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.