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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trailer work

Not much going on so I'm catching up on projects. Just picked up a new tire for the boat trailer. I bought one last year to keep as a spare. Didn't have to use it. Now that I have two I'll change them both out and keep the old tires as spares.

It's been about seven years since the wheel bearings have been changed. That's pretty good considering how many miles we've hauled the trailer. Going in and out of salt water all the time is petty hard on bearings too. I kept the bearing buddies greased up with good quality marine grease. Looks like that paid off. To be on safe side I'm changing the bearings. Much easier to do in my driveway than on the side of the road somewhere. Last time I blew a trailer bearing it was on the Tamiami Trail, US rt 41, crossing the Everglades. Not fun.

Usually by the time I get around to changing wheel bearings there's snow on the ground. That's what I did on my utility trailer. This year I'm actually doing the job in the summer. Almost feels weird to do the job without frozen fingers.

Overall the trailer looks to be in pretty good shape. The lights were upgraded to submersible LEDs a couple years ago and that saved me a world of grief. The old style lights were always burning out. Last year the cable winch was changed to a strap type and I'm happy with the change.

It won't be long before the trailer and the boat are ready for travel. My lovely wife and I hope to do some sailing on the big wilderness lakes here in northern New England. For now it's good enough to have the boat anchored at our beach. We can go for an afternoon sail anytime we want. It's also a lot easier to work on the trailer without the boat on it.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sea Eagle Kayak Update

You may live in an area where bugging out by water may make a lot of sense. When the bridges were closed after the 911 attacks, some people left Manhattan by kayak. You may not live on an island, but bugging out by water may be easier than by land. Many people live in apartments and don't have storage room for a full sized kayak or canoe. However, a good inflatable kayak can be stored in a closet or even the trunk of your car. Even if you never bug out in one, they can provide loads of fun right now.

I've owned my Seal Eagle 420 inflatable kayak for about eight years now. My lovely wife wasn't too keen when I bought it. For one thing it cost about $1,100 dollars. They made similar kayaks out of a cheaper material for a whole lot less. It didn't help that there were similar sized cheapo inflatables at a local store for under $100.

All was forgiven years later when we used the kayak to abandon ship in the dark. After navigating shark infest shoals we made a successful landing through the surf onto a beach. To be fair, she'd already warmed up to the boat well before then. It's large, stable, and durable. It survived landing on oyster beds and being ground against barnacles. The boat still does not leak.

In general, we are very happy with it. There are a few things that gave me problems. The first is that it didn't come with a pressure gauge. The standard kit did not include one. That had to be ordered separately. Another issue was with the foot pump used to inflate it. By the second year it had broken in half under normal use. We also found the “deluxe” seats were too low. The tiniest bit of water in the boat would get your butt wet. Cheap marine seat cushions give enough lift to solve the problem.

Later I bought a nice 12volt air pump. That was great but did not survive getting submerged in the shipwreck. Fortunately, the manual foot pump had been replaced with an inflatable hand pump with built in pressure gauge. It cost about $40. The gauge was full of salt and sand after the shipwreck, but I was able to take it apart and clean it. Works fine now. It only takes 5 or 10 minutes to pump up the boat by hand, and that's for an old fat guy like myself.

The last annoying thing is that the swivel clips that hold the seats are prone to corrosion. They might have survived in a fresh water environment, but salt water ate them up. Just replaced all eight of them for about $23.

All in all I've been very happy with the boat and the company. I'm not being paid by Sea Eagle, I'm just a satisfied customer. The boat has stood up to years of use and abuse. If your life ever depends on an inflatable boat, best to get a decent one.


Monday, August 14, 2017

A nomad's financial life

Some people have asked me how I take care of finances while on the road. It's easier than it used to be, but there are some hidden problems.

Back when my lovely wife and I were first on the road, the only Internet was dial-up and there were still payphones everywhere. My monthly check was deposited automatically in the bank. I'd use prepaid phone cards to call the bank to check up on my finances. A number of my bills were paid over the phone. I actually memorized all those phone numbers and access codes. One of main things is that I'd seriously simplified my finances back then. There were just not a lot of bills that had to be paid. Since my mail was going to one of my daughter's, she was kind enough to let me know when bills I had not planned for came in. I'd write and mail her a check then she'd pay the bill.

Now everyone has a cell phone, free wifi is common, and most businesses have on-line payment options. I take care of on-line business about twice a month. In the beginning of the month most bills are paid. There are a few that don't become due until later in the month, so I get to those about the second or third week of the month. Easy enough.

Before leaving I used to have my mail forwarded to my dad's place in Florida. He'd just toss it all into a box. When we'd be in his part of Florida, we'd stop in for a visit and would also catch up with our snail mail. Even in the days of on-line payment, there are a few odd bills that I write paper checks for. They tend to be things like small quarterly payments to my lovely wife's life insurance. Now that dad has passed, I'll have to figure out another way to deal with those odd bills. Maybe by now they've added on-line payments?

So we have Internet access, plus debit and credit cards for traveling money. In general, I'm a big believer in dealing with small local banks. That's great -until you have a problem with your debit card. I've discovered that the post office will not forward debit cards. If your card expires when on the road, you are out of luck.

There are a couple of ways around that. My lovely wife's debit cards have different expiration dates than mine. We might have to stick together when shopping but at least one of our cards usually works. Another way is to have an account at a nation wide bank. While my local bank would not ship a new card to me, the big name International banks have no problems doing so.

Of course, having some cash is pretty handy too. There are few problems with carrying big wads of cash. Okay, first you have to get a big wad of cash. Your cash could be stolen. It might get stolen by the police. In some areas they routinely confiscate cash as evidence of wrong doing. Also it's nearly impossible to rent a car just using cash.

I've had some other issues come up on the road. Back when I had medical insurance, they did not cover me out of their service area, which only included New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Not much good in Florida. That's one of the reasons I dropped it. No sense paying for insurance I could only use half the time.

Some people have asked me what I'd do if the Internet went down for a long period of time and I could not pay my bills. Well, if that happened, paying off a credit card while on the road would be the least of my worries.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Potassium Iodide

Potassium iodide is flying off the shelves. Nothing like the threat of nuclear war to help sales along. A lot of people are buying it because they know it's supposed to protect against radiation. It doesn't, exactly. What it does is flood your thyroid gland not allowing it to uptake radioactive iodine isotopes. Since your thyroid gland is “full” there's no room for the radioactive bits to get in.

Thyroid protection is good, but that's all it does. Not only that, there are potential side effects, nausea, diarrhea, headache, depression and potential allergic reactions. You should research the full range of possible problems.

Potassium iodide does not protect against other radioactive particles. Is it worth getting? That's up to you. As for myself I've keep some in my home and vehicles for years. At the time I was more concerned about malfunctioning nuclear power plants. After all, we've had Chernobyl and Fukushima. I don't consider it unreasonable to protect against a type of disaster that's happened twice.

Unfortunately, you'll probably pay top dollar for the pills now. It's up to you to decide if they are worth having or not. I bought some because there are so few ways to mitigate radiation poisoning that any little bit helps.

Wikipedia has a pretty good introduction to Potassium Iodide. Unlike many sources of information, they aren't trying to see you any pills, so they are worth checking out.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

How do you go back to the real world?

Do you ever wonder what happens to people when the adventure ends? What does a person do after they've hiked the Appalachian Trail, lived on a boat, or traveled the country in a van? What is the rest of their story like?

Most of them have a really hard time adjusting to “real” life. Take the hikers for example. Some find ways to keep hiking. They may work six months of the year, then hike the next six months. Often the next hike they want to do is the Pacific Coast Trail. A few try to do a balance of work/hiking. They end up moving to an area where they can do a lot of day and overnight hikes. I have known a few who got stuck in the 9 to 5 world, but they were depressed alcoholics.

In the boating world, when someone moves off a boat back onto land it's called, “swallowing the anchor.” Boaters have such colorful terms for everything. Some go back to living in the real world, but darn few look happy about it. Often they look for other adventures. Some go traveling in an RV, have motorcycle adventures in Europe, or find some other adventure. One guy I knew went from being captain of a classic schooner to being a full time wilderness canoe guide. He felt canoes were a lot less work and responsibility.

As for myself, I haven't had a real job since 1993. The idea of going to an office and wearing a tie appalls me. Working full time for someone else is a horror thought. I'm willing to do a lot of creative things to avoid a normal regular life. As I see it, modern normal life isn't normal. Okay, maybe it is for some people, but not for me. Even my last “real” job, firefighter, wasn't normal. Running into burning buildings that the rats are trying to leave isn't normal.

If you've got the adventure gene it's tough to fit in. Maybe if you've never done any long term adventure, the gene can remain dormant. Once it's woken up, there's no hope for it. Just accept that you've got to do something different. Eventually age or illness catches up with all of us and we have to dial things back. However, some people die before they've ever really lived.


Friday, August 11, 2017


Miami and New Orleans were both recently flooded by heavy rains. Miami is barely above sea level, the limestone it's built on is porous, and parts of the city flood every time there's a high tide. New Orleans could be flooded just by turning the pumps off. If I had a job that required I live in either of those cities, I'd live on a boat.

You don't have to live in a coastal city to have flooding issues. Our cities are built to handle normal weather. A “100 year flood,” is one of those things they don't build for. The only problem is that those “100 year floods,” seem to come around every three or four years.

My state of NH did a study where they discovered that our rain events were becoming more intense. Storms drop a lot more water in a shorter period of time. They've quietly been making improvements like digging drainage ditches deeper and replacing small culverts with much larger ones.

I live 1000 feet above sea level. If I'm ever flooded out, it would have to be a civilization ending event of Biblical proportions. That doesn't mean I'm not affected by flooding. Some years it's been impossible to get into town because all the roads were washed out.

The last thing you want to do is to drive through a flooded area. It might look like there's only six inches of water on the road. However, that water may be hiding the fact a 6 foot culvert is completely washed out. People also tend to underestimate the power of flowing water. Water is heavy and can easily push cars and even large trucks around.

You also want to avoid wading in flood water if you can. There's the threat of being injured on submerged debris, but that's just the start of your worries. Sewage treatment plants, septic systems, chemical storage areas, gas stations, and other places with hazardous chemicals get flooded. Flood waters are a mix of infectious toxic sludge.

There are some problems with flooding that many people don't think about. One of major problems is that while there is water everywhere, none if it is fit to drink. Most people rely on water treatment plants for the their water. When those get flooded you are out of luck. Have a decent backup supply. Water filters are good, but they may not be able to handle the bacteria, virus, and chemical loads in the flood water.

Another issue is fire. Seems counter intuitive, I know. Think about it, flood water can short out electrical systems causing fires. People who lose power may set their house on fire by using candles and camp stoves. Due to the flooding, small fires become large ones because the fire department cannot respond.

Make sure you have water and food. Practice fire safety. Don't be in a hurry to get anywhere. Even Noah's flood eventually drained away. Of course, Noah wasn't in New Orleans.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

North Korea Endgame

I try not to panic when North Korea does a bit of saber rattling. The difference right now is that they may actually have a saber to rattle. The intelligence briefings don't come across my desk, but it appears they could have missile ready nukes. About twenty years ago under the Bush administration it looked like we could have had a diplomatic solution, but that never came to pass. Now we are stuck with the fallout from that failure. Maybe real fallout.

US options are pretty limited right now. Economic sanctions have not worked. It's not like North Korea was ever tightly connected to the world's economy in the first place. Apparently Kim has even managed to somewhat improve the economy since he came into power.

So what does the US do? We sail a few aircraft carriers off the coast. Some bombers fly around a bit. Sometimes troops and equipment in South Korea get shuffled about, like chess pieces that never threaten the king. After decades of this the North can't take the threat all that seriously, can they? While all this was going on, the North Koreans were testing atomic weapons and mastering missile technology.

It doesn't look like a diplomatic solution is likely. In fact, the Trump administration has cut funding in that area. Trump himself has upped the rhetoric and seems to be cribbing Kim's “Death to all” vocabulary. So that's a change from the past. Where will it lead? Will Kim assume that Trump is just blowing smoke and ignore him? That would make the President look weak.

One option is for Kim to launch an attack on US assets. He's threatened US cities and the US base at Guam. I'm not sure about the North being able to hit US cities, but an attack on Guam is definitely within their capabilities. What happens after that is anyone's guess. However, I don't think it will end with the US taking its lumps and backing off.

That would be just the excuse Trump and the military needs to attack North Korea. The United States could decide that Kim's nukes have to go and attack the nuclear facilities. One handy thing about attacking nuclear weapon production areas, the US could even use tactical nukes and claim the radiation is from the North's nuclear program. Don't tell me they haven't thought of that.

Don't think the US would never attack first. We do it all time. If Trump feels threatened by a possible impeachment, a good little war would be the perfect distraction. One cannot rule out the possibility.

So how does this end? It will be a quick little war and everyone would be home before Christmas. Wait, no, that was WWI. That didn't turn out so well either. China and Russia would not be happy with a nasty little war right on their doorstep. Last time that happened a zillion Chinese “volunteers” swarmed across the border.

South Korea would suffer greatly. Their capital is within heavy artillery range of the North. It doesn't even take high tech weapons to devastate the country. Their military, while smaller than that of the North, is better equipped and trained. Then there is the little issue of US troops on the ground. Our men and women would be involved from day one.

Japan would probably get involved. North Korea threatens them all the time too. They are pretty close geographically, so there would be plenty of opportunity for conflict. In recent years Japan has been strengthening their military and quietly flexing their muscles. The official pacifism of the post WWII years has steadily eroded.

If I had to bet, my guess would be that any sort of military action would quickly or eventually spiral out of control into a greater conflict. Millions would die.

If you are prepper, your very last get out of Dodge moment will be when military action starts. If you are lucky you'll have enough time to leave the cities. However, if the first attack is on a major US city, then forget about it. Transportation out of all major cities would soon gridlock. If you are lucky your warning will be either something like a North Korean attack on Guam, or a US surgical strike on Kim's nukes. That might give you enough of a head start.

One thing for sure is that situation is not going to remain static. Something is going to happen. Cooler heads and diplomacy? Yeah, that would be nice.