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.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Can't Resist

Cape Fear River, NC
33 58.888 N 077 .56.898 W
I normally don't repost jokes, but I'll make an exception for this one.

So this skydiving student goes on his first solo jump. When the plane gets up to altitude and over the target, he jumps. Falling to the proper altitude, he pulls the release on the main chute. Nothing.

Fighting back panic, he remembers what they taught in class and pulls the release on the backup chute. Nothing happens again. Things are starting to look pretty grim as he watches the ground rapidly approach.

Then, he notices a man, rising toward him from the ground. Odd, he thinks to himself. But what the hell ..... When this person gets within earshot, the skydiver yells, "Hey buddy! Do you know how to work a parachute?"

"No", the other person replies. "Do you know how to light a Coleman stove?"

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ground ZeroPN

Carolina Beach State Park
34 10.973 N 077 48.908 W

This is a semi-mandatory stop for us. This park is ground zero for pine needles. As far as we know, there are no finer nor longer pine needles in the world other than here. I think the reason is that the park does regular controlled burns. The pine trees less than two meters tall are newborn, and it is those that have the best needles.  One needle can extend from the tip of Libby's index finger all the way to her elbow.

We're spending two nights here and we're trying to figure out how to get to Little River by tomorrow bucking tides all the way.

We have two new friends. Monty and Carol on Sea Bird are long time fans of this blog. They just started their cruising life last Monday in Oriental. How exciting. The first year is magic. Anyhow, they are full of anticipation and questions so we were happy to answer what we could.

Below are some of the most famous inhabitants of this park.  Libby tickled one with a pine needle and made it snap shut.  Tsk tsk, that's against the rules.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Surf City Here We Come

Surf City, NC
34 26.691 N 077 32.000 W

Last night in Mile Hammock Bay, we were treated to the special kind of entertainment that only Camp Lejune Marines can provide.   We were surrounded by explosions and automatic weapons fire all night long.  It sounded like an ISIS attack.  Actually, it was less noisy than a previous time in the same location.  On that previous night they were practicing rappelling down from hovering blackhawk helicopters 100 meters away.

I promised to report on our problem with salt water intrusion to the primary coolant antifreeze.  Here's the short version. We motored from NC to VA on the outside.  Midway through the trip I checked the engine.  It and the engine compartment were caked in salt!!!  When we got to the DSC canal I first cleaned up the salt, then  I investigated.  I found the expansion tank full to overflow, and I found the radiator cap's spring broken.   I emptied the tank,n flushed the engine with fresh water, refilled the engine with antifreeze, and put on a new cap.  Since then it behaved normally.  But I wanted Daryl, the mechanic at Sailcraft, to check it out.

My theory centered on the heat exchanger.  My spare exchanger is shown on the picture below.  Salt water goes through the tubes and the plenums on both ends.  The whole thing sits in a bath of antifreeze. Rubber O-rings on each end separate the salt water from antifreeze.  (I say "raw water"/ "primary coolant" sides, but some other people  say "raw water"/"fresh water."  No matter.)

My theory was that only a tube leak or a O-ring leak could cause raw water to leak to the primary side.  Daryl, had a different opinion.  He said that an O-ring might have initially not seated right.  That would be exacerbated if the radiator cap prevented the primary side from being pressurized.  Normally, there is little pressure difference between raw and primary sides.   But the O-ring should "roll" with time and seat itself which seems to be the case.   Daryl also found a leak in the raw water vented loop up high that could have sprayed raw water around causing the engine to be caked with salt.

The vented loop leaked because of a cut in the hose.  I had two hose clamps on a place where there was only room for one, and the second clamp caused a cut in the hose.  I put two there because the insurance surveyor wrote that up as a defect in our last survey and the insurance company insisted that I remedy it.   The surveyor used only book learning rather than common sense.   I remember being very annoyed that he wrote up findings that included three things that I disagreed with.  But once written, the insurance company insists on strict compliance.  I think that surveyors should review and discuss all their findings with the owner before submitting the report.

In any case, Daryl replaced the vent hose, but declined to take the engine apart to inspect the heat exchanger.   Sailcraft also installed an anti-wrap fair lead near the masthead to prevent my jib halyard from wrapping around the jib when we furl. (We had that problem for the first time in the past few weeks.)   Both jobs were one in only 90 minutes and we sailed away after paying only $150 for a surpisingly low bill.  It made for a good day.

Since leaving Sailcraft, I have been paying special attention to the engine cooling system.  It is functioning well.  The expansion tank level is constant.  Not a single drop of salt water has leaked anyplace.  Things seem good.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Southward Ho

Bogue Sound
34 43.089 N 076 54.404 W
Our southward migration is under way. None too soon I might say because it is cool outside.
Yesterday morning we stopped at Sailcraft in Oriental for some engine and rigging work. I'll write more on that later, but for now I'll tell you that both jobs turned out to be simpler, faster and less expensive than I expected. Such surprises are welcome.
Long time readers know that in recent years, we sail outside as much as possible and on the ICW as little as possible. Part of that is being jaded - "been there, done that." But often we plod down the ICW hoping and praying for a weather window to go outside. Guess what? Such a weather window began today, and it will continue for 5 days. We could sail all the way to Miami in this window. But this time we are ignoring that.
We decided that this year we will take our time and see more of the sights than in recent years. Cruisers are privileged to not being held to a consistency standard. I'm sure that there are delights on the ICW that we haven't seen yet. We will also visit with friends where possible. We will stay on the ICW at least until Beaufort, SC and Port Royal Sound Inlet.
The risk that we take is that the weather will turn cold and nasty. We don't like cold nasty weather any more. Too bad; we'll take the risk.
Last night we were comfortable and secure in Spooners Creek. We were surrounded with luxury houses and luxury yachts, but after dark I couldn't see lights on in any of the houses. None of the owners were there
Tonight we will anchor at Mile Hammock Bay inside Camp Lejune. But first we have to get past Brown's Inlet. Thst is a place that always shoals such that it is impossible to pass at low tide. Low tide today is at 1330 (1:30) and the next high tide is at sunset around 1900 (7:00). We will try to time our passage between 1700 and dark. By the way, the last time we passed Browns Inlet a year ago, we did run aground.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Promotions All Around!

Oriental, NC
With the arrival of Anna Meagley Monday in Rome, NY, Libby and I have just been promoted to great grandparents. Wow, what a great feeling. It has been a long time since our last promotion.
Most of all we are happy for our granddaughter and new mother Sara.
Of course, John and Cheryl also gain promotion to grandparents, not to mention auntie Katelyn, auntie Victoria, and uncle Nick. Congratulations one and all. This is a joyous day.
My God Sara. You are so beautiful. It seems like only yesterday that we cradled you in our arms. Well done Sara.
Don't know yet when Libby and I get to see Anna but we will find a way.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Skydive Videos

Oriental, NC

Any day where you can expand your personal envelope is a grand day. Yesterday was a grand day for both David and me.   Today is a joyous day.  To find out about why, visit tomorrow's post.

Dick's Video

Dave's Video

Sunday, October 19, 2014


New Bern, NC

Our last day in New Bern today, and what a grand day it was. Dave and I did our skydive this afternoon. A still picture is shown below. I'll post the video in a few days.

How was the experience? It was awesome. I won't try to put it in words until I have more time to do it, but in summary it was great fun. Even better, Dave enjoyed it even more than I did. The jump was a birthday present for Dave. IMHO, the best birthday present I ever gave him.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Follow Up: Respecting Roles

New Bern, NC

I neglected something critically important in yesterday's post about cruising secrets.

On the boat, it is essential that all parties learn their roles and live up to the roles.

There must be one and only one captain on a boat.  That's not a policy, it is a reality.  With two on board, that means that one is captain and the other is crew.   That differs from the "partners" role that we follow in marriage.   The two people on a boat under way can not be partners.  That adjustment, and the ability to juggle two sets of roles, (one on board the boat, and another ashore) can be difficult.  But failure to adjust dooms many couples to failure.

It is the captain's role to gather data (including crew input, opinions, and abilities), to formulate an action plan, communicate that plan.  Then it becomes the duty of all crew and captain to execute that plan as a team, unless and until the plan changes.   There can be zero tolerance for anyone in the crew who fails to work with the team to execute the plan.  In moments of urgency, there may be no time for words; orders must be executed immediately and without question.  Urgent moments on a cruising boat are presumably less extreme than those of soldiers in combat (much much less), but the principles of discipline are analogous.

It is the crew's role to provide input to the captain when a decision is being debated.  But as soon as the plan is announced, further debate must be suppressed.   That does not mean being blind. If the captain decides to go to port and a crew sees danger to port, he/she should shout out "Danger to Port!"  Crew must also be free to observe "Your plan is not working Captain."  But there is zero tolerance for crew to substitute a plan differing from what the Captain said.

Who gets to be Captain? Traditions bias us toward choosing the man, but experience and various abilities are the real criteria.  Even the male choice is rational to the extent that men are supposed to be less subject to emotional pressure than women.

Another key role is helmsman.  With two of us on board, we take turns at the helm.  The helmsman necessarily has duties and authorities independent of the person's other role as Captain or crew.  As a trivial example, if the plan is to go east, and there is a buoy due east of us, of course the helmsman steers around the obstacle.  Only in cases where an officer is standing beside the helmsman does the authority of the helmsman get narrowed.

Here's where many Captain Queegs go wrong. Any crew has the right to jump ship once we get to port.  If the captain behaves like an ass, he will lose crew.  So the Captain's primary duty is to command the vessel, but a secondary duty is to nurture relationships with the crew. When the crew is also your spouse, that secondary duty is more than just important it is vital.

In our case, our first two years were rougher until I learned how to properly criticize and berate Libby when she screwed up.  Everyone screws-up, Captain and crew alike.   It turned out that the essential l thing Libby needed was self-confidence.  Once she became sufficiently confident that she could bring Tarwathie safely back to port alone in any reasonable circumstances, she relaxed and became vastly more comfortable living life as a cruiser.  Hasty criticism, and harsh words, pierced her self-confidence.  I had to learn to hold back criticism until times of post-mortem debriefings when we reviewed what we did without emotion.  In the immediate aftermath of something like running aground because of helmsman error, we have both learned to accept it without fear or even raising our voices or our pulse rates at all.  Hours or days after the fact, (and back in our partner roles),  we review what happened and try to learn from that.

That details of that real life lesson for Libby and I may not apply to other couples.  Every person is individual.  The unvarying rule that applies to all vessels, is that there are roles that must be played on board any vessel, and all persons must learn and fulfill their respective roles, quite apart from their relationships on land.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Key Secret for Cruising

New Bern, NC

A friend, Jill Upchurch, is circumnavigating on her W32.  She is currently in the South Pacific, heading home to NZ.  She recently posted the following on Facebook.

Seems like it is the time of year when maritime marital bliss is strained. I have had a steady stream of boat wives visit saying if they/their husband doesn't get off the boat for a few hours, blood will be shed. I'm blaming the humidity
A key to successful cruising is that you must somehow arrange for privacy/time-apart from your sailing companions to maintain sanity.  That applies to your spouse and to anyone else on board with you.  How much privacy/time-apart you need is highly individual, but we all need some.  The consequence of insufficient privacy is a growing sense of annoyance that will continue to build and eventually explode if not relieved.

Remember that a sailboat offers far less area and volume than a house or apartment does.  On board, Libby and I live 90% of the time in 150 square feet.   That includes kitchen, eating, living, and sleeping accommodations.  For most of you readers, that may be less area than in your bathroom.

Many people remark that they and their spouse would never be able to live in such close quarters.  They are probably right.  But for those of us who succeed, finding ways to be apart from each other sufficient time is essential.

When we are in port (which applies 8 months out of the year), Libby and I live very separate lives during the day.  I go to the gym, or the library, or ride my bike, go to lunch with my friends, and spend most of the day on shore.  Libby likes to work on her baskets on board the boat, but she also goes shopping, to Tai Chi, or to visit with her friends independently from me.  In Marathon we like to have a weekly luncheon with our closest friends, but we split up.  Men go to one restaurant and women to another.

Don't we ever do things on shore together?  Sure we do, but the majority of time ashore we are apart.

From suppertime on, we are together on the boat in that 150 square feet.   But we have a knack of being able to read, or basket, or even watch a movie together in silence, and with a sufficient feeling of privacy that whatever tensions exist between us, don't build up.  Not everyone can do that, and not everyone can adapt to living on a boat.

When we are at sea, there is no opportunity to go ashore to be truly apart.  But 24 hours per day, one of us is on watch while the other is below decks usually trying to sleep.   We get to see each other only 10 minutes each 4 hours as we change watch.  Instead of an excess of togetherness, we actually feel lonely when at sea.

We we are under way on the ICW,  we typically travel 10 hours per day.  Most of those 10 hours, one is on the helm, and the other below decks.   But the evenings at anchor, are much the same as when we are in port.  Those are some of the most varied and fun days of the whole year.  We really like them.

Of course there are many single-handed cruisers, but I have little experience with that, so I can't say much.   But in terms of cruising with other people, and especially your spouse, you must learn to manage togetherness in close quarters if you are going to succeed in the long term.  I suspect learning how to do that may be more difficult than learning the skills of seamanship and boat maintenance.

I don't think I can offer good advice on how to achieve that; it is very individual. I simply point out that it is a must.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Report On The Trial

New Bern, NC

Lee Bettis, former mayor of New Bern: guilty of all charges.  He was sentenced to 90 days in jail for the DWI charge and 12 months of supervised probation for the two counts of child abuse. But he was not punished for the reckless driving charge.  That was the result of the three day long trial.

I sat through every minute of it.  I learned a lot.  I was very impressed by the competency of the prosecutors, the defense lawyers and the judge.  I researched Mr. Bettis on the Internet, and I find him to be a very interesting and very accomplished man.  This verdict will have a devastating effect on Bettis' career and family.  I'm sad for their sake.

The charges were DUI, reckless driving, and child abuse (for having 2 kids in the car).  The local scuttlebutt was that the New Bern establishment was out to get Mr. Bettis.  He was a New York lawyer who moved to New Bern and took on the entrenched interests.  It is easy to believe that they wanted to get them.

The Trial
It started with the testimony of three women who saw Bettis' reckless driving on 5/6/2013.   Tapes of 911 calls reinforced what they said.  His driving was certainly reckless.  He endangered lots of people, including his kids.  It was so bad, that some explanation other than bad driving was imperative.

From the first day, there was a great deal of legal wrangling about HGT and especially VGT (vertical gaze nystagmus) tests for influence.  Those tests have to do with fluttering of the eyes.  Not all states allow them.  They are very effective but very controversial. The admissibility of VGT evidence and the qualifications of police officer Rodgers to administer the test and interpret the result were challenged.  At first the judge ruled to exclude it, but on the second day after more argument, he changed his mind.   The lawyers were prescient. As it turned out, the VGT test (in my opinion) was the one and only conclusive piece of evidence in my mind.   Without the VGT, I would have voted not guilty.  With the VGT, I would have voted guilty.

You see, Bettis blew 0.00 on the breathalyzer.  No alcohol.  His blood test showed the presence of Xanax (a tranquilizer), but it did not show how much was in his blood. He could have taken  Xanax a week before the incident and still have it show up in the blood test.   But it doesn't matter for the VGT test.    The law says 1) That VGT is either present or not present.  2) That if it is present, the only possible cause is a high dose of some substance.  Rogers said VGT was present, so the state did not have to prove what he actually took, or how much or when he took it.  All that doesn't matter.

When the prosecution rested, I looked forward to the defense.  I felt that the state's evidence was very thin.  I wanted the defense to present an alternative theory of why Bettis drove that way.  An alternative to hang my hat on to establish reasonable doubt.  No such theory came.  The defense was even weaker than the prosecution's case.

My Conclusions
In my book, the entire case turned on that VGT test.  I'm not convinced that Xanax was the substance.  Neither side's story in my opinion, explained what was really going on that morning of 5/6/2013.

So, was it a conspiracy by the establishment to get Bettis?  Well, they didn't put him behind the wheel that day, and I do believe that officer Rogers' field tests were done properly and reported correctly.  As I said, I believe Bettis to be guilty of DUI.

On the other hand, they may have piled on the charges in excess, and they called in the state's heaviest hitters to make the case against Bettis for what could have been treated as a less serious crime.  They main charge was not just DUI, but aggravated DUI (which carries a stiffer penaly).  They asked the jury if his DUI was aggravated by reckless and dangerous driving, but they they added a separate charge of reckless driving (yes he did).   They asked the jury if his DUI was aggravated by having children in the car (yes he did), but then they added separate charges of child abuse.  That sounds like piling on to me.  I suspect that other defendants in similar circumstances would have been charged with only DUI.

A New Want

New Bern, NC
I just finished writing about bucket list aversion. But today, I just found something I really want to experience. Oh well, my list may not be bucket, but it is a list.
My new item is to see the fall colors in the southern Appalacian Mountains along the Blur Ridge Highway. Hereto, I thought of fall colors only in relation to the northeast, NY, VT, MA. But today i saw the picture below, taken this week on the Blur Ridge Higway. Wow oh wow oh wow. Not only are there colors, but the air is less hazy and the views of the valleys are much better than when we were there June 2013.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Keeping Busy

New Bern, NC

My readers know me best as a sailing cruiser.  But I'm also a retired guy; in many respects no different than other retired guys.   I have a lot of time on my hands.   My preference is to spend most of that time in some kind of intellectual pursuit.

I'm a news junkie.   I spend 30-60 minutes per day studying theoretical physics.  I read lots of stuff.  I listen to lectures and debates and oral arguments and so on in audio and video.  I'm an entertainment fan, series like Sopranos, Damages, Good Wife, and Breaking Bad really turn me on.  One experience I never had was seeing a jury trial.  I tried several times before to see a trial but it never worked out.

This week I connected.   I spent all day yesterday and today in the DWI/Child Abuse/Reckless driving trial of a man who was mayor of New Bern at the time of his arrest.   It is a doozy of a trial.  They trucked in a jury from another county (first time in NC history), a judge from a third county, and a special prosecutor who appears to be NC's top gun in DWI matters.  The defense attoryey also appears to be the state's top gun on DWI defense.  Wow.

Talking with locals at the marina, I learned that they think that the old guard of New Bern is out to get the mayor, and that the whole thing is conspiracy to frame him.  Double wow.

So what's my impression so far?  I'd rather wait until the end of the trial to say because I haven't heard the heart of the defense case yet.  But I've already been surprised by legal tricks, surprises, and twists, legal wrangling, and dramatic testimony that make me feel that I could be watching an episode of The Good Wife.   Like I said, a doozy of a trial. It may last the rest of the week.
News story here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Skydive Postponed

New Bern, NC
Yesterday, the area was covered by thick low clouds. The dive master said "no go." We rescheduled foo next Sunday.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Bucket List Remedy

New Bern, NC

Dave and I are booked to go skydiving on Sunday. (Don't worry, I'll blog about it.)  When the word got out, the most common comment I got from friends was, "Is that on your bucket list."   I find that offensive and insulting.  I'll explain why.

Libby and I are already living the dream.  We have been doing so for nearly 10 years now.  Few people in real life are as lucky as we.   If I were to die tomorrow, I would have no regrets.  Given those circumstances, I have no need for a bucket list.   But when I tell people that, they react as if I should be an object of pity, wallowing in depression and lethargy.  They believe in the poster above, and forget that the choice is not binary; bucket list or fear, but that there are other possibilities.

So, what do I do when Libby raises the subject of bucket lists?  (Here's a secret of a long and happy marriage people.)  I would never tell Libby to her face that she was offensive and insulting; no matter what.   Yet without harsh words, I did something that guarantees that she will never raise the subject of bucket lists ever again.  So what did I do?   The answer is highly amusing, but I can't post it here on the blog because our grandkids read this blog.  If you would like the answer, send me an email, and I'll send the answer back.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Can Small Stuff Sink Your Boat?

New Bern, North Carolina
35 06.209 N 077 02.296 W

Can small maintenance items sink your boat?  Probably not; that's why we call them "small" stuff.  However, an accumulation  of small stuff could sink you.  Worse, each small maintenance problem reduces your safety margin in hard conditions or in case of a major problem.  I recently read, Rescue of the Bounty (by W32 owner Doug Campbell).  Loss of HMS Bounty was very much due to an accumulation of small problems.

An insurance surveyor once explained to me that theory of writing you up for seemingly trivial maintenance lapses is that the insurers want you to keep your boat ship shape.  I have big complaints about insurance surveyors and surveying as practiced, but I must admit the validity of their theory.  If I were an insurer, I would want to serve only customers who keep their boats well maintained, small stuff as well as big.

Illustrative case:  Two weeks ago we were sailing in heavy weather offshore from New Jersey.  A wave broke over the bow.  Water rushed down the leeward side and filled the cockpit.  That happens all the time on W32s.  This time I noticed that the leeward cockpit drain was draining very slowly.  Today at the dock, I decided to check it out.

I ran a plumbers snake down the drain. I felt an obstruction but I couldn't dislodge it.  So I had to take off the hose pipe between the cockpit and the sea cock, and then pushed out the obstruction.  What I found is seen in the picture below.  It appears to be some unidentifiable plastic material, plus a nest built by a creature, some pine needles, and a cap from a toothpaste tube.  I remember dropping the toothpaste cap while in the cockpit and being unable to find it, but the other things I have no idea how they got there.

Is a blocked drain dangerous?  Any vessel is supposed to be able to completely drain above-deck water in 30-45 seconds.  Why?  Because a boat with bulwarks like a W32 can hold tons of water above deck and the center of gravity becomes very high.   Every second that water remains you are at risk.  That's why why we have small cockpit wells, two cockpit drains, scuppers, and those beautiful sculpted curves fore and aft in the caprails of a W32.  But a single blocked drain eliminates some of the redundancy.  It is a small thing, but it needs attention.   When was the last time you poured a big bucket of water in your cockpit well to see how fast it drains?

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Blood Moon

New Bern, NC
We woke up early to watch the eclipse. But we didn't have to go far. The moon was visible directly out through the open companionway. It was almost aligned to watch as we laid in bed.
It was beautiful. The red color became more and more prominent as the size of the lit crescent grew smaller.
It was very easy to see that the size of the Earth's shadow is very much bigger than the moon. Because of that, the crescent was very different from the crescent shape of a new moon.
I tried taking pictures but once again it proved impossible from the deck of a boat. I had to zoom 25x. At that magnification I could barely keep the moon in the view field, not to mention take a time exposure. As a consolation, here is a picture I found online.
Photo Sodai Goma/Flikr
Photo Sodai Goma/Flikr

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Central Liberal/Libertarian Divide

New Bern, NC
An article A.I.G. Bailout, Revisionists’ Version in today's New York Times inspired me to write this post. It discusses how the government decided to punish stockholders of A.I.G. to protect stockholders of the big banks (because it was in the national interest.) You should read the article. To me, the article is a perfect illustration of the central issue forever dividing liberals from libertarians.
The central issue as I see it, is whether "we" should decide something collectively or whether I and everyone else should decide it individually. For example, I decide who to marry. The sum of all "I" decisions determines the family makeup. The alternative would be if "we" (as represented by government) decide who marries whom. I find that idea offensive although Harvard undergraduates last year said that they see no problem with it. Let me use the coined term "II" to represent the "sum of all I decisions."
Liberals and the press, usually do not understand or even acknowledge this view. Choose the political hot topic of the day; policy A versus policy B on some proposition. The press runs out to learn which side liberals and conservatives lean on the question and report that; making it a wedge issue. They ignore the fact that libertarians are offended by the idea of putting the issue up for collective voting in the first place. They would prefer letting it be decided by the II process. They are offended by not having the choice "none of the above" on the ballots when they vote. Libertarians are offended by putting up the question as something "we" decide. The press ignores this while focusing on the A versus B wedge.
I am offended by not having the choice "abolish government" on the ballot when I vote. Never in my life have I been asked to vote on that question, nor have I been asked for my consent to be governed. The human right to "alter or abolish government" voiced in our Declaration of Independence, vanished when the US Constitution which specifically forbad insurrection.
I also believe that the liberal "we" view naturally arises from high density (city) populations, whereas libertarian (country) populations favor "II". If you study the maps of the USA showing red/blue counties by politics and compare that to population density in those counties, you'll see a strong correlation. The influence of density is natural. The higher the density, the more we are forced to think "we." For example, public transportation is an issue that must be a "we" decision. The growing population (I would say overpopulation) trend drives us in the liberal direction.
So, how does this relate the the article? Secretary Paulson unashamedly acknowledge his choice. A.I.G. was singled out as a scapegoat to be punished in order to assert the principle of "moral hazard" for misbehaving investors. I agree with the "moral hazard" principle, but in this case government chose to use it to punish misbehaving A.I.G. investors in order to shield equally misbehaving bank investors, because it was in the national interest. To me, this illustrates the inevitable corruption of the "we" approach. I believe that government should not have the authority to single out a minority to suffer to further the interests of the majority. That is corrupt. It reminds me of the famous quote:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.-- Martin Niemöller

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Window Into The Belly of The Beast

Zebulon, NC

Regular readers know that I lean toward the libertarian side of politics, and that I think Edward Snowden is a hero.   I found an antihero, Mr. Stewart Baker.  Mr. Baker, formerly of the NSA and DHS, and now a private practice lawyer, has views the opposite of mine on many issues.  I can think of him as the great Satan, the beast.  Well, Mr. Baker has a weekly podcast called the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast.

I started following this podcast because I'm interested in the issues.   I found Mr. Baker's attitude (and that of many of his guests) breathtaking.   He (they) is very contemptuous of privacy advocates and foreign governments.   I think of him as proof of why government should never be trusted.  If people in government are as contemptuous of privacy as he is, we can only expect that they will strive to circumvent and subvert any restrictions the public wishes to place on them.

On the other hand, Mr. Baker, his partners and his guests are very well informed about what is going on beyond the headlines.   They are also very pragmatic about what is likely to happen next and in how debates are likely to pan out.   I've come to respect their knowledge and insight greatly.

I have also listened to Mr. Baker's arguments, and in many cases, after critical thinking, I conclude that he is correct and that I should change my opinions.  I still think of him as the great Satan, but a Satan who is reasoned and correct pretty often.

If you are interested in the issues of NSA data collection, or Edward Snowden's revalations, and if you are unsure which side is right in the debate, and sure or unsure over whether government should be trusted, I recommend the Steptoe Cyberlaw Podcast.  You don't need to episodes in real time,  you can go back to episode one and I promise you will be entertained and enlightened.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Rest of The Story

Zebulon, NC
We are visiting Dave and Cathy at their house this week. Today we had a nice visit from Ray & Pat (formerly) from the vessel Reflection. Long time readers will recognize them, we shared many adventures with them over the years, all documented in this blog. Patty was the one who taught Libby to make pine needle baskets. Patty is a very accomplished crafts person of her own right. Ray and Pat were driving from Maine to Florida and they stopped to,say hello.
I'll tell the story thst I ducked the other day. It is very sad. I heard the story third hand from three sources so I can not vouch for the absolute accuracy of what I heard.
An experienced boating couple were pulling their sailboat into Oriental's new public dock. It was the same place where we docked three days later. The man was at the helm and the 69 year old woman was in the stern with a docking line at ready. I presume thst it must have been a center cockpit boat. When the man put the engine in reverse to back down, the docking line fouled the propeller. The line wrapped around the woman somehow. It pulled her overboard, under the water and tight up against the propeller, probably in about one second.
I imagine the man being confused. He would have heard a splash and his wife disappeared and the engine suddenly died. I imagine that his first thought was where is she? His second thought would have been that the boat was drifting out of control. That is a powerful instinct to get the boat under control. It would have taken me a minute or three to analyze what had happened, and to begin making a plan of action. By that time she may have been dead already.
One account said that the man could reach under water and hold her hand, but thst he could not pull her up.
It took 30 minutes for rescuers to bring her body up.

My heart goes out to that couple. What a horrible accident.

I can think of several safety rules to prevent such an accident, but none of them would be likely to be observed. None of us are able to maintain eternal vigilance. I'm sure that the woman would know not to allow the line to get in the water, but she might have simply dropped it, or not noticed thst it was in the water.

What happened could happen to any of us at any time.