Thursday, August 28, 2014

Vergennes, Vermont

We found a nice nature trail that starts in Vergennes and follows the south bank of Otter Creek.  Very relaxing.  Nice wild flowers.  Warm sunny day.  Life is good.

Clump of birches looks like a banyan tree in Florida.

Corridors of wonderful lawn from nowhere to nowhere.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Paranoid Not

Vergennes, VT

I'm a big privacy advocate.  I resent surveillance and intrusions on my privacy whether by government or by private companies.   Today however, I found a case over the paranoia limit.  I"m not at all concerned about the following.

If you go to, it will show you Google's records of your location history for today, or for dates in the past.  The map below shows where Google thought I was on July 1 of this year.

It is partially correct. We did sail from Burlington to Valcour Island on that day. Our average position was roughly in the middle of this map. However, we were nowhere near most of the places shown. Cell phone location by tower position, is highly inaccurate. Location by GPS is highly accurate.  But only two of the locations above place me accurately on Valcour Island.  The rest are contacts between my phone and some tower.  None of the locations above put me on the water.  The algorithm probably rejects all places that are not on land.

You have to opt in to location services on your phone before Google collects this data.  You (and I) probably did that the first time you used your new phone.  Google also has a dashboard showing you everything Google knows about you.  It also allows you to delete those histories, for specific dates or for all time.

The map above is useful to me for another purpose.  It lets me see where the cell towers are in the region I frequent.

 But only two of the locations above place me accurately on Valcour Island.  The rest are contacts between my phone and some tower.  None of the locations above put me on the water.  I wonder if the algorithm rejects any locations not on land.  I tested that hypothesis by looking back in June when we were sailing north.  See below.  Nope, my hypothesis was wrong.  It correctly located us out at sea.  Amazing.

Maybe I should increase my paranoia level.   p.s. I normally leave my phone turned off, or on airplane mode while out at sea.   It is a bit of a mystery how Google got those accurate location histories on that day.

Monday, August 25, 2014

One Boater Helped, Another Beyond Help

Vergennes, VT

 This morning we entered Otter Creek, heading for Vergennes. Regular readers know that the trip up/down Otter Creek is one of our favorites. This time, we encountered a sailboat near the mouth of the creek attempting to sail. Sailing in Otter Creek is usually impossible even in strong winds because or the surrounding high hills and trees. Today, with light and variable winds and with a 1 knot current coming down the creek , it was ridiculous. We pulled along side and asked if they needed a tow. "Yes please," was the answer, "We are headed for Tom's Marine (About 3 miles up the creek). He offered to throw me a 7 foot dock line. I declined and threw him a 100 foot line. Then we towed him to Tom's Marine. At the last moment, he let go the line and glided into his slip perfectly. Good deed accomplished. The other story is sadder. From the Burlington Free Press:
The Coast Guard said Brian Webb, 65, spent the night Saturday into Sunday aboard his 34-foot sailboat, the Hellen Louise, which was found anchored and unoccupied in Malletts Bay Sunday morning. The boat's 8-foot white fiberglass dingy, named Jessie B., was not attached to the vessel Sunday morning, Colchester police said.
Colchester police said they received a call at 9:25 p.m. Saturday, reporting that a man was yelling for help in the area of the International Sailing School on West Lakeshore Drive in Colchester. Colchester police units searched the shoreline and the Colchester Police Marine Unit and a vessel from the U.S. Coast Guard searched the water without finding anyone in distress, police said.
This morning, the Coast Guard announced that the search was called off.  Very sad.

If Mr. Webb is actually dead, at least he died doing what he liked.  I am reminded of a W32 owner on the Indian River in Florida.  He failed to return from sailing one day.  His son found the W32, run up on the river bank.  His father was dead in the cockpit with his hand still on the tiller.  That's the way to go.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Family Day

Lake Champlain

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of having Jen, John, and John's girlfriend Becky on board Tarwathie.  We had a great day.  There was very little wind, but otherwise it was splendid weather.

We went down to Shelburne Farms and toured the grounds and building of the inn there.  The inn was the home of Lila Vanderbuilt (daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt.  It was built in 1899, and it remains as an eloquent reminder of an eloquent period in American History.

John, Jen, Libby, Becky

Tarwathie waits patiently for our return..

This is the carriage barn set up for a wedding reception.  THE BARN!!!  This room is about 15% of the floor space of the carriage barn.  There are separate barns for housing the horses, and for breeding the horses.

Friday, August 22, 2014

This Season's Best Picture

Burlington, VT

The water In the background is Sloop Cove, Valcour Island, New York. It is one of our favorite places. I love this picture.  I'm going to name it as my snapshot of the year.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Zoom Out, A Life Lesson

 South Burlington, VT

We're visiting Jen again.  The past several day's weather makes it feel like late September.  This morning is a splendid day, clear, cold.   The valley fog in the picture below shows the view from the airport.  This weather puts me in a good mood and makes me wax philosophical.

The valley fog follows the Winooski River out through Exxex, and through the mountain pass visible on the horizon.   How do I know that?   It is because I know that rivers always do (and must) flow through gaps in the mountains.  In the valley, you can always find a river, highways, local roads, railroads, power lijnes, water/gas pipes, communications links, and lots of houses.  That is why river valley floods are so devastating.

I didn't always know that, because I hadn't thought about it.  I was taught to do that years ago by a young flight instructor, half my age.  We were flying one morning on a day like this.  We were on the other side of the lake near Plattsburg, NY, and ready to head back to Burlington.  The instructor then covered up all the instruments, and said, "OK Dick, how do you find your way back to BTV?"

Being a sailor, and knowing Burlington primarily as a port of call, I peered at the lake trying to locate Appletree point, and Shelburne Point.  I couldn't see them.   Exasperated at my failure, the instructor said, "DICK  Where is your head?  There are two huge mountains on the horizon and you know well that BTV lies between them."  Whoops, I failed because my attempt to concentrate made me zoom in rather than zoom out.

I believe that to be natural.  When people need to concentrate, they tend to focus in rather than out.  [I might be totally wrong to attribute this to all people.  Maybe it's only a minority of people.  Post a comment if you disagree.]   Sometimes, zooming in is the right thing to do, sometime it's better to focus out.

Reading the account of the explorations of Samuel de Champlain, I learned that he was told by the natives that the area of Vermont shown in the above picture was mostly unpopulated. Imagine yourself a lone pioneer lost in that wilderness.  You need to find fresh water to survive. (Never mind that fresh water is plentiful in Vermont.  I'm just trying to make a point.)   You would need to be accustomed to zooming out to be aware of your environment.  The gap in the mountains is visible from up to 100 miles away, and you know that heading for that gap is guaranteed to lead you to a river.   My point is that the primitive man did not need science, or high intelligence to survive, but he did need the ability to zoom out and appreciate the big picture.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jen Had A Fit

Burlington, VT
A package arrived for us. When Jen looked at it, she thought, "WTF." It contained 20 tiny bits of plastic, 1/4" x 1/4" x 1/2". The invoice said $36; $1.75 each bit!!! She thought that we must have been hoaxed or gypped or were just plain stupid. Not so.
There's a real story here. For nearly 10 years, we struggled with methods of marking the lengths of our anchor chain.
We started with cloth tags, sewn on. They didn't last and they were hard to see at times.
We tried plastic wire ties. They didn't last and they were hard to see at times.

We. Tried painted markings. They didn't last and they were hard to see at times.

Nothing worked well. All this time, I was aware that one could buy commercial chain markers made of bits of plastic. But they were far too expensive. Now, after ten years of trying all alternatives, I threw in the towel and bought some of the expensive bits. You can see a picture of some of them installed below. Time will tell. Will they work or will they not last and be hard to see?

Here's our marking scheme. We mark our 5/16" chain every 20 feet, and use Red and White markers.
20 W
40 WW
60 WWW
100 R
120 RR
140 RRR
160 RRRR
180 to the bitter end: unmarked.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Where People In Each State Were Born

I just found an amazing article from the NYT.  It is just data, no editorializing.  Looking at that data for different states is extremely informative about the differing personalities of our 50 states.  I recommend it to all of you.  Spend 20 minutes browsing those graphs for different regions.  It will make you more intelligent and better informed.

Just to get you started, look at and compare NY and NC and VT.  The differences and the timing of those differences are startling.  I think that those differences also have an enormous effect on the culture and the politics of those two states.   Then check out your own state.  Fascinating.

Kudos NYT.   Great journalism.

Read it here.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Why Blog?

Burlington, Vermont

Why do I blog so persistently?   It doesn't make us rich; in fact we've never earned a penny in income from this blog.   It takes work, about 30 minutes per post.   I'm sure you can guess the answer -- because I enjoy it.   Nobody would write so much stuff unless they like doing so.

Another reason is that from time to time, I get a nice little note like the one below from a reader. (his name/ and address I redacted)  To know that my blog makes other people happy is sufficient reward.
Just want to tell you/remind you how much I get from, and enjoy your blog. Perhaps some days you write and wonder "does anybody read?" "does anybody have interest?" I'm here to tell you...year after year...I benefit both from your "tales of the road" as well, by far, as your examination of things, of life, of reality.

Well done, well done! Thank you!

I'm certain you've heard this from others; those of us who have not embarked on such a path (yet) are "stacking away fuel" to do it, fed by the real-ness of what you write, and remind me/us of. Thank you, Dick Mills.
A secondary question is "How do you do it?" and I don't mean the technical details.  Well, perhaps because of my training as an engineer, or perhaps because of my personality, I'm pretty observant of thing and of people around me.   I observe, and I wonder about things I see or hear or read, and I form independent theories or opinions. I'm a skeptic at heart. The majority of my posts are based on those observations.

A minority of the posts, simply chronicle where we are and what we're doing.  Those are of interest to family, friends, and loyal readers.  We need to do that to keep people involved, but if that was the only thing that I wrote on the blog, readership would fall swiftly.

Of course, Libby and I have the advantage of living an exotic life style.   If we lived in a condo and watched TV, we would see and do fewer interesting things.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tarwathie on VPR

Vergennes, VT

Vermont Public radio did a show about Lake Champlain Boating Culture.  I sent in a note, and they discussed us on the program.   You can listen to the podcast (about 25 minutes long) here or you can use your podcast app using this link..

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Lost Generation

Shelburne, Vermont
44 25.420N 073 15.001 W

We are anchored in Shelburne Bay at the exact spot where our favorite photo was taken.   It is an especially beautiful place.  Last night we watched the "super moon"  (the next full moon will be September 9, a day when we might be at sea heading south).   This morning the dawn was spectacular as the sun rose behind the Green Mountains.

We get emails from high school classmates keeping us up to date on news and events.   Recently, the news has been filled with an alarming number of death notices.  Knock on wood.   But it makes me think about our generation.

Libby and I were born in Nov/Dec 1944.  We belong to "the lost generation."  The boomer generation began a year later.  I never heard that term until recently.  I thought we belonged to no generation at all; neither "greatest generation" nor "boomers".  That doesn't mean we weren't generation aware.

We greatly admire "the greatest generation."   Growing up, talk of the war and the depression dominated everything.   I even felt as if we were of the WWII generation, but that wasn't because it was true, but because of immersion in the culture of our elders.

All through our lives, we have been made intensively aware of the boomer generation following at our heels.  Every school I ever attended closed its doors as soon as I graduated to be replaced by a brand new bigger school for the boomers.

In our college years, students wore butch cuts, joined ROCT, volunteered to go to Viet Nam, and never saw nor heard of marijuana or any other drugs.  Oh yes, one more thing, we also missed the sexual revolution by a year.  I remember looking at a Playboy spread about co-ed dorms in 1967 and thinking "damn, it sure wasn't like that when I was there."

I also recall shock reading about on-campus anti-war protests and hippies in 1967 after graduating in 1966. Holy mackerel, the turn-around was so complete and so rapid that it felt as if the boomers were an alien species.  Since then, that cultural divide never disappeared. We constantly hear of and are reminded of differences between us and the boomers.

We are used to being ignored in the media.   In any given week I can read about the problems of retired people (10 years older than us) plus a flood of articles about boomers about to retire.  Nary a mention of our generation. I can't recall a singly news story in any media in any year that focused on (or even mentioned) "the lost generation."  I only learned the term lost generation by a Google search that took he to this page on Wikipedia.

There were also benefits.  We had the great privilege of growing up in the 1950s during the years when the "golden years" were at their best.

A legitimate reason for making "the lost generation" lost is that we are few in number.  Remnants of the depression and the war caused the birth rate to drop dramatically in those years.

US Birth Rates by year.

A practical consequence that persists is that in the past year we note a substantial increase in the number of cruising boats. Retirement of the boomers may have been delayed a bit because of the 2008 recession, but it is in full swing now. We fear that many of our favorite places might become overcrowded in the the coming years. In that respect, retiring early plus being part of a relatively underpopulated age was a great benefit. The window for that benefit may be closing.

(Sombody else can analyze and explain the even lower birth rates post-boomer.)

Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Pleasure of Company

Vergennes, Vermont

We love having company on the boat.  We just concluded a visit from Bob & Sandra and their dog Mattie.   We were able to take them on a dinner cruise out on the lake to see the famous sunset from Burlington's view. (See below)

The next day we also did the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington which is also fun.  We also went hiking on the lakeside trails in Shelburne.

It was a pleasure to have them.   Any other friends who would like to visit; we would love to have you.  Just send an email.

Seen from Burlington, a few days before the visit.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Not a Selfie

Shelburne, VT
44 24.412 N 073 14.317 Wt

Tonight is special,  we're going to have onboard visitors.  Bob & Sandra and their dog Mattie are coming by for a couple of days for a visit.   The weather is not the best, but we'll have fun anyhow.

Below,  here's a rare picture.  It's rare because it shows both Libby and I in the dinghy.  Jen took the pic for us.  Thank you Jen.

p.s. We stayed at Jen's house over the weekend.  Winds were light, so I felt safe leaving Tarwathie anchored in Burlington.  The solar panels would keep the batteries charged for us.  When we returned to Tarwathie this morning, the batteries were almost dead (11.9 volts).  Further investigation showed that the thermostat on the refrigerator went beserk.   Everything was frozen, even our bottle of milk and a head of lettuce.

Luckily, there was enough left in the batteries to start the engine, so we recovered.  I'll order a new thermostat today.  Until then, we'll have to turn the fridge on/off by hand to regulate temperature.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

In Praise of the Lowly PBJ

South Burlington, Vermont

Libby and I are fond of something sweet in the late evenings.   Ice cream used to be our favorite.   Unfortunately I had to lay off the ice cream because I connected it to gout.  Eat a generous helping of ice cream 2-3 nights in a row and I would get hit with an attack of gout for the following week.

On the boat, we now resort to cookies as our favorite nighttime snack.

But last night at Jen's house we had no good cookies at hand, so I made myself a peanut butter sandwich. It was so delicious I had to make a second one.

As the legendary food for American small children, the PBJ sandwich gets no respect.  It deserves better.  It is a superb and (I think) healthy treat. The jam need not have a lot of sugar, most of the flavor comes from the peanut butter.

In Sweden, the favored snack was Wasa bread (Americans call it crisp bread) with butter and a slice of cheese, and a dab of Kalles Caviar on top.  That was very good, but I think I like the PBJ better.

Hip hip hooray for the P B J.