Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Post Tarwathie Dream

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

I've written often that we plan to continue cruising on Tarwathie indefinitely.  Until this morning, we could not imagine anything better.  Well, this morning we saw the video below and everything changed.  We are mesmerized and stunned.  We have a new dream to look forward to. As of now, we are in the market for an affordable used space station.

You MUST watch this 4:25 video.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

New Blog Featue

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

I'm going to start something new on this blog.  Once in a while, maybe once a week for a while, I'm going to post my thoughts on social and law issues.   I'll preface these with "The Captain's Table" in the title.

I want you to know that each article will represent my own opinions.  I will not repeat or paraphrase other's words.  Indeed, I am attracted to subjects which seem to get little or no mention by others.  I also so my own research, where applicable, and I'll present some evidence.

The first in this series dealt with the 6th Amendment and the right to trial by jury from last November.  By the way, I just updated that article and added a few words at the bottom   Read them he

Friday, December 26, 2014

Golden Opportunity Lost

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

We hope you had a merry Christmas.  We chatted with the family by phone, and we went to Key Colony Beach for Christmas dinner with friends.   But the thing that stands out most in my mind is the opportunity I blew as Libby and I opened presents in the morning.  You see, the first present Libby opened was the one shown in this picture.

For a moment she just stared at it.  She looked stunned.   In retrospect, I realize that she had to be thinking "WTF. Dick has gone completely senile.  He's off the deep end."   You see, Libby never owned 20 pairs of shoes in her whole life.  Even if she did, we have no place to hang such a monstrosity as that inside the boat.  Libby gulped and said, "What is this?"   That is where I blew it.  I should have persisted with the joke and told her that she needed to organize her shoes.  Instead, I wasn't thinking so I just told her the truth.

The truth is that I had consulted with Jen about ways to help Libby growing plants on the boat.  Readers know how much she loves gardening.   It was Jen who did some Google research and came up with the idea of a shoe organizer as the perfect way to have a herb garden on the boat.  It can be hung outside in the sun.  A different herb in each pocket.  Brilliant!  Thank you Jen.

Anyhow, Libby squealed in delight.  She loves that gift.  But had I stuck with the joke I too could have squealed in delight watching her think that my brain must be completely addled.

As I write this, Libby is up at the garden store buying potting soil and herbs.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Seasons Greetings From Dick and LIbby

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

We hope that you and your family did too, and that the coming year will also be happy, healthy and prosperous for you. As for ourselves, we had a great year in 2014.

For us, the coming year will be a year with lots of zeros. We are now both 70 years old. Next February, will be our 10th anniversary on board the boat. We still love the cruising life and we plan to continue it indefinitely. Our boat, Tarwathie, will be 40 years old next year. Next July will be our 50th wedding anniversary. Lots of zeros.

Obviously, Libby and I also have wander lust. We love to travel and explore, and to see and experience new things. But along the way, we also learn which things and which places we enjoy most. That seems to be the Florida Keys during the winter, Vermont and New York during the summer, and North Carolina in the fall and spring.

Right now, we are in the Florida Keys, and we’ll stay here for the winter. The winter weather here is the best in North America and surrounding islands. In addition, we live among a community of cruisers who live aboard their boats like we do. We greatly enjoy their company and the active social life that comes with it.

We love to have company, so if you get tired of winter and would like to visit the paradise here, please come and visit with us. Next spring, we may or may not go to the Bahamas before heading north. Cruisers are not noted for advance planning. We will make the final decision on the day of departure.

But our big news for this year is Anna, our newly born great granddaughter. Our youngest grandchild, Victoria is now 14 and she is becoming a young woman. Therefore, we are very happy that Victoria’s sister Sara, gave birth to the first member of the next generation of us Mills. Anna is an extremely happy baby. She brings joy to everyone who sees her.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Busman's Holiday

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

So, when cruisers get tired of boats, and water, and sunshine, and nice weather, what do they do to take a break?  We went out for a sail on our boat to enjoy the water and sunshine and nice weather.

Actually, we went to two destinations.  First to Sombrero Reef where we planned to go snorkeling. But when we got there and tied up to the mooring ball, it was too choppy and uncomfortable.   The reef is the place where ocean swells encounter very shallow spots so the waves are magnified and distorted.  Too bad, we'll try again.

As a consolation we headed for Bahia Honda, a key about 7 miles away that we have never visited by boat before.  There is a state park there, and there are beaches on the ocean side of the island, on the bay side of the island, and in the lagoon in between.  It is very nice, and we enjoyed ourselves.  I got to swim on two of those beaches.

The next time we have visitors from the frozen north who want sun and beach, we'll take them there.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Boat Parades

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

Last Saturday was twelve-thirteen-fourteen.  It was also Santa Lucia day, the most delightful holiday of the year in Sweden.  It was also Libby's birthday.  It was also the day of the Boot Key Harbor Boat Parade.   We watched the parade onboard Carpe Diem with friends.

Many of you who live in colder climates have never seen, or perhaps even heard of a Christmas Boat Parade.  They are only held in those places warm enough to be out on the water in December.

Too many times I have tried and failed to get pictures or videos of boat parades.  Night photography from the deck of a boat doesn't work well.   Therefore, I collected some pictures and videos from around the country and the world for your enjoyment.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

In recent years I've become increasingly aware of the dual populations of land birds versus sea birds.

When we first moved onto the boat, it never occurred to me that we would be so cut off from the sights and sounds of song birds.   Nor had I ever stopped to think that no sea birds (as far as we know) are song birds.  Upon reflection, I suppose there is a reason.  In woods, separated birds can not see each other.  They need the songs to locate fellow members of their species.  Over the water, songs aren't needed nor are they effective.

I mostly miss the call of my favorite; the mourning dove.  Our friend Mari doesn't like mourning doves, but Libby and I do.  Hearing that sound in dawn's first hour is very soothing.

But on the boat, we see and hear only sea birds.  That not only applies on the ocean, but even on Lake Champlain.

My least favorite water bird is the duck.  They QUACK QUACK loudly all night long.  Frequently the quacking ruckus is due to duck rapes.  Did you know that rape is the only form of reproduction for ducks? When we witness it during the day, the violence is scary.  It is not uncommon for the female to drown in the attempt.

Osprey are the water birds we most admire.  Their skills at flying and fishing are truly awe inspiring.

But the ones most fun to watch are pelicans.   They look stately when sitting still on a post.  They patrol the sky flying formation in squadrons.   They dive bomb fish from above in startlingly swift attacks.  We've seen the dive attacks from above the surface and from below.  They are spectacular.  Unfortunately for the pelicans, the dives addle their brains.  Pelicans become "punch drunk" and die early because of the brain damage.

During our migrations, we have learned that certain spots are favorite hangouts for pelicans.  Year after year, there will be a flock of pelicans in exactly the same places.  Usually, the size of the flock is invariant, as well as the white/brown racial divide of pelican species.   We also see that even when whites and browns live alongside for many years, that it is true; birds of a feather flock together.

All the pictures below are best enjoyed by clicking on the picture to see it full screen.

In the long wide picture below, you can see about 6 brown pelicans on the left side.  Every year, the browns are on the left side. That flock lives near Amelia Island in northern Florida.

This flock lives near Matanzas Inlet

This island at the south end of Daytona Beach is always covered with pelicans.

CLose up of the island above

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

As I said here often, both Libby and I have excellent health.   One consequence of that is perhaps non-obvious; we learn about health issues late in life.   Libby's only allergy is pencillin. Until now, I never had any allergies.  At the doctor's office I always answer "none."

For the past year or two, I've been bothered by a runny nose every morning.   It comes and goes, but it doesn't go for long.   In the past 6 months, I've also been bothered by blurring and tearing that makes it impossible to read in the evening.   At this point, I'm sure many of you are slapping your foreheads, saying "Allergies idiot. Duh."   But my mind just didn't think along those lines.  It never occurred to me.

The epiphany happened this week when I came across a 4 year old bottle of anti-allergy eye drops in our medicine cabinet.   I put them in and found instant reliet.  AHA!

Next step is allergic to what?   Well, it seems to be something on the boat because I'm usually not bothered when ashore.  Without specific knowledge we need a broad brush approach.  

First we bought new hypoallergenic bed pillows.  Then new throw pillows.  Then we stripped all the covers on all the cushions and wash them.  We also aired out the foam rubber from the cushions.  Next was a spring cleaning of wooden surfaces with chlorine.   That is hard to do on a boat where all the cubbies are full of stuff.   Compare it to cleaning the upholstery in your car while speeding down the interstate with 4 people on board.

When the weather is nice enough, we leave the hatches and port windows open.

Now my nose and eye problems are much improved but not gone.    Next step will be to repaint the painted surfaces in the cabin with mildew resistant paint.

We would welcome any other suggestions.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Room To Be Yourself

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL

The media image of computer dating is that finding a mate is all about discovering how compatible two people are.  The more interests they share, the better.   We married folks know different.  Successful living with someone else has more to do with tolerating incompatibilities.  I'll go so far as to say that it is impossible for two people to live together without irritating each other in numerous ways.

On a boat, with only 200 square feet of living space, the problem is the same qualitatively, but the magnitude is intensified.  Many couples are likely to say, "We could never do that."  They're probably right.  Finding three astronauts to fly a two year mission to Mars is going to be very difficult.

I observe that living in close quarters requires giving your mate extra generous room to be himself/herself.  That does not mean suffering/stewing in private as you keep your mouth shut, because pent up emotions eventually erupt (especially in close quarters).  It means being generous enough to be comfortable with your mate's idiosyncrasies without resentment.

Evidence suggests that Libby and I are pretty good at that.   Individually, we are no less annoying than anyone else.  But we get along really well; even in extremely close quarters.  

Having said that, if you find  an annoyance that is really persistent and will not go away, then you must bring it up.   I've learned from Libby to express my annoyance is the gentlest possible words when necessary.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Two Modest Proposals

[TLDR?  If so, skip to the bottom. Bullets 1) and 2) tell the meat of this essay.]

Like most Americans, I am very aware of the recent national controversies involving victims, Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, and Trevor Martin.   I also believe that I am in the majority saying that I sympathize with the viewpoints of both sides.

Most recently I read the report about the Cleveland Police Department, and the accounts of the behavior of the Albuquerque NM Police Department.  Add to that the almost daily postings to seeming to show police abuse of power.  I am sorry to say that evidence of widespread and systematic abuse of police powers is now well documented.  What does that mean for us?

Very much of criminal law and court review has to do with the word "reasonable".  What would a reasonable person do in the same circumstances?   That brings us to cases involving confrontation between police and citizens.    Police have the right to use force, including deadly force, to execute arrests or to assure compliance with lawful orders.   Citizens too have the right to self defense.  Put those two rights together and the net result is explosive.  Indeed, I've never seen a public discussion attempting to balance these rights.   Among taboo subjects, this subject is taboo to the highest order.

We must be aware that the exposure and publicity resulting from these incidents affects people's perception of reality.  In court, only the facts matter; at least in theory.  But when judging "reasonableness" in a legal context, a persons perceptions (right or wrong) are what count.   To the extent that extensive publicity changes our perceptions, it changes the standards of reasonable behavior.

To be brief, let me condense this essay to the case of James Boyd in Albuquerque.   He was ordered to march down a steep hill, while three policemen aimed their weapons at him with the safeties off.  What should a reasonable man do in those circumstances?  Walking down a steep hill means that there is a high probability that you may make sudden involuntary movements with arms or legs to keep your balance.  Any such movement might be interpreted as resistance, justifying one of those police killing you.  The police would be unlikely to be deterred by the risk of accountability because if you are dead, only their version of events will be told.   In those circumstances is it "reasonable" to obey police orders or to attempt to flee or to defend yourself with whatever means are at your disposal, perhaps including deadly force?   How horrible that we must confront ourselves with such a question.

President Obama has ordered 50,000 body cameras.  Cameras should help, but 500,000 are needed,  plus huge budgets for managing the petabytes of newly created public video records.   Obama also called for more and better police training.  That also sounds good, but no such proposal in the past has affected substantial change.

In politics, I usually argue on the theoretical (ideological) side.  Today, I speak to the pragmatic side. It is horrible that we find ourselves in this state, but what can we do about it?   I have two modest proposals.  My son David first told me about the first.  The second is my own idea.  I am not repeating something I read on The Internet.

  1. Keep all police laws, rules, and existing protocols unchanged.  Just require that swat and riot police vehicles, clothing, and weapons, plus the firearms of all police,  are colored shocking pink.  Dave's idea is directed at the surges of adrenalin and testosterone that most certainly, influence police behavior.

  2. Keep all police laws, rules, and existing protocols unchanged.  Police must be able to protect themselves and the public.  Real life situations are too varied to predefine behaviors in written detailed rules.  I propose that use of deadly force should be a once-in-a-lifetime event for any policeman.   After any such incident, the policeman involved must be reassigned to duties that do not require carrying a weapon, nor would they be authorized to use a weapon officially ever again.  It would not be a demotion.  It should not result in reduced pay or promotion opportunities, nor should it carry a stigma.   I believe this proposal is a reasonable balance, between the needs and rights of police on the streets and the needs and rights of the public to protect itself against abuse of authority.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

All Hail The Internet

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

This morning, Libby and I changed to a different Medicare Part D plan.  I looked up the info on various plans on the Internet.   I visisted the sites of some providers to read the fine print.  I checkedpeople's  comments about the providers.  Then I made my choice and clicked on "Enroll".

That took me to a page that gave me an 800 number.  I called that number, took some basic informaiton, and then emailed me links to finish the enrollment.   When the emails came a minute later, I clicked on the link.  That took me to a page with all the info I gave on the phone already filled out.  I provided some additional info.  I gave them a credit card number.  I pressed "Accept" and it was all done.

Then it struck me.  How profoundly the Internet has made so many things so much simpler than in the past.   In the old days to accomplish the above using paper forms and snail mail would have taken weeks, perhaps months.   It made me think back to my first overseas business trip when I had to arrange a letter of credit from my bank to a foreign bank so that I could get cash over there.   

The changes brought by computers and telecommunicaitons and the Internet in particular are amazing.   Early attempts at almost everything were buggy and frustrating.  But they all improved so incrementally that we hardly noticed the transformation from annoyances, to indespensable conviences.  

But there is a dark side.   I think that almost all of us underestimate the number of jobs that will be lost to automation in coming years.  The most developed countries will feel it most.  Within a few decades, only a small fraction of our citizens will be priviledged to have a job.   It is hard to imagine a more profound economic and social challenge.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Staying Fresh

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

We all know the story about TV shows that run for several years.   At some point  (frequently the 7th year) the writers run out of fresh original story plots.   I can sympathize with them because I'm feeling the same pressure.  I too feel the quite natural pressure to not repeat previous themes, deliberately.  I must do it accidentally because I have no systematic way to check an idea for tomorrow's post against the archive of this blog.  Most of all, I want to avoid the pitfall of "jumping the shark".  If you don't know what that means, click here.

The obvious topic, what did we do today and what are we planning tomorrow, is a natural for travelers.  That could be called a journal, or a diary.   Our cited reason for starting this blog was to prevent family and friends from calling the Coast Guard if we were overdue.   We have a duty to inform them and all our readers about our journey and our status.

But cruising journal blogs quickly become boring if that is the only topic.  It is too much of "I'm here having fun and you're not."  I limit journal type posts to about 20% of the total number of posts on this blog.

Below is a table of statistics for this blog

Year   #Posts   #posts per week
2005        202           5                    (partial year)
2006        260           5
2007        288           6
2008        309           6
2009        311           6
2010        300           6
2011        283           5
2012        264           5
2013        213           4
2014        181           4                     (partial year)
Total      2611

Readers can help by suggesting topics.  What is it that you haven't seen here that you would like to read about.  I made the same request a few years back and I got some good suggestions.  Thanks for that.  I tried to follow up on most of them.

More than once, I've vowed to start interviewing interesting characters we meet and to turn those interviews into multi-post articles.   I'm not sure why I haven't done that.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cruisers Holiday

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL

What do cruisers do on a national holiday?   Take it easy and enjoy the lack of stress?  That would be a bit of a bus man's holiday wouldn't it?     Well, for many holidays yes.   Cruisers and other retired people enjoy those things all year long.  In fact most holidays, come and go without us even noticing.  It is often the case that we are only dimly aware of which day of the week this is.  Why should we?

Some holidays we avoid.  Labor Day and Memorial Day in particular are  the days that all the crazies decide to take their boats out for a spin.  Smart cruisers hide in some quiet corner and just wait for it to go away.

Other holidays, Christmas and especially Thanksgiving are traditional family days.  Aren't cruisers deprived and lonely on those days?   In part yes.   We do indeed miss our families most on those days.  But sometimes the cruisers can arrange to see family on those holidays, perhaps by flying home.  That is not uncommon.

Another solution is to spend the holiday with good friends.  That's what we did yesterday.  We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with Bob and Sandra and Derrick and Sharon.  But that solution is not unique to cruisers.   As you know, the literature is full of stories of the stress and anxiety, and travel horrors suffered by family members gathering for the obligatory Thanksgiving holiday.  According the the New York Times yesterday, increasing numbers of people are choosing to spend Thanksgiving with friends instead of family.

I talked with my sister Nancy on Wednesday.  She had her children at home, and their guests, and our sister Marilyn there for the holiday also.  But Nancy said that they were all joining with four neighbor families for a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner.  That is very much like what we have been doing in Vero, or Marathon at the cruiser's pot luck.

If you see gradual changes overcoming supposedly immutable traditions, does that mean that you are old?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

We're Here, What Now?

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida.
Well, our 2014 southward migration that started on September First is now complete. It wasn't the best year weather wise. Evidence of that can be seen in yesterday's post where I wrote how grateful we were to get some nice weather to actually sail. Still, our biannual migrations are the favorite times of year.
But now we are here for several months of nothing but good weather, good friends, and having fun. Of the 24 places we cal home, Marathon is e most home because we spend more time here. (In 2011, I wrote Home Is Where The. Heart Is on the subject of many homes.
What will we do? Libby will resume Tai Chi, and her volunteer work at the library. I'll try to get back into exercise, althought this year I'll try to do more with my new bike and my kettle bell rather than the gym. I'll also resume work on our book, that has been on the shelf since last spring.
What has changed in Marathon? Not much. The local population of crocodiles surged from 300 to 3000 according to the local newspaper. One of them bit people in Coral Gsbles who were swimming at night. We don't swim at night anyhow,
Also according to the paper, the FWC law enforcement priorities for this year are 1) promoting lion fish fishing, and 2) crocodile management. That is much nicer than harassing boaters.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Day To Be Thankful For

The Hawk Channel
24 48.593 N 080 44.994 W
This fall has been our worst season for sailing weather. Since leaving Champlain, we have had either too much wind or so little wind we had to motor. Today began with zero wind. We traversed Angrlfish Creek crossing from Florida Bay to The Hawk Channel. But alas, no wind at all whe we got there. Never before have we been forced to motor when travellng South and West in The Hawk Channel. Oh well, so be it.
But at 1400, a great little breeze suddenly appeared. Hooray! We killed the motor and fully deployed the mainsail, jib, staysail, and the Monitor self-steering. Tarwathie is a happy girl. Her crew is happy. Sailing in The Hawk Channel on a day like this is as good as it gets.
We have been given the present of the best sailing day of the year for the last 25 miles of this 1500 mile migration.
We'll arrive tonight around 2200. We plan to anchor outside the harbor and enter tomorrow in daylight.
We plan to share Thanksgiving dinner with Bob and Sandra. Enjoying this day will definitely be on our list of things to be thankful for.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Whine Whine

Miami Beach, FL
Man oh man. Today was even worse than yesterday. The weather report said E25-30. Actually it blew E35-40!
Last night in Lake Sylvia we were very uncomfortable. The wind blew so hard, and we were so close to other boats. We got out of there ASAP this morning.
But out on the ICW, it was no picnic. One bridge only opened one of its two spans. As we went through, we were heeled over so far (under bare poles) that I feared hitting the bridge with the hull on port and simultaneously hitting the raised spam with the mast on starboard. Jeez.
Coconut Grove Sailing Club was full up, so we planned to go to Dinner Key. I changed my mind because that mooring field is very exposed to E winds. Instead, we are anchord in Miami Beach next to Venetian Causeway, and near the Publix By The Bay store. (How's that for a cool grocery store name?). If you watch CSI Miami, you see aerial shots of this location every show.

Tyvärr, no people watching on the water or on the land in Miami Beach today. The weather is keeping everyone inside.

The weather will start to settle tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday we will have light winds. Wednesday will bring more nasty weather. I plan to be secure in Boot Key Harbor before the bad weather arrives.
BUT IT IS WARM! 79 degrees. Nothing like up north this week. Click here to see what it is like up there.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lake Sylvia

Lake Syvia, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
26 06.273 N 080 06.727 W
Ugh what a day. Rain, blustery wind at 30 knots, narrow waterway, troublesome boat drivers and troublesome bridges. One bridge tender bawled me out for not calling her on the radio (I did call, but she did not acknowledge. I should have repeated.) It was wet, uncomfortable, and scary.
Onhe plus side, we had current with us. We did very little waiting for the 15 bridges we pased, and we arrived at this anchorage by 1330, three hours before sunset. Heck, we could have made it to Miami today. Libby also reminded me that the bad weather probably cut the boat traffic by 99%. We should be grateful for that too. Tomorrow may be the same.
Also of note, the last bridge before the anchorage was Las Olas Boulevard. That was the first bridge we came to on our first day on Tarwathie, nearly 10 years ago. In the meantime, we sailed nearly 50,000 miles but we have not crossed that path since. That is kind of a milestone.
This anchorage is crowded, but there are no good alternatives. The hook seems to be holding well, so we should be OK.
Whining aside, At least it is WARM! 73 degrees inside the cabin. The snow and freezing seems a long way away.

New Territory

26 34.419 N 080 02.797 W
We are traversing the last remaining stretch of the ICW thst we have never seen before. That is the stretch between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
Looking at nighttime satellite pictures we know thst this is one of the most populated areas in the USA. Cruisers call this it The Canyon, referring to the high rise buildings flanking the waterway. Looking at my cruising guide, it seems like we must pass 35 bridges in the next 35 miles; each with opening time restrictions.

But, there is a positive side too. There is always a bit of thrill exploring places you have never seen before.

In any event, it looks like the weather will not settle down until Monday.

Our social hopes are Also melting away. Beverly is in Jamacia this week. Al may have a hard time meeting us. and Randy is in Brazil. A great topic for a future blog post would be the difficulty of socializing with friends who live by calendars and obligations, whereas cruisers live by weather and who resist planning more than 6 hours in advance.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Unfair Winds

27 32.855 N 080 20.718 W
We departed from Vero and we are trying to get to Marathon ASAP. There are toe reasons to hurry. First, it's too cold here. Last night' slow was 55 in Vero but 70 in Marathin. Second, we are getting reports thst the mooring field in !arathin is filling up more rapidly than normal.
But the wind forecasts are against us. (Is the opposite of fair winds unfair winds? I suspect that the nautical opposite is foul winds, but that doesn't sound right either.). Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, the winds are stron from the NE. Seas in the outside will be up to 8 feet making it unattractive. Saturday and Sunday the wind will blow 25-30 from the south. It is as if the Gods don't want us to get there.
I feel a bit guilty because Tarwathie could perform at her best with the conditions for the next three days. She could get us there in 48 hours. It is not the boat's limits. It is the crew that seeks to avoid discomfort. Oh well. We aren't out here to prove how tough we are; we are here to have fun.
I think we may have to do something we never did before. That is to use the ICW south of Lake Worth. Always before, we went on the outside to avoid this stretch of ICW through urban areas with numerous bothersome drawbridges.
On the plus side, we may have the opportunity to be social. We would like to visit with Beverly in West Palm, with Al in Dania, and with Randy in Coconut Grove.
P.s below is a picture from upstate NY today, Seeing that just makes us want to flee southward.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Captain's Table: The 6th Amendment

Vero Beach, FL

[Although this blog is primarily about our cruising lives, we are not one dimensional beings.  We have other interests.  For example, I’m a big physics buff.  I’m also interested in social issues.  This blog post is about one of them.]

The issue is the decline in jury trials in the USA at the federal level to the point where our 6th Amendment right to trial by jury in  has been made moot.  Americans are said to love their constitutional  rights and to defend them jealously, but in this case, almost everybody seems to have not noticed and not cared.  That’s remarkable.

I came upon this issue, not via an article or a documentary film, but by my own independent research.  It happened two years ago when we were wintering in New Bern, NC.   There was a Federal courthouse nearby and I thought that it would be fun to witness a federal jury trial.  I checked the court calendar.  Nope, no jury trials.  In fact, nearly 700 cases were handled in the New Bern district every year, resulting in about two bench trials per year and no jury trials.  Amazed, I checked the other federal districts in NC.  The story was nearly the same in all the federal districts in NC.   WTF I thought; Hollywood shows are rife with jury trials, can it be true that they almost don't exist in real life?

A bit of Googling brought me to a speech by a federal district court judge. [Sorry, I can’t find the link today.]  He protested that the 6th amendment was being trashed by the practice of plea bargaining.   

More Googling brought me to the celebrated case of Aaron Schwartz.  Mr. Shwartz was an Internet activist much beloved by the Internet community.  He violated the terms of service of a web site.  Horrors!   Most of us would not consider that a crime at all.  I myself violate Facebook’s terms by not using my real name.   But the Feds charged with 11 felony violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act plus other things that added up to a maxiumum of 35 years in jail.  Faced with such an overwhelming assault by our government, Aaron Schwartz committed suicide.

Plea bargaining sounds kind of innocuous.  At what point does it become so abusive that one can say that it negates The 6th Amendment?  In my definition, it does so when an innocent man acting reasonably would find it rational to plead guilty to a crime he/she did not commit.

Consider the plight of the accused.  On one hand, law enforcement and his own lawyers stress the uncertainty of rolling the dice for a jury verdict; regardless of actual guilt or innocence.   On the other hand consider the disparity between the penalties offered for a guilty plea (say 6 months probation) as opposed penalties for pleading not guilty (say 35 years in jail).  Then throw in the cost of defense.  A good federal defense lawyer may charge you $25,000 to $50,000 per charge. Therefore, even if you get an innocent verdict you will be bankrupted.  If you have a family, they will be rendered destitute. Therefore, when prosecutors take a simple offense and then heap on 11 additional charges (such as lying to a federal investigator), they increase the legal costs of conducting a trial defense by 12:1.

Federal prosecutors do indeed overreach systematically.  Consider the Supreme Court Case of Bond v. United States.  The defendant put caustic chemicals on doorknobs of her rivals.  The prosecutors charged her with the terrorist crime of chemical warfare.   In oral arguments, the justices called the government’s decision to bring that charge “stupid.”  In a more recent case, Yates v. United States, the solicitor general revealed that DOJ guidelines require that when several laws apply, to choose the one with the most severe penalty because that gives them more plea bargaining leverage.  The justices also thought that policy was extreme and abusive but they had no power to overturn it.

Consider further that federal prosecutors almost never are held accountable for overreaching.  They can charge you with 12 crimes for plea bargaining purposes, but if it does come to trial they can drop 11 of the 12 charges that they couldn't prove anyhow.   They will never be punished for proprietorial misconduct for doing that.

Still more research showed up a scholarly paper; The Unnecessary Evil Of Plea  Bargaining: An  Unconstitutional Conditions Problem And A Not-So-Least Restrictive Alternative, by Tina Wan. Ms. Wan generally agrees with me, but she goes much deeper in investigating the history and the treatment of this problem by the courts.  To paraphrase: courts have been very reluctant to recognize this problem with plea bargaining, because the justice system would be crushed if a substantial number of the accused demanded jury trials.   In other words, for the sake of efficiency in the justice system, we sacrifice the 6th amendment.

Ms. Wan also offers a remedy.  She would allow defendants to waive the right to a jury trial in favor of a bench trial.  Bench trials consume much less time and money, but they do preserve the right of the accused to argue their side of the story and they do require the government to prove its case.  The balance of power and the obligations to tell the truth in a bench trail are very different than those in a plea bargain negotiation.

I have my own favored remedies.  First, I would make a rule that when the same set of circumstances may violate several laws, that the prosecutor must choose one of those laws and not heap on with simultaneous charges of all the violations.   I would also merge the public prosecutor and public defender offices.  One staff, one budget, one set of attorneys would do both prosecution and defense with each attorney being assigned a prosecution or defense role by random chance.  Then we measure their success by the number of times they win, not the number of convictions.

The same problems may also apply at the state and municipal levels.  I only looked at the federal level.

Most of all, I am amazed that the mass media and the American public ignore this gross violation of our civil rights that fosters an overbearing and tyrannical government.

Update:  Ms. Wan's suggestion is perhaps more practical than mine.  Here is a short excerpt from her paper giving her own words.

As this Note has shown, plea bargaining presents an unconstitutional
conditions problem and places an impermissible burden on several fundamental
constitutional liberties. Although the government has advanced a
compelling state interest—the continued function and efficiency of the
criminal justice system—plea bargaining is not a means narrowly tailored
to serve that interest and is not the least restrictive alternative. But a jury
waiver system is. While such a system still necessarily entrenches on the
right to a jury trial, it is a less intrusive way of preserving the function and
the efficiency of the legal system. A jury waiver system further conforms
more closely to due process and provides the defendant with an opportunity
to be heard. Therefore, since plea bargaining is not the least restrictive alternative,
it is an unnecessary evil and should be banned and held unconstitutional.

Studies conducted in jurisdictions where bench trials have been a predominant
form of convictions demonstrate that a replacement of plea bargaining
with a jury waiver system is a feasible solution. Contrary to
popular belief, an abolition of plea bargaining would not cause the legal
system to collapse or cease to function, nor would it cause a substantial impairment
to the system. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Neglect of the CLODS

Vero Beach, Florida

The other day, I wrote a blog about types of cruisers. I left out a very large category: CLODs. A CLOD is a Cruiser Living On Dirt.  In land-lubber language, a former cruiser.

I have no statistics to quote but I believe that the population of CLODs may exceed the population of cruisers.   Whatever their number, CLODs seem to flock together in some preferred locations.  Of the ones that we know, Oriental, North Carolina, is probably the biggest, followed by Vero Beach, Florida, then by Belfast, Maine.

CLODs like to socialize with each other and with active cruisers.  That's why they buy homes near the water.  They also have preferred hang outs.  In Oriental, it is The Bean.  The Bean is a coffee shop with a front porch overlooking the Oriental Public Dock and the harbor.

In Vero, the local CLODs have a weekly breakfast.  Where we are at City Marina, there are notices all over the place announcing the breakfasts and inviting active cruisers to join them.  I haven't done that yet, but perhaps I should.  CLODs are fun and interesting people. (If you have the opportunity to socialize with CLODs, take it.  Even if you never had the cruising bug yourself, these are fun and interesting people.)

One our our cruising friend couples have become Vero CLODs.  A second couple is moving ashore in Vero this weekend.  A third couple swapped their boat for an RV (another way to CLOD), but then brought their RV to Vero for an extended stay.

Next door to Oriental, is Fairfield Harbor, NC.  That is a large walled community with canals, and lots of nice affordable houses.   We have many CLOD friends living in Fairfield Harbor.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Extra Nice

Vero Beach, Florida
27 39.571 N 080 22.302 W
We are back in Vero once again. This time, our stay will be shorter than usual, just long enough to do Christmas shopping. (Shopping in Marathon is much more limited.)
But it is so nice to return to South Florida weather. Last night's low temperature was 62, today's high will be 80. God it is so pleasant. There seems to be a sharp climate divide between Vero Beach and Melbourne (20 miles north of here). Melbourne and north has one climate, Vero to Homestead a second climate, and the keys have a third climate.

Libby makes so many baskets, that we are remiss in not photographing all of them. But this one is especially nice IMHO. One of Libby's friends asked for a flower vase basket. This is the result. It is about 8 inches high.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Ah, Love Florida

Eau Gallie, FL
28 07.955 N 080 37.417 W

Yesterday we had a reminder of just how nice Florida weather can be. In the late afternoon, I stepped out of the Brevard County Library in Cocoa. I was surprised to find myself in the midst of a thunderstorm. It was raining and the palm trees were swaying.

Most striking, I looked down the street which ended at the waterfront. There was a sailboat at anchor framed in the street. It was rocking violently from side to side. More impressive, the water was churned into a froth. There were so many whitecaps, that it must have been blowing 40 or 50 or 60 knots. But this whole scene was illuminated in brilliant sunlight which made the whitecaps brilliant in their whiteness. Instead of a grey ominous black cloud hiding the sun, it was nearly sunset and looking west the sky was a lovely blue. The low sun was illuminating everything under that thunderstorm. It was a great view.

Low sun and rain is also the signal for a rainbow. I looked and sure enough there was a brilliant rainbow. (No pictures, apologies.)

Five minutes later the wind and rain stopped, and the rainbow became a double rainbow visible to the east. Four hours later we were treated to a fantastic view of the moon risking and illuminating the still waters in the Indian River Lagoon. This morning, the sky is clear, it is warmer (maybe 70F, nice but jacket weather for Floridians), and there was a delightful 15 knot NW breeze allowing us to sail to Eau Gallie. This section of the Indian River is wide enough and deep enough to allow us to sail Most sections of the ICW are not sailing friendly.

For non-boating readers let me explain that thunderstorms with high winds are only a slight threat to boaters. That is because the strong winds only last 5-10 minutes and that is not long enough for the waves to become big. Weather systems with strong winds sustained for hours is what we seek to shelter ourselves from. For example, right now four miles to the east of us is the Atlantic Ocean. There is a storm out there kicking up huge waves. So although the local weather is nice, it would be very uncomfortable to be offshore in Florida right now.

On the social side, we spent a day being tourists in New Smyrna Beach, and also a tourist day in Cocoa. We had not seen much of New Smyrna before. It is very nice. There is a public floating dock that makes access easy.

We also had the pleasure of having lunch with high school friends Kerry and Suzette. Tonight we'll visit friends Dave and Jonnie. Along the ICW we are meeting numerous boats who are friends from past years. The whole scene is very social.

What's not to like?

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Who is a Cruiser?

Cocoa, Florida
28 21.156 N 080 43.147 W
The rule is simple, anyone who wants to call him/herself a cruiser can do so. Chances of contradiction (other than in a bar fight) are slim.
Full time cruisers (lIke us). We live on board and cruise all year long. Despite that we tend to spend 8 months of the year of the year in fixed locations and only 4 months per year cruising to a different spot every night.. Perhaps 25% of the cruisers we know are full time cruisers.
Part time cruisers. Most of our cruising friends do so part time. They still have houses. They own cars. Typically, they leave their boats for the summer and live elsewhere.
One time cruisers. People who sail at home on home waters but who want to experience a year of sailing as a once in a lifetime experience.
Trial cruisers. These are the people who want to try cruising for a year or three before making a decision. I have a tip for them. Two years seems to be the magic number. After two years you will know confidently what you do or don't want to do in your future. If you are not happy after two years, prolonging it to three years is unnecessary.
Opportunistic cruisers. I really admire the people who cruise until they run out of money. Then they go find work for long enough to build up the kitty and star cruising again. I greatly admire the courage of those people; especially the younger ones. One couple we adored started that life at age 19.
Family cruisers. Another admirable group. These people want to give their children the life experience of growing up on the boat while cruising. In our experience, such children are likely to become highly successful in life. They gain enormous self confidence.
Live aboards. These are people who live on a boat, but they don't go anywhere in the boat. This group is the subject of much discrimination. On our first year, we were warned to never refer to ourselves as live aboards. Municipalities think of them as bums or squatters. They try to pass laws to forbid them. The truth is that some live aboards live up to that bad reputation but many don't. A live aboard's focus may be on the water (making them more like cruisers) or on land (making them more like land-based residents).
Circumnavigstors are the elite. Everyone admires them.
Circumnavigators with children are the elite among circumnavigators.
If you see well tanned people walking along the road, near the water, wearing t-shirts! baseball cap and Crocs, and carrying four bags full of groceries, they may be cruisers.
Unwilling cruisers. I heard of more than one case where the man wants to cruise whole the wife follows under protest. In extreme cases, the wife stays on board the boat all day with air conditioning and TV. We think it very unfair to force a partner to cruise unwillingly. But often an unwilling cruiser situation can be transformed into a much happier part-time cruising compromise. A second solution is that of the bachelor cruiser; the man cruises alone part time while the wife stays home. We can't think of a single case where the man-woman roles are reversed.

Single man bachelor cruisers. These men cruise single-handed and pick up girlfriends in each new port and invite them to spend the night on the "luxury yacht." We met several such cruisers over the years. What can one say to that other than wow?

Mission cruisers. For example a man who paddled his kayak 8000 miles. The teen who rowed a 23 foot sailboat (minus mast and sails) from Cleveland to Key West. A man with an 18 foot aluminum canoe with 15 hp outboard on a trip from Rochester to Key West. Those are the kind of people who walk the Appalacisn Trail when not cruising.
Armchair cruisers. I suspect that there is a huge army of armchair cruisers who dream of cruising in the future. Some of them read this blog. Many of them succeed eventually. But a warning: our friend Sandra on Carpe Diem, was an oncology nurse. She saw numerous patients who had their life's dream snatched away by unexpected illness. Carpe Diem is a very appropriate motto.

See also CLODs, (Cruisers Living on Dirt)

Friday, November 07, 2014

Excuse Us, But

Daytona Beach, Fl
It is presumptuous to bore you with pictures of Anna, our new great granddaughter. But I can't resist.

The Easy Life Fulfilled

Beverly Beach, ICW Mile 795
24 34.647 N 081 11.435 W

It was worth the effort to get here. We are midway through the second of two very pleasant days cruising the Florida ICW. It has been very nice. Both days feature brilliant blue skies. Last night, the full moon was spectacular. The weather this morning was a bit chilly, but now at noon it is fine.

We started yesterday morning in Fernandina Beach. We anchored last night at our favored spot in the Tolomato River (By the way, my friend Charlie suggests that we publish waypoints for our favored anchorages. Good idea. I'll do it sometime this winter.) Tonight we hope to make Daytona Beach before dark.

It gets dark very early now. Sundown is about 1730. But the current is favoring us. In fact we have had good luck with the currents except the St. Johns - Tolomato stretch. Coming past Salamander Landing we must pass under a bridge that funnels the stream. The current was so strong that we slowed to negative knots. Libby called me on deck for help. I floored the throttle. That got us under the bridge at a speed of about 1/4 knot. Whew.

We decided to skip Saint Augustine because we've seen it so many times before; most recently last spring.

We will try to stop in New Smyrna tomorrow and visit with high school friend Kerry.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Easy Living Ahead

Fernandina Beach, FL
30 40.257 N 081 27.956

Our migration for this fall is hardly over. We still have 500 miles to go. But from here on out, the ICW is pretty, the weather is (usually) delightful, and friends plentiful. It fits the description of easy living.

Our favorite stretches on the migration route are 1) Burlington-NYC, 2) Dismal Swamp to Beaufort, NC, and 3) Ferandina Beach - to Fort Pierce, FL. Stress, shoals, heavy traffic, adverse currents, and bad weather mostly happen in the remaining stretches.

Today, we will be social butterflies. We plan lunch with cruising friend Terry, and dinner with cruising friend Charley. Tomorrow we'll head for Saint Augustine.

Another cold front will come through Thursday night. The high temperature Friday in Fernandina will plunge all the way to 57F. But the high in Vero that day will be 79F, and we'll be halfway between.

By the way, we had a wonderful walk past the ruins and through the woods to the beach on Cumberland Island yesterday. Cumberland is a jewel, I recommend it to all cruisers. By the way, northern Cumberland (accessed via the Brickhill River) is the nicest part. The live oaks up there are bigger than you can imagine, and the barrier dunes and semi-marine ecology are textbook perfect.

But the southern part of Cumberland is lovely too. If you have a bicycle and don't mind a 20 mile round trip, you can see both halves of the island with one stop. Of course you can also stop and anchor twice. Cruisers have so many options.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Florida Ho

St Mary's River, Fl/GA
We motored the whole way. Up eventful passage except thst the fuller jammed at the last minute.
We wil anchor and nap at Cu,berlamd today. feranadina tomorrow.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Situational Unawareness

Lady's Island Marina, Beaufort, NC
32 25.194 80 39.540 W

Pilots and captains and soldiers are all trained on maintaining "situational awareness" as an essential part of doing their jobs.  What that means is being aware of your own situation and what is going on around you.   Well yesterday was so cold and miserable that we hid all day down below, under blankets and with the heat on.   We weren't aware of anything happening at this marina.  Boy did we miss a lot.

Lady's Island Marina is located on Factory Creek.  The creek is pretty narrow, and it makes a U shape.  Along the outside of the U are houses, business, docks and lots of boats.  Along the inside of the U is nothing but mud and marshes.  

As we came in to the marina we noticed a very large Morgan Catalina 50 foot boat at anchor just a hundred meters away from the marina.  Well yesterday during the day, that big boat broke its anchor rode and went adrift.   A man on the boat next to Tarwathie saw it happen.  He said that the Morgan turned beam to the wind and started drifting.   Considering the direction of the wind it should have blown to this marina and crashed against all the boats moored here on the ends of the docks.

The man alerted TJ in the marina office.  TJ sprang into action and went out in the marina pump-out motor boat.  He hoped to push the Morgan away from the boats in the marina.   He didn't have to.  The Morgan sailed under bare poles over to the mud side of the creek where there were no boats to hit.  The tide was coming in and that caused the Morgan to skip along the mud bank to the end of the U.  By that time, TJ got Steve to help him.  The two of them boarded the Morgan.  They found a spare anchor on deck.  They threw that out, it caught, and it held.  That prevented the Morgan from crashing into the docks of the homeowners at the end of the U.

Local gossip is that the Morgan had been anchored there for 10 years on a 1/2 inch rope rode.   Experienced boaters know that is totally inadequate for a 40,000 pound boat.

But that's not all.  There is also a 49 foot boat in another slip at this marina.  During the blow, three of her four dock lines came loose. Ay ay ay.  Once again, the dockmaster rescued the boat.

Morgan Catalina 50

p.s. Today, Monday, we are heading out to sea. We should be in Florida by this time tomorrow. Hooray.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Place Memory

Lady's Island, SC

We are hiding out today from bad weather.  It is blowing gale force and it has become bitterly cold.  Tomorrow night the wind will be less but the low temperature will be in the 30s.  Brrrr,  our tolerance for cold is low and our cockpit is open.  Going out to sea sounds tomorrow night sounds very unappealing.  

While we have a down day, I'll write about a cool topic: place memory.  Do you have good place memory?  If you're a sailor, chances are the answer is yes.  I define it as the ability to rapidly and accurately recognize a place you have seen before based on sparse visual cues.  I suspect it is related to the "brain's GPS" cited in this year's Nobel Prize in Medicine.   I think that place memory is a very curious and surprising human ability.

I think that all my blood relatives have good place memory, which suggests an inherited trait.  Even my sister Marylyn who is developmentally disabled, has excellent place memory.

Place memory becomes especially vivid for me as we travel the ICW.  Even though the background of water, marshes and clumps of trees seem nondescript we (both LIbby and I) have no trouble recognizing every twist and turn.   Most vivid for me are the stretches that we traversed before under sail.  Navigating the ICW under sail is rare and challenging.   When you do it, your brain operates at full speed and the memories are more intense.

Libby and I remarked several times that we can drive the back roads of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine and recognize where we are by the architecture of old fashioned homes, and villages.  That sound preposterous but it really works.

I had an uncle (not related by blood), who was notoriously bad at place memory.  It took him 20 years to work up the courage to drive from Boston, Ma to Syracuse, NY to visit my parents.  He was afraid that he might wind up in NJ, or Nova Scotia instead of New York.  GPS was not available in his day.   He did manage to drive his tank over the bridge at Remagen into Nazi Germany, but I always wondered if he wasn't assigned to attack Italy instead :-)

We are fond of telling the story about our daughter Jen.  She once overheard someone say, "Well, The Sun rises in the East."  and she turned and said, "It does?"   We and everyone else were amazed that she should ask that.  But she spent her formative years growing up in Sweden, where The Sun rises in the South mid winter, and at mid summer it rises and sets in the North.  We lived just below the arctic circle.  Just above the arctic circle at mid summer, The Sun never sets, it just goes round and round in circles.  My point is that Jen's place memory and sense of direction were affected by her childhood experience.

Place memory also works for streets, highways, buildings, supermarket aisles, and finding things in drawers.  I think it is very curious how place memory can work so much better than memory for other things.

Out at sea, place memory doesn't work, correct?  For the most part yes; being at sea is disorienting, but there are exceptions.  While the sun is up, I could steer a course +-30 degrees without a compass just by position of the sun.   At night, I might be able to follow a star.  But on a cloudy night without a compass, I would probably steer in circles.  Another exception is the color of the water.  Especially in the passage between Lake Worth, Florida down to The Keys and Marathon, Libby and I delight in recognizing the shifting color of the sea.  Our favorite is the deep deep blue of The Gulf Stream; a color that can't really be photographed or observed.

One skill I've learned from decades of sailing is sensing wind direction with my face and neck. I do it without thinking but Libby seems to not have that sense at all.

I bet you have some curious stories about place memory from your own experience.  Please feel free to post them as a comment.

Friday, October 31, 2014


Ladys Island, SC

Libby would like to try using sweetgrass as well as pine needles in her baskets.  In Charleston sweetgrass baskets are sold everywhere.   I wanted to get some for her, but the only source I find online would cost $15 for a tiny bundle of only two ounces of grass.  Outrageous.

I'm told that sweetgrass grows  near the marshes (and also told not to pick it when it is purple).  We are in the middle of marshes now, and we will be in marshes all the way south to Matanzas.  But I must confess ignorance. It is not the predominant reeds that we see everywhere.  I need advice on where to find some to harvest myself.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Go/Don't Go

Lady's Island, SC
32 25.192 N 080 39.540 W

Looking at the weather, we see that today, tonight and tomorrow are favorable winds to jump offshore for a 24 hour passage to Florida.  But wait.  The tide is against us and we could not get out past Port Royal Sound before sunset.

Worse, there is nasty weather coming in Friday night.  It will blow 30, perhaps 35 knots (which is the threshold for the word "gale")   We would not want to be out there in a gale.

So, if we race we could beat the gale just, and arrive in Fernandina Friday night.  Should we do it?  Hell no.  The literature is full of stories of sailors who thought that they could beat the bad weather to a safe port.  In the stories we read about, they almost always choose wrong. Pilots call it "get there itis"  it is considered a mark of poor judgement, which we try to avoid.   (Of course the ones who choose right. and arrive before the storm, don't write stories, but who pays attention to that?)

It is the responsibility of the captain to look out for the safety and comfort of the crew.

So we'll spend a lazy three days here a Lady's Island and Beaufort.  This is a very nice place with nice people, so the stay will be enjoyable.   Prospects for a noon-Sunday to noon-Mondaty passage to Fernandina look good.

Following The Magenta Line (Navigation)

Bull River, SC
32 30.450 N 080 33.838 W
We made it almost all the way from Charleston to Beaufort on Wednesday. Good progress. Along the way we spent a lot of time following the magenta line. That's my topic for today.
In the picture above, you can see a magenta line printed on the chart. We see the same line on our GPS. The idea is that the magenta line is the "standard" way to navigate between points A and B. Compare it to the white line down the middle of the highway.
If you do follow the magenta line there are benefits. First, you should avoid shoals or other dangers. If you choose your own line from A to B, then you must check every inch along that line for hazards.
Second, the magenta line often has compass headings and distances printed alongside the line. That information is useful.
But there are caveats. The magenta line is very seldom updated, and can be very much out of date. The most infamous such case we know is at the entrance to The Alligator River in NC. Shoals have shifted since that line was first drawn. If you follow the magenta line there you are guaranteed to run aground. Worse, if you follow the red/green markers (which are more authoritative and up-to-date), your charts will show that you will pass over a shoal only three feet deep! USA charts and magenta lines were only updated once every 10 years, but someone made a mistake in this case and missed the changes at the Alligator River, so that line on our charts is 20 years out-of-date. (The US government will not longer print paper charts. I presume that they will also update the electronic charts available for download in real time.)
A more important caveat is to use your eyes and all available information. The red/green markers and buoys are the "official" guides in most cases. However, sometimes they get knocked down or dragged to teh wrong place, so a "notice to mariners" goes out to tell us about the anomalies. Today, most cruisers have enough ways to get those corrections that we should not be surprised.
In rare cases, information is contradictory. Last year, we heard Coast Guard warnings on the radio about a buoy at the entrance to WInyah Bay being off station. An hour later we passed that exact spot, and the buoy in question seemed to be exactly where it should have been. ALARM! CONTRADICTION! HIGH ALERT!
But more dangerous and sometimes more amusing, are the cases where inexperienced boaters follow the magenta line slavishly. We were passed once by a sailboat. Five minutes later the same boat had slowed and it was getting dangerously close to us. I took evasive action, but as we passed I looked into the other boat's cockpit. I saw a woman sitting at the wheel with her nose 2 inches from the chartplotter slavishly following the magenta line without looking around. In your car you would never follow your GPS without looking out the windshield would you? Oh God, please don't tell me you do that. DON'T DO THAT!!!
Following The Magenta LIne in Life sounds like a very rich metaphor for another blog post for another day when I'm feeling philosophical.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Add Charleston to Our Short List

Charleston, SC

As a rule, Libby and I don't like big cities very much.  As a rule, the bigger the city, the more we avoid it.  But for a long time, we had three notable exceptions from our travels: San Francisco, Montréal, and Copenhagen.  Now we have to add a 4th city to our very short list: Charleston.  What a fun place.

We have been remiss at exploring Charleston.  We were spooked by a very nasty experience at Charleston City Docks in 2005, on our first time through here.  After that we avoided Charleston except for a couple of brief stops at the Maritime Center.  We had dinner here once, and we shopped for groceries, but we never explored the downtown.  We did so yesterday and today and we learned what a great place this is.

The bridge.  The bridge is highly visible 25 miles out to sea where nothing else from the city is visible.  It is right near our slip for the night.  Below are night and day views.  Note the giant container ship going under the bridge at noon.

In Schenectady, we used to live in the historic Stockade neighborhood.  We thought that to be charming (and it is).  But now, we saw first hand how grand and charming Charleston's historic district it.  We love the old houses and especially that alleys between them.  I took a ton of pictures but posted only a couple of them below.

After some thought, I realized why Charleston's district is so unique.  The houses are far too close together, and the streets are too narrow.  It is a massive fire waiting to happen.  Indeed, almost every similar urban district like it burned long ago.  It is a miracle that it hasn't burned yet.  If you haven't seen it, come quick while it lasts.  They can't dodge the fire bullet forever, even with modern technology.

Jen, you in particular would love Charleston.  Have you seen it?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bah! Bad Passage

Charleston Maritime Center, Charleston, SC
32 47.354 N 079 55.455 W
I confess, we're spoiled. Avoidance of discomfort outweighs pursuit of pleasure.
Case in point, our offshore passage from Little River to Charleston.
The traditional parting salutation for sailors is "Fair winds and following seas." That is what we were supposed to have yesterday according to That National Weather Service. What we got was the opposite. We had head winds and head seas.
Tarwathie performs poorly in those conditions. Under sail, we make only +-60 degrees into the wind. Under power she porpoises. That means pitching fore-aft. The pitching dissipates mush or her forward momentum into the approaching waves. That slows us drastically. We might be doing 4 knots under power, when she porpoises into a wave that slows us down to 1.5 knots. Bah. I hate that.
Bottom line, we survidpved it, but I would have rather stayed in the ICW yesterday. We also miss out on get togethers in Beaufort with friends Richard and Penny, and cousin Janet and Gordon.
Anyhow, we'll play tourist in Charleston for a day or two. Any suggestions? We are berthed at the base of this bridge.