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Monday, March 2, 2015

Big and Foul

Today my lovely wife discovered a good foul weather sailing jacket for me. It has a waterproof lined breathable shell and a thick removable fleece liner. They can be worn together or separately. The jacket is a bright slime lime color with lots of reflective tape. It has a couple of big snap closed pockets and a good sized radio pocket.

What the heck are we doing buying foul weather gear in sunny Florida?

We plan on sailing down the ICW late in the fall. There's a good chance we'll be sailing in nasty weather. Being warm and comfortable is a huge thing. You are much less fatigued, can think clearer, burn less energy, and it's easier to stay positive. These are all good things when sailing.

Yeah, but why buy it now?

First of all, it's not really a $ailing jacket. Anything made for the marine market is crazy expensive. One way to reduce the pain is to shop in the same places that commercial fisherman buy their gear. Another way is buy good outdoor gear made for other sports. My jacket looks like the sort of thing any number of blue collar workers would wear.

The best reason to buy now is that it was marked down about 50%. We paid $55 at Rural King. (I've no connection to the store.)

Is is the ideal sailing jacket? No, but it's better than a lot of jackets sold to the boaty crowd. Is it good enough? Yep, and that's what really matters.

You know what this means? By the time fall rolls around, we should be ready to go.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Harsh Environments

I was reading some posts on one of those survival forums. It doesn't matter which one. The subject came up about how everyone who lived in cold climates would die if the grid went down long enough. Well, that's obviously not true, as the grid has gone down in cold climates numerous times.

That doesn't mean people don't suffer and a few even die. People freeze to death. Winter cold is no joke. That being said, almost all people in cold climates have cold weather clothes. They also usually have some good blankets. Some even have excellent cold weather sleeping bags. Mayy have backup heat like woodstoves or propane heaters.

One commenter said that only people, like Eskimos, could survive without technology. Actually, the people of the frozen north developed a whole tool kit of technologies to survive the cold. Their clothes kept them warm. Igloos provided shelter, and they had a whole range of hunting technologies to harvest the native creatures. They even developed kayaks for transportation, hunting, and fishing.

Ancient peoples all over the world learned to live in harsh environments, everyplace from the frozen north, to the burning desserts, to the deepest darkest jungles. None of those technologies needed electric power, computers, modern materials, or plastics.

There's no reason that modern people cannot learn from their ancestors. We may not be as comfortable. Life might not be as as convenient, but we can survive.

Now I'm a big fan of off grid systems. Having electric power when the grid goes down is very nice indeed. Being able to pump water to the house sure beats carrying water in jugs. More important than electric power is my woodstove. It provides, heat, cooking, and even some light through the glass door on the firebox. If I had to choose between a woodstove and electricity, the woodstove would win every time.

When planing for a survival situation, don't neglect the simple tools and skills that kept our ancestors alive. High tech survival tools are great, but high tech devices need high tech parts and skills to keep going. Don't forget the simple things that have worked for hundreds or even thousands of years.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Where we learned to sail

My lovely wife and I checked out the Bayport boat landing in Florida. This is where we taught ourselves to sail not that many years ago. Today we missed our sailboat.

Our first attempt we didn't even get a chance to raise the sails. There was an awful lot of boat traffic and it kinda flipped us out. We turned back, loaded up the boat, and talked about it over a couple of beers.

The next time we had motor trouble, drifted out of the channel and ran aground -twice.

Eventually we made it to the end of the channel, raised a sail, and we were hooked.

There's a lot of happy memories for us in Bayport. I'll even include the day we ran out of fuel 1.5 miles short of the dock. Okay, at first it wasn't very good, but soon a fisherman came over and towed us in. The guy even refused money. He'd rather have the good Karma. Can't argue with that.

We made the decision to do more camping and less boating this winter, but there are times when we really missed living on the sailboat.

Next year, if all goes well, we'll be living on a boat again.


Friday, February 27, 2015

No Homeland Security Funding?

So it looks like the House and Senate can't agree on how to fund Homeland Security. Anybody feel like their safety is in some sort of jeopardy because of it? I doubt it -unless they happen to work for a nonessential department.

Are there nonessential departments or is everything they do deadly serious?

This feels an awful lot like the times when the government was “shut down” because they couldn't agree on a budget. It certainly did inconvenience some folks. There was some closing down of Federal Parks to make it all look real. In the end it was business as usual once more.

Is this Homeland Security thing more smoke and mirrors like the general budget was? (or will be?)

Wasn't this stuff not supposed to happen anymore when the Republicans took control of the House and Senate? Looks like more proof that the Republicans cannot function as a block. Too many factions are unwilling to compromise. No doubt the Democrats are enjoying the show.

Now imagine if Homeland Security really did shut down. I like the idea. The best thing would be to break up Homeland Security into all its different departments. Then we could decided to fund the ones that work and defund those that are a waste and a hindrance to liberty. (could be a bad day for the TSA)

About all the average person can do is to pop some popcorn and watch the show. It's not like we've got a functioning democracy anymore.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Motorboats with sticks

It's said that in foreign ports one can spot the American sailboats by the fuel jugs lining the deck. They might be on a sailboat, but they aren't comfortable unless they have enough fuel to motor the whole way. What's the sense of owning a sailboat and only rarely sailing it?

Last year my lovely wife and I stopped at a really nice marina. The owner gave us one heck of a discount. Turns out he has a soft spot for people who actually sail their boats. One of the marina staff told me how the owner was so mad when a sailing club canceled a trip to his marina. The reason they canceled? It was windy. He called them motorboats with sticks.

Now some folks are honest with themselves. The really don't want to sail and expect to motor everywhere. They get themselves a nice trawler type boat with lots of room and take good care of their engines. If you aren't going to use the wind anyway might as well be comfortable.

On the other extreme are a few hardy souls who don't even have engines on their sailboat. It's not really that radical an idea. For thousands of years there were no motors on sailboats.

I fall somewhere in the middle. My lovely wife and I will sail in very light winds. If we are moving along at 2.5 knots that's good enough. If where you really want to be is on a sailboat, exactly how fast the boat is going isn't a big issue. Focus on the journey, not the destination.

However, we do use a motor. Last year we averaged about a gallon of gas a day. Some days we motored most of the day. Other days we lifted anchor, sailed out of harbor, then dropped anchor at the end of the day, all without starting the motor. Sometimes having a motor made the difference between powering into a channel or anchoring for hours waiting for the tide to change.

When the throttle of my outboard fell apart and the parts went into the Gulf of Mexico, I wasn't worried. We had enough wind to move. My spouse suggested we turn back and buy a new motor, but I figured I had plenty of time to jury rig a throttle. Worse come to worse we could always sail into a harbor somewhere. We'd done it before. Our MacGyver fix worked for the rest of the journey.

When we got home, instead of replacing the gas engine we used an electric trolling motor. The Oday 19 only moved at 3 knots under electric power, but that was good enough. Better yet, we used it so little that our 30 watt solar panel kept the battery charged up.

So with all this in mind I'm looking at our power options for our boat. We plan on traveling the ICW down the East Coast. By all accounts parts of it are not very good for sailing, especially if one is trying to head south before it gets too cold. Do we invest in an efficient 4 stroke outboard? Another option is to add more battery power, a larger solar panel, and use the trolling motor. There are pros and cons to both.

Of course, we've sailed where most folks motor before. The section of the ICW north of Tampa called “The Narrows,” isn't supposed to be good sailing either. We've successfully sailed it twice and had a good time doing it.

No matter what auxiliary power we decided to go with, we'll make sure our sailing rig is in good condition. That's what's important on a sailboat.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

From -27 to -27

The morning that my lovely wife and I left New Hampshire it was twenty seven below zero. Yesterday I checked the weather at home and it was twenty seven below zero. That's not a lot of progress, is it?

Here in Florida it's been raining, but you don't have to shovel rain. In fact recently Florida was one of the few states that did not have snow on the ground. That's one brutal winter.

To pass the time dad and I have been doing some repair work on his trailer. It's a nice double wide, but like most trailers build three decades ago, the floors need attention. Over the years most of the floors have needed work done. Since I've been here to help him we've fixed the floor in the spare bedroom and today we did the hallway. The van is great for hauling building materials, so that's a big plus.

Rain and dense sea fog keeps us land bound. I'm getting anxious to get the little boat out on the water again. We'll be near some boat ramps when we go camping so that should work out -weather permitting.

Sometime next month we'll be heading to Texas to visit the in-laws. There's some interesting lakes in rivers in East Texas. Years ago I paddled some of them in a canoe, and it'd be great to explore them again.

After Texas our plans are pretty open. Our path home may very well be determined by the weather. We are no hurry to return to freezing temperatures.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fuel help from a friend

Ever since spring I've had issues with my van's ability to burn waste veggie fuel. Eventually the problem was narrowed down to my main veggie source changing their cooking oil. They went from a light canola to a hydrogenated soybean. Through much trial and error (and a number of fuel pumps) I've had to resort to cutting the veggie with some diesel. That seems to do the job.

Because my van was in the shop so often I didn't use nearly as much veggie as I normally would. My fuel storage racks are full and there's little room for more.

When I leave for the winter a friend of mine picks up the waste oil for me. Fortunately, he has expanded his storage space. He plans on doing a lot of trips with a diesel dump truck to build a road and expects to use a lot of veggie fuel. I'm glad he's been able to take my overflow.

That's a big load off my mind. I was afraid I'd have to write a letter to the restaurant and tell them I can't use their veggie anymore. My friend bought me time to figure something else out. My wife's car needs to be replaced. If we replace it with an old diesel we'll be able make use of the soybean oil.

There are improvements that can be made to the van to lessen the strain on the electric fuel pump. A few of my blog readers have provided some helpful suggestions. I'm sure there will be plenty to do once I get home in the spring.

It's good to have other people to rely on. Sure makes life easier.