Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Banner Elk, NC

Well, we saw some fantastic sights today, we made it into Tennesee, but we blew the camping and tonight we are in a motel back in North Carolina. Here's the story.

Our plan for the day was to drive NW to the Blue Ridge Highway, then south to Indian Banner Camp near the Smokey Mountains. We found neat secondary roads where we could drive 45 mph without bothering anyone, and to see the small towns. We made t to the mountains, and up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it was 1500 before we got there. Late. We decided to stay in Blowing Rock Campground instead.

Blowing Rock Campground was closed. Oh we'll, we headed south. The scenery and the parkway were very beautiful.

Soon we figured that we would arrive too late at Indian Boundary, so we sought an intermediate spot. Then we came to a sign, Parkway Closed Detour. Uh oh. We got off at Spruce Pine, 50 miles south of Blowing Rock. Libby located Roan Mountain State Park as a compromise campground, but it was an hour away and now it was 1630. We saw a sign for Spruce Pine Campground, and we turned but we couldn't find it. Later we saw a sign for Shining Water Campground, and we went there. Alas, we arrived at 1705 and their office closed at 1700. Onward.

Roan Mountain turned out to be a real mountain. I got worried going up this long long mountain road because the car was sucking gas and we had only 3/8 of a tank left, and it seemed many miles to a gas station. Eventually we hit the summit at 5500 feet (hooray, that's the height of Mount Mansfield. It has been 15 years since Libby has been that high, and 3 years for me.).

Eventually, after 1800 we arrived at Roan Mountain State Park. Then, shock and horror, a big sign said self contained camping only, no tenting allowed. Oh no, it was much too let to look for a 6th camp sight today. We surrendered, and no we are in a motel. We traveled 50 miles south on the parkway then we had to backtrack 55 miles north again to find this motel. Our grade for navigation and planning F.

Chalk it up to inexperience as campers. We will ha ego learn to do better. We may even have to pick tomorrow's site in the morning and phone ahead to check availability, That is counter to our cruising style, but we may have to live with it. Finding campgrounds is not as easy as finding anchorages or finding motels.

We are not whining. A benefit of our wanderings is that we saw mountain roads and mountain communities that are far more dramatic than anything in New York or Vermont.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Deja Vu

Zebulon, NC

Our chores and prep work on the boat are complete. We're waiting to hear if the haul out can occur Tuesday. If not, we're going to abandon the hope of being there for the haul out and depart on our trip.

Meanwhile, we're staying with Dave and Cathy near Raleigh. I'm also handling some mailings for the Westsail Owner's Association. This morning Libby and I were both involved with the printing, collating, envelope addressing and stuffing chores. It hit me with a deja vu moment. What set me off (as I collated) was the realization that my grandchildren would probably not recognize the word collate or even understand the concept.
collate (kə-lātˈ, kŏlˈātˌ, kōˈlātˌ) 
v. To examine and compare carefully in order to note points of disagreement.
v. To assemble in proper numerical or logical sequence.
v. Printing To examine (gathered sheets) in order to arrange them in proper sequence before binding.
Years ago I worked at PTI, a thriving engineering consulting firm. Firms like that do studies, and to complete the study they write reports. They also write and publish numerous scientific papers. Therefore, a large important part of the operation had to do with paper handling. Typing, proofing, printing, copying, collating, sorting, packaging and shipping paper consumed lots of our resources. We needed one secretary per 4-5 engineers to keep up with the load.

Going further back to the 60s, I recall reports typed by hand, mistakes fixed with an eraser, and copies made by carbon paper or by mimeograph. The quantity of paper work then was similarly high but the quality was much lower.

Even further back I remember working with IBM collating/sorting machines.  IBM became rich and famous making collating machines.  Also, how people of the 60s and 70s saw these machines featured in countless movies and TV shows.  Remember the card with the computer's answer popping out in the hopper of the sorter? Now, the meaning of the word is nearly forgotten.


Today, all that is so unnecessary. Even with the Westsail Owners Association, the vast majority of our members receive their materials online. I suppose that some businesses, such as courts, deal with lots of paper, but most things today are done electronically.  My oh my, how profound and rapid the changes are.  Has there ever been a generation seeing such rapid changes.  After all my ancestors were millers, their grandchildren  understood mills.   Coopers had grandchildren who still understood barrels.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pity The Nomads

Minnesott Beach, NC


As the day of departure nears we are experiencing a few butterflies.

Libby was talking as if we could drive to New Mexico, then drive back to check on the boat. Then drive to Arizona, then drive back to check on the boat. Then drive to California, then drive back to check on the boat. ... This boat is not a toy, it is our home. We are entrusting it to strangers and hurricane season. Luckily, our friend Jeff offered to stop by and check on Tarwathie from time to time.

Yesterday I realized that we will be cut off from buying anything online. We won't have a mailing address to send to. We could send stuff to Mary Ann, but our visit to her is weeks away. UPS and FEDEX will not deliver to a general delivery address. Besides, we don't know what cities or even which states we will visit.

I've written before about the plight of nomads in the modern world. By that I mean people who have no street address. People like ourselves may have difficulty meeting the requirements to prove residency in any state at all. Meanwhile, the machinery of commerce and government become more intolerant of that state every day. Next up, Obamacare. Anything and everything having to do with that is intimately tied to your state of residence.

Cruisers aren't the only people with that problem. There are homeless people. Then there are gypsies, and migrant workers. In today's net enabled world, even professional people are able to work with no fixed base, but they can't become full fledged nomads without a permanent residence because of the bureaucracy. Hobos also come to mind although I don't see many of them left. No doubt there are other kinds of nomads I haven't thought of.

It came as a shock when I realized we will be cut off from e-commerce. We will still have my phone for email and blogging, but no commerce. A news story the other day said the following, "eventually all brick and mortar retailers will have to deal with the fact that their online competitors have a huge cost advantage. Brick and mortar stores are on the way out." I can safely say that we will be long dead and buried before the last brick and mortar store disappears, but still the plight of nomads get worse year by year.

The homeless at least have advocates. Somehow I think that he'll will freeze over before nomads have advocates or champions.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Chemicals Galore

Zebulon, NC

 Some rainy days coming up, so Libby and I took the opportunity to spend some time with Dave. We also brought a load of stuff that we don't want to keep on board Tarwathie over the summer. Foremost in that category are toxic or smelly things. You see below the result all laid out on the floor of Dave's garage.  Holy mackeral, what a collection!


One thing often overlooked when one cruises full time is that everything you own must be carried on the boat wherever you go.  That includes tools, materials and chemicals.   Of course there is a practical limit.   At some point you have so much stuff that you can't remember what you have and can't find what you need.  Obviously, we went beyond that point.  I'll discard many of those things.

In the meantime it is entertaining to list the inventory and to think that each and every one of those things got on board because they were needed at some point.

  1. Gear oil 
  2. Tilex mold&mildew remover 
  3. Motor flush engine cleaner 
  4. Cetol marine varnish 
  5. Rubbed effect interior varnish 
  6. Bug spray 
  7. Polyurethane floor varnish 
  8. Goo gone 
  9. Wood Glue 
  10. Non-skid paint additive 
  11. More Cetol 
  12. Acetone 
  13. Sunbrella fabric cleaner 
  14. Mineral spirits 
  15. Blue topside paint 
  16. West System epoxy and hardener and fiberglass mat 
  17. Aluminum colored paint 
  18. Simple Green Marine cleaner 
  19. Fuel injector cleaner gas addititve 
  20. Cooling system treatment 
  21. Tibet Almond furniture stick 
  22. Gorilla glue 
  23. Radio Shack Electronic Contact Cleaner 
  24. Rope end whip dip 
  25. Sunbrella Seam Sealer 
  26. Oven Cleaner 
  27. Outboard motor paint 
  28. Carburetor cleaner 
  29. Special Marine Grease 
  30. Dry silicone lubricant 
  31. Red Rustoleum paint for chains
  32. Underwater primer paint
  33. more acetone
  34. paint stripper
  35. more marine grease
  36. vinyl protectant wipes
  37. 3-in-one oil
  38. more Goo Gone
  39. Corrosion Block
  40. Camp Dry waterproofer
  41. Antifouling bottom paint
  42. Muriatic Acid
  43. High heat black paint
  44. Wasp spray defensive weapon
  45. Jump Start ether
  46. Thompson's Water Seal
  47. Epoxy resin and hardener
  48. Gasoline stabilizer
  49. Shellac
  50. Blue touch up paint
  51. WD-40
  52. Lewmar winch grease
  53. Rubbing compound
  54. Paste wax
  55. Waterproofing 
  56. Clear Lacquer
  57. PB Blaster penetrating oil
  58. Anti-seize anti-galling compound
  59. Glass cleaner
  60. Murphey Oil Soap
  61. Barkeepers Friend
  62. Oxy cleaner
  63. Marine diesel fuel treatment

  64. Not pictured

  65. Diesel fuel
  66. Motor Oil
  67. Engine coolant
  68. Chlorine Bleach
  69. White Vinegar
  70. Biocide fuel additive
  71. Joy soap
  72. Alcohol
  73. Hydrogen Peroxide
  74. Drugs, medicines and remedies too numerous to count
Whew, what a list.  If we ever become terrorist suspects, they'll have ample evidence to convict us.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wayfarers Cove

Minnesott Beach, NC


We're out of New Bern! It felt very good to have Tarwathie on the move yesterday.


Wayfarers Cove will be Tarwathie's summer home. Dave of Dawson Creek Boatworks will undertake refinishing our decks while we are gone. I'll blog about that when the job is complete.

For now, Libby and I have to focus on the remaining chores needed to prepare the boat for the work, and prepare her for being left alone all summer. We've never been away from the boat for an extended period before, so much of this is new to us. Our friend Jeff agreed to check on her once in a while over the summer.

I plan to leave the fridge empty but tuned on all summer powered by the solar panels.

There may be some delay in hauling the boat out. Therefore, we may go up to Zebulon for a while and I can drive back for the haul out.

As a marina/boatyard this place seems very nice. It is a beautification location. We re entertained by very many song birds. The facilities are good, the people are friendly. What's not to like?



Sunday, April 14, 2013

Solarized At Last

New Bern, NC

Finally, after all these years we have an adequate and functional solar panel installation. Why not earlier you may ask. 

We had a 50 watt panel that came with Tarwathie.  It supplied about 30% of our use.  (We also have 220 amp-hours of batteries.  Most cruising boats carry 400 amp-hours or more.)

Equalization (also call desulfating) is the process of raising battery voltage to 15.2 volts (or higher) for two hours.   That causes the built-up of sulfates on the battery plates to dissolve.  It is a kind of rejuvenation.  For the past 8 years we had no way to to that; not via the solar ppanel (50 watts is not enough), nor through the shore power controller (our 25 amp controller does not have an equalization function.)  That has been expensive. More than once we were forced to buy new batteries when the old ones were only one year old because of sulfation.

For years, I've been agonizing about how and where to mount more panels, or a bigger panel.  The answer is there is no possible place on Tarwathie for more or bigger permanently mounted panels.  Period.  It was only after I abandoned that idea in favor of panels that we can mount temporarily and then stow below when under way, that I moved past that mental block.

Down in Miami this year, I bought two 80 watt panels from Sun Electric.  Only $110 each, a great price.   My friend Bob was with me.  As Bob and I stared at the charge controllers for sale, Bob mentioned that he had one that he didn't use, and that he would give it to me.  Great!  The salesman at Sun confirmed that with a small amount of panels and with low voltage, that a more expensive MPPT controller would not be justified.

With 1x50 and 2x80 I have 210 watts total capacity.   I had previously calculated that 120 watts was sufficient to meet our needs most days.   The limiting case is when we are at Champlain at 45 degrees north latitude.  All other things being equal, one needs 50% more panels at 45 degres thanb at 25 degrees.  So I now have 210/120 or 75% excess capacity.  That won't go to waste, it will help me on cloudy or partly cloudy days.

This summer we will be away from the boat for 5 months.  The panels will allow us to keep the fridge on while we are gone.  Our fridge runs for years with no maintenance when it is cold, but if we allow it to get warm, the collant leaks out in just a few days.  If that happens, we have to hire a refrigeration guy to use his vacuum pump to purge the air and then recharge it.  I plan to lash the panels between the boom gallows and the stern pulpit to (hopefully) withstand strong summer storms.

I decided to mount the panels hanging off the lifelines on the starboard side when in Marathon.  That keeps them pointing south almost all the time because the wind blows from the East or Northeast almost all the time.   On Champlain we will be putting the panel up and down frequently.  I plan to put them on top of the mainsail/boom.   You can see that arrangement below.  In either case, if severe thunderstorms approach, we'll take them down.

Note two panels on top of the mainsail, and one high above the stern.
The wiring arrangement has to be flexible because of the shifting mountings.  I need to be able to unplug the panels when stored below.  My solution was to run 14 feet of 12 gauge wire from each of the 80 watt panels, to the type of plug one used to connect trailer taillights.   14 guage wire runs to the original 50 watt panel.  All three come together where the thru-hull penetration is for the wires. You see that in the picture below.

Unfortunately, the Xantex C40 controller that Bob gave me failed to work.  I suspect that corrosion got to it in the years that he didn't use it.  Thanks anyhow Bob.   I actually only need a 15 amp controller, not 40.  However I already had the mounting screws done and the wires trimmed for exactly the arrangement of the C40.  I found that I could buy a C40 on Ebay for about the same price as a C15 retail, so I did.  You see a picture of it below.

The controller is connected to the thru-hull by 7 feet of #12 wire, and connected to the batteries by 1.5 feet of #8 wire.  I had enough #8 to run the 7 feet to the thru-hull, but that wire was too fat for the rubber thru-hull bushing.  Here is my voltage drop calculation for the installation.  The power loss in the wiring is 0.87 watts.

Today was the first full-scale trial.  It was a complete success.  We ran 12 hours with no shore power yesterday.  This morning, we were down 17 amp hours. the solar panels kicked in and by 11:00 we were at 100%.   Then I initiated equalization,  the charging current surges to 10.2 amps and the voltage up to 15.2.   Then the controller backed off the current to 6.5-7 amps for two hours holding a constant 15.2 volts.  Perfect.   That is the first time in 8 years I have been able to equalize batteries on board.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Great Great Grandpa Lowber

New Bern, NC

Our grandchildren are now old enough to understand that they not only have two sets of grandparents, but four sets of great grandparents and eight sets of great great grandparents.   The names of many of them are probably lost, and the details of their lives are unimaginable to the younger generation.  This blog post is for the benefit of our children and grandchildren.

The other day Libby found some films on iTunesU that show New York City scenes from 1903.  The films are so old that many of them were shot by Thomas A Edison Inc.

Libby's Grandfather, Charles Lowber, came from Germany (although the name Lowber is considered to be Dutch).  Her grandmother, Elizabeth Love Lowber, came from England.  The couple arrived in Ellis Island sometime around 1890.  They had children Dolly, Ernest, and Frances while living in New York.  Libby's father, Frances William Lowber was born in 1907.

1903 is close enough to 1890 and to 1907 to show what life was like for Libby's grandparents (our grandchildren's great great grandparents).  All the films are silent, and are 1-2 minutes long and fun to watch.   You can imagine Charles and Elizabeth as being any of the people you see in the films.

  • New York City "ghetto" fish market  (note the simple clothes of the poor people, and compare them to the clothes of richer people in the other films)
  • Buffalo Bill's wild west parade (remember no Internet, no TV, no radio, no films for ordinary people in those days.  Entertainment on the street would be a big thing.  Interesting that almost zero women are seen in this crowd.)
  • At the foot of the Flatiron (The Flatiron building is in Times Square. Note that the people here have much nicer clothes than the pepole in the fish market.  Most of the women wore bustles to make their butts and their hips look bigger.)
  • Lower Broadway (Transportation is the interesting thing here.  Most vehicles in the streets were horse drawn.   I think I saw one automobile.  One trolley had a horse but the others were electric? or gasoline? Many more people walked than we see walking today.  No subways in 1903.  There is no sign of red lights or stop signs, but who needs them when everything moves so slowly.)
  • Emigrants [i.e. immigrants] landing at Ellis Island (Ellis Island in New York Harbor is where immigrants got off the boat and were processed by the US Government.  The government decided if they were allowed to stay.   Think of those people, carrying with them everything they own in the world, entering a strange country, maybe not understanding English, and never to see their home land ever again.  What an adventure!   How scary for them!  Charles and Elizabeth Lowber were among the immigrants at Ellis Island around 1890.  You can visit Ellis Island today; it's very interesting.)
  • Panorama water front and Brooklyn Bridge from East River (The water front then was much busier than today.  Many more ships.  Note that most of the ships were still sailing ships, even though steam ships had been in use for 50 years.   I'll bet that none of those sailing ships could sail to the dock against the swift currents in the river.  That is why there are so many tug boats around to push/pull them to where they needed to go.  The Brooklyn Bridge looked the same in 1903 as it does in 2013.)
  • A perilous proceeding  (Building skyscrapers high in the sky was dangerous.  The men you see horsing around on the crane are not dressed like workers.  They were probably bosses, or politicians, or visitors.  Can you imagine being allowed to play like that today?)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Life is a Compromise

New Bern, NC

We love Eileen Quinn's songs.  You can buy her CDs here.   My subject today has to do with the following song by Eileen.  Please read the lyrics before reading my comments.

Don't Ask Your Love To Choose (by Eileen Quinn) 
He says, come on, Mother, our children are grown,
It's time we were living the life of our own;
And she knows with that boat he's like a dog with a bone,
She looks at the sea and her heart sinks like a stone.
Life is a compromise, love's not a test,
Don't ask your love to choose what he loves best.
She's a little unsure, but willing to try,
Now she's packing her memories away with a sigh;
And they're casting off docklines, waving goodbye,
He tries not to notice the tear in her eye.
Life is a compromise, love's not a test,
Don't ask your love to choose what he loves best. 
Sailing on slowly from place to place,
He loves the sea and the wide open space;
And he's thinking he's lucky he checked out of the race,
She's thinking her grandchildren won't know her face.
Life is a compromise, love's not a test,
Don't ask your love to choose what he loves best. 
Now they've been out there three years,
When he says to her I'm having the time of my life,
Feel like I'm in my prime;
But to her it still feels like an uphill climb,
Seems like she's saying goodbye all the time.
Life is a compromise, love's not a test,
Don't ask your love to choose what he loves best. 
Then she says to him one day,
You know I've done what I can;
But I miss my family and my friends,
And it's time we swallowed the hook.
What do you say, old man?
He's sad and he's silent, but he's turning for land.
Life is a compromise.
Don't ask your love to choose what she loves best. 
Back a year and seen grandkids maybe three times or four,
She's a little surprised to find her days are a bore;
And her wonderful garden is nothing but a chore,
He laughs when she says let's go cruising once more.
Life is a compromise.
You're lucky if your love loves what you love best.
Normally I'm very bad with song lyrics.  I have bad hearing comprehension and I miss so many words that the meaning of the song is obscured; so I don't try.  The other day I happened to listen to that song more carefully, and its true meaning penetrated my thick brain.  What a great point Eileen had!

I played the song for Libby, and I watched her face as she listened.  I could see the relevance and the emotional impact hit her too.  Eileen was spot on.    When the song was done, I said the following, "I've never said it explicitly before, but if the day comes when you want to ask me to quit cruising, it will not be a betrayal.  You always have that option."  On the flip side of the coin I am confident that Libby would never make such a request lightly; it would have to be massively important before she would say anything and I would almost certainly know before she said anything.

Libby replied, "Yes the first three years was an adjustment, but now I have no desire to change our lives.  But, thanks for the offer."

Thank you so much Eileen Quinn.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Trial Run

New Bern, NC


We went camping last night at Flanders Beach not far from here. Our goatpl was to try our all our newly purchased camping gear and to build lists of things needed with us on the trip and things better left behind.

It was fun. We especially liked hearing song birds and the night sounds of the forest again. Living on a boat one hears only the sea birds, dolphins and the sound of the waves. One surprise, the ever present sound of crickets heard in the northeast was missing. In the middle of the night I heard coyotes nearby. I don't like them.

I do like mourning doves. We also liked it that we chose to camp on the same day that the leaves bloomed on the trees. On Tuesday the trees were bare. On Wednesday, most had tiny leaves.

We have a double high air mattress to sleep on. We kept rolling off during the night. I'll try forcing more air in next time.

Overall, it was a success. I asked Libby, "Are you ready for five months of this?" She said, "Sure." Libby is a real sport.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013


New Bern, NC

It can be hard to understand why so many people go overboard in their admiration for the beauty of orchids.  Hard that is until the moment when you see some up close with your own eyes.  Hawaii is the most notable place that supplies orchids, but Homestead Florida does a marvelous job.  Don't you agree?


Friday, April 05, 2013

Belly Laugh

New Bern, NC


Roger Ebert was interviewing movie star Lee Marvin, when the dog came out of the bedroom with a pair of panties in his mouth.

"Whose panties are those?" Asked Marvin's wife Michelle.

"Yours," said Marvin.

"No, they're not mine," said Michelle.

"Bad dog," said Marvin.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Timeless Books Recommended

New Bern, NC

If you love books about the sea and about sailors, I have three (free) recommendations.

The symbolic father and mentor of all us cruisers is Joshua Slocum.  He is the first man to sail alone around the world.  His book, Sailing Alone Around the World, is so popular that it is still in print and has been continuously in print since 1899.  You can download it free here.

Less well known is Slocum's book The Voyage of The Liberdade, published in 1890.  I promise, it is a spellbinding tale.  Albeit true, it reads like a Clive Cussler novel.  You can download it free here.

Much better known is Two Years Before the Mast by Henry Dana.  Although published in 1869, the language is such that it reads like a modern novel.  This book is even honored in The Worlds Greatest Books. It is Mr Dana's account of what life was like for ordinary commercial seamen in the 19th century.  You can download it free here.

Not only do I like these three books, I like them enough that I re-read them every few years.  There is only one other book I like enough to reread it every few years, but it is not about sailing.  You can download it free here.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


Zebulon, NC We are up at Dave's for one last visit. Two weeks from today we'll go on the hard, and a day or so after that, we'll take off for 5 months of land cruising.  The weather turned nice for a few days, this is what we've been doing.

From the top:
  1. A reader remined me that the varnish on the new tiller is minimal.  It needs two coats of epoxy and 6 or more coats of varnish before the permanent decorative knotting.  That's OK, I need practice anyhow.   I got started and I get the basic idea, but doing it repetitively without errors is hard.  I've started 3 times already and had to rip it out 3 times.
  2. Dave and I took the dog to the nearby dog park.  That's a great institution.  All the dogs and all the dog owners seem to have fun at that place.
  3. I found a beaver dam in the woods behind Dave's place.
  4. Dave and Libby do yard work in the nice weather.  Libby especially needed this spring gardening fix.   As time goes on, it becomes plain that Libby misses gardening more than just about anything else involved with landlubber's life.  Fortunately we have family and friends to visit that allow her to indulge.