the Westsail Heron with Don and Margaret on board. We met them up in Maine two summers ago, and even visited their house.

Tonight, we invited Don and Margaret and Peter (on Georgie II) to dinner. After dinner we'll have a captive audience for a game of Balderdash.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Vero Beach

Thinking back on the last 3 years, it is remarkable how few the times have been that we have been bothered by insects while on board.

In the everglades we had mosquitoes at night. In Georgia, in May, we were plagued by horse flies. In New York, mosquitoes come out at dawn and dusk only. On Lake Champlain, one gets biting Adirondack black flies at certain times. Overall though, we seldom use the screens we have for portholes and hatchways.

In Florida, they spray for mosquitoes. Indeed, I suspect that such spraying is the only thing that makes Florida habitable at all. Near Vero, we see a Piper Pawnee airplane behaving like a crop duster every month or so. The protection is not perfect however.

In recent weeks we have been bothered at night by the tiny mosquitoes we call no-see-ems. Libby is apparently sweeter than I (I knew that before.) She gets bit and I don't. The other day poor Libby woke up to find big patches of her body covered by linear trails of bites. These bugs bit you, move a quarter inch and bite again. The bites are very itchy. Poor Libby was very uncomfortable.

The experience revealed a flax in Tarwathie's provisioning plan. We didn't have any DEET insect repellent on board. Libby was well motivated and she rushed right out to buy some.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Vero Beach Public Library

Obviously, cruisers are interested in navigation and navigation methods. Slightly less obvious is the fact that it is much easier to measure latitude than longitude. (If you don't understand why, then you must read the fascinating book Longitude.) Given that preface, you can understand why I was delighted this morning to find on APOD a way of determining latitude that was completely new and novel to me.

In the Norhern Hemisphere, we know that all stars at night seem to travel in circular motions, except Polaris which is at the exact center of the circle.

Look at the above picture. At the upper left, the light trail of the star's apparent motion is in a circle centered at the upper left. Starts at the lower right seem to move in a circle centered at lower right. Right in the middle, the starts seem to move in a straight line. How can that be? It can be so only if one is looking up from the equator. Stars in the plane of Earth's equator mark the boundary between circular paths centered on the north and south poles.

Of course, low tech time exposures can not be taken from the deck of a ship at sea. But it will work when ashore. Using an inexpensive web cam plus suitable algorithms, it should be possible to made a continuous digital latitude estimator based on the movement of heavenly objects that would not depend on GPS nor require measurements relative to the horizon.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Shared Email

Vero Beach

Our oldest son John is serving with the Air Force overseas. I couldn't write about where he is in the blog before because it was classified until his unit got there. Now I can.

I thought I would share an email I got from John today. He makes me proud. Not only is he serving his country in the military, he also volunteers to help build houses for the local people there, and he volunteers to help the K9 squad train dogs. Now is has a new activity (see below) also oriented toward helping people.

The package he mentions resulted from a request from John for ordinary
magazines. Libby and I raided the sailor's lounge at the marina and grabbed a miscellaneous bunch of sailing, news, travel, and treasure hunting magazines to send for John and his buddies.


Hey guys,

I just got a heavy package filled with periodicals. Thank you very much! I'm getting a little tired of looking for a new paperback, and most of the magazines here are fitness and military equipment related, or pop music related. Slim pickin's. I don't know which one to start with :).

More interesting news. My already limited time off is now reduced due to the fact that I've been elected President of the 5/6 Council. That is composed of E5 and E6 members that are devoted to mentoring junior enlisted and also working more closely with the senior enlisted members to improve the morale of the whole base. I will have to cut my sleep time in half to make all the meetings I’m now obligated to attend.

TSgt John Mills

APO AE 09353
Flight Chief, VSA, SFOA

Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan Republic

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Vero Beach

The other night, we were chatting with Peter on Georgie II, when we noticed a brilliant stub of a rainbow off shore to the east. We could see the right foot, about 10 degrees of the arc. However as time passed, the left foot appeared, then it became a double rainbow, then the entire 180 degree arc appeared. I shot it with the panorama feature of my camera and used software to stitch the panoramic shots together. It makes the tree line and the housed look wavy and weird but it did let me shoot the entire rainbow.

If you look carefully, you can see the faint second rainbow with a larger diameter. Once, in Sweden, Libby and I saw a triple rainbow. That is probably a once in a lifetime event.

Contrast the shape of the above rainbow with the one below. We took this shot on the Neuse River near New Bern, NC. The key difference is that this rainbow was sighted when the sun was high in the sky rather than just before sunset. The high sun makes the rainbow look squashed flat. I is unusual because rainbows are not usually sighted at that time of day.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Furler Day

Vero Beach Public Library

Today was the day we've been waiting for a long time. Two riggers drove up from West Palm to deliver our new jib furler and to install it.

Carl and Harley were the two guys. They really knew their business, especially Carl. They did the whole job in three hours including Carl climbing up the mast twice.

The new furler is made by Seldén AB (as Swedish company) and the brand is Furlex. The Swedes are especially good at designing and making metal things, and this furler is an example of that. It's not cheap. The furler cost more than $2,000 and installation by the riggers was another $500. I'm glad though to have the best furler made, and very glad that I didn't try to install it myself. The procedure is very complicated. Here are the steps.

I was most impressed when Carl went up the mast. He didn't sit and let us crank him up with the winch. He pulled himself up by muscle while Harley stood on deck and pulled in the slack line. I used to climb like that when I was 25, but that was a long time ago.

We did encounter one problem. My bow pulpit is too narrow. It doesn't leave enough room for the furler drum. I'll have to move the pulpit, or find a welder to modify it, or get a new pulpit. That's a new project for my list to accomplish before leaving Vero.

By the way, as we were in the middle of the installation, the gentleman below came along. He was interested in Tarwathie. He said that he worked in the Westsail factory in Costa Mesa California building Westsail 32s. What a small world.

Monday, December 03, 2007

World's Strangest Sail Boat

Vero Beach Public Library

I took the following pictures in Burlington harbor last summer. The yellow boat on the mooring behind us must be the most unique and unusual sail boat I ever saw. Everything about it, down to the small details, is very un-nautical. The builder was apparently very skilled and who does great workmanship, but one wonders if he ever saw a boat before.

The shocking thing about this boat is it's departure from tradition. Sailing is at least 12,000 years old. Today's boats are the the result of many millennia of refinement and perfection in design. Therefore, when one sees something truly different it really stands out. Look, for example at the completely vertical slabs forming the top sides of the hull. Those sides will not deflect waves as would a conventional rounded hull.

How does it sail? I wish I knew. I never did get to meet the owner.

Do any of you know about this boat? If so, please let me know.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Favorite Pictures 2007

Vero Beach

  • I think the picture below is technical favorite for 2007. From front to rear, it shows a camp fire on Valcour Island, the moon, Burlington, and Camel's Hump.

  • Below you can see the trail we made as we sailed through the mill weed on the Great Dismal Swamp Canal.

  • Below, you see a huge great lakes ore carrying ship aground on the shelf at the entrance to one of the Saint Lawrence Seaway locks. I like this picture because it reminds me that we aren't the only ones who run aground.

  • Last, but most favorite, is this shot of Libby relaxing on the Vanderbilt's front lawn at Shelburne Farms with Tarwathie in the background.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


Vero Beach Public Library

We're sharing the mooring with Peter on his boat Georgie II. Peter is a Brit, living in Vancouver. Peter has an interesting way to manage his cruising.

Peter buys used boats on EBAY. Then he fixes them up some, hauls them on his trailer down to Florida, sails them to the Bahamas for the winter season, then hauls them back to Vancouver to sell for a profit. Peter says that his profits generally pay for his cruising expenses for the whole season.

Peter's latest boat, Georgie II is an Ericson 27 with a 25 HP diesel engine that he bought on EBAY for $3,000. It was a charity auction. The owner donated the boat to charity and the charity sells it on EBAY. Peter says that the boat ought to be worth $20,000 in Vancouver.

Wow! What a great plan. The more I learn about real life cruisers, the more convinced I become that anyone who really wants to can do it. Money and career are no obstacle. (Although kids or pets may be an obstacle.) The only thing holding you back may be the will to do it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

To Heck With Chores

Vero Beach

It was hot and sticky this afternoon. We said to heck with chores and went to the beach. That's all I have to say.

Above is the new high tech air conditioned lifeguard stool at the Vero beach.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 26, 2007

Entertaining For Geeks Only

I blogged previously about how on the way to Alaska for Thanksgiving, we found the secondary IT infrastructure around travel had become so nearly perfected. On the way back, we found a marvelous counter example.

We boarded a Delta Airlines 757 in Seattle, bound for Atlanta. This was a very modern plane equipped with a personal video screen for each passenger embedded in the back of the seat in front of you. The screen could be used for movies, or TV, or games, or to track altitude and speed statistics for the trip.

I wasn't interested in any of that stuff, but I do like fiddling with computers, so I decided to try our the free trivia video game they offered. I selected the game and pushed the Play button. A message appeared saying, "Please wait while the game is loaded." I waited and waited for about a minute. Then, to my surprise, the computer rebooted and I found myself staring at the boot script log on an 80x24 text screen. I hadn't seen one of those things for years.

The reboot seemed to take forever, much longer than it takes my laptop to boot Windows XP. Then I tried again. Surprise: selecting that game crashed the computer again. This time I looked more closely at the boot log. To my surprise, it wasn't running Windows, it was a I386 Intel machine running Red Hat Linux. Like any geek, I became interested in this glaring error so I started to investigate. Timing with my stopwatch, I determined that it took this computer between 185 and 200 seconds to reboot -- that's much slower than Windows. I wondered if my repeated reboots would affect other passengers but that didn't seem to be the case. I tried a race. I selected the game on my screen and on my wife's screen in the next seat. I could see that the two machines had the same error and they rebooted in approximately, but not identically the same time.

Looking at the boot log, I could see that there were a dozen or more errors reported during booting. Mounts didn't work, shares could not be found, services failed to initialize. It really looked like garbage.

After many tries, I figured out that the play button had three outcomes. It might work correctly (2 times out of 64 tries), it might fail and return to the previous screen (about 30 times out of 64 tries) or it might cause a reboot (about 32 times out of 64 tries). Further, the reboots always occurred 55 seconds after pushing play. I think the culprit was a non responding file server someplace plus a watchdog timer set to reboot after 55 seconds of non response.

Several times, the reboots themselves failed, getting stuck at some point in the process for more than 55 seconds thus causing a new reboot. In the worst case the reboot failed 3 consecutive times, resulting in 11 minutes until a successful reboot. The other passengers walking by who saw my screen wondered what I was up to with the B&W text logs scrolling by. It felt like the old days with a minicomputer and an ADM3A dumb terminal.

I walked around the cabin peeking at the screens of other passengers. Many were happily watching movies without trouble. I did notice a half dozen of them playing the trivia game that crashed my machine. That means it was not the game, but my (and my wife's) computers that were at fault. Several others had a static error message on the screen with the word ERROR in big block letters. They might have been trying another game. I overheard one passenger complaining that he watched HBO but the screen wanted to charge him an additional $5 every time one program ended and another started. Other passengers did not have this problem, indicating that his software was different than others. There is no way to blame the lusers in these cases. These computers have no keyboards and only very limited touch screen selection options. There is little room for operator error.

What a piece of crap! It was incompetently administered. Evidently they also could not do a push install of software so that all seats had the same software. God only knows how this aircraft's software compared with other aircraft's copies.

I know that the open source community is fond of trashing Microsoft and Windows. They may be right that Linux at its best (or even at its average) are better than Windows. However, I think that both of them at their worst are worse than Windows at its worst. Windows at least gives one the option to reboot to DOS or to boot in Safe Mode if the primary reboot fails. Clearly, the intricacies of properly administering Linux are beyond the skills of even major players (I count a supplier to Delta Airlines a major player.)

To be fair, I've seen similar disasters happen with boot scripts on Macs and on the fabled VAX/VMS machines, but those happened nearly 20 years ago. It's shocking to see such bumbling in 2007.

How can they consider putting such overqalified, over complex stuff such as Linux in mass consumer items such as cell phones and GPS receivers. I have a Lowrance GPS/chart plotter in my boat and I use it (plus paper charts) for safety related navigation. I saw once a message box that indicates that it runs a version of Windows. It has never crashed, never misbehaved the way the Linux based TV screen did on that Delta flight.

I'll say it again, Windows at its worse is better than Linux at its worse or Macs at their worse.

The Thanksgiving Trip

The airport, Atlanta, Georgia

Well, we still have one more flight leg to go, so it may be premature, but I'd like to declare this trip as wonderfully simple and snag free. Despite all the scary news about travel on Thanksgiving week, everything went of as planned.

We were also terribly spoiled by the wonderful hospitality of our son David and his family, Cathy and Bobby. They baked and cooked, and planned activities and otherwise spoiled us for a whole week. We had a great time. Thank you all three; you were great.

The weather was also OK. It was zero F when we first arrived, but the rest of the time the temperature was in the 30s most of the time. That was about the same as it was back in New York that week.

Fooling with fireworks after Thanksgiving Dinner (Hint, nobody does fireworks on the 4th of July in Alaska because it doesn't get dark then.)

Dave is victorious over Bobby on the new Nintendo Wii video game.

Walking The Dogs at Creamer's Field

Winter Wonderland, the Mills residence in Fairbanks

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Alaskan Welcome

Fairbanks, Alaska

Well I lied. I said that I wouldn't be blogging from Alaska, but I just can't resist it.

We had a great tip up here. Everything was nominal, no problems, no delays, no lost baggage. I had been a bit apprehensive about holiday mobs based on the news reports over the weekend, but we didn't encounter any of that.

We arrived in Alaska with an appropriate greeting. We saw a brilliant aurora before descending through the clouds. We saw our first snow in more than three years. Dave was waiting for us at the terminal with jackets, gloves and hats. When we emerged in to the parking lot, the temperature was exactly zero F (-18C). It felt brisk, not bitter. Since we got here at about 01:00, we haven't had much time yet for the family reunion.

Having not traveled for a while, I was struck by how refined the computer automation has become. On the way up, our cell phone gave us flight status updates. When we dropped off the rental car, the lady attendant greeted me as Mr Mills as soon as I opened the door, then she handed my my receipt for the final bill as I stepped out. At the curb, the skycap not only checked our bags, but he handed us our three boarding passes each for the trip. Those boarding passes included information on the gate assignments in the remote cities. At the gate, the attendant scanned the bar codes on the boarding passes and her machine flashed our names to her.

Of course none of that stuff is entirely new. It has been coming for a very long time. The part that struck me was how ubiquitous and how so seemingly effortless the IT automation has become. If not perfected, it is highly refined.

What contributed to this IT success after so many decades of failures and compromise systems, of which I had participated? It seems now that we have achieved the benefits of automation foreseen in the 1950s that I studied in college. I wish I knew what the fraction of the GDP is spent on IT today compared to 10, 20, or 30 years ago. I wager that it is lower than before, yet we get much more out of it.

So what's the secret? I think, no secret at all. Software technology benefits from the cumulative effect of incremental improvements, year by year. There are better tools, better methods (i.e. Objects), plus data base architectures refined over years of use. I imagine that the incremental improvements will continue indifinitely.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Word For The Day

JAX, airport

I must share this great word I read in a magazine.

Q: What is the word to best describe the gyrations one must go through to trigger the motion sensor for the paper towel dispenser in the airport rest room?

A: drykwando

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ready for the Cold

Vero Beach (wikimap)
27 39.646N 080 22.224

Well, we're as ready as we can be. Tomorrow we fly to Fairbanks Alaska to spend Thankgiving with Dave and his family. Dave says it is about 10F (-12C) there. Brrrrrrr. The Floridians down here think that we're lunatics for considering it. Actually, we're looking forward to having a great time.

I probably won't blog from Alaska. This is a sailing blog, not a family blog.

This morning we witnessed a spectacle from 50 feet away. A couple in a big 45 foot sailboat came up to take the mooring just behind us. The wind speed was almost zero. They picked up the mooring pennant OK and made it fast, but their boat still had some forward momentum so it pulled tight and turned around stern to the wind.

Then, to our amazement, the captain of that boat jumped in to his dinghy and tried to make it act like a tug boat to push the sail boat back to proper alighment, pointing the same way as everyone else. He tried from the bow and from the stern using full throttle on the outboard. Meanwhile, his wife was on deck yelling at him an berating him about what he was doing. Libby and I and all the other cruisers within earshot just stood by gawking.

What he was hoping to accomplish I don't know. He didn't need to do anything at all. If he just waited 10 minutes or so, his boat would swing in to the wind just like everyone else. Remember how I've written several times about how hard it was to learn patience on board? Well, this poor guy had the impatience bug much worse than I ever did. The couple reminded me of Milton Berle and Ethel Merman in the old movie "Its a Mad Mad World"; remember that?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Proud or Scared?

Vero Beach (wikimap)
27 39.646N 080 22.224

Yesterday I was working on a project when I needed our propane torch. I fetched the tank from its storage spot in the lazarette compartment in the stern under the tiller. When I picked it up I realized that it was empty. Huh? That tank should be almost full. I looked closer and I found a spot on the bottom where the tank had rusted all the way through.

Wow, that could be serious. Leaking propane on a boat could be a serious or even a fatal event. Propane is heavier than air. Leaked propane can go down in to the bilge and sit there indefinitely until ignited by a spark. I've heard stories of boats exploding years after the leak occurred.

On the other hand, I stored the propane in this special lazarette compartment. The compartment is sealed off from the rest of the boat and it has it's own open drain. Therefore, anything that leaks in there simply spills overboard. That's where we also store our two 20 pound propane tanks for the stove.

So, should I have been scared about a near disaster missed or proud of Tarwathie and myself for stowing it safely? A little of each I suppose.

What I would really like is to find a dead simple and foolproof way to block salt water from splashing in to that compartment without hindering the exit of anything inside that wants to leak out. Does anybody have a suggestion for that?

We heard tell of our friends Don and Margaret on their W32 Heron today. They are from Maine. We met them in Maine last year. They are coming south on their first extended voyage on Heron. They wanted to take their time and enjoy the local sights as much as possible. However, as the cruisers know, this is the time of year when the cold nips at your heels if you are not south enough early enough. Don and Margaret are in Charleston today, reportedly freezing.

Head south you two, you can't depend on being warm until you're south of Melbourne Florida.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Helping Hand

Vero Beach (wikimap)
27 39.646N 080 22.224

A nice sunset seen from our mooring.

Around noon today I had my head down in the engine compartment. I was doing chores. I found that the shaft packing nut was loose, letting too much water in from around the shaft. I also found that one of the engine mount nuts was loose. Oy Oy; that could be serious. I'll have to check those more often. I was busy changing the transmission oil when I heard a noise.

There was a sailboat just one boat length away from me that was aground. The owner was trying to back his way off using the engine. I could see mud coming out of his exhaust. "Stop!" I shouted. Then I went over to help him.

I told the man about the mud and offered to row his anchor out with my dinghy so that he could kedge off. I took his plow anchor and 100 feet of chain and dropped it 100 feet away. His anchor windlass slipped his clutch so that didn't do any good. He tied it off to a snubber line and tried using the sheet winch. That didn't do any good.

I took a nylon line from his boat to a nearby piling on a dock. We tried sheeting that in with the sheet winch. It just bent the piling out of place. Oops. He finally gave up and called Tow Boat US.

The poor guy. He told me that he returned from Europe 3 years ago to discover that he had cancer. He's been in treatment for those three years. Now, he was working single handed to bring his boat from Newburyport Mass to Fort Myers Florida. The boat is suffering from three years of no maintenance.

Anyhow, Tow Boat US came about 30 minutes later and got him afloat with no trouble. I hope he is a member. These towing services work in a strange way. You can subscribe to Tow Boat US or to their competitor Sea Tow for about $150/year. Then you get unlimited free towing. If you are not a subscriber, a tow costs $650 up. Their costs are very reasonable to subscribe but outrageously expensive if you don't subscribe. We are subscribers. We've been towed twice, and we called Sea Tow for a jump start once.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Picks from the SSCA GAM

Above, the knot/line handling demonstration. Interesting to note that this was the most popular demonstration even for such experienced cruisers. It demonstrates how fundamentally important knots and line handling are.

Libby at the medical kit seminar

Libby at the knot tying seminar. She has a mental block when it comes to learning those things from me, so the seminar was most welcome.

LED Lights

Vero Beach (wikimap)
27 39.646N 080 22.224

It's unlikely that you're using LED lights for your room illumination at home. On a boat though, power management is king. LED lights use less than 10% of the power as incandescent lights and 2/3 less power than fluorescent lights. Therefore, we started converting all lights on Tarwathie to LEDs. We're not going to do it all at once. It's still very expensive.

Last year we bought a LED replacement bulb for one of the cabin dome lights. It was a big dissapointment. It had 6 LEDs in a cluster but it put out so little light that one could not read a book from 18 inches away. That was kind of useless and it cost $29.95.

At the SSCA GAM we saw some LEDs for sale and got to see how bright they were with a direct demonstration. I bought a new red/white dome light for $55. It has a cluster of about 30 white and 6 red LEDs and it's plenty bright. We use the red lights at night when under sail. The red lights do not spoil your night vision.

I also bought a red/green bulb to replace the bulb in the running light at the bow and a white one to replace the running light bulb at the stern. These have 16 LEDs each. I really hope they're bright enough. Those bulbs cost $44 each. As I said, it's very expensive. I would really like a mast head tricolor running light but that will have to wait for another year; they cost about $600.

Two of my very favorite LED lights are shown in the picture below. The flashlight was a present from my son John. It is a Brinkman long life LED light. Besides being waterproof, it gives good light and it lasts unbelievably long. I use it almost every day, yet the two AA batteries last for more than a year. The secret, I think, is an aspherical lens that focuses the light. That allows use of a dimmer LED and extends the battery life.

The other light is a Mighty Bright book reading light. We have two of them that we use for reading. More important, I've found that the mighty bright is very useful as a trouble light/work light. I can clip it anywhere, and bend the articulated neck to hold the light at almost any position and angle. I use it especially for working in confined spaces. On the boat, almost all spaces are confined spaces. It's something I can recommend for everyone's tool box.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Our Honey Do List

Vero Beach Public Library (map)

The third day of the SSCA GAM was low key. The only interesting part was a seminar I went to on weather information, how to get it. Weather is an extremely complicated subject. I suspect that I’ll never get interested in it enough to be really good at it.

I felt very humbled by the vast experience of the fellow members of SSCA. Compared to many of them, Libby and I are just novices.

The seasoned sailors also had an interesting perspective on weather reports. They point out that you can choose your departure date for a long passage, and perhaps wait for the best weather to do that. However, once you do depart, you’re committed regardless of what happens with the weather. If a big storm is approaching you can maybe divert your course a bit one way or the other. Other than that, you just have to be ready to take whatever comes along. I can’t argue with that.

Next week we’re flying to Fairbanks to spend Thanksgiving with David and his family. It is also a welcome home celebration for David. He just returned from a year in Kuwait. My oldest son John, is two months in to a six month deployment in Kyrgyzstan.

So, why aren’t we sailing directly for the Bahamas when we return from Fairbanks? We have a backlog of maintenance chores to accomplish. Some people call it the honey-do list. No matter what you call it, the list is long. Here's our list:

  1. Change the transmission oil
  2. Clean the heat exchanger
  3. Replace the engine anode
  4. Re-rig the shifter control cable
  5. Replace the mainsail outhaul
  6. Re-rig the topping lift
  7. Re-rig the backstay flag attachments
  8. Re-rig the SSB antenna routing and attachments
  9. Make a permanent fix for the chafing exhaust hose
  10. Clean the engine compartment
  11. Clean the hull
  12. Wax the hull
  13. Make a full backup of both laptop hard disks
  14. Make a permanent fix for the GPS up/down/left/right buttons
  15. Sand and repaint the interior white
  16. Sand and re-varnish deck hatches, sampson posts and bowsprit
  17. Repaint the deck
  18. Wax all top deck surfaces
  19. Acquire 225’ of new anchor chain
  20. Inspect all structural steel
  21. Install the new jib furler with new forestay
  22. Rig the new sail
  23. Practice with the new sail and furler
  24. Route and install a control line for the jib furler
  25. Put proper registration numbers on the dinghy
  26. Mend dings on the dinghy
  27. Replace the lifeline pads
  28. Acquire an additional fender
  29. Rebuild the toilet with new gaskets and washers
  30. Re-provision
  31. Clean and finish the on-deck teak
  32. Set up for VOIP phone on the laptop
  33. Find buddy boat(s) to sail to Bahamas with
  34. Decide what to do with our cell phone account
Does the length of the list surprise you? One simple truth about living onboard is that you use a very limited set of physical resources and a limited living space very intensely. Those things need maintenance much more often than comparable space in your house.

In any case, Vero is a very convenient and comfortable place to stay while we do our chores. I don’t expect anybody to feel sorry for us for having to work so much.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Who Is This Blog For?

Vero Beach (wikimap)
27 39.646N 080 22.224W

At a seminar on web pages the other day, the instructor said, "You can even blog from your boat every day. You can tell what a great time you're having, but nobody will want to read it because they're not having the good time." Whoa! There's some truth in that.

It's true that I mostly write this blog because I enjoy the writing. At the same time I want to write stuff that readers enjoy reading. I think I'm succeeding at that, based on email feedback I get, but thanks to new Google technology, I can take a poll in a way easy for me and easy for you.

My mental model when I write the blog is (1) To let our family and friends know that we're safe and happy. (2) To convey a sense of what it is like to life the cruising life style.

You can buy lots of books about cruising, but they mostly dispense advice and relate stories of just the cruising highlights. A daily journal gives a much different picture, and in some cases can be more interesting. That's what I try to do. My friend Pete even said, "Sometimes you even say what your thinking."

Starting today and for the next two weeks in the right margin of this blog are three poll questions.
  1. What led you to this blog?
  2. What do you like seeing here?
  3. How often do you visit the blog?
The answers are quite anonymous, so please feel free to be candid. My purpose in asking the questions is just to refine my mental model of who the readers are so that I can further shape what I write.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

The SSCA GAM, Day 2 - Seminar Day

Melbourne, FL, Public Library
No LL (map)

Today we went to seminars all day at the SSCA. We had seminars on radio email, line handling, knots, splicing, stocking the medicine cabinet, man overboard, storms at sea, illness at sea, collisions at sea, onboard living tips, and trolling for fish.

We managed to learn new things at each seminar. I just hope we can retain the things we learned. It's a lot of stuff in just a few days.

I also bought a 160GB USB hard drive for only $40 at a flea market. I think that's a very good price. Now I can properly (and easily) back up both laptops, and I can make room for more photos in our albums. The new digital cameras, used at full resolution and quality, create much bigger files than the old cameras did and eat up hard disk. The progression will never stop. Within 3 years I bet we'll be reading about terabyte thumb drives.

I also ordered our new jib and our first jib furler. We've never owned a furler before. I think it will make our life much easier. Manhandling that old jib and trying to stuff it in to the bag was strenuous and tedious. Worse, downhauls never worked for me, so to lower the jib at sea in heavy wind meant that I had to crawl all the way out to the end of the bowsprit. More than once, it was like sitting in the ducking stool. With the furler, we can reef or furl the jib from the comfort of the cockpit.

We still have a hanked on stay sail, but we need to take it up and down much less often, and it is much smaller and lighter, and not way out at the end of the bowsprit.

The most quotable line I heard at the seminars was from a talk about sea sickness. A man and his wife had been sea sick for three straight days. He came up to the cockpit with a sandwich for her and asked, "Do you want to eat this or should I just throw it directly over the side?"

All this luxury will cost money. About $2,200 for the new sail. $2,200 for a Selden furler, and $500 for the furler installation. Both will be done by local vendors while we are in Vero. After last year's engine project, this is our major expenditure for the whole year.

p.s. I could have gotten the sail cheaper from Hong Kong, but then I would not get to make a combined deal with the furler. In this case, they charged me about $1,000 less than list price for the furler.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The SSCA Gam, Day 1

Vero Beach

Back in the late 1970s, I and my friends at PTI skated on the bleeding edge of computer technology. In those circumstances it was enormously enjoyable to go to the National Computer Conference (NCC) in Chicago's McCormick Palace together with 100,000 other computer geeks. Well, today I no longer keep up with computers but, understandably, Libby and I are very much in to the technology and the culture of sailboat cruising. All this is an elaborate way of saying that we enjoyed ourselves today at the SSCA Gam.

The conference was hosted by the SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) of which we are members. I don't know why they call their meetings Gams. The first thing noticeable was that almost all the roughly 200 attendees, and staff, and the speakers were also experienced cruisers. In fact, I suspect that a high percentage of them haver completed circumnavigations, which far outstrips our credentials. The impression was striking. I wish I could ow you a group photo. I wager that it would be very difficult in today's America to find a more fit, more healthy and more mentally healthy group of people for their age. It reinforces our belief that we made the right choice becoming cruisers.

Like the NCC or many trade shows, this conference had a floor with vendor exhibits. It also had a series of lectures conducted in side rooms. We started out with a lecture on docking techniques and sail trim by Captain Jack Klang that Libby and I went to. I was very impressed. His methods for getting in to and out of slips, especially with adverse winds and currents, were far superior to what we have been doing. I resolve to change our ways to his ways starting immediately.

Then Libby went off to the Women's Forum, and I went to a talk about using your laptop PC for electronic charts and navigation. It's clear that the world is moving in the direction of having PC obsolete all other chart plotter/GPS/navigation devices. Nevertheless, I'm not ready to switch yet. First I would need a waterproof PC that I can use out in the cockpit, and it would have to use less than 10% of the DC power that my current laptop uses, then it would have to be affordable.

At the women's forum, Libby heard about keeping in touch with family, VOIP, about dealing with seasickness, and dealing with Captain Bligh types, and on provisioning the boat. She said it was worthwhile.

Over lunch we went through the vendor area. I blew $110 cash on gadgets that I just couldn't live without after seeing them. That's why Libby won't let me go to boat shows. She's smart. I was only exposed to two dozen vendors here. At the Annapolis boat show, I would have walked past the booths of hundreds of vendors, and could easily bankrupt us. I also made local contacts with a sail maker and jib furlers. Replacing our foresail (AKA jib AKA yankee) and converting from old fashioned hanked on sails to roller furling is our number one project to accomplish while we are in Vero.

In the afternoon, I went of to a series of lectures on communications, while Libby went to talks on medical treatment on board, and stories about traveling off the beaten path.

Jim Corenman led the lectures on communications. He is the horse's mouth on those subjects. Jim wrote the Airmail email program that we use with the SSB. Jim was also one of the founders of Sailmail, a non-profit organization that provides global email service for cruisers. Jim is also an engineer. For me, as an electrical engineer, it was heaven. We talked about low orbit satellites, radio propagation, cell phone technology, WIFI, SSB based email, computer security, spam management, RF leakage, RF interference, grounding practices, antenna designs, electrocution, counterpoise ground planes and other things that warm the heart of true engineers. The surprising thing for me was that the other people in the audience were perhaps more knowledgeable and as quick to understand than I. I presume that most did not have an MSEE as I do, and (revealing my sexist side) almost half of them were women. I guess the moral is that people who live on board and who are forced to make these things work really do learn the things they need to know even if they are highly technical and even if they have no formal education in engineering. My hat goes off to those cruisers – their expertise and practical knowledge exceeds my expectations.

At the medical seminar Libby learned about the myriad of drugs and medical things we should have on board (but don't) for extended cruises overseas. She learned that they have malaria in Georgetown Bahamas. She got tips on dealing with sea sickness and how to make emergency splints.

All in all, we both learned a lot and we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. There are two more days to go on the conference. Oh boy.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Blog Revamp

Vero Beach (wikimap)

I modernized this blog layout a bit. There will be ads shown (horrors!) after a few days. There is a new section on the right margin called Photo Albums. There I'll post links to collections of our recent photos. From time to time, I'll still post some photos inline with the blog text.

One change you may welcome. The blog archive section in the right margin will now list postings in chronological order. The current month's page however will continue to show the most recent posting at the top.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fly Away Home

Vero Beach Public Library, FL

Did you see the book or the movie about the migrating geese? I feel like the geese today.

Two months ago today we were at Chipman Point on Lake Champlain to take our mast down. That was our start of this year's southward migration.

One month ago today, we were in the Great Dismal Swamp. That was the midpoint of the migration.

Today, we arrived in Vero Beach. This marks the end of this migration. It is a bittersweet feeling. On one hand, we love the migratory life and for the next two months, we'll be living the in-port life instead. On the other hand, Vero Beach is an especially nice place for cruisers to live in-port so we're glad to be here.

Last night, we had dinner at the home of my brother Ed and sister in law Sally. Sally tried to think of something we would not make on the boat for ourselves. She made corned beef and cabbage. It was delicious and it was the first time in years that we had that dish. Thank you Sally.

Here's a picture of an excellent sunset from New Bern, NC.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Begging For Fish?

The Indian River
28 19.706N 080 42.337W

Yesterday we traversed the Mosquito Lagoon under the spinnaker. We think it was the fastest traverse of the lagoon we ever did. It was certainly one of the most pleasant. The winds were gentle, and the temperature superbly moderate. I spent part of the time lounging on the forward deck and part taking a sun shower. The splendid isolation made it easy to shower on deck out of sight of everybody.

Mosquito Lagoon is like a big inland lake about 3 miles wide by 15 miles long. On the east side it is bordered by a mile or so of barrier dunes that separate it from the sea. The remarkable thing about it is that the whole lagoon is only 2-4 feet deep. You could walk across it. The main exception is the dredged channel for the ICW which is 14 feet deep by 150 feet wide. I've read that there are a few depressions in the lagoon where the water is 6 or 8 feet deep in a circular pool 100 feet
or so in diameter. The fish prefer this deeper water so these pools are packed with dense schools of fish. Needless to say, those pools are favorite targets for the fishermen in their small boats.

The big surprise though came midway through the lagoon. I was standing at the helm glancing to starboard when suddenly a dolphin leaped 10 feet out of the water right in front of me and no more than 5 feet away from Tarwathie. I was stunned. If only I had a camera (except that I could never have pointed and clicked in time). The dolphin continued to swim beside us for a minute or so. He (or she?) was exceptionally big, perhaps 10-12 feet long.

In the next few minutes I thought it over. Why did the dolphin do that? He was much too close to Tarwathie to make it a coincidence. The leap was far higher than dolphin's normal leaps. The best explanation I could think of was that he was begging for fish. There are lots of fishermen in Mosquito Lagoon. Perhaps some of them throw bait fish to the dolphin in exchange for a show. Too bad; I didn't have any fish on board to throw to him. It's only speculation but I have no other explanation.

I believe that this is the first time we ever sailed the north end of the Indian River when the wind was not howling. The other 5 times we passed here we had very strong winds 20-30 knots. It's very nice today, relaxing, warm and pretty. If we wanted to hang out here for two more days we could see the space shuttle land, but we elected to move on. Tonight, we're going to meet my brother Ed and sister in law Sally for dinner at their how. Tomorrow we'll take a mooring at Vero. Friday, we'll
rent a car and return to Melbourne for the SSCA Gam (a convention for sailing cruisers like us.)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sunken? Aground?

29 36N 81 12W

Yesterday we arrived in Saint Augustine around 17:00. We decided that we've seen enough of Saint Augustine in the past year so we would not stop. We approached the Bridge of Lions and called the bridge tender to request an opening. He said that we would have to wait for 23 minutes.

While we were circling for 23 minutes, I went below and hijacked a WIFI connection to check my email. Libby spotted a drama unfolding right next to us. Just north of the bridge and in front of the old Spanish Fort, there is an anchorage frequented by cruising sailors. In the anchorage, right up along the sea wall was a cruising sailboat (catamaran?) that appeared to be sunk in shallow water. It was sitting at a crazy angle. The main deck remained above water. Other boats were there assisting the people off the sunken boat. Because we had already requested a bridge opening, we had to move on. We couldn't stop to gawk or to offer assistance.

What happened? We can only speculate. It looked to me like the skipper of a sinking boat ran her up to the shore to sink in shallow waters. If so, he did it right. Her deck remained above water at nearly high tide meaning that she would be high and dry at low tide. That would minimize the damage and make it easier to repair the fault and re-float her. On the other hand, perhaps she wasn't sunken at all. Maybe she dragged anchor, or lost the anchor and drifted on to the shore where she ran aground in a falling tide.

In any case our heart goes out to any cruiser who loses his/her boat. We emphasize because Tarwathie is our home, not a mere toy. Loss of one's home would be, of course, emotionally devastating.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Scenes from Cumberland Island

Fernandina Beach, Florida

Click on each photo below to see it full size, then use the browser back arrow to return to this page.

My friend Carmello responded to my recent invitation to sail a gale with the following: "If I understand correctly, you'd like me to leave my warm house, fly down there, expending time and treasure, to spend three days inside of a rolling washing machine? Sure, sounds like fun. Actually, if it weren't for logistic issues on my end, I'd love to gain the experience." That reminds me of an experience of my own. I was sailing with friends near Stockholm. I was wearing my foul weather gear pants but not the top. I went on the forward deck and squatted to do some chore. Just then a big wave broke over me. It filled my pants and my boots with cold water. My thought at the moment was, "Now why exactly do I think this is fun?"

Actually, the waves from Hurricaine Noel are keeping us on the inside again today. It's my b'day but I got no break from the weatherman. Actucally I'm going to treat myself. I'm in the Seattle's Best coffe house in Fernandina and I'm going to buy copies of botht the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal as self-indulgent treat.

I really hope that Noel doesn't do anything really bad to the northeast. Hang tight everyone.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island, GA
30 53.808N 081 26.718W

Last night, at anchor near here we could hear the sound of booming surf. This is only the second time we've been anchored within earshot of surf. It's kind of scary for a sailor since a sailboat that finds its way in to surf is doomed.

Boy are we glad we stopped here. Several times before we passed by Cumberland Island without knowledge of what was here. Most of the island is a pristine nature preserve, the best we've ever seen.

This morning we rowed ashore and set out on a hike. We were immediately struck by the beauty of the campsites on the Bricknell River shore. Massive live oak trees covered with Spanish moss make for wonderful shaded grass groves. Clumps of palm plants are abundant adding lush green color. This is the place our grandson Nick would have loved. He has almost unlimited wilderness and natural beauty all around, and almost no people.

The wild life is wonderful too. We hadn't walked for very long before we came upon a wild horse grazing on the grass. The horse was semi tame. I was able to approach within 10 feet of him before he shied away. Before the end of the day, we were able to see 9 wild horses, two armadillos and one alligator. We also saw tracks of deer and raccoons. We wanted to go across the island

Around noon Libby was getting tired so we returned to the boat without making it to the beach. After lunch and my afternoon nap, I set out again alone to find the beach. I walked about 90 minutes until I found it. I was amazed. Huge barrier dunes 50-100 feet high made of very fine very white sand isolate the beach from the island. The dunes are spectacular.

When I got out to the beach, a strong wind was blowing parallel to the shore. A faint, ephemeral river of sand was blowing along the surface at a speed of 15-20 miles per hour. It was fascinating to watch.

The island is unspoiled. We saw no trash of any kind except on the beach. The beach was littered with empty water bottles that no doubt drifted in from the sea. Whoever is responsible for the bottled water fad should be waterboarded, then hung.

Notable was the almost complete absence of bird songs. There were very few insects and few small birds (no doubt related.) Thinking of northern forests I was also struck by the absence of squirrels despite the fact that the forest floor was covered with acorns. Oh well, we're not naturalists enough to explain these things, only to observe them.

I recommend to all of you who could ever get here. Visit Cumberland Island. There is no bridge. You must get here by boat. We have some great pictures. I'll post them at a later date.