Monday, December 31, 2012

The Venus Butterfly of Cruising

New Bern, North Carolina

We are back in New Bern after nearly two weeks away with Dave and Cathy.  Jen and Marilyn have safely flown back home.  Dave and Cathy are back at work.  Libby and I are back on the boat contemplating the project list.  However, the cold weather is damping our will to work.

The other day I was discussing with Cathy a subject that I deliberately never wrote about on this blog.   Today, Libby and I chuckled over another subject; something about the cruising life that we don't discuss on the blog either.   Actually there are several other subjects I never write about.  

Did you think that this blog is a tell-all?  How na├»ve of you.   If you print the entire history of this blog, you will need more than 10,000 pages.  Even if you do, there are several cruising life topics you'll never see mentioned.

Ha ha; on this last day of 2012 I play this little joke on my readers.  After dangling the bait, I leave you hanging with a burning desire to know what things I left out.   I'll never tell.  It is like the joke on the viewers of the 1980's TV show LA Law.  The joke was called "The Venus Butterfly."  If you saw it, I'm sure you'll never ever forget it.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

You Can Keep The Real World

Zebulon, NC

Whew, what a day!  It was almost more than a poor old sea captain like me could take.   Libby and I are used to life annoyances such as a bridge opening delayed or the gossip about someone who used profanity on the VHF.   Today we got a dose of the land lubber's real world.  They can keep it.

It was time to return my sister Marilyn to Albany, NY after the Christmas holiday.  We had a great family vacation but now it's over.  I set the alarm for 0600 so that we could get up early enough for the 3.5 hour drive to Charlotte, NC to meet Marilyn's plane.   My day started at 0500 when my phone woke us.  It was US Airways calling to tell us that her plane might be delayed by 50 minutes.

We left at 0700 for the long drive.  It was a miserable morning, with cold driving rain.  Just a few hundred miles north of here the rain turned to snow and blizzard warnings. The traffic was miserable, and I was stressed out.  We were forced to move too fast on the interstate boxed in with cars ahead, behind and on either side of us.  I tried driving slow in the right lane but that was worse.  North Carolina's road designers added right lanes that turn into Exit Only lanes just before each exit, thus forcing us to merge into an already full left lane.  Worse, North Carolina drivers entering from the right seem to think they have the right of way.  A couple of times we had close calls as a merging car on our right just cut us off.

Two hours into the journey things got abruptly worse.   First we discovered that Marilyn had no ID.  The case worker who escorted her to the gate at the Albany Airport last Monday apparently pocketed Marilyn's ID.   Then, a few minutes after that I got a message from US Airways -- the flight was cancelled.   We turned around.  At 1130 we got back to Dave's house and I was really tired from 4.5 hours of stressful driving.  We saw six fresh wrecks on the highway, several of which seemed to be cars spinning out even though there was no ice.

Now we are working on getting Marilyn's ID sent here by FEDEX and on getting her a new flight booking for Friday.

The cruising life really is a dream life!!!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wind Storm

New Bern, NC


We brought Jen back to New Bern to see where we are hanging out for the winter. Libby cleaned and rearranged to make a nice spot for Jen to sleep in the v-berth. Unfortunately, she didn't get much sleep last night. Why not? Because of a wind storm.

Last night it blew like the dickens. I don't know the official numbers but I believe that it blew 50-60 in at least one of the bursts. This morning I heard from some of the other boat owners whose bikinis and other canvas works were substantially damaged.

OnTarwathie there was no damage. Libby and I slept soundly because we were securely tied to a dock and because we were substantially sheltered from wind and waves. For poor Jen however it was not nice. The noises got to her. Wind howling in the rigging, haylyards slapping, and most of all, the fenders getting squashed between the hull and the dock. She said that around 0300 she finally thought to put in ear plugs, and after that she slept OK.

I looked at the marine weather forecast also. It would be a nasty time to be offshore in the next few days. Welcome to winter weather.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Backup Plans

Zebulon, NC

I got this message today. "I don't like the new blog format. Has anyone else commented? Merry Christmas, Terri" I haven't changed anything, and neither has, but either Google or Apple changed the default for iPads. iPads used to view the web version of this blog meant for PCs, but now they show the mobile version of the blog meant for phones. Could it be the iPad Mini that is the reason for the change?

If you have the problem on your iPad, there is a link at the bottom of the page called "View Web Version"

Anyhow, Terri's message reminds me of something that has worried me for a long time -- the fragility of free services like Blogger and even Google. They could disappear overnight without warning. If that happened, how would you readers and I reconnect on a new hosting site?

I've written before about backup plans while cruising. Well, for this cruiser blogging is an essential part of my cruising. I need to worry about the security of blogging too.

Over the years, I've carefully kept the address and the format of this blog invariant so as to maintain continuity with long term users. I also carefully make a backup copy of this blog's entire archive every month or so. If needed, I could make a new blog somewhere, and migrate the archives to that place, but I could not hold the address constant. How therefore, could you find the address of the new blog?

One way would be to send me an email to dickandlibbymills at gmail dot com. But that begs the question. If Google vanished, both and would vanish also. It is probably not prudent to post my phone number here, but foolishly or not, it is already there in the blog archive. 5182560889

I toyed with the idea of registering my own domain, then using it to redirect to wherever my blog is posted. I didn't do that because many of you already bookmarked

I could get a second email account with some other provider, then publish that email address here on the blog. But to be effective, that would force you to bookmark that email address in a third place. Ditto for my phone number. Neither is a really good backup solution.

Here is my best try at a foolproof method to reconnect. If this blog, and gmail and my phone number vanish, I promise to try to start a new blog someplace. On your part, just remember dickandlibby. After a month or two, use dickandlibby as a search term in your favorite search engine or in twitter . It should locate wherever we are on the web.

I'll welcome any suggestions for better ways.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The sails

New Bern, NC

Modern sails last much longer than the canvas of Joshua Slocumb's day. He spent much of every day, sewing and mending his scraps of canvas. We don't do that, but we do have to mend sometimes. In the modern world, we have modern materials(Dacron) and modern sewing machines.

Usually, we have to take the sails to a sailmaker to do that work, but this year we were lucky enough that George and Carol offered to help. They are part owners of a heavy duty sewing machine and they have the expertise to know what to do.

With something as big as a sail, it must be sewn outdoors or in a very large room. Below you see George working on our main sail in the club room of the Blackbeard sailing club.

Unfortunately, before we finished the job, their sewing machine broke down. We will have to finish the job next spring.

Today, Saturday, we drove to pick up Nick at Fort Bragg. Then we are heading to Dave and Cathy's house for the holiday. Next Monday, Jennifer flys in from Burlington. The Monday after that my sister Marilyn flys in from Albany. It should be a great family Christmas. :-)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Libby's Egg

New Bern, NC

I'm very pleased with myself.  I found the perfect present for Libby's birthday today.

As you might expect, it is difficult to buy things for Libby.  She wants so few material things.  I'm almost as hard.  I like techno-geek gadgets but I need to pick out which ones myself.   So, when Libby's birthday comes around, I'm usually at a loss for what to get her.   This year is an exception.

A month ago, we were walking around New Bern with our friends Bob and Sandra.  We came upon an art store that had a wonderful display of 1000 ceramic eggs (by a local artist,  Michaele Rose Watson) arranged in a cornucopia display.   Well, the next day Libby sneaked up there and bought one of those eggs as a present for Sandra.   Aha!  Now I know something that Libby thinks is precious.  So I sneaked up there myself and bought one of those eggs for Libby, and I gave it to her for her birthday.  She was thrilled.

1000 eggs by  Michaele Rose Watson

Now, Libby has a new project.  She needs to make a pine needle nest for the egg.

Libby's Egg

By the way, in normal circumstances a sailboat is a poor place for artwork, especially fragile things.  When we get out to sea things get very violent at times.  But some things are so nice that they're worth the risk.  Besides, the egg is not big.  We should be able to find a secure place to store it while the boat is in motion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Excedrin Headache #99

New Bern, NC

I just read a very discouraging article, Researchers find crippling flaws in global GPS.   We boaters depend heavily on GPS and our chart plotters.  I'm afraid that the honeymoon may soon be over and we could have as much trouble with GPS spoofing, and remote hacking as we do with our PCs.

I've been afraid that this might happen for several years.   You see, the GPS satellites and the GPS receivers on our boats, in our phones, and in our cars, are nothing more than computers exchanging digital information.  The closest analogy is the Internet.   The short and simple is that GPS computers are just as vulnerable to hackers as Internet connected computers.  

The good news is that, aside from cyber war, the financial incentives for hacking GPS receivers are not as obvious as incentives for hacking people's PCs.  That probably explains why so many years have passed already without serious GPS hacking.  

The bad news is that so far, there are not firewalls  no antivirus, no security industry developed to help us secure our GPS'.  It is also bad news that GPS hacking is still in its infancy, and that much more sophisticated ways of GPS hacking are yet to be invented.

From the beginning, the military encrypted portions of the GPS signal.  The encrypted part hid the least significant digits in the lat/lon data that allows US missiles and bombs to find targets with one meter accuracy.   The less accurate parts of GPS were deliberately left unencrypted so as to be friendly to civilian industry.  If they made the public portions of GPS secure from the start, early GPS units would have been much more expensive, and many of today's GPS applications might never have gotten off the ground.

So, what does it mean to us ordinary boaters, phone owners, car drivers?  Be prepared for repeated expensive replacements/upgrades to your GPS equipment in years to come.  Virtually all the civilian GPS gadgets we own today are not set up to install software updates.  It is only reasonable to expect that the entire GPS system, satellites and receivers alike, will be junked and replaced with a brand new positioning system designed from the ground up to be secure.  Even with infinite money, that can't happen overnight, so be prepared for unexpected and prolonged blackouts of GPS functions.

Personally, I'm going to start thinking about a seminar for next year's SSCA Gam, entitled  "What to do if all your GPS units suddenly die."   

I am also going to dust off my sextant and my books on celestial navigation.  I've been carrying them around on the boat for several years, but I never studied or practiced enough to become proficient at it.

Monday, December 10, 2012


New Bern, NC

Our friends Bob & Sandra on board Carpe Diem have now arrived in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon.

Our friends Pat & Walt on board Waves of Grace have now arrived in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon.

Our friends Darrick & Sharron on board Y-Knot will be there soon.

Our friends Dick and Kathy on board Endeavor will be there soon.

We have good reasons for choosing to stay here for the winter, but I must say we miss Boot Key Harbor, and all our friends there, and the culture, and the weather.

Have a happy holiday all of you.

Keys envy aside, we win great benefits by staying. Jenny flies in next Monday for a 10 day holiday stay.  My sister Marilyn will arrive on Christmas Eve.   We'll all gather at Dave & Cathy's for a grand Christmas day surrounded by family.   Holidays don't get better than that.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Other Boating Life Style

New Bern, NC

Readers of this blog know that Libby and I are devotees of cruising as a life style.  We're hardly along.  In the 1970's Westsail Inc. conducted a wildly successful marketing strategy that sold people on the cruising life style, and only incidentally mentioned that they happened to sell boats.  I don't remember if I posted that video before, so here it is below.  It is an absolutely charming video, so if you haven't seen it before, I recommend it. It comes in two parts, about 10 minutes overall.

This week the hotel behind the marina is hosting a salesman seminar for Grady White boats.   The hotel is full of Grady White people, and Grady White advertisements and literature.  The slips in the marina are filled with Grady White demo boats including the one below with 1050 horsepower of outboards on the back (OMG!!!)

Their theme is "The Grady White Life"  Then the link became apparent.  Grady White is doing the same thing that Westsail did in th 70s.  They are selling a life style first, and boats incidentally.

But the contrasts between these life styles could hardly be bigger.  The cruiser's life style emphasizes frugality and self-sufficiency.  It produces people like Libby who once did not want to leave a restaurant because she hadn't yet drunk all the water in her water glass.   The Grady White life style is -- I don't know.  1050 HP!!! Words escape me.   The two life styles could hardly be more different; yet they are linked with a common base - boating life styles.

Friday, December 07, 2012

There's Always a Bigger (Smaller) Boat

New Bern, NC

Rich owners of megayachts are familiar with the problem.  No matter how rich you are,and no matter how much you spend on your yacht to outdo the Jones, there will always be someone else who builds a bigger boat.

Now, for cruisers (like us) who like to brag about how frugal we are and how much we simplified our life style, there's a new story to outdo us all.  It is the story of a man who lives on a 14 foot canoe in Boston Harbor.   He even patches holes in his hull with duct tape.  Man, he's got us beat.

I call on all fellow cruisers to tip their hats to Mister Smith.

Read the delightful story here.  A couple of quotes follow.
With his possessions packed in a 14-foot canoe, the wiry, mustachioed man paddles to small offshore docks after dark to pitch his tent and sleep. He wears his brown locks long and tucks a pink silk rose into the brim of his canvas explorer hat. 
The 49-year-old's salty lifestyle is a means of survival, but Smith detests the word "homeless" and describes himself as just another "fellow citizen." 
When necessary, the Maine native uses duct tape to patch his 40-year-old aluminum canoe. Smith said he feels most secure when he sleeps in the harbor and lists his biggest worries as the wakes of fast ferries and drunken boaters.

Smith plans to sleep out in Boston Harbor all winter and prefers to concentrate on the beauty of his surroundings rather than the bareness of his accommodations.Before sunup Tuesday, Smith saw a shooting star skitter across the New England sky and said later he made a wish meant for all people, no matter where they bed down at night.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Color of Sentiments

New Bern, NC

Reader brigantine posted a charming comment to yesterday's blog, Heirlooms On Board.   His experience was amazingly similar to mine.   The engineer in me wants to think that an artifact like a toolbox or a thermos is functional; a left brain activity.  But emotional attachment is a right brain activity, so that factors like color play a vital role.  See below.
Brigantine comments: I have a toolbox that my dad had when I was growing up. When I was 18 I bought a set of tools and it came with a massive four drawer toolbox that was much too big for carrying in my Pinto. So, I traded it to my dad for his toolbox.
It was red and a few yrs ago, it was starting to show its age and rusting a bit, so I painted it with some black Rustoleum I had. That was much too dark, so I spritzed some White on it in random over-spray type spurts. It's okay now and I preserved the box before it got too far gone. But, when I look at it, I still see the bright red toolbox of my childhood.

Imagine my chidren's confusion when I tell them to get something out of the red toolbox and they go to the big craftsman four drawer unit that I now have back from Dad and I say, "No, not that red one, the other one" as I point to the black and white box...

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Heirlooms On Board

New Bern, NC

I've written a lot about the appeal of simplifying your life as an essential part to living the cruising life.   Not owning a lot of stuff gives you back a huge degree of freedom.   However, we are only human and we are allowed to have emotional attachments to a few things that seem to have been part of our lives forever.

I wrote about our never bag, where we store stuff we may never use, but are unwilling to throw away.   (Our friend Mari commented on that never bag post. She said, "Never bag; my husband has never barns!")  I'm not talking about that stuff.

Libby, very wisely, distributed our family heirlooms among our children.   Therefore when we go to visit them we find objects that make us feel very much at home.   No, I'm talking about heirlooms that we carry on the boat.

I still have and use a few of Libby's father's tools.  They are great, but they hark back to his lifetime, not mine.  As for my lifetime, I have only two heirlooms.  One is my thermos.  I blogged about it before.  The second is my green tool box.  See the picture below.

I don't know when I first acquired that green tool box. It feels like I've had it forever. I distinctly remember carrying it on board every previous boat we ever owned before Tarwathie. I use it every day. (Yes every day. While living on a boat hardly a day ever goes by when something doesn't need fixing.)   You can tell it's well used because all the paint is gone from the top.  That is not something I did, it just resulted from normal wear and tear.

 The latch on my tool box broke long ago. I use a bent nail to fix it. I've had to replace the axle pins on several of the hinges. But now the stamped steel body is rusting through in many places. I fear that my tool box is reaching its end of life.   I am not going to paint it with Rustoleum.  I did that to my thermos and I immediately regretted doing that.  The familiar appearance has much to do witht he emotional value of an heirloom.

Yesterday I almost bought a new tool box, but then it hit me.  If I do that, I will discard 50% of the heirloom objects that link me to my past.  It would be an unforgivable sin.   So this morning, I got out my tubes of J. B. Weld and attempted so repair the weakest spots.   The stronger rusty parts of the box I keep soaked in WD-40.  If I'm lucky, I'll be able to keep that tool box going for the rest of my natural life.

If this was O Henry's blog, it would end someday with a final blog post saying that one day Dick tried to pick up his tool box and the bottom felt out.  Or that one day Dick's loving family and friends secretly bought Dick a new tool box as a surprise and discarded the old box.  Either way, that was the day Dick died.

p.s.   What about Libby's on board heirlooms?  Well, she's got me :-)   She also has a photo album with a few non-digital photos from our past.  She may have more but, I can't think of them.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The Boat Parade

New Bern, NC

This time last year, I sat in my dinghy in Boot Key Harbor to watch the boats in the Christmas Boat parade go by. The year before that I watched the parade in Vero Beach. I can now vouch for the fact that New Bern's parade is bigger and better than either of those two.

Anyhow, we watched in comfort from the cockpit of Traumeri as our friends George and Carol treated us to dinner. It was great. Thanks, George and Carol.

Libby made a very cute little wreath for Tarwathie. See below.

Sorry I didn't get more photos to post. My camera is still not up to night photography. George's camera can take a dozen or more night shots of the same s end, then combine them all, adjusting registration for focus and clarity. It makes beautiful night shots.


Saturday, December 01, 2012

A Day In Court

New Bern, NC

I’ve never been forced to appear in court before; never served on a jury. Here in New Bern there are District Courts, Supreme Courts, and Federal Courts all within two blocks. Therefore I plan to witness some trials just out of curiosity. Today (11/29), I visited the District Criminal Court; lowest of the three.

I got there at the appointed time, 0900. There weren’t many people there at first. As I waited, I tried to figure out who was who and what their roles were. At first there were only three sheriff’s bailiffs and a very young, very green looking lawyer sitting stiffly on the side. Behind the bar were about 70 people. The people in appearance and dress looked perfectly typical, neither rich nor poor.

Two men dressed casually, sitting at a side table with tall stacks of manila folders in front of them. I decided that they must be the police. Later they were joined by a state trooper, so that confirmed that they were police.

The first thing to happen was that a bailiff called for those requesting a court appointed attorney. About 6 people came forward. Next, the bailiff called for all those requesting a continuance should form a line on the right. About half the people (i.e. 35) got in line. It took two bailiffs 20 minutes to locate their names in the docket and to write a list of case numbers requesting continuances. During that 20 minutes new people continued to enter the court room. Almost all of them got in the line. Unless they were experienced in this courtroom, they had no way to know this was the continuance line. I wonder how many of them got continuances that didn’t want it.

People continued to stream into the court until 09:45. I was shocked. How could people dare to be late for their own trials? Maybe they were experienced enough to know that it didn’t matter.

Around 9:30 an attractive girl came out from the “Private” door. She made sure that the proper heaps of paper were in the proper places. Later another attractive girl came out. She must have been the clerk. She sat beside the Judge. I think her job was to record everything that transpired and to keep the paperwork straight. A third girl appeared; also very nice. I figured out that the court’s staff was populated by young attractive, well built women.

A lady appeared and stood at the prosecutor’s table. I could tell, because on that table were three big files, with I presume, the case files for 100% of the cases on today’s docket.
A few lawyers appeared. I could tell because they had suits and ties. Some hung around the court room, but most of them headed directly for the “Private” door. I think they went back there to review the cases with the judge in advance.

It was laughably easy to rank the lawyers according to the quality of their suits, ties and grooming. They ranged from baronial to scruffy. I’m almost certain that I could rank the 20 or so lawyers I saw that day by appearance only, and achieve 90% accuracy.

The best looking lawyer turned out to be the best. Let me call him Esquire. Before the judge came out, Esquire emerged from the “Private” door and plunked down a stack of about 20 folders on the prosecutor’s table. Then he called the 20 defendants, one by one, whispered something to each, handed a sheet of paper to the prosecutor, and then sent the defendants out of the room. I figure those were the ones whose cases were dismissed. Later when the judge came in, Esquire’s remaining cases where disposed of quickly and painlessly for the defendants. If I ever get in trouble in New Bern, I’m going to hire Esquire as my lawyer.
Then it came time to rise as the judge came in. The judge was surprisingly young and handsome. I almost laughed out loud as the bailiff said, “here’s Judge Pauuuuuuuuuuuuuuul xxx. He did it like Ed McMahon used to say heeeeeeeeeeeeer’s Johnny [Carson]. I don’t think you’re allowed to laugh out loud in court.

Finally things started to happen. It was about 10:10 by now.
  1. First we had all those requesting a court appointed attorney. The judge named appointments and the clerk gave them new court dates.
  2. Next came continuances. The prosecutor called them forward one by one. I was bewildered to see that some of them came forward, and then walked out the back door with hardly a pause. Others had to stop at the clerk’s desk, put their hand on a book on the shelf, raise their right hand and swear to something. Then they were allowed to go. I have no idea what distinguished those two groups.
  3. Next came defendants represented by lawyers; Mr. Esquire’s first. These cases, about 30 of them, were disposed of rapidly. Most had to pay court costs (about $200), restitution if applicable, and were given suspended sentences of 30 days plus 3 years unsupervised probation. It was amazing how quickly those judgments were rendered. So fast, that the judge did not have the time to read even a single sentence on the papers in front of him. Still, his remarks seemed to be spot on each time. I concluded that the judge and the lawyers had done all their homework before entering the court. The judge was well familiar with each case and had an outcome in mind. Therefore, rattling off the sentence in open court was a mere formality.
  4. Next the prosecutor called for “those not represented by attorney and pleading guilty.” There formed a line of about 30 more people. These cases also went quickly, but slightly slower than those with lawyers. Despite the speed, the judge seemed to be right on top of each case. Either he had studied them in advance, or he had crib notes in front of him, or he was simply handing out sentences based on the charge and the appearance of the defendants. In most of the cases, the defendant hardly got to speak a single word.
About this time, I figured out the special nature of today’s sessions. Those two men that I thought were police were actually from Walmart security. From time to time, the judge asked a question about the facts of the case and these men responded. They had photographic and/or video evidence in front of them for each case. I heard no cases from Target, or any other store, so I figure that today’s session was specially arranged to dispose of all the pending Walmart cases. If they didn’t do it that way, the Walmart security men would need to be in court every day. Also from time to time, the judge asked the prosecutor about prior offenses. The prosecutor had an answer about 50% of the time, and didn’t know the other 50%. In those cases, the judge asked the defendant.

Most of these people got off with court costs, plus restitution. However, there were two doors for them to exit the court. The door on the left was for those who could pay up immediately and leave. The door on the right was for those who couldn’t pay or who were sentenced to jail or probation. The one exception came in a woman’s case. The Walmart man said that she stole things like hair trimmers, and that this was the 5th time she had been caught. “45 days” was her sentence, handed down by the judge without hesitation.

All this time, there was almost zero accusations, nor protests of innocence heard. No prosecution, no defense. It seemed that any case that could not be disposed of in a few seconds was continued. I heard the judge say several times that there were so many cases on today’s docket that anything of substance would have to wait for another day. I guess that if I returned some other day it may be very different wish a smaller number of more substantial cases, where I could hear the actual accusations and the actual defense. Not today.

Now it was around 1110 and the courtroom was mostly empty of defendants. A whole bunch more lawyers began to appear. I don’t know of those lawyers just knew which time to appear, or whether someone gave them a signal.

The door to the side opened and prisoners dressed in orange jumpsuits filed in. There were about three batches of 7 inmates each. All these cases were boring. They simply arranged for counsel for these people whose trails were scheduled for later dates.

The course broke for lunch around 1300. I didn’t return. I think I understand how that process works. Now for some more general observations:

The acoustics of the court room were excellent. A dozen or more subdued conversations could (and did) be held simultaneously without the voices carrying very far. That’s perfect, because everywhere there were lawyers, and defendants, and clerks and bailiffs all doing business at the same time. On the down side, I had great difficulty hearing what the judge, and lawyers said to each other when cases were actually heard. Next time, I’ll be sure to bring two hearing aids and to turn them up full blast.

As citizens, we know how little it takes to get appointed or elected judge in this country. I was a bit taken aback at this judge’s youthful appearance (and by the fact that he seemed to be chewing something). But at the end, I am very impressed at how he was master of that courtroom, in substance as well as style. He appeared to be well briefed on everything before him, he handed out sentences without hesitation, yet he never appeared to be rushing anyone. In those few cases where the facts seemed obscure or evidence lacking, he deferred judgment to another day. I was very impressed. By whatever combination of long experience or hard work I don’t know, but this man was expert at his job. I don’t think any defendant or lawyer, or other party left that room today feeling slighted.

The amount of paper shuffling was appalling. The only computer screen visible belonged to the clerk, but I don’t think it was turned on because she never looked at it. Every lawyer, when he was not talking was sitting there furiously writing and writing. Some things they write on the manila folder, some are annotations on the printed documents, and some are jottings on those famous yellow pads. Each case had an envelope. Both prosecutors and attorneys pawed those envelopes and took things out and stuffed things in. Most amazing was the clerk. Everybody else in the room kept laying piles of papers on her counter. She just made them disappear, with hardly ever a question to anyone.

As a guess, I expect that 95% of the time, papers are handled correctly. Even so, on a day with 200 cases, that means 10 or more are mishandled with unknown consequences. It must cost a fortune for all the skilled handling of this paperwork, but more important I do not believe that the quality control achievable by these methods could be acceptable in the 21st century. Having said that, I tip my hat to the expeditious and skilful way all those papers were handled in court today. It appeared that everyone involved (except that green young lawyer by the wall) knew very well how the papers should be handled and they just did it.

If a court like this was to be automated to 21st century standards it would work much better. However, that type of software takes a long time to debug and refine. Digitization would cause one or two decades of worse performance before it got better. Also, it would be wasteful and inefficient to do it at a local court, or even a state level. We need a national, or even a global, approach to workflow handling of justice cases so that everyone gains from the refinements. But huge software projects on a national scale also have a dismal track record. Very often they fail, and are cancelled. I sympathize with the judges and lawyers who fear automation and want to hold it back as long as possible. Their fears are well founded. On the other hand, I don’t believe their costs and their quality levels are sustainable in the 21st century. They have a genuine dilemma on their hands.

Later in the year, I’ll make visits to other kinds of court and write them up.

p.s. The young green stiff lawyer disappeared sometime before the judge came in. I didn't see him speak with anyone.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ice On Deck

New Bern, NC

This morning we had a heavy coat of frost on deck, and on the docks.  Usch.   I've seen ice on deck before on other sailboats up on Champlain, but this is the first time for Tarwathie.  The picture shows the docks, two hours later after the sun had risen a bit.  Look closely and you can see bare wood in all the sunny spots and white in all the shaded spots.

In return for the cold morning, we had a spectacularly clear night last night.  Before going to bed we were treated to the sight of a brilliant full moon right beside a brilliant full Jupiter.  Coincidence?  Not at all.  Whenever the moon is full, it is in opposition to the sun.   Ditto for Jupiter, and all other planets except Venus and Mercury.  Therefore, they should be expected to be in the same part of the sky when in opposition.  Anyhow, we were grateful for the beautiful sight.

Trust me, I'm an engineer.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pixie Dust

New Bern, NC

Remember my rant against bureaucracy yesterday? Well, it is all sorted out. We are register and insured on plan A.

The secret was the wizard Brian at the Honda dealer. Brian knew of magic pixie dust that would grant me an exemption from the NC residency requirement. What's more, and something I didn't understand was that I don't need to deal with the DMV ever; Brian will do it for me, and all DMV fees are rolled in to what I paid. Further, the dealer also helped me to move from Nationwide insurance to Geico. Nationwide wanted proof of residency as a precondition to insurance, which is a precondition to registration. Geico is willing to accept a copy of NC registration as a post condition. That makes an essential difference.

Brian also revealed some of the wizard's secret. The NADA (National Auto Dealers Association) is a very monied, very powerful lobby. NADA makes sure that all onerous government regulations always include a loophole that NADA members can use to complete any and all auto sales. When all of us rant about lobbies corrupting government, remember this example of a lobby which is a check on government power.

The incident is also revealing about me. When confronted with bureaucratic obstacles my face turns red, my hackles raise and I am in full fight-or-flight mode in zero time. I am the opposite of People like Brian. He navigates bureaucracy with never a ruffle of feathers. I fight it like a raging bull.

By the way, the dealership charges an explicit $499 administrative fee over and above the price of the car. I appreciate them being up front about it rather than burying it in the price. Brian's expertise is evident. He earned the fee. We pay much more for professional engineering, legal or medical help all the time. If I had saved money by buying the car privately, I would be squaring up for battle with DMV tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Oh The Humanity

New Bern, NC

We have wheels! You may wish to congratulate us. Hold off on that. Our friend Mary Ann offered congratulations. She said "Don't you feel sixteen again?" Well yes, but not the way she's thinking. I feel like a dumb teenager who naively went out and did something rash and foolish. I planned to blog today about how owning a car could threaten our life style, but circumstances overtook that.

Why did we do it? I wanted to wait until next spring and to buy. A car closer to the date of our road trip departure. Libby wants the car during the holidays. She pressured me to act sooner. So yesterday I bought a 2005 Ford Taurus from the local Honda dealer. It is a very nice car. Large enough, and in like new condition. The dealer assured me I would have no trouble insuring it and registering it in North Carolina. He loaned me dealer plates for up to 96 hours while I arranged things. Here's what I learned this morning.

  1. I can't get collision insurance without proof of NC residency. A receipt from the marina won't due. Actually, we can't provide any of the normal documentary proof of residency for any state or any other place on this planet. Until today, that was one of the joys of being nomads.
  2. I can't get liability insurance without a NC registration, but I can't get registration without the insurance.
  3. Worst. I can't register a car in NC without proof of NC residency plus a NC drivers license!!!
  4. I thought of trying to register it in Vermont, as plan B. That has major logistics problems, but other problems too because I bought the car in NC. I could be liable for NC sales tax, NC property tax, and Vermont sales tax.
  5. For plan C, I hope to get help from my son David. He is a NC resident. I hope to have the dealer redo all the paperwork to show David and I as joint owners. Then, we can add the car to his insurance and register it in both our names. I can reimburse Dave for the expenses. Right now I'm waiting on the paperwork man at the Honda dealer to help me.
  6. If plan C doesn't work we come to the end of a box canyon. I have dealer plates and dealer insurance that is valid for only 48 more hours. I can't park the car on the street or the hotel/marina parking lot without license plates. It will be towed away.
Man oh man, my head is spinning from all this red tape.. We have become totally inexperienced in the complexities of dealing with modern life in America. You could say spoiled. You would be right. I feel like the reporter witnessing the Hindenburg disaster, "Oh the humanity."

Monday, November 26, 2012

On Yacht Design

New Bern, NC

Well, we're back on the boat after a week celebrating Thanksgiving with family.  We had a great time.

I engaged in an exchange on the Westsail Owners Association web site about providing heat on the boat during winter.   The discussion reminded me of how different the needs and priorities of the various boat owners.  It would be next to impossible to find a solution that came close to satisfying everyone.  That is the challenge faced by yacht designers.   They need one or more designs that fit the needs of large groups, if not everyone.   They make numerous choices, each of which is a trade off of one feature versus another.   Every time I think of changing something, I become very cautions.  I fear not thinking of all the trade off consequences before acting.  I trust most the skillful designers at the Westsail Factory in the 1970s.

Here are some of the most obvious design tradeoffs on Tarwathie.

  1. She is a blue water boat, optimized for prolonged ocean crossings.  The most obvious features there are: (a) A double-ended hull with a full keel is better able to track a straight lin in heavy seas.  (b) A small cockpit that drains rapidly if filled with water.  (c) high bulwarks around the edge that keep crew and gear more secure when at sea.  (d) The bulwarks can hold tons of water at a high center of gravity.  Therefore, we need the classical sculpted dips in the bulwarks fore and aft.  They form scuppers that allow water filling the decks to the top of the bulkheads, to drain overboard in just 2-3 seconds.  But the lines of those scuppers are classic and beautiful making the boat more attractive.
  2. We have a bowsprit and a boomkin that allow us to carry bigger sail area than we could without them.  A boat with the same displacement could also be designed with a longer hull rather than the bowsprit/boomkin.  I suppose the longer hull has more friction (wetted area) but I'm not sure what the other tradeoffs are.  I'll bet a knowledgeable blog reader will let me know.
  3. We have a hard dinghy optimized for rowing.  Our Fatty Knees dinghy is perhaps the best modern rowing dinghy anywhere.   A blue water boat needs a very secure way to carry such a dinghy offshore.  We have custom teak chocks that allow us to carry it very securely under the boom.   That has the side effects, (a) the stern of our dinghy interferes with our sight forward, and (b) we can not mount the main sheet and traveller on the cabin top.  We have it instead in the cockpit; a most inconvenient spot.
  4. The Monitor Self Steering gear is much more reliable than any electronic autopilot.  Circumnavigators favor such reliability and simplicity above other features.   Because of the monitor, we can not have stern davits for a dinghy, nor large solar panels mounted on an arch.
  5. In the cabin, we have a table that very easily folds up and stows vertically on the bulkhead.  That deprived us of any place near the floor to mount the cabin heater.  On the other hand, it makes our cabin very spacious and comfortable, table up or table down.   Libby and I think that we have more open room, and more comfortable space for two people to lounge in the cabin than just about any sailboat of and size that we have ever seen.   More details here.
  6. A pilot berth that pulls out to make a double bed in the main cabin.  That deprives us of some space that could be used for stowage, or bookshelves or whatever.   It also allows us to never have to use the V-berth for sleeping unless we have guests. We like that trade off very much.
  7. The main sheet placement also prevents us from enclosing the cockpit in canvas and windows.  That, plus the small size of the cockpit and the placement of winches and instruments, deprives us of any comfortable place to lounge in our cockpit.  On many other cruising boats, the cockpit is like an extra room -- one which is very pleasant in the early morning or late evening.  While under way, a second person in the cockpit gets in the way.   As a result, Libby and I spend many more hours in our cabin and fewer in the cockpit compared to our friends.
  8. Tarwathie has two huge lazarette lockers, port and starboard under the cockpit seats.  On other W32s, that volume is occupied by 40 gallon fuel tanks port and starboard. We have 20 gallon wing tanks, port and starboard, for diesel that sit up against the bulkhead.  In one of those lockers I have a storm jib and storm trisail, plus my paint locker and stowage for chemicals and maintenance stuff.   In the other, we carry lines and cordage, lots of line and cordage, plus flares, chafing gear, and spare hardware.  I have a hard time imagining where we would stow that stuff if we did not have those lockers.   The trade off is that we carry only 1/2 the fuel, and that the engine compartment is smaller and more cramped than other W32s.  The double ended hull is also narrow back there, so we have much less room for things like extra batteries or hot water tanks, compared to other sail boats.  I also have a hard time preventing water leaks around the seat hatches.  
So, despite the fact that we do mostly coastal cruising, not blue water cruising, Libby and I are quite comfortable on Tarwathie.  We envy the nicer cockpits that our friends have, but we treasure the more comfortable main cabin/salon that we have compared to all other sail boats.  Were we just lucky to find a cruising boat that suits us so well, or has our life style adapted to make best use of what we do have.  I'll wager that it more of the latter than the former.

Once again, hats off to those smart yacht designers who made so many smart choices up front.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New Article Posted

Zebulon, North Carolina

We are at Dave & Cathy's for a whole week.   On Thursday evening we will be joined by John, Sara, Katelyn and Victoria from New York.  It will be a grand family gathering for Thanksgiving. We won't have all of our extended family here, but we'll have a lot.  Don't expect a lot of cruising blogging this week.

However, the time away from the boat allowed me to work on some writing projects other than this blog.   I just posted a new article to my "This I Believe" blog.  It has been a long time since I posted anything there.  The new post is called "Cybersecurity and the Power Grid." If the title sounds boring to you, trust your instincts.  If it sounds interesting, then please do read it, that's why I wrote it.

p.s. The This I Believe blog had the wrong privacy settings.  If you have trouble getting to it, please let me know.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


New Bern, North Carolina

Someone stole the lock and chain from my bicycle today at the library. They left the bicycle. Should I feel insulted?

Thinking back, we have lost very few things to theft in the 7+ years cruising, despite the fact that we are very sloppy about locking thing up. To what should we attribute that?

I think the main factor is that Tarwathie spends most of her time away from shore. We are under way, or anchored,or moored. It appears evident that most thieves are not going to cross the water to find a target. Indeed, we feel very safe at night on the boat with all the hatches open, no matter where we are anchored. Even high crime areas seem to stop at the waterline.

Of course, the few exceptions are notable. Our friend Doug on his W32 Robin was boarded by thieves one night in Gloucester, Massachusetts. In the Red Sea cruisers are kidnapped by Somali pirates. So far, none of those bad things happened to us. Knock on wood.

What about our possessions on shore? Well, the list is short. Our dinghy and my bicycle. The dingy was stolen 18 months ago in Burlington, but I recovered it right away. Our dinghy is old. It looks old. Most of the time it has no motor mounted. If the motor had been mounted the day she was stolen in Burlington, the outcome might have been different.

What about my bicycle? Well, today I have the answer. A lock thief declined to steal the bike.

So if you want to be safe from thieves:

  1. Never go ashore
  2. Never own anything attractive.
p.s. As I sat here in the library reading a book, my neighbor in the next chair said, "Man. These chairs are a lot more comfortable than those in the jail. Aren't they?"

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Now, After Sleeping On It

New Bern, North Carolina

I spent yesterday in a fit of worry about the painting project.  I talked with a lot of people.  I've gotten a lot of advice; much of it good advice.   Most of all, I slept on the problem.  Today, the rational decision seems very clear -- I am going to wait until next spring to do the painting.

The decision became clear only after I got past three mental obstacles.

  1. Confirmation bias:   Alan at Sailcraft told me that the one-part Petit paint I bought was an inferior product, and that I should change to a two-part epoxy primer paint in any case.  That means I have to admit a mistake and suffer the embarrassment of sending back the paint.
  2. I feared that leaving the decks bare over the winter would allow oils and waxes from air pollution to spoil the surfaces and make painting next spring fail.   I finally realized that I can cover the exposed surfaces with plastic over the winter, then wash them with soap and water and acetone next spring.  In reality the risk of bungling the clean-up next spring is less than the risk of bunging a paint job in cold weather.  It took me a while to get that risk trade-off straight.
  3. My history as a project manager gives me a powerful bias, "Don't tear up the project plan and schedule or radically alter it once the team has started work."   That bias stood me well in my professional life.  But the underlying reason for that project manager's bias is that the changes disrupt the plans of the project team, and undermines their confidence.   In this case, I am the only member of the project team.  I'll get help from Libby and Dave, but the old paradigm of having a large team already working to implement the plan does not apply here.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ay ay: Another Amateur Mistake

New Bern, North Carolina

The paint we were waiting for arrived. At least the primer paint. Reading the instructions on the can, I had a terrible shock. It says that the temperature must not drop below 50 F for 24 hours after application. I had thought that it only needed to be warm for 1-2 hours during and after application. We won't see nighttime low temperatures above 50 in New Bern until the middle of April (see below). Meanwhile, my decks are stripped and we can't leave them like that until spring.

Max °F54.457.464.372.479.084.988.387.082.874.466.057.772.4
Mean °F44.246.553.261.168.975.779.778.674.063.854.947.062.3
Min °F33.935.542.149.758.766.571.

What to do?

  • The panicky response would be to cast off the lines and head for Florida ASAP.
  • Libby suggested building tents on deck with plastic and canvas and using a space heater in there overnight. Then move the tent and do the next patch. Would that work?
  • I got some good advice to call Alan at Sailcraft in Oriental for advice. He confirmed that if the temperature gets cold while that primer paint dries, it will ruin the job. At Sailcraft, they move boats into their heated shed in winter for paint projects. We could do that, but it would probably cost big bucks.

Alan also said that at the least, I should return the Petit one part primer paint, and switch to Awlgrip two part epoxy. The epoxy is more temperature friendly. It stops curing at night, but it will resume when it warms the next day. Awlgrip also sells "Cold Cure" additive to make things easier.

Alan also said that they try to put three coats of the two part epoxy down on the same day because it goes on really thin. That would be quite a day. I'd need Dave's help.

Right now my head is spinning. When I'm pissed, my decision making skills degrade. But I would still like to ask for more advice from blog readers. My readers know lots.

Anyhow, it was a dumb mistake. Since I don't have experience with these materials, I should have chased down the manufacturer's spec sheet before ordering. The info in the online shopping sites is not nearly enough. The paint can has not been opened, so it can be returned

A section of deck all stripped.
A section of the deck stripped.

Blogging Exposed

New Bern, North Carolina

I recently remarked that blogs have no editors.   This morning I came upon a remarkable example of exactly that.

On the site, there is a delightful blog post about some Australian cruisers stopping in Cambridge Bay while transiting the Northwest Passage.  Their blog sounds very much like something I might write.   But an article in National Post about the same stopover paints a very very different picture.   If you have the time, follow both links to read the whole stories including pictures.  If you don't have the time for that, I have some excerpts below,

From the trackingfortus blog:

Due to some weather, we decided to stay in Cambridge Bay for a few extra days. Levi and Charlie took the guests fishing up a fresh water creek. They pulled in some good fish and had a great time. They met a retired local named Jimmy and made arrangements to meet up with him the next day.
Jimmy came by the boat and took us to meet his sister and brother in-law who rented us some quads and a truck. We followed Jimmy up to Mount Pelee. The weather was fantastic and the ride was super fun. A few of us ran up the mountain and Jacob spotted a small herd of Muskox. Steve got some amazing video of the herd running strait down at him. We were lucky enough to get some great pictures right up close to these wild creatures. Amazing… On the way back we found a weasel and also pulled in some Arctic Char with Jimmy.
The people of Cambridge Bay have been very helpful and Fortrus is now fully provisioned for the next leg of it’s journey. We tried to fuel while we were here but due to ice the town’s delivery of winter fuel is late and they can’t afford to deplete their supplies any more..
We all had a very memorable time in Cambridge Bay….Next Stop, Tuktoyaktuk.

From the National News article:
The forbidding Northwest Passage killed Sir John Franklin and confounded James Cook, but it appears to have been a breeze for a booze-laden Australian luxury yacht that sped through the High Arctic leaving behind a trail of illegal fireworks, paint balls and bounced cheques.
In early September, the Fortrus, a 34-meter, seven-stateroom luxury yacht anchored just outside Cambridge Bay, a Nunavut community of 1,500. The ship had been brought there by Paul McDonald, a 51-year-old resource tycoon from Noosa, Australia, who was leading the yacht on a circumnavigation of North America.
According to Nunatsiaq News reporter Jane George, the visiting ship hosted “a wild party where men overwhelmingly outnumbered women” and in which an underage girl was seen diving overboard into the frigid waters of the Beaufort Sea.

An alcohol-fueled yacht party is easily noticed in Cambridge Bay, where liquor is only allowed under special permit from Nunavut authorities. It did not help that passengers were reportedly firing illegal fireworks from the Fortrus’ decks.
On Sept. 7, local RCMP boarded the vessel and immediately seized 200 liquor bottles with as estimated “street value” of $40,000 (in the dry community, black-market alcohol prices can run to hundreds of dollars per bottle). Mounties also seized $15,000 worth of illegal fireworks.
Mr. McDonald was charged with providing liquor to a minor and possessing liquor “other than when authorized.” Each charge carries a fine of $5,000.

It is not known whether Mr. McDonald intends to fly back to the remote community to face justice. But a $10,000 cheque Mr. McDonald left with Cambridge Bay authorities bounced, according to Nunatsiaq News, and on September 20th the Fortrus successfully entered the Pacific Ocean, via the Bering Strait, and is now headed for the Panama Canal.
So, the astute reader will ask, "What debauchery are you and Libby covering up with your blog posts?"  The answer is, "You'll never know."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Another Photo of a Lifetime

New Bern, North Carolina

Today it is supposed to rain.  That gives me an excuse to take a day off.   Actually, I'm ahead of schedule because of help from Dave.   My previous post must have sounded like a plea for help because Dave decided to drive down here on his day off Monday to help out.   He did great.  Whereas it took me 3 days to scrape and sand 1/3 of the deck, Dave and I did a second 1/3 yesterday.   Dave found something that I missed; if you stop ever 2 minutes to sharpen the scraper blade, it works very much better.  New blades wouldn't do the job ---  new blades per hour and 200 per day.    Thank you very much Dave.

Regular readers know how I love to gush over the rainbow photo of Tarwathie.  I called it the photograph of a lifetime.  Well yesterday I found a new candidate.  Here's a hint.  Have you ever imagined a moonbow -- a rainbow in moonlight. I don't  have permission to copy the picture in this blog but you can see it here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 3 of Hard Labor

New Bern, North Carolina


Well, I've completed my third day of scraping and sanding the top decks. Man what hard work. This 68 year old body isn't as tough as it once was. I still have 3-4 more days to go. I,ve done about 1/3 the surface area, but my technique is improving as I go. By the time this jojoba is done, I should be expert.

I may have an excuse for a day off midweek. I ordered more scraping blades and sander belts online. They arrive in 3-7 days.

I must say though that the weather has been splendid for working outside these past three days. Today it was 68.

I'll post some pictures tomorrow.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Post Rejected

Zebulon, North Carolina

I'm doing something I've never done before on this blog.  I'm retracting a post, only hours after putting it out.

Here's the story.   For many years now (as many as 4 years) I've been thinking about writing a blog post about what I call The Box Canyon Rule.  It is the most important of safety rules we try to observe.  It is so important, that I want to explain it with clarity and eloquence.   Yesterday, I wrote and posted it.  Today, I'm having second thoughts.  What I wrote wasn't good enough.  I'm withdrawing it for now, and I'll write a better one sometime this winter and post that.

The back story is that Libby and I both carry in our heads what we call "bloggables".   Those are things that would make good subjects for a blog post.   I write some of them down in the form of draft posts.  Others, simply remember.

When it comes time to write a post, I generally spend about a half hour composing it.   Sometimes, the results are good, sometimes not.  It is the nature of blogging that posts are not edited.  There is no step which filters out the bad posts, leaving only the good.  The good thing about that is that it better reflects the real life of cruisers.  Not everything is romantic, or beautiful  or interesting.   But, a very small number of topics are so important that I do strive for a higher level of quality.  That's what I'm doing with the Box Canyon post.

Sometime this winter, I'll take a whole day in the library to think through what needs to be said about The Box Canyon Rule, and how to say it clearly in as few words as possible.

If you already read my Box Canyon post before I withdrew it.  I apologize.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tarwathie on Google Earth

New Bern, NC

Have you looked up your own house on Google Maps?  It's fun.  We have an advantage.  Since the pictures are taken at various times, Tarwathie might be found at multiple places.   So far, I only found one unambiguous occurrence of Tarwathie; in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida.  

It must have been from the 2010-2011 season.  Also, it must have been early or late in the season because there are many empty moorings.  Our friends on Carpe Diem were right beside us.  Indeed, we can even see their yellow dinghy at the dinghy dock.  Very cool.

If I locate any other occurrences of Tarwahie on Google Earth, I'll post them.

34 42'20.56 N 81 05'35.08

Monday, November 05, 2012

Vanishing Point Navigation

Zebulon, NC

A blog reader once asked me to write a post about navigation. It would be a challenge at times if we didn't have our GPS chartplotter to help. But many other times, it is as just plain easy.

The easiest of all kinds of navigation is what I call vanishing point navigation. On a narrow canal, such as The Great Dismal Swamp Canal, what you see in front of you looks like a student artist's lesson in vanishing point perspective. Navigate? Just point the bow at the vanishing point. No GPS, no paper charts, no red/green buoys needed.  This picture is from last spring when we were heading north.

The serenity and peacefulness of scenes like that are hard to convey.  It is true that we love the sea, but it is more true that we love inland cruising, especially rivers and canals.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Time to fess up

New Bern, NC


In earlier posts, I made it sound like we would be slaving from dawn to sunset on our project list. That may have been a slight exaggeration.

We had a visit from Bob & Sandra and their dog Mattie. We had a great time together. They stayed for a week. Then the four of us went to dinner with George & Carol. Then we also had a visit from Bo & Joyce, so we had dimmer with them and Bob & Sandra on board Tarwathie. Then of course, we had to deal with Hurricane Sandy. Now, we are going to Zebulon to stay with Dave & Cathy for a while.

The net result is that we haven't touched the projects in a week, and we won't for the next several days. Sigh. I'll just have to make up for lost time. The paint materials should arrive today, so upon return from Zebulon I can tackle the biggest of the projects.

Below is a scene from NC 12, the highway along The Outer Banks, after Sandy. The road will be closed for more than a month.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Mystery solved

New Bern, NC

Wow! I'm amazed at the encyclopedia like knowledge of my readers. See below.

[regarding the mystery object in the photo from my previous post]

It is the 1 and 1/2" outlet that comes with a Y valve for a holding tank. It is the same brand that I have on my boat. I don't remember the brand but they come with a 2" and a 1 1/2". Hope This Helps
Bruce S/V Mosquito Coast
Bruce is exactly right. I did indeed buy a new Y-valve this year.


By the way, most of the rain and wind for Hurricane Sandy have subsided. The surge of about 4 feet also subsided. Our thoughts now are for those poor people to the north of us.

On the news this morning, the HMS Bounty, a three masted sailing ship sunk off Hatteras. Recue operations are under way. The question I and other boaters have is what the heck was it doing out there? We al had plenty of warning.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mystery Parts

New Bern, NC

Don't you hate it when you put something back together and find that you have parts left over that you can't identify?

Don't you really really hate it when you find a screw or a nut underneath the engine or up on the deck of the boat that you can't identify?

Here's a third variation.  I was searching for stuff in our spare parts bin when I found the object in the picture below.  It is a very fancy piece of plastic.  It has a complex shape.  It has a rubber o-ring near the end.  Clearly it was designed for some highly specific task.  It appears to be very new, not covered with dust or grease like most things in my spare parts bin.  The trouble is that I have no memory of ever seeing it before, nor any idea of what it is for, nor how it got on board the boat or in the spare parts bin.

Libby wouldn't put it there as a joke, but perhaps I should start believing in gremlins.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Future Shock?

New Bern, NC

A luxury of staying at this marina is the free Starbucks Coffee and free WSJ to read in the hotel lobby every morning. It is quite decadent. But on Wednesday, I was sitting there sipping my second cup of coffee when I realized that it didn't taste very good. "What's up," I thought, "Starbucks coffee is supposed to be the best." Indeed, I remember drinking a cup in the Fort Meyers, Fl Starbucks 3-4 years ago that was superbly good. Why wasn't this coffee equally good?

Then i realized that I was applying the wrong standard. Not just a standard of quality, but nearly absolute uniformity. We bought an iPad this year. It is one of millions Apple sold. It is identical to all other such iPads. It was perfect right out of the box. In fact, the idea of getting a lemon iPad is preposterous in this modern world. I was trying to apply that standard to coffee brewing too. Whoops inappropriate.

Years ago, we lived in the analog world (contrasted with today's digital world). Nothing was uniform in the analog world. Even if you bought top quality, a Cadillac car for example, it may have been a Monday Cadillac, or a Friday Cadillac. We didn't expect it to be perfect as delivered. Instead, we expected the dealer to tweak it as necessary to deliver the quality we paid for. No mater what the product, in the analog world there was no such thing as absolute uniformity. In today's digital world, we still have varying quality but we receive, and have come to expect nearly absolute uniformity, in goods if not services.

Not only that, but things that are imperfect are not tweaked, they are discarded. If your pone doesn't work, get a new one. If your TV stops working, don't look for a TV repairman (hardly any exist any more). If your watch battery dies, it would cost less money and much less hassle to buy a new one than try to get a new battery installed in your old watch.

I also got caught by modern attitudes in retailing this morning. I had a flat tire on my bike. This bike is 2-3 years old. I bought it at Walmart for $79. It is very rusty, having been soaked by salt spray when we are out at sea. The fender struts rusted away and I improvised new ones from coat hangers. Libby asked about the other tire, but I said "it could last a while longer.": The mistake I made was to go to the bike specialty shop only 300 yards away for a new tire. I paid $30 for a new tire, plus $5 for a new tube at the bike store (old school) Walmart (new school) would have sold it for half that price. Then it hit me. for the price of two such tires I could have bought a whole new bicycle at Walmart. It was economic nonsense for me to invest so much money repairing my bicycle.

Holy mackerel, things are changing more rapidly that I had realized. Will my grandchildren live to see the day when cars and houses become not economically repairable? That sounds preposterous to me, but until today I would have said that it was preposterous for bicycles too.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Eliminate Argentina

New Bern, NC

South America seems to be about the only place they eliminate from the possibilities of Hurricane Sandy's path.   One model predicts a hit on New Bern, one on Savannah River then Minneapolis, one on Rome, NY, one on Vermont, one that makes a complete loop around the midwest, and one that misses North America altogether.

All these weather models are like the problem of the man with two watches.  With one watch he knew what time it is, but with two watches he never knew the time.  With N weather models, it is the same problem on steroids.   The forecasters can always claim that at least one of their forecasts was correct.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

New Bern, NC

Hurricane Sandy is headed our way.  It's track is very uncertain, but it seems most likely that it will pass far enough east of New Bern that we will see no severe weather.   Even if it comes close, winds will be from the North and these docks are well sheltered behind nearby 4 story buildings that block North winds.

The good news isn't for everyone.   Look below at the forecast for Abacos, Bahamas.  Our hearts go out to those poor people there.  They'll get 72 hours of misery.

*Marine Forecast For Abacos ~ Updated ~ Thursday, October 25, 2012 5:00:59 AM
tstormsOvercast with thunderstorms, then rain in the afternoon. High of 79F. Winds from the ENE at 35 to 50 mph. Chance of rain 90% with rainfall amounts near 0.4 in. possible.
Thursday Night
nt_rainOvercast with rain. Fog overnight. Low of 72F. Winds from the NNE at 60 to 70 mph. Chance of rain 100% with rainfall amounts near 2.5 in. possible.
rainOvercast with a chance of rain. High of 88F. Winds from the NW at 45 to 55 mph. Chance of rain 50%.
Friday Night
nt_rainOvercast with rain, then a chance of rain after midnight. Low of 75F. Winds from the West at 65 to 70 mph. Chance of rain 60% with rainfall amounts near 0.3 in. possible.
chancerainOvercast with a chance of rain. High of 82F. Winds from the WNW at 50 to 65 mph. Chance of rain 60%.
Saturday Night
nt_chancerainPartly cloudy with a chance of rain. Low of 73F. Winds from the WNW at 35 to 45 mph. Chance of rain 30%.
partlycloudyPartly cloudy in the morning, then clear. High of 81F. Windy. Winds from the NW at 30 to 35 mph.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Our Project List, First Draft

New Bern, NC

Here is the first draft of our boat project list. It is still a work in progress. In fact, since printing the list below, we added new items 53-70. No doubt the list will grow to 100 items before we are done.

This morning I completed #18 and #7. Libby is mostly through with #32, #45, and #70.

Yesterday I ordered materials for #30, the non-skid deck resurfacing. Just the materials cost $300; yikes! Ithink that is the biggest of the projects.

ITEM Who Date Started Date Finished
1 anchor pipe replacement Dick 10/19/10 10/19/10
2 Bowsprit & Boomkin paint Dick

3 Bowsprit nut replace Dick

4 Buy a car Both

5 Buy diesel Jerry can Dick 10/19/10
6 Buy stuffing box nut for the head? Dick

7 cabin table piano hinge Dick

8 Canvas – bimini Libby

9 Canvas – cockpit cushions Libby

10 Canvas – dodger Libby

11 Canvas – Jerry cans Libby

12 Canvas – mainsail cover Libby

13 Canvas – tiller cover Libby

14 Clean & paint engine compartment Dick

15 Clean & wax hull Libby

16 Clevis Pins, furler & monitor Dick

17 Furler line cleat Dick

18 Install speakers Dick

19 Interior paint Libby

20 Interior varnish Libby

21 Inventory & prune tools Dick

22 Inventory spare parts Both

23 Linoleum, galley Dick

24 Monitor rehab? Dick

25 Monitor sell? Dick

26 Mount wiring box in the head Dick

27 new cartridges, life harnesses Dick

28 new horn? Dick

29 New lifelines Dick

30 Non-skid Dick

31 organize nav table stuff Dick

32 Polish stainless Libby 10/17/12
33 Re-bed the turtle Dick

34 Repair caprail & hull Dick

35 Repair or Replace Wash-down Pump Dick

36 Repair radar Dick

37 Rewire VHF-AM/FM Dick

38 Rubbing compound, exterior white Libby

39 Sail – clean & mend jib Dick

40 Sail – clean & mend mainsail Dick

41 Sail – clean staysail Libby

42 Sand & Varnish all exterior Both

43 Sell old transmission Dick

44 Take stuff to Dave's Both

45 Wash exterior teak Libby 10/17/12
46 Washer for new transmission dipstick Dick

47 Whisker Pole Dick

48 Toilet stuffing box nut Dick

49 Offload stuff to Dave's house Dick

50 Buy paint supplies Dick 10/20/12
51 Buy solar panel Dick 10/20/12
52 Install solar panel Dick