Monday, April 30, 2012


Of course I've heard about the problem with ticks in Southern woods.   I thought however that it would be extreme to never take the dog for a walk in the woods.  Dave & Cathy have a great puppy.  His name is CJ and he's lots of fun.   I took him out for a 30 minute walk in the woods yesterday behind Dave's house.

Well, when we returned I started feeling things.  Within 15 minutes I found three ticks on my body.  I shed all my clothes, took a shower, then started the laundry. Then Dave had to get the ticks off the doc.  Geez, I had no idea they were that prevalent.

Picture of the year!!! Go here to have a look, and to read the explanation.

Dave loaned us his car for the week.  We have wheels!!!   On the way back to New Bern today we took advantage of that to do some things that boaters almost never have a chance to do.  First, we visited the Nahunta Pork Center.  Wow.  If you are a pork eater, this is the place to go.  The prices are great as is the quality and the variety is amazing.  Consider every part of the pig's anatomy you can imagine, they have it.  Then, double down on that to include parts and recipes that you never imagined.   We bought several things including some salt pork that we're going to throw into baked beans just like in the old days.

Then, we stopped at a roadside stand to buy some local strawberries.  Our friend Carol from Traumeri said that North Carolina strawberries are the best, so we had to give them a try.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Now North Carolina

Zebulon, North Carolina

Well, we got Sten-Orjan to the airport to catch his plane back to Sweden.   It was a wonderful week having him with us.  Libby and I always enjoy his company.   I think he enjoyed his visit, especially the parts in the salt marshes and out in the open sea.

Now, we're land bound for a couple of days with Dave and Cathy up in Zebulon.

No blogs this weekend.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Neck in The Neuse

The Neuse River
35 01.88 N 076 58.32 W

What a contrast!  After getting rocked and rolled for 24 hours out at sea, last night's anchorage in Adams Creek was perfectly still and silent.   We watched an ISS flyby and saw an Iridium Flare.  The sky was beautiful with a new moon right next to Venus.

Today, we're heading for the New Bern Grand Marina.  I hope to sign up for a month at a slip.   We like New Bern and we like even more the ability to go and visit Dave and Cathy.   Sometime, a few weeks from now, we'll go up on the hard to paint the bottom; probably in Oriental.

Sten-Orjan found this place to relax this morning.  As you can see, my advice to him one month ago to bring clothes for hot weather could not have been more wrong.  Oh well, these Swedes are used to teh cold aren't they?


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Three Intrepid Sailors

At Sea
34 13.78 N 077 10.50 w

My fears proved to be unfounded. The seas were a we uncomfortable leaving Little River, but otherwise, no problem. The winds have been mostly 15-20. Just ideal.

We crossed Frying Pan Shoals last night at 2300. No problem there.

It got cold last night but not as bad as the forecast said. I'm sure it is because of the moderating effect of the ocean waters. With the three of us, we stood two hour watches, and that worked well.

The only real problem has been that the latch that holds one of our pilot berths open broken. That makes us one bunk short at a time when we have one extra crewman. Oh well, we'll manage. There's always something that breaks.

We should arrive at Beaufort this afternoon at peak ebb tide. Too bad, we'll just have to fight it.

All in all, it has been a very nice passage. Good experience I'm sure for Sten-Orjan.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Change in plans

On second thought, the weather looks best if we leave right away. We will go to sea at Little River and head for Beaufort.

We'll be cold but having fun
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The Wacamaw River
33 32.14 N 079 26.04 W

The weather is not cooperating with our desire to go offshore.   Our tentative plan was to go outside tonight at midnight from Little River and head for Cape Fear.   However, the forecast calls for windy, damp and very cold -- 44F (6C).  I'm afraid that would be too bitterly uncomfortable to be out at sea in an open cockpit.  We'll have to find a new plan.   Ironically before coming, Sten-Orjan asked me how to dress.  I said plan for warm to hot. I could not have been more wrong.

I think we're having fun anyhow.  Sten-Orjan got to see the salt marsh Ecology yesterday, and right now we are passing through the Great Pee Dee Swamp, surrounded by cyprus trees.  It is one of those, "Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning" days. It's very beautiful, and, I'm sure, new to a Scandinavian.  

FLASH NEWS:  This morning on the VHF radio, we heard the Coast Guard in Charleston talking to someone who said that a bridge had closed on a sailboat.  Oh no!!! That can be a fatal mistake.  It is a mistake that should never ever happen, but it does.  It seems to happen about once every two years somewhere on the USA East Coast.  There are protocols with bells, whistles, cameras, and numerous other safeguards to prevent that from happening, but I think that the problem is that not all bridges have adopted the full suite of safety protocols.   I think that is scandalous.

If you go to this evening and search for bridge sailboat, you will probably find a more complete account of what happened this morning.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Now We are Three

ICW, North of Charleston
32 48.68 N 079 45.21 W

Sten-Orjan arrived yesterday on schedule.  We have been having a great time catching up on news of old friends.   One thing caught Sten-Orjan's eye quickly was the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier berthed directly across the river.  

Yesterday afternoon we rode the water taxi across the river to visit the Yorktown, and the WWII destroyer berthed next to it.   It was very interesting for us two engineers.   There is nothing in the world quite comparable to a major aircraft carrier.  Alas, the museum did not allow us to go down to the engine room and mechanical parts.

We departed at first light this morning.  Our sailing plan is causing me pangs of doubt and guilt.  Sten-Orjan's interest it to get outside to sail in the open sea.   If I look at the NOAA weather forecasts, it sounds OK today, and every day this week.   However, when I look at the grib files with the weather barbs I see very disturbing patterns with intense local cells of winds more than 30 knots appearing and disappearing.   If that were all, I would say GO.   However, our offshore course to Beaufort, NC takes us past Frying Pan Shoals.  I have deep respect and feelings of caution about Frying Pan Shoals.  We've been beaten up twice out there.  It is the most dangerous section in the whole USA East Coast, and I've vowed never to attempt it again in heavy weather.  I'm spooked.

Therefore, we are on the ICW today and tomorrow.   Monday night or Tuesday morning, we go outside at Little River and head for Cape Fear.   We'll go inside up the Cape Fear River to Wrightsville Beach, and outside again there, for the final 80 miles to Beaufort.  

Every time I think about it, my conclusion flips. On even thoughts, it seems prudent to keep this plan, on odd thoughts it seems unnecessarily cautious.  We should just get out there and go.  Tarwathie can handle anything the weather is likely to bring.  If it were anyplace at all except Frying Pan Shoals, I would say go outside.

The bad thing about that plan is that time may be short.  Sten-Orjan's plane leaves from Raleigh Friday at noon.  That means we need to .get to a place by Thursday night to meet up with a car.  We could rent a car, but David has offered to drive down Friday and pick us up.  We would like to spend the weekend with Dave, which means that we need a safe place to leave the boat.  The Hilton at New Bern would be ideal.   Whether or not we can make it there by Thursday is tight.

On the good side, today Sten-Orjan will get to see the lovely salt marshes between here and the Wacamaw River.  I don't think he has ever seen salt marshes before.  Tomorrow, we pass through the cyprus swamps on the river which have their own unique beauty.

Sten-Orjan in the Captain's Chair on the Bridge of The Yorktown.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Charleston Maritime Center

Charleston, SC
32 47.35 N 079 55.46 W

We are in Chareston for two days to meet Sten-Orjan. The Charleston Maritime Center where we are docked, is a cool place. Our boat neighbors include a huge RORO ship, the schooner Spirit of South Carolina, and the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown.

Panorama from the marina

Watch the video, see the RORO ship leaving. RORO stands for roll-on roll=off.  RORO ships deliver new cars overseas.  This one is carrying BMW cars to Germany that were made in the USA.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Khan Academy

Stono River Near Charleston, SC
32 45.51 N 080 00.55 W

My friend Walt tipped my off about  It is a site where this man, Sal Khan , posted more than 3000 ten minute videos about school subjects.  Need to learn calculus?  Go there.  Economics? Humanities?  You name it, he has it.  It is a brilliant and wonderful idea.   Part of the secret he stumbled upon is that 10 minutes at a time is about what most people are able to concentrate and learn.  If schools could practically arrange lectures in 10 minute chunks, they would be more effective.

I watched one of the videos out of curiosity.  It was really good.  That whetted my appetite. What study program could I take?   I already have most of what is on his list.  One subject stood out -- chemistry.  In college I generally had good marks but I only managed a D in freshman chemistry.  It almost flunked me out because of it.  I worked hard at it, but I just didn't get it.

Now I've watched nearly 100 Khan videos on chemistry.  Not only do I get it now, but I also discovered why I failed so badly in college chemistry.  Somehow, in college I never understood the mole or Avogadro's number.  I knew what they were, but not what they were used for.  No wonder I did poorly. I was lucky to get a D rather than a F.  Those are very fundamental and important things, used in countless ways in chemistry.  Thank you Sol Khan .

Maybe you might enjoy learning or re-learning some basic stuff.  Try  It's free. Also recommend it to your friends or relatives.  Kids having trouble with a particular point in school, can go there and find the specific video on their trouble topic.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Beaufort Beauty

Beaufort, SC
32 25.84 N 080 40.30 W

Walking the streets of the old neighborhoods in Beaufort is delightful. Rather than post an album of dozens of photos of the lovely antebellum houses, below are four shots of one particularly charming house.

The Spanish moss on the live oak trees is wonderful.
Strictly speaking, brick houses are not Antebellum, but it fits anyhow.
Note even the sleepy cocker spaniel napping by the front door.

Even in the back yard is this perfect little girl's play house under the live oak tree.

This picture is not Beaufort, but rather Labelle, Florida. Nevertheless, it illustrates Southern sensibilities very well. In the Northeast this is called a speed bump. In Sweden it is called a fart hinder (no kidding, the literal translation is "speed hindrance"). Both of those are too direct for southern sensibilities. Traffic Calming Area is just indirect enough to suit the locals.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Photo Blogerism

Beaufort, SC
32 25.84 N 080 40.30 W

Are we about to be run over by that super sized auto carrier ship? No.  If you look carefully, you can see the ship is not moving.  It is anchored out in the open sea.  Around here the continental shelf extends out 100-200 miles so the water is only 30-100 feet deep.  The ship was waiting to go up to Brunswick, GA. Look closely again.  The bridge is visible way up in the bow.  On most ships, it is near the stern and much higher to provide visibility forward.  I guess some engineer figured out that causes wind drag and wastes fuel.  On these RO-RO car carriers, nothing happens up on the top deck so there is no need for the bridge to overlook the deck.  I wonder though about the wind forces in a severe cross wind.

This is part of our escort corps.  Four frisky dolphins followed us for nearly an hour, much to our delight.  It would have been nice to have them jump and flip for us, but we would need to carry fish to feed them to entice that.

Bacci Ball in the afternoon on the lawn at the waterfront park in Beaufort, SC.  It is wonderfully symbolic of the laid back life style here.

I'm so proud of myself for inventing this new way to tie off our dinghy.  It works very well.  I use a four foot line to tie the dinghy's stern to Tarwathie's stern, and a twenty foot painter from the dinghy's bow to midship.  The lengths of those lines are carefully adjusted until the dinghy sits at an angle of 30 degrees relative to Tarwathie with both lines taught.  That way, she rides out there on port tack all day and all night in wind and current never making contact with Tarwathie's hull.  Works in all conditions except gales and dead calm.  In gales the solution is to bring the dinghy up on deck.  

You can also see our fender step, used to climb on board from the dinghy.  That works better than any boarding ladder and doubles as an actual fender.  Fenderstep is manufactured in Denmark.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Southern Comfort

Beaufort, SC
32 25.84 N 080 40.30 W

To me, no coastal city carries more suggestion of the old south than Beaufort.  Maybe it is the thick accent of the natives.  Maybe it is the beautiful antebellum architecture of the homes.  Maybe it is the laid back attitude.  Whatever; it works.  

There's not much to do in Beaufort than to relax and look around.  That's exactly what we're doing.

The whole island here was inundated by a hurricane and swept clean in 18xx.  What a shame.  It makes me wonder what the architecture would look like if that hadn't happened.

By the way, we heard that the anchoring ordinance in Stuart/Martin County Florida was rejected by FWC!  Hooray!!! That, plus the developments in Marathon are certainly victories for boaters.  

One of the remaining sore spots about Marathon is the $22 daily rate for boats anchored out to use the dinghy dock.  I know of no place that's higher.  More typical is Beaufort.  Here, the dinghy dock is free, and the fee for use of City Marina's excellent and clean shower rooms is only $1.  

We'll stay here until Thursday morning, then head up closer to Charleston.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hove To

At Sea
32 02.00 N 080 34.46 W
We had a very nice day at sea. Warm,gentle and fast. So fast in fact that we got here too early.

Right now we are 3 mines from the entrance to Port Royal Sound, which leads to Beaufort, SC. However, we got here around 0400, just when the tide turned against us. Rather than fight the ebb tide, we elected to just wait out here until the flood tide begins around 1100.

We're hove to. Something we have little practice with. However, it's not much of a lesson because the wind and waves are almost nil. It hardly matters if the sails are up or not. That means, we won't get much practice at the art of heaving to.

3 miles away is that parking lot in the ocean where the ships anchor to wait for the Savannah River pilots. The first time we passed that years ago we were bewildered. We couldn't understand why all those ships were sitting still in one place. Sometimes there are 8-10 ships there, last night there were only four. It's kind of spooky. In any case, the AIS gave us welcome confirmation that those ships were indeed sitting still.

Yesterday afternoon we had a special treat. A pod of four frisky dolphins swam with us for nearly an hour. We had great fun watching them from the bow. Each of them had a bit of seaweed growing from the tip of their dorsal fins. It must br irritating and it must slow them down. We wished that we could jump in an help groom them.

Dolphins are amazing. They seem to glide through the water with hardly any perceptible motion. Of course they must flip their tails to make themselves go, but the motion is so slight that it's hard to see at all.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Cumberland Island
30 45.98 N 081 28.38 W

Despite what I said earlier, we did get both Saint Augustine and Cumberland Island stopovers. Hooray.

Yesterday we walked the trails and beaches on Cumberland Island. What food for the soul.  For us, it is as soothing as our beloved Valcour Island.

Cumberland Island is a true paradise.  I recommend it to anyone, cruiser or not, to visit this place.  If you do not have your own boat, you can get a ferry to Cumberland at Saint Mary's Georgia.  The best part of the island is toward the northern end.  Unfortunately, it always seems inconvenient to go there as compared to the southern end.  Too bad.

What will you see on Cumberland?  Forests of live oak and palmetto.  Wonderful trials.  Spectacular barrier dunes and a world class beach with about 1/2 mile beach front per person.   You may see wild horses, armadillos, alligators and black snakes.  Bird songs abound.

Today we go to sea, no more waiting.  It seems like a wonderful 5-day long window.  However, we only need one day to get to Beaufort, SC.  We'll waste time there and arrive in Charleston on Friday.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ten Commandments For Sailing Cruisers

Sisters Creek
30 2664 N 081 27.00 W

There are so many custom versions of Ten Commandments lists, that I though I would try one myself.  Some of these are specific to sail boats.
  1. Thou shalt have fun and remain safe.

  2. Thou shalt square off thy turns.

  3. Thou shall consult charts to interpret red/green markers.

  4. Thou shall not approach bridges at an angle.

  5. Honor thy wind and currents.  Never approach a wall or a dock or a mooring except with bow to the wind and current.  If winds and currents are strong and opposed, consider abandoning the plan.

  6. Entering thy slip requires slowing below steerage. Faith and a stout heart are required.

  7. Thou shall not enter a dead end with wind or current behind thee.

  8. Anchoring on a lee shore or in more than 50 feet of water in the open sea shall be regretted for all of thine life.

  9. Thine bow is a false God.  He who trusts that his vessel travels in the direction the bow points is a fool.

  10. Cruising boats are heavy.  He who attempts to stop a vessel at the dock with thine limbs shall become limbless for the rest of his life.

  • Square turns:  See the diagram on the right.  As approaching a side channel, the eye sees one green on the left and another green more to the left.  Cutting the corner and going directly from one green to the next puts you aground in the brown area.   In channels, and in and around obstacles, pretend that you're a soldier doing close order drill and square all your turns sharply.

  • Charts versus markers: What can be easier; stay between the red and the green. Red right returning. (The dreaded red-green marker aside). It's not that simple. Sometimes the red/green markers you see belong to quite another channel than the one you're navigating. Number series stop/start.  Your channel may join another channel for a while, then depart.  Only the chart can clarify for you. Sometimes, the channel has more twists and turns than the markers indicate. It is wrong to assume that you can navigate a straight line from one marker to the next. The markers are normally more accurate than any chart, but interpretation of the markers needs consultation with charts.  See the figures at the end of this blog post.
  • Every year on the Hudson River, we are in the company of Great Lakes Skippers fresh out of the Erie Canal.  They have worthy vessels, and most are highly experienced.  However, they are not experienced with tides and tidal currents, and that gets them into trouble.

    It is the side current that pushes you sideways that fools you.  If the side current is one knot and you are traveling at 6 knots, you may not notice.  But when you slow down to come into a dock, your speed slows to less than the current, and suddenly your track is more than 45 degrees different than the way your bow points.  Also, tidal currents can and do reverse, and swirl, sometimes abruptly.  Ay ay ay.   You must, learn to sense the actual direction your boat is moving, as distinct from the way it is pointing.
  • Bridges:  Entering, exiting, and underneath bridges you may find unexpected puffs of wind and swirls of currents.  You or other boats may also be partially blind as to approaching boats.  Always approach at a 90 degree angle, with all sails down, and moving fast enough to have good steerage.  Be ultra alert and prepared to take drastic corrective actions if needed.   Ditto, when exiting a lock.

    Never overtake other vessels under a bridge, and if possible avoid meeting oncoming vessels under a bridge.

  • Dead Ends: Suppose you need to drive down an dead end alley in a marina and make a right or left turn into a slip.  (See the diagram) If your sailboat has a fin keel and a spade rudder, it can turn on a dime.  Drive down at what seems breakneck speed, turn into the slip and hit emergency reverse to stop.  Such a maneuver needs a stout heart.  Timidity and hesitation will lead to disaster.  If you do it right, your success will be breathtakingly spectacular.  If you fail, the result can be disastrous.  If you hesitate or chicken out, the result can be even more  disastrous.

    Full keel boats with skeg rudders do not turn on a dime, they turn on the radius of a dinner plate in comparison.  To make a right angle turn in a tight space on such a vessel requires repeated alternate application of forward and reverse power at near zero speed. That takes time.  Meanwhile, the wind and current are doing what they will.   If the winds or current are strong, the maneuver may not be possible at all.

    With either kind of sailboat, if the wind and/or current is behind you in a dead end, things become much more dangerous.  You may need to apply reverse power to slow down when driving down the alley which means you lose steering control.  I saw a 50 foot sailboat do that with a 25 knot tail wind in a marina in Kingston, Ontario.  He succeeded spectacularly, but my reaction and that of the marina staff was, "What a fool he was for trying."  In my boat, I wouldn't even think about doing that.

    If I was forced to proceed with wind or current into the dead end,  I would back down the alley, bow to the wind/current and using forward power to slow the boat and (hopefully) maintain steerage.  At the slip, throw lines to helpers on shore, and let them warp you into the slip.  Before the turn you can always change your mind and power your way back out.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What We're Missing, What We're Getting

Saint Augustine, Florida

Urban life, country life.  Which is better?  There is no answer to that question.  It's a never ending tug between one an the other.   Although both have advantages, Libby and I lean toward the country side.  As a great example, look at the wonderful sunset we saw at anchor far away from other people in Florida Bay.


On the other hand, we're having fun in Saint Augustine.  Few cities offer more variety and more interesting history than Saint Augustine.  Walking in the narrow alleys looking at the old houses is great fun.  Watching the tourist is fun, and there are lots of them to watch.

Tonight we're having dinner with our friends Crhis and June from Albion, who spent the winter here, and with Karl & Laura from Ekotopia who we've been traveling with since Vero.
What are we giving up to be here?  Well, we could be spending today on Cumberland Island.  That island, like Valcour Island on Champlain, is food for the soul.  

Why can't we do both?  Because we wasted so much time getting here.  We have places we want to be in the coming two months, so we have to choose a subset of all the things we want to do.  Life is hard on cruisers, isn't it?

Tomorrow, maybe Saturday, we'll go out to sea and head for Beaufort. If that works, we'll be in fine shape to meet Sten-Örjan  on the 21st.

post script:  I just had an exquisitely delicious croissant in the Hot Shot Bakery in downtown Saint Augustine.  It was worth a two day wait.  That's something you can't find in rural settings.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cruiser Signs

Saint Augustine
23 53.19 N 081 18.20 W

I just learned about something very cool.  Something that I never suspected before.  Hobos have a system of signs, actually glyphs, that they use to signal other hobos about this place.  Obviously they are designed so that nobody except hobos understands them.

I think it would be marvelous to develop a similar set of signs for cruising boaters.  We have the same motivations and the same needs as hobos.  (Although I hope the comparison ends there.)

Of course, we might need to be a little creative on where we put the signs.  We can't write on the surface of the water.  We might write on day marker pilings, but we usually don't get close enough to those things to be able to study the glyphs.

If you have suggestions, for cruiser signs.  What signs?  Where to put them?  Let me know.  We could make this a collaborative effort.

Hobo or tramp markings at Algiers entrance to Canal Street Ferry across Mississippi River, New Orleans

Below are some sample signs from "Hobo Signs by Stan Richards & Associates"  You dan find a much larger hobo sign dictionary here

Here's a suggestion for my first cruiser code. It means, bathroom code 1-2-2-1

p.s. We'll be staying in Saint Augistine for two days, hiding out from northerly winds.  After that we may go outside and make a run for Beaufort, SC.  If so, we'll miss Fernandina on this trip.  Sorry.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Lumberjack

En Route, ICW near Flagler Beach
29 28.81 N 081 08.09 W

Last summer, our daughter Jenny took a tree cutting course. You see her in the picture below. Now, beside her many other talents, she can rightfully claim to be a lumberjack.  She doesn't look anything at all like the other lumberjacks I've seen.

Jenny is also learning several other new skills and also learning about muscles she never knew about but which ache, in her newest project. Jenny and her friend Christian bought an unused library building from the City of Winooski. They are converting it to a single family dwelling. Their target finish date is this summer. It's a cool project and it is attracting attention in Vermont. It not only recycles something beloved, but they are making it a green building too. That sits well with Burlington area locals.

Have a look at Jenny's web site here  Sift through the history of the project.  It's fun an interesting.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Frustration and Uncertainty

En Route, ICW
28 44.00 N 080 53.22 W

Yesterday we met our friends Dave and Johnnie at Cocoa Rockledge.  Our intention was to have a cool drink.  However, I forgot  that it was Easter Sunday.   The only place in town that wasn't closed turned out to be a gay bar.  Whoops.  We didn't stay long in that place -- about 3 seconds.   No worry, after a short search we found an ice cream stand.

We were planning on meeting them closer to their house near the Eau Gallie bridge.  But that would have meant a wait of several hours.   I thought we were stuck until Libby suggested moving the starting place.  It is a common error we make all the time.  To us, the 15 miles difference between Eau Gallie and Cocoa means three hours travel.  However, to those coming by car, the difference in driving time is trivial.

We told Dave and Johnnie that we would be going out to sea this morning.  That was our plan. We would leave from Port Canaveral.   Alas, this morning brought an unfavorable weather forecast for that.  We're stuck on the ICW for several more days.

Regular readers know that we sing this song almost every year.  We want so badly to go on the outside (to sea) but the weather keeps us on the ICW.  We could wait for better weather, but there's no telling how long that might be.  We need to be in Charleston in 12 days, so we have only finite time to waste.  Such is the life of a cruising sailor.  Given ideal weather, we could be in Charleston in 36 hours, but given adverse weather we have to rush to get there in 12 days.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

A Rapidly Changing World

En Route ICW
27 43.72 NB 080 23.73 W

  1. I tried to give away a HP printer/scanner/copier that we had on board. We've had it for 7 years but the last time we used it was 1-2 years ago. It takes more room than it's worth. Surprise, I couldn't give it away. Nobody in our family wants it. Nobody around the marina wanted a free printer. I had to leave it on the heap of FREE stuff.

  2. I left two big bags full of books at the cruiser's book exchange. One title, "In the Plex" was a very recent one about Google. I thought my friend Steve would like that. Steve turned it down flat because it was printed on paper. He said, "I only read electronic books now."

  3. In Sweden, libraries are rapidly closing their doors because the citizenry prefers to read books electronically. I expected the eventual demise of books on paper, but not so rapidly.

  4. Also from Sweden, the national phone company is abandoning land-line telephone service because almost everyone has cell phones. They are scrambling to take down telephone wires and in some cases the poles too because they cost money to maintain. The few people who still rely on land lines were told to switch. For the tiny minority that live out of range of cell phone signals, they are told, "tough.

    Lest you think it is only Sweden,  read on.  It is about to happen in the USA too according to the Reuters report here.  It said, "AT&T and Verizon, the dominant telephone companies, want to end their 99-year-old universal service obligation known as "provider of last resort."They say universal land line service is a costly and unfair anachronism that is no longer justified because of a competitive market for voice services."

  5. Yet another from Sweden. The famed cradle-to-grave universal health care system in Sweden is crumbling. The reason seems to be greed. Health care workers in Sweden had to be government employees earning a public servant's wages. The doctors saw how much doctors here in the USA earn and many of them decided to bail out. They are leaving the country or they are starting private practices in Sweden that compete with the free government health care system. Government hospitals there are closing their doors for lack of patients. The quality of public care has become so poor that many Swedes are willing to pay out of pocket for private care. Budgets are so cramped that even in Stockholm, the capital city with 2 million people, they can only afford two ambulances and crews some times during the week.

  6. My cell phone just got a call from a political pollster for the first time ever. I thought that was illegal.
All during my engineering career, I thrived on change.  Indeed, I was always an agent of change.  It set me apart from other engineers and it made me valuable.  Now after retirement,  I think we are happier on the boat.  I believe that cruiser's lives change less rapidly than the average.  At this stage in life, that suits us fine.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Time To Eat Crow

Vero Beach
27 39.63 N 080 22.26 W

I'm amazed. I'll have to put my political cynicism and mistrust of government aside for a moment. I read the following today on Facebook. It is a victory for we boaters. It is the opposite of what I expected.

Richard Bolton wrote: City responds to Harbor request to review marina fees, and comments on proposed Pilot program anchoring regulations:
 The City Manager met this past Wednesday morning with several of us from the harbor to give us feedback after last week's general meeting at the city marina concerning rates. He proposes the following action he is willing to recommend to the City Council for their approval: 
1) Rescind the 32' minimum length requirement at the seawall.
2) Provide a "coupon" option to buy 5 dinghy dock passes for $90, a saving of $4 over the daily rate of $22.
3) Provide a $15/month discount for long term customers in the May-Oct months.
Feedback is appreciated, through Facebook here, on the Cruiser Net or email. He is available to discuss issues as they arise, email or phone.

Customers can try to convince the City Council to pass alternate rates but this is what he is backing.
 In other discussion the idea of having a reservation system for moorings has been tried and was not successful here. Also the marina fees are effective computed solely according to statistical usage numbers divided into the operating budget. That is, there is no attempt to create higher off-season demand for mooring ball occupancy through lower rates.
 The proposed no-anchoring zone in Boot Key Harbor will NOT happen as originally included in the County ordinances. Instead a "managed anchoring" surrounded by a 50' no-anchoring zone will be established. As currently defined, "managed anchoring" means having a current Coast Guard Auxiliary inspection and pump-out receipt. A warning is given prior to a citation.
To the extent that I and others are correct that Marathon is the leader and the rest of Florida follows, this is an important and glad result.

Kudos to the boating activists in Boot Key Harbor who made this happen.

Friday, April 06, 2012

How Did They Do It?

Vero Beach
27 39.63 N 080 22.26 W

A Westsail 32 is a marvelous boat, capable of taking us all the way around the world and dealing with nature's worst.   Still however there are places we shouldn't go.  The Mississippi River is one such place.  Here's a news item.

Part of Mississippi River closed after barge sinksPosted: Thursday, August 4, 2011 12:51 pmThe Coast Guard says a section of the Mississippi River in north Louisiana has been closed after 35 barges pushed by a towboat broke free and one sank in the river channel.

We also heard from another cruiser last week that a DeFever 41 abruptly flipped and sank in the Mississippi.  A  DeFever is a very sound, very capable power cruiser, like the one owned by Ted and Nancy.  The cruiser said it wasn't a wake that flipped the boat but rather a surge and whirlpool formed at the confluence of The Mississippi and some other major river.

It makes me wonder how the first settlers managed to navigate up the river with pole boats. Jeez.

p.s. We got suckered once again by NOAA weather.  We were going to leave today, but the NOAA local forecast said severe thunderstorms.  I changed my mind about leaving, but the storms never appeared.  Grrrr.  We haven't even seen a threatening cloud.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A New Life Lesson

Vero Beach
27 39.63 N  080 22.26 W

Once one reaches senior status, it is presumed that he/she has learned most of life's lessons.  Not true.  Yesterday I learned a new one.  Read on.

Never, ever, fall asleep with your mouth full of cheese doodles.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Familiar Ground

En Route
27 35.04 N 080 21.25 W

The stretch of ICW between Fort Pierce and Vero Beach is the one we are most familiar with. We have traversed it so many times. Today we are doing it northward to Vero. In a few days, we may do it again southward heading out to sea.

Our plan is to pick up a crew man in Charleston on the 21st. All cruisers know that is the most difficult of all maneuvers. We must travel to a specific location on a specific day. We don't want to be late our early.

Anyhow, we will make a short stop in Vero. We are looking for a window to go out to sea from Fort Pierce or Cape Canaveral.

We just missed Walt & Pat on Wings. They were here 2 days ago, returning from the Bahamas.

Vero id in sight as I type. VERY familiar ground.
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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Pilot Chart Admiration

Stuart Florida
N 27 12.86 W 080 15.46

I've been reading a biography of Thomas Edison (more on that at a future date).  One thing that stands out from the book is the skill and ingenuity that practitioners of earlier centuries.   An outstanding example of that is the oceanic pilot chart.   I'll try to explain this highly technical subject in words that ordinary people can understand and appreciate.

Below is a pilot chart of the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico for the month of April. Such charts are published for each month for every ocean (Download them free here).   The data on the charts have been gathered mostly by mariners keeping century after century of detailed ship's log entries.  It was a monumental effort.

The close up below shows a familiar area, Southern Florida and the Keys.

The principle data on the chart shown are the wind roses. For example, the wind rose near Key West means that the average wind is North at force 4 15% of the time, NE at 4 22% of the time, E at 4 35% of the time, SE 4 15%, S 3 5%, SW 3 4%, W 4 5% and calm 3%.  Wind speeds are on the Beaufort Scale.  In mathematical terms, this is a probability distribution in two axes.  However, presentation in this form means that non-mathematical people can read it, understand it and make good use of the data.  Edward Tufte, author of the classic book The Visual Display of Quantitative Information would be proud of what they did.  Note that people like us who spent months in Boot Key Harbor are well familiar with that pattern of winds.

Much has been said in recent years about climate versus weather in the context of global warming debates.  In this case, there is no ambiguity.  The data on the pilot charts shows climate, not weather.  It is long term averages, valid over decades and even centuries.

Sailors who plan ocean passages find weather forecasts useless.  At best, the weather forecast might tell what it might be like in the first 4 days of a 60 day voyage.  For the other 56 days, the sailor depends on climate data, not weather.

In addition to wind, the pilot charts give other highly relevant information.  Current roses, temperatures, the frequency of gales, predominant size and direction of waves, and so on. For example, the green line near the Florida Keys shows the location and average speed of the Gulf Stream.  Passage planners need to factor all that information into their plans.

Compare this with the animated view of ocean currents I posted recently here. Modern sattelites gather the data in a form that computers can use, and the rest of us admire as art.  The ancients however did an excellent job of gathering the data by hand and presenting it in a way that a navigator on a sailing ship could use in his cabin.

Of course, this is the modern age.  Instead of a big chest full of rolled up pilot charts, we use computers nowadays.  I have a PC app, called Visual Passage Planner, that incorporates all the pilot chart data.  In addition, I describe Tarwathie's sailing characteristics, and our preferences on the speed versus comfort scale.  Then we can ask the program, "To go from A to B in the month of April, what is the optimum route?"  It gives the answers readily.  The picture below shows some results from this program; a route from Cape Canaveral to Charleston, SC, and one from Cape Canaveral to Beaufort, NC.  In the first route it recommends hugging the coats.  In the second it is telling me to sail out to the center of the Gulf Stream.  Those are based on both wind and current climate data.  Cool.

Of course, it is overkill for Tarwathie because we do mostly coastal sailing.  We can listen to weather forecasts and we can modify our plans according to weather forecasts.  It is entirely foreseeable that the next generation of GPS chart plotters will incorporate the pilot chart data and downloaded weather data, and even ship traffic data and give us continuously updated suggested optimal routes. That may be amazing, but I think that the labors of the pre-computer mariners was much more impressive.

I think that the ideas represented by oceanic pilot charts, and the skill of their execution are superb examples of good engineering, and good seamanship.  My hat goes off to those who contributed to them.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Marvelous Complexity

Stuart Florida
N 27 12.86 W 080 15.46

I love this video called Perpetual Ocean.  Watch the whole thing and you'll see the entire globe.

Note in particular the Gulf Stream near the Southeast US. It plays a major role in our lives.

Marvel at the complexities of the currents and swirls.  Now think about the ancient mariners at the time of world exploration.  They knew by experience about many of these currents.  However they did not have pictures to convey the information.   Instead they had journals and "cheat sheets" which using words only gave advice on which way to route their voyages.   No wonder their trade was so difficult, and no wonder that the best navigators were revered an their knowledge was thought of as mysterious and incomprehensible.

I'm working on a blog post about "pilot charts" Those are maps that condense that historical knowledge of winds and currents in a form that can be used to plan voyages.  They are marvels of pre-computer technology at its best.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Hoaxer and Hoaxee

Stuart Florida
N 27 12.86 W 080 15.46

In case you haven't figured it out, our previous post "What Do We Do Next?" was an April Fools day hoax.

All day long Libby and I continued getting comments, texts, emails, and phone calls. We fooled many but not all readers. Loren was the first to call it as April Fools. Still, it made our day. Libby and chuckled the whole day long.

But wait! I may also be the innocent victim of another more insidious April Fool hoax. In the afternoon I went up on deck toward my hammock and I saw something horrifying. See it in the picture below?

It is a cotter pin.  It is laying right at the base of the mast.  Oh no!  That could be disastrous causing us to loose the mast out at sea?  That is a deadly serious fault.  I called on Darrick from Y-knot to come over.  He and Libby hoisted me to the top of the mast where I inspected everything.  I checked, double checked and triple checked; no cotter pins are missing.

After the fact I thought it through more carefully. That pin on deck is made of stainless steel. It has been years since we switched to brass cotter pins.  We haven't used stainless steel pins for a very long time and I don't think any are on board.  I should have thought of that before going aloft.  

So, where did it come from?  It occurs to me that it is still April Fools day and that pin could be a perfect hoax.  Someone (Darrick denies it was him) could have come past in their dinghy and simply tossed that pin onto my deck, knowing how I would react when I found it.  The pin was not in factory new condition, but it did not look used.  If that person or persons never come forward, I'll never know for sure.  Got me!

By the way, our little manatee story started out to be an April Fools joke rather than a hoax.  What's the difference?   Well, at the last moment before posting, I decided to strike the last sentence in the "What Do We Do Now" post.  It said:
All this noise; Wah wah from the baby, roar roar of the gator, slap slap of the oars, screech screech of the gulls, swish swish of the boat hook, and the boat people clapped all around all around, the boat people clapped all around.

What Do We Do Now?

Stuart Florida
N 27 12.86 W 080 15.46

Things have been chaotic around here this morning. We don't know what to do next. Here's the story.

Around 7:30 this morning we heard a noise and looked outside. There was a baby manatee in our dinghy? What the heck? I called Libby up on deck. As we were looking, the reason for this unprecedented occurrence became clear. A big hungry alligator, maybe 12 feet long, was circling around and trying to grab the baby. We think the baby jumped into the boat to escape. There's also blood in the dinghy.

OMG!!! We had to think quick. What to do? We thought about trying to lift the baby up onto Tarwathie. Nah. Too heavy. Even a baby manatee weighs several hundred pounds. We could hoist it up with a block and tackle, but without a proper harness we would injure the baby.

As we watched, the baby seemed to become more distressed. It made crying noises. We theorized that it was drying out in the sun and maybe dying. Quick, we grabbed our buckets and started pouring bucket after bucket of water into the dinghy. Soon we had it swamped. The dinghy's gunwales were under water, so fresh salt water could circulate and keep the baby healthy. The dingy didn't capsize because we had it tied up. That way it formed a protective cage, keeping the gator away from the baby, but the gator could easily tip it over.

But we still have no real solution to the problem. We called animal rescue at FWC, the Florida Wildlife Commission. Their answering machine said 8-5 Monday-Friday. No help. We called the US Coast Guard. They won't help either unless it is a person in danger.

The alligator hadn't gone away. It swam around and every once in a while it poked the dinghy with its nose. He must be desperately hungry. The alligator also gave its throaty roaring sound, perhaps to frighten the baby manatee. The baby's mother was nowhere in sight.

Now, we have more help. We got on the VHF radio and announced the predicament to the whole harbor here in Stuart. Soon a half dozen others came in their dinghies to help. Right now they are circling Tarwathie and slapping their oars on the surface, trying to keep the gator away. I'm worried about the boaters in the inflatable dinghies. One gator bite and they sink, dumping the people in the water.

As captain of this vessel, I decided that the best thing for me to do is to go below to write a blog post. If you have a constructive suggestion, please post it as a comment immediately. We may not have time to reply, but we'll read the comments in real time as they come.