Friday, January 28, 2011

Joe versus the .... Well, We're Not Really Sure

2011 01 28

Floating at Anchor Listening to Dire Straits broadcast from the onboard IPod

Our friend and travelling companion of the moment, Joe, called yesterday with trouble onboard.  His  batteries were low and refused to take a charge.  His Rutland 913 wind generator was not producing any current despite strong gusty winds and his Honda gas generator just sat on his transom idling spent fuel into the atmosphere.

Joe, with whom we intend to cross the gulf stream, outlined his dilemma to us and expressed concern that he and Jeana, his erstwhile mate, might not be able to cross.  

Allowing a respectable interlude for the ebbing of onboard frustration aboard Joe and Jeana's boat we dinghied over to interfere with their goings on.  Frustration like the tides are factored into every boater's assessment of how and when to proceed with their mate.

We fell into a maelstrom of cushions, boards, cans, packages of paper towels.  It was as if the gust front that hit us on Tuesday night had reserved special treatment for Joe and Jeana's boat - stuff strewn everywhere.

Experienced boaters we knew this disaster scenario had nothing to do with storm conditions.  The first step in troubleshooting any critical system on a boat is actually gaining access to the malfunctioning system.

Why do boat designers hide the battery locker in one of the two most inaccessible places on earth.  On Joe's boat he had to dismantle an entire stateroom to get at his batteries.  At that he could only access two the batteries.  The third he assured me was buried so deep in the bowels of his Beneteau that we would have to just assume it was in good working order.  On Meredith we have been here and done this.  We accepted Joe's assurance that third battery was in good order. 

Joe's batteries were showing only 12.25 volts on his Link 1000 a cool little display device which monitors and controlls his boat's Freedom 20.  This after a full night of 15 to 20 knot winds driving his wind generator and 3 hours of Honda generator to boot.  His batteries should have had so much charge they were sparking excess energy into the ether.  As per the Link 1000 they were at low voltage.

The Freedom 20 inverter/charger was buzzing like a steroidal mosquito.  Ten minutes spent in the battery room trying to figure out the connection scheme of the mulithued spaghetti wiring so favoured by French nautical designers left both Joe and I near hysterical.   Forget waterboarding.  Homeland Security need only put terrorists in Joe's battery compartment.  They'd talk.

We found nothing amiss: no loose connections, no visible corrosion, no tell tale black spots or smoke smudges. 

Poking buttons on the Link 1000 for a few more minutes did not good at all.  

We decided to shut down all incoming power sources and "reboot".  

This was overly ambitious.  Beneteau had hidden all the AC breakers under the nav table.  My head would not fit under the table and despite wearing trifocals none of my aids to visual navigation provided a focal length sufficient to resolve any of the carefully letters labels into any more defined than white smudge.  

Joe, same age as me more or less, could do no better.  We made educated guesses on the contents of each label based on the number of indistinguishable characters we could count on a label.

This is  another point about sailboat design that really irks me.  Most people who sail boats, and thus most people who have to work on boats, are middle aged or better.  Our eyes are no longer our primary sensory organ or if they are we stand mute inglorious Miltons.

Shutting things down and restarting had no discernable effect

Nothing worked.  Not that we expected it to.  But we were men fixing a boat.  Something manly needed to be done.  Ego demanded it. 

We plugged the Honda back into the system and tried charging.  No go.   Now, when you think about it, why would it work? It did not work the first time and we had made no changes to any part of the system.  

This is the moment when the lightning bolt of near genius struck.  "Let's plug something in to the generator and see what happens." came out of someone's mouth. 

Joe plugged a space heater into his Honda.  Without even slight hesitation the Honda roared into life.  Life with the volume turned up.  Simultaneously the Link started to blink and its display showed amps coming into the batteries.  2, 4, 10, 24, 42.  We were charging baby.

Oh, but then 32 then 48 then 20 then 45.  The poor old Honda was speeding up and slowing down in time to the varying display on the Link.  Interesting.

Unplug the space heater and the Honda fell silent, refusing to supply current to the Freedom 20.  Interesting.

We had reached that most sacred of moments in any boat project.  It was time to commune: to reflect and consider things greater than ourselves.  It was time for a Bud.  We had two.  This job was going to take a lot of communing.

Over the course of the day we found out that the reason Joe's batteries were not charging was because they were fully charged.  The Link 1000 was giving incorrect voltage readouts.  We checked for corrosion to no avail.  Interesting.

The BC and I left Joe and Jeana his erstwhile companion to put away the 3 tons of stuff they had to remove to get at the batteries in the first place.

Three hours later Joe and Jeana responded to our invitation and dinghied over to Meredith.  Joe and I communed well into the night and well into a twelve pack of communion beer.  Yingleung this time.

This morning while dinghying ashore we slipped quietlly past Joe and Jeana's boat.  His Honda was running.  The space heater was plugged in and glowing redly.

I love troubleshooting probles.  On someone else's boat.

This included one fused connection where the fuse was good, as verified by my ohmeter, but the fuse would not transfer current. 
Joe's generator still works just so long as he runs his space heater at the same time. 

I'm calling that one a win.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gust Front

2011 01 26
North Lake Worth

We came ashore today.  Sanity required firmity beneath our quavering feet.

The gust front we expected to precede last night's cold front was a doozy.  After a day incarcerated aboard our delightful Meredith, imprisoned by high sustained winds and antagonistic chop in our anchorage we retired for the night.

Before doing so we lengthened the scope of our anchor rode.  Ten feet of water at high tide, five of freeboard gave us a 5:1 scope of 100 feet, rounded up. We hit the berth with 150 feet in front of us and a doubled up snubbing line.

Just as we retired the phone rang.  Peter and Jane from Kinvara safely at a dock in Coconut Grove called to wish us well.  They were watching the weather approach our anchorage on the internet.  Sometimes, as it was last night, just hearing another human voice is incredibly relieving. 

This is one of the choices to be made when the atmo threatens imminent harm.  Kinvara finds security in a solid dock.  Meredith seeks the freedom of a good anchorage.  The only harm we have ever suffered has come from a dock.

When the front hit it was intent on disproving all the doubting Thomas's in the anchorage who found themselves beseiged in their sleep.  Like Meredith and those aboard.  It was 10:30 p.m.  Two quick puffs introduced the impending giant.  These puffs had an eerie quality however, and they put both the BC and myself sufficiently on edge that we were up, dressed and lighted by the time the gust front attacked.

At its peak wind topped 48 knots.  It held for 45 minutes.  Not a single boat dragged in North Lake Worth.  At Lake Worth Inlet things were a bit of a mess.  A 67 foot ketch lost hold in the softer bottom and went on an unescorted tour of that crowded anchorage.  We listened as one poor fellow desperately called the Coast Guard "We see that ship you told had come adrift.  It is coming straight for us!!!!". 

Now I am not sure what the Coast Guard were supposed to do about that situation but his predicament affected all of us in Lake Worth.  Coast Guard offered their usual helpful comments "You are talking to Miami Coast Guard captain.  We suggest you call West Palm Coast Guard for assistance."

Like always, government was very helpful.

Next morning the sun came up. the wind was gone and boaters started to set up their dinghies.

When it hit both

Freedom of Speech and Accommodation

2011 01 25
Radiofree Canada - the fight continues

My children are truly sick of hearing me explain the value of Free Speech.  Even more are they tired of my explaining how the current wave of effluvium referred to generously as political correctness misunderstands the purpose and value of Free Speech.

The first thing the PCers get wrong is the need to be accommodating when someone expresses themselves in a way in which you disagree.  They have adopted this approach in an effort to  force people to pay attention to the expressions of new immigrant groups who are doing things differently or who are saying things with which we disagree.

Being free to say whatever flits through the ether of your brainpan does not guarantee a decent response.  You can say "Those @#%@#$@ Jews have screwed up my life".  On hearing this diatribe it is not incumbent on me to listen politely.  I can tell you to your face you are braindead bigot.  Nothing obliges me to politely listen or to accept or try to understand your position. 

Neither do I have to listen to you telling me why polygamy is good or why my choice of God (there is no God by the way except in the minds of those who need his help to win football games or wars and of course those who continue to believe in Santa Claus).  That a person is guaranteed the ability to express themselves does not in any way mean they are guaranteed a receptive or approving or even a polite audience.

Having free speech allows stupid ideas to be aired in public.  That is the point to it. 

When the nazis or the commies or the CSISsies spew their vitriol and stupidity (all three groups have espoused that we should put people in jail without letting anyone know about it, with no recourse to the courts and without telling the incarcerated even what are the charges against them) other smarter more reasonable people can say publicly that things are amiss and that these totalitarian groups are wrong.  Then the people can decide.

Notice - the people can decide.  Governments decide nothing.  Governments do not have morals, they have interests (yes, I quote Machiavelli - was he wrong?).  Morality comes from the people.

As to the word "faggot" or "fagot" as it is spelled in the UK:  In less tolerant times society burned witches at the stake.  They would bind offensive women or women who had recklessly let slip that they were intelligent, to a stake, throw a bunch of sticks around her and set fire to the lot.   The bunch of sticks were called "faggots". 

Homosexuals were held in such low regard that upon being found out they would be thrown live and untied directly onto the fire.  No one cared to waste good stakes and cord on a homosexual. 

From this came the use of the word "faggot" to describe male homosexuals. 

Makes you think about using the word in polite conversation.  Or any conversation at all. 

Crude losers will continue to use the word, blissfully unaware of what they are saying or why it might be offensive. 

Most of the rest of us will hesitate.

And that is how you use Free Speech to deal with speech that is inappropriate.  You DO NOT BAN IT.

In free society speech adapts.  It must be free for this to happen. 

My comment on God is out of respect for John Stuart Mills, a deeply devout Brit, who decades ago made the case for freedom of speech in his foundation work "On Liberty".  He allowed that even people who would disparage his God must be allowed to express that view.  It would then be open to him to correct the error.

Anyone reading this has a computer and access to internet.  "On Liberty" is freely available.  No reason or excuse to remain ignorant.

Pirate Radio

2011 10 25
Afloat off the East Coast of dullsville aboard  Canadian PirateRadio Station MEREDITH,
(exact location unspecified, to protect us from missile attack from the Canadian Navy protecting your right to endless replays of Terry Jacks while you eat your unflavoured porridge)

"And that, good listeners was MONEY FOR NOTHING coming to you live from tape on frequency 88.9 on your radio dial.  Tune in tomorrow, 8:00 a.m. EDT sharp for another broadcast of your favourite illegal song.  Remember we rotate our broadcast frequencies often to confuse the muddleheads at CBSC and CRTC those good folks who work all that paid overtime to save you having to think for yourself.

Catch us tomorrow on 90.3, another  broadcast  of another song too horrid to allow Canadian minds to be exposed.  Don't worry folks the dumbass bureaucrats won't have  finished passing memos on our new frequency until at least noon. 

We're gettin' ready to sign off folks while I phone the government of our free neighbours to the south, the USA.  Gotta report my locale to the good folks at Homeland Security protecting Americans from unwarranted attacks from senior citizen Canadians striking at 5 miles an hour. 

It's great to be free folks.  The war  on terror is only ten years old now.  We are all in debt to our government which selflessly protects us from the unidentified unspecified unknown enemy that our government tells us wants to attack us and take our freedoms away. Nope.  We're gonna show those terrorist bastards and give our freedoms away to the government so they can protect us.

This just in folks.  The Canadian government has just banned the reading of "The Sky Is Falling".  Apparently some malcontents were suggesting that they could not see any difference between CSIS and Foxey Loxy.  Some people are never satisfied.  I for one am going to hide in this cave and wait until the sky is finished falling.

This is Winston Smith, broadcasting live till they catch me."

Movie NIght

2011 01 25
North Lake Worth (America's Richest Zip Code)
Still Free, Still Broadcasting Songs Deemed Unacceptable for Canadians

Day Two of 20 knot plus winds

We have fallen into a solipsistic funk.  Nothing exists beyond the bulkheads of our sturdy boat.  The universe has lost all meaning, shrunken as it is to the interior volume of our little vessel. 

Last night we got drunk just for something to do.  Today we have this darn tornado watch.  No drinking.l  Since dropping anchor in the shallow Lake Worth we have not inflated the dinghy.  No point.  We sit here attempting to amuse ourselves without resort to companions or conversation.

Until recently I enjoyed the interior of my boat.  It was peacefully dim.  When I explained this to the BC she giggled and told me she understood now why I liked it so much: she had no idea how much it and I had in common. 

In our brave attempt to remain sane we run a bunch of mind games.  Right now we are listing memorable phrases from the movies and organizing them into coherent conversations.  Examples:


If we get lost we'll just pull in somewheres and ask directions.

Explain to everyone how you know we have arrived, Captain Ron.

Houston, we have a problem.

I don't think we are in Kansas anymore, Toto.

The Truth.  You Can't Handle the Truth.

Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

I'll blast every motherfucking last one of you.

Stay Cool Charly.

Adequacy of Stores:

I don't eat dog either.

Soylent Green is people!

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

And I'll never go hungry again.

Strangers in a Strange Land:

Every breath a deposit in the bank of good health.

I hate snakes.

Nice Dog,  Are you a whiner.... or do you bite.

Does Your Dog Bite?

Hasta la vista, baby.

I'll be bach.

You get the idea.  It's better than counting cows.  More fun after a few rounds (of drinks you clown).  Give it a shot.  We can develop a list of lists.

Dailing in a new FM frequency to once again broadcast Money for Nothing as I write this.

Exercise at Sea

011 01 25
Aboard Radiofree Canada

Get real.  When you are at sea you do not need any additional exercise. 

However.  Sometimes you are ashore.  Or worse, like today, you find yourself  stuck on your boat with no way to get off. 

Yesterday we arrived at |Lake Worth Inlet after a day sail out of Port Everglades in 15 knot winds and 5 foot waves off the forward starboard beam.  Anchoring in North Lake Worth we find ourselves in 20 knots of wind threatening 30.  North Lake Worth,  a shallow little bulge in the ICW that could only be called a lake in the land of the near dead and those that profit from them,  has kicked up a marching parade of 3 footers, quite extraordinary in a 12 foot deep lake.

NOAA has issued a tornado watch across much of the land of the near dead  and those who profit from it, also known as Central Florida  An approaching cold front is going to have a squall line punch to it and no one is betting on the time of its arrival.

We are trapped aboard.  Even if we were tempted to debark in the face of a forecast threatening boat destroying squalls and tornadoes such foolhardiness would prove counterproductive.  In three foot chop no inflatable dinghy will protect your tender bottom from a thorough soaking in the salt.  Anchored in the wealthiest zip code in the USA we would not be well received were we to walk into any store in the area soaked from the waist to our toes. 

Stuck on board  we are working overtime to amuse ourselves.  Boatwork is done - jobs that we have eluded for months become high priority and are tended to.  Lockers unattended by the quartermaster since our last offshore foray are stripped down, inventoried anew, cupboards washed and contents restowed in good order.

Normally the salon of our boat is a preferred space.  It is peacefully dim.  As I read this the Budget Committee giggles good naturedly commenting that she never before understood how much our boat and I had in common.   After a full day occupied by two adults the sixty cubic meters of living space have grown tiny.  Yesterday was spent battling wave and wind on our journey from Ft. Lauderdale to Lake Worth.  We vastly prefer that to enforced idleness of a storm day at anchor.

Without discussion there is no drinking.  No one wants to be slowed by the effects of alcohol when the squall line hits, or worse asleep and groggy. 

By day's end we wear zombie stares, our personalities wiped out by endless reading brain cells stuffed to the bursting point.  Hours spent at the computer or portable game console have given us an unhealthy palour.  Sex has come and gone.  We are bored beyond endurance. 

It is time for onboard exercise.  We have a program.  We turn on a little SRV (Stevie Ray).  We have a few tracks where Carlos Santana joins in.  Perfect for what we are about.  We tack on some Joe Bonamassa, introduced to us by friends Tim and Bice back in Lucan ON.  Then we start, and this is for real:

Grab a handrail.  Sorry Hunter owners may have to sit this out.  No one at Hunter ever thought their owners would leave the dock in the first place so they may not have handrails.

Start bending and straightening the knees.  When you are bouncing along to the rythm section things are set.

Add some lateral sway - maybe 20 degrees or maybe 30 each way.  As your knees pump you up and down swing to port and starboard.

Hold the handrails like they are stays.  Once it is all cooking throw yourself back and forward to boot.

Let go the handrail with one hand and then the other.  The game is to always have one but only one hand holding on but to time it to the microsecond.  Failing and falling is part of the program.

How you have a full seaborn experience.  Up, down, back, forth, trippin' and stumbling and you and your derriere hitting everything in sight? 

When the bruise count hits an even dozen you can quit.

Just like going to sea.

Eating Your Way Around Ft. Lauderdale

2011 01 25
North Lake Worth FL

Yesterday by agreement with Okemah Rose (O kee mah) we sailed North out of Ft. Lauderdale to North Lake Worth for a hookup.  This is not about that.

Our first time in Ft Lauderdale, son Jake, the BC and I put in to Lake Sylvia for a two day layover in bad weather.  We did not explore much which was a shame but spent our time aboard a boat anchored in the midst of very expensive homes ("I would not want to put a price on such things but the number would have 6 digits and the first digit would be a 7") all aflame with waste light, each home having a "boat" moored before it.  The boats were all 6 digit multi tiered floating fibreglass castles.

Last year we tied up to a mooring ball at Las Olas Municipal Marina.  $30 a night.  A short dinghy ride away from everything.  Free wifi.  Good showers.  Municipal staff.  Four out of five is pretty good. 

That year we visited with friends Ben and Andre who showed us how to enjoy Ft. Lauderdale, from their favourite creperie to the downtown, the best french bakery in Florida if not the entire USA, and visits to Miami South Beach.  We mentioned our visit to the "Mob Motel" an unidentified hotel near the beach where we were strolling.  A visit to the facilities became a necessity and we entered what appeared to be a nicely designed hotel.  Except for the 250 pound muscle bound doorman.  Well, it appeared to be a doorman.  There were two.

The lobby was unique and quite obviously not open to the public.  However the staff graciously directed us to the washrooms, cautioning us not to stray.  No worries there.  Ben and I both had the sonar on full active ping and were actively suppressing the  strong incoming fight or flight response rising in each of our gorges.  Being civilized cowards we elected flight.

This year we stayed at Los Olas again enjoying the company of Peter and Jane aboard Kinvara.  With these two livewires there is no letting moss grow on any body parts.  It was with a vengence that we toured the canals of Ft. Lauderdale. 

We found a full blown shopping mall complete with Chapters reachable by dinghy.  Halfway through the first day we stopped at a city park, tied up and walked a short distance to the "French Bakery", another french bakery equal in every respect to the french bakery of Ben and Andre.  This one came with a jazz trio to enhance your patio dining.  Mind you coffee and a pastry cost $14.  But what a pastry.

That night we dined at Coconuts, as reported. 

Next day we were away to the Raw Bar.  It is located at the end of a canal.  You get to it by entering Lake Sylvia, dinghying under a 3 foot high overpass (the southmost canal exiting Lake Sylvia), crossing the ICW and continuing to the end of the canal.  There it is. 

The Raw Bar has fantastic food, the BC had stuffed clams which she says were unreal, and prices are very reasonable.

Along the way you pass a covered dock designed for Mega Yachts.  You also pass mega yachts that cannot afford a covered dock.  Life is tough in Lauderdale.  Actually there are numerous for sale signs on mansions down here and many of the well maintained mansions from last year were not maintained at all: flaking paint, overgrown lawns, pools shut down or very strange shades of green and brown from algae.  The downturn has been hard on the upper middle class.  Poor babies.

Dinghying back we passed a catamaran from Canada which had followed us South from Lake Worth Inlet.  It being time for a gam we traded gossip from home and exchanged spots to each other for our travels in the Caribbean.  They marvelled that we had sailed the entire trip with our mainsail flying.  We marvelled that they had not.

Then it was home.  We showered one last time, traded some movies with Peter who had left his DVD collection at home and put up the dinghy and outboard.  Next morning we sailed back to Lake Worth Inlet to meet up with Okemah Rose.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Being Nice

2011 01 23
Ft Lauderdale, FL

Last night was fantastic.  Meredith, on a mooring ball at the Las Olas Municipal Marina, is in the company of a group of long distance cruisers.

The Las Olas Marina maintains 10 or 12 mooring balls available for $30 a night.  This marina is significant for being situate immediately adjacent to the Bahia Mar Marina, base for the Busted Flush, houseboat home and base of Travis McGee.  No young man in North America grew up without an intimate knowledge of Travis McGee.
 From Las Olas you are blocks away from downtown Lauderdale and, once you tire of window shopping for $5,000 shirts, only a short dinghy ride from the sorts of stores people like you and I might actually patronize.

The dinghy ride is through a bunch of run down homes with sticker prices in the 8 or 9 digit range.

Right: the BC and Bob go house shopping.
Right: Peter and Jane from Kinvara joined us.  We think they might have been shopping for real.

 After a good dinghy ride Peter and Jane and the BC and I landed our dinghies at a local park and walked to the nearby French Bakery where we indulged in Almandine and Beignet and indulgent little fruit pastries as we listened to soft jazz interpretations from a patio jazz trio.

Dinner was agreed amongst the "boats on balls" to be table for eight at Coconuts Bahamian Grill, a local haunt that has absolutely no connection to coconuts or anything Bahamian.

Left: left to right: Peter, Robin from Robin Leigh, the BC
Right: Jane from Kinvara

Promising little on entry Coconuts Bahamian grows on you.  Before you gain a complete awareness of the seemingly uninspired environment the joint is humming, drink is flowing and the talk animated.   Everywhere.  The food is exceptional as it should be in a restaurant where half the clientele arrives by chaufered limo.
 Stone Crabs at Coconuts Bahamian Grill

We completed the dinner service with Espresso Martinis all around.  The restaurant staff all wore Tshirts with the logo "Be Nice" on the LHS breast pocket and three stylized fishes on the back.  Through the entire dinner service Peter good naturedly teased the hell out of me: turning his hand vertically and wiggling his fingers like a little fish swimming saying  "Be Nice" over and over and over.

Finishing my first martini and setting into the second I achieved a modicum of nice. 
Equilibrium at last. 

Be Nice.....Or Else

2011 01 23
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Yesterday started as most mornings start aboard Meredith since we learned the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council ruled that "Money for Nothing," is too offensive for Canadian airwaves.

Aboard Meredith we broadcast Money For Nothing every morning.  I use a little FM transmitter to transmit the music over the airwaves to our radio.  My boat is Canadian and the airwaves on it are Canadian. Screw you Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.  You and every attention hungry little nitwit human rights whiner and spineless cockroach bureaucrat in what has become our very disappointing country.

Are any Canadians doing anything about it or are you just sitting around like usual being nice while you let a bunch of politically correct jackass bureaucrats impose their pointless sterile existence on you.  This is all about control people. 

Fight back people.  There is still time.  Not much time.  Do something now.  Call your radio station and demand they play the silly song.  Write firm letters to the bobbleheads who purportedly represent you in parliament.  At the least phone the constituency office.  You not have to accept this idiotic attempt to homogenize what is left of your grey matter.

Bureaucrats fear nothing more than a public, a loud public discussion of what they are doing. So say things out loud. 

So maybe the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council will ban my post as being disruptive and rude and inciting discontent.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sailing Advisories

2011 01 19
Vero Beach FL

Gasoline in a Diesel

A boat moored beside us at Vero Beach has had mechanics on board every day since we arrived.  Apparently the mechanics have been aboard for more than a week now.  Yesterday, after a lot of expensive troubleshooting, one of the mechanics tasted the fuel.  Of the ninety gallons of fuel on the boat 34 gallons were gasoline.

Along most of the eastern seaboard it is the practice to require the skipper of the vessel to pump his own fuel.  This is directly opposite of the practice in good old patronizing Ontario where many marinas make you get off the boat before they will pump fuel.  Even if the fuel is non explosive diesel.  On the Eastern Seaboard a dockhand hands you a delivery nozzle and you pump your own.  Until now I had always assumed this was due to the extreme penalties for spilling hydrocarbons into the waters of the USA - a perfectly good use to put extreme penalties to in my view.

Now it seems there are more reasons than one.  The poor skipper with the damaged diesel was handed a nozzle by a dockhand and pumped away, assuming the nozzle was connected to a diesel pump.  The marina now is off the hook for liability: it is the skipper's responsibility to make sure he has the correct fuel.

In future I am going to much greater lengths to make sure my nozzle pumps diesel.

While gasoline will not destroy a diesel automatically it works insidously to achieve a similar result.  The seals in a diesel engine are made of very different compounds than in a gasoline engine and diesel engine seals are eaten away by gasoline.  This causes serious problems with, eg. the engine's high pressure injection fuel pump.  That is the case with our neighbour and the cost of rebuilds and repairs will be in the several thousands of dollars.

Eyeware in Seawater

Son in law Nick writes that the product he described to me was actually "Nikon Ice" not Nikon Eyes as I wrote.  Son in law Nick did not disagree with my assessment of the opticianry program at Georgian college.

Good friend Andre wrote to share that she too had lost two pairs of eyeware due to saltwater corrosion.

Most helpful letter on the eyeware post came from the literate and witty Rhys of Toronto, whom we have never met. 

He wrote:

I had the same problem on a delivery to the USVIs in 2009. Salt water ate my glasses.

I didn't notice immediately because I wear contact lenses, the comfortable gas-permeable kind. My vision (myopia/nearsightedness) means I can and do read maps and close work with "bare eyes"; the irony at 50 is that I now need weak reading glasses WITH contact lenses, or I need the split-vision type of contacts.

The solution, short of what you already know, is to get safety goggles when the going is wet of the clear plastic woodshop type. If it's super stormy, resort to ski goggles.

But the best bet is contacts and cheapo reading glasses. I get mine for $2.50 a pair at Active Surplus in Toronto. The sea receives my tribute of a few pairs per season...but I don't begrudge the sacrifice.

How to Smoke a Cigar

2011 01 19
Vero Beach, FL

To smoke a good cigar you need to start with George and Georgia.  At least that's how it seems to us.

Quartermastering three months of stores bought in anticipation of our imminent departure for the Abacos took half again more time than did buying them.  Two dinghy trips to shore were required just to take care of the packaging waste - criminal really.

Fortunately we had only just begun inventorying the mountain of cans and packages that threatened to swamp our boat when the phone rang.  George and Georgia from Agapi were on the line suggesting dinner at their condo.  Well, that was a ten second phone call.

Georgia is a first rate cook and laid on a table of immense platters of chicken and corn and peas and salad and fresh bread.  It was really good food. Food which Georgia's husband George, who would be a fine curmudgeon if he could just stop being kind and reasonable, immediately "tweaked" to suit his own tastes, adding mozzarella and tomato paste to already fine chicken cutlets.

Dinner progressed at a properly languid pace and we were all apparently enjoying each others' company.

Recalling a conversation we had with George and Georgia before Christmas the BC and I brought with us two decent Cuban cigars (which I will deny were Cuban if the FBI reads this) on the off chance George would join me in some overwhelmingly civilized after dinner behaviour.  

Damn decent of old George to humour me.  Brown leaf had barely touched table cloth when George was up, chairs and table were transferred to the condo's verandah and new glasses of wine were poured.

George knows how to smoke a cigar.  He boosted his wife's barbecue lighter as a fire starter.  Getting comfortable in his dining table chair he bit a proper sized chunk off the correct end, spit it out and fired up the cheroot.  As a glorious cloud of aromatic smoke enveloped George, he sat back wriggling himself into a comfortable position, smiled a cheshire cat grin and sighed.

The balance of the evening went just that way - filled with the aromatic smoke of two good cigars and a conversation redolent with luxurious comfortable silences and random outbursts of oratorical energy that signal you are in an excellent conversation with a man satisfied with his accomplishment.

My kind of cigar smoker.

An eternity later, the fog lifted and we returned to the animated discussion being conducted by our irrepressible wives in the main room to which the balcony was attached.

It was 1 a.m. and regretfully we had to take our leave.

Tomorrow We Go - Belay That No We Don't

Tomorrow We Go2011 01 19
Vero Beach FL

On Friday the 14th of January we moved from Melbourne to Vero Beach.

To keep our displacement low and our waterline high in the shallow waters of the Melbourne River we arrived in Vero with no water, no food and little fuel.  Each of these required remedy.

Forecast winds were out of the North so we saw no profit in hurrying with the provisioning. Strong north winds scuttle a gulf stream crossing.  Friday I jugged ten gallons of water from the fuel dock to Meredith to hold us over.  Saturday, a short hours bus service day in Vero, we did a basic grocery and spent the day working on systems checks and meeting our neighbours. Nice neighbours meant we did a lot more of the latter than the former.

No sooner did we get to work in earnest than a dinghy stopped by with Chris and Frank from Melodeon of Halifax the whimsical homebuilt steel junk rigged schooner we met at Vero last year.  Arrangements were made for a reunion.

Sunday morning the fuel dock was open and we took full advantage to fill with diesel, gasoline and water.  The rest of the day was spent desultorily working on systems, sleeping in and having fun.  An art show at the impressive local gallery (the building was impressive, sadly not much of the art joined it) provided an excuse to walk a couple of miles and the day was ended with drinks in the cockpit for both of us and a cigar for me.

We arranged with Enterprise to rent a car on Monday for the Grand Provisioning Run.  A word of advice here - if you book your car reservation online you always get a better price than if you call the Enterprise office.

Provisioning was done in good order.  The Budget Committee had a list and I was unable to augment her meagre estimate of foodstuffs needed for three months asea.  The BC always buys food as if her appetite were the governing factor.  This leaves me short rations by a factor of two or three.

Not that I have ever actually starved to death.

During the breaks in incessant conehead attacks on Sam's Club we did some weather planning.

Weather was great - a three day window from Wednesday to Friday.  How could you miss.

Here's how:

1.   On Tuesday morning a cold front was forecast for Wed night/ Thursday morning.  It was mild and winds were not to exceed 5 to 8 knots.  Following that however was a decent blow scheduled for Saturday.  North winds of the 20 knot variety attended the latter cold front.  Strong North winds kill a gulf stream crossing unless you are having shake and bake for dinner.  Lots of time from Wed to Friday to cross to Bahamas.

2.  On Wednesday morning the second cold front had advanced more rapidly than forecast 12 hours earlier and was now scheduled for Friday evening arrival.  Still lots of time if we left Wednesday or Thursday early.

3. By Wednesday afternoon passage of the cold front was pegged for very early Friday morning.  Winds were still predicted to be very strong during the passage of the front and remained out of  the north at uncomfortable velocities for an extended period.

Here's the kicker: after the front passed temperatures in the area we hoped to drop anchor were predicted to also drop - to the low 40s farenheit.

So now we had a medium to large cold front growing in intensity bearing down on us at increasing speeds and leaving our best hope to cross like mad to beat the front and hope we did not freeze to death after it passed.

Instead we will mosey down the eastern seaboard a bit further and see how the weather pans out next week.

Still hunting for warm weather.

Vero Revisited

2011 01 19
Vero Beach FL

We left Melbourne on Friday course set for Vero so we could provision for the islands and wait a good window.  Departure was interesting.  Melbourne River is a bit shy on depth.  We found Meredith, our 38 foot Cabo Rico cutter, comfortably esconced in a mud bath.  She seemed not to mind.  Having been warned of the depth issue by friends George and Georgia on Agapi we arrived at Melbourne River with empty tanks and empty stores.  We did not provision or take on water while there.

A fresh North Wind (20 knots) was blowing as we started up the diesel and checked systems in preparation for departure.  A strong gusty wind always heightens the reluctance to get underway.  The slipway into which Meredith must back, turn and depart was not as wide as Meredith was long and the docks were crowded with expensive looking boats.  Neither the BC nor I had been on a boat for six weeks.  It looked to be challenging.

A spring line was rigged off the port midships and loosely slung over the pylon.  In case of emergency "pull the rope".

All that effort and thought proved moot.  We slipped the transmission into idle reverse,  the Budget Committee cast off her lines and.... Meredith just sat there mudbound.  She quivered a bit and, as I fed a bit more fuel to the diesel, slowly, oh so very slowly, began to reverse herself into the slipway.

The mud in Melbourne is a marvellous viscous fluid.  It does not encase; it merely surrounds.  The effect is just like sailing in thick oil.  Steady pressure moved the soft silty mud aside and the boat moved forward, the mud sliding into the void left by the trailing edge of the keel. 

It was a joy.  We turned into the slipway with not a trace of sideways motion.  The wind even at a gusty 20 knots was powerless.

Never ever have I had such precise control of a boat.

Once clear the slipway we had the wind at our backs and a deserted waterway all the way to the horizon.  This continued unabated all the way to Vero.  Along the way we encountered only a single motor yacht.  This fellow approached us at speed from astern.  His wake was significant.  As he drew near he made the usual radio call "White Sailboat travelling South on the ICW this is @#$%@#.  We will slow as we get to your stern".

I was in a good mood what with the sun and the wind and the effortless departure.  "Skipper keep your speed up.  Give us a nice close pass and we are both good.".  A minute later the guy tore past like Meredith were still tied up at dockside.  The pass was masterful.  This guy could handle his boat.  No more than 15 feet separated us at the brief moment we were amidships.  As he went by we turned 15 degrees into his wake and slid uneventfully and without distruption into the trough thereof.  Neither of us were forced to slow and both of us appreciated the skill exhibited by the other.

It was a glorious afternoon and our mood held all the way to Vero.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

About Those Prescription Eyeglasses

2011 01 14
V ero Beach  FL

On the overnight run down Long Island Sound I managed to ruin two pairs of prescription eyeglasses.  The destruction took less than 2 hours total.  Neither pair left my face except to be cleaned by a clean soft dry cotton cloth that I always use for that purpose alone.

On both pair of eyeware the lens became cloudy with bizarre scratch lines.  Although microscopic there were so many lines that the result was a cloud on the lens.

Two pair in two hours. 

Only six months earlier I had had one pair of lens replaced by the optician who dispensed them because the coatings on the lens were detaching in patches.  The result was the same opacity in the lens.

The Budget Committee is now losing the coating on her eyeware: it is peeling off in tiny sheets.

In December my optician at Lens Crafters informed me that the cause was the ANTI GLARE COATING applied to the lens.  She was adamant that salt water would eat away the anti glare coating on most eyeware in very short order.  I would have been more assured had this not been the same store that sold me the glasses that were destroyed.  At the time of purchase I was very specific about the intended use to be made and the environment in which the lens would find themselves.  I have new replacement lens without the anti glare coating.  We will see.

Before you set off for the salt talk to your optician, or better yet an optometrist or even better by far your opthalmologist, and find out what effect salt water is going to have on the coatings on your lens.

Our son in law, Nick, who took a full year of opticianry before he erupted in unbearable frustration with the quality of training at the overbearingly bureaucratic and hysterically feminist opticianry program at Georgian College in Barrie Ontario suggested we try having lens made from a Nikon product called Nikon Eyes.  Nikon lens incorporate the various lens effects in the lens material itself rather than leaving the auto darkening, anti glare, anti UV effects to be achieved by coatings added after the lens are manufactured.

Unfortunately that particular product is limited to use in progressive lens which I do not use. 

If anyone has experience in this let me know and I will pass it on.  Right now your eyeware is at risk if you go to sea.  Take two or more pair and keep the sea off of them to the extent possible.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In Praise of Melbourne

2011 01 14
Vero Beach FL

At this moment, 5 beers into the evening I can say that the Budget Committe and I are in a  good place, mentally at least.  Alcohol helps.  So does meeting new friends and old friends all on the same day.

Today we were visited by Frank and Chris on Melodeon, the red assed steel hulled junk rigged schooner.  Moments later we set off for the Riverside for beer and burgers with the crew of Okemah Rose.

Things have been very upbeat since we got out of Chicago.  That took 2 1/2 days but Delta Airlines upgraded us to first class.  That sounds like a big deal but other than a slightly bigger seat all you get is a bag of sunchips in lieu of those cheap packets of peanuts, 4 peanuts to a pack.

Arriving Melbourne we could not get a taxi to the marina.  Instead we rented a car from Enterprise and drove from the airport to Lake Suzy where we picked up our repacked liferaft from the Winslow Company.  It was near midnight before we got to the marina but we were happy to have the taxi fare discounted from the car rental.

Next morning we drove to Terry Comm to pick up our SSB radio, that ICOM piece of crap we wrote about earlier.  Terry Comm gave us an estimate of $880 to fix our radio which we found too expensive just now.  We deferred the decision to repair it or replace it.  Terry Comm charged us only $22 to inspect and troubleshoot the radio which we found more than fair.  If we decide to repair the ICOM come spring we will certainly use Terry Comm in Melbourne.

Returning the rental car we had only to settle our bill with Waterline Marina and leave.  The harbourmaster who is also the owner of the marina, his usual harbourmanager having just finished open heart surgery, waived the additional charges for our two days of overstaying.  It was not his fault our plane was held up for two days in Chicago but he allowed us the two days grace at his marina.  I am highly impressed with Waterline Marina and the affable giant that runs it.  It was clean, well protected, very well reasonably priced and has the best harbourmanager with whom we have ever dealt.

Bills settled we climbed on board Meredith, checked systems, cranked the diesel and headed for Vero.  The Budget Committee was overjoyed that the water heater had not burned out as the result of our little "mistake" when we left poor Meredith so poorly put away.

We arrived in Vero on the 13th.  On the 15th, once the busses are running again, we will provision and when the winds are favourable head out for the Bahamas enroute to the Spanish Virgins.

Ganesha v Pollyanna: The Dancing Elephant God Wins; Hands Down (all 20 of them)

2011 01 (12 to 14)
Vero Beach, FL

It came to me in a vision that I truly hate optimists.

We were riding the Blue Line Train on Chicago's L transit System when my transit reverie was intruded upon by a stray thought.  Actually it was a full National Film Board animated short.  Transit reverie is an urban phenomenon in which you stand furiously mute on a moving platform pretending not to notice anyone around you while broadcasting your emotional detachment from anyone in range.  Transit Reverie is Elevator Indifference transposed to the horizontal plane with a dash of Tobasco for decent muted rage.

I can usually fake the standing mute part - my brain just shuts down and I ride zombie to my destination.  On more than one occasion my senses have been so muted in this state that I have missed my stop only to startingly regain consciousness in some unknown venue. 

Sometimes you really do not want your freedom from thought to be interrupted by stray or variant idea: you are entitled to enjoy your thoughtlessness.  Sitting in that subway car you have a nice little natural buzz going on, like a full body stone from the good old days when I too drank original formula Coke.

That day the joy of moronity was to be denied me.  Crashing my reverie came a twenty armed dancing elephant: Ganesha, Hindu God and Remover of Obstacles gripped in mortal combat with Pollyanna that pneumatic thoughtless perpetual optimist from the book of the same name.

It took a while to figure out what the other half of my brain was attempting to convey. 

This all occurred on our second full day of a two hour layover in Chicago. Apparently someone in Atlanta, the City that gave us Coca Cola, thought they saw a snowflake.  Panic reigned.  Atlanta went catatonic.  Too many of the locals still drink the true "original" formula of that famous coca leaf based beverage.  For whatever reason no one could fly into or out of Atlanta for several days.

This was unfortunate because our flights were booked from London to Chicago to Atlanta to Melbourne, where floated our beloved Meredith.   Now it is a fact that most people who fly into Atlanta wish to fly out again as soon as possible.  This is only partly because it is a "hub" airport for Delta Airlines.

So we found ourselves unavoidably in Chicago, which was a  lucky event for the Budget Committee and me.  Chi-town is one of our most favourite American cities, right up there with Detroit and New York.  Chicago's transit system, the L, is unique.   For $2.25 you can ride the Blue Line train from the airport to the downtown Loop.  The airport transit terminus, clothed in flowing glass brick walls and flourescing subterranean colours is more art gallery than subway station and the train itself is unique: part subway, part train and part elevated transit system.

Once downtown you have unbelievable resources for a tourist.  In 5 blocks or so you have Ford's Chinese Theatre, Berghoff's restaurant, Macey's, the Opera Hall, dePaul University.  We headed for the Art Institute of Chicago, home of an eclectic series of private collections donated by discerning Chicagaons.for public viewing.  It is a working city's art gallery and well worth several days of attendance.  With only a single afternoon to spend we invested it in the Art Institute.

As it developed admission was free.  Unbelievable!

Once at the Institute we strolled through statuary of Islam and then of Indonesia where we saw several representations of the god Genesha, Lord of Beginnings and Remover of Obstacles.  Genesha was created by another of the Hindu Gods out of bathwater scum.  After an unfortunate beheading his cranium was replaced with that of an elephant.  He has twenty arms and in each statue these appendages were furiously working at useful tasks.  He is a cool dude.

So back to the dream battle.  Genesha thumped Pollyanna.  Competence defeated optimism.  Here was a point worth invasion of my mental calm even if it took a minute or two to figure out the simple message. 

I have no use for optimism.  Optimism is mindless.  Superstition is superior to optimism.  At least the superstitious fool has some basis for his belief in future events: "Last night my priest threw a handful of chicken bones in the dirt and they told me...."

Optimists just think things will get better because they think things will get better.  The brains of optimists need a good dose of neuronal ex lax.  I mean really.

Competence and competents (the people who are competent) are radically different.  They have a positive outlook for the future but not for no reason.  They have confidence that whatever is thrown at them they can handle.  They do not know everything they need to know about everything but they are capable of learning and adapting and enduring.

I want my boat crewed by Ganeshas.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Armchair Sailing - Routing

2011 01 07
Where I am is irrevelent; as to where I'm Going...have you got a minute?

Getting to the Passage Islands, our next intermediate destination, from midFlorida is a simple matter.  Curiously we have found ourselves conflicted as to how we should approach the voyage. 

Too much non navigational data is entering the decision making process.  Or perhaps the correct amount?  Here is where we find ourselves:

There are three main alternatives:

Bruce Van Sant's "Thornless" path
Jimmy Cornell's I"-65"
Budget Committeee's "I Want to Stay Warm" path.

Here's how they look:

 If you mouseclick on the image it will enlarge for easier viewing

Bruce Van Sant's so called Thornless Path is shown in Orange, Jimmy Cornell's I-65 is in Yellow and the BC's Heat Seeking Missile in Dusky Rose.

For all the palaver amongst cruisers you would think there was some critical decision making involved in getting from Florida to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands.  Look at the map: other than the fact the trip starts just south of Cape Canaveral does any part of this look like rocket science?

Bruce Van Sant's path, popularized in his "Gentleman's Guide to the Thornless Path..." is a pain to sail.  Slow, this route which requires a lot of upwind sailing into adverse sea and current, has multiple stops and is likely to result in a lot of time lost waiting for weather windows.  On the other hand this route maximizes the opportunity to visit with friends who will not be leaving Bahamas, gives you lots of chance to explore new islands and, most importantly for Mr. Van Sant, provides access to cocktails on a daily basis.  Other than the risk of cold weather this is the route preferred by the BC.

The I 65, in yellow, is a class act.  Sail east until you get to longitude W65, turn right and sail until you get to an island.  The island you hit will be one of the BVIs.  A favourite of delivery captains this route is fast, allows for a long downwind run along longitude W 65 degrees  and is not hard to navigate.  You would need a good 10 day weather window and ven then you are pretty much assured of the opportunity to enjoy some heavy weather sailing.  Being a cheap SOB I find myself drawn to the I-65 route.  Taking it means I do not have to pay extortion money to the Bahamian government - $300 for the right to pass through their waters.  A realist I am quite aware of what the phrase "some heavy weather sailing" means for the prospect of my arguing successfully for I 65.

The Budget Committee is not looking forward to a winter such as we had last year.  If it is cold and blustery in Florida she knows it will be cold and blusterier in Bahamas.    Not for her the "North Atlantic" experience, especially if she is not in the North Atlantic.    If mid Floridian latitudes remain cool on our return then we will run south along the keys, cross to Isla Majeres and then head either south to Belize or east to Cayman Islands.  From there, depending on the time available, we can still make Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgins.  Positives are the higher caloric content of the atmosphere and the chance to visit Isla Majeres, Belize, Cayman & Jamaica.  Negatives include adverse current and a long sail from Belize or Cayman or both.

Already I can hear the disapproving gasps of "expert" cruisers each of whom has a detailed argument in favour of or dead against each, any or all of the routes.  Who cares.

The distances are short in all cases.  A bit of discomfort and inconvenience will attend any choice made. If we go down the wrong road we can always turn back, even if we have to wait a month to be able to do so. 

This is not rocket science.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Snakes on a Plane

2011 01 05 +/-
In London, still not that London

What is there about thirty thousand feet that incubates snakes?  Is it the thin atmosphere, the endlessly recycled and increasingly rebreathed air, the painful lack of leg room?  Maybe it is just sitting in a seat that is 30% too small for you with nothing under you but six miles of air.

Whatever.  This is when the snakes attack.  The brain snakes.  

Thirty thousand feet in the air, no cell phone service, no internet and absolutely no ability to do anything about anything. 

This, naturally, was when my one functioning synapse worked through the brief algorithm that explained to me the consequences of my actions:
  1. With freezing weather forecast I drained the water lines in my boat.
  2. I drained the water lines.
  3. Did I turn off the water heater?
A brain snake has been incubating in the warm moist apparently uninhabited darkness of my cranial cavity since 5 a.m.  It has just been born.  What comes next is insidious. The snake reproduces.


My snake has just infected a whole new brain - that of the Budget Committee.  Notice my clever use of "WE" in the statement.  This is not me trying to blameshare.  The snake made me do it.

Now the brain snakes are unchained and paired.  New snakes are created at the speed of thought:

"What if the water heater is destroyed?" 
"What if the boat burned down?"
"What if all the neighbouring boats in the marina caught fire?" 
"Does our insurance cover this?" 
"How much insurance do we have?" 
"My God are we bankrupt".

Rational thought is the only serum for brain snake infection.  We apply some from our meager stores.  

I try first: "Don't worry.  When we land we will call the marina manager and get him to shut off the power to the boat.  That way at least the boat won't burn down."

The salve of rationality is a balm.  We have a plan.  All we need is to get to Atlanta, deplane and make the call.

Amazingly we achieve all of this.  In the airport lounge we dig out the marina phone number.  Luck is with us.  The manager is not only at work but he has a sense of humour.  He can see our boat from his office and assures us all is well.  He agrees to shut off the hydro (what Canadians call electricity).  We are relaxed.

Armageddon averted. An entire nest of brain snakes has been put to death.

We board the plane to Detroit.

Thirty thousand feet in the air.  Overworked, saccharine stewardi continue their desultory attempt to hand out free half glasses of warm diet Coke and wrapped packages containing two or three peanuts.  

My synapse which requires use of both of my functioning brain cells  and which has been worn raw by errant and uncontrolled snakes running rampant, reboots.  It runs a new algorithm.

  1. we turned off the hydro to the boat
  2. we left the fridge turned on


Snake attack. 

post script:  Our batteries did not die as a result of our leaving the fridge running with no external source of power.  They might have but for the kind intervention of our understanding friends Peter and Jane Bugg of Kissimmee.  This pair of compassionate individuals drove an hour from Kissimmee to Melbourne on our behalf where, using a key which I overnight couriered to them at immense expense, they entered our boat, turned off the circuit breaker to the water heater and re established power to our beloved Meredith.

God Bless Peter & Jane.  They did not even make fun of us.  Not so we could hear them anyway.

Armchair Sailing - Provisioning the Larder

2011 01 05

0500 I sit before a tenuous fire crouched over a bowl of oatmeal drawing every erg of heat from the thin wisp of rising steam.  Black light envelopes the house only hesitantly interrupted by the feeble emissions of the few intermittent porchlights in our courtyard.  Last night's fresh coat of snow is just visible on driveway and tree branches.  

Six days remain until our return to Meredith and the life.  Our minds are beginning to shift into cruising mode; increasingly our thoughts address the upcoming voyage and the likely needs of vessel and crew.

Before leaving Florida for home the Budget Committee took an inventory of foodstuffs.  She is now preparing a detailed list for food shopping so that when we return to Florida we can outfit ourselves in one or two days.

While she does this I am ordering parts online for delivery to Vero Beach Marina.  If the plan works everything we think we need will be on hand on or before the day of our return and we can escape Florida with a minimum of delay.

Here is how the Budget Committee approaches provisioning:

Food in the Caribbean:

Some boats, bound for four months in the Caribbean take four months of a North American diet with them.  One friend rammed 50 lbs of steak into his freezer the day before he crossed the gulf stream.  Hope his reefer is still reefing.

Here's the thing about people: they all eat.  They just eat differently is all.

If you eat locally you learn to enjoy samosas and how to make and enjoy cornbread instead of wheatbread.  Or you will not learn these things and you will go hungry.

Rarely is the local diet inedible.  Some North Americans seem incapable of coping with dietary change however slight or beneficial. We spoke last year with a woman who reviled Cuba.  She lost 25 lbs while cruising there and left the island starving and in poor health (in her mind at least).  This was perplexing to us.  In Cuba we found ourselves awash in an ocean of the freshest cheapest produce you could imagine.  Granted meat was unavailable and the local cheese and flour required some adjustment in both cooking methods and taste but minor ones.

One of the Meat Shops at
the Free Market in Holguin - 
temperature 40 degrees Celsius

Smiles still come to mind thinking of Wade aboard Joana at the outdoor market in Holguin.  He had just been handed 20 lbs of lamb chops, fresh cut before his eyes, outdoors.  The butcher handed him 20 lbs of lamb.  No bag, just an armful of meat.  Wade was covered in blood for the rest of the day.

Shortly thereafter I bought 10 feet of fresh pork sausage.  The vendor offered up a sample and it was obvious that I was expected to taste his wares - Raw.   You go with the flow.

In the Caribbean most food is in the nature of staples: flour, beans, rice.  You must cook from scratch.  The BC bakes all her own bread and always plans to buy her flour/fat/sugar/yeast on whatever island she finds herself.  She carries enough flour to deal with an extended stay at an out of the way anchorage followed by a local shortage.

Above left: The Cane Squeezing Machine.  Right: Connie drinks a glass of squeezed sugar cane.

We were still making and eating bread from Cuban flour in Toronto some 5 months after our return from Cuba.

Meat however was in short supply.  Here is the meat counter at the largest consumer market in Havana, their version of Costco.  This is where diplomats and high rollers shopped:

On the islands locally grown foods are available readily and at good price.  Most local economies are too small to make profitable the production of prepared foods and few islands have foreign exchange to waste on importing North American trifles.

Largely unavailable or expensive:

fresh or frozen meat
paper products
store bought bread
flavourful cheese
sauces/salsa etc

the cooking oil you are used to - olive or canola
prepared food or prepared packaged food
junk food

Available and  reasonably priced:

starch - flour, rice, cornmeal (not always all 3 but one or more)
cooking oil of some description
tea, coffee
beans & peas
corned beef
locally preferred spices
salt (I mean just scrape the stainless)

Some food availability is strictly a question of your destination.  The Bahamas is a desert: dry wind scoured rocks populated with scrub brush.  Do not expect to find fresh fruit in abundance, nor, therefore, fruit juices.  Beer is dear in Bahamas because the water is imported - local drinking water is RO and  has a relatively high residual salt content.  In Cuba beer is plentiful, cheap and mixes for alcoholic beverages are readily available.

Soft drinks, being imported, are very expensive everywhere we have been.

Our Planned Food Inventory:

Here is what we will take with us as we leave North America this time:


6 packages chorizo sausage (keeps well and is delicious in everything)
6 cans canned chicken
6 cans tuna/ham
2 cans corned beef
our tiny freezer filled with frozen steak, pork chops and chicken breasts
2 dozen eggs
25 lbs of cheese: Asiago, Aged Provolone, Aged Cheddar, Jarlsburg
2 lbs butter
1 or 2 briskets
1 large cooked ham
maybe 1 precooked, sealed roast of beef

fresh vegetables:

10 lbs onions (curiously difficult to source in some areas)
15 lbs potatoes
2 celery bunches
10 or 12 green peppers which the BC usually freezes

canned goods:

4 large jars of crunchy peanut butter
3 large jars of cheese whiz (strictly for me)
200 tea bags
3 large jars of instant coffee
12 - 24 cans of tomatoes, whole and diced
12 cans tomoto sauce
12 cans tomato paste
18 cans kernel corn which adds lovely sweet cold crispness to salads

1 large resealable container (24 oz)minced garlic
12 cans mushrooms
12 cans kidney beans
6 cans black beans (great cold in salads)
6 cans Jalapenos or one large jar
4 cans chipotle peppers
1 large jar sundried tomatoes in oil
1 or 2 large jars olives for hors d'oeuvres
1 large jar pepperoncini
1 large jar pickled artichokes
3 or 4 large mayonnaise (read below for storage)


4 boxes of white wine
2 boxes red wine
72 cans diet coke
soda stream supplies - 6 gas bottles, 12 bottles of flavour
4 cases of Yeungling beer


4 large jars pesto Dijon mustard, relish, ketchup
Two litres of Kikkoman Soy
large bottle lemon juice
large bottle  lime juice
6 to 12 jars green sauce (Ortega medium for us)

dried goods:

5 lbs. of dried pasta
25 lbs flour
15 lbs rice
2 lbs sugar
2 packages or jars of bouillon cubes or powder
10 sealed foil packages of rice crackers
2 large bags of bagel bites
1 box dried milk powder
tortillas (last long, are very versatile)
dried beans - black and navy
spices -

cleaning products:

2 containers extra extra concentrated laundry detergent
3 large containers Joy dish detergent
1 gallon chlorine bleach
1 gallon vinegar

paper products

20 rolls of easily digested toilet paper
10 - 12 rolls of paper towels (critical to clean up engine oil or diesel spills)
200 paper napkins
1 box kleenex


12 bars body soap
4 women's deodorant
4 men's deodorant
6 tubes of toothpaste
6 containers of dental floss
2 one litre containers of shampoo
3 containers liquid hand soap in pump containers
3 containers hand sanitizer (jellied alcohol).

The BC bakes all of her own bread.  She buys her supplies locally and has never encountered difficulty sourcing her needs.

The cheese comes in very handy about the middle of month two when most cruisers have run out and are reduced to eating some bland form of curdled milk.  Very popular is a half pound of asiago in the cockpit of friends' boats.  Good quality cheese has a great shelf life.  Often our dinner is just a couple of good rum drinks accompanied by some cheese and crackers. 

Mayo does not require refrigeration contrary to the view of most North Americans.  Our Mayo is kept on the shelf not in the fridge.  To maintain purity you have to follow one simple rule: use only a clean spoon to remove the product from the jar (or use a squeeze bottle like we do).  Do not use a fork to stir the chicken and then use that same fork to scoop out a little bit more mayo.  If you do the resulting contamination will lead to unhappy results.  Using a clean spoon is all it takes to get great shelf life from mayo and many other such condiments/sauces.

 We will eat very well and will rely on local food wherever we find it.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Break Out Another Thousand...

2011 01 14
London - not that London the other one

Soon, not soon enough, we return to our beloved Meredith thence to Culebra and Vieques, the Spanish Virgins aka the Passage Islands.

The absence of charter boats and near absence of "other" boats is a major attraction.  We can always satisfy the craving of a big helping of stupid by hiking it over to the BVIs to watch the beer besotted charter boats for an afternoon. 

Then it is on to somewhere else.  Maybe Sint Maarten/St. Marten.   Why not?

When the spring has passed we make our way back to USA for provisions, pick up our son and son in law and if we get a window we make for Bermuda followed by the Azores.

It's a plan.

Equipment Issues

Liferaft Perfidy

To prepare for ocean crossing we have had the liferaft repacked. A cool thousand bucks.

Years ago we ordered a liferaft from Winslow and had it custom compressed into a shape that would be accommodated in our cockpit seat.  The Winslow company did a great job.  We now travel without that ubiquitous and pretty much ineffective fibreglass egg to hold their liferaft that most people install just forward of the mast.  If Meredith ever sinks we just stand in the cockpit and inflate.  No going forward on deck in the kind of weather conditions that might cause us to need the liferaft in the first place.

We showed our neat little creation to the former head of the Goderich Power Squadron.  Apparently he liked it because he had the same thing done for his Corbin 39 and now takes full credit for thinking of the idea.

ICOM SSB Trashed

Our ICOM 802 SSB blew out its transmitter section and we have decided to buy a new ham radio.  Probably we will go with the Kenwood TS-480 SAT with built in antenna tuner. We are discussing the matter of radio compatibility with ham friend Tim MacKinlay.  Tim, an old ham, used to build and sell ham antennas to geeks.  Now he sells LEDs on his website  I keep on buying them. The ham radio chatter is free.

We have been very unhappy with our Icom 802 SSB.  It is an expensive piece of junk.  ICOM is one of those cynical Japanese companies that designs everything to be custom.  None of their enhancements work better than standard parts but of course you must buy from ICOM at 10 or 20 times more than the going rate for working parts.  I will never again find myself enslaved to a Japanese conglomerate.  Soulless bastards.  The Antenna Tuner (also ICOM) input went intermittent - a break inside the wire.  Deprived of an antenna the transmitter blew itself to bits.

I can buy a new Kenwood radio with built in tuner for $900 which is less than the cost of repairing the old piece of crap.  It will give us some small pleasure to deep six that useless collection of parts.  One issue is whether a ham radio has the SSB channels blocked.  This used to be the case but who knows now.  The vendor will get back to me on this.

We debated going without SSB or ham radio.  The Atlantic crossing does not require it and yet it would be a comfort.  Not to be able to talk to other boats but to be able to download weather info.  If winlink works we will have email too. Never a bad thing.


Given that our daughter is not too thrilled with her husband sailing across an ocean we may, may that is, invest in one of those Spot things.  For a couple hundred bucks this thing sends out, via satellite, an email to 10 friends confirming that you had sufficient life in you to push the send button.

The device is programmed with several preset messages you can send at the push of a button.  None of them order pizza.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Yara Website: Why You Should Look at It and How to Read It

London, ON
2011 01 02

With the recent correspondence from friend Poll Van der Wouw, some of it quoted here in the second wifi post,I really must urge upon you the virtues of the website of the travels of the sailing vessel Yara.

It takes a small amount of adjusting your internet browser but the effort will pay dividends for years.  I tell you below how to navigate  to the site and translate it.  The url is

Poll and Kyra sailed their Dehler 36 across the Atlantic Ocean from native Netherlands and cruised the Eastern Seaboard and Caribbean for a while.  We met them first in Annapolis, where Kyra had just taken possession of her new Sailrite sewing machine.  Several weeks later, listening on SSB to Chris Parker's weather, we heard Poll asking for weather routing information .  Yara was enroute to Hemingway Marina navigating the Southern waters of Cuba.  At the  time of the radio call we were sailing the North waters of that beautiful island also enroute to Hemingway.

Let's just say we had a most interesting time at Hemingway.  

The website is chock a block with great sailing information, equipment reviews, assessments of harbours and people all across Europe and through much of the commonly travelled east coast of North America and the Caribbean. 

Not one to spare the inept or faulty Ven der Wouw discourses with a razor sharp mind and terse delivery.  If you are thinking about cruising Europe or the Caribbean take a good look at his site.  It will fill an entire winter with armchair sailing.

There is but one small adjustment you must make. The site is written in Dutch.  No longer a problem.

Do this:

  • Go to this website:
  • Three quarters of the way down the page (scroll a bit son) you will come upon a grid of small buttons each with the name of a language in the middle.  
  • Put your cursor on the button that says "english".  Put your cursor right over the word "english". 
  • Push the left mouse button on and drag the button labelled "English" to the toolbar on your browser.  
  • Release the button.
Now you can go to Poll and Kyra's website at

When you get to the site just click on the "English" button on your toolbar and voila - a decent English translation.

If you want a review of watermakers, hydrovane self steering or the duogen waterdriven generator you will find a fair comment from Poll or Kyra.

After you have installed the "English" button it will work on most foreign language sites.  I prefer Babelfish but the ease of the Google translate button trumps all.

Following Up on the Wifi Thing

2011 01 02
Still in London, mercifully not stuck

We have had valuable feedback on the long range wifi topic.

Doug and Vicki from Oshawa, Ontario commented:

Hi Bob
Thanks for the Wi-Fi info. We looked at this in the spring of 2010 and went with the Bad Boy Xtreme,
I liked the fact that you can mount it at the top of your mast and forget about it. We are located at the back of our marina and have all the boats and their mast infront of us so a deck mounted Wi-Fi just would not work. They say this system will reach out five miles but I have not tested that yet. 

Poll Van der Wouw out of Monnickendam, Nederlands provided fabulous first hand comparison of the Alfa and the Bullet 2HP:

Thank you for your latest blog on wifi. We wholeheartledly agree with your
praise of the Alfa wifi adapter. As you probably know, we have been using
the Alfa since november 2008 with a much better succes rate then all the
other devices we used before. We are using the 500 mW version. We tried
also the 1000 mW version, but that one is less sensitive and seems to be
worse compared to the 500 Mw version. Our friends from Dutch Link have the
same experience.

However, the reason I am going on about this, is the fact that we bought

the Ubiquity Bullet M2 HP last week. With a 8 dB omnidirectional antenna
we have a much better signal in the same postion on the boat, compared to
the Alfa! We can judge this especially when viewing streaming video from
YouTube. Normally it will halt a few times to load more images, but with
the Bullet we can now watch video forever!

A word on installing the Ubiquity: it never got easier. No drivers to

install, as the device works via your LAN/Ethernet connection. Setup is
easy and is done via a browser window, just as you would setup a router at
home. We did it in under three minutes, including upgrading the firmware
on the Bullet. So no drivers and no problems when using a Mac (and we are
Apple fanatics).

However, you are also very right about the difference in price!

A last word about drivers for the Mac for the Alfa. For a while, we

haven't been able to use the Alfa on the OS-X on the Mac (only while using
Windows on the Mac, which feels like using a tractor engine on a
Masserati), because the driver would not work. Last year two new drivers
came available, one for OS-X 10.4 and one for 10.5. I am using OS-x
10.6.5, and contrary to intuition, de 10.5 driver does not work, but the
10.4 does!

Driver Installation on a Linux Machine

Since Poll raised the issue of installing the Alfa on a Mac I am going to pony two cents on Linux compatibility.  I have converted my brace of Acer Netbooks to Linux (Ubuntu 10.10).  Driver installation for the Alfa adapter was as mindless as such things can be.  I plugged the Alfa into the USB port, booted the little Netbook in Linux and everthing worked.  Just like that. 

Website Reference

I gave the url for data-alliance, a fabulous online vendor of wifi stuff.  Not only will they sell the alfa but they offer all the Ubiquity Bullet 2HP parts you could ever want.  Their prices are reliably low.

I am closing the wifi discussion now.