Sunday, January 31, 2010

Keeping In Touch

Velcro Beach, FL

Modern technology can be a great delight sometimes. The wresteler in the green & white uniform above is our grandson Nick. Nick wrestles for Adirondack High School. A couple of weeks ago they did a webcast of the tournament so Libby and I could watch it on the boat.

We had to watch for 5 hours until Nick's turn came up, and we had to run the generator the whole time to keep the computer fired up, but in the end it paid off. The picture above is from a screen shot I captured during Nick's bout.

Today, Nick is competing for the sections championship. They're not broadcasting on the Internet today (: However, his dad John is keeping us posted via cell phone. Nick wrested and won, once already this morning.

It was not many years ago when the thought of keeping in touch with family and friends this way was completely impossible. It's amazing how profoundly electronics and communications have transformed the modern world.

Mystery Package

Vero Beach, FL

The other day we got a mysterious package in the mail. It contained a gift from my sister Nancy. Nancy had arranged it with our former neighbor Barb. Barb has her own business making decorative cookies. Nancy is also very clever in finding gifts that don't use up our precious room onboard Tarwathie.

As you can see below, Barb is very creative. We especially liked the W32 cookie (bottom row) and the one showing a little laptop displaying this blog (top right). Very creative indeed. It also took some homework because Barb scanned the archives of this blog to get ideas for all the cookies.

The only downside to such a gift is that it makes us feel guilty to eat them. But if you don't eat them, what's the point?

Thank you Nancy and thank you Barb.

I included Barb's business card to give her a plug.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Shuttle Piggybacking

Vero Beach, FL

Below is an excerpt of another person's email. All I can say is that I wish that we were here that day to witness the event. It makes spellbinding reading.

Walt and all,

Well, it's been 48 hours since I landed the 747 with the shuttle Atlantis on top and I am still buzzing from the experience. I have to say that my whole mind, body and soul went into the professional mode just before engine start in Mississippi, and stayed there, where it all needed to be, until well after the fact, I am not sure if it is all back to normal as I type this email. The experience was surreal.

Seeing that "thing" on top of an already overly huge aircraft boggles my mind. The whole mission from takeoff to engine shutdown was unlike anything I had ever done. It was like a dream...someone else's dream.


Airliners and even a flight of two F-16s deviated from their flight plans to catch a glimpse of us along the way. We dodged what was in reality very few clouds and storms, despite what everyone thought, and arrived in Florida with 51,000 pounds of fuel too much to land with. We can't land heavier than 600,000 pounds total weight and so we had to do something with that fuel. I had an idea...let's fly low and slow and show this beast off to all the taxpayers in Florida lucky enough to be outside on that Tuesday afternoon. So at Ormond Beach we let down to 1,000 feet above the ground/water and flew just east of the beach out over the water. Then, once we reached the NASA airspace of the Kennedy Space Center, we cut over to the Banana/Indian Rivers and flew down the middle of them to show the people of Titusville, Port St.Johns and Melbourne just what a 747 with a shuttle on it looked like. We stayed at 1,000 feet and since we were dragging our flaps at "Flaps 5", our speed was down to around 190 to 210 knots. We could see traffic stopping in the middle of roads to take a look. We heard later that a Little League Baseball game stop to look and everyone cheered as we became their 7th inning stretch. Oh say can you see...

After reaching Vero Beach, we turned north to follow the coast line back up to the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF). There was not one person laying on the beach...they were all standing and waving! "What a sight" I thought...and figured they were thinking the same thing. All this time I was bugging the engineers, all three of them, to re-compute our fuel and tell me when it was time to land. They kept saying "Not yet Triple, keep showing this thing off" which was not a bad thing to be doing.

However, all this time the thought that the landing, the muscling of this 600,000 pound beast, was getting closer and closer to my reality.

I was pumped up! We got back to the SLF and were still 10,000 pounds too heavy to land so I said I was going to do a low approach over the SLF going the opposite direction of landing traffic that day. So at 300 feet, we flew down the runway, rocking our wings like a whale rolling on its side to say "hello" to the people looking on! One turn out of traffic and back to the runway to land...

Triple Nickel
NASA Pilot

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tarwathie Cuisine

Vero Beach, FL

I wrote about Libby's 15 bean soup. In the future I'll write about her chili, bread pudding, lasanga, and more. Those are all special treats. How about our mundane day-to-day diet? I'm afraid that we're not very exotic or interesting in that department.

Neither Libby, nor I nor any of our children have ever been big on breakfast. For many years before cruising, our standard breakfast would be five cigarettes and two cups of coffee. The only real change is that we cut out the cigarettes. Often, I like a bagel or oatmeal, or pancakes, but we tend to eat those things as brunch, several hours after getting up.

For lunch, I'm in a big rut. I eat two sandwiches almost every day. My favorite is a single slice of salami, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, relish, on pumpernickel with mayo. Often though, I'll settle for just plain peanut butter and jam (PBJ). Libby is more fond of soup or something very light for lunch.

For dinner, I'm in an even bigger rut. Years ago we moved into a new home, free of children living with us. In a surge of enthusiasm, Libby foolishly said, "I'll cook whatever you want for dinner every night." Boy did she regret that. My answer was, "Spaghetti, 365 days per year." I have a hollow leg when it comes to spaghetti. I never get tired of it. Poor Libby however, got very tired of it. Nevertheless, she kept her promise for years and years. Since we started cruising, she has gradually turned me around so that we have spaghetti no more than 3-4 times per week.

Other staple meals that we're fond of are chili, hot dogs and beans, red beans and rice (actually any beans and rice dish), chicken or meat once a week. Maybe once a year, we eat beef steaks. Surprisingly, fish is a rare and succulent treat, not a staple.

Whenever possible, we cook and eat such that we have no leftovers. There is no room in the fridge for leftovers. However, as Libby's appetite decreases, the size of my portions (and thus my girth) must increase proportionately.

In the late afternoons, we like a snack. Often we eat some chips (bad) or fruit (good).

I have a long-time fondness for a dish of ice cream before going to bed. No doubt that's not very healthy but what the heck, we have so few vices that we're allowed to do. Keeping ice cream on a boat is a very rare luxury. Most cruisers don't attempt that. We do however, and I confess that keeping the freezer cold enough for ice cream accounts for 80% of our electric energy consumption. Libby sometimes eats ice cream too but more often she likes cookies as a late night snack.

For drinks, we have two staple drinks that we never get tired of. One is powdered sweet tea. The other, we call Tarwathie juice [50% orange flavored Gatorade (half strength) and 50% orange flavored Tang (half strength).] We keep both of those in the refrigerator 365 days per year, and we drink about 2 quarts per day. Our consumption of soda, beer, wine, or fruit juice is nearly zero.

From a practical point of view, our diet is very well suited to cruising. Take away the ice cream, and most of what's left are foods that keep well in dry storage for long periods of time. If pressed, we can easily provision Tarwathie with up to a 6 month supply of food. That's not really a deliberate goal, but rather a conincidence.

I'll make another personal confession. Our active social life and frequent dinner parties, are stimulated by the excuse to prepare and eat out of the ordinary foods. Making something like lasagna or bread pudding for just two portions is very difficult so we don't do things like that unless we have company.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Advice, Part 2

Vero Beach, FL

... continued from yesterday.

One more bit of advice. Err on the low side when buying a boat. Too many people spend a fortune to get a boat with all the amenities they are accustomed to. They think that they mitigate the risk by downscaling their life styles gradually. Actually, they add greatly to the expense, while missing one of the greatest joys of cruising, living simply. After a year or two, when you know better what you need, you can always trade up.

Libby and I sailed on inland lakes for 30 years. We have many long weekends and 1-2 week vacations on our boat and chartered boats. When we retired, we reviewed our lives and realized that our fondest memories were all associated with times on the sailboat. Therefore, it was clear to us that we would like the cruising life.

Libby also had that 30 year period to become familiar with my skills and judgement as skipper; so she felt safe. I think the #1 reason why women and men don't see eye to eye on sailing is that (most) men love a little danger while (most) women hate it. A single hour of terror can wipe out a year's good feelings. That's where the confidence comes in. Accidents, mistakes, threats and challenges are not terrifying when you're confident. Now, after 5 years on Tarwathie Libby is additionally confident of her own abilities even if I become disabled and she is truly relaxed.

p.s. I should apologize to the questioner. She asked a narrow question about how to prepare financially. My answer was too broad for the question.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Advice, Part 1

Vero Beach, FL

A reader asked:
I am writing because my husband wants to sail me around the world someday. He is in Vero Beach and he sent me a link to your blog and said "don't tell me this can't be done…these people are doing it". He grew up in a sailing family and spent many years on the boat and literally has water running through his veins…I on the other hand have never sailed but love my husband, nature, adventure, and would be up for a life on a sailboat. My problem is I am very practical and think we need a LOT of money saved up before we can live a lifestyle like yours and we still have lots of debts to pay. Do you have any advise of someone in their early 40's about getting financially prepared for life on a boat?

I have read some of your blogs and am fascinated. Did you start your sailing adventure when you retired or did you do part time sailing at first?? My husband is a nomadic artist and enjoys traveling around. We are trying to figure out a way to do his art full time and sail up and down the coast and ICW to get our sea legs. Any guidance you have would be appreciated.

It's flattering to be asked for advice. Here goes.

You can't know for sure whether or not the cruising life is suitable for you or your husband. However, money is probably not the reason. We live on about $30K/year; mostly from Social Security. I figure that is about half the rock bottom we could live on on land. Think. We don't pay rent/mortgage, taxes, utilities, no car, no car insurance, no cable ...

However, we jumped in both feet, selling house, cars, no storage bin, nothing else other than our boat. Cruisers who want to keep one foot anchored on land and who still own houses, cars, and the like find that cruising is an extra expense, not a saving.

If you or your husband can continue doing paid work while on board, more power to you. Few of us have professions that lend themselves to that.

Many men dream about cruising but few actually do it. The truth is that men adapt to the life easier than most women. You might be one of the ones who love it, but then again you might not. He might not like it either after trying it out. The thing to avoid is to be the spoiler of your husbands dreams without trying it. That could cause unnecessary resentment and guilt. I say unnecessary because it's possible that you could like cruising more than him.

Here's a plan for trying it out.

Start by chartering a cruising boat for a 1-2 week vacation. There are lovely places in the Virgins and the Bahamas where you can charter. Go for the smaller boats that you can handle yourself without a paid captain.

If you find that you liked the vacation, then try a 6-8 month cruise over the winter season. Consider it a sabbatical. If you do it on the US East Coast, then there is little or no need to sail in the open sea. If you're lucky, you may be able to borrow a cruising boat to do it rather than buying one. You get to see most of the fun part without the scary parts. Many people do that. It makes for the grand adventure of their lives even thought whether or not they're not ready to consider it as a life style.

If both of you want more, then consider full time cruising.

The magic number for many cruisers seems to be 2 years. By the end of 2 years, everyone knows with certainty if the cruising life is or is not for them. There are few secrets and no privacy on a boat (indeed, that's one of the obstacles) so you won't need a confrontation to pronounce the verdict; both of you will be keenly aware of each other's feelings.

After 2 years have passed, if you still want to cruise, that would be a good time to dispose of your land-based assets, and your expenses will go down drastically.

Continued tomorrow...

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Vero Beach, FL

Nothing to do with cruising but I couldn't help grinning over this picture.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bring On The Vultures

Vero Beach, FL

The cold weather fish kill down here appears to be more massive than we imagined. Every day, the number of dead fish floating on the water, or washed up on the shore continues to increase. That makes it seem that the fish continue to die days after it warmed up. It's the same all over Florida.

Today, there appears to be one dead fish per 100 square feet of water, and the shorelines are completely covered. The smell is increasing too. In a week or so it may be really stinky.

I even read in the paper that someone found a 52 pound pacu dead in the water. The pacu is an amazonian fish, also called the vegetarian piranha. The world record pacu previously caught was 44 pounds. This one proved to be a female full of eggs. Thank goodness it's the vegetarian kind; it looks scary. Nobody knows how they got to Florida.

In Fort Pierce and in Stuart they have big colonies of turkey vultures. For some reason, we see no vultures at all here in Vero. Too bad, we could really use them now. The pelicans and small birds appear satiated. They can't eat more.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yacht Design

Vero Beach, FL

In yesterdays post, Cabin Arrangements, I showed the versatility that we enjoy as a result of just a couple of very simple design ideas. I am a deep believer in the importance of such design features. I'll explain why.

First, an aside. Yesterday, you saw the use we get out of the two pilot berths on the starboard side. From what I heard, those berths are what gave Westsails their name. You see, most circumnavigators go around the world from East to West. If you do so, most of the voyage is spent on port tack. That means the wind comes from the port, and the boat heels to starboard. One wants to sleep on the low side so that you're not being rolled out of bed. Since the Westsail's two pilot berths are both on the starboard side, she is said to be designed to sail West.

We believe that Tarwathie benefits from an improvement in the design over and above Westsail factory standard. In the standard design, the top pilot berth is fixed in place. Tarwathie added two wooden rails and allow the top berth to slide out to become a double bed. I don't recall seeing that feature on other W32s.

Actually, we have seen a wide variety of alternate uses for the space occupied by our topmost starboard pilot berth (where we sleep). Some owners have converted that space to storage lockers, some for book shelves, some for clothes drawers. One W32 even had a big TV up there making an entertainment center. Our view is that all those alternates give up multiple use space for single use space.

Here's the central point. Yacht design is incredibly difficult. Every feature, compromises one virtue for another. Every choice precludes other choices. Therefore, among the billions of combinations of features and choices, there are only a few combinations that find a "sweet spot." At a sweet spot all the choices and features simultaneously combine in mutually supportive and beneficial harmony. Doing that requires genius- level skill, imagination and visualization, as well as experience living on boats. Lots of big words, but I think you understand what I mean.

Therefore, when shopping for a yacht, my first bias is to be attracted to those boats designed by the acknowledged masters of yacht design.

My second bias, as a boat owner, is to be extremely reluctant to change anything substantial. There is a high probability that I may regret the change after I experience the unforeseen side effects.

For example, one of Tarwathie's former owners decided to store the dinghy under the boom and to mount the main sheet and traveler in the cockpit right in front of the companionway door. That's great for the dinghy, but when we are in the cockpit, the dinghy blocks our view forward meaning that we must stand 100% of the time when at the helm. Libby needs to stand on a cushion to see where we're going. We can never sit.

The dinghy storage also prevents putting the main sheet traveler and the main sheet up on the cabin top. Instead, we have them in the cockpit right in front of the companionway door. We hate that. Thus, a simple design change, major unintended repercussions.

We could convert back to the original Westsail factory solution, the main sheet comes off the end of the boom. However, most W32 owners changed that because it hurt sailing performance. Yacht design is difficult.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cabin Arrangements

Vero Beach, FL
27 39.63 N 080 22.26 W

Reader Jennifer asks:
Your blog has been a great source of entertainment, education, and inspiration to us. Thank you for it and please keep up the good work! I'm afraid I'll show my ignorance with this question, but here goes. Do Westsail 32s have 2 cabins or one? I seem to recall you writing about having guests and you had to haul all the stuff out of 'the attic' to accomodate them. By this I understood you meant the v berth. So where do you guys sleep? I would appreciate details about the day to day living aboard. My husband, Robert and I have 14 years until we hope to undertake the plunge.
Thanks Jennifer. I meant several times to make a photo essay about Tarwathie's layout, but my photography skills weren't up to it. Try this out.

One reason that I love classical sailboats is that their designs are so refined. By refined I mean fine tuned, improved repeatedly, and tested for real life utility. The factory standard Westsail 32 is an example, and Tarwathie's former owners added some great improvements.

A wonderful refinement and one which addresses Jennifer's question is mutiple use of the same space in the main cabin. Since space is at a premium, multiple uses of the same space is very important. Below are pictures of the 6 different ways we use the same space.

Salon mode: It is open and airy. It helps to combat feelings of claustrophobia. The white walls help a lot as does the transparent hatch barely visible at the top. All berths and tables are retracted.

Lounge mode: The berth Libby is sitting on is extended. We like this mode for relaxing, napping, reading, making baskets, or watching a movie on DVD. As you see, Libby and I each have generous size lounges. I'm reading the paper while Libby is making a new pine needle basket.

Office mode. I'm sitting there writing a blog. The table is down but folded in half. That allows people to walk past the table to go forward. Note the extra racks for storage on the bulkhead behind where the table folds.

Dinner mode: The table is down and unfolded. We comfortably seat 4 for dinner and in a pinch 6 or 8.

Sleeping mode: The table is up, and the top berth on the starboard side is pulled out. We move a back cushion from the port side berth to the starboard side and it makes a double bed. You can see Libby and I modeling in the bed. We find this bed much more convenient and comfortable than the one in the V berth.

Below is the mode we use at sea. Look carefully and you can see canvas lee cloths in front of both starboard berths with lines fastening them to the ceiling. The lee cloths prevent you from rolling out of bed. We only need one person at a time to sleep. We use the lower berth for that. Meanwhile, loose objects that might fall on the floor are thrown into the top berth behind the lee cloth.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Some Days You Can't Do Anything Right

Vero Beach, FL

Today, Monday, I'm all tired out. I did 6 hours of hard labor. Since I seldom do that nowadays, the result was I needed a good nap.

What was I doing? Mostly working on the boomkin. I'll describe that more another day. Today, I'm tired so I'm going to post a couple of pictures from other people.

Above: The news story said that this picture shows the aftermath of a botched suicide attempt.

Below: The news story said that the driver of this high-speed high-tech military vessel in Sweden momentarily lost control.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Autumn Moon

Vero Beach

Note: Mark, Sue and Autumn Moon are made up names. I never intentionally publish personal information in this blog that might embarrass people.

I've blogged before about how I admired intrepid cruisers who set forth in boats much smaller than typical cruising sailboats; some as little as 23 feet. As I brag about how much Libby and I downscale our needs, we meet people who seem to get along fine with significantly less than we do. Autumn Moon is an extreme case of a couple who perhaps carried it too far.

We first met Autumn Moon here in Vero in December. Mark and Sue are the owners. Libby and I love that couple. They are wonderful people and we care for them. They come from British Columbia.

First the boat: Autumn Moon is an O'day 25 foot ketch. “What?” you say. O'day never made a ketch. That's true. An O'day 25 is a familiar sight in inland lakes where people do day sailing. That's what they are designed for.

Mark added a mizzen mast and a mizzen sail himself. That's something I've never seen done before. Mark did a lot of other things to that boat. He found that deck was fastened to the hull only by a handful of screws. Mark added numerous bolts. Then he built a very sturdy rub rail around the outside with glass over wood that makes the bond very sturdy. He also added external chain plates like those on a Westsail 32. He also bolted the internal bulkheads in place. Autumn Moon is very much stronger than an ordinary O'day. Of course, that makes her heavier too.

Mark also took a Briggs and Stratton gasoline engine, added an automobile alternator, and installed the whole thing at the rear of his cockpit as an onboard generator. He has 3 large marine batteries under the cockpit floor. (I can only fit 2 on Tarwathie.) When he fires up that monster generator, it makes a terrible noise. However, he needs to run it only 5 minutes to top off his batteries.

Autumn Moon has no inboard engine. Instead she has a 3.5 hp outboard engine mounted on a bracket on the stern. Mark found the engine in the trash it runs fine, except that he can't use more than half throttle. Top usable horsepower is therefore 1.75 hp.

The interior of Autumn Moon I can't describe. Sue apologizes that she can't invite people onboard because there's no room. She says, "There isn't even enough room for us to turn around." I understand. They carry 30 one-gallon jugs for water. Mark carries a complete set of power tools including a skill saw and a belt sander. When they cook supper for themselves, they must serve it in the cockpit, because there’s no room down below. On those cold miserable days that must be awful. I imagine that every cubic centimeter of the inside of that boat that isn’t used for sleeping is full of stuff. No place to sit. No place to stand. No place to stretch or to turn around.

Poor Sue can't stand being cooped up inside that boat for anything other than sleeping. Therefore, Mark and Sue spend almost all their time on shore or on other people's boats. In that they uncovered a bonanza. If you have the least accommodating boat in the harbor, and if you are open in complaining about it, the flood gates of hospitality open wide. I can't say for sure that this couple is invited out for dinner 7 days a week, but it must be close to that.

What about Autumn Moon’s voyage down here to Florida from New Brunswick, Canada? The early part was uneventful and the weather was nice. When they got to Buzzards Bay Massachusetts, the weather began to change. They ducked in to a little harbor to seek shelter. The locals there don’t normally allow cruisers to use their harbor, but they gave Autumn Moon a free mooring and a local woman rowed out in a dinghy to invite them to dinner.

They sailed down to Block Island, RI. There the conditions turned rough in the open ocean. They got knocked down by a big wave. A knock down in a sailboat means that the boat heels so much that the mast and the sails go in the water. The boat recovered. Seconds later, they got knocked down a second time. Clearly, Autumn Moon was no match for the conditions. They sought the nearest shelter, which was Montauk, NY on Long Island. The people in Montauk were very hospitable. They sheltered and fed Mark and Sue for 2 weeks. The weather didn’t let up.

Finally, Mark located a man with a flatbed truck who was hauling cars south. The man agreed to also put Autumn Moon on the bed of the truck and to take it to Savannah Georgia. That worked fine. From Savannah down to Vero Beach, Mark and Sue could continue in the sheltered waters of the ICW.

What next? Mark wants to go to the Bahamas and to Cuba. That thought gives me chills. I worry about what would happen to Autumn Moon if she got pooped out in the Gulf Stream. As I wrote before, getting pooped is a very serious threat to sailboats. (See my recent blog post Pooped.) Autumn Moon I fear is especially vulnerable. She has a large cockpit relative to her total size. She may also be overloaded. My friend Don said that sailboats should carry no more than 10-15 percent of their total displacement as cargo. He thinks that Autumn Moon may be carrying 40-60 percent of her weight in cargo. That tiny little outboard is also too feeble to allow Autumn Moon to outrun following waves, and if she is pooped the outboard will be submerged and stop working immediately. I talked to Mark about my concerns. He says that he is aware of the pooping problem, and that he installed oversize cockpit drains to compensate. He’s confident. I’m skeptical.

Don and I, and other cruisers gossiping here in Vero think that Autumn Moon should continue cruising on the ICW. Florida’s west coast offers numerous opportunities for a little boat with shallow draft to gunkhole in sheltered waters. They could have a good time there. However, taking that vessel out into the Gulf Stream sounds much too perilous IMHO.

Many times, the high ambitions of cruisers to circumnavigate or to sail away to exotic lands get tempered. Indeed, Libby and I on Tarwathie are examples. Our first year, we intended to head for Alaska, and from there to circumnavigate. To make a long story short, we changed our minds. We hope that Mark and Sue also change their minds and remain safe. Whatever they do, we wish them well.

So what’s the point? Libby and I continue to advocate the simple life offered by cruising. Clearly, one can overdo it. The scale of the equipment, the cruising ambitions, and the needs of each person on board must find a harmonious compromise. Some people get along with even less than Autumn Moon; most people can't.

Below are two views of Autumn Moon rafted up with Tarwathie. That enables you to compare their relative sizes.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pressure Cookery Onboard

Vero Beach

Libby said that as a child she saw a pressure cooker explode in her mother's kitchen, causing a God awful mess. For that reason, she has been hostile to the idea of pressure cookers her whole life. Last year, I forced the issue by buying her a modern pressure cooker for Christmas. The modern cookers have so many safety features that it's hard to imagine one exploding.

In the past year, we have had one pleasant surprise after another using the pressure cooker. It is an eminently suitable appliance to use on board a boat. Tarwathie has a stove with 2 burners and an oven, but many people have less; often no oven. For them especially, a pressure cooker would be very useful.

The first thing we tried in the cooker was manna; our 15 bean soup. It worked very well. A pressure cooker cooks almost anything in much less time than a traditional pot.

Next, we tried making bread in the pressure cooker. It took a few tries to get it right, but now we learned. It works for us much better than oven baked bread. So whenever we want, we can make homemade fresh bread on board. One problem not solved yet is preservatives. Store bought bread lasts for many days before going stale, but our homemade bread turns hard in less than 24 hours. Do any readers know how to solve that?

We also found that many meat dishes taste much better when pressure cooked rather than roasted in the oven. Meat roasted in our oven tends comes out too dry. Even a turkey or a chiken cooked in the pressure cooker comes out very tasty.

There's a lot more that we haven't tried yet. Stews, pot pies, dumplings. However, we're reasonably confident that they'll be successful using the pressure cooker.

As I mentioned yesterday, the pressure cooker also allows us to cook larger batches of food. Our normal rule on the boat is "no leftovers" from any meal. We just don't have room in the refrigerator for leftovers. By and large, that's the reason why I slowly but surely continue to gain weight on board despite an active lifestyle. Libby uses me as the no leftover enforcer. I have to eat up everything in sight, including often half of her portion. Our cooker holds 8 quarts, a generous size.

Anyhow, when we heat the pressure cooker to boiling temperature, then seal the lid, we're satisfied that the contents are sterilized and also well sealed from the external environment. That means we can store leftovers in the cooker and take several days to eat them up, reheating the pan every day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sad But True

Vero Beach

I just heard that a neighboring boat here in Vero has 3 sea turtles trying to crawl onto his swim platform. During the day when the sun is out, they can warm themselves a little.

He called turtle rescue but they have a backlog of rescue requests. It's very sad.


Vero Beach, FL

Reader Doug asked for some blog posts about our food on board. It's true, I wrote very little about that over the years.

Today, Libby is making one of our favorites. 15 bean soup. Making this soup is easy because you can buy little kits in the supermarket.

For a recipe, we just follow the instructions on the package. However, the soup is best if one adds just a little bit of meat.

We make it in big 6 quart batches in our pressure cooker. That violates our normal rule of no leftovers after meals. However, the pressure cooker helps. If one puts the lid on the pressure cooker while the contents are still near boiling temperature, then the interior is sterilized and can keep without refrigeration.

It usually takes us about 4 days to eat up a batch of Libby's soup. I think that the soup improves each day. In fact, I prefer to not eat any at all on same day it is first cooked.

I like to call this soup manna, after the Biblical reference. It is good for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is the universal food.

I love eating my manna loaded with Tabasco Sauce. I like most hot sauces, but I really love Tabasco. We keep two 12 ounce bottles on board at all times. The soup is a perfect substrate to facilitate eating Tabasco sauce.

Libby prefers hers without the Tabasco. We can each have it our own way.

A bit of Italian bread on the side is the perfect compliment to the soup.

When at sea, it is very wise to have some dish that can be reheated and eaten hot any time of day or night. Also one which can be served in a deep bowl resistant to spills as the boat rolls around, and which can be prepared in advance. 15 bean soup fits those requirements. So does chili. I'll write about Libby's chili some other day.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Where Could We Go?

Vero Beach, FL

This is getting to be a bit much. Libby just went to cook an egg for breakfast. She found that our bottle of olive oil is frozen.

Should we raise anchor and sail for a warmer place? If so, where would we go? The entire northern hemisphere as far south as Mexico City is cold.

The answer is The Bahamas. It's very nice in Georgetown, Exuma, Bahamas today. Of course it is very cold and rough out in the Gulf Stream so we couldn't cross today. We're stuck.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Chill Fish Kill

Vero Beach, FL

Now I sound like a headline writer for the NY Daily News. Chill Fish Kill indeed.

Most of the country is cold. It's probably very cold where you are today. You've read about my whining about the cold in this blog. You may have heard about the problems Florida farmers have and how the fruit and vegetable crops may be ruined for this year. If not, you'll probably learn about that in the supermarket in the coming months. What you may not have heard is the local story about marine wildlife.

You see the Indian River Lagoon is mostly shallow. The average water depth is only 3-4 feet. That means that water temperature all the way to the bottom follows air temperature within a few days.

Yesterday morning on the local radio we heard that 100 sea turtles had to be rescued from the Mosquito Lagoon. The had been cold shocked by the rapid change in temperature and were in danger of dying. The rescuers moved them to a heated pool someplace.

Manatees are able to survive the cold weather better, but they sure don't like it. They crowd up into the far end of the canals where the warmer is a fraction of a degree warmer.

Rowing to shore on the dinghy yesterday I noticed that the water is much clearer than I've ever seen it before in Vero. Libby theorized that the cold killed the algae. Perhaps so.

I noticed that the ever present pelicans were behaving oddly. Usually they fly around and dive when they spot a fish to eat. Yesterday they were just paddling around like ducks plucking lethargic fish out of the water pop pop pop. I saw one pelican eat three fish in 45 seconds.

Looking down, I could see the bottom. It was littered with dead fish.

On shore I saw a man holding up a huge trophy fish. I went to congratulate him on his catch. He said that he just picked up this 20 pound snook laying dead on the shore. He was taking it home as food. He told me that 13 years ago he was a commercial fisherman. There was a cold spell here in Vero that killed hundreds of tons of fish. That day that man in his boat picked up 700 pounds of fish with a dip net. For weeks afterward the area stunk of rotting bodies. It took years for the fish population to recover.

Today is the coldest day of all. The low temperature is 35f(2C) and the high is only 45F(7C). The previous cold days, the daytime high has been close to 60F(16C). There may be many more dead fish today. How sad.

If I am brave, I'll go around the mangroves in the dinghy and perhaps find a trophy fish for ourselves. We could eat for a week from a 20 pound fish.

It seems like a terrible waste to let them rot. On the other hand, Libby has a deep instinctual aversion to picking up any dead animal to eat. On the third hand, I'll freeze my nuggie off paddling around in the dinghy this morning. It's raining, windy and very very cold.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Roll Clouds

Vero Beach

A Roll Cloud Over Uruguay
Credit & Copyright: Daniela Mirner Eberl

Several times at sea we've seen roll clouds like this one. We don't call them roll clouds, we call them approaching cold fronts. Seeing it come at you is pretty scary. We know that as it passes we will experience very strong winds, and abrupt changes in wind direction.

The usual action to perform is to drop all (or almost all) the sails and tie them down and then tie down the boom. A few times I screwed up and didn't do that, much to our regret. My excuse is that the appearance of the front in the sky is usually not so distinct and clear as the example in the picture. Sometimes I fail to recognize them.

Once, in the Florida Everglades, I recognized it but stupidly concluded that it would not be severe. I wrote about that in this blog post. That post attracted the attention of a weather man in the National Hurricane Center in Florida. He wrote:

"We lose more sailors in Florida waters due to frontal passage wind-shifts than from almost any other cause. I don't mean "can't find", I mean DEAD! Regardless of the situation it is prudent to set a "preventer" on the boom whenever a front approaches. "

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Shared Chores

Vero Beach, FL

As you might imagine, Libby and I have a good system for sharing chores. She drops the anchor, I haul it up. She cooks dinner, I do engine maintenance. We both stand watches but I take more of the night hours while Libby takes more of the daylight hours. The list of examples are endless. It's a pretty amicable split.

Mostly, we don't have to make a verbal agreement on how to share the chores. It just works out naturally. That is except for one glaring exception.

On cold nights, such as we just experienced recently, the cabin temperature gets as low as 38F(3C). On those nights , we put two blankets on our bed. It's nice and warm and snuggly under the covers. However, one of us has to be the first to get up in the morning and to turn on the heater. Guess what? It's always me.

It is really hard to paddle around naked in the boat on cold mornings scrambling for clothes to put on. It's especially hard on my bare feet against the cold floor. In the meanwhile, I put the heater on full blast. After 15 minutes, it is much more comfortable and then Libby can get up.

I love Libby dearly, but if I could duck that one chore I would. Libby also loves me dearly, but I doubt if she'll ever volunteer to take over that particular duty.

Could we share the duty? I'm at a natural disadvantage. I sleep on the outside of the bed. Libby sleeps on the inside and it is next to impossible for her to crawl out without me getting out of the way first. Could we switch sides in bed? HA! Unthinkable.
Because of that, sharing will never occur.

Chilled and Bored

Vero Beach, FL

We feel cheated and betrayed. It is almost colder right now in Vero than up in Burlington. This morning it is 28F(-2C) in Vero and 23F(-5C) in Burlington. Worse, because of the humidity it feels much colder here.

Last night, for the first time ever aboard Tarwathie, we couldn't keep warm with our standard two blankets.

I complained by email to a friend in Potsdam, NY today (one of the coldest places on the planet). He said it felt balmy up there today.

This bitter cold weather is supposed to last at least another week. Brrrrrrrr. If we were in Marathon or the Bahamas, it would be chilly at night but much milder.

Yesterday Libby's doctor postponed her appointment for two more weeks. What do we do with that time? I must admit, for the first time in the nearly 5 years aboard Tarwathie, we're bored. We had enough of Vero for this year.

We could take side trips, such as crossing Lake Okeechobee to Fort Meyers on Florida's west coast. However, the cold weather makes traveling on the water unappealing. Besides, Fort Meyers is even colder than Vero.

I could work on maintenance chores, especially exterior varnish, but the cold weather discourages that too.

You see how the tiniest anchor on our cruising freedom, such as doctor's appointments, can really disrupt our activities. I fear that we may be stuck here in Vero all winter. (Yeah yeah. I know. No sympathy from you guys.)

Today, I'm going to investigate volunteer opportunities for Libby in Vero. She used to teach English as a second language and she loves that. Me? I think I'll get serious about turning my blog archive into a real life book. There's an awful lot of work to do. A straight compilation of the blog archives in book format takes more than 2,500 pages. A marketable book needs 150 pages or less.

I'll use the heat, light, power and private workroom facilities at the library as my office.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

More on Bridge Heights

Vero Beach, FL

Here's an alternative explanation to yesterday's post about bridge clearance heights. I also found this on the SSCA web site.

Something strange is brewing in the Atlantic..... we've been experiencing extreme high tides. Normally, the "effects" of the fall equinox subside after a couple of weeks, but that is yet to happen. So what's causing the Atlantic Ocean to rise? According to a recent article in National Geographic it's not global warming. Apparently, the Gulf Stream .... is to blame. Running at full speed, about 3 mph, the powerful current pulls water into its orbit and away from the East Coast. But, it mysteriously slowed down in September, sending 2 feet of water towards the entire East Coast. Adding to the sustained surge, autumn winds from the Northeastern Atlantic are pushing even more water coastward. NOAA is researching tis phenomenon, but the mystery remains and it's unclear when the Gulf Stream will once again pick up steam.

So, is it true? I have no idea. I also have no idea of how to verify the assertion. It sounds plausible, sort of. On the other hand, if it were true, I suspect we would have heard more about it on the news. One of the fears is that global warming will cause the Gulf Stream to slow and stop. Therefore, any odd Gulf Stream behavior should make headlines.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Official Deception

Vero Beach, FL

We're back in Vero again. Stuart was a nice change of scenery, but we needed to return here to keep doctor appointments.

I ran across a fascinating topic on the SSCA web site. A number of people complained that the State of Florida has monkeyed with the bridge clearance signs between Ponce Inlet, and Vero Beach, FL. Here's the story.

Starting many years ago, the federal goverment made a rule that bridges over the ICW must provide at least 65 feet of clearance above MHW (mean high water). However, actual clearance varies with water level, and water level varies with the tide and with winds. Therefore, most fixed bridges have signs that provide a gauge. On the gauge you can see if the actual clearance right now is 65' or perhaps 66', 64' or whatever.

Older bridges are granfathered in, but when they are replaced the new ones must be at least 65 feet high.

Well the story goes that some cruiser with a 65 foot high mast, hit a red or green light that was protruding below the bridge. The owner sued the state for damages.

The story says that after being sued, that the sate went out and moved the gauges to show only 63' of clearance for 65' bridges. They didn't change the bridges, just the signs.

You can imagine the consternation of cruising sailors with masts higher than 63'. Many of them come to Florida every year and pass the same bridges. Some of them keep meticulous logs and record the actual clearance of every bridge every year. This year it appeared that all the bridges were 2' lower. People waited and waited for hours or days for the water level to go down. Some brave ones tried to pass through anyhow, despite the signs. They got through fine.

The online complaints say that in some cases draw bridge tenders confirm that the gauge signs were moved. Some say it was outside contractors who did it. However, nobody of authority in the state government can be found who knows of the problem or who can be held accountable.

One cruiser wrote online that he contacted the man in the US Coast Guard responsible for bridge clearances. He hadn't heard of the problem but he says that the federal permits require the state to maintain a minimum of 65' clearance. He promised to investigate.

No doubt the weaselly lawyers for the state will point out that the law requires them to maintian 65' clearance, but the law does not require an accurate gauge sign. It makes my head hurt to contemplate the layers of incompetence malfeasance in all levels of government.

Just to make my head hurt even more, I just read in the New York Times that Obama's program to rescue homeowners threatened with foreclosure has so far spent $850,000 per rescue. The average value rescued houses was $166,000; still it cost us taxpayers $850,000 each.

Yee God. I think the only thing our government can do right is to make war. Everything else they attempt goes sour, be it federal, state or local. That's why I'm a political conservative.

p.s. Tarwathie's mast height is 49', plus about 2 feet for the whip radio antenna. Libby and I are very happy that it's not higher, just because of the bridge clearance problem. So here's a tip if you ever want to shop for a cruising boat. Avoid anything with more than 50' of mast height. If you need more sail area, buy a ketch, a yawl, or a cutter rig. All those allow more total sail area without needing higher masts and without the need to handle such big heavy monosails.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Delicate Subject

Stuart Florida
12.000 N 080 15.500

We heard some sad news in the local gossip. The day we arrived here in Stuart, a woman cruiser on a neighboring mooring died. We heard that they brought her to the dock in a dinghy to meet an ambulance and paramedics, but to no avail. She died anyhow. We did not meet this woman but still our hearts go out to her family.

On the other hand, this woman died swiftly and while doing something she loved. That's how I would like to go. I want to die with my boots on. Heck, doesn't everyone want the same thing? No sane person would hope for a lingering death with lots of suffering for all involved.

I heard a true story about a fellow Westsail 32 owner. He went out for a day sail one day on the Indian River, here in Florida. He didn't return. The next day his son found the boat beached on the side of the river with his dad's body still holding the tiller. That type of passage inspires more admiration rather than grief in one's loved ones.

Anyhow, death aboard a cruising boat is a rare occasion. Although the probability of death for cruisers is 100.00%, just like everyone else, I guess that most of them move ashore when they get ill.

p.s. You may ask the obvious question. Shouldn't the title of this blog post be "Death On Board?" Well, that would surely be logical. However, it would cause a great deal of alarm among my readers as they feared the worst before reading the body of the post. I like my readers. I have no desire to shock them.

Friday, January 01, 2010

2010 = 2009 + Blue Moon

Stuart, Fl

There was a full moon on December 2, again another one last night. That means that last night was a blue moon. This morning is a new year. Therefore, isn't it logical to deduce that 2009+Blue Moon=2010?

Actually, a Blue Moon is a really funky unit measure of time. If we use the term "once in a blue moon," what does that mean? It means 7 times in 19 years. Intervals between blue moons can be as short as 4 months and as long as 3 years. So if you really want to be vague about when you'll do something, "in a blue moon," is an excellent evasion.

Last night we were treated to absolutely still and warm air. It was a perfect night for New Year's fireworks. There was plenty of that. Starting just after dark until long after midnight, we heard the sound of fireworks all around. Not many were visible though. They weren't the big works, but rather the small ones legal to sell to the public here in Florida.