Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Longest Day

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

I'm hardly John Wayne, but tomorrow I'm going to do my own version of "The Longest Day".   At 4AM, Keys Shuttle will pick me up at the marina to take me to Miami Airport.  Then I'll fly to Last Vegas, and meet my daughter Jen.  In the evening, Jen and I hope to catch a show of Cirque del Sol.  Since my bedtime has been creeping towards 2030 Eastern Time lately, we'll see how I do.

But it is a joyous occasion.  Jen and I will have two weeks together to explore the American Southwest.   I plan to hit many of the same places where I went before with Libby and with my son Dave, and with my Father.  Zion, Brice, Escalante, Capitol Reef, Page, Grand Canyon, Flagstaff and Sedona.  Those are the places roughly in a circle with radius 200 miles, with the center at the San Francisco Mountains.  (I've yet to share the trip with my oldest son John.)

I'll be leaving Libby alone on the boat for the two weeks. It has been many years since I've been apart from her for that long.   But she has many friends in Boot Key Harbor.  I'm sure she'll do fine.

Keep posted for blogs to come from out west.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Single Point Failures

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

In engineering and in any high-reliability operations, it is standard to eliminate any single point failure that could cause something bad to happen.  In other words, it must take more than something going wrong to have a bad outcome,  It must take a chain of multiple things.

Of course Libby and I practice that when cruising.  I've written before about the nasty box canyon scenario.  More mundane and everyday, we keep far enough away from other vessels to prevent a collision if something goes wrong.  You do the same when you drive your car down the street.  (You do don't you?)

But it is harder to follow that rule in everyday things we do without thinking.   Case in point.  I realized that Libby and I have both fallen into the habit of holding the dinghy painter in one hand as we climb down from Tarwathie into the dinghy.   If we should drop the painter, the dingy will be gone downwind and we will be ip the creek without a dinghy.

I had to force both of us to modify our habits.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Emergency Blog Backup

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

I saw an item in today's news that alarmed me.  It said, "Google bans porn from Blogger."    As you know, this blog does not contain porn, but Google's computers might decide that frequent use of the word dick here implies porn.  (My phone absolutely refuses to let me type my name in a text message.)

Twice in the past, Google abruptly terminated free services that I used and like.  Since they were free, I have no recourse. Google could delete my blogger account and Gmail account tomorrow.  What could I do, call Google Customer Service?

I could always create a new blog somewhere else, but if I did how would you find it? If you google search for dickandlibby or Tarwathie, you'll find thousands of hits to the archived articles of this blog, not a new blog.  The readership of this blog has built year after year, and it would be a very big loss if I had to start from scratch.

Therefore, I think I have an emergency backup.  I created a group on Facebook, that contains a link to my blog.  If you loose contact with me or with this blog, just go to Facebook, and search there for dickandlibby or  Tarwathie.   If I have to start a new blog with a new address at a new site, I'll post a link there.

By the way, Facebook could also terminate me without notice because I violate their terms of service by not using my real name on my Facebook account.

Did you know that violating a web site's terms of service is a federal crime (see CFAA) with a penalty of up to 35 years?   I'm pretty sure that I do that with 8 or more web sites.  That means that a fed, or a US attorney could threaten me with 240 years in jail as leverage to force me to cooperate with them or to confess to a crime.   Ridiculous you say?  Not in today's America.

Police have adviced teen girls to not use their real names on Facebook to protect them from sexual predators.  If they do so, they too are federal felons.

There is the famous and horrific case of Aaron Schwartz, who was hounded into suicide by federal prosecutors for violating the terms and conditions of a web site.  Another woman (I can't find the link) was convicted of a CFAA violation for not using her real name on Facebook (but the judge set aside the verdict.)  There is the Supreme Court Case (Bond v U.S.), where a woman who put noxious chemicals on her husband's lover's doorknob was charged as a terrorist waging chemical warfare.  There is the Supreme Course Case (Yates v U.S.) of a fisherman given 15 years for throwing an undersized fish overboard.

In those two cases, the Supreme Court justices, called the government's decisions to bring those charges ridiculous and stupid.  In the last case, the Solicitor General admitted that Obama administration DOJ guidelines require prosecutors to apply the most severe charges in every case.  No room for common sense.  If I am charged with failure to show proper navigation lights on my boat, the prosecutor would be required to add those other 240 years of felonies to my charges (but then he could drop all charges in exchange for a plea bargain).

Pardon my rant against overcriminalization.  I have a pending Captain's Table blog post about that.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Talents Afloat

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

I've written that cruisers are more healthy than the average person, are they also more artistically talented too?   I don't have the answer to that question.  Here in the harbor we have handy people like Alex, and musical people like Cory.  Actually, we have lots of musical people here.  They get hired by the local restaurants to provide live entertainment.  Then we have Libby, Sandra, Sharon, and Patty, the pine needle basket queens of Marathon.  Painters too seem to be everywhere here.  Even some of the homeless people who live in the mangroves make some beautiful art.

An exceptional talent that we met cruising is Alexandre Lemieux.  He is a young man from Quebec.   We know Alexadre's parents and we heard him sing on the boat.   Wonderful.  He composes his own music.

Now we heard that he won first prize at Prix de Vox Aeterna (The voice of the Eternal prix). Congratulations Alexandre.

Here is a youtube video of Alexandre singing.  Who cares if it in French, it's great music.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hats Off To Adventurers

 Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

Does that picture look scary to you?  It looks positively horrifying to us; as if the end of the world was approaching that hapless boater.   Our cruising lives are very much oriented around avoidance of things like that, and avoidance of even more minor discomforts such as cold.

In reality (IMHO) we all live out lives on a continum.  There is a tension between adventure and comfort.

I also believe that it is true that people admire adventure, and they yearn for it, but that nearly all of us choose to set our personal slider somewhere other than the extreme left.  Extreme sports fans, such as wing suit flyers, who choose the far left are considered crazy, but still admired.

Libby and I greatly admire circumnavigators.  They choose more adventure than we do.   Many blog readers have said that they admire us because we choose more adventure than they do.

But each year that goes by, I think we slide a bit more to the right.  The reason has less to do with seeking comfort than it is avoiding discomfort.   Especially shaving off the extremes of discomfort.  It is not something I'm ashamed of.  It is a part of the reality of growing old with the satisfaction that we have an adequate store of memories of adventures past.

But it is not that simple.   Fear of the unknown is also a kind of discomfort.   That picture above is from the coast of Australia, a place that has many other attractions.  Would we avoid going there just because there is a chance of a sandstorm?  I think that our answer as North American natives would be very different than that of the Austrailian locals.  That is the crux of adventure, the willingness to go ouside of the envelope of one's comfort zone to sample fresh experiences, both good and bad.

Hats off to adventurers, wherever they may be.  The more of them exist, the better this world becomes.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

lower case brrrrr

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

The rest of the US East Coast is being hammered by a wicked winter storm.   It is very cold and very windy.

Here in Marathon, we too are suffering from the same storm.  However, I hesitate to compare it to other places because it is much milder here.  High temperature 59; the low 45.  Even mainland Florida is expecting hard freezes, but not here.

That doesn't mean it is nice.  It feels very cold and very windy.  My friend Bob is fond of saying, "We don't live in a boat, we live on a boat."   On days like this, we really feel it.

The forecast calls for this weather to last for three days.

Rowing the dinghy to shore is not a problem for me, but with both Libby and me in the dinghy, rowing against stiff winds is difficult.

I know from previous experiences on Lake Champlain, my personal limit rowing is 35 knot winds (40 mph, 65 kph).  At that speed, for every one foot I move forward, I loose 11 inches backward.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tenth Anniversary Post

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida
Ten years ago this week, Libby and I first set foot on Tarwathie. The place was Venetian Causeway in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Tarwathie was the 14th rWestsail 32 that we looked at within a couple of weeks.
It was love at first sight. Libby nudged me and whispered, "This is the one." I too was very impressed, but I didn't want to appear as a naive buyer so I kept a poker face. After a suitable delay (48 hours), I called the owner Al Hatch and made an offer. He asked $60K, I offered $55, and he accepted immediately. The rest, as they say, is history.
So began what has been one of the most happy periods in our life. Of course, being parents when your children are young is the best of your life for many of us. For me, being at the peak of my engineering career was certainly heady. But we believe that we have been doubly lucky to have such a delightful retirement so far. Beyond doubt, our decision to cruise was among the best choices we have ever made.
For one thing, we retired early when we were only 60 years old. That means we got to enjoy the past 10 years while in good health. We are still in good health, but we're getting older at the rate of one year per year.
But most of all, we love the nearly absolute freedom of the cruising life. 365 days per year we get to choose, "Stay here or sail away. And if we sail, choose where to go." It is also a very varied, active, healthy, and lively life style. (If you want to approximate the cruising life while living on land, abolish all televisions from your life.)
Based on the emails and comments I get from readers of this blog, I am well aware that Libby and I are living the life that many others dream of. We are very fortunate and grateful to have that opportunity. My only advice to younger people who hope to do likewise is, be persistent and determined. Obstacles abound, but you can do it too.
Regrets? We have very few. Naturally, we would love to see family more than we do. We have yet to look our great granddaughter Anna in the eyes. Libby misses her garden (but we do better at finding ways to satisfy Libby's green thumb urges.) I miss most of all, a Lazy Boy recliner chair. I'm afraid that particular urge will never be satisfied on a sailboat. Perhaps one day I'll find a public library that has recliner chairs for patrons.
So, wish us well, keep reading this blog and before you know it, you'll be reading our 20th anniversary post.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Should We Own An Outboard Motor?

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, FL

I went to a free semiar this morning at Marathon Boat Yard.  The subject was outboard motor maintenance.    After listening to that, my conclusion is that we should not own one.   The short reason is that we don't use it enough, to justify the maintenance that I should put into it.

For the first 5 years that we cruised, we had no outboard.  Only occasionaly did we miss it.  Once in a while I realized that we could explore places by dinghy with a motor that would be too far away to row.  (By the way, I believe that the previous owner of Tarwathie never had a motor either.)

Since then, we had three motors.  First a Mercury 2-stroke.  I had a hard time keeping that running.  And the starting pull rope was too tought for Libby.  She couldn't start it.   Then carrying a motor not started make rowing even harder for her.  We got into the difficulty of removing the motor for Libby to use the dinghy and putting the motor back for dick to use the dinghy.

Next, we bought a brand new Honda 2HP engine when cruising with Nick in Maine.  Libby couln't start that one either.   Twice that engine got submerged in the water.  The motor survived the dunkings fine, but the centrifugul clutch was destroyed.  It was too expensive to fix, so I threw it in the trash.

Two or three years ago we bought a new Yamaha 2HP engine.  I bought it in anticipation of a visit by Jen because I thought it would make it easier for her while she was here.  We selected the Yamaha because the strength needed to pull the starter rope was less than other brands.  Libby can start it.

Since then, I've had trouble keeping it running.   Last year we paid Alex (the local handyman who can fix anything) three times to clean the carberator.  Before leaving Marathon after the last cleaning it quit again.   Since then, it has not been used once.

At the seminar, I heard our instructor Tommy say, "If you leave the outboard sitting 6 months or more without use, it won't run until the carb is cleaned.  No preventative measures will help that."  

So, I could pay to get the motor running today, but in a couple of months we'll leave Marathon and the motor will sit unused until next winter.

I face the prospect of spending nearly one hour of maintenance per hour of use with a gasoline motor.  

We like rowing.  Rowing helps keep us in shape.  Libby in particular needs the upper-body and back strength training, and rowing is the ideal exercise.

On the rare occasions when rowing is unsuitable, perhaps an electric trolling motor would suit us better.

Monday, February 16, 2015

I Want A Drone

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

Drones with cameras appear to be marvelously fun toys.  My friend Peter here in Boot Key Harbor posted some pictures he took with his drone.

The picture below shows the East end of Boot Key Harbor at dawn Saturday morning.  X marks the spot where Tarwathie sits.

Below, we see the west end of the harbor in late afternoon.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Review

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

Well, the debut of Chapter Two was Friday, and the finally Saturday.  It was a big success.  We played to full houses both nights.  The audience seemed to really enjoy it.   That takes something really good because here in Florida, nearly all the audience, the actors, and the support staff were up way past their bedtimes.

We are still waiting for the official New York Times theater review.  In the meantime my reviewer, Libby, said that I did a good job.

I can certainly say that the whole experience of learning the part, rehearsing, and performing was a very enjoyable learning experience.  I am rather amazed at the exponentially increasing improvement in our delivery with each practice/real performance.  Even the quality of out second performance was better than the first.

I also learned much more what producers, and directors actually do.  During practice I wanted to change the wording to suit myself, but Jennifer, the director insisted that we stick to Neil Simon's play as written.  She was right of course.  One particular line that I didn't like, (and would have cut out if allowed) actually won me applause as well as laughter when I did it Neil Simon's way.

I'm enouraged to audition for another part in a play next year if they have any parts suitable for an old man.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Debut Tonight

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

All those within reach are invited to see me playing the role of Leo in Neil Simon's Chapter Two, tonight.

Marathon Community Theater, Friday 2/13 and Saturday 2/14, 20:00, tickets $12.



Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mayday Mayday

Boot Key Harbor, Matathon, Florida

The other night in after dinner talk, we heard a story from one of our guests. She had another woman on board who had never sailed before. After two or three days at sea, they had endured several storms. In the parlance of boosters, they "got beat up." To make things worse, the boat's deck was leaking water into the cabin. Not enough to risk sinking, just enough to make it wet and uncomfortable. The captain told us, then my guest went to the VHF radio, and without my knowledge or permission, she called "Mayday Mayday," on the radio.

Well, the four of us listening to this story sharply sucked in our breath in shock. That is about the most heinous Cardinal sin that we can imagine. In this case, the outcome was benign. The Coast Guard did not panic. They determined, by questioning this woman, that there was no emergency so they took no action.

It could have turned out the other way. There is the famous, or infamous case of the Westail 32 Satori. The book and the movie both named The Perfect Storm popularized the incident, but they did not accurately convey what happened. You can read the whole, accurate, story here. In essence, there were two inexperienced women on board Satori. They too called the Coast Guard without permission of the captain. They were removed by USCG helicopter and returned to land. A few hours later, the same copter crashed attempting another rescue and one of the crewmen died. The book combined the stories of these two rescues into one thus confusing the facts.

There are three lessons to be learned here. First, the use of the phrases MAYDAY MAYDAY or PAN PAN on the radio are limited to actual emergencies. I think responsible boaters all know that. Second, the captain and only the captain decides what is and what isn't an emergency. Third, use of a radio to communicate without permission of the captain is strictly forbidden. (In today's world of cell phones and Internet, cruise ships can hardly enforce this.)

That last one is probably not known to most passengers. Therefore, before any significant passage (especially offshore), passengers should be briefed before departure. First, a passenger must not touch any of the radios. Only the captain and authorized crew can do that. Second, is the opposite case. In case the captain and crew become disabled, how should the passenger use the radios to summon help? They need to trained how to do that. On Tarwathie we have a placard on the wall next to the radio that makes our training easier.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bragging Rights

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

As a gret grandpa, I feel entitled to brag, and to show off this ever so cute picture of our great granddaughter Anna. She is 4 months old and already a heartbreaker.


Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Marathon Social Whirl

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

My friend Walt heard the doctors at the health fair talking shop. They said that the average health of the people here is very much better than the health of people other places in Florida where they hold health fairs. Presumably, that is due to the active life style of cruisers.

Part of that active life for me recently is my acting debut. I've never tried acting before, not even in school, so this is a first for me. I'm playing the role of Leo in a reading of Neil Simon's Chapter Two. A reading is not a full stage play, but I'm learning, it has its own challenges. Without body language and hand waving, one has to emote strongly to convey the ideas by voice only. That's proving difficult for me, but I'm practicing a lot and improving. The show is next Friday and Saturdday.



But that is only part of our calendars. For example, below was our schedule for the previous week.

  • Sunday - Gym workout for Dick.
  • Monday - Gym workout for Dick. Libby teaches ESL at the library. Lunch with Bob & Sandra & Pat & Walt & Darrick & Sharon. Walt & Pat for dinner.
  • Tuesday - Gym workout for Dick. Tai Chi for Libby. Chapter two rehearsal for Dick.
  • Wednesday - Gym workout for Dick. Libby teaches ESL at the library. Chapter two rehearsal for Dick.
  • Thursday - Gym workout for Dick. Tai Chi for Libby. Libby teaches pine needle baskets in he PM. Dick paractices with another cast member in the PM. Evening, dress rehearsal with Libby and Dick and Monty and Carol. Dinner with Monty & Carol after rehearsal.
  • Friday - Libby teaches ESL at the library. Dick rehearses alone on the boat.
  • Saturday - Doggie sit with Maddie. Gym workout for Dick. Terry & Son & Bill & Patty for dinner.
  • Pending all week but cancelled each day, teach Sage to sail her dinghy.
  • Also through the week, 3 boat projects. Boat projects never end.

Are you beginning to see why we and other cruisers like Marathon?



Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Burlington's Famous Sunsets

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

I've been writing a lot about the famous and spectacular sunsets here in the keys.  I thought I would contrast those with the famous and spectacular sunsets in Burlington, Vermont (Our summer hang out.)

You see, the best view of New York's Adirondack Mountains just happens to be seen from Vermont.  The sun sets behind those mountains.  In fact from the Burlington vantage point, the sun seems to drop right into downtown Toronto.

Of course, as the seasons progress, which Adirondack mountain the sun sets behind varies.  That is part of the nuanced sunset viewing from Vermont.

Once I had the privilege of flying in a glider above Vermont's Mount Mansfield.  Looking west, I could see Burlington, then Lake Champlain, then The Adirondack Mountains, then Lake Ontario, then Toronto, Canada -- all in a line.  It was spectacular.

From behind the Burlington Breakwater

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Doctors Can't Say Medium

Boot Key Harbor, FL

Yesterday was the health fair.  That is an event sponsored by the U of Miami Medical.  It allows medical students to get some real life experience.   The cruisers here are big enthusiasts of the health fair.  It is a valuable and much appreciated service.  At the health fair, you get a very comprehensive checkup in up to about 10 categories.

Well, one category I signed up for was the so-called male exam.  I didn't think much about it.  I've had that exam before, done by both male and female doctors.   It's no big deal.

As I was waiting, I chatted with the attractive girl med student who administered the waiting list.  She was nice and we talked back and forth nearly half and hour.  Eventually, there were no more men waiting other than me.  The supervising doctor came out and said to this girl.  "OK, you're going to do this one."

I still didn't think much about it. I chatted with the doctor as she did it.  I turned my head and coughed when she asked me to.  I didn't even catch on when the doctor had to explain to the girl what it meant to tell me to "assume the position."   That position is the preliminary to the crux of the male exam -- the prostate gland.

 Anyhow, she started doing it.  The doctor said, "Is it smooth?"  She hesitated, but said, "Yes."  The doctor said, "Is is large or small."  She hesitated more, then she said, "It's more like medium."  The doctor jumped on that angrily, "You're a doctor, now.  You're not allowed to say medium."   I think that was a great quote of the day.

By the way, when I checked out to leave the health fair, they said, "Oh, you didn't do the male exam."   It seems that the girl forgot to write down anything on paper.  Only then did I fully understand how nervous that poor girl must have been.

I also got some unwelcome news.   My weight shot up significantly.   Libby says that it happened in the past two months. Hey two months ago, we arrived in Marathon.  That made me realize two things.  Last year I went to the gym 7 days a week.  This year I didn't because I learned that Planet Fitness has even nicer gyms for $10.99/month while the gym here in Marathon charges $60/month.  That's robbery and it offended me.

Another truth hit me.  I've gotten into the habit of eating lunch off the boat.  Marathon seems to be a Mecca for $5 lunches.   Numerous restaurants all over the island compete to offer the best $5 lunch. Once a week we go to lunch with our friends, but the other 6 days in the week, I had also been going to lunch by myself.

I need to up the exercise and cut the food intake; pronto.