Monday, December 27, 2010

Long(er) Distance Wifi

London ON
2010 12 27

The Bottomline (discussion follows)

If you want superior wifi reception while sitting on your boat buy this:

"This" is an Alfa Long Range Wifi Wireless USB adapter.  I opted for the AWUS036H model which is limited to 802.11 b/g.

It costs $30 and comes with both a 5 dbi and 9 dbi antenna.

You can also buy an 802.11 n adapter for more money.

Why Do I Need Another Wifi Adapter?

Your laptop has a wireless adapter but it is very weak.  Laptops are designed to be used inside buildings and on campuses where there is strong wireless signal.  Sitting at anchor you need a lot better wifi equipment than comes with the stock laptop.

The Alfa is small and inexpensive.  It performs better than systems costing $250.

What Do You need to Know?

Best Website to Buy Your Stuff:

The Competing Systems:   Commercial systems are based almost exclusively on Bullet2HP systems and Alfa adapter based systems.  A third system called Ingenuity has been a total user disaster. Anecdotal evidence available to moi indicates that most boaters buying an Ingenuity system find it difficult if not impossible to install and pretty much ineffective once it is working. 

POE or USB:  Basically who cares.  POE is a stupid term meaning "power over ethernet".  The Bullet2HP system is POE.  The Bullet2HP connects to your computer via an ethernet cable - the  cable we used to use to hardwire our laptops into the internet.  Since the Bullet2HP needs power to run some smartguy figured he could use some of the wires in the ethernet cable to carry power.  Copper wires have been doing this for centuries and guess what?  They still do. I guess it just sounded cool to use a term like POE to describe it.

Being ethernet the POE systems have different drivers and I understand the drivers can be a bitch to install.

USB is well known to all laptop owners.  The USB cable carries the power to the Alfa.  Plug the Alfa adapter into your laptop, install the drivers and use the computer.  Driver installation is a bit awkward if you use the Windows 7 operating system but it was not too painful.   

Antennas:  A good 6 dbi antenna should be perfect for either the Bullet2HP or the Alfa.  The Alfa comes with a 5 dbi and a 9 dbi antenna.  If you buy a Bullet2HP you have to buy an antenna.  Antenna cost for the Alfa will be about $20.   So far I have just used the "came with" antennas but I will get a $20 next week.

If you want a good Moron's Guide to wifi antennas try

How Tough are the Systems: The Alfa adapter is strictly indoors or to use outside in good weather.  However, if you seal it inside a Pelican box or (as one fellow who wrote to Practical Sailor did) inside a short length of plastic pipe you have an outdoor antenna. I get the Alfa out when I use the internet and put it away the rest of the time.  In fact I have taped it to a length of dowel and I stick it in the winch handle hole in the cockpit winch when I use it.  Works for me.

The Bullet2HP is rated for outdoor use.  This is not the same as rated for sailboat use.  Even stainless rusts in salt.  The problem with the Bullet is that is is outside all the time. It is a bulky system and usually boaters it and its wiring permanently.

How High the Antenna:  One advantage of the Bullet2HP is that you can mount it very high.  The ethernet cable can run to the top of your mast with very low signal loss.  The Alfa is limited to USB lengths which means no more than 15 feet.  You can add a 15 foot active USB extension.  In Florida my little Alfa performs as well as or better than Bullet2HP systems in friends' boats.

What About Commercial Systems:

IslandTime PC -

Rogue Wave -

Five Mile Wifi -

The Wirie -

Radiolabs -

The systems from these guys work but cost anywhere from $200 to $400.  Way too much.

I have seen the Island PC system in action and can attest to the fact that it works very well.

Of the systems listed the first three use the Bullet2HP made by a company called Ubiquiti.

For $80 you can buy your own Bullet2HP adapter and for another $20 you can add a good antenna.  Then you need a POE injector and some ethernet cable.  You can probably set up a Bullet2HP system on your own for about $110.

The Wirie uses an Alfa adapter and charges $200+ for it.  They seal it in a Pelican  box and add nice wire and stuff but really.  Just use the Alfa and pimp  it out.  An antenna and some 3 inch plastic pipe will work wonders.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Quit Your Bitchin'

London, ON
2010 12 15

Finally arriving home after several days in airports we are met with the welcome sight of home:

The white lump on the right hand side
is the car we parked last night at midnight.  
It was clean and shiny when we left her.

For perspective the black thing is our daughter's full size, 200 lb. Newfoundland.  
Apparently he is down with the snow.

Our Chariot, The Mini Cooper is very good in snow.  
Lots and lots of snow

So, yes, it is cold in Florida.  Boo Hoo.  We are told to expect another 18 inches of winter braincandy today.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

How To Become a Competent Sailor

Vero Beach FL
2010 12 08

You start.

At First you Don't Know What to Do.

Then You Do.  Note 1

The road to competence - Well, it's plain
and simple to express:
and err
and err again
but less
and less
and less.'' Note 2

1. Walter Mosley American writer.  Fear of the Dark

2.  Piet Hein (b. 1905), Dutch inventor, poet. "The Road to Wisdom," Grooks (1966) as quoted by Poll Vanderwouw in his blog except Hein used "wisdom" not competence.

For those interested in simple, if not simple minded, ditties I highly recommend Piet Hein's book Grooks. He is one cool dude.  You will all know the line about what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  It comes from Piet Hein.

Here some teasers:

They're busy making bigger roads,
and better roads and more,
so that people can discover
even faster than before
that everything is everywhere alike.

The human spirit sublimates
the impulses it thwarts:
a healthy sex life mitigates
the lust for other sports

So, How ARE Things in Florida?

December 5, 2010
Vero Beach, FL

We did not get 5 feet of snow last night like they did back home, so there is only one correct answer to this question.

We have food in the larder, fuel in the tanks and a destination, albeit not achievable under sail.  Can life get any better.

Nothing in this world beats having a destination with family there to see you.  We are among the blessed.

Behaviour in the 3rd Wealthiest Zip Code in the USA

Driving our rental car the other day we visited McDonald's looking for a cold drink (a soda not a pop).  This particular store had a parking lot full of lincolns and lexus (lexi?), you know the full array of old people cars.  The clientele was strictly what our friend Peter calls "Q Tips" - fuzzy white heads stuck on skinny whitebodies.  Entering the restaurant we could not miss the large sign on the self serve pop dispenser:


Here we sit in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the whole of the USA and the rich white guys are stealing pop from McDonalds.

This was not a teenage thing.  There is no school nearby and at noon there were no young people in the place.

One old fool proudly explained to us how to get the best deal at Golden Corral, the local buffet: you go there at 4:15 p.m. so you get the "lunch" price.  At 4:30 he informed us with a sly grin they start putting out the dinner buffet items.  This guy drove a BMW.

The Declining Lustre of Vero Beach Marina

A month has passed since the internet went down at Vero Beach Municipal Marina and no one working at the Municipal marina seems able to effect a change in this.  If you wonder how this could be the answer is suggested  in bold in the previous sentence.  The staff here do, however, have lots and lots of excuses, all of which commence with "we're not doing that...".  Them comes the lie: we are waiting for equipment; Bell has to install a new phone line; the state won't approve the antenna; the municipal council needs to vote on it....
On top of this several of the laundry machines have been down for an extended period ("We don't do the laundry room" is the refrain from staff) although the rumour is that they are working now - the machines not the staff.

Lack of hygiene has settled over the washrooms like a toxin laden smog - filthy floors in the showers, paper towelling all over everywhere and so on.  "We don't do that" is the answer from staff.

So at the moment the situation is that nothing here works and no one "does that".

As you can tell some of us are very eager to fly into the snow and cold.  In fact we cannot wait.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Adventures in Seinfieldland

Kissimmee FL
2010 11 21

"Hello".  Jane's voice on the speakerphone does not sound angry.  Not exacty.  More sort of wary with an edge.  For sure Jane was not on the happy side of average.

"Jane, Jane.  Is that you!!"  This is blurted out by Peter, husband of Jane. 

Peter is driving the Budget Committee and me the wrong way down US 1 trying to deliver us to their home in Solivida outside Kissimmee for a welcome two day break from the Boating Life.  Peter is faced with an unexpected problem and is taking charge.  He is calling his wife. 

Jane confirms that indeed it is she who answered her telephone.  Peter continues "Jane!  Where do we Live!"

Lesser mortals might have grown concerned at their fate, hurtling down a busy US highway in Florida, home of the truly dangerous senior citizen driver; being driven, by the way, the wrong way to the driver's own home.  You need to know Peter and Jane.  Besides, the Budget Committee and I are not lesser mortals.

We have been promised air conditioning and endless showers.  Force 10 earthquakes could not shake the grip of a cruiser promised endless hot showers.  We signed up for the whole tour.

Back to the car: Jane is very calm under the circumstances.  The circumstances include that we are already late; we were expected at her home presently but have not yet left our starting point.  Also this is the second time Peter has called home in the last 5 minutes.  

"Peter, Listen to me.  You have to push the Map button and then type in SOLIVIDA" .  Jane is telling Peter not where he lives but how to program the onboard GPS system on their Lexus sedan.  She knows why he is really calling.  Like all decently married couples they communicate in their own honed shorthand the parsing of  which defies even the high powered cryptographic computers of the NSA.

Instructions received Peter requires only three attempts to get the GPS situated, helped not one iota by the interventions of your humble scribe.  Then we were off.  Like a rocket.  

Peter drives fast.  He talks faster. 

In the hour and a half from Vero Beach to Kissimmee our Lexus stops for coffee, we are given a running geographical history of North Central Florida; the complete history of Peter and Jane's acquisition of a home in Solivida, an age restricted gated community just south of Kissimmee including all of the reasons Peter really liked another gated community better a detailed biographical survey of the lake which we had to skirt enroute and all the details of a truly horrible experience Peter suffered at the hands of the increasingly overbearing and unreasonable State Troopers in Forida.

Peter, a displaced Irishman, can tell a story like no other.  We are captivated the entire time we are in the car.

The last half hour of our drive produces two followup phone calls from Jane.  Each call is intended to remind Peter he is to stop at the grocery on the way home, although the first was cleverly disguised as her requesting Peter stop as a favour to her.  After the last call Peter admits he is glad she called.  "We almost drove past it" he confessed "I forgot all about it".

How could you have anything  but one enormously good time in the presence of such people: the absent minded professor and his Type A mistress. 

Peter is a cabinet maker and secondary school teacher;  Jane an elementary school teacher.  (She says it helps.)  Both are recently retired from long careers teaching the youth of Massachusettes how to make their way in what is certainly an increasingly confusing and uncertain world.  Massachusetts, I point out, took first place honours in a recent study comparing how individual states are dealing with the challenges of education in the post industrial, post china, pre India world.  Peter and Jane and teachers like them moved mountains.

The community, Solivida, is a masterful rendering of retirement life; Peter and Jane's home is palatial sporting a large fully screened back yard (called a "lanai" down here) and a swimming pool.  Busy with sailing  and travel they spend only a few months at "home" each year.  They have no time for retirement.  .

In two days we went alligator hunting by golf cart in the endless ponds of Solivida, had a full tour of the development and a history lesson of its development from Jane, took a tour of Disneyland, or at least two or three parts of it and went to a store that sold ice cream cones with half a gallon of ice cream each.  At least half a gallon.

Most fun was evenings when we watched blatantly pro Democrat TV shows on MSNBC and made fun of Republicans. 

The second morning we woke up to find baby snakes wriggling around the kitchen floor.  Vermin take a different form in the wilds of Florida let me tell you.  Jane and the Budget Committee took care of the snake.

All told we had the best time in a long time in Solivida.   Jane came on the ride home.  It was not quite so much fun.

Thanks to Peter and Jane.

Friday, December 3, 2010


On a Mooring Ball, Two Barnacles Stuck to Our Butt
Doesn't Matter Where, Doesn't Matter When

[Curmudgeon and Budget Committee] on Meredith met [George and Georgia] on Agapi & [Russ and Pat] on Consort & [Scott and Kitty] on Tamure & [Steve] on Searcher at a Cockpit Party at Great Sale Cay, Abacos in 2008.  [Curm and BC] met [Bill and Barb] on Suncast in the Erie Canal in 2010.

Three days ago [C&BC] said farewell to [S&K] who had been in Vero for Thanksgiving and then headed outl.

Yesterday [C & BC] met [G &G] at a mall in the middle of nowhere. [G&G] and (C & BC] were delighted to find each other and shared lunch and discovered that both of them [B&B].

Back at the marina [C&BC] suggested {G&G] come for a dinghy ride to see if [B&B] were aboard.  It seemed like a nice surprise.

Enroute to [B&B] {[C&BC] & [G&G]} met [R&P] who had just moored their boat and were themselves dinghying to shore for showers.  Just prior to meeting {[C&BC] & [G&G]}, [R&P] had found [Steve] who was also anchored at Vero. 

Incapable of not noticing the conflagration midharbour [Steve] discovered {{[C&BC] & [G&G]}& [R&P} having a gam.

[Steve] dinghied out to gam in.

It turns out [R&P] are actually travelling with [S&K] but were delayed with engine trouble.

[G&G] invited all to dinner at their condo tonight which we will all attend.

[B&B] were not on their boat but that really did not matter.  [ & B] are coming to dinner.

Boat Work

Aimlessly Floating in the River Styx
Seems Like Yesterday, Looks Like Tomorrow

A week until we fly home.  We put into Vero early to get at some boatwork and to this have we devoted some not inconsiderable time.   On the mainteance issue we try to invest at least 10% of the value of the boat every year in renewing, upgrading and refurbishing.  The last few years have tended to be 20 to 25% years.  When you live on your boat failure to keep up puts you at risk.  Not that failure to have a new flatscreen TV ever imperilled anyone's life but the failure of rigging, diesel, sails, batteries, pumps and other stuff we seem to be incessantly replacing and upgrading could.

As a measure of how busy we have been and how bored we have grown I present the list since August:

The Budget Committee has committed herself to removing the old finish and redoing the brightwork.  Here you see her start on the 3 hatch covers. 

While she was doing this I busied myself installing our new rigid boomvang from Garhauer.  Well, actually my good friend Peter did most of the drilling and tapping.  He was a cabinet maker and teacher in real life and made a series of "how to videos" for Stanley Tool.   He was growing very upset at my misuse of both tools and the english language and stepped in, just in time.

 Left: Peter (behind the boom) installs the boomvang while I watch.
Right: The Boomvang installed

Peter's largess needed repaying and the occasion arose when it developed his rigging was badly detuned thanks to some truly unconscious work by yardmen when he launched his boat.

Out came my beloved Loos guage and we had at it.

Two solar panels which have lain in our basement untouched by ray of sun for 5 years were invigorated and seet to work.

 This we did in Halifax but the pooping in Long Island Sound caused some salt water to find its way to the solar controller where the ocean did what it loves to do - set the copper traces in the controller afire.  Corrosion everywhere, the small piles of green dust copper's best effort at a flame.  The traces were eaten clean through and a new controller  needed to be installed.

Two new battery banks were installed and everything rewired- 4 Sears Diehard PM2s, AGM technology, and an Optima redtop for starting.

Although I hate to mention it we also installed the new Xantrex SW2000, pure sine wave inverter charger, one device of which I wish I had never heard.  That product is a total disaster and should be recalled.  I discussing its many shortcomings with Xantrex about its many shortcomings.

And finally a 19 inch LED LCD Flatscreen TV.  The small white box at the bottom allows me to play all my .avi files  on the TV so I continue to make good use of the bittorrent material downloaded before we left Canada.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Sailor's Hierarchy of Needs - Maslow and Freud get Stuffed

Somewhere in November

Dear reader (if any of you remain).  Please accept that this is written for entertainment and is not necessarily factually sound  and is definitely not a complaint.

From the last post many of you realize that sex while underway is difficult if not downright unwelcome -  by everyone.  But many of you, the men at least, will wonder about what happens on arrival in paradise.  I mean surely the first thing that happens on arrival in that gentle anchorage, with the palm trees and the strong drink and the gentle breezes is restoration of the libido.  Right?

Here based on years of careful observation is the sailor's hierarchy of needs:.


Sailing is a dirty business.  Boats in motion do not lend themselves to the gentle amenity of a personal shower.  Somedays even standing up for 5 minutes is a challenge.  Lost to sailors is that fine hygienic state which infects the standard suburban pillbox where every knob is hit with sani-wipes each time a child passes within 3 feet.  We have been in friends' homes which could be used for operating theatres (with kitchen islands as large as operating tables to boot).   It is not that we are unsanitary but our scale of hygiene is based on the practical or even the achievable.  A sponge bath after 3 days seems more than adequate when the boat continues to surge and ebb with every wave and lateral stability is measured in the closest 10 degrees of roll. 

When achievable showers are not what the landlubbing public might visualize. Wet your body.  Lather.  Rinse.  Do not repeat.  You do not waste water. Water is for drinking and cooling engines.  Everything else is far far down the hierarchy of needs.

When the Budget Committee hits a marina the first hour is spent in the shower.  Hereafter attendance at the shower is mandated daily.

It is clear to me from what I hear while waiting outside the showerroom that showers and great sex have a lot in common.  "Oh, God, that is fantastic" and "Oooooh my God that is so goooood" and such ermerge continuously from the womens shower.


No matter how we structure watches or spell each other off by the end of a passage we are ready for long sleep.  After the couple of days the night shifts are no longer a burden but it seems the sleep deficit continues to grow.  Even in deep sleep part of your mind is engaged, feeling the boat move under sail, alert to any shimmy, shake or sound that signifies trouble afoot..   On arrival the first day or even two are lost in the friendship of hypnos: solid, steady sleep interrupted only for food and washroom. 


Diet aboard a sailboat underway is limited.  Rationing is a fact of life.  You quickly run out of fresh stuff.  Everything down to the daily bread must be made from scratch and somedays there is not enough energy left to do the scratching.  Definitely cruising puts the galley crew through its paces, not only in the extra work of preparation but also the need for originality to make up for the ever increasing holes in the stores - no cinnamon, no basil, no eggs, no chicken...the list is endless and grows endlesser as the passage extends.

Fresh fish is fine but after 3 days of it you really want a bag of chips and some saturated fat to dip them in.

Shortages in galley stores do not result in desperation however.  The ceaseless roll and pitch of the hull sort of takes the edge off everyone's appetite and by the third or fourth day you have enough torn muscles and bruises that your mind is usually not on "what's for dinner".

In the first two weeks out of Halifax Meredith found herself travelling in a lot of cold wet weather.   The Budget Committee was ready for this and there was always pottage on the stove often warm.  Pottage is a cool if ancient term for what is really a "forever stew" - you start with the basics when weather is good: beef, potatoes, onions, carrots, zucchini, whatever.  Make a big batch in the pressure cooker (you know the old fashioned devices your mother used) with a good sealable lid.  The lid is necessary when the pot goes flying across the galley in an errant wave.  You might be bruised but you will not be boiled if the pot has a lid with a stout closure.  Each day, as the contents decline in volume, you add to the pot whatever you have at hand. 

Forever Stew is absolute ambrosia while underway in a seaway and the cook feted as a bloody genius.   After landfall less so.

But then, after showers and sleep and mundane diet are tended to; after visiting the temple of Hypnos and sitting drink in hand, the caress of Zephyrus gently touching your skin, then surely is the time to resurrect the libido?


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sex At Sea

Vero Beach FL
2010 11 21

Remember Freud and his lovely theory that the Sex Drive is the most important motivating force in the human psyche.  And then there is Maslow and his tantalizing hierarchy of needs describing that people first seek food and sex and then an escalating scale of psychological needs such as safety, love and finally self actualization.

What a pair of frauds.  For sure neither of these dudes ever cruised.

Any cruise begins as a journey of self actualization - I mean who exactly put your butt in the helm of that tiny sailboat in those 20 foot seas with the 35 knot winds?

Safety is a pipedream - after our last cruise none of my muscles were available to be torn - they were all in emerg getting stitched up.  My bruises had bruises.  And I knew it would end this way before I started.  Maslow should try making tea while a 22 footer poops his cockpit and tosses a few hundred gallons of mucky green fish mucous all over you and your cuppa.  And you are there by choice.

Love takes a distant second place to need - I need someone to take the helm right damn now cause if I don't get another reef in the bloody main we're gonna turtle. 

Then there is sex.  At least it is somewhere.  There is no sex on a cruise and if you wonder why well just climb on a waterbed and have someone strike the side of your house repeatedly with wrecking ball.  If the boat motion  doesn't put you off then worry about the fact no one is on watch does.  Or that odd creaking sound that wasn't there two minutes ago.

And food.  Right.  We eat a lot of fish and a lot of soda crackers.  Mostly soda crackers, especially when the seas and the wind picks up and boat starts tossing.  Four days of fresh fish and I would kill for a decent soda cracker.

So Freud and Maslow - you were bright guys.  You've just never sailed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Proper Etiquette at a Dock Party

This comes direct from the keyboard of the near mythic Capt. Dave.  You might be inclined think the Capt. is a fiction, a mere nom de plume, adopted by your humble scribe to deflect the criticism that might attend the very worldly and uncut reports that are attributed to the email device of Capt Dave. Go ahead.  I don't mind.  This email dealt in part with Sailor's Socials and proper procedures.

Since I am too paranoid to write a blog for fear the Marxists will single me out after the takeover then I enjoy everyone elses blog and like to add meat to their writing just like my stews and chili's. You may want to do an article on such things as the "Pecking Order" at sailor socials, and advice as what to eat and what not to eat at these bring-a-plate gatherings.

A few examples:  Before you dive into a bowl of yellow goo that looks like vomit or an uncooked omelete, you might want to visit the boat it came from beforehand.Just because the contributer has a nice looking rig out there on the mooring and the 2nd in command is wearing the latest sailor girl marine fashions does not mean that shit isn't overflowing from their toilet into the bilge where they keep the butter and cheese...or the cat wasn't eating the top layer of goo. You are supposed to dunk your cracker into this stuff but how do you know what it is ?....look for cat hairs. You must remember that most people are immune to what they eat on their boat... but you are only immune to what comes off your own boat.

At these events there is usually to be found a Butterfly Betty...she flits and flirts. Her husband Boring Bob keeps a watchful eye on guys like me who keep a watchful eye on Betty's butt. Betty will consume one whole bottle of red Walmart plunk at each social and then the party is over. Until then Bob asks every single solo sailor what he brought to the bring-a plate.

Bob asked me last year. "What did you bring Dave ??" .....I told him that I brought the same thing he did.e.g.. NOTHING!. .... Husbands don't bring anything to socials because their wives do. This legally exempts single solo sailors because sadly we don't suffer the trauma of having bizarre hormones all over our boat.

Bringing a plate to a social is really a woman's competition between women and men should stay clear of woman things.  

I think with your amazing wit that you could write a very good article on this. My opinions are not copyrighted.

Dave, flattery always works on Capt Curmudgeon.  He is so deprived of it on his own boat.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Just the Hundredth and One Monkey Puttin' In Time on Planet Earth

Vero Beach FL
2010 11 10

Maybe you remember the Hundredth Monkey Hypothesis:  A group of scientists purportedly observed that some monkeys on an isolated island learned to wash sweet potatoes, and gradually this new behavior spread through the younger generation of monkeys—in the usual fashion, through observation and repetition. The researchers made an astounding observation: once a critical number of monkeys was reached—the so-called hundredth monkey—this previously learned behavior instantly spread across the water to monkeys on nearby islands.  Instantly all the monkeys everywhere knew to wash their sweet potatoes.  The observation was  bunkum.  Sadly the facts did not support the concept.  Much as the mind controlling skinnerian bureaucrats might drool at the prospect there is no way to instantly place an idea in the minds of an entire population.

Bunkum save for sailors.

Faced with unpleasant and even dangerous weather in Nova Scotia by the end of September and grown weary of freezing on our boat as we travelled the 1,000 miles or so of American territory which must be covered before one gets to interesting sailing grounds we decided this year to amend the schedule.  This year we would proceed south two or three weeks earlier than usual hoping to be met with more favourable conditions.

The strategy worked.  In spades, for those of you who play bridge.  Those of you who do not, play bridge that is, and would denigrate those of us who do should know that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet both play bridge, often on the same team.

Once at Vero we were met and have continued to meet an unending stream of sailing friends whom we have met over the past two years.  Without communicating everyone has chosen an earlier trek south this year. 

So much time has been devoted to lunching, shopping and bar hopping - well we do not "hop" we just dinghy over to the Riverside - that there has been little time for other activity, like boatwork.  Cambia from Maine just left after a week here, Fortnight from Hamilton area has been here for a fortnight, About Time from Guelph came in the day after we did and are still here, Mystic from New York a few days later and Searcher from Texas arrived yesterday.  We look forward to Kinvara within the week. 

New boats must be properly met.  Sailors are a bit doglike in their approach to other boats.  Whenever they meet sailors sniff each other out, sort out what kind of boater the other guys are.  If the initial cockpit drinks are a success you hope to meet the boat again, if not you still had some good conversation and a couple of drinks. 

Here is how we categorize sailors once we have met a new boat:

Misfits, Just Like Us: This comprises the bulk of the cruising public.  This lot perceives themselves to be independent and self reliant.  As well as bright, well informed and very capable.  Although friendly and generous of time and expertise they are not joiners except in the vague constellation of cruisers.  Sailing provides a means for these iconoclasts to live outside a society that has lost meaning or purpose and in which they have no place.  Think cowboy and you are not far off.  Boats in this category prefer the empty anchorage to the crowded, a quiet drink to a party.  These sailors come and go at will: one evening you share drinks with a boat and the next morning one or both of you is gone without a word. 

Suburban sailors: boats  that travel together in small fleets for safety or because they enjoy a tightly regulated social hierarchy.  Although genial and sometimes witty this group has a high a price of entry: you must participate in its rigid suburban social hierarchy.  No exceptions.  This bunch never sails anywhere exciting or new.  They like to talk about their second home just outside Annapolis, their investments or the new stuff they put on their boat.  Sometimes at the end of the season one or more higher ranking members may sail somewhere on their own, just to establish their superior position in the group.    Avoided by most sailors.

Gemini sailors: two or three boats travelling together in lockstep.  Like they are joined at the hip.  No one goes their own way or sets their own course.  No boat in the pack will even lift anchor and set off for the agreed upon destination until the alpha boat has done so.   Here the alpha boat will  usually be well travelled and interesting, the subsidiary boats less so.  Often one or more crew of the pack boats will be so reclusive as to avoid all group contact.  An exception are newbies: two boats of first timers who have found each other and cling together briefly until they sort things out.  Usually newbies become Misfits.

Trailer Park Boys: Sailors who take their boats to the Abacos every year and stay at the same marina as every other year for another 3 months.  Herds of them can be found in Marsh Harbour and the cays surrounding the Sea of Abaco. 

Single Handers: With some brilliant exceptions, like Capt. Dave and Steve on Searcher, this is a group of odd and grumpy old men.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

First We All Yelled at the Dwarf (Who Deserved It) and Then the Shark Attacked. You Cannot Live This Life on Land.

 Vero Beach, FL
2010 11 07

Dinghying to the dinghy dock at St. Augustine Municipal Marina you are forced, no matter where you are moored, to pass by the fuel dock.  In St. Augustine the Fuel Dock serves two purposes.  Not only does it provide a long easy entry dock for boats to belly up to the fuel pumps but it is also used at to dock especially large powerboats - those large sterile white plastic mastodons whose sticker prices are set in multiples of $10 million.

Somehow it seems appropriate that these floating temples to the god of conspicuous consumption be tied up at a fuel dock.  Some of them must be plumbed in to the fuel tanks directly just like some boats plumb themselves into the municipal water supply.

It happened that the night we stayed at St. Augustine there was tied to the fuel dock a multi storied embarrasment of a boat which prominently displayed on its ground floor (or its water level) the statue, a very large statue, of a dwarf.  

How appropriately nautical.  Does a statue of a dwarf on your boat not just scream competence at sea to any casual observer?

What the dwarf statue signified to the powerboat brain that paid the mortgage on this aquatic mammoth will never be known.  Perhaps he had made his fortune selling Disney memorabilia or maybe he ran an internet porn site featuring sex amongst little people with large protuberant probosces.  You get the idea: he must have been a very classy fellow.  I mean, look at his boat. 

The boat's name was "Grumpy".

Grumpy did not figure large in our daily thoughts until the morning we left St. Augustine.  To depart this lovely tourist mecca you must transit a bridge.  Bridge openings are tightly controlled, never more tightly than during "rush hour" for the local auto traffic.  The Bridge of Lions opens every half hour on the hour and half hour but does not open at 8:00 a.m.  This is problematic at this time of year as sunrise is not until 7:40 a.m. and most boats leaving want to use the 8:00 a.m. opening - first light sort of thing.

Meredith slowed her departure procedures to a nicely languid pace and eased into channel ready for the 8:30 a.m. opening.  Prior to casting off we contacted the bridge operator to verify that the Bridge would indeed open at 8:30.  This was confirmed.

8:30 came and the bridge began its opening right on schedule.   As the traffic gates came down the radio picked up.  "Bridge of Lions, this is Grumpy.  I am at the Municipal Docks.  Will you hold the bridge for me?"

"Aaahhm sorry saahhr" replied the bridge tender in a timbre of voice that confirmed large size and a life spent growing up in the deep south.  "If you can get your boat in the channel before I close you can make the opening" he finished, rather obviously I thought.  But he was talking to a powerboat.

"But, I am GRUMPY" demurred the owner of the dwarf ship.  "You must have seen me here at the dock.  Can't you hold the bridge for me.  I am Grumpy" he reasserted in closing.

The bridge operator did not lose a beat nor did he alter his slow steady monotone response.  "Well saahhr, I woke up a bit irritable myself this morning.  So you listen to me when I tell you that the next bridge opening is at 9:00 a.m. and if your boat is not in the channel and ready to proceed at that time you will just have to wait for 9:30.;  Y'all have a nice day now."

Cheered mightily by this gentle yet substantial putdown Meredith continued out the inlet and into the open waters of the Atlantic.  Three hours later the reel on the fishing line started to buzz and we landed a very nice tasting blackfin tuna.  That provided lunch and dinner and lunch the next day.

Mid afternoon the reel started to buzz again.  Picking up the rod I knew immediately that this was a different sort of fish.  I had a fight on my hands.  Whatever took my hook did not want to be eaten.

I had no idea how right I was.  It came to me over the next half hour that whatever was on the hook wanted to eat me for lunch.  It had eaten my hook as a means of getting on my boat - and at me.

The fish pulled and dove and ran in an arc.  After 25 minutes of fighting hard to reel in my "catch" I still had 50 feet of line to go and it was being reeled in an inch at a time.  When it dove the last time I knew it was a shark.  

Do you remember the scene in the movie Jaws when the ill fated fishermen managed to speer the shark and tied 3 large buoyancy drums to it?  Then the fish dives as if the buoyancy drums are not even there.  

This was my fish.  When it dove the last time all I could think was: Jaws.  

Exhausted I finally got the aquatic predator on deck.  Half an hour of fighting and this shark did not quit once.  As it hit the deck it's tail started to swing back and forth with tremendous energy.  The Budget Committee moved towards the thrashing beast intending to put a towel over its eyes to calm it.  Too loud I yelled at her to stay away.  Make no mistake, I was just a little bit afraid.

At that the shark gave one last thrust of tail and threw itself off the deck.  Suspended by the hook in its mouth it continued its machinations hanging in mid air until the hook in its mouth tortured from the combination of weight and  irresistable force bent itself straight.  The fish slid off the hook and into the water.

We were both glad.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Anatomy of a "Friendly" Boat Delivery Schedule.

St. Augustine FL
2010 10 31

Leaving Halifax on September 26  our  goal was to  get Meredith to Vero Beach without delay.

Here is a summary of how it went:

The Trip:            Halifax, NS to St. Augustine, FL
Distance Travelled:  1,250 nm 
Time taken:          33 days
Fuel Consumed:       113 gallons including fuel burned topping 
                     up batteries when at anchor
Bad Weather Layover: 5 days: 2 days in Port Washington, 
                     3 days in New Bedford
Waiting for Weather: 3 days in Beaufort
Time Lost Relaxing:  8 days: 1 day in Annapolis for boat show, 
                             4 days in Hampton VA, 
                             1 day in Elizabeth City, 
                             1 day in Charleston, 
                             1 day in Beaufort
Days on the ICW:    4 days: 3 days to circumvent Cape Hatteras & 
                            1 day from Charleston to Beaufort

There are several reasons for our decision to "run" south.  Simply put  we grow bored with the route and we were looking for better weather than we had enjoyed in our previous 3 trips.

Weather in our experience is cold and unpleasant on the waterway from Cape May to Florida anytime after October.

The waterway is demanding.  You must actively helm the boat every minute you are moving.  This becomes gruelling.  If you run offshore you are freed from the helm, a major benefit.

The waterway is silting in again.  We hear from friends that everthing from Camp Lejeune to Beaufort is dangerous.  We have reports of experienced sailors running aground in mid channel at high tide. 

Canadians must also face Homeland Security Department issues and be prepared to be boarded.  We now know a dozen Canadian boats that have been boarded, one twice.  The CBP requirement that we call in our position and report all persons on board and their passport numbers everytime we drop hook is wearing.  It is like wearing a "Star of David" armband so good citizens know we are foreign and dangerous and not to be trusted.  Any American would be outraged if treated this way in a foreign country.

The Budget Committee and I sailed Yarmouth to New Bedford, stopping for a day of rest and to wait out a forecast storm.  This storm hit and we waited 3 days for it to clear. 

Next we made for Port 'Washington on Long Island where we stayed on a mooring ball for 2 more days waiting out continuing storms.

Then we made it nonstop to Chesapeake City MD.  We had hoped to run New Jersey and continue unstopped all the way to Norfolk.  The forecast at Cape May was adverse and Utsch's Marina, while very nice, is $1.75 a foot per day.  We elected to sail up the Delaware and down the Chesapeake.  This cost nothing out of pocket.  There were boats we wanted to meet in Annapolis and a couple of things we needed at the boat show.

Annapolis was a one day event.  We pulled in Thursday evening and left Saturday at dawn.

At Norfolk we always run inside on the ICW.  The alternative is Cape Hatteras and this Cape, one of the "Three Great Capes" of the world is daunting.  To do this we run to the Dismal Swamp, spending a night at Elizabeth City continuing south past Oriental, SC and emerging at Beaufort NC.

Reaching Beaufort NC the weather window was not long term so we travelled to Charleston SC only.  Last year we made our way direct from Cape Canaveral to Beaufort NC but chose not to reverse the process this year as the forecast was full of south wind and big waves against us.

From Charleston SC we travelled inside to Beaufort, SC and waited for the south winds to clear as a cold front moved in.  Weather in place we left Beaufort SC at Port Royal Inlet and travelled south to St. Augustine FL. 

We consider ourselves arrived.  One day in St. Augustine and we leave tomorrow.  Winds are back in the North and we will be in Vero Beach in 30 hours or so.

That is it.  What we expect will be our last transit of the Seaboard.  A month from beginning to end.  Had we been on a delivery we would have been expected to make the trip in 14 days or less.  That is a lot of bad weather to travel in.  It would also be exhausting.  We are exhausted as it is.

Once we get to Vero  we rest, do boat work, meet friends and party.  Home for Christmas we leave first of the year for St. Marten/Sind Maarten. 

Zenophobia on the Waterway

St. Augustine FL
2010 10 31

Reading the title you will be forgiven for thinking this would be just another dissing of stupid powerboaters.  Not so.  Powerboaters ARE stupid.  And arrogant.  And undeserving useless twits with no function on god's planet save to waste precious fossil fuel and annoy decent folk on sailboats.  Like the guy who kept trying to tell me his boat and mine got the same mileage: he ran at 15 knots he explained and burned 15 gallons an hour while I ran at 6.5 knots and burned 1 gallon an hour.  "See" this guy told me on numerous occasions, "We get the same number of miles per gallon".

Right buddy.  Keep on breeding. 

But no, this is not such a document.

Neither does it contain a spelling error, as some discerning readers may suspect.  I speak not of Xenophobia: the irrational, deep-rooted fear of or antipathy towards foreigners or strangers.

No I speak of that plague ridden Greek Philosopher, Zeno of Elea.  Not to be confused with Zeno of Citium and no, not the brother of Zena the Warrior Princess.  This Zeno liked paradoxes and is most famous for his arguments against motion.  (I italicized this phrase so any powerboaters reading the blog can cut and paste it into Wikipaedia, the powerboaters undisputed Bible of all that is true and worthy of knowing).

Zeno worked out his arguments while trying to move his sailboat down the ICW.  Here are two of Zeno's hypotheses as reported by Aristotle:

The Dichotomy: There is no motion, because that which is moved must arrive at the middle before it arrives at the end, and so on ad infinitum.

So before your boat gets to the inlet it must go half of the distance to the inlet.  Before it can get to the halfway point your boat must go half of the distance to the halfway point or 1/4 of the distance.  Before your boat can go 1/4 of the distance it must go 1/8 of the distance.   This is an infinite series and so you cannot actually go anywhere.

The Achilles: The slower will never be overtaken by the quicker, for that which is pursuing must first reach the point from which that which is fleeing started, so that the slower must always be some distance ahead.

So you can never pass the ugly derelict hull in front of you and must follow it endlessly as it mucks up the aesthetics of paradise.

Any sailor travelling the ICW will tell you that Zeno is absolutely correct.

An historical footnote mentions that our only knowledge of Zeno's writings is from reports from  Aristotle.  All of Zeno's works were destroyed.

It is my belief that someone beat Zeno to death and burned everything he owned.

Justifiably in my view.

So I am Wrong, But...

St. Augustine, Fl
2010 10 31

Meredith arrived St. Augustine, North America's prettiest downtown and absolutely nicest outdoor mall.  Bar none.

People who dislike St. Augustine are few and far between.  They should just be shot.

Some object to the disgusting anchorage which serves this Spanish outpost: poor holding and full of permanently anchored local boats secured with two and three anchors.  No Longer!!!  The town cleared out all the miscreants and are installing a mooring field.  $20 a night.

The anchorage is clean, clear, easy and inexpensive.  We like the change.

A recent post took issue with my comments on the nuclear submarines Canada purchased from Britain.  You remember - the ones that did not work.  Wade, a former colonel in Canada's armed force, hastened to point out my error:

I cannot help but send you a query wrt your latest rant, which included a comment about Canada's subs:

"The last technology we bought from the UK consisted of two nuclear submarines, neither of which has, to my knowledge, actually sailed a single hour in pursuit of Canadian military objectives.  Neither has ever worked nor works now."

Where did you get the impression that these are nuclear?  What do you mean by nuclear, nuclear powered or nuclear missile carrying (or at least capable)?  I believe that these 3 subs are referred to as Victoria class.  This link provides a good summary

I think that news reporters often mistakenly refer to them as nuclear because they were phased out when the Brits decided to focus on nuclear powered subs.  By the way, navies call them boats, while the rest of the ships are called ships.

So I was incorrect.  HOWEVER....

No one, even Wade, has suggested the damn things worked.  And if the subs we bought were diesels then the Brits are really really incompetent.  They even screw up diesel technology.  British quality speaks for itself. 

 Being diesel it does matter for Canada.  If they did work we can't afford fuel.  So six of one...

And by the way you call that a  "rant".  You haven't seen a rant out of this guy if you think that was a rant.  That was reasoned discourse.

At least that is the only objection to that intemperate bit of electronic communication.  So far. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brittania Rules The Waves No Longer Even in These Days of Limited Competition

Enroute from Beaufort BC to Charleston  SC
Posted at Charleston
2010 10 21

We read the British Navy, sharing the poverty of the rest of the rest of the government of that beleaguered island has been reduced to 19 ships, two of those aircraft carriers that will not be permitted to carry aircraft. 

Reading the paper it was impossible not to recall that this summer the Canadian Navy was forced to moor its ships where they floated.  We could not afford to buy fuel you see.

As a Canadian of the right age I was raised to recognize my place in the world was that of undermensch to my British colonial masters. Or at least I was supposed to. 

As one of Britain's presumed serfs I cannot help but enjoy the spectacle of his "lord" falling off a horse.  You see I still chafe.

As a student Britain's general superiority and overall mastery of us, mere colonists in Canada, was driven into our skulls like railway spikes.  Our teachers were puppet lords, quizlings, dogs, given positions of small authority in return for unwavering devotion to their British masters. And they did.

It did not take on my generation however.

Serving the standard elementary school sentence, 9 years to life, Canadian students  had forced upon them the indignity of memorizing gingoistic British writing, poetry and song. Not the beauty and grace of Shakespeare or the cold clear reasoning of Shelley.  No we got the stirring Kiplingesque tunes such as "RULE BRITTANIA" and other such tripe.  For those of you who managed to fall sick that week in grade 5 I will provide the first two lines, burned inerasably into my tender memory cells:

"Rule Brittania, Brittania Rules the Waves. 
Britons shall never, never, never, ne'er be slaves".

Only years later did  I discover the wonderful term "irony".  I mean, I was Canadian, not a Briton.  In the time of my youth British colonial despots viewed Canada almost solely as a source of cannon fodder for the wars of the Queen, ours to blindly follow stupid orders issued by incompetent Brit generals. 

Proper subjects of the crown, Canada's only other function on planet earth was to sell raw material to England at low prices and in return buy their shoddy manufactured goods at absurdly high ones. The last technology we bought from the UK consisted of two nuclear submarines, neither of which has, to my knowledge, actually sailed a single hour in pursuit of Canadian military objectives.  Neither has ever worked nor works now. 

Canadians were slaves.  Even this nine year old Canadian boy could figure that out. Forcing us to learn that "Britons shall never, never, ne'er be slaves" was just over the top.  How nice for them.

So it was somewhat gratifying to find the British Navy reduced to the same circumstances as our own. 

But military dominance is not determined by material superiority alone.  If it were the USA would have won.... well just about any of the silly wars after Korea in which they have unsuccessfully engaged.  As with most games, sea battles are not won, they are lost.  He who makes the fewest mistakes, wins.

Despite its travails the British Navy will not lose dominance over the seas just because they wallow in ignominious poverty.

Canada & Lost Causes

With 33 hulls afloat Canada should dominate the Brits on the seas.  I am pretty sure we included a couple of rowboats in the hull count.  Anyway, half of them are in drydock, half of them are 30 to 40 years old and two of them have been banned from most international ports for environmental reasons.  Also we cannot buy fuel for any of them.  (mainly because our Fascist King Stephen was blowing $1 billion bucks trying to show the G20 he was a tough guy.  Our last place finish in the vote for a security council seat shows how well the voice of the unstable religious right plays on the international scene).

I do not include any British submarines in the total because they do not and have not ever worked.  Kind of like British aircraft carriers with no aircraft.  Wouldn't they be called Container Ships.

The French & Language

Plagued by language the French cannot actually fight.

French is the language of diplomacy and seduction.  It is designed to be imprecise.  It must allow for multiple interpretations.  Accuracy and accountability are not welcome traits in the halls of government or the boudoirs of the nation.

There is a cost to all of this dupicity of language however.  It takes a long time to say something in French.  A lot longer that it takes to say the same thing in English.  If the listener is to actually interpret the words spoken the time is further extended.

We have proof.  This summer, while sailing out the St. Lawrence, we  undertook a study on language and weather reports.  In Canada marine weather is broadcast in English and then the same broadcast is repeated in French (or vice versa).  The broadcasts are on the same channel and alternate all day long. 

In the St. Lawrence each time we tuned in the weather channel we counted the number of times the broadcaster was speaking English  and how often he was speaking French.  We found that between 7 and 8 times out of 10 the broadcast was in French when we tuned in.

Since the same information is being broadcast in each language (we presume) we conclude that it takes almost 2 1/2 times longer to say something in French than in English.  (7 / 3)

So in any battle situation the French command is terminally hampered.  By the time they have given orders and their underlings received and interpreted those orders, well.... the battle is over, the other ships have sunk the French navy or made their escape.  The hurricane has arrived and wiped out their fleet.  The French talk themselves into defeat.

So, to win a war speak English.  To win a woman speak French.

When I was young winning wars was very important.  Today I wish I spoke better French.

The Dutch & Cleanliness

Despite being great traders the Dutch have never been known for the strength of their navy.  This is not because the Dutch are not courageous, although they did just run away from Afghanistan like little girls.

No, it is  because of some quirk in Dutch DNA that holds them bondage to cleanliness.

The Budget Committee is nearly Dutch (her name starts with "Van" and everything).  Her job in the morning is to haul up the anchor rode (or chain).  This is not as onerous as it sounds.  In reality she presses her toe on a button and the electric windlass does the hauling.

Our anchor rode is stored in a compartment in the bow of the boat which adjoins, via a nice teak door, our main cabin.  The anchor locker and anything sticking to the anchor rode has direct access to our cabin. 

If the rode is covered in the stinking mud of a Carolina creek without fail our sleeping quarters are redolent of riverbottom.  This is disturbing for, as we all know, the sense of smell requires that molecules of the substance being smelled be deposited in our noses or mouth.  Try not to think of that next time you are in a public washroom.

The Budget Committee does not stand for this. On our boat the rode is washed before it is put away.  That is not accurate.  Our anchor rode is scrubbed before it is put away.  Each link must past individual inspection every morning before it is permitted to enter our anchor locker.  The BC is  Homeland Security protecting us from muddy chain.  Such cleanliness, while next to Godliness certainly takes a lot of time.

It has taken us as long as 27 minutes to get our anchor up.  Somedays I time it.  Waiting back in the cockpit while the BC scrubs the rode there is little else to do.  So often we are the first boat up and the last to leave the anchorage.

So those nice shiny Dutch boats are kept fastidiously nice and shiny and clean.  There is just no time for any of that fighting stuff.

The Americans & NOAA

While laying over in Hampton (Norfolk VA) at the local marina we ran into a US boat that had sailed Nova Scotia the same time we did.  The crew of this boat were quite vocal in their criticism of Canadian weather forecasting.  They were horrified that they could not rely on anything Environment Canada said.  They were correct in their criticism.

This boat, out of Chicago, left NS for Maine the same time we left Yarmouth for New Bedford.  They traversed the full length of Long Island the same day we did.  However they went outside.  The night we were pooped, so were they.  Repeatedly.

The pooping was more alarming for our American friends as they carried their dinghy on davits off the stern of their boat.  This dinghy was repeatedly sunk in the ocean and filled with sea. 

While discussing the wickedly incorrect weather forecast that caused us to both depart on a long voyage and promised  favourable and light conditions I was compelled to ask "And where did that forecast come from".

"Oh, from NOAA" was the honest reply.  "Those guys are idiots".  Then it sunk in. Well, it sank in just after his wife elbowed him in the ribs in the way that all wives seem to know how and when to do.

So you see the American fleet setting sail in unbelievable conditions.  They seem brave but are they?  Or are they relying on NOAA weather forecasts?

So Britain, you are only down and out.  You are not alone.  But I did permit an uncharitable smile to cross my lips on learning of your fate.

Stay Free.  We will.

Waiting for ToGo

Beaufort SC
2010 10 28

Sorry about the title.

When we rose this morning the radio told us relative humidity was 97%.  By 10:00  a.m. our thermometer was confirming ambient temperatures of 87 degrees Farhenheit.  Thunderstorms are due all afternoon and evening.

Meredith sits idle in Beaufort SC waiting for weather.  We need to travel south.  Offshore and coastal winds remain out of the south with waves following.  A cold front is due late today, hence the thunderstorms.   Cold Fronts bring wind shifts.  

The St. Lawrence was incredible and we recommend it to anyone, anyone at all.  It is one trip you won't forget.  Guaranteed.  Nova Scotia, expecially Cape Breton is a sailors wonderland.   As much fun as we have had since Nova Scotia it has been a bit of a Lemans race.  Our purpose is singular: get the boat south.

While we like Beaufort SC we do not like it 3 days worth. Waiting for weather and a clear shot at a 30 sail is vastly superior to having to spend days and days mucking about the shallow winding ICW.  That was fun the first time.  No longer.

The bridge at Beaufort, Ladies Island Bridge, is working a reduced opening schedule just now.  It does not open from 7 to 9 or from 4 to 6 and only on the hour between 9 and 4. 

Factory Creek, our beloved secure anchorage is located on one side of the bridge; freedom on the other.

Anticipating making a break for it in the morning we moved Meredith south of the bridge and dropped hook just out of the Downtown Marina in Beaufort.  Nice staff work here but they are dear dear dear - second highest fuel price we have paid this year.  And that is for the dyed red reduced tax offroad fuel.

Mooring at Downtown Marina requires a very close watch on tide as the tidal difference is about 9.5 feet and the current can be ferocious.  Always approach into the tide.  Remember that 1 knot of tide is equal to about 30 knots of wind.  So even when the wind is strong and opposing the tide, favour the tide.

Or come to grief.

We are sitting in the Common Ground Coffee House enjoying iced tea and apple strudel.  And air conditioning. 

We may not leave for hours and hours and hours.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Works, What Doesn't and What we Bought at the Boat Show

Beaufort SC
2101 10 27

This year's purchases at Annapolis were few but important.  A new GPS driven EPIRB from ACR for $395 from Defender Industries and a rigid boomvang from Garhauer for $400.  Our old EPIRB was battery expired and a new battery from its Canadian maker was more than a new EPIRB in the USA.

The rigid boomvang is something we have wanted for a while and the Budget Committee allowed it was a proper expense to be included under the new rigging we installed in the spring.

New Products We Have Used To Both Good Effect and Bad

What Works

The Kindle 2.  Our new Kindle 2 from Amazon arrived last January.  I spend an hour or two every day with this marvellous replacement for a library. The Globe and Mail is delivered daily  by 6 a.m.  Buy this in the USA however as it costs only half as much as Canada,.

3M 5200 FastSet: This product is a must have for every boat.  It is used by many sailmakers for sail repairs and we used it to repair a 16 inch hole in our dinghy.  Nothing else would work.  3M is still working 8 months later.

LED Lights: I know I have written on this in the past but there is a new twist for Canadians.  A new retailer in Canada is selling first rate boat LEDs for less than the US price.  About a third less.  Tim MacKinlay runs where he sells the same LEDs as were sold by Cruising Solutions at Annapolis.  Tim sells for a lot lessk, about a third less.  These are nice warm LEDs not the stark white light you might fear.  Tim also sells LEDs by the foot with handy adhesive backing.  I have fixed three broken lights by removing the old bulbs and soldering in 4 inches of LEDs in thier place.  Current draw is very very low.

Don't bother telling Tim you heard about his site from me.  He is too cheap to give me a discount anyway.

Gray's Hardware Store, Beaufort SC: This store is a one stop shop for most boaters.  It has propane, high quality hardware, good quality Columbia clothing, marine supplies, and a full small appliance section all staffed, actually staffed by people who know their stuff and always drop whatever they are doing to walk you to the things you need.

What Doesn't

Gul Offshore Gear: The Budget Committee  some German offshore gear at the Toronto Boat Show a few ago.  It has not lasted.  The jacket delaminated after the first 2 months.  The pants have been worn 3 times and have also delaminated.  The BC bought Helly Hansen replacements at the Helly Hansen store in Annapolis.  Over my objections I might add.  Canada is at war with Norway over ownership of Hans Island.  Norway keeps giving its citizens cheap tours to Hans Island which the Norwegians selfishly claim as theirs in the face of our perfectly reasonable claim that it is all ours..  This attack on Canadian soil is met each time by the Canadian Coast Guard.  We learned that the last time the groupls met they had a big barbeque with lots of drink and food.  Our kind of war.

Cheap Fuel Containers from Walmart (Blitz brand): These containers are cheap but they do not stand up in sunlight.  Their life on deck of a sailboat is a few months at most.  Also their pouring mechanisms are slow and stupid.  We have found the Trident brand of container from Canada to be best but buy them in Canada to avoid silly American flow controllers that jack the price and slow the flow.

 Solar Panel Controllers that are Not as Potted as They Allege:  Our expensive pulse mode Monringstar solar panel controller received a very modest sprinkle of sea water when Meredith was pooped off Long Island.  Within 2 days it had failed completely.  On dissassembly we discovered the controler which we understood to have a sealed circuit board also had some surface mounted components which, in two days, had corroded through.  We do not know if this problem extends beyond Morningstar but be very careful.

That is it for now.

Charleston SC to Beaufort SC - A Surprisingly Wild Ride

Beaufort SC
2010 10 27

Life's journey is not to arrive safely  at the grave in a well preserved body but rather to skid in sideways totally worn out shouting "Holy Cow.  What a ride!"

 Charleston SC is a destination for many boaters.  We are not among them finding this burg pretty much charmless.  Our preference, as we have expressed before, is Beaufort SC.  Only a day out of Charleston, Beaufort offers secure anchorages, a lovely Belle Epoche section of housing, much better grocery, liquor and hardware shopping.

Charleston does however offer up one of the most inviting college areas we have encountered anywhere.  Not the University of South Carolina, whose massive monoliths of large scale education line the main road from the marina to the downtown but the much smaller and inaptly named College of Charleston area.

The College of Charleston is in fact a university - each area of study has its own devoted building and resources.  It is old.  It is tree lined and canopied.  The streets are lined with students all of them first years and so happy and, yet untouched by first exams, carefree.  (All the upperclassmen are in their dorms studying).  The school and its surrounding student housing is a marvellous area to just wander about, carefree and untroubled.

Our only disappointment this year was to discover our favourite restaurant in Charleston, Vickeries, was closed.

The Budget Committee treated her depression at loss of lunch with a lengthy tour of the Williams Sonoma store and the nearby La Creuset.  When it was over she was not depressed any longer.  Good for her.

After a lovely afternoon walking we dinghied 20 minutes back to Meredith and prepared to move out at first light.  

Traveling from Charleston to Beaufort is done inside.  It is the only bit of ICW we tolerate any longer.  Our anchorage at Wappoos River is a couple of hours away from Charleston Harbour Inlet and the distance is all backtracking if you headed for Beaufort.  So off we went - inside.

This stretch of the ICW is the worst for sailors.  It is full of powerboats and thus interference.   Here is how this day panned out for us:


Shortly after leaving we were approached by a line of large white plastic pieces of power driven consumerism.  Being power vessels they were closing the gap between us handily but they were well back.

Seemingly moments later the radio crackled:  "You know Meredith, it is a lot more convenient if you slow down when we pass you".  This anonymous call came over Channel 16 and apparently was a complaint from one of the power boats, most likely we figured the lead one.

Since the call was on 16 and was clearly intended to embarrass I picked up the mike.  "To the cowardly guy on the radio this is Meredith.  Let me tell you something buster.  I normally travel at 6.5 knots and I am backed off to 5.5.  What do I have to do, back off to 2 knots so you won't be "inconvenienced".  If you had called me during your approach I would have told you to keep your speed up and give me a close pass.  You did not call and what falls on you is only what you deserve."

Nothing more was said.  (and I admit my grammar was likely a bit lacking but the report is almost totally accurate).


The radio crackled fairly frequently over the day with the usual resort of the stupid drivers of fuel guzzling monstrosities: "White Sailboat Moving Southbound, this is FSDFSDS approaching on your stern".  Apparently I am not the only sailor who finds this bit of stupidity infuriating.

All at once the radio chatter tightened up.  A sailboat was calling a guy out for passing with massive wake.  The sailor was calling the coastguard to report the boat.  Seems quite a bit of damage had been done and a couple of other sailboats reported in to support the claim.

Realizing he was facing some problems the driver of the powerboat started to bleat.  "Sailboat @#$@# I called you 6 or 8 times before I passed you.  You refused to answer my call."

"Listen Charly" came the sailors voice "You were calling the 'White Sailboat moving Southbound'.  My boat has a name.  This name is painted on my stern in 18 inch letters.  Since you did not name me I assumed you were calling one of the sailboats behind me."

"Have a nice day @@#$@#" came from the powerboat.  I hope the powerboat had anything but.


Coming up on marker 118 we noticed the daymarker was hanging down.  As we were just abeam of the post the daymarker fell into the water.  We retrieved it and called the Coast Guard offering to deposit the marker at a marina when we got to Beaufort.  It took 5 phone calls from the Coast Guard before it was determined that we should just throw the daymarker overboard.  The Coast Guard phone operator was aghast at this waste of public money.

All said and done we got into Beaufort, anchor down in that deep securing Factory Creek mud by 6:15 p.m.  Sundowners in hand we watched as the dark clouds that had tracked us all the way down the ICW opened up.  For the next 8 hours we enjoyed the pyrotechnics of the biggest storm in Beaufort area so far this year.  

We go offshore after Beaufort making for St. Augustine.  Not until the south winds and 5 foot waves on our nose die down.  Looks like we are here until Friday.

We like it here.

Why Using the "So!!!!" Response is Not Always Sound Practice

Beaufort SC
2010 10 27

As cool as it was to further frustrate that poor old man in the Charleston anchorage I must admit to too bits:

1. it was not charitable on our part and a little bit of me feels bad about taking the position we did,

2. it could backfire badly.

With respect to backfire I want to share with you verbatim an email received recently from a man who has become a very good friend.  Captain Dave is quite a guy as you can tell.

It is a good story and from what I know about Capt Dave is quite true.  Dave stopped fibbing a long time ago.  Here is his story in his words.

Surviving this cruising life for a long time is creating tolerance for what you call the "characters" that you encounter on your journeys. Many of these characters can end up your very best long term friends. Its not the snowbirds and wanna-bee sailors that make lasting friends. Most of these wanna-bees are.... out of sight...out of mind types. They don't last long at cruising and they are not sailors to begin with but mere boat dwellers. I am still friends with sailors I met 35 years ago in Caribbean/Bahamas and the ICW ... We sit around bitching about the good old days when you could stay overnight at a Mom & Pop marina on the ICW for $1 per boat (not foot)...the owners would remember you from year to year and you would often get a genuine hug on arrival.
Any good sailor is a character of sorts...we are all weird or we would not be living this life if we were normal.Everybody wants something and I know that you will find me a free dock in downtown London,Ontario when I sail in and even if you are anchored to your backyard. Best way to make a friend is start a fight and spend the rest of your life proving you are not violent.
Speaking of violence. Some boats are heavily armed and some sailors feel they are safer not being armed. For sure weapons can be a deterrent and for sure not having a weapon can be a daunting experience in some instances. Just pointing a gun at a native in a bum boat in Bahamas can get you 6 months in Fox Hill prison in Nassau. A friend of mine was arrested in 1991 and weighed 210 lbs. when he went in and 87 lbs. when they released him. If he had of wrapped a white bath towel around the gun and his hand when he came out on deck terrified at 2:am then he would have been charged with pointing a bath towel at the bum boaters despite the fact the natives would know what was in the towel and react accordingly. There is a shotgun/pistol out there now (no permit required in most states) Its a Colt 45 titanium revolver that uses 410 shotgun shells ....A great crotch blaster that wont backfire in your face like a flare can turn a man into a girl with one shot and most men would prefer being shot in the heart. This can stop an adversary without killing him, and most police agencies recognize that you have no intent other than to protect yourself. You can combine this weapon with a white bath towel.
In the more remote years of the Bahamas in Allen's Pensacola Cay in northern Abaco's (1977)...Eleanor and I got involved in a shootout at the ok corral with a boat load of cocaine users.  We had returned from a snorkeling trip in our dinghy on the blue water side of the island only to find a big Columbia anchored in our cockpit and smacking into our bow sprit on every turn of a fickle breeze....we were unarmed as we motored up along side....I was young and furious and called out to them (a dumb move)...we were the only two boats for 20 miles...two characters came out on deck with dripping coke noses and pointed guns at us and threatening to kill us. Eleanor peed herself and started to cry...all I had was a fish fillet knife and sitting like a duck in a dinghy.... It was my big mouth that got us out of this...they accused me of anchoring on their spot even tho the bay would take 10 big boats easy with lots of swing room... I told them they were right and to forgive me for being so selfish as to take their anchor spot. I told them we would haul anchor and move quickly....they laughed at my coward behavior and I edged my dinghy to the far side of my heart was thumping heavy as we crawled aboard..I sent Eleanor below to get the Ithaca 12 gage pump and lock & load...she obeyed quickly....I then told her to make strong coffee.... I watched from the cockpit as they were launching a dinghy and looking our way...We were well armed back in those days as cruising was very remote and the drug trade flourished in Bahamas and law & order did not exist except in Nassau and Freeport....VHF radios rarely transmitted more than 5 miles...We were on our own. It was not uncommon for cruisers to be murdered and robbed back in those days.
My confidence was restored with the Ithaca in my arms and my Colt 44 on my belt.
As their dinghy approached I pointed the 12 gage at their bow and blew off a round which quickly sunk their dinghy and disarmed them in the of them swimming with blood trickling from his leg, the other unscathed they crawled back on their boat...a third one appeared in his cockpit and fired a round wildly at me...I fired back and they all scrambled below...I must have overpowered them as they did not come out and called me on the radio saying they were "just kidding"....just having fun. I returned their call with 3 blasts from the Ithaca raking their decks and causing fragments of fibreglass to fly in the air...I told them on the radio that they were dead men if they showed themselves on deck and I shot away their anchor rode and their boat drifted away... It was a long dark night. Eleanor & I huddled together in the cockpit drinking coffee as thick as tar....don't ever under estimate a woman's resolve as she wanted to kill them...she knew she would have been raped by these bastards and had murder in her eyes.......However the angels were on our side that night as the wind came up strong and their boat grounded on a coral beach and began to take severe damage as it rolled over to port and lashed by wind. They called me on the radio and begged me to tow them off....I told them to eat shit, and at dawn Eleanor & I hauled our ground tackle and sailed away.....a few weeks later in Hopetown a man told me he saw a big Columbia in the Green Turtle boatyard with extensive hull and deck damage. In those days we just shut our mouth and moved on somewhere else. We went back to West Palm and re-provisioned and then to Tortola...  Having weapons on board or not having them is a damned if you do and damned if you don't situation.... There is no right answer.
Flare guns are not the answer and if you ever fired one at a horizontal target you will see why. You are more likely to kill yourself or get badly burned. Every boat should have impossible to locate gun hide-aways...In America I leave my guns on my supply truck except for a few remote places I cruise. Most of my Canadian cruising friends (the serious sailors) have a Utah conceal and carry licence which is reciprocal in 34 states. They leave their guns in storage in the USA when they cruise in Canada. I keep separate weapons in Canada for cruising Canadian waters.....I have learned to keep Canada and USA very separate and not drag anything controversial across borders. It is also folly to think there are no criminals in Canada. Canada can be quite remote in many places. I have no idea what your thoughts are on all of this and would enjoy your comments some time. Some of my friends are pacifists/appeasers and naive but I don't think that works very well. Those islands in the Caribbean clam up tight about any criminal incidents because it scares tourists away...the Bahamas is the worst for not reporting incidents from murder to shark attacks... I know a Toronto girl (Julie) who was raped and robbed in West End, Grand Bahama in the 80's and they just patched her up..gave her back her vacation money and shipped her home to Toronto and despite protests from Canadian officials she never heard another thing to this day. She ended up with an incurable venereal disease.
So there you have it.  Worth reading eh?