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.