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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Long Haul

When your sailboat has a hull speed of just 5.5 knots, distances matter. The stretch from Anclote Key to Bayport has no protection from the open bay. Weather matters. We had a good 27 or so miles to cover before dark.

Winds were out of the east, predicted to swing to the southeast later in the day, good for our northernly route. I motored a short way into deeper water. We raised the sails, dropped the keel and rudder and were off.

It was a lively ride, 2 - 4 foot seas. Fairly often gusts of wind would propel us to hull speed or even a bit more. Just when I would think of reducing sail, the wind would drop some, but still kept us going over 4 knots.

The sun was out, the wind was brisk, and the miles dropped away. There really wasn’t much to photograph except miles and miles of open water. The two large dolphins that surfaced 4 feet from the boat were there and gone before we could even think of getting out the camera.

During one strong burst of wind, my lovely wife’s hat blew off into the water. Seas were 4 feet and we were moving at hull speed. She was willing to let it go, but I declared a man overboard drill. At that point we had to make a good effort to retrieve the hat.

We’ve done man overboard drills before, but not under such conditions. It’s a whole different deal, but that’s when it would really matter. We kept touching the hat with the hook, but between the waves rocking the boat and the wind blowing, we couldn’t get hold of it. The outboard motor slipped off it’s mount and only the safety rope I tied on it kept it from going to the bottom. It took about six passes before we snagged the hat with the boat hook, but we did get it.

I’d entered the Bayport channel marker as a waypoint in the GPS. Winds dropped off and became variable, the last few miles to the marker. I was tempted to start the motor, but my lovely wife had the tiller and wanted to try and sail in. Her patience was rewarded as a light but usable southwest wind came up. We had real difficulty spotting the channel marker. Eventually, we spotted something, and the GPS said it was the right location. Double checking with the chart confirmed it.

The problem was the marker looked nothing like the marker we left behind the week before. Deciding to trust our navigation, we headed down the channel. After a mile it became clear that we made it to where we were supposed to be. Apparently, in the week we were gone, the old marker had been replaced with a new one.

As we pulled into the boat ramp, my dad drove in with my truck and trailer. According to the GPS, we’d done 29 miles in 8 hours. It was a good way to end the week.



-Sixbears

Monday, January 30, 2012

What to do in case of grounding

Caladesi State Park is difficult to leave in a timely manner. It’s just too darn pretty and comfortable. We didn’t make it out of there until fairly late in the morning. By then the wind had died down but it was still enough to sail by.




Having never sailed until last year, there’s been a lot of firsts for the lovely wife and myself. After we left the park, we headed to the Honeymoon Island bridge. We’d never had a bridge open for us before. After years of stopping in my car for open draw bridges, it was pretty neat to have one open for me. It reminded me of the fake bridge at a NH amusement park called Storyland. They have a drawbridge for the park’s swanboat and pirate ship. When I said, “Just like Storyland,” my wife burst out laughing.

We had a pleasant sail up to Anclote Key but the sun was soon sinking into the west. We needed the light to attempt an anchorage we’d been told about. Anyone who’s sailed Florida’s waters knows the charts are not always up to date. Whole islands come and go with the storms. A local told us about a channel, 3 - 4 feet deep, that came quite close to North Anclote Key.

Here’s where things get dicey. There are a couple small islands at the north end of Anclote that appear on some charts as North Anclote Key. I attempted to find a channel up near those little islands. When wading birds appeared in front of me, I realized there was no channel. The boat grounded, but I was able to put the motor in reverse and back off.

We turned around towards deeper water, but didn’ get very far before getting grounded once more. There was no motoring off this time. There was only thing to do: make chicken soup. Since we weren’t going anywhere anyway, I set up the stove and cooked dinner. After a leisurely dinner, dished were cleaned up and the cooking gear put away. Just as we were contemplating what to do next, we floated off with the rising tide.

Once we got into deeper water, I dropped the hook for the night. Anclote Key isn’t the best of anchorages. Wind protection from the North and East is poor. That night, wind was predicted to come out of the North at 5 knots, then move to the East at 15. That’s pretty much what happened. I was extra cautious setting the anchor. The night was bit rolly, but the anchor stayed put and we got some sleep.

Only later did I figure out that my local sailor must have meant the Gulf Harbor’s Sand Bar, also known as North Anclote Bar. There is enough water for a shallow draft boat like mine to get quite close to the shore. On my chart, it doesn’t look like much. From on the water, it’s an actual island with vegetation growing on it. The next time we go down this coast, we hope to stop there. Live and learn.

-Sixbears

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Slow boating

We left Caladesi State Park and killed the motor as soon as we left the park’s narrow channel. The sails went up, but the wind went down. When we did get any wind, it was usually from the south -the direction we were trying to go in. A day’s sailing only got us down as far as Clearwater.




Florida winters feel a lot like New Hampshire summers, but the sun still goes down early. One if the things I wanted to do before dark was to buy a little gasoline. I’d burned about 2.5 gallons of gas. That doesn’t sound like much, but it was half my supply. We docked at the Clearwater Marina for fuel. While we were there, we took advantage of the courtesy dock. That gave us a chance to walk the dog and check out the waterfront. Next to the marina, we found a little restaurant that was dog friendly.



After dinner, darkness had fallen. The marina charged 2/foot, but I could see several boats anchored in the harbor. That’s where we spent the night. My new anchor paid for itself pretty quickly this trip.




The day’s sail was pretty disappointing as far as distance traveled. It soon occurred to us that if we were going to make any distance at all, we’d have to motor the whole way. Winds were predicted to be in our face the whole time. As we were approaching “The Narrows” we would have little room to tack. Rather than motor through condo canyons, we decided to turn around and head north.




The original plan was to make it much further down the coast, however, the real goal was to enjoy ourselves and sail. The next morning, we hauled anchor and headed back north to Caladesi.

-Sixbears

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rest Day, or so we thought

After two days of hard sailing, my lovely wife and I decided to take a day off. The plan was to check out the island, hang out on the beach and generally take it easy.

That plan worked until the early afternoon. That’s when the boats started coming in. The night before, there was only a handful of boats in the entire marina. As Saturday wore on, the boats just kept coming in.

In the photo, if you look closely, you’ll see two sailboat masts. The shorter black mast belongs to my sailboat. As you can see, it’s completely overshadowed by large powerboats.





As they came in, they’d tie up, connect water and power, and unload folding chairs. After the chairs were set up on the docks, the drinks flowed and the music played. My lovely wife and I introduced ourselves to this party crowd. All of them come from just a few miles away. They party at the island almost every weekend.

So they’d be comfortable, we broke out our bottle of rum and had a few drinks. Most of that crew had a whole lot more to drink. After a while, it did get a bit awkward. The guy next to me, well into his cups, started telling me how much he envied me and my small sailboat. This guy had a huge powerboat. His dingy cost more and had triple the power of my sailboat. However, his wife never let him go anywhere. All he ever wanted to do is to sail a small boat up and down the coast as the whim struck him, but he never had any time off from work.

The party got a bit wild as the night wore on. My wife and I wandered off to hang with a different group that had a nice campfire going by the park pavilions. We connected with a nice young couple, also sailing an older small sailboat (a Catalina from the late 70s). Like us, they were traveling with a beagle mix. They were actually impressed with what I’d done with my boat: cup holders, electrical system, running lights, stainless steel boarding ladder, compass, and the new tiller. Their boat was so bare bones it didn’t have running lights or even a compass. Since all their sailing was in familiar waters during the day, it didn’t matter that much.

Eventually, we made our way back to our boat. The party was still going strong, but mostly confined to one of the larger boats. The noise wasn’t too bad, except when people would open and close the door. Then a blast of sound escaped. In spite of that, we didn’t have that much trouble falling asleep.

In the morning, we decided to have our coffee and breakfast back up at the pavilion. The other sailing couple mentioned they didn’t have everything they needed to make coffee, so I invited them to join us. After a pleasant breakfast, we threaded our way past the waking party zombies and quietly exited the marina.

-Sixbears

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sailing upwind

It’s said that gentlemen don’t sail upwind. I’m no gentleman.

We raised anchor at Anclote Key and beat our way to the start of the ICW channel. Never being one to color within the lines, I left the channel behind and went to the open Gulf. Seas were 2 - 4 feet and wind from the south, but there was wind. We beat our way in the open Gulf most of the day.

I was having a blast, sailing along further and further from land. My wife brought me back to earth by pointing out I was sailing past our channel. Hurricane Pass is hard to spot from the Gulf side. That’s where even my simple GPS came in handy. Good thing my lovely wife pays attention to such things.





We negotiated the shallow pass between Honeymoon and Caledesi Islands. Then I had to motor up wind through a shallow bay towards Caledesi State Park. I totally missed the narrow channel into the park. There’s a large area heavily posted with “no internal combustion engines” signs. I stayed too far away from that area to see the tiny gap into the park. The park isn’t visible from the bay as it sits among mangroves.

Once again, my lovely wife discovered my error with the chart and GPS. By hugging the “no engine” area we eventually found the narrow channel to the park and got there just before sunset.
Caledesi has a beautiful little marina with good floating docks equipped with power and water. We missed the regular staff to sign in, but the volunteer said it wasn’t a problem. They’d get to me in the morning.

The park volunteer was a robust man in his 80s. Chatting with him I learned that he’s from about 40 miles away from my home. His wife comes from 20 miles away. We knew a lot of the same people. Friends of mine have a camp on the same small lake in VT that he has a summer place on. Small world.

The volunteer gig is a pretty good one. I don’t know the details, but this guy’s been doing it for ten years. There’s some light duties that need to be done, but he can keep his boat at the docks. It’s a beautiful place to spend the winter. The island feels like a remote wild area, but civilization is a short trip across the bay. He says he’s so happy on the island that he rarely goes anywhere else.

After a late dinner after sunset, we called it a day and turned in early.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First week on the water

Just got back after a week on the water. After 4 days of heading south, we decided not to slog our way against a headwind through condo canyons. Instead, we headed north for more favorable winds and nicer views. I really hate to motor and that's what I'd be forced to do in the narrows. Later, we plan to trailer to other parts of the state that interest us more and head back on the water again.



Night Sail to Anclote Key

The first day of our trip turned into a night sail. Winds were favorable, from the north, but light. We chugged along at “burble speed.” That’s just fast enough for the hull to make happy gurgling noises. I was content enough.

As the afternoon wore on, my lovely wife and I had to come to a decision. Do we head down a channel and stay at a marina, or do we night sail and anchor out. We sailed on. It had been a pleasant day, sunny with temps in the upper 60s. As soon as the sun went down, it got pretty chilly. I’m glad I had my winter hat on the boat.







Eventually, the wind died completely and we reluctantly started the motor. As luck would have it, we were surrounded by crab pots. The last thing you want to do is get one of those buoys tangled up in your prop. We motored a few stressful miles in near total darkness, ever watchful.

We relied heavily on our chart and GPS to find our anchorage at Anclote Key. Lacking a depth finder, we used the boat hook at full extension to feel our way along the bottom. The plan was to take advantage of our shallow draft and get as close to the island as possible, staying far outside the channel. I almost cut it too close. I allowed for low tide, but just barely. In the morning, the boat was floating, but not by much.

My lovely wife and I slept well, comfortable in our wee little boat. In the morning, we were treated to a visit by a couple of porpoises. I made coffee on the boat. After a light breakfast, we raised anchor and continued our southward journey.

-Sixbears

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Quick update

Currently in Clearwater Harbor. I scammed a wifi signal but it's pretty sketchy. Sorry, photos will have to wait. Typing with a laptop in the dark, on the boat, isn't easy.

Night 4 on the water, having a wonderful time.

-Sixbears

Thursday, January 19, 2012

. . . and now I’m back

But not for long. My lovely wife and I had planned on hitting the water on Wednesday, but we decided to wait one more day. The weather is a bit wetter than originally predicted and the winds will be shifting direction later too.

Then there is the last minute provisioning and packing to do. We are taking the time to be a little more methodical about it.

Our original plans may have been too ambitions. We decided to not focus on distance and focus on fun. Suddenly, the whole trip opened up. There’s a lot of interesting stops along the way that are now worth considering.

One of the problems with trying to cover a lot of distance is that we’d have to burn gas to do it. I hate to burn gas. It is a sailboat. Tacking to get to a destination doesn’t bother me that much, even though it takes longer. That just means more time sailing. I like sailing.

My dad volunteered to keep the truck and trailer at his place. All we have to do is call him when we are ready to be picked up. That sure beats the heck out of leaving the truck at a boat ramp for days or weeks on end.

My posting might get a bit spotty, depending on if we can find open wifi signals. It also might depend on how beautiful the night is. If my blog doesn’t show up, just assume it’s because I’m having a rum and watching a beautiful sunset on the water.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA Blackout

SOPA Blackout Protest

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day in the Gulf




My lovely wife and I finally got the sailboat out in the Gulf. Thats me testing out the new tiller. It’s a beautiful piece of ash, covered in many coats of spar varnish. That marker in the background? It marks a shipwreck. How cool is that?

It was a good test run. We practiced some navigation. Checked out the rigging and gave the motor a good run.

As we were going up the long channel to the Gulf, the motor suddenly coked. My wife took the tiller and kept us in the narrow channel. Tilting up the outboard revealed the prop covered in a red mesh bag. My wife was able to pass the boat hook to me and I was able to clear it. The motor stared right up and we were on our way again.

The day was absolutely beautiful. I’m happy with a tiller in my hand and a keel under my feet.

Things are looking good for leaving on our extended trip Wednesday.

-Sixbears

Monday, January 16, 2012

Projects find me

Today I did a little work on the boat. A friend of mine caught up with me and asked for some help with a project this week. Since my lovely wife and I will be heading out on the water soon, I said why not now? My project was at the “wait for glue to dry” stage anyway.

He’d bought one of those free standing basket ball hoops for his grandson. It took him a day just to assemble the base. He was pretty frustrated. Several hours later, working together, we got it assembled. Let’s just say the instructions could have been clearer. Some assemblies were put together and taken apart three times. Four hands weren’t enough. I resorted to duck taping parts into place until the screws could be lined up. It’s done, and I’m sure his grandkid will be happy.

Then another guy I met last year in dad’s park wants me to build him a solar hot water heater. I don’t think the guy has much of a budget, but in Florida’s climate, you don’t need much of a water heater. A simple 1970s design batch heater should do the job. That’s basically a water barrel in a box with a glass front. I’m temped to build it just for the fun of it. I’ve built and installed these things for less than $35 by using stuff from the junk yard.

One nice thing about staying with my dad is his collection of good tools. Sure beats the heck out of doing everything with a multi-tool, vice grips and a battery powered drill. Today I got to use a drill press, jig saw, belt sander, grinder and a decent socket set. That certainly made my jobs easier.

I don’t mind doing these projects, but all jobs for other other people are going on-hold until we get back from sailing.

-Sixbears

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sailboat solar panel rack

I went around hunting up parts for a solar panel rack. Right now I’ve got about $35 dollars into the project -mostly for stainless steel nuts and bolts, plus a good piece of aluminum pipe. Your basic small “marine” solar panel rack starts around $550. I can’t spend that kind of money. So now I’m picking up odds and ends from the hardware store and Tractor Supply.

The plan is for the whole pole/rack assembly to slide into a fishing rod holder. It has to be removable for trailering.

Space is limited on a small boat and I have to make sure nothing interferes with the rigging, sails, outboard, boarding ladder or anything else.

It seems like a lot of work for a small 30 watt panel. That’s enough power to keep a trickle charge in the battery. I don’t use much power, so it should save me from starting the motor just to top off the battery. That’s a terribly inefficient way to charge a battery.

Let to itself, a battery will slowly discharge. The solar panel should prevent that. Keeping a battery fully charged extends its life. Every little bit helps.

Once the project is completed, I’ll post some photos. It’s supposed to be nice sailing soon so I hope to get some photos from on the water.

-Sixbears

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Predicting the Future

Most of it dabble in it. It’s human nature to want to know what the future will bring. Maybe that’s what really separates us from the animals.

It has survival value. We prepare for hard times and lean years. We look at a poor harvest and know the winter might be tough if something isn’t done.

Predicting the future works pretty good if you follow trends. The more data you can gather, the easier it is to get a handle on what’s going on. The Internet has facilitated access to mountains of data. It takes real talent to separate the wheat from the chaff. Skilled researchers often get a pretty good window into the future.

That works great for all the knowns. As prepared human beings, we do our best to assess the trends and risks and take what actions we can.

Once in a while events come from so far outside our normal experience that we couldn’t see it coming. Brand new things appear that have no back-trail to the past. It’s impossible to see it before it arrives. Investors speak of Black Swan events: unique circumstances that go against every past trend.

When life throws a random wave your way, the best thing you can do is surf it. Stay on top and use the energy for one heck of a ride.

We tend to think of these events in the negative. It’s true our old preparations and responses no longer work. The sooner a person recognizes the rules have changed, the sooner they can respond. The sooner they can surf that wave. The sooner they can find the good in the new situation.

On a day to day level, practice surfing the random wave. Everyday randomness can throw things your way. Recognize those blips and see what you can do with them. Imagine you are taking your wife to your favorite restaurant. Normally, it’s easy to get a table, but for some random reason, today the place is packed. Do you grumble and wait it out, or do you use this opportunity to check out a new place and have a new experience? It might turn to be wonderful.

When a big event comes you’ll have experience in striking out in new directions. There’s a feeling, a rush, when you successfully navigate the new.

Universe favors the bold.

When the unforeseen arrives, don’t panic in fear. See what you can do with the new circumstances. It might be fun. It’s sure to be interesting.

-Sixbears

Friday, January 13, 2012

Weather Windows

My lovely wife and I postponed Thursday’s sail. There appeared to be a weather window of nice sailing, but that window narrowed by the morning forecast. If it hadn’t been our first Florida sailing day this year we still might have gone. We have some new gear and changes on the boat, and testing in rolly and gusty conditions isn’t ideal.

Instead, I took the opportunity to do some prep work on the sailboat. My lovely wife is repairing the cushions from the V berth.

There’s still plenty of fun and interesting things for us to do today, so it’s all good.

-Sixbears

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tarpon Springs





My lovely wife and I went on a quest for navigational charts to fill in some of the gaps in our collection. We found exactly what we needed. Sometimes there’s nothing for it but to go to a big West Marine store.

While we were in the area, we went over to Tarpon Springs for lunch. It’s an interesting place. It was settled by Greek sponge fishermen. The Greek presence is still very strong. Spoken Greek is heard on the street. We had a great lunch as Greek food is one of my favorites.

There were plenty of little touristy shops to keep my lovely wife happy. As for me, I checked out the working boats. There’s something special about a working harbor, even a small one. Most of the boats weren’t pretty, but they sure were salty.

We planned on sailing past the Anclote River (the river Tarpon Springs sits on), but now we are really interested in seeing it from the water.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Memory hole

Last summer my dad had a mini stroke and seizure. He has no lasting damage -except some holes in his memory. His problem struck back in the early part of last summer. I hadn’t seen him since last spring. Now that I’m here, I’ve got a better idea how he’s doing.

Dad’s day to day function seems unimpaired, and for that I am grateful. He does his chores, takes care of his finances, and was even elected to the board of his home owners association.

It is a bit disconcerting the things he did forget. He sent a Christmas card to one of my uncles but forgot that his wife had died 6 years ago.

He had no memory of going out out on the sailboat with me last winter. Even after showing him some photos of our trip he still had no recall. It makes me wonder what other gaps will show up as we spend more time together.

Dad’s main concern is that it doesn’t happen again. He’s keeping up with his doctor’s appointments and taking his medications.

I am relieved to see that dad is still dad. Anyone who has lost relatives to Alzheimers knows how it is to see someone slowly slip away until they are just a shell of themselves. Maybe that day will come, but for now things are good enough.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fresh veggies and sunshine

I’m still recovering from the nasty cold I took south with me from the frozen north.

Fresh veggies and sunshine sure helps. I’m on a new diet that emphasizes a lot of fresh fruit and veggies. Being able to buy right from the farmer makes all the difference in the world. The food is great and the price is right.

My lovely wife and I are puttering around the boat, in the sun, slowly building a base tan. It must be doing wonders for my vitamin D level. I’m almost well enough to head out on the water.

In the mean time, I’m spending time with dad. He’s had a rough year, but seems to be on the mend. Dad and I have always had a close relationship and I worry about him living so far away. Talking on the phone is nice, but not enough.

I took inventory on waste veggie jugs that I use for fuel. Right now I have just about enough left to get the truck and boat back home. Of course, that doesn’t account for any driving around down here in Florida. Maybe I can convince my lovely wife to sail more and drive less. Perhaps we’ll hook up with another WVO source while we are here.

Right now, we are taking it easy. We’ve reconnected with old friends, so that’s been good.

Hopefully, in a few days, we’ll be back out on the water -at least for a shake down cruise. Not much going on, but I’ve got to take time to mend now and then.

-Sixbears

Monday, January 9, 2012

Attack of the competent waitresses

While traveling, my lovely wife and I ate out more often than we normally do. I hate fast food. At best it’s fast, but it’s never real food. Because of that, I got to see a lot more waitresses than I normally do.

All the way from New Hampshire to Florida one thing stood out. On average, the waitresses seem a lot smarter and more on top of things than in the past. I never ran into a bad one, and a few were so good they were spooky -mind reader good.

Of course, my observations are anecdotal, limited sample, biased, and all that. Still, I might be onto something here. What if waitresses are really of a higher quality than in the past? What could cause that?

My guess is that in this economy, people who would normally work at higher paying jobs are stuck working below their talents and education. Under employment is not just for English and Philosophy majors anymore. People with education in hard sciences are not working in their chosen fields. Instead, they wait tables.

Not that there’s anything wrong with waiting tables . . . except the pay . . . and the customers . . . and the hours . . . and the lack of respect.

Yeah, it can suck. If you do get a chance to eat out, tip well. It’s tough out there.

-Sixbears

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Slow motion

My readers may be wondering why they haven’t seen any new sailing photos lately. I’m recovering from a nasty cold -a little New Years gift before we headed south. My lovely wife and I are catching up on our rest and visiting with my dad. It’s all good.

I do hope to be out on the water soon, at least for a day trip. There are a few gaps in my charts that need to be filled in, but I’m fine for the local area. As soon as this cold eases up a bit, I’m heading out on the water.

-Sixbears

Tech Support

Apparently I’m my dad’s computer tech support. I just helped him sort out an e-mail problem that’s been vexing him for 3 months. Then we fixed his wifi system. The list goes on and on. On the bright side, one of his friends put on some decent virus protection. It could have been worse.

Of course, I made sure the Skype system was up and running. We got to talk to one of my daughters and granddaughter, so it’s doing what we need.

-Sixbears

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My road trips take longer and cost more

It took 56 hours to do my northern New Hampshire to mid Florida trip. At one time I could do the same trip in about 30 hours. Of course, that was driving a car and traveling alone.

Pulling a boat trailer, traveling with the lovely wife and dog, it takes longer and costs more. The dog needs to be walked. We eat more sit down meals at restaurants. It all adds up.

I can do about 30 hours of driving with only a couple cat naps. That’s what I did this time, but instead of making it to Florida, we only got as far as Fayetteville N. Carolina. There we rented a hotel room. I took a quick shower and went right to bed. After a good night’s sleep the rest of the trip was easy.

Although it takes longer, I’m glad I’m traveling the way I am. Sure beats the heck out of traveling along. Lingering over an after dinner coffee with the wife delays the trip, but it’s pleasant. Even walking the dog isn’t too bad as the fresh air and exercise does me good too.

Of course, now that I am down here, I’ve got my sailboat, camping gear, and a bunch of toys. Sure beats the heck of my Spartan single days.

-Sixbears

Friday, January 6, 2012

Travel Update: fuel use

We made it safely to my dad’s place in Florida.

In basic numbers that was 1650 miles in 56 hours.

Of course, any trip is more than basic numbers.

This one started with a compromised. The original plan was to leave Tuesday morning, right after my wife’s doctor’s 9:30 appointment. I really pushed for this departure time. It was the soonest we could leave the frozen north, and I wanted to not waste time. Maybe I have a fear of delay. Delays in life have a tendency to stretch on and on until nothing gets done.

My wife had the perfectly reasonable request that things at home get taken care of before we go. She wanted to leave the next day. Finally, we compromised. After her appointment we went home. Together we worked to get the last minute stuff attended to. We left at 2 p. m, only a few hours after my original target time.

We left in bitterly cold conditions. Temperatures were near zero combined with high winds. The truck was laden with 200 gallons of waste vegetable oil for fuel. WVO at those temperatures really isn’t liquid. Most of my oil was high quality canola. It’s solidifies at lower temperatures than most vegetable oils, but it was too cold for even canola. The last batch of oil had been loaded from a warm basement the day before and it was just barely liquid. The rest of the oil had been loaded earlier and was mostly solid.

WVO use was a big part of my travel plans. The truck, a Ford F250 with a 7.3 turbo diesel, uses a lot of fuel, especially pulling a sailboat. I could not afford to burn diesel all the way down.

My truck is a simple straight vegetable oil conversion -primitive even. The truck has two fuel tanks, one for diesel and one for WVO. It’s started on diesel. Engine coolant runs though a copper coil in the WVO tank that heats it up. WVO has to be hot to lower its viscosity, otherwise the engine won’t run properly, if at all. Once the oil is hot, the truck is switched from the diesel tank to the WVO tank.

The super cold temperature made it difficult for the WVO tank to get warm enough. Heat loss though the uninsulated tank really increased transfer times. I had to burn a lot more diesel to warm the supper cold veggie. Worse, at highway speed, the oil has be super hot to flow fast enough, but the wind chill on fuel tank made that hard to do.

Then there was the problem of getting more oil into the tank. The oil jugs stored in the center of the truck bed were a bit more liquid. I used them first. Even so, it was a lot like pouring molasses into the tank. Fueling up took a lot of time.

Normally, adding 5 - 10 gallons of veggie into the tank doesn’t drop the temperature enough to matter. Cold as my fuel was, it clogged up the system. I had to switch to diesel for a bit to bring the temperature back up.

It became harder and harder to find oil liquid enough to pour into the tank. I had to use the top few inches off of many different jugs as the fuel freeze from the bottom up. It took a lot of jugs to get enough fuel to keep going. As you can imagine, that took time and a lot of fuel handling.

Once we got down to North Carolina, temperatures were up to 35 degrees. That was warm enough that the oil started to flow again. The further south we went the warmer it got. Eventually, fill ups were quick and easy.

The final fuel bill? About 30 gallons of diesel, plus many gallons of free WVO. Take 1650 miles and divide it by 30 gallons. We got 55 miles per gallon for every paid for gallon of diesel. Now on a good day, with a light load, the truck only gets 15 - 18 mpg in real fuel use. With a heavy load in the mountains, I bet we got closer to 10 mpg -maybe less. Of course, as we used veggie fuel, lightening the load, and got out of the mountains, mpg went up.

It was a hassle to use veggie fuel, but it saved me hundreds of dollars. That’s money I can use to enjoy my time here, so it’s worth it.

More about the rest of trip down later.

We are here safe and sound. (and tired)

-Sixbears

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy trails again

The lovely wife, Brownie the Sailor Dog, and myself are heading south. If there are some gaps in my posting schedule, please be patient. It’s just me doing a marathon drive.

My buddy helped me inspect and grease the boat trailer wheel bearings. He also helped load the heavy things. My hand is still a bit tender since I sprained my thumb, so the assistance was appreciated.

As I was packing to head out, my house sitters were moving stuff in. The bulk of their stuff is taken up by a recording studio. He’s taking advantage of the acoustics of my insulated dome, and isolated location. I bet that’ll be a great CD.

One of the woderful things about the US of days gone by was the ability to travel. It’s such a large and varied country and it used to be possible to travel across it unhindered. Now there are border patrol check points miles from the border. TSA and Fatherland Security have made air travel a horrid experience. Check your dignity and freedom at the door. They’ve expanded into other forms of travel. However, it’s still possible to travel for many miles without major interference. At least, I hope that’s still the case.

We were invited to dinner at one of my daughter’s. We got to say goodbye to two grandkids, two of our daughters, and their menfolk. We’ll try to keep in touch with all the electronic marvels of the age.

I hope to not miss too many days of blogging. I’m doing a few things different this trip and I’ll let all of you know how it works out.

-Sixbears

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolutions

At the start of the new year, it’s traditional to make a few resolutions. It’s also traditional that before the end of January, those resolutions have been forgotten.

This year I’m going to avoid specific goals. My plan is to say flexible so I can adapt to the challenges that the year will bring. To meet the goal of flexibility, I plan to put myself in positions that allow for a multitude of options.

That sounds vague, but maybe a few examples will clarify my plan.

If a person is buried in debt and has no savings or credit left, their financial goals are limited.

People totally out of condition don’t have the opportunity to climb many mountains.

Prisoners have lost most of their options.

Now a lot of people think that they’d have the most options if they were wealthy. That’s not always the case. Wealth has its own chains. I know a man who loved being a teacher. However, he left teaching because he was expected to manage the family fortune. He felt so trapped by that responsibility that in a few years he committed suicide.

Some may say he could have refused the family and kept teaching. In his mind suicide was a more viable option that disappointing the family.

Our options are limited by a lack of imagination, courage, and will. We might not have a fortune to manage, but often we fall into roles other people expect us to keep fulfilling -even when they no longer satisfy our needs. Routine can be like an old friend, but just because it’s an old friend doesn’t mean it’s a good friend.

My resolutions for 2012 is to position myself in such a way that I have options.

Good luck with your plans for the new year, whatever they may be.

-Sixbears

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Years

This is a quick post to wish everyone a Happy New Years!

May the coming year be better than the last.

As for me, I'm starting it with some neat parties, hence the short post.

All the best to you and yours.

-Sixbears