Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Icefields Highway

2014 07 19
Victoria, BC

Let me tell you, in a brief thousand words, why you should pack up the car and drive four thousand kilometres across Canada to look at what could be described as a bunch of old rocks.  Here is why:

The icefields Highway runs from Jasper, Alberta south through the Rocky Mountains following for most of its length the Athabasca River.  It is one of those things you should do before you die.  If you are a Canadian well...where the heck have you been?

We did not take many photographs.  There was no need.  This trip will not be lightly forgotten and the photographs are such a tepid representation of what this is all about that they do nothing to rekindle the memory.

Here are the few we took:

The Icefields

Athabasca River in the Foreground, Glaciers to the Read

The Waterfalls Well A Very Few of Them Anyway

The Wildlife - We Stopped to Watchfully (for Momma Bear) Take a Quick Look

Baby Bear Just Fooling Around on the Side of the Road
You cannot imagine what we did not photograph and we could never impart what we felt.  Rock your boat.  Disturb the tranquility and come here.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to Make Your New Windows 8 Computer Bearable - Short of Loading Linux

2014 07 16
Victoria BC

Connie and I are in Victoria visiting with our daughter and lazing about in Canada's LaLaLand.  

Yesterday I purchased a new (to me) laptop.  Might not.  The computer came loaded with Windows 8.1.  AAAARGH.  Finally I had to face this plague and pestilence which has been visited on humanity by Steve Ballmer and the Microsoft demonology.

Immediately I started to "fix" the problems that, after only two program installations were driving me nuts.  Just as I had heard from others.  

There are ways to lessen the pain.  Here are two fast and easy fixes that will turn your computer back in time to the easy sensible days of Windows 7.  You still run Windows 8 but it works a lot more like Windows 7 which we all know and love.  

These tips are not original but are among the best and first "fixes" anyone new to Win 8 should consider.

First: Rid yourself of the need to "login" every time you start your computer

If you eliminate the annoying and seemingly mandatory login inflicted on you every time you reboot your computer you also do not have to create an account or register with Microsoft and you avoid having to create an email account with those NSA loving miscreants.  So doing you help, in a small way granted, thwart the data monsters from owning your thoughts.

1.  To get the stupid logon prompt from forcing you to sign up with Microsoft and logon every time you turn the laptop on do this:

Go to the "Search" Charm (really, the microsoft morons call it a "charm", I guess because they want you to think it is magic as opposed to, say, programming.  I half expect a leprechuan to jump up and prance around my screen for goodness sake.)

In the box provided type in "netplwiz" just like this:

Hit Enter.

A new menu will pop up.  Uncheck the box labelled  "users must enter a user name and password..." like this.

Click on OK.

A new window will open up and ask for your password.  (I know, I know.  This is what you want to banish but trust me this is the very last time you will have to do this).  Type your old existing password into the boxes in the window both times (insult to injury but Steve Balmar does not give up without drawing blood) like this:

Click on OK again and keep doing that until all the windows close.  

Congratulations.  You have now eliminated one of the most annoying interferences with your daily life.  And now to slay the next.

Second: Go Back to the Old Windows 7 Start Screen and Start Menu

It took but a day for me to realize that I was never going to get along with Win 8 and its "magic" approach to an operating system.  Magic and spells and charms belong in church with the rest of the voodoo hokem.  

Some bright and generous programmers have provided a program for Windows Operating System called Classic Shell.  The program is free and can be found here:

Download it, double click on the .exe file and wait a while.  It may seem like a long while.  Then, after a minute or two, move your cursor to the lower left corner of your screen and click the window pane there.  You will be given a choice of how you want your Windows 8 to be serviced up.  

Choose Classic Startup.  

That is it.  

With both fixes installed you can reboot your computer and it will automatically start with the windows desktop, just like win 7 - AND THERE WILL BE A CLASSIC START MENU.

Just like the old days when Windows still worked.

More Microsoft Perfidy - UEFI and Booting Live USBs

Actually by the time I had found and loaded the fixes I was several hours into my Win 8 ownership.  It was nonsense I sorted out.  This was when I decided to try a version of Linux I really like called "Bodhi".  It used to be easy to load Bodhi on a USB stick and boot your computer from the USB.  This allowed you to test the Linux software without having to partition your hard drive and install the new OS as a second boot option.  

Oh, but Microsoft has been losing a lot of customers to Linux.  Too many I guess because with Win 8 comes a new boot system that makes booting from a live USB just about impossible.  Sadly for poor Steve Balmar all this did was make me desire even more a complete wipe of the hard drive and elimination of frustrating impossible Windows 8, a program written by the company that lead the charge to selling out their customers to the NSA.

This blog was posted via Linux from my newly wiped laptop.  Not too shabby, eh?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Starting Over

10 07 2014
London, ON

The Blog is changing and will be unavailable for a bit. Actually it may be out of action for a few weeks.  We are concentrating on our daughter's wedding in London, Ontario and some other great family events. 

We intend, Insha'Allah, to sail a chunk of Newfoundland in the summer of 2015, and the blog will be up and running long before this.  If you are interested please contact us and we can do a flotilla.  Believe us when we tell you the St. Lawrence River is unparalled sailing.  The Gaspesie is home to fantastic sailing.

Connie spends her time wrestling some first rate recipes into "doable on a boat" form.  Here's hoping her efforts pay out.  So far even the failures have been spectacular in a good way.

Bob has discovered the Arduino and the Raspberry PI and has disappeared into his "Library" where he is prototyping a host of new devices to aid in running or monitoring the boat. At least that is how he explains the cloud of burning phenol board hovering around the door. 

Like the explosion of new life that presaged the human race Bob expects most of his creations to fall afoul of some subsection or other of Darwin's immutable law but if even one survives ...   (not coming from Texas we accept evolution as a valid theory of how some things are explained.  We figure that God might well have chosen the evolution system to achieve his goals.  Assuming God exists of course.  Which he doesn't.  But let's not confuse the fundamentalists.  They carry guns.)  

If anyone has questions on the old blog or wants information on any topic previously published please contact us, Bob and Connie at  We love to chat.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Eustatius to Samana, DR

2014 04 17
London, ON

It was a quiet day and night out of St Eustatius, us motoring in no wind.  There were no problems with the diesel nor have there been any since the Antiguan departure.

Dawn saw us coming up on the BVIs.  Our intention was to motor straight through this charter boat haven, hopefully managing to avoid contact with any errant credit card captains.  The country is a small one and an hour of concerted motoring saw us in and out of the closely grouped mountain tops that comprise this Caribbean nation.

Since leaving Antigua we had been augmenting our daily download of the grib weather files from sailmail by listening to Chris Parker who maintains a daily Monday to Saturday voice weather forecast. 

Our plan had been to sail from BVIs to Turks and Caicos and then run up the east side of the Bahamas before cutting west to find Florida.  The BVI gribs suggested this was a bad idea with strong adverse wind and huge waves due to hit Turks and Caicos just about the time we would.  Chris Parker's forecast supported our assessment as did the NAVTEX broadcast out of Puerto RIco.  

Reluctant to give up a very good plan we hedged our bets.  Leaving BVIs we sailed more west that we otherwise would have making distance along the north coast of Puerto Rico.  The forecast did not improve so it was obvious that our plan was dead.  Time for a new plan.

Already halfway across Puerto Rico we decided to commit to  the Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic.  We had to cross the Mona Passage, a reputedly hazardous body of water separating the islands of PR and DR and if all  went well we would be into safe waters of Samana the night before the strong northerly winds and waves would hit.

The Mona Passage was a non event.  Luck was with us and with no weather briefing at all we hit the perfect day for a crossing.  Sundown saw us motoring into the bay in front of the town of Samana.  Our hook was down and we were enjoying a cockpit cocktail before dark settled like a blanket around us.  

It would be three days before we stuck our nose out of the Bay.

Seems Like Bad News... But on the Other Hand...

 March 30, 2014

Lake Worth Inlet, Florida

Antigua did not allow much room for relaxation.  Full of boat repairs, lack of ready built materials or modern equipment hampered our efforts to contract repairs. Much of our time was spent in project management: finding materials, scheduling the various trades, monitoring work being done.  We considered ourselves to be very lucky to have found such experienced workmen and the cost of the job was no more than it would have been in North America. 

This "seems like bad news but on the other hand..." phenomenon followed us all the way to Ontario from Antigua.

The day after repairs were completed to Meredith we reluctantly made our farewells to Stephen and Nancy who travel on Fairwyn, a 52 year old wooden sailboat and made our departure.  Leaving Jolly Harbour we were met midway by a dinghy carrying Holly and Alan from the Australian boat "Summerwind".  Holly had made cranberry scones and they were still warm.  Needless to say the scones did not survive to the end of the exit channel.

Motorsailing in nonexistent winds our diesel ran only fitfully.  Somehow we had developed an air leak in the fuel system.  Diesels do not run with air in the fuel system so every couple of hours the engine would quit and I would have to bleed a hot diesel so we could get underway.  

On one such stoppage I also found a massive engine oil leak caused when an oil filter gasket tore and failed to seal against the engine.  Had the engine not quit due to the air leak we would have missed the oil leak.  The oil leak would have been fatal had it not been found in time.  Our Beta diesel has an oil pressure alarm and shutoff designed to save the diesel in such circumstances but I hate to rely on mechanical systems.

Searching for the air leak I dropped a one of a kind retaining bolt, the one that holds the top on the fuel filter, into the bilge.  The bilge which had just had all that engine oil spewed into it.  The part was brass so the magnetic pickup did not work.  The oil rendered the liquid in the bilge worse than opaque.

Connie and I spent eight frustrating hours working together to find the darn bolt in our deep almost inaccessible bilge.  The boat sailed itself during this period as we were both deep in the bilge, one in the lazarette and one over the diesel while we disassembled the drive shaft, removed the bilge pump and the hoses that reside in the bilge and scooped a year's worth of oily muck out of that deep, dark, uncooperative, murky bilge.  

The part was found and the air leak in the fuel system was also found.  We had been sailing at 2 knots for almost a full day out of Antigua except for a few hours when the diesel ran.  This put us close to the island of Eustatius and we put in to the mooring field at Orangestaadt for rest and relaxation.  Also for some more lubricating oil, as we had used all of ours due to the leak.

Eustatius was a a treat.  Orangestaadt was a lovely polite clean orderly town that stocked absolutely no lube oil for diesel engines, at least none that we could find.  Finally we asked local fishermen who very concernedly sold us a lot of diesel oil which had to be decanted from one of their fifty gallon drums. 

Eustatius is an island we would never have visited had it not been for the air and oil leaks.

What a lovely place.  

A night's sleep on the mooring ball and it was dinghy on deck and us away still heading for Florida at full speed.  Or so we thought.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Finishing the Bowsprit

2014 03 08
Last Day in Jolly Harbour, Antigua
We Leave Tomorrow.  What a Relief

James George, Harbour Wood Shop, Jolly Harbour
Above you see one of the best finds a yachtsman could ever make: James George, a shipwright with twenty years experience, a knack with wood and a love of his job.

James and his helper Colin pictured here took on the job of reaffixing the bowsprit to Meredith once the repairs to the wood and fibreglass had been effected.

Originally Tony, of Tony's Fibreglass, was to have done this end phase.  Tony did a great job of removing the old rotted pads and epoxying new pads in place.  His work was impeccable.  Unfortunately when the job was half done Tony asked to be paid to date and we were happy to accommodate him.  We never saw him again.

James is a different kind of craftsman and a very conscientious man.

The result is a lovely bowsprit gracing the clipper bow of our dear Meredith, secure against the tensions and pressures imposed on her by the rigging, all insults to her integrity repaired with care and great attention, new deck pads of much greater strength than those with which Meredith left the factory.  We are satisfied.

A list of recommended shops in Antigua:

James George at Harbour Wood Shop in Jolly Harbour - carpenter and shipwright

Chippy Woodshop in Falmouth - good work but expensive and they falter on the paperwork

Tony of Tony Fibreglass, Jolly Harbour - knows his stuff and does good work.  Do not pay him until the job is done.

Trevor the Machinist at Antigua Slipway, English Harbour.  Another man who loves his work and who produces metal that is as much art as it is useful building components

Antigua Slipway, English Harbour: The only chandler in Antigua worth the name.  You can get everything from electronics to stainless rod to bulk epoxy and all the stuff in between.  I even found some empty cans.  Sounds weird to buy empty cans but when painting you can transfer paint from the large container to the smaller empty can and save wear and tear on the paint.  Their competition, Budget Marine, is expensive and I found kind of snooty, at least in Jolly Harbour.  The Budget Marine in Falmouth has much better customer service but their prices are still high.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Kudos to Carrie Graham and TD Bank Lucan Ontario Canada

2014 03 05
Jolly Harbour, Antigua

With respect to the theft of our money by CIBC International Banking subsidiary First Caribbean Bank we are pleased to report that TD Bank, Lucan, Ontario Canada has saved us harmless.

Carrie Graham branch manager reported today by email that she had completed an inquiry into the actions of CIBC First Caribbean Bank and that money wrongly taken from us by CIBC First Caribbean was being returned to us.  Initially Ms. Graham thought the inquiry would take weeks but I think she turned on the afterburners.

We used an ATM maintained by CIBC FIrst Caribbean in Jolly Harbour Antigua.  We requested $2,000 EC but the machine gave us no money.  The bank, CIBC First Caribbean did, however, take the sum of $2,000 EC from our bank account.  When approached CIBC First Caribbean told us they had no responsibility and any relief would have to come from our home bank.  Odd since CIBC First Caribbean had taken the funds.

One CIBC First Caribbean representative even told us it was illegal for them to give us our money back.  Can you imagine?

Lucky for us the tough ladies at the TD Bank in Lucan, Ontario are more than a match for a bunch of overfed pompous bank staff in Antigua.  

Our thanks to Carrie Graham and her staff.  

Fixing Your Boat in Exotic Places

2014 03 05
Jolly Harbour, Antigua

Above is Jolly Harbour, Antigua a pretty decent place to end a transatlantic.  Especially if you need work done to your boat.  As it turned out we needed a lot of work done.

We spent twelve days under sustained high winds, at least they were high for us: winds of 30 to 45 knots apparent carried us quickly but uncomfortably from Canaries to Cape Verdes islands and then very uncomfortably from Cape Verdes towards Antigua.

The winds refused to conform to the grib weather forecasts and rather than winds off our stern we had beam on winds and so we had beam on waves - tossing the boat wildly from side to side.  Our tactic is to reduce sail dramatically in winds of 30 knots or more and we were making 4 knots for most of the first week and a half out of Cape Verdes.  While it may seem silly to go so slow in bad weather we find the slow speed reduces wear and tear on both the boat and ourselves.

One morning on the usual rounds we discovered small cracks in a pad on our bow to which the bowsprit was attached.  We reduced sail even further and took down all foresail.  This was precautionary only as we did not consider the slight cracking in the gelcoat to be significant.  It was of course and under the sustained onslaught of wind and wave the cracks grew.  The growth was infinitesmal but undeniable.  It was also disturbing.  Under the sustained  beating the rig was taking the bowsprit was moving, not something a bowsprit is ever supposed to do.

Here is what we found on arrival Antigua:

Aft Pad

Forward Pad
 The bowsprit was showing some damage from water incursion:


The holes are supposed to be round not oval.

Because the pads were full of water and rotted the stainless steel bolts which held the bowsprit in place had corroded to the point of uselessness.

All in all we were very lucky.  Of course we travelled for ten days on a triple reefed main with every halyard and piece of usable line tied to the masthead and then to a forward cleat.  

Because we were in Antigua we were lucky.  Antigua is one of the best refit and maintenance destinations we have ever visited.  

A trip to Chippy the woodworking shop produced some professional repairs to the bowsprit itself:

The usual repair: rot drilled out and
new teak dowel glued in place 

Damage to the foreward boltholes was so severe
it required a double dowel to replace the rot

The square patch was dug out and new teak glued in place
for a tight strong fit
Getting ten inch long half inch bolts was not going to be a picnic but without them the whole exercise was for naught.  Trevor Machine shop machined new bolts for us out of 3/4 inch stainless stock the closest diameter we could obtain on the island.

Trevor in His Shop.
And He does not fix lawnmowers
Finally we used Tony Fibreglass to remove the damaged deck pads, remove the wet core and reglass new pads without plywood core.  The factory used plywood, we used laminated fibreglass peaces.  Our luck held and the water in the plywood core of the pads had not migrated to the deck coring.  Had it done so we would have been removing and replacing soft decking.  You gotta know what constitutes a win and we won big.  We had the whole deck sounded by George of Jolly Harbour Woodworking and got a clean bill.  The survey from two years ago was also clean.

Tony Fibreglass at Work
Removing the old core - soaking wet plywood

Tony Strikes a Blow for Freedom and a Sound Boat

Finished Job

Finished Job 2 - Nice Toenails

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sailing the Atlantic from Canaries to Antigua - The Jaded View

2014 03 04
Jolly Harbour, Antigua

Here is the abbreviated version:

The Map Legend:

Diamonds are actual position at about 1700 UTC each day.  Blue dots are the planned route.

Bad Weather - Wind over 30 knots for an extended period in any day.  Winds not off the stern and waves from anywhere the wind damn well pleased.  In our case every night the wind was 30 plus from dark to dawn, most nights 35 and 40.  Maybe not life threatening but very unpleasant, wet and cold.

Mindelo bites.  

Good Weather: steady winds of 25 to 30 knots off the stern.  Waves behaving and off the stern quarter.  By the time we got to good weather and settled winds we were too tired to give a damn.

Antigua: yeah well...pretty well fungible with any Caribbean Island.  

Monday, March 3, 2014

A (Short) Tale of Two Cities

2014 02 27
Jolly Harbour, Antigua

One, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, was the best of places:

Santa Cruz de Tenerife viewed from the Wifi deck of the marina

The other, Mindelo, in the Cape Verdes, was the worst of places:

Just a Regular Day in Mindelo.  A blanket of  Saharan sand, camel dung,
dengue fever virus particles and whatever other obscenities
Africa sees fit to spew into the atmosphere obscures a mountain only half a mile away
Leaving Mindelo was a pleasure, the first time we had experienced such emotions in Europe or Africa.  Our departure, as Dickens suggested was a far far better thing we did than we had done before.


Santa Cruz has a local waterfront Opera House served by its own local opera company.

Mindelo offers this on its waterfront, an eagle I think poised to take flight from a pile of ... well mud is the charitable thought:

It has long been our view that the best part of our tour of the Mediterranean has been the Atlantic Islands: the Azores, Madeira, the Canaries.  Arriving at the safe refuge of the Canarian island of Graciosa in strong winds and just ahead of a three day blow we quiMckly came to appreciate the benefits, not only of the islands but of the people who inhabit them.  

Parts of the island chain are massively touristic, several towns consist solely of overbuilt Russian quality mass housing for the Euro mass consumer market.  You just avoid those places.  

We chose Santa Cruz de Tenerife, capital city of this island protectorate, on the recommendation of friends Stephen and Nancy on Fairwyn.  What a joy it was.  Clean air, beautiful mountains, half a dozen well stocked chandlers, urbane lifestyle.

This city is one we will revisit.  A winter apartment in Santa Cruz would be a joy.

Connie Accessing Email on the Wifi Deck

Another Sunny Day in Santa Cruz
Mindelo offers much less.  One of the claims to tourist fame offered by the Cape Verdean government is that six islands in the island chain are uninhabited.  The government suggests this makes them perfect places to enjoy some quiet sailing.  My view is that the six islands are uninhabited because they are uninhabitable.  

Hiking is big on the list of people who enjoy their stay in Cape Verdes.  CIty dwellers and consumers of culture will be less favourably affected.  That one or two islands might be great refuges for the lulu lemoned among us is not a big selling point in the book of moi.

Here the wind blows at 35 knots all the time, the air is nearly unbreathable on most daysfilled as it is with saharan dust and byproducts flung into the atmosphere by Africa and carried hundreds of kilometres out to sea.  The marina has a hellish surge and broken dock lines are the norm.  There is a grocery store but prices are not terribly good and there is no cafe culture whatsoever.

Cape Verdes has no extradition treaty with the USA and this accounts for some of its popularity.  I figure the US government takes the view that any white collar criminal who holes up in CV has exiled himself to near prison like conditions so why punish the poor bugger any more.  

The nicest bit of Mindelo were the colourful fishing boats which lined the shore:

The waterfront grocer

The Marina at Mindelo

The Marina Bar at Mindelo

Connie Gives a Canadian Flag to the Marina Bar for Display

Friday, February 28, 2014

Antiguan Bank Scam - First Caribbean Bank Steals Our Money

28 02 2014
Jolly Harbour, Antigua

 Until now we have used the system of ATMs around the world to obtain local currency from our Canadian based bank accounts.  No need to bring large amounts of cash when we traveled; we just hit the local ATM and withdrew funds as we needed.  The exchange rate was pretty decent too, much better than the VISA card fees.

Yesterday we had $2,000 EC stolen from us by First Caribbean bank.  

We used the First Caribbean Bank ATM at the Epicurean Market in Jolly Harbour to obtain cash to settle accounts we had with local tradesmen.  The ATM processed a $2,000 charge against our bank account but it did not give us the cash.  The machine kept it.

We contacted the bank immediately and were informed by them that they would do nothing about it but maybe my bank in Canada would do something.  According to the Antiguan bank representative "it is illegal for us to pay you the money we have kept from you.  Even if we went to the machine and found your claim was correct we could and would do nothing."

In Canada the law says stealing my money is a crime.  In Antigua the law says that a bank that steals a foreigner's money is forbidden to return it.

We are working with our bank in Canada to try to obtain some kind of relief but this is a months long process and success is not guaranteed.  In Antigua the banks are the biggest crooks and they always get away with it.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Universal Constants

24 02 2014
Jolly Harbour, Antigua

Meredith is once again a North American boat.  De facto not just on paper.

A couple of articles are due and are coming.

It was a crossing we are glad is over.

Arriving Antigua we chose a marina wihich offered "Free WIFI" pronounced W eye F eye over here and not the much smoother but wimpy W ee F ee used in Europe.

It is a fact that every bar and coffee shop and every ten year old boy with a jug of water on his back slugging glasses of H2O to weary caravans at 2 cents a glass can provide fast,efficient working internet to their customers.

No marina anywhere on planet earth, regardless of how much they charge for rent, can provide any internet of aerny kind for any period of time.  They do however maintain a list of excuses that similarly are universal.  Insults such as:

It is working. (this one works short term.  Soon people start showing up with their laptops and tablets in the marina office.  When this  Tppens the staff move to this:

The guy is coming to work on it this afternoon.  This works for about a week and then staff move to excuse number 3:

It is not us, it is the ISP or its less frequent variant We are changing services and there will be a brief outage.

So we sit in peace and quiet and calm, protected by marinas from any contact with the rude and annoying outer world.

Time for another beer.  I will check messages tomorrow.