Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bean town Adventures

Melrose, Mass


We have been spending time with my sister Nancy and her husband Karl. It has been real quality time.

On Sunday, we went salt water kayaking in the Anisquam River north of Gloucester Mass. That was lots of fun. Libby and I had traversed this river once before in Tarwathie, but we did it with the tidal current. In the kayaks, we paddled against the current. It was hard! At times we did zero knots made good.

Too ad that we didn't take a swim when we were in San Diego. Then, we could say that we wet ourselves in both oceans on the same trip.

On Monday, Nancy drove us in to Cambridge on her way to work. Then Libby and I had an urban day. We went to the Harvard Museum of Natural Sciences in the morning and to the MIT Museum in the afternoon. For me, the MIT museum was the better of the two. It focused on engineering, and things of interest to engineers.

Thanks much Nan and Karl.



Saturday, July 27, 2013

Great Times, Great People

Melrose, Massachusetts

42 27.118 N 071 03.406 W


In these days we are blessed with plenty of friends and fly to visit. First up upon entering Massachusetts, was Greenfield. We spend the evening and morning with Stephan and Lori from the vessel Twin Spirits. At least that's the way Libby and I think of them. In reality, they sold their boat a few years back. They spent time land crushing in an RV, their RV was destroyed in a fire.

Anyhow, we have missed Stephan and Lori so it was wonderful to see them again. They took us to their local contra dance group last night. This morning, we went out for breakfast and the local farmers market. Stephan spotted a beautiful used accordion in the window of a music store. "isn't that what you have been looking for Dick?" he said. Yes it was. I wound up buying it. I miss making music on the boat. I tried several other instruments without success. An accordion has always been my favorite. But it has been 45 years since I played it; I have some relearning ahead of me. (Apologies, I fort got to take any pictures from that visit.)

We drove past my boyhood home in Medford, Mass and also the home of my grandparents. I was surprised that just seeing those places triggered some memories, it has been 63 years since I was there.

Now we just arrived at the home of my sister Nancy and her husband Karl.

We also hope to see Bob and Sandra from the vessel Carpe Diem before heading north.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Windhall Brook

Windfall Brook, Londonderry, Vermont

43 09.499 N 072 40.009 W

Sometimes it is amazing how strongly weather affects ones attitude. Yesterday was one of those splendid days when nobody would consider a negstive thought about anything. The temperture was cool, the sky was blue, the humidity was low. A slight breeze rustled the leaves. The views of the mountains were splendid. Visibility must have been at the maximum.

Itwas the kind of day when Libby and I revel at eing out on Lake Champlain. But yesterday we were in the car and we navigated Vermont's Route 100. 100 is the road that winds down Vermont's cental valley. The green Mountains were on our right, and other mountains on our left. Traffic was negligible. The whole thing was lots of fun.

The extent of the damage lingering from Tropica Storm Irene is amazing. Every where we looked repairs were underway. Sme of the repairs may be because of the more recent flooding. It seems like every time we crossed the river, it was on a brand new bridge. Amazing.

The National Forest Service camp site here is very nice. Lucious lawns and a babbling brook set the ambiance. Most Forest Service campgrounds we visited this year were simple, self maintaining, and staffed only by a volunteer camp host. This place though had lots of fancy buildings, dedicated vehicles, and numerous employees. Quite an empire.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Repeating History

South Burlington, Vermont

Yesterday was our anniversary.  48 years ago yesterday we were married in Fayetteville, NY.  48 years ago today, Libby and I set out on our honeymoon.  Our plans were vague, our heading was toward Maine.   Today, Libby and are are setting out again.  Our plans are vague, our heading is toward Maine.

Dick and Libby, July 24, 1965

In 1965, we drove a Ford Falcon (named Gert) and we towed behind us a teeny-tiny camping trailer something like the one in the picture.   Our budget was modest because my summer job paid only $1.15 per hour.  I recall that we saw Eastern New York and Vermont for the first time, and that we were very impressed.   I also recall that we wanted to go to Acadia National Park, but instead we found so many fun things on the coast of Maine that we never got there.  We were especially charmed by Boothbay Harbor.   (In two subsequent vacation trips, we targeted Acadia, but never got there because once again we found too many fun distractions on Maine's coast.  In December 1993, we finally got to Acadia but when we got there it was freezing cold and we were the only people there.)

Teeny tiny trailer\
1960 Ford Falcon wagon, looks like Gert

In 2013, we drive a Ford Taurus, and we have a tent instead of a camping trailer.  We are also likely to get to and beyond Acadia.   We'll hit VT, NH, MA, and ME.  We are also attracted to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the Saguenay Fjord in Quebec.   However, we're a bit gun shy about Canada because expenses there are so over the top.  I checked on camp sites in those provinces.  It would cost us $40 or more per night to tent, or $120 or more per night to stay in motels. (In the USA we paid an average of $7 per night to camp or $55 per night for motels.)

I'm trying to research whether or not wilderness camping (not in a camp ground) is allowed in those provinces.  I haven't found anything yet.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Not The Usual Stuff

South Burlington, Vermont

When we come to Vermont on Tarwathie, there are things we don't do.   One such thing is to see the famous sunsets from Burlington's hills overlooking the lake.  Usually we are down on the water where we have a good view of the sky but less view of the lake.   Below are some examples of what I mean.  I took them last week from Spear Street in South Burlington.   The mountains visible on the far side are The Adirondacks in New York State.  Behind them is Lake Ontario and Toronto.

Yesterday I tried another unusual thing, I tried to go to the top of Vermont's highest mountain, Mount Mansfield but I was stymied three times.

About 25 years ago, Libby and I found a road that took us from Stowe, up Mount Mansfield, almost to the top.  From there, we hiked the rest of the way up.   I wanted to repeat that yesterday because the air was clear and visibility at it's best.  Libby and Jenny were busy at the Hort Farm Plant Sale.

I located that road again, it is called Toll Road, but this time there was a real toll; $28!!!  Wow, that's far too much.  I tried a second way.  I drove to the gondola ski lift nearby.  No luck.  That would cost $26, and there is no trail from the top of the lift to the summit of  the mountain.   I tried a third way.  On the Vermont 108 road, there are a number of trail heads for state owned land.  But it was a Sunday.  Every possible parking spot along that road was taken, and wannabe hikers were patrolling up and down looking for a vacancy.

One of my favorite themes to write about is that there are too many people on the planet.  Yesterday's experience confirmed that once again.

Friday, July 19, 2013


South Burlington, Vermont

It is hard to imagine the variety and beauty of cacti until you explore the deserts.  Here are some of the nicest ones from recent weeks.

The pricly pear fruit and the leaves are good to eat, and the flowers are beautiful, but we had no idea that they turn this lovely purple color in the spring.

Saguaro are considered the kings of cacti.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Heat Sans Relief

South Burlington, Vermont

Like many other places in the USA, Vermont is suffering from a heat wave in recent weeks.   I have been suffering a bit.

When we visited John in Rome, NY a while back he kindly offered us a spare bedroom.   But it was so hot at night that I couldn't sleep.   It brought back memories of the 1960s when we lived in Scotia, NY.   We had heat waves back then and I remember lots of trouble sleeping.

That brings us to the boat.  Since we started cruising in 2005, I can't remember a single time when it was too hot on board the boat to sleep.  Part of that is due to our choice of summer cruising grounds; Vermont or Maine but never The Chesapeake or the Carolinas.  But the bigger part has to do with the natural cooling of the water.   Nearly 50% of our main salon lies below the water level and the outside water temperature is almost always 80F or less.  The water has a huge moderating effect on inside temperatures, sawing off the peaks of hot and cold.

Yesterday I visited the Shelburne Museum (more on that later).   I arrived there at 10AM when it opened and I planned on spending the day.  However by 12 oclock, I was near collapse from heat exhaustion. I had to leave after seeing only 1/3 of the museum. Fortunately for me, the admission ticket is good for two days.  I'll return today and stay until exhaustion again.

That reminded me of another outlet we lack by not being on the boat.   In summer is has been my custom to jump in the lake when I feel hot.  I call it instant attitude adjustment.   The frequency of dips varies from once per day to once per hour, depending on how hot it is.  In Maine, I don't stay in the water very long at all.  In Lake Champlain, the lake waters are deliciously cool in summer and one can luxuriate in the water indefinitely.

Once again, choice of cruising grounds plays a choice. The lower 2/3 of The Chesapeake Bay is infested with sea nettles in summer.  No swimming there.   The Neuse River in North Carolina is too polluted and too full of water moccasins in summer.  No swimming there.

I don't know if I ever mentioned it before, but a large part of our cruising style has to do with no AC on board.   Both Libby and I are adverse to being tied to shore power at a dock most of the time (even if we could afford it).   Thus, even if we had AC installed, we couldn't use it most of the time.  It takes far too much energy to use without shore power.   Therefore, choice of winter/summer cruising grounds is not accidental.   The single exception to that was the past winter in New Bern; a decision that we regret.   Staying in New Bern provided much better family contact, but it was a life unsuitable for cruisers.  We wish we had been in Marathon for the winter.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Sunday, July 14, 2013


South Burlington, Vermont

The Snowden case is complex.  An excellent in-depth discussion airing both sides of the issues was heard on NPR's On Point program a few days ago.  You can read excerpts and listen to a podcast of the whole segment here.   The moral and legal choices available to Snowden are more complex than I first imagined.

The segment also airs Snowden's actual words and his own explanations.  Other media sources I follow had not reported them.

[broken link repaired]


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Benevolant Government?

South Burlington, Vermont

IRS scandal, DOJ scandal, NSA scandal:  There is certainly lots of reason recently to undermine our confidence in the federal government.  This is not a political blog, so I won't be commenting on those contemporary scandals.  However, I will comment on things we saw recently on our trip.

The Rockpile Museum in Gillette, Wyoming has a special section devoted to the subject of homesteading.  The map below says that by 1900 95% of Indian lands had been lost to homesteading.

A placard in the museum also says:
The result of the United States expanding westward was devastating to many American Indian cultures.  The Government continued a long tradition of mistreatment, negotiating meaningless treaties, initiating wars, cutting off food supplies, and forcibly removing tribes from their traditional lands.  Tribes were moved to barren reservations where their survival was dependent on the U.S. Government. Most American Indians were unable to participate in homesteading until 1924 because they were not permitted to become U.S. citizens. 
The poster below reflects the sanctity afforded to Indian reservation lands.  It shames me to have my heritage on the wrong side of this history.

A few days later, we arrived at Devils Tower.  Devils Tower is regarded as sacred land by the Lakota Indians.   It became a national park in 1906, but how the land became U.S. Government land is not mentioned.  The Lakotas requested that the National Park Service forbid climbing on the tower.  They refused.   Instead, the National Park Service asked for a voluntary ban on climbing in the month of June, when Indians gather there for religious ceremonies.  We were there in mid June, and we saw climbers ignoring the voluntary ban.

June 15, 2013

A few more days and we were at The Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota.   It was a bit jarring.  It memorializes more than Chief Crazy Horse.   It also memorializes all the Indians who fought against Custer's troops in The Battle of the Little Bighorn.  But wait; these Indians massacred U.S. soldiers!  Were they heroes or domestic terrorists?

Well, if you think like I do, those Indians were just as much Americans as the white man.  The U.S. Government was not being benevolent, it was corrupt and tyrannical. Unlike Confederate soldiers in The Civil War who fought for politics, the Indians were fighting for survival.  I think Crazy Horse, Thomas Jefferson, and Edward Snowden are all entitled to admiration for their willingness to sacrifice personal safety to fight for liberty.  Only Jefferson is honored by a memorial in Washington D.C.

Is the U.S. Government primarily benevolent or tyrannical today?  Are the laws really "of the people, by the people, and for the people?"  We teach school children only the benevolent spin.  I believe that the trend is definitely toward tyranny.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Written In Stone

South Burlington, Vermont

I have been working on editing the pictures of our western trip. It's a massive job because there are ~3000 of them! When I'm done, I'll extract a 100 image slideshow, the best of the pictures and I'll post that online.

A memorable highlight of the trip was Capitol Reef National Park. It is centered on The Waterpocket Fold, which we toured 125 on a dirt road. The geology is not only beautiful, but scientifically interesting. In an effort to understand the geology myself, and to find aerial pictures of the fold, I came across the Written In Stone blog by Doctor Jack Share. It is a wonderful blog with many great pictures and explanations of the associated geology. Rather than me explain it, I recommend that you simply visit Written In Stone yourself.

Two posts in particular attracted my attention. They center on an aerial flight Doctor Stone took in the Colorado, Utah, Arizona region. Lots of fun. Read these posts part 1 here and part 2 here.

Aerial view of Fruita, in Capitol Reef. A favorite spot of ours. Posted with permission of

Thursday, July 11, 2013


South Burlington, Vermont

What regrets do we have from our trip?   Of course, for every place we visited there are countless equal or better places we didn't visit.   One can't regret them all.

More specifically, we drove a spectacular 80 miles on Utah Route 12 between Escalante to Capitol Reef.   It was wonderful.  In 2010, Dave and I were enchanted by this road.  In 2013, it was Libby and I and the enchantment repeated.   However, this time as we approached Boulder, we found signs describing Hell's Backbone Road.   It sounded grand.  

I now regret, not backtracking 38 miles, so that we could do it a second time using the Hell's Backbone route rather than Route 12.  I'm afraid that the urge to press forward and not backtrack was too strong.  Darn.

Hell's Backbone-Bridge, 1500 feet down either side.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rattled Confidence 2

South Burlington, Vermont

In Rattled Confidence, I mentioned New York, Vermont, Alberta and Saskatchewan.  That is because those are the places I heard having trouble with flooding. After this week's news, let me add the province of  Ontario to the list. Of course, other states may also be affected, but I haven't heard about their problems on the news.

Of course, inconvenience to me and other boaters is an insignificantly small part of the story.   If these rain patterns become the new norm, what are some of the long term consequences?    For one, I foresee the farm belt of the USA moving several hundred miles north.   That would raise interesting problems if thousands of US farms might be abandoned and the farmers (or farming corporations) want to move north into Canada.

Another drastic change would be that the wet areas might need major new dams to control flooding.  I am thinking of dams as large as the Grand Coulee and Glen Canyon, and lakes behind them as big as Lake Mead and Lake Powell.  In these highly populated and developed areas, that would be a major upheaval.  

Imagine a map that looked like this.  Add to that evacuation of coastal areas.  Add to that changes elsewhere in the world.

Should we wring our hands in despair?   I think not.  In any other context we consider change to be necessary for societal vitality, and lack of change a recipe for stagnation and demise of great nations.  Fresh water could become the most valued of all natural resources.  Why should we not look upon climate change as a great opportunity?

It is politics, not nature, that could transform beneficial change into disaster.  Think of the politics of national borders.  A necessary part of embracing this change and making it positive must be global removal of restrictions on large scale migrations of people.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Rattled Confidence

South Burilington, Vermont
44 28.211 N 073 09.716 W

Well, we made to Vermont.  We had a week with John, Katelyn and Victoria.  Now, we are Jenny's house.  We'll stay here until Libby has her fill with gardening.  (It is evident that Libby misses gardening more than any other thing.)

It was something of a relief to leave the Mohawk Valley of New York.  The depressing news about flooding just kept pouring in.   Worse, every day brought new downpours causing fresh flooding.  The Erie Canal has been closed much of the time for the past month.   Twice they had to remove all the gates from the dams to empty the river and the canal in preparation to receive fresh flash floods from the mountain areas.

On the way, crossing the Champlain Bridge, we noted that the lake waters are about four feet higher than when we last saw them.   We also stopped in Vergennes, hoping to see some of our cruiser friends.  When we got there, we were shocked at the sight.

Otter Creek was flooding.  It was about 6 feet higher than when we left last September.  Not only that, the current was extremely swift, and the water was full of mud and debris.   It was similar to, but not as severe as, the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Normally, one would find a dozen or so boats there at this time of year; one of them being Tarwathie.  Yesterday there were only two.  One was a Krogen 49 from SC.  The other was a sailboat from Quebec.   I think both of them were trapped there, unable to leave because of the swift current.  The sailboat was beam on to the current and being pressed to the dock with tons of force.  The sides of the Krogen and the adjacent dock also showed signs of very much swifter water.  Perhaps it had been as bad as 2011 in recent weeks.

I was also reminded of a radio program we heard in Canada about the flooding in Calgary.  They said that the entire provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan had been saturated all srping and ripe for floods.  That is definitely not normal.

Lets review.

  • We started cruising in 2005.   
  • In 2006, they had a  flood of the century on the Mohawk and Susquehana Rivers.   
  • In August 2011, Tropical Storm Irene caused devastating floods in Vermont and the Mohawk Rivers. 10 days after Irene came Tropical Storm Lee causing a new flood of the century.
  • The winter 2008-2009 was so cold that we nearly froze in Vero Beach Florida.  The freezing weather that winter extended as far south as Mexico City.   Even the trade winds in the Virgin Islands reversed direction.
  • The winter 2010-2011 was so cold, and the spring rains in 2011 so high that we dared not come to Champlain in June.  We killed a month on the Erie Canal, to delay our arrival. 
  • The winter 2011-2012 was so warm that they had no snow.  The following summer of 2012, the lake level was so low that we almost got trapped in Vergennes aground in the creet.  
  • Now in 2013, both Vermont and the Mohawk Valley are being flooded again, but this time with the floods of the century coming repeatedly less than a week apart.

I had imagined that we could continue to navigate the same waters that we are used to since the 1970s forever.  Now my bubble is popped; my confidence rattled.  I realize that coming to the inland areas of The Northeast is fraught with risk.  If we continue to choose summer cruising grounds as in the past, we will certainly get caught sometime.

I am not one of those who rushes to attribute all change to global warming.  But the climate sure seems to be changing.

Two Boats, maybe stranded, in Vergennes, July 6, 2013

Vergennes Falls, top 2013, bottom 2009.
2011, ten days after Irene.  A different sailboat and a different Krogen 49 still stranded in Vergennes.
2009, Tarwathie in Vergennes, normal water level.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Shepherders as Cruisers

Rome, NY

Here is a connection that I never thought of before.  While touring The Rockpile Museum somewhere in Wyoming, we came across a beautiful wagon.   Peering inside we immediately recognized the interior as being highly suggestive of Tarwathie, or of any modern cruising sailboat.  The placard explation was that this was a sheepherder's wagon, which had evolved from European Gypsy wagons.  Of course, that makes sense, they needed a mobile home, sturdy and practical.

It reminds me of one of the appeals that attracted me to cruising in the first place.  Sailboats in general, and cruising sailboats in particular, have evolved for 12,000 years.  Their designs are highly  refined.  Countless ideas, both singly and in combination have been tried.  Bad ideas fade away and good ideas percolate to the top.   That kind of refinement is why today's automobiles are so alike, regardless of manufacturer.   But automobiles have benefited from only 100 years of refinement.  Tarwathie is the descendant of 12,000 years of refinement.   Libby and I admire and respect the accumulated wisdom embodied in the designs.


Wednesday, July 03, 2013

More Pictures

Rome, NY

Now this IS idyllic.  This lovely view of Oak Creek is seen near John and Mary Ann's house.  People gather  here to swim on hot days.  Photographers gather here to get shots of the moon rising through the V in the rocks.
We learned that Ponderosa Pine trees near Sunset Crater evolved to grow in this corkscrew manner.  It makes them able to bend without breaking and thus able to survive in high winds.

Why do you need to remind people to not jump?  Most bridges don't have a sign like this.  But this bridge over The Colorado River near Lee's Ferry, Arizona is exceptional.  It almost screams at you to try base jumping or  bungee jumping.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Sounds of Wind and Water

Rome, New York

[We are stopping this week to visit family.]

Years ago I wrote about the sounds on a boat; especially sounds at night when you are trying to sleep.  Now we have fresh experience.  Sleeping in a tent, few if any sounds are blocked.  Also, because of our diverse camping locations, we were exposed to many environments.  I found the nighttime sounds to be a lot of fun.  Several times, I laid there trying to figure out what I was hearing.

Not all sounds are mysteries.  In several places, the sounds of stiff wind were very loud.  In several other places, the sounds of swift running water were very loud.  One night it struck me,  I couldn't tell the difference.  Wind and water sound alike.  So much alike, that I'm sure that I could not tell the difference merely by listening.  It is a white noise.  To my ears (which can not hear high frequencies) it sounds rich in the low frequencies. That is surprising.

To repeat, the sounds of wind in a forest, wind in the open desert, white water rapids in a mountain stream, and swiftly flowing water in the much larger but calmer Green River in Dinosaur National Monument, all sound alike.  I exclude the moaning sound of very high winds; it never blew that hard.

So what exactly is the mechanism of wind noise?   I always thought that it was the sound produced by the wind in the tree tops.  Now, I don't believe that any more because it sounds the same when there are few trees around.  When I research this question online, I find answers such as this:
In many cases the sound is not due to direct vibration of wires, branches or whatever. Let us assume we have a horizontal wire with the wind blowing past it horizontally. Vortices are created in the air downstream of the wire, alternately above and below the wire at a frequency which depends on the wind speed. The frequency f is given by the relation f = Sr u/d
where u is the wind speed and d is the wire diameter. Sr is a number which is about 0.2 for a circular cylinder and is called the Strouhal number.
As an example, a wire 5mm in diameter in a wind of 10ms-1 gives a frequency of 400Hz.
The pattern of vortices is known as a von Karman street.
That sounds good until I note that the wind sounds the same in open desert or in a forest.   You might ask if it sounds different at sea?   The answer is that we don't know.  At sea wind noise mingles with the noises of the water surface so we never hear the wind alone.

So what exactly is the mechanism of running water noise?  No matter what the answer, it is very surprising that the sound is indistinguishable from the sound of wind.

Perhaps readers can enlighten me.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Scenicity Index

Rome, NY

We didn't explore each state equally, nor was the weather alike.  For example, the day we crossed Arkansas was cold, wet, and low clouds hid all the mountains.   Despite it's flaws, here is a count of the pictures we have taken so far on this trip.

Utah 763
Arizona 525
Wyoming 413
California 179
South Dakota 75
Tennessee 51
Texas 47
New Mexico 44
Other states 97

What about the best picture so far?  That's a tough question.  How about this one from Texas?