Friday, November 27, 2009

Life and Death Versus Lunch

Vero Beach Public Library

Look carefully at the above picture. See the two little fish, one of which is about to be eaten? They are the subject of a little drama.

I was walking past the boat launch ramp. I saw a pickup truck pull up and a man jumped out holding a bait net. I stopped to watch.

The man cast the net out directly in front of the ramp. He was lucky because he caught his bait on the very first cast. The man reached into the net, grabbed two or three fish that he wanted for bait, kicked some leftover big fish into the water, jumped in the truck and sped away. That man was in a awfully big hurry for some reason.

I looked down. There were two tiny little fish overlooked on the concrete ramp. There were also two hungry looking birds approaching. I grabbed my camera and moved in closer to get a shot.

Because of my presence, the birds were scared away. I stayed fixed. The little fish were flipping and flopping. With each flip they moved a bit down the sloping ramp. In less than a minute they would regain access to the water and swim away.

The imminent escape of the fish did not escape notice from the birds. Emboldened by the urgency, the birds overcame their fear and walked out close to me and the fish. I snapped the picture just as the boldest of the two birds was about to get his reward -- fresh sushi for lunch.

Drinking While Driving

Vero Beach

Aha! I have a new invention. Yesterday, I was rowing back alone from the cruiser's pot luck Thanksgiving Dinner. My belly was distended from eating a huge dinner with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, breads, vegetables of all sorts, all topped off with three pieces of pie. There were about 150 cruisers at the dinner and 75 dishes. It wouldn't be polite would it to not sample each?

Libby had an errand at the marina so she asked me to row over there and meet her.

After such a big meal the only thing on my brain was NAP. My eyes were drooping. Therefore, I grabbed a cup of coffee before leaving the dinner and went out to the dinghy. Hey! I found out the hard way that it is completely impossible to drink a cup of coffee while rowing a boat. Neither could I drink anything else, or use a hands-on cell phone, and certainly not text. (I discount extreme measures such as hard-hat-beer-holders-with-sipping-straws.) All those dangerous things to do while driving aren't possible while rowing.

There's my invention. We'll convert all the cars, trucks, trains, and planes to use hand-powered rowing machines rather than fossil fueled engines. No need for strict laws, tickets and court appearances for reckless driving. As a side benefit, rowers emit almost zero greenhouse gasses while rowing. Thus my invention will save the world from climate change as well.

I'm sending in my patent application today. All the rest of you can send me your applications for license agreements tomorrow.

Above, the parking lot for the cruiser's dinner. Someone asked me if it was a rubber boat convention.

Above, the cruiser's pot luck before the opening gun.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Vero Beach
27 39.77 N 080 22.37 W

Libby and I compared notes this morning. We think it is fair to say that the past 4 years, 10 months have been among our happiest years; if not the happiest years of our lives. We are very lucky and very thankful to have had those years. To whom or what?

Thankful for good health, without which we couldn't live this life.

Thankful for our family which has been totally supportive of our retirement and a source of joy when we visit. Each of our children has created independent, happy and stable lives of their own. That brings us great joy and allows us as parents the freedom to look out for ourselves.

Thankful that we had the financial wherewithal to retire at age 60, and the wisdom to choose a frugal life style which matches those limited wherewithals.

Thankful that we live along the East Coast of North America. For those like us who summer at 45 degrees latitude and winter at 25 degrees latitude, there is no other place in any hemisphere so hospitable, varied, and interesting.

Thankful that we stumbled across sailing as a hobby. It is so suitable as something for Libby and I to do together, and to become a life style just by doing it full time.

Thankful for the boom years of the 1970s. During that boom, capable, affordable, and durable vessels like the Westsail 32 emerged. The excesses of the 70s were not sustainable, yet we still benefit from them. If our choices had been limited to sailboats built after 1994, we could not have afforded to start.

Thankful that we enjoy each other's company enough to live sustainably in such tight quarters and with so little opportunity for time alone.

Thankful for the coincidence of timing that made us decide to retire early. It was not a long-term plan, but rather an impulse. It just so happened that in late 2004, I finished a very long project, had no plans for a new project, and was forced to wonder "What should I do with the rest of my career?" I had been dreaming about cruising and reading about it. The idea just popped up, "Why not do it right now?" I'm quite sure that if I had my toe in the water to begin just one more big project at work, that the idea of cruising would have stayed suppressed for another 5 years.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Surprise! Unexpected Guests

Vero Beach

Yesterday I wrote about my dismay for Tarwathie's appearance on top and my unpreparedness for the fact that Libby invited guests for dinner. Ha! That was only the beginning.

Just after I posted yesterday's blog in the sailor's lounge, someone interrupted me. I looked up. It wasn't another cruiser, it was Mary Ann, a family friend from Grand Isle Vermont. I was really caught by surprise. It turns out that Mary Ann was traveling from Vermont to Key West. She was in touch with our daughter Jenny, and Jenny told her how to find us. What a nice surprise. I rowed Mary Ann out to Tarwathie to see Libby. We had a nice time chatting for two hours. Libby kept up her part of the conversation while she cleaned house, and also made lasagna for dinner. "Would Mary Ann like to join us for dinner too?" "No," she said, "I need to drive to Miami before dark."

The next event was to meet for drinks on Waves of Grace, the new Catalina 42 that belongs to friends Walt and Pat. We met Walt and Pat in the Bahamas two years ago. Also coming was Derek from Y-knot, the boat we are rafted with. Pat and Walt and Derek were to be our dinner guests. Libby rode in Derek's dinghy, as I took Mary Ann back to the dock to see her off.

Waves of Grace is a beautiful boat. We all Oh'd and Ah'd over it. Also joining us was Frank from another boat rafted up with Waves of Grace. Of course we invited Frank to join us for dinner too. He said, "Yes." I began to worry about having enough space in the boat and enough food to eat, but Libby assured me that it would be OK.

I took Libby back to Tarwathie. The others would join us in a few minutes. Just then double surprise, who should show up to say hello? It was Al Hatch and Tonya. They are the former owners of Tarwathie. We last saw them in 2005 when we took possession of the boat and they moved to Wyoming. We thought we'd never see them again. Their darling little girl, Madeline was with them. I think Madeline is about 4 years old, and cute as can be. We wanted very much to spend time with Al and Tonya but they were leaving Vero in the morning. Libby said, "Would you like to join us for dinner?" They said, "Yes." I was dumbfounded, 9 people for dinner!!! With only 5 minutes warning???!!! We've never had more than 6 on board before!!! I feared that we would run out of food or that people would be too crowded or uncomfortable. But Libby was unruffled. "It'll work," she said.

Well it did work. The lasagna dinner was delicious. There was plenty to go around. Pat even brought some delicious home made brownies for desert. I cranked up the fans so that the cabin didn't get too warm. Everybody had a good time, the conversation was fantastic, and Madeline was very well behaved. After dinner Al and Tonya and Madeline had to leave, but the rest stayed to play games until midnight (sailor's midnight that is, 9 o'clock).

Amazing. It really did work. Libby was right all along that she could make it work. Kudos to Libby for her skill and bravery.

This morning, I'm working to repair the only casualty of the day. In her scramble, Libby put back the companionway step that I had just varnished. The varnish was dry to the touch but still soft. All the foot traffic embedded grit into the soft varnish. Today, I'm sanding it down again to start afresh with the varnishing. Not a bad price to pay for all the fun we had yesterday.

Surprise surprise surprise.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Our Sorry Look

Vero Beach
I'm sorry to say that Tarwathie looks like a junkyard at the moment. No, that's not correct. She looks like a typical front yard of a house in Fairbanks, Alaska where my son David lives. It is those front yards that look like junkyards.

You see, the problems is that the boat is not only our house, it is our garage, workshop, shed, and paint locker. While here in Vero I'm working on varnish. Therefore, all the painting stuff is out on deck, as are the objects being painted, plus generator, sander and extension cord. plus other things that we store on deck. Add to that the dust and flakes of varnish that I removed from the tiller yesterday that refuse to rinse away on our new non-skid deck paint, and the fact that Libby invited guests for dinner tonight. All in all, I'm quite dismayed about her looks

When we have company it is worse because then we have to empty out half of the attic (sorry I mean V-berth, not attic) to make room for company to sleep. The attic stuff then gets added to the clutter stored on deck.

Right now, I'm also varnishing one of the companionway steps. That makes it extra hard for Libby and I to climb up and down. I can only do one step at a time, and 18 coats of varnish takes time to do.

I wouldn't be so distressed about the clutter except for the fact that we love Tarwathie as a sea worth vessel. She's not sea worthy today. One can't walk anywhere on the deck without tripping on something.

Wait, didn't we do varnishing and painting last summer? Yes, we painted the non-skid part of the deck, and varnished a hatch and the companionway, and two of the steps, and the cabin sole (floor). Now I have two more steps to do plus some really tough projects; the boomkins and the bowsprit. To do the boomkins I'll have to dismount them. That means removing he monitor self-steering rig and storing that on deck and finding a way to hold the mast and the stern pulpit up while varnishing. Then, we have a whole untouched chapter to open up -- interior varnish.

You see, most people do such work on boats when they are up on the hard, and empty of all belongings, and when the owners are living somewhere other than on board. The way we're doing it is ten times harder and takes ten times longer. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. It can't be avoided if one lives aboard full-time. I'm apologizing for making Tarwathie look like a junk yard. It is also part of the explanation why we stay in places like Vero for so long. We need the stability and security of a mooring, plus on-shore showers and activities to make it possible to disrupt the on-board environment so much.

Below are some pictures of the mess.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 20, 2009

Survival at the Gam

Vero Beach


After the keynote speech, the best attended seminars at the gam had to do with survival. The first was about life rafts, and the second was entitled "Offshore Survival Techniques." Somebody might say that the cruisers at the gam were all technogeeks judging by the interest. I think that a better interpretation was that they were all truly interested in safety, and that they were thirsty for hard information.

I went first to the life raft seminar. What did I learn? Wow. There is so much I don't know about my life raft. There is so much to think about before using it; things that I never gave much thought to before.

Before using the raft we need to learn to deploy it safely, how to get in and out, and what to put in the raft with us. We keep a ditch kit (a bag of important things to grab if we had to abandon ship). To show how inadequate that is, I learned at the seminar that the number one life threat in the raft if hypothermia; yet I had not thought to include any clothing in our ditch kit plans. Boy oh boy are we mentally unprepared for ditching.

Perhaps most important, I learned that my existing 6 person life raft might be useless. It sat in a canister on Tarwathie's deck since we bought the boat. There is a placard on the canister that says it was last inspected in 2001. It is a Switlick brand raft, and Switlick requires that the raft be inspected yearly at one of their inspection stations. Without inspection, and sitting in the canister, the raft deteriorates rapidly. It could fall to pieces if we ever tried to use it in an emergency.

That's a very big deal. The last time I checked in 2005, the inspection fee was $850. It's probably over $1000 today. To inspect it yearly for 10 years, costs as much as buying a new one.

We can't justify so much money and trouble to inspect the raft every year. I'd rather remove it from the boat, perhaps sell it on EBAY if it is worth anything.

When do you need a life raft? Anytime you're beyond swimming distance from land is one answer. In my book though, it is when you are doing an ocean crossing.

The big thing to remember is that a Westsail 32 is hard to sink. I know her so well now that I'm confident that I could locate any major leak within 15 minutes. It is also likely that I could slow or stop water coming in once I found the problem. We also have the dinghy as a kind of poor man's life raft in case we really need it.

Suppose we did sink in the Gulf Stream 200 miles from land. We have an EPIRB with GPS. Activating the EPRIB should bring a rescue within hours (unless something goes wrong and rescue never comes). We should be able to survive in the dinghy or just with our type 1 life jackets for two hours. The additional safety that a life raft brings would be to allow us to survive for days or weeks until rescued. Unless we were 5000 miles from the nearest land, I think the likelihood of us benefiting from that increment of safety is very small.

In the second survival seminar, the most memorable thing I learned was that most people who abandon ship do so needlessly -- their boats don't really sink after all. That's a very very very important thing to keep in mind.

If you think I'm nuts, feel free to comment or to email me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

No Show

Vero Beach

Two nights ago, I got up at 4AM to watch the Lenoid Meteor Shower. I did the prep. On the web, I looked up what part of the sky to watch and when. I also gave my eyes 15 minutes to adjust to the darkness.

Alas, the meteor shower seemed to be a no show for me. I didn't get to see any at all. I did discover one thing though. Even though we were anchored on the west bank of the Indian River, behind the barrier islands, and 3 miles from the beach, I could still plainly hear the sound of the surf. I was surprised.

It probably means that the backround noise of traffic is very little at 4Am, and also probably means that the waves were high. Indeed, for the past 10 days the surf has been up because of Atalantic storms thousands of miles away from here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Strange Sights

The Indian River

Today, we're heading south toward Vero once again.

Above is the only picture I managed to get of the launch. Still, it's not a bad one.

Here's a much more subtle picture. The curly-kew cloud in the sky is the remnant of the rocket's white smoke plume taken about 30 minutes after launch. It was charming.

Now here is an unusual sight that Libby and I came across just an hour ago.. This intrepid young man is rowing his sailboat from Cleveland, Ohio to Key West Florida. He started in June. He has very long oars. He has a Bimini top to keep the sun off his head. He has a little mastless sailboat that resembles the O'day Mariner that was our first boat. See the voyage web site here. He is truly an intrepid cruiser.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Launch

The Indian River
28 31.80 N 080 46.09 W

We didn't get as close to the launch as we hoped. Our friends, Kerry and Suzatte preferred to watch on land. Therefore, we pulled in to the Kennedy Point Marina on the west bank of the river. The marina was very nice, they didn't charge for us to tie up in one of their slips for a few hours.

The launch itself was great. With partly sunny skies, the rocket lit off exactly on time. The lit candle made an unbelievably bright flame and trailed a beautiful plume of white smoke. About a minute later the roar and rumble rolled over us. Unfortunately, the separation of the booster rockets happened behind a cloud, so we didn't see it.

Because my camera takes so many seconds to snap a picture, I decided to make a video clip this time. Unfortunately, I pushed the button to start the video, then looked at the camera. It appeared to not be working. I pushed the button again. After the fact I see that I recorded the video and audio right up to the point where Libby said, "There she goes!", then it stopped. So much for gadgetry. Anyhow, I got some beautiful stills of the smoke plume. I'll post them in a few days.

We had a heck of a time leaving the marina because the wind had come up and it was blowing the wrong way. Even in the best of conditions, Tarwathie is very hard to maneuver in tight quarters. Well, we finally got out, and we didn't damage any other boats, but our dingy lost part of its rub rail. Oh well, that's the way it goes. The main point is that we had fun, and indeed it was fun.

Right now, we're waiting for the draw bridge to open. It stays closed for 3 hours before the launch and 3 hours after the launch. Meanwhile, Space Shuttle Atlantis has just completed its first orbit. Wow! What a different way to travel. How's that for an understatement?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wink wink

Eau Gallie, FL

Posted by Picasa

So, who are the two beautiful girls aboard Tarwathie with me? They are Diyanne and Robin. Both of them work for SSCA. They were here on business running the gam. Even though their business is to deal with cruisers all day long, both said that they have never actually seen a cruising boat before. Naturally, I invited them aboard for a cook's tour.

Notice that even my camera started to wink as I snapped that picture.

The Gam, Part II

Eau Gallie, FL

The fun and interesting stuff continued today. I went to seminars on marine insurance, survival in life rafts, adjusting to the cruising life, and offshore survival techniques. Libby went to the "couples forum", and then accompanied me to the adjusting and survival talks.

We also took care of some other business today. We met with Scott. Scott is the sailmaker who made our foresail two years ago. The sail was in need of restitching in a few places. Therefore, at lunch I fetched the sail from Tarwathie and took it to the parking lot to let Scott put it in his car. Scott will deliver it to us in Vero when it's ready.

At the close of the insurance session I buttonholed the speaker. I have been irritated about the insurance costs for more than a year. We pay nearly 4% of Tarwathie's value per year as our insurance premium. I heard that others pay only 2% or as little as 1/2%. What? I tried getting quotes from other insurance companies. Three of them declined to give me a quote. I don't know why. I posted a query on the SSCA bulletin board. A reply came from the same man who was speaking here. His reply merely said that a fixed percent rule can't be valid. I thought his reply flippant and disrespectful.

Today, I asked him face to face. This time I got a very simple, straight forward, and rational answer. If only he had provided that answer on the bulletin board I wouldn't have been mad.

Here's the answer: Tarwathie is worth about $55K on the open market. A brand new comparable boat (ha nothing is comparable to Westsails) would cost about $550K. However, most insurance claims are not for total loss of the boat but rather for damage and partial loss. Things like electronics and rigging on Tarwathie are just as costly to replace as they are on a brand new boat. Therefore, as the value of the hull goes down, the insurance premium as a percent of the hull price must go up. Say that 90% of the claims are for partial damage, and the average partial damage claim is $40K. In that case, if a $550K boat pays 2% then the $55K boat needs to pay 2*(550*.1+40*.9)/(55*.1+40*.9) or 4.28% to cover the same risks. Don't you think that the insurance companies could explain that?

We also learned that each boat is only allowed two claims before getting cancelled. We had a claim in 2006 for about $8000 damage caused by a lightning strike. If we ever need a second claim, they'll pay but future insurance would be very expensive or unobtainable. Ouch. We didn't know that. That creates a very unfavorable pressure to not submit a claim even if it exceeds our $2000 deductible. No wonder so many people hate doing business with insurance companies.

I'll write more on other gam subjects next week.

Tomorrow, we're off to Cape Canaveral to watch the space shuttle launch on Monday. We hope to meet with friends Kerry and Suzette who will drive down from Port Orange to meet us. It should be lots of fun.

The gam

Eau Gallie, FL

gam: noun, An exchange of visits at sea by the crews of two or more whaleships. The Gamming Chair was used to transport visitors from one ship to another.

The 2009 Downeast Gam, Islesboro Maine

Well, we had a lot of fun yesterday at the gam. That shouldn't be surprising since the SSCA gam is designed by cruisers to be interesting for cruisers.

The day started off with a bang. Beth Leonard, author and circumnavigator, gave an absolutely captivating talk about South Georgia Island. Her stories and pictures were wonderful, especially the pictures of the great wildlife there. If you are interested, Beth has several books.

After that I chose the technical path, going to one seminar on DSC (Digital Selective Calling) radio technology, and another on AIS (Automatic Identification System) technology.

Libby went to a seminar about crusing in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. She said the main message was, lots of fog, damp and wet. I'm sure that's a matter of luck. Some years will be a lot colder and damper than others. Next, she went to a seminar on how men and women can get along on a boat. She didn't like that one very much. She said that the speaker mostly complained about men.

Attendance seemed to be good. It looked like about 250 people at the Beth Leonard talk. However, the number of vendors attending, and the commercial offerings, raffles, and token gifts were much scaled back compared to the 2007 gam. We shouldn't be surprised; there is a severe recession in progress after all.

Missed an Atlas rocket launch last night. It was supposed to go sometime between 1AM and 3AM. I didn't have the will power to get up and sit outside those hours. However, next Monday we hope to see a Space Shuttle launch.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Egg on my Face

Eau Gallie, FL
28 08.03 N 080 37.40 W

Reader alert: If your favorite posts on this blog are the stories of disasters, this is one of them.

Remember last summer when Libby sunk the dinghy with the outboard motor attached. I had to rescue them, dry out the motor and then do the immersion procedure on the motor to save it. Well, just to even things out, I dunked the motor in the water.

The dinghy was tied to Tarwathie. The motor was stopped and tilted up on the stern. I was working on the dinghy. I stepped to one side, the dinghy heeled left, and the motor hopped off and disappeared into the water. What the heck???!!! The only way that could happen was if the screw clamps that hold the motor were loose. I was sure that they were tight a few days ago. Oh well, can't think of any valid excuse; negligence on the part of the skipper.

I went diving with snorkel and mask but couldn't find it. Libby went to shore and fetched our friend Peter. Peter came with his scuba gear and within 5 minutes he hauled the motor up. Thank you very much Peter.

Next, I drained the oil and water from the sump and filled it with fresh oil. I removed the spark plug, it was dry. I checked the gas tank, it had been shut off and vent closed; no water there. I removed the carburetor; no water there. I put it all back together, and pulled on the cord. Nothing. Yesterday and today I tried again and again to start the motor -- nothing. That's not good. It should be started and allowed to run a long time to evaporate any moisture inside. I'm not sure what I'll do next.

Anyhow, we are in Melbourne, at the Eau Gallie Bridge. This is the site of the SSCA gam (Seven Seas Cruising Association, annual convention). We'll be at the gam Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I'll write up our experiences.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Problems Solved, Sort Of

Vero Beach

It's a great feeling when one tackles a repair or maintenance problem and solves it completely and entirely. It is considerably less great to solve it partially and leaving open questions.

I wrote before that since installation of a no-drip kit on our propeller shaft stuffing box, that it has been leaking water. Three times, I tightened and/or repacked the stuffing box to no avail.

The other day I set out to track down the problem. It's not easy because I had mounted our muffler in a position that blocks all access to the stuffing box. Therefore, I had to remove the muffler just to see it up close. When I did I, and when I looked carefully, I found the problem. The stuffing box screws onto a threaded pipe. That pipe is joined to the shaft log with a short length of rubber hose. The four hose clamps on that rubber hose had rusted out and broken.

It all sounds technical I know, but perhaps the blueprint below makes it clearer. See the note about hose and hose clamps.

Anyhow, I replaced the hose clamps with brand new "All 316" clamps, which are the best quality available. I clamped them down tight and put everything back together. The problem is it still leaks. Oh no!

It did improve things. Before, it leaked about 2 quarts per hour. Now it leaks about 1 pint per day even when the engine is not running. So I solved 99% of the problem. But where is the other 1% coming from???!!! It's very frustrating. I can't really inspect it closer without taking the hose all the way off. If I do that with Tarwathie in the water, it will open the flood gate. Water could stream in. It could sink us if it came too fast. Even if we didn't sink, the stream would no doubt mask the small residual leak I have. If I do it out of the water, there is nothing to show the leak.

Aargh; frustration.

Argggh. I guess my tentative solution is to live with it the way it is.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Why Vero?

Vero Beach

Why are we so fond of Vero Beach and Marathon as places to stay for months at a time? Both have many things to offer cruisers. Here's why we like Vero and why may cruisers call it "Velcro Beach."
  • We can leave Tarwathie on a mooring. Moorings are affordable. We trust the mooring enough to leave Tarwathie unattended while we range, even in high winds. When she is at anchor, we are always nervous to be too far away from the boat for very long. Our anchor could drag or someone else's anchor could drag.

  • The marina here has great showers, and laundry facilities. 6 washers and 7 dryers -- better than any other place we know.

  • Hanging around the Vero marina gives us the chance to socialize with other cruisers. When we travel every day, we only get to wave at passing boats. When at anchor, we get to meet one or two other boats nearby. But in Vero and Marathon we get to socialize with dozens and dozens of other cruisers on shore. If we hang around Vero November and December, we'll meet up with about 90% of the cruising friends we've made over the years.

  • Vero Beach has free bus service. The buses take you anywhere in the area. There is even a bus stop for the marina dinghy dock. That's outstanding convenience for people with no car.

  • Vero is a very wealthy community. It provides first class services. The Vero Library has free Wifi, study rooms where you can sit alone and close the door, the best selection of periodicals I've ever seen, and a huge DVD movie collection.

  • They have concerts in the parks, free shuffleboard, tennis, and just about any activity you can imagine. Nearby museums. Lots of shopping.

  • We need only a 10 minute dinghy ride from the mooring to get to a park where we leave the dinghy, then cross the street to the beach. It is a fine beach with hard, clean sand, great swimming with life guards, and miles to walk.

  • They have theaters and boat shows and car shows and lots of special events. I bought tickets to an off Broadway show for Libby's birthday next month. Once I saw activity in Riverside Park right next to the marina in December. I forgot to ask what it was about until the next day. To my great disappointment I learned that I missed a free concert in the park by The Boston Pops.

  • The neighborhood near the marina is filled with residences with some of the most beautiful gardens I know. It is an absolute delight just to stroll up and down those streets.

  • There is a great botanical garden in Vero. Really fun to visit.

  • Near the marina is the Ocean Grill Restaurant. My late mother and her sister were so enamored of that restaurant that they used to drive all the way to Vero from Miami just to go there. I took Libby there once on her birthday.

  • They put three boats on each mooring. Some people hate that and refuse to come here. We've had great luck and make some great friends by being rafted up with them.
I'm not sure I hit all the important points. Vero has lots to offer cruisers. The downside?

  • The mooring prices went up a lot this year. It is no longer cheap, but (barely) affordable.

  • The buses don't run after 6PM. Whatever night life exists in Vero we don't know about it because we lack transportation.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Too Funny For Words

Vero Beach

I can't resist sharing this news item today. Both Libby and I enjoyed belly laughs upon reading it.

"Is Douglas Adams scripting the saga of sorrows facing the LHC? These time-traveling Higgs-Boson particles certainly exhibit the sign of his absurd sense of humor! Perhaps it is the Universe itself, conspiring against the revelations intimated by the operation of CERN'sLarge Hadron Collider? This time, it is not falling cranes, cracked magnets, liquid helium leaks or even links to Al Qaeda, that have halted man's efforts to understand the meaning of life, the universe and everything. It now appears that the collider is hindered from an initial firing by a baguette, dropped by a passing bird: 'The bird dropped some bread on a section of outdoor machinery, eventually leading to significant overheating in parts of the accelerator. The LHC was not operational at the time of the incident, but the spike produced so much heat that had the beam been on, automatic failsafes would have shut down the machine."

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Switching Modes

Vero Beach

So, we've arrived in Vero. Our arrival marks the end of our southern migration for 2009. It took us about 2 months, after leaving Rome NY on the Erie Canal to reach Vero. That's about average. Our fastest migration was in the Fall of this year; we went from Marsh Harbor, Abacos, Bahamas, to New York Harbor in 24 days.

We'll probably stay here in Vero until the new year. That means we won't have daily adventures. This in-harbor living mode presents the greatest challenge to me as a blog writer. Without fresh adventures, how can I keep the blog fresh, interesting and non-repetative? Now is the time to ask. What topics would you like to see me cover on the blog? Suggestions will be very welcome. Please email them to

SV Calypso reported seeing Monarchs -- hooray! SV Viking Rose reported seeing none. Blog reader Paul found this link to an article saying that Monarchs could be threatened. Best of all though; I searched Google News archives for news stories about the monarch migration in 2009. I found nothing of interest. One would think that if the migration really failed, that there would be numerous news reports.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


The Indian River
27 51.14 N 080 28.64 W

I read a fascinating article this morning in the NY Times; Iraq Swears by Bomb Detector U.S. Sees as Useless

The article told that Iraqi police and military have been spending millions of dollars on what US sources call a divining rod. The manufacturer claims, "its device can find guns, ammunition, drugs, truffles, human bodies and even contraband ivory at distances up to a kilometer, underground, through walls, underwater or even from airplanes three miles high." The Americans say bunk.

No matter what you or I think about it, the Iraqis who believe in this thing are putting their own lives on the line; and that deserves a measure of grudging respect. “I don’t care about Sandia or the Department of Justice or any of them,” General Jabiri said. “I know more about this issue than the Americans do. In fact, I know more about bombs than anyone in the world.” No doubt it is not the general's live personally on the line, but assuming that his opinions are representative of the lower ranks makes me swallow hard. It is precisely the contradiction between incredulity and respect for those on the front lines that makes the article especially interesting.

So, if someone walked up to me and asked, "Are you superstitious?" my answer would be, "Certainly not." That's easy to say, but it is also what everyone says. Ask just about anybody, "Are you a good person?" 99+ percent will answer, "Yes." Those are the kind of questions where self-deceit overcomes all.

I'm an engineer with scientific training. I pride myself on thinking and living scientifically free of superstition or irrational beliefs. I don't gamble because it's foolish to bet with the odds against you. On trips to Las Vegas I never bet so much as a nickel on a slot machine or other gambling. I could list a lot of areas where I consider my thinking as more rational than others. Yada yada yada; so would everyone else. But is it true?

I do conduct my affairs as if Murphy's Law was true. Rationality tells me that it can't be true. Is that superstition, or is it wise to be cautious and skeptical as a matter of policy, pretending that Murphy is right? You judge.

With regard to our sailing adventures, I'll confess to significant influence to "gut feel" in making decisions. We do go/no go decisions regularly. We choose some anchorages and reject others. Of course we listen to weather reports, and anecdotal evidence, but in the end instinctive "gut feel" weighs very heavily indeed. I recall several times rejecting a seemingly rational choice on the basis, "I feel spooked." That sure sounds irrational. Can I explain it away as subconscious expression of doubts and risks that may be real but that my brain can't articulate? You judge.

So, having thought about it for a while, I conclude that I can't make an objective judgment of my own rationality. Perhaps nobody can. I suspect that philosophers have wrestled with that question for millennia. If so, I don't know because I haven't studied much philosophy. I think it's bunk, like Iraqi bomb detecting wands.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Indian River

The Indian River
28 29.47 N 080 45.45 W

Florida's East Coast offers several styles of local scenery.

We already enjoyed the nature and the salt marshes of the Tolomato River between the Saint Johns River and Saint Augustine. The river offers long stretches where little or no trace of human habitation are visible.

From Matanzas Inlet south toward Daytona, we pass through a region where the east bank of the ICW is covered by tightly packed vacation homes. However, across from them on the west bank is a state park which offers some of the prettiest nature in the whole state. The pretty part is also salt marshes. However there are numerous small islands covered with trees. The fauna here transitions from temperate to semi-tropical as more and more palm trees are seen. The birds and dolphins and manatees all seem plentiful there. I envy the east bank people's view out of their windows. Just great.

Mosquito Lagoon is another magical place. It is like a big lake, but only 1-2 feet deep in most places, except for the dredged channel for the ICW. So called fish camps abound. These are trailer parks full of RVs which have water frontage. Presumably, most of the RV customers also bring boats they can take out fishing. I've been told that if you can find a small depression 3-4 feet deep in the lagoon, that it will be packed with fish. The fish love to hang around in those little holes. To the East, on the far bank of the lagoon is Canaveral National Seashore.

The Indian River by contrast is very populated. Both shores are developed by what appear to be year-round houses. The river is about 3-4 miles wide, and 120 miles long. It extends from just north of Titusville in the North to Lake Worth and Palm Beach to the South. We can find a secure anchorage every 5 miles or so. There are lots of fun places to visit, Titusville, NASA/Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Sebastian, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, and Stuart. Only the stretch of the river near Melbourne has water deep enough for sailboats to do their thing. The rest of the river is too shallow for except in the dredged ICW channel.

South of Lake Worth, once comes to the urban hell of Boca/Lauderdale/Miami. There's not much there attractive to us. South of that, is Biscayne Bay which is delightful for sailing. South of Biscayne Bay, one comes to the Florida Keys.

We'll be spending a couple of months here up and down the Indian River. We expect to have fun.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Spaceport Ahead

Mosquito Lagoon
28 45.81 N 080 45.92 W

Around 10 this morning we entered Mosquito Lagoon. 18 miles dead ahead of us sat an enormous rectangle sticking above the horizon. The rectangle is NASAs famous vertical assembly building (VAB). To the left of the VAB we can see the two space shuttle launch pads. What a cool sight that is. It impresses us every time we pass by. By the way, on November 16 another space shuttle launch is scheduled. Perhaps we'll bring Tarwathie up for a front row seat to watch the launch.

We had a great weekend thanks to FM classmate Kerry. Yesterday, another classmate, John, came to visit, so the six of us, Kerry and Suzette and John and Marcia and me and Libby, all had fun reminiscing about the old days in Fayetteville and Manlius. It was an old fart thing to do but we had fun with the great company.

We also recommend the Seven Seas Marina in Daytona. They charge only $0.90 per foot for slips; perhaps the cheapest on the whole ICW. Nevertheless, the marina, and the marina people are very nice. There's even a breakfast restaurant on site that serves really good homefries. The only bad thing are the wakes from passing boats on the ICW. This morning around 7, we got hit by what felt like a tsunami. It was caused by a very rude 100 foot motor yacht that steamed by at the speed to make maximum size wake. It would sure be nice if we could gain revenge by hitting that captain over the head with a wrench.

Tonight we're heading for Titusville on the Indian River. We hear on the radio that there is some trouble with the RR bridge north of Titusville. We'll soon learn whether or not we have trouble passing that bridge.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Monarchs Found

Daytona Beach, FL

I was very happy to find an email this morning from SV Calypso. They report seeing monarchs almost every day. I'm very glad for that. The monarch migration may be delayed but it is happening.

We had a great time last night eating dinner with Kerry and Suzette. They are high school classmates. Kerry did a yeomans job over the years of tracking all alumni from FM class of 1962. All but only a handful are on his list.

This morning I repacked the stuffing box once again. In Deltaville I installed a so-called dripless stuffing box packing kit that I bought at West Marine. It has been a disaster. Never before has that packing dripped more than since I installed that kit. I Fernandina, I tightened it up, but to no avail. It was leaking about 2 gallons of water per hour!!!

I also cleaned the heat exchanger on the engine and changed the oil. We should be in good shape maintenance while for bit.