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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Simple fixes

"Civilizations in the final stages of decay are dominated by elites out of touch with reality. Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth."- Chris Hedges

So how about a few simple changes. How about we limit what CEOs can earn to something like five times the amount the lowest worker makers. Believe you me, before long those CEOs will find all kinds of ways of raising wages for the lower paid person.

Want to have good schools? Outlaw private ones and make the elite's kids go to the same schools as everyone else. In no time at all public schools would become amazing.

How about we all have the same medical insurance that Congress has? If that's too expensive and will break the budget, then they can suffer along with everyone else. How long do you think it would be until they find a way for the nation to afford it?

Want to fix Social Security? Make it the only pension that Congress qualifies for.

Do these suggestions sound radical to you? If they do, then reflect on how you've been conditioned to accept your peasant status.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Woods Walk

Friday a good friend and myself went for a walk in the woods. I wanted to show him an area I'd come across a few years ago. It had been a while since I'd been there myself. Last year it was impossible to get in that area due to bridges being closed. Well, I supposed I could have bushwhacked ten miles or so. That didn't happen.

It took a while to find the place, but it was so beautiful out on the woods we didn't mind. However, eventually I found the area and we spent some time taking it all in.

When we started out that morning he had a bad back. My foot was bothering me. I'm seeing the doctor today in fact. After a few hours in the woods, we didn't feel bad at all. It certainly was well worth the effort and did much for our physical and mental health.

We'll be going back there soon too. In fact, we pretty much have to. Before leaving, we set up a game camera. Can't wait to see what sort of critters are running around out there.


Friday, October 19, 2018

Next economic crash

So . . . everybody set for the next economic crash? It's coming. Don't know when, but it's getting closer.

How do I know? There's always an economic crash. That's the way the economy works. Don't believe me? Study History. Oh, by the way, before every crash in in the past, folks were sure that “this time it's different.”

Here's the funny thing. Those who are most prepared for the crash feel a lot more worried than those who don't have preps. If you know how bad it could be, you realize how hard it is to prepare.

Do you know what's really dangerous? There are more and more people who would welcome an economic crash. The system has always been rigged in favor of the rich and powerful. It used to be that the elite used to try and somewhat hide that fact. Now they really don't care what Joe Average thinks.

Joe Average will be more than happy for the elite to lose their billions. He's going to suffer too, but a lot of Joes out there are beyond caring.

How can I say the economy is going to collapse when so many economic indicators look good? Things looked great on October 28, 1929. On October 29, 1929 we had what has become known as the official start of the Great Depression.

In short, it would serve everyone well to have some basic survival preps set aside. Just as important, be mentally prepared for sudden changes. If I'm wrong, you haven't lost anything. What if I'm right?


Thursday, October 18, 2018

Storm ready and plans

We've had a lot of high winds and cold temperatures lately. It makes me glad that the house solar electric system has been working well. When a storm is predicted, I top off the battery bank from the grid. That way if the grid goes down I'm starting with a full charge.

There's wood for the kitchen stove that keeps the whole house warm. There's plenty of food storage. It's nice to have to go anywhere if we don't want to. With snow predicted, it's a relief not to be out driving on icy roads.

A couple days ago we had high winds. The grid didn't go down, but we lost Internet service for about 12 hours. That's annoying, but it gave me an excuse to relax and read books -not that I need a special excuse to do that!

I've a doctor's appointment at the end of the week. Since I'm hanging around the North Country for a while, I might as well get some minor annoying things attended to. I hate to go to the doctor's. It's never been my favorite thing. Lacking any kind of insurance I wince at the expense. However, if taking care of small issues now saves me major problems later, it'll be worth it.

I'm what is known as a “bad” patient. I ask too many questions and make up my own mind about treatments. Sure, I'm stubborn, and it sometimes causes problems, but it's that stubbornness that's kept me alive. Mistakes by doctors is the third biggest killer of patients. If I avoid doctors, I avoid that high risk situation.

This a time for taking care of long delayed business. It's also a time to figure out what we want to do next. Nothing's off the table. My lovely wife and I even discussed the possibility of moving to Spain for a time. That just goes to show nothing is off the table when we brainstorm.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Three days of fasting

This is not medical advice!

By the time this posts at midnight, I'll have completed over three days of fasting. I've only had water and the occasional cup of black coffee. The fast will probably wrap up in 12 to 24 hours.

So why fast? There are supposed to be a number of health benefits. Most recently I'm checking to see if fasting helps heal bacterial infections. Don't get me wrong, I've got an appointment to see a Dr.. However, healing does seem to be somewhat accelerated. By the way, fasting is supposed to only be good for bacterial infections. To fight viral infections you need calories.

I do it from time to time as a way of resetting my body. Your mileage may vary. This is by no means medical advice. Some people should definitely not fast. However, in my own somewhat unscientific observation, it works for me.

So how do I feel? Pretty good overall. I've been walking around and doing things. I've chopped wood, ran errands, and generally went through my normal day. I would not want to run a marathon, but a brisk walk is very sustainable. For me it's actually easier to fast than to diet. A little food is worse than no food. I'm a lot less hungry during a fast. The key thing is to drink a lot of water. Whatever you do, don't fast without drinking. That's a quick trip to medical mayhem.

During day two of fasting I cooked a roast chicken dinner for the other people in my house. Day three my lovely wife and I had dinner at a restaurant. Actually, she had dinner. I had a cup of black coffee. How hard was it to be around food while fasting? A bit harder, I'll admit, but I was determined to live as nearly normal as possible -and do it with a smile on my face.

Because I have some experience with fasting, I know how well I can function without food. There's no need to panic. Of course, I'm a pretty fat guy so there's plenty of calories in the bank.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Survival Minimalism

Serious long distance backpackers have always been concerned about the weight of their pack. In recent years high tech materials have slashed the weight in everything from tents to the backpack itself. Some hardcore hikers even forgo the use of a stove and mess kit. They eat all their meals cold.

They've got nothing on our ancestors. After the last ice age, hunters traveled the land with a pretty minimal kit. More often than not, they would make the tools they needed instead of carrying them everywhere. Archaeological records show how they'd dress a mastodon after killing it. Using a couple of big rocks, they'd break one of the leg bones a special way. It would make a saw like tool that they could use to skin and cut up the rest of the beast.

Indigenous Americans used canoes to travel everywhere. They could build them really fast and well. Sometimes, instead of carrying a canoe between bodies of water, they'd just build a new one as needed. Natives knew the value of having skills over things. They could build everything from hunting and fishing gear to clothes and shelter -all from local materials.

These days there are people who can survive using the junk that washes up a beach. I've seen video of people building solar water distillation equipment from empty soda bottles. When we think of living off the land, we think of using natural resources like stone and wood. In our polluted world it's sometimes easier to use plastic and aluminum cans.

While I've practiced bush craft skills, I certainly would not turn my nose up at anything found that makes survival easier.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Pop up hurricane

It really struck me how fast hurricane Michael went from a tropical storm to a Cat 4 hurricane. According the Weather Underground, rapidly intensifying storms are becoming more common.

That has a huge bearing on hurricane preparation For example, it occurred to me that if I had a sailboat near Panama City, there would not have been time to move it. In fact there wouldn't have even been time to prepare a sailboat for rough conditions. Before a storm, the accepted practice is to remove the sails and as much stuff from the deck as possible. That includes things like biminis, solar panels, paddle boards, dinghys and anything else. Extra bumpers and lines are also deployed. Of course, none of that would have mattered when the whole marina gets rubbed out.

It's a major consideration for my future plans. I don't want to put money, time and effort into a boat only to lose it in a storm.

Currently we have only a partial picture of the situation in the Florida panhandle. Significant areas are communication dead zones. We won't really know how bad things are there for some time yet. I'm also betting that there will a significant number of hurricane related deaths that will go uncounted. We know that happens. Just look at Puerto Rico. I've sources that tell me it happened in southern Florida when hurricane Andrew hit. There were large migrant communities that just disappeared. These were mostly undocumented people living out in the boonies. Let's hope people got out of Michael's way in time.

If hurricanes are going to grow quicker than before, we'd better be prepared quicker than before.


Sunday, October 14, 2018


I ran into some folks I know who are heading out to Arizona soon. They used to winter in Florida, but last year's hurricane damage to the Keys inspired them to try someplace else. I guess they must have liked the southwest.

Personally, I've never been to Arizona. My lovely wife and I drove as far as New Mexico one winter, but that was far enough for me. The dry southwestern air was not good for my damaged lungs. Some folks benefit from dry air, but humidity actually helps my condition. Go figure.

It looks like Florida will be going through another long recovery. People soon forget about hurricanes once they are no longer in the news. Recent hurricanes caused massive damage that with have to be dealt with. There are parts of Florida in dire need right now. Relief vehicles are hampered by damaged and blocked roads.

Damage to highways are messing up transportation networks far beyond where the hurricanes hit. In some cases commercial trucking prices have risen by 50%. (according to NPR)

In the short term, New Hampshire is looking pretty good. It's going to be cold and there will be snow, but that's normal. The region knows how to deal with it. I'm relieved to have finished my emergency water line insulation project. That should hold me for the winter. There's firewood in the yard and heating oil in the tank.

My lovely wife and I may head down to somewhere in the southeast, perhaps by late winter or early spring. That is, if everything is in decent enough shape down there. It doesn't take long to throw our camping gear in the car and hit the road.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Snow predicted and my water supply

There's a chance for snow this morning. So what am I doing? Working on a water line.

I had some setbacks and delays while trying to fix the old line. Digging was difficult, rocks and tree roots. Then just to make it interesting the trench filled with water. I probably should have started the job earlier in the year, but it just didn't happen. Frankly, the job grew bigger than what I estimated.

With time pressing, I had to come up with a plan B. It's impossible to get heavy equipment to the site as it's a steep wooded hill with unstable areas. Last year I buried a second water line, but not as deep as was really needed. It work until -30 Fahrenheit temperatures at the end of December. Then we closed up the house and went camping in Florida.

The shallow bury line will have do one more time. However, it's now covered with thick panels of high density foam insulation. All the panels are in place. Now I'm in the process of covering them up with dirt. Some helpers are showing up to help so the job shouldn't take too long. The extra insulation should keep the water flowing.

My lovely wife and I were talking about our water options. Back in the 70s there was a well next to the house. At the time there were about nine or ten people using that little well. It did not supply enough water during a particularly dry August. That's when we went with the bigger well further from the house. The little well was filled in. We are thinking about redigging it and putting it back into service. It would easily supply enough water for two or three people. We don't want to rely on just one well anymore. The location is such that it could be pumped with a shallow well pump or even a hand pump. That's an advantage.

The snow is not supposed to amount to much and probably won't last. It is a sign of things to come.


Friday, October 12, 2018

Wow the DOW!

I'm writing this blog post after the DOW has dropped 1300 points over two days. I waited an extra day to comment. Often the day after a big drop, stocks bounce right back. After two days, I'm beginning to wonder if this is a trend. Of course, by the time you read this, the stock market could have risen to new highs.

That's the problem with looking for trigger events. If every time you headed for the hills when the DOW took a tumble, you'd have taken a lot of unscheduled emergency trips for nothing. After a few days you'd have to come back and see if you still had a job. You might get away with that once or twice, but sooner or later you'd be out of work. While the world's financial market didn't collapse, your personal finances soon would.

Then again, what if the market keeps heading down? In spite of all the governmental manipulation, the economy has downturns. Sometimes they aren't too bad. Other times they are catastrophic. Recessions and depressions are pretty much baked into the cake. Nothing goes up forever.

If you are student of History, you've probably studied the Great Depression of the 30s. Most people think it was one horrible day in the markets then everything collapsed. It was actually a lot more complicated than that. There were ups and downs. At times, it looked like the economy was going to recover soon. Only over a period of months did it really sink in that a full blown depression was going on.

Our next depression may be like that. We could ease into a depression with a series of up and down moments of the economy. Months might go by before we admit to the reality of a depression. During the 30s, newspapers never used the word “depression.” Depressing economic news didn't sell papers.

Of course, this isn't the 30s. We live in a digital age where everything is connected and fast. Negative economic shocks could case a feedback loop that quickly locks up the whole system. We just don't know.

The only sure way to be “up in the hills” when an economic collapse happens is to live in them before bad things happen.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Another Hurricane

Hurricane Michael came ashore at somewhere around a Cat 5. It might have been just under, but close enough that it really doesn't matter. The weather folks are saying it's the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the US.

Last spring I drove across the Florida panhandle, but we didn't go down to the coast. We did spend some time there years ago. Maybe something like 12 years ago? At any rate, I remember seeing a lot of beach condos going up. Knowing something about construction, I was appalled at the shoddy workmanship. My guess is that those buildings must have suffered serious damage -if they are still there at all.

A couple weeks ago my lovely wife floated the idea of maybe heading down to that area this winter. I don't think it's going to be a good idea. Although it's too early to assess the coastal damage, it has to be bad. Waffle house was closing restaurants, and they almost never do that. The government actually has a “Waffle House Index” to judge how bad storm damage is.

It's way to early t0o inspect the damage. In fact, as this posts, there's still plenty of life in the storm. It's heading in GA. Not only will it still be strong, it's hitting areas that have not had to deal with hurricanes before. My guess is, that at the very least, there's going to be extensive downed trees and power outages.

This storm popped up quickly and intensified faster that most people were expecting. We are used to seeing a storm churn across the southern Atlantic. That gives time to prepare. Hurricanes that pop up in the Gulf historically don't get this strong. Being prepped is not all that big a deal if all you get is a tropical storm. Those who bugged out had to make their decision quickly and act on it nearly immediately. I'm really concerned for all those who've had to bug in because they ran out of options before they even realized it.

I hope people stay safe. This is a bad one. There's also plenty of hurricane season left too.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Playing Tourist

The weather warmed up into the 80s Tuesday -amazingly warm for October in New Hampshire. I decided we needed a break day. There's a new coffee shop a couple towns away that has some amazing food. After a nice lunch we went for a drive to check out the changing leaves. People come from all over to see the colors. I don't take the beauty of our area for granted.

We stopped at this park to take in the view and to walk the dog. There was a photographer with an elaborate camera set up right next to me. He came all the way from Virginia. My old cheap phone camera did not this area justice.

My lovely wife and I walked down to the river. We ran into a couple goose hunters. Once was working the flock from his kayak. The other was hidden in the bushes, hoping the flock would fly overhead.

As we turned to walk back to the car, the flock took off and headed down river. They got a few shots off and bagged at least one goose. There had to be well over a 100 of them on the river.

The projects took a back seat to our own New Hampshire appreciation day.


Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Tribal Days

The best part of being home is having friends and family nearby -my tribe, if you will. Over the weekend we spent a couple of nights hanging around campfires. It's an activity that humans have been doing for thousands of years. No wonder it feels so good.

I'm a funny mix of extrovert and introvert. Being alone doesn't bother me at all. There are times I crave and need it. On the flip side, it's great to be with people sometimes. The key for me is finding that balance.

I'm a pretty independent person and hate to bother people. However, it's been pointed out to me that really should ask for help more. That's exactly what I've decided to do. Monday I actually had help with my water line project. We moved a lot of dirt, rock, and tree roots. Progress is being made.

Just as important, I'm getting some other ideas on how to approach certain problems. It's a relief to have the help. The clock is running and winter is coming. With the progress I we made on Monday I'm feeling a bit better about getting things sorted out in time.


Monday, October 8, 2018

Eyes Open

I've been pretty concerned about the news lately. There's plenty of things out there to worry about. However, we should be concerned about the stuff that hardly anybody's talking about. One small example: has anyone heard about the US being behind a potential invasion of Venezuela? That might be just the thing to divert attention from the mid-term elections. At some level, everything is politics.

Then you've got to ask yourselves if there's serious things world governments are hiding from their populations. Leaders have plenty of incentive to hide massive problems. It's the only way to keep things running on an even keel. If Joe Sixpack knew something serious was about to happen, he'd worry about taking care of his family. That might mean he wouldn't see the point of going to work to make his corporate masters happy. There's incentive to keep the economy running smoothly as long as possible.

Do the elite see things coming down the pike? Look at the number of the truly rich who are doubling down on their personal safety. It goes from elaborate safe rooms to compounds with full security. Heck, when I see the richest people in the world building their own space programs, it gives me pause. Sure, every multi-billionaire needs a hobby, but setting up a colony on the Moon or Mars is something else. Looks like the ultimate bug out location.

A number of disturbing things have come to my attention, but I don't have enough facts to make them public. In fact, my information could be totally false. However, what does your gut tell you? Am I the only one who has an uneasy feeling about the future?

Normally this blog tends towards practical nuts and bolts sort of things. Due to my personal unease I've decided to voice my feelings and suspicions.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Low Budget Adventures

Going on low budget adventures is pretty much what I do. My lovely wife and I are on fixed incomes so we really need to stretch a buck sometimes. One of the big issues is mechanical failure. Doesn't matter if it's a land vesicle or watercraft. A major breakdown can suddenly change plans.

You may have received a good deal on an adventure vehicle. That doesn't mean you are home free. When your budget is tight, something like a blown transmission can be a real game stopper. I've rebuilt engines, changed clutches and torque converters. It's bad enough if such repairs have to be done at home. On the road, options are limited and sometimes one just has to hire professionals. None of those folks work for free.

Last year our van needed major brake work done. Estimates on what it would cost were all over the place. In the end, while it was expensive, it wasn't disaster expensive. Before we head out we have our vehicles checked out by professionals. However, after months of travel, anything can go wrong.

Having savings for emergencies is nice. We had enough in our emergency fund to cover last year's brake repairs. Sometimes it isn't enough. That's why I carry at least one credit card with a sizable limit. That gives us some emergency funds to get home. Ideally, it's worth fixing the vehicle and taking it home with us. In a pinch, it gives us other options.

Last winter my lovely wife asked me what we'd do if the repair was more expensive than the vehicle was worth. No problem, I said, we'd rent a car, pile our gear in it, and drive home. I'm not above abandoning a vehicle if necessary. Getting home again is the main thing.


Friday, October 5, 2018

All the places, all the things

Recently I've been saying that I can't be at all the places doing all the things. That's a recondition that one has to pick and chose. Anyone who's been faced with a weekend full of various activities in different places knows what that's like.

Of course, I'm not just thinking about a single weekend but life in general. Looking back on my life there are times when I wish I'd done more traveling, especially International traveling. Then again, there are experiences and skills I'd never had learned had I not stayed here in northern New England.

More importantly, marriage and children came early in my life. That changes everything. Those relationships need a person's time and energy. When a lot of my friends were having a good time, I had responsibilities. On the other hand, when they were dealing with younger children, mine were grown and independent. Life has trade offs.

So where is this going? What do I have planned next? I'm really not sure, but there are options. There are always options. Life never became automatic for me. Even when I did the same thing day after day, I'd always wake up and decide that's what I'd do. Once in a while there were times in my life when I'd wake up and decide to move onto something else.

Recently I was reading someone's post in a forum. He was going on and on about how burned out he was. The guy sounded like a world weary 80 years old. At the end he revealed he was at the ripe old age of 50. As a 60 year old, I was surprised and a little disturbed. A closer reading of his post indicated he'd been working so long on a goal that by the time he got close to it, he was no longer all that interested. Sounds to me like he needs to step back and reconsider things.

Right now I'm working my way through my list of things that must get done in the near future. After that, possibilities open up.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Getting back in condition

I was looking forward to getting back in condition this fall during my sailing trip. With that canceled, there's a need for enjoyable ways to exercise. Walking and hiking works for me. The problem is that I don't really have any comfortable hiking shoes.

It's hard for me to find comfortable shoes. My feet are a little messed up. The middle toe on my left foot was badly broken once and never healed properly. Right now the big toe on my right foot is giving me a hard time. It doesn't help that I take somewhere around a 14 or 15 sized shoe in a wide. Not a lot of people carry larger sized footwear

It's not that hard to order sandals that fit. Their sizing is more forgiving. That's great in the summer or winters in Florida. Sandals are not a good choice for winter in New Hampshire. The only thing to do is to order on-line. This time around I'm trying something from L. L. Bean. In the past they've had good footwear for me. Their boots are excellent, but prices can be a bit much. Since I'm going to be spending at least part of the cold weather up north, it's worth getting something decent to walk in.

During the afternoon I had a nice three hour hike with a friend. Due to my footwear being less than ideal, I was limping at the end. That's when I decided it's going to be worth it to spring for quality. Not long after getting home, a new pair was on order.


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Long term Vs short term camping

My lovely wife and I just came back from a weekend of camping. That was a fun thing to do for a few days. We also have gone camping for months at at time. So how does packing for long term differ from short term packing?

Not as much as you'd think. Start off by packing as if you'd been gone for a week or so. Make sure you have enough clothes for that amount of time. Have enough cleaning supplies to be able do laundry and dishes. Pack about a week's worth of food.

When you start running low on clean clothes, go to a laundromat. When your food starts to get low, go shopping. It's not that hard. Repeat as needed.

The thing is, most of us aren't going on a remote expedition. Even if you are camping in the middle of a National Forest, there's usually at least a small town nearby where the basics are available. In fact, a lot of camping areas have camp stores that carry some essential items. The selection may be poor and prices higher, but if it saves you a trip into town to buy something like bug spray, it's worth it.

Long term expedition camping is something else entirely. Packing for such trips require a lot more planning. Every ounce and inch of storage matters. Those trips are special cases. Even long range hikers like those on the Appalachian Trail don't pack that way. These days hikers pack light and plan on regular town stops.

Things are easier now than we first started camping. This past trip my lovely wife discovered she hadn't bought enough reading materials. We like to read in bed before going to sleep. No problem, she just downloaded a book onto the smart phone. I had dozens of books on my Kindle reader, so I was already set.

Of course, there's a lot more to long term camping than the actual camping. It takes some planning to make sure things are set back home before leaving. Then there's the normal “paperwork” of modern life: bills, banking, and business communication. Fortunately, all that stuff can either be simplified and/or dealt with using an Internet connection. That's a whole different blog post.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

Weekend camping trip to RI

My lovely wife and I just got back from a weekend trip to Rhode Island. We got together with family and went to some events.

Rather than rent a hotel room, we decided to stay at a campground. The campground was a lot cheaper than the area hotels. Not only that, had we stayed at a hotel, we'd have eaten most of our meals in restaurants. Instead we cooked in the great outdoors.

This was the first time we camped with our new tent. It's a L. L. Bean Big Pine 6. Normally we'd set up a new tent at home first. That way there's no pressure to get it set up before dark. That's also the time to find out if anything is broken or missing. Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to do that ahead of time.

The Big Pine 6 has set up directions sewn into the tent's carry bag. Those were a big help. I decided to refer to them after making a false start right off the bat with the wrong pole. After putting my ego in check, it set up easily.

My lovely wife and I have been tenting for decades. We've owned many tents. I like this one a lot. It's good sized and has an attached vestibule large enough for a couple chairs and a small table. That's nice when the weather is bad. Everything is well made. The tent can be closed up tight for blustery rain storms or opened up for good ventilation on hot days. This is our first tent that has a full sized back door -a nice feature.

If I've got a complaint it would the tent pegs. It comes with those ubiquitous yellow plastic pegs. The pegs are fine for soft soil or sand. Most campgrounds have fairly hard packed soil and plastic pegs are rarely up to the job. With that in mind, we also brought a bag of metal pegs and they were needed for the compacted gravel of our site.

This is not a paid review as we bought the tent. It was on sale for half price, but was still a hefty $275. Of course, quality only hurts once. After using the tent, I'd have paid full price for it if I had to.

Our first night with the tent was on Friday. Saturday morning I woke up after an excellent night's sleep -better than I'd been sleeping in my own bed at home. In fact, I was happy to wake up in a tent.

We tried another Mountain House freeze dried meal. I picked up a half dozen breakfast packages. The label said it was hash browns, eggs, sausage, green peppers and onions. Yep, all that stuff was in there, but it was like a good breakfast was all thrown into a blender. It suffers from the transformation. The food wasn't bad, but it wasn't excellent either. Had I hiked twenty miles the day before and been on a mountain somewhere, it would have been great. However, for car camping I should have just picked up some real eggs.

All in all, it was a good trip and the camping part went well.


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Bug Out Locations

It seems everyone wants to be told where the perfect bug out location is. Short answer: there isn't one.

A friend of mine was thinking that maybe remote parts of Alaska would be a good place to be. I'm thinking, maybe not. Few people in Alaska really live self-reliant lives out there. Yes, there are exceptions, but the majority of people don't live out in the bush. Even those that do rely on getting periodic supplies. Even the natives can't live like they used to anymore. Too much has changed. Personally, I'd be pretty bummed by the months of darkness.

Areas of the US Northwest attract a fair number of survivalist types. That's all well and good, until Yellowstone erupts. To be fair, most of the world would feel the effects if Yellowstone blew.

Remote islands? How about hurricanes? Not only that, most islanders today get steady supplies from the outside. They don't live on just fish and coconuts. Many islands have populations too large to be supported by local food supplies.

The point is that every location has its downsides. One has to choose which risks they are willing to live with.

Most of the world is tied together. Some people dream of living on an independent homestead. You can't be totally self-contained without living like a stone age barbarian. Even if you could supply all your needs at your homestead, outside income would still be needed. The government expects people to pay their taxes.

For many people the best location is in a smaller safe city with a good hospital. They are much more likely to need services from a hospital, police or fire department, than a hiding place from zombies.

As for myself, I live in a low population rural area. My house has off-grid solar, my own well and septic. There are cultivated and wild foods all around me. However, there's a pretty decent hospital 20 minutes away. My set up is much is pretty good for short and even medium term emergencies. In a long term crisis, we'd all be scrambling to survive.

While I don't think there are any perfect bug out locations, there certainly some places you don't want to live. Large cities with high crime rates and crumbling infrastructure come to mind. They aren't fit to live in now, so now is the time to find someplace better.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Gear Test and Future Plans?

My lovely wife and I will be going camping for a couple of nights soon. We will be going to events in another state. It's a good chance to check out the new tent. The “cheaper” hotels in the area are $140/night. The $25/night campground fees are easier to take. We'll also save a few bucks by cooking some meals at the campground rather than eating out.

In the next few weeks I plan on doing some house reorganization. The camping gear is going to be kept in a special place near the front door. Now it's up on the third floor. It will be easier to hit the road in a hurry when everything is more organized and doesn't have to hauled downstairs.

There's the possibility of come camping down south this winter. Outside of that our plans are fairly open. We are kicking around some different options for other adventures. Money and responsibilities will have some bearing on those plans.

I'm kicking around some other trip ideas for the future. Motorcycle adventures could be fun, but are tedious if the weather is bad. I even looked into doing a trip all on back roads with a scooter instead of a full sized motorcycle. It would be a slower trip, but cheaper and more laid back.

Every now and then I'm tempted to go on an extended canoe trip. The beauty of a canoe is that, unlike most forms of transportation, there's very little to go wrong. There's something to be said for a vehicle with no moving parts. That would be more of a summer trip for me. There's access to a 700 mile canoe trail two tenths of a mile from my house. While I've canoed in southern waters, camping in those wetlands doesn't excite me. Too many bitey critters.

Until I sell my van, I'm not really in the market for its replacement. One simple problem is that there would be no place to park it. Repairs, fuel, registration, and insurance are all expenses that have to be factored in. Taking care of just one vehicle for a while frees up some funds for fun.

Of course, we are always looking a various sailboat options. The more I look at the shape of this country, the more I'm tempted to get a sailboat capable of crossing oceans.


Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Digging It

I finally got started on digging up my broken water line. It's been easy to put the job off. There have been plenty of other project to focus my attention on. The temporary line has been working well. I guess one of things I was avoiding was how badly I'm out of shape for this kind of work. Oh well. The best way to get into shape for doing something is to do that thing.

Progress was made. There was a lot of brush and a large fallen birch that needed to be moved. Digging down I found the buried power supply cable. That was laid in the same trench as the water pipe, but a few feet about it. That let me know I was digging in the right place. The job came to a halt when a large rock appeared in the trench. The pry bar needed to move it had been left back at the house. That was enough reason for me to call it a day. I'd made a good start, but was pretty tuckered out.

Between digging up the water line and splitting firewood, I'm getting plenty of much needed exercise. I was looking forward to getting exercise on my boat trip. Sailing my boat, paddling the kayak into shore, and walking around for supplies gets me in condition. Digging ditches, while good exercise, isn't as fun. The views aren't as stunning either.

Oh well. At least I'm getting back into condition, even if it's a lot less fun.


Monday, September 24, 2018

The Wood Pile

One thing about canceling my trip for next month. It gives me a little more time to do house projects.

I was going to borrow a woodsplitter to make sure firewood would be ready for my lovely wife. Most of it was sawn some time ago, is dry, but hasn't been split. Now that I'm going to be here for the fall I've decided to split the wood by hand.

Sure, using a woodsplitter would have knocked off the job in a day. However, it's noisy, burns gas, and I've problems with the fumes. The ax is a lot slower, but now I've got time. I'm not trying to split it all in a day. Splitting a few pieces at a time works fine.

There's a certain pleasure in splitting wood by hand -as long as you aren't in a hurry. Over the years one learns how to size up a log. With experience a person learns the best way to split a piece of wood. It might take just one good blow down the middle with an ax. A twisted knotty piece of wood might require wedges, finesse, and brute force. Each log is a small puzzle to solve.

The exercise is doing me some good. The first few times, muscles I'd forgotten about had a few complaints. Good thing I wasn't trying to split wood all day. Sometimes it's a matter of building up to it.

The days have still been nice, but there are frost warnings at night. It's good to have the woodstove going again.


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Adventure Travel

People with a touch of the nomad in their hearts often decided to take some sort of live aboard vehicle and travel. It could be anything from something as small as a car to as large as a huge RV with all the slide outs.

When they get sick of that, a number of RV people have switched to boats. Their choices range from trawlers to catamarans with all the toys. Now I'm seeing people who've started out on boats that have decided to go the other way. It makes sense for people who want to experience different things. You can't take an RV to the Bahamas, nor can you sail to the Grand Canyon.

My lovely wife and I have lived on boats and vehicles. We've also done it on a limited budget. Our plans for the coming winter were going to involve a mixture of both. Once I had sailed our little boat to Florida, we would have spent the winter sailing and camping. With the cancellation of my fall sailing trip that plan is shot. With the loss of our tow vehicle, the logistics get more complicated.

In a pinch, we could load up the car and go tent camping for months with just a couple hours preparation. We've actually left for camping in 20 minutes once, so allowing a couple hours is generous. All that bug out prep pays off.

On the other hand, we could keep an eye out for a cheap boat down south and go sailing. The problem with that is cheap boats need work. You don't want to drown, after all. I'd rather have my little boat that's in good condition than take chances with unknown problems. We have a limited budget and a fixed income. That's always a factor. We've also been in the process of reducing debt, so that leaves even less money for travel. For now, we are keeping the car tenting option ready.

I'm always on the lookout for other traveling options, especially ones that don't take a lot of money. Some don't interest as much as they once did. Hiking the Appalachian Trail would have made more sense when I was fit and 20. As a fat 60 year old, it's not such a fine idea. Also, my lovely wife is even less likely to do it.

I don't have the money to fly around the world on a private plane. Those who do have the money tend to be more interested in making more money rather than going on extended adventures. Traveling by motorcycle could be an option, but the comfort level can be pretty low. I followed one couple who decided to tour Europe with a Ural motorcycle with a sidecar. They ended up cutting their trip short and then working as crew on a sailboat to get back to the US.

At any rate, I'm kicking ideas around. Who knows what I'll come up with? Suggestions?


Thursday, September 20, 2018

Prepper Solar

Solar electric is doing very well in northern New Hampshire. While we aren't the sunniest place, there are factors that are good for solar. It's pretty easy to tie solar into the New Hampshire grid. The political and economic conditions more than make up for the less than ideal sun exposure. Imagine what places like Florida could do if the powers that be were not actively working against it.

I've been talking to a lot of people who have put in significant solar arrays. They are doing so well that they are changing over all their appliances over to electric. One guy even got rid of his woodstove and put in an electric heat pump. They are saving a lot of money.

They have also put all their eggs in one basket. None of these people have battery backup. In fact, due their increased electrical usage, it would be cost prohibitive to buy enough batteries to run their houses. In a grid down situation their solar electric system is useless. The solar panels are automatically disconnected so as not to backfeed the grid. That's to protect line workers.

My solar electric system was put in when solar was expensive. With that in mind, I concentrated on energy efficency. The cheapest watt is the one you don't have to generate. Another thing I did was to have things like a woodstove that did not use electricity at all. Back then, it was expensive to tie into the grid. Not only that, they paid a much lower rate than retail prices. It made sense to have just enough solar for my minimal needs and to store it in batteries.

Of course, one of the main reasons I put in solar electricity was to make sure I had power when the grid went down. My power system might be of modest size, but it keep chugging along when everything else has failed.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Trip Canceled

After investing a lot of time, money and effort on my sailing trip, I've decided I have to cancel it. The straw that broke the camel's back is the storm damage in the Carolinas.

Reports coming in from the Atlantic Intra Coastal Waterway are mixed. Some marinas were destroyed. Others survived the storm surge in good shape. I'm told the waterway is passable. Even so, many larger boats plan to sail outside in the open Atlantic to avoid problems.

While I could probably get my boat through the waterway, it would not be the trip I planned. A lot of the attraction of doing such a trip would have been all the interesting stops along the way. I have doubts about many of the places being ready for tourists. My experience in the Keys last winter revealed that a lot of businesses were out of order. In fact, there are places that still have not recovered.

When I let slip that I might be sticking around there was a lot of encouragement to do so. People have been good about supporting me, but really like the idea of my being around this fall. Since my travels are all self funded, it's totally my own decision. There will be other adventures. I'm thinking of maybe doing the same trip in the spring, but reversed, from the south to the north.

One final consideration: the hurricane season is far from over.


Monday, September 17, 2018

Propane Service

When I first went to a solar electric system I also went pretty heavily into propane. I had a propane refrigerator, tankless water heater, stove and clothes dryer. The idea was to be able to run off grid for months if necessary. Solar was expensive back then so it made sense to run as much stuff on something else as possible.

That was over 20 years ago. My lovely wife and I had three young children in the house. We wanted to be able to take care of them in grid down situations.

Life moves on. The children grew up and moved out on their own. One by one the propane appliances failed. The budget, as is often the case, was pretty tight. Propane appliances are usually more expensive than their electric counterparts. The tankless water heater was replaced by a grid tied electric tank for about a third the price. However, it was also adapted to get a boost from a hot water coil connected to the woodstove.

The propane refrigerator was also replaced with a much cheaper electric fridge. I experimented on it and added a huge copper water pipe coil. Every drop of water used in my house first goes through that copper coil. My well water is ice cold all year long. In fact, I shut the electricity off to the fridge and was able to keep food cold for a month without any problems. Of course, the freezer didn't work, so I eventually plugged it back in. However, the cold water coil reduces the power usage quite a bit.

My propane stove was replaced with a woodstove. In the summer that's supplemented with grills and a two burner electric hot plate. I also have a large toaster oven that I do some baking in. During cooler months though, the woodstove is great.

The propane dryer is still in operation. Sure, I've got both inside and outside clotheslines, but sometimes it's nice to use the dryer. It made no sense to maintain a 500 pound propane tank and a contract with a delivery company. Now I use 20 pound tanks like you've use on a grill. I can get them filled at the country store two miles away.

My systems evolved over time. Often I've had to use creativity because of a limited budget. That's not a bad thing. It made for a more interesting journey.


Friday, September 14, 2018

Leaving it all behind

There's an old Chinese proverb that goes something like this: in a long life a man should be prepared to leave all their possessions behind and flee at least twice. It was written during a turbulent time in Chinese history. War lords fought for territory and often the only wise thing to do was to flee.

Of course, that comes to mind due to the evacuations caused by hurricane Florence. At least people had time to plan their escape. Yesterday in Massachusetts problems with natural gas lines caused multiple explosions and fires. People had to evacuate immediately.

You don't need a major disaster to lose all your property. Something as simple as unemployment or divorce can cause a person to lose all their stuff.

The thing to keep in mind is that it's just stuff. Yes, it's painful to lose everything you've worked hard for. It hurts to lose personal items and mementos. Still, better to lose stuff than your life. Too often people have refused to evacuate or even gone back into burning buildings for material things. When I was a firefighter I once had to have police haul someone away to keep them out of their burning house.

When you have to abandon everything, it's good to have solid relationships: friends and family you can count on. It's also good to have skills. The knowledge in your head is extremely portable. When pursuing material things, never neglect relationships and skills.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Trip in Jeopardy

Hurricane Florence has put my fall sailing trip at risk. Right now I'm thinking it's a 90% chance it won't happen. Much depends on exactly where and how the hurricane hits.

I'm not going on a sailing vacation in disaster areas. If the towns along the ICW are still struggling with repairs and supplies, they won't need me there adding to the burden. If the waterways are choked with debris, marinas closed, and lift bridges out of order, I'm staying home.

However, if the damage is limited, I could manage. Even the occasional out of order bridge is not a deal breaker. In a pinch I could drop my mast and motor through them. It's possible that the worse part of the storm could be over sparsely inhabited marshlands. There's not much there to damage. I could easily poke my way through a 50 mile stretch of sketchy conditions. What I don't want to do is struggle with hundreds of miles of devastation.

Larger boats with crew have the option of heading out to sea and skipping sections of the ICW. On sailing forums the common recommendation is to sit out the storm up north. Once the storm danger is past the advice is to sail in the open ocean outside of the waterway. That's not a good option for a single handed 19 foot boat.

As I write this the storm path is still not nailed down. The reality of the situation is that I'll probably not know for sure what's what until sometime next week.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Summer of our Discount Tent

My lovely wife and I just bought a new tent for half price at an L. L. Bean outlet. It still cost $275. Lesson one: don't skimp on your tent. It's your home away from home. Big box stores sell tents that leak. That's no bargain. Better materials, good design, no-see-um screens, and heavier construction are worth it.

It's a pretty good sized tent. The floor size is about 9.5 X 9.5 feet. The roof height is tall enough that I can stand up. That's important when trying to get dressed. When figuring out how big a tent your need, take the recommended occupancy and cut it in half. For example, a two person tent only really fits one person. Our six person tent is large enough for us, the dog, and some luggage.

Another thing we like in a tent is an attached screened in area. It's really nice to have a place to set up a couple of chairs on a dreary day. That really helps with the cabin fever if it rains for days on end.

Quite a few people can't get over the fact that my lovely wife enjoys tenting. Part of that is the fact that I've never made her sleep in crappy tents. A good tent is an important element of a good camping trip. If you wake up warm, dry and rested, camping looks pretty good.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Sad Anniversary

On this day I mourn the loss of my brother firefighters in the September 11 attacks. As a former firefighter, it hit me really hard when the towers came down. I know what it's like to go into a building that everyone else is trying to get out of.

I mourn all the others who lost their lives in the attack.

Finally, I mourn for the United States of America. We are not the same country we were before the attacks. We lost our innocence and much of our freedoms in the name of security.

Rest in peace.


Monday, September 10, 2018

Strange and Sad Coincidence

The dog woke me up at an uncivilized hour so she could go inspect the property lines in the dark. Once up, I could not get back to sleep. To pass the time I finished reading Lee Hughes' "The Biggest Boat I could Afford."

I got to the section where he was sailing into Titusville Florida with the hope of seeing a returning space shuttle. Unfortunately, that was the Columbia that broke up upon reentry, causing the loss of life of all on board. Titusville is on Florida's Space Coast and is definitely a space town. While the loss of the space shuttle was a national disaster, on the Space Coast it was a local disaster too. Most of the residents have some connection to the space industry.

As luck would have it, at the same time Lee Huges was sailing into Titusville, I was driving into town. My lovely wife and I happened to be traveling the country in an old Mercedes diesel sedan converted to run on waste vegetable oil. On the fateful day, Mr. Huges and I were probably no more than a mile apart.

The book brought back memories of that sad day. It was a strange coincidence that we were both there at the same time.


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Stormwatch 2018

Well, so much for long range forecasts. Some of the long range weather forecasts looked pretty promising for a mild hurricane season. Wind shear and dry air over the Atlantic indicated it would put a damper on storms. There are a bunch of storms churning around in the Atlantic right now that say those factors aren't enough.

Why should I care, living in the mountains of New Hampshire? How about Brotherhood of Man and all that? Besides my general empathy, hurricanes could definitely affect my travel plans. Last year Irene messed up my sailing grounds enough that I left the boat home. If the US Atlantic coasts gets a pounding this year, it will make me reconsider my sailboat trip down the coast. It's no fun to sail in debris filled waters with coastal services like marinas all shut down. It might have been interesting back when I was 19 and immortal. At 60, I'd rather not.

Hurricane Florence is sending boaters scrambling from New England to Florida. Many up north are delaying their trip south. There are others further down the coast scrambling for hurricane holes. Current wisdom indicates that Savanna Georgia might be a good place to sit this one out -if you can find room in a marina.

There are pretty good odds that this storm will stay off-shore, but right now it's too early to tell for sure. Even off-shore storms create conditions bad enough to cause serious problems. Behind Florence are a number of storms waiting their turn.

My departure date puts me on the water around the 19th or 20th of October. While that's not the height of the hurricane season, it's still a moderately risky time. So I'm going to pay attention for the next month or so and take my best guess on what to do. I don't need a zero risk situation. If you tried to eliminate all risk, you'd never do anything.


Saturday, September 8, 2018

Water Time

Friday started out cool but warmed up nicely by the afternoon. My lovely wife and I went down to the lake to work on the boat. I did a few little projects, put another cleat on and mounted a depth gauge transducer. Mostly though, we took advantage of the nice day and did some sailing.

My lovely wife spent more time on the tiller than I did. If you want your spouse to enjoy boating, let them do the driving. Then it's not your hobby alone, but something you both enjoy. Not only that, if I fall overboard, she knows how to turn the boat around and come get me.

It was a beautiful afternoon. Most of the time it was just us and four loons on the lake. Those birds are pretty comfortable around the sailboat and come right up to it. Later in the afternoon a pontoon boat came out for a bit and then a kayaker joined us. It's pretty quiet with the kids back in school.

FedEx delivered a 50 watt flexible solar panel. It's more efficient and smaller than my older 50 watt panel. I think I can find a good place for it on the cabin roof. I'll have 130 watts of solar when I'm done with the upgrades. It doesn't sound like a lot, but my needs are few.

I'm still trying to sell the van. There's been some interest, but no one has shown up with cash in hand yet. It would be nice to sell it before I head south. That would help the travel kitty.

There are a lot of people with YouTube and Patreon accounts funding their travels. I'm not going to do that. I don't mind that they do, but it's not for me. If I can't figure out a way to pay for my fun trips, I don't deserve to go. Of course, I'm also willing to go on a tiny boat with minimal comforts. That's part of the fun of it.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Blip in the Grid

There was a blip in the grid Wednesday night. It went down for about 5 minutes or so. That doesn't sound too bad. However, it caused the Berlin NH biomass plant to shut down. Locals tell me that all they could hear in town was the boilers blowing off steam. Last I heard they were still trying to get the plant back up and on-line.

Most of my house was running on my solar electric system at the time. We only noticed there was something wrong when the Internet went down. So for me there are two messages. The grid is pretty fragile when even a short outage can cause big problems. The second thing is that it's good to have my own power system up and running again.

One of my blog readers, M. Silvius, recommended Lee Hughes' "The Biggest Boat I could Afford." I was able to find a good used copy of the book. It just came in the mail today. It's the story of his sailing journey up the U. S. coast in a 16 foot sailing dinghy. Can't wait to read it.

I ordered some sailboat stuff and it's starting to arrive. Today it was 150 feet of nylon anchor rode with a length of stainless steel anchor chain. I attached it to a good sized Danforth anchor in nearly new condition. That should make a good backup anchor.

I started to fill out paperwork to put insurance on my sailboat. There was little need for insurance when it was just on my little lake. However, I want insurance for my trip. I need to go down to the boat and get the hull number. That's the last bit of information needed for the insurance company. Most marinas say you need insurance if you want to stay. No one has ever asked to see my insurance papers, but why take the chance? Insurance is cheap enough. It saved me a $9400 salvage fee when my other boat was sunk.

So, things are moving along. Checking items off the list.


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Solutions and Problems

My furnace guy checked out my hot air furnace. I was concerned that it might have been due for replacement. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded. All it needed was a cleaning and tune up. That was cheap enough. Now all I have to do is to get the tank filled. I'd let is run down low in case the furnace was beyond repair.

Most of the time I heat the house with wood. It is good to have oil backup. If I get sick or injured the last thing I want to do is haul wood in to feed the stove. It's also handy having an automatic heat source in case we want to leave the house for a few days.

My lovely wife and I had a discussion about my fall sailing trip. There is a depressingly long list of things that could derail my plans. I'm working my way though those things that I have some control over. Getting the furnace fixed was one of those. Some things, like hurricanes, are out of my hands. There may be other things that require my attention at home. I'm not going to skip out on my duties. That may cause me to miss my time window.

I'm going to be scrambling for the next five weeks or so. Part of my time will be spent getting things sorted out with the household. The boat also needs some things done before a long trip. The pressure is on.


Wednesday, September 5, 2018

More Trip Prep

The dental hygienist wasn't too happy with me. She asked how long it had been since my last checkup. I thought it was two or three years. The records said I hadn't been there since 2008. Opps. Then I refused to get X-rays. She didn't like that either. I'm paying 100% out of pocket and I didn't want to pay for something I didn't think I needed. Near the end of the cleaning the dentist checked out my teeth. He didn't find anything wrong and thought they looked good. I must be doing something right. Hopefully, I won't have dental problems during my sailing trip.

My furnace guy is coming over to service and check out the heater. Normally I wouldn't worry too much about it. However, since I won't be around, I want it in good shape in case my lovely wife needs it. I want her to have the option of not loading wood into the wood stove.

I've ordered another solar electric panel and charge controller for the boat. My little boat will end up with three completely independent solar electric systems. The final decision was to go with three small systems rather than one big one. The boat already has a small solar power system. In a pinch, any one of the systems should be able to handle essential electrical needs.

The boat has a really good anchor set up, but I wanted to upgrade my backup. The rode (rope) and chain looked a bit worn. Since I'm counting on my anchor to keep everything safe, it's something not to skimp on. Always get a bigger anchoring system than recommended for your boat length. When unexpected gale force winds appear in the night, you'll feel better knowing your ground tackle did not come from the discount bin.

Things are coming together. The current plan is to leave New Hampshire on October 17th. My daughter is towing my boat down to Virginia with her truck. The plan is coming together.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Moving Forward

I'm still not fully recovered from whatever plague I caught. Still feeling pretty weak and the cough isn't completely gone.

On the bright side, I actually felt good enough to attempt a few projects. Recently I bought a new angle grinder. It's just the tool I needed to remove the old safety chains from my boat trailer. The new chain is about three times as heavy. It's also long enough to connect to my daughter's truck. The old ones were too short.

After that I hauled tools and materials down to the lake to work on the boat. One thing that bothered me for years was the small number of cleats. It only came with four, two on the bow and two on the stern. I bought four more. The plan was to put two more aft on the port and starboard sides, plus two more amidships. That should give me plenty of places for dock lines, anchor rode, bumpers, and anything else in need of attachment. Unfortunately, after installing only one of them, storm clouds rolled in. My lovely wife and I just made it inside just steps ahead of the thunder and lightning.

I won't be able to get back to it until Wednesday at the earliest. I've a dentist appointment. The plan is to get my teeth checked out before my trip in the fall. There's nothing like a toothache to ruin an adventure.

It's encouraging to be getting some things done, even if I'm still not up to full speed. Forward motion is forward motion.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Make Sure You go to Bars

My lovely wife is one of a kind. She has some advice for my solo sailing trip this fall. She wants me to make sure I go bars. Not just any bars, of course, but bars along the waterfront. Now most wives would not encourage their husbands to do that. My lovely wife is not like most women.

Her thinking is that sailors like to have a few drinks, especially after a long day on the water. By going to bars I'll have a chance to talk to others who spend time out on the water. They will have a pretty good idea on what the current conditions are like. If there are uncharted hazards in the waterway, they are going to know about them. Maybe they learned the hard way, but running aground on an unmarked shoal. After a few drinks they will want to talk about it. Bars can be a good source of that valuable commodity, local knowledge.

In my day to day life, I rarely go to bars. Maybe my lovely wife and I will occasionally meet up with friends in a bar. Rarely will I ever go to one alone. If by myself I'm more likely to go to a coffee shop. However, that's probably not where most boaters are going to be. Besides, most coffe shop people tend to stick to themselves. In bars, people have a few drinks and loosen up.

So I guess I'm going to have to budget more for beer. Hey, anything to make my lovely wife more comfortable about my trip.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Cheap Generators

There are some pretty inexpensive generators out there. Sometimes they can be purchased for under $200. You get what you pay for. Lower priced generators are disposable products. Often they are thrown together using whatever cheap parts can be found in China. Forget about servicing them. Parts are not available.

There are good small generators. For example, Honda makes pretty reliable units. They aren't cheap, but they will last longer and can be repaired.

If you have to use a lot of power, say 4000 watts and up, prices for reliable units are a major investment. You should look for those that run at lower rpm. Diesel or propane engines are more reliable than gasoline. It's not uncommon for good diesel generators for large RV or boat use to cost in the $8,000 to $16,000 range. Quality costs.

A $500 gas 4000 watt generator from China might do the same job -for tiny fraction of time.

Are the cheap generators ever worth it? That depends on what you want to do with them. I know contractors who buy cheap generators to do jobs in remote locations. They use them up and throw them away. The customer ends up paying for them. If you look at a cheap generator as a short term use item for a specific temporary need, it makes sense. Long term use? Not so much.

Generators are the reason why I like solar. Solar is more reliable, quiet and doesn't need fuel. However, even off-grid solar people will sometimes use generators. Solar might handle 99% of their needs, but they occasionally have to run equipment with high power needs, or have a long period without sun. A cheap generator might make sense for occasional use.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Piles of Charts

I'm still recovering from whatever it is that has laid me low. Respiratory infections knock me right off my feet. While recovery has been slow, it's been in the right direction. I'm hoping to feel good enough to get a few little projects around the house taken care of.

My lovely wife and I dug out our marine charts, guidebooks, map books, logged into Active Captain, and other resources. I am still sticking to the plan of leaving from Virginia in our little sailboat around the middle of October. I'll find a good place to leave the boat in Florida and fly home for Christmas. After the holidays we'll take the car south. Once down south we'll do a mix of sailing and tenting.

Sailboat travel is heavily dependent on the weather. It's said the most dangerous thing you can have while sailing is a schedule. So how do we figure out where we are going to be? How do we figure out where we'll be camping? Many campgrounds require reservations if you are going to have any hope of getting into them.

We plan to have reservations set up months in advance, but with the idea we'll cancel them if we have to. Sometimes there's a small fee, especially if the cancellation is too close to the reservation date. That can't be helped.

As a rule of thumb, the further south in Florida you go, the harder it is to find a campsite at the last minute. It's not impossible, as we've done it many times. However, you have to take what you can get at that point. Last winter we found times it just wasn't possible to get in at all. With that in mind, we plan on staying on the boat, especially when in the Florida Keys. I know of good places to anchor our small boat where larger boats can't get into.

It's easier to get a campsite in the Ocala National Forest, especially if you check in during the middle of the week. Weekends can get crowded. I've got some good ideas on where to leave the boat while we go tenting.

Do I worry about leaving the boat unattended? There are some concerns, but good preparation reduces the risk. The boat would be double anchored. The motor gets removed and locked inside a compartment. Nothing is left on deck. The cabin and compartments all have locks. Valuable items, like electronics, will come off the boat with me.

The boat will have liability insurance. While that won't help me if the boat is damaged, it will protect me from things like my boat breaking free and damaging someone's million dollar yacht.

All our sailing and camping information gives us options. We can pretty much make a go of it wherever we end up.

-SixbearsPiles of Charts

I'm still recovering from whatever it is that has laid me low. Respiratory infections knock me right off my feet. While recovery has been slow, it's been in the right direction. I'm hoping to feel good enough to get a few little projects around the house taken care of.

My lovely wife and I dug out our marine charts, guidebooks, map books, logged into Active Captain, and other resources. I am still sticking to the plan of leaving from Virginia in our little sailboat around the middle of October. I'll find a good place to leave the boat in Florida and fly home for Christmas. After the holidays we'll take the car south. Once down south we'll do a mix of sailing and tenting.

Sailboat travel is heavily dependent on the weather. It's said the most dangerous thing you can have while sailing is a schedule. So how do we figure out where we are going to be? How do we figure out where we'll be camping? Many campgrounds require reservations if you are going to have any hope of getting into them.

We plan to have reservations set up months in advance, but with the idea we'll cancel them if we have to. Sometimes there's a small fee, especially if the cancellation is too close to the reservation date. That can't be helped.

As a rule of thumb, the further south in Florida you go, the harder it is to find a campsite at the last minute. It's not impossible, as we've done it many times. However, you have to take what you can get at that point. Last winter we found times it just wasn't possible to get in at all. With that in mind, we plan on staying on the boat, especially when in the Florida Keys. I know of good places to anchor our small boat where larger boats can't get into.

It's easier to get a campsite in the Ocala National Forest, especially if you check in during the middle of the week. Weekends can get crowded. I've got some good ideas on where to leave the boat while we go tenting.

Do I worry about leaving the boat unattended? There are some concerns, but good preparation reduces the risk. The boat would be double anchored. The motor gets removed and locked inside a compartment. Nothing is left on deck. The cabin and compartments all have locks. Valuable items, like electronics, will come off the boat with me.

The boat will have liability insurance. While that won't help me if the boat is damaged, it will protect me from things like my boat breaking free and damaging someone's million dollar yacht.

All our sailing and camping information gives us options. We can pretty much make a go of it wherever we end up.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Sailing YouTube Channel Debate

I follow a lot of sailing YouTube channels. There is a lot of contention about them in the sailing community.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that people are complaining that YouTube beggars are trying to get people to fund their “sailing vacation fun time.”

My thinking is that if you feel that way, don't donate any money. However, that's not good enough for those people. They don't want anyone to donate money towards sailing channels.

I think there's a lot of value to most sailing channels. In fact, when my lovely wife and I were learning to sail, we watched a lot of “how to” videos. They helped a lot. There are some useful videos about buying a used boat, boat repair, and places to go sailing. Seems to me that if a video about your malfunctioning sailboat helps you fix it, sending a little money to the channel is a good way to say thank you.

There are a lot of videos featuring good looking people in exotic places. One of the biggest out there is S. V. Delos. Some people are jealous that they can live life as a “permanent vacation.” What a lot of people miss is that making videos is hard work. For every minute of video, there may be hours of editing work. Many channels have a huge investment in camera equipment, computers, and other audio and visual gear. The salt air environment is hard on electronics so constant replacement and upgrades are necessary.

On the flip side, there are a few channels that instead of edited videos do mostly live streaming. That's an easy way to generate a video as no time is spent editing. Some of these guys do not seem to be doing much more than begging for money. I suppose that's their right, but it doesn't mean you have to give them any.

Would I set up a YouTube channel? Heck no! That's too much work. If my lovely wife was interested in doing the bulk of the work, maybe. She, however, has no desire to do it. Frankly, at the end of a long day on the water, I'm lucky if I have the energy to make a short blog post.


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Project Process

When planning to do a project, I go through a process. There are three different ways I approach the problem. The first way is the normal way everyone else does it. While this is often a good way, it may not be the best for me. Invariably it's the most expensive. The second way is to develop a custom substitute that usually involves different materials used in a creative way. The third way can be summed up as: dang, I'm out and time and money and have to do something good enough now.

A most recent example is my quest to put more solar power on my sailboat. The normal method is use a stainless steel arch that fits on the stern of the boat. The materials are quality and allow the panel to be mounted in a position where it receives less shading. Commercial solutions that I've looked at start at around $800, and that's just the framework. Well, that's not going to happen.

That moves me to the second method. I've been wandering through hardware and building supply stores searching for inspiration from the materials they stock. One day a friend let me poke through his scrap pile. I've kicked around designs using everything from aluminum, wood and fiberglass to incorporating lengths of steel bed rail. My budget for that sort of contraption would be less than $100. Then I'd have to spend another $150 or so on a 100 watt solar panel and a cheap charge controller.

The quick and dirty solution? I steal the 50 watt solar panel from my shed, along with the charge controller and battery. The panel is small enough that I could mount it either on the cabin roof or on a lazertte box I once built to hold a 6 gallon gas tank. The whole thing would cost just about nothing -maybe I'd have to buy a few stainless steel fasteners.

Pros and cons of all methods: The professional mount would most likely do a pretty nice job. The con, of course, is the price tag. The obvious upside of the second method, my custom job, is the price. Another plus is that I'd build it for my specific boat. The downside is that it will be an untried design that may or may not hold up to the rigors of travel.

On the surface the third method kinda looks like a cheap hack job. First of all, I'd be using a 50 watt panel instead of the 100 watt I'd prefer. A cabin or lazerette mount is subject to more shading so power may be reduced even a bit more. There are some positives. The big ones are cost and ease of installation. Another big one is that I would not have a huge arch on the stern of the boat catching the wind. That can be an issue. At anchor I'd have the ability to move the panel around to where it'd catch the sun better.

The boat currently has a 30 watt panel and charging system that's been working great for a few years. No matter what I do, that will remain. My worry is that adding just 50 watts might not be quite enough. Then again, I do plan to occasionally stop at marinas and could charge the batteries from shore power. Decisions, decisions.

Anyway, that's the sort of thinking that goes into a lot of my projects. I'd do a lot less thinking if I had a lot more money.


Friday, August 24, 2018

Minor Setback

My lovely wife picked up a summer cold and over the worse of it in two days. I came down with it and it laid me out flat. Yeah, I'm not as tough as she is. I'll be lucky if I'm feeling close to normal in a week. When I catch a cold my damaged firefighter lungs remind me why I had to retire. It's just something I have to live with.

Convalescing in bed is about all I've been doing. That's pretty annoying with so many things I want to do. However, getting well is priority number one. One possibly useful thing I've been doing is reading books about the ICW, (Intra Coastal Waterway). That trip is still looking good.

The long range weather forecasts for the rest of hurricane season doesn't look too bad. Conditions in the Gulf of Mexico could produce some tropical storms or even hurricanes. However, they rarely have time to spin up into anything above a Cat 1 or 2. It's the storms that form off the coast of Africa and churn across the Atlantic that have time to build into monsters. Low air humidity and high wind sheer have greatly reduced the chance of that happening this season.

A good friend asked me what I would do in case of hurricane. If there was time it would be best to just have it pulled out of the water on a trailer. If that wasn't an option, I'd find the best protected spot I could locate, put out three anchors, and abandon the boat. If it's there when I get back, great. If not, it's just stuff. Never risk your life over property. Funny thing about hurricanes, you can have a totally secure boat, but then someone's boat lands right on top of it. You do your best and take your chances.

Well, I am making some progress. The last few days I've been feeling too ill to do anything, even to write a blog.


Monday, August 20, 2018

Back to Tent Camping

The ambulance/camper van is no longer in service. That doesn't mean we don't still enjoy camping. So what vehicle do we have left? It' a Nissan Versa Note, a small economy hatchback.

Before putting the van up for sale, I stripped out all the camping gear. Some of that has been repurposed for car camping. We set up the car for camping and tested it on the coast of Maine.

The Nissan has some really nice Thule racks. I built a wooden rack that sits on top of the load bars. The 105 watt solar panel is screwed to that wood rack. It's quick and easy to mount on and take off the car. It charges a type 27 Interstate deep discharge battery that's kept on the floor in the backseat. From that I have DC power to run my small compressor fridge, phones, fan, and C-pap. There's also a 400 watt inverter to power normal electrical devices like my laptop. This set up can stay right on the car, or easily moved to a sunnier spot if needed.

We also have a large tent, sleeping bags, self-inflating sleep pad, air mattress, folding chairs and all our cooking and cleaning gear. The dog came along with us, with all her stuff. We brought a 3.5 gallon water jug, swim toys, binoculars, books, clothes, and other odds and ends. Believe it or not, the car didn't even look overloaded. We were quite comfortable with that set up, even successfully weathered thunderstorms.

While our set up is pretty minimalistic, it provides plenty of comfort. I am amused by the fact that our car is smaller than most vehicles towed behind motorhomes. So what do we do if there is a long stretch of bad weather? We could always check into a nice hotel with the money we've saved by not having a huge motorhome.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Fall Plans

At the end of last summer Hurricane Irma hit. It changed a lot of lives and ended more than a few. In the big scheme of things the fact that it changed my winter plans was no big deal. However, it was a big deal for me. My lovely wife and I had planned on towing the Oday 19 sailboat down to Florida and doing a lot of sailing. With the destruction caused by the storm, we decided to forgo the sailing part of our adventure and went camping instead. The infrastructural along the water, everything from channel markers to marinas needed time to recover.

While we did not regret that decision, we missed sailing. Since then my lovely wife and I tossed around a lot of different sailing plans. One of the things we did was to look at a lot of boats. Mostly we shopped on-line, but we physically inspected a number of boats in a couple of states. Both trailerable and larger fixed keel boats were investigated. None quite satisfied our desires. Boat shopping has been put off until sometime next year at the earliest.

One of the things I've wanted to do for a while is to sail down the Atlantic ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway). My lovely wife is not that interested, but doesn't want me to miss out. I have no worries about doing the trip alone in our Oday 19.

Not only do I plan on taking that little sailboat, I plan on doing the trip without a gas motor. The 55lb thrust electric trolling motor provides enough for my needs. Currently the boat has one deep discharge battery and a 30 watt solar panel. Next month an additional battery and 100 watt panel will be added. Since I plan on doing a fair amount of sailing, I'm not worried.

A lot of people say it's impossible to sail the ICW. They told me the same thing about the part of the waterway on the west coast of Florida. Even though I had a 6 hp gas engine, we sailed over 90% of the time. In fact, with more attention to tides and weather, I could have sailed the whole thing. The little boat sails very well in light air. It doesn't bother me if the boat is only going 2 knots. That still puts me 20 nautical miles down the coast in 10 hours of sailing. If I have to, I could cover more than that on a calm day using just the electric motor. I've enough real world experience with the trolling motor to confirm those numbers.

The plan is for my daughter, using her pickup truck, to drop me and the boat off in Virginia at the official start of the ICW. That would probably be sometime in the middle of October. After a couple months I should be somewhere in South Florida. Before Christmas I'll either fly or take a bus home.

After the holiday my lovely wife and I throw our tenting gear in the car and drive to Florida. Then we plan to divide up our time between tenting and sailing. In the spring, we will work our way back north. At some point my daughter once catches up to us with her truck and we trailer the boat home.

That's a thumbnail sketch of our plans. Any number of things could change it, including another disastrous hurricane. I'm scrambling to get everything ready in time. The house still needs things done before the fall. Upgrades to the boat are on-going.

The trip is going to be on a shoestring budget, mostly using what we already own. I expect both cold and hot weather, sunny days and rain. There will be a lot of long days at the tiller and days with nothing to do while sitting out storms. I'm looking forward to the adventure.


Friday, August 17, 2018

Still Here!

Hello everyone. You probably thought I was gone forever.

I've been crazy busy this summer and still behind where I'd hope to be by now. There have been a lot of developments.

Last winter we left some house renovations only partially done. We jumped right back into those and wrapped up a few things. Living in a dome is fun, but sometimes it gets a little tricky to use standard building materials in a non-standard home.

Recently I was able to get the house solar electric system back up and running again. The big problem was that the battery bank needed to be replaced. The smart thing to do is to set aside a little money every year so replacement costs don't hit all at once. That didn't happen so I had to get a chunk of money together. On the bright side, by shopping around $500 was shaved off the replacement costs. It did require a trip downstate, but the price difference made it worthwhile.

The expensive charge controller didn't appear to be working and the inverter wasn't kicking on. I'd hoped that it was something simple like that old battery bank being too weak for the charge controller to function properly. New batteries actually solved the problem. Once connected the controller booted up and started working perfectly.

The inverter is the original one and well over 20 years old. After being shut down for the winter, it did not want to start up again. That had happened once before but eventually it came on. With that in mind, I just kept hitting the start button until it turned on. It's been working perfectly ever since.

The veggie van is still for sale. It needs more work that I cared to put into it. My concern is that I could sink money into repairs and still not be able to trust it 2000 miles from home. There has been some interest, but no one has yet to show up with money. Until that happens, it can sit in the yard. The registration is good until March so it can be driven away until then.

I was making progress on the old motorcycle. However, on a whim, I took a photo and listed it on Craigslist. It sold in a couple hours, for $100 more than what I listed it for. I got to thinking that I'd have to spend some more money on the bike, plus registration, inspection and insurance. When I was done it'd still be an old bike that can go way too fast. Just as well that I decided to let it go. Probably saved my life.

There have been, and still are, family and business issues I'm working through. That's not a bad thing, just time consuming.

Next post I'll get into what our plans for the fall are shaping like. I have another adventure in the works.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Break Time!

I'm taking a break from blogging for a bit. It's nothing too serious. I just need to focus on some other things for a bit.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The way I think sometimes

Across the lake from me some guy put up one of these signs, “drive like your kids live here.” Well, my kids are grown adults who know enough to stay out of the darn road. Maybe what he needs is a sign that says, “I failed to teach my kids to stay out of the road.”

When someone tells me they, “slept like a baby,” I offer my condolences. To me that means they woke up crying and hungry every two hours and then soiled their bed. I remember having babies.

Also bugged by the saying, “healthy as a horse.” So . . . you have a life expectancy of 25 – 30 years? Now if someone was healthy as a tortoise, that would be something.

Those signs on the higway that say, “construction ends.” All I can think of is, “destruction begins.” At that point I'm a lot more careful.

“Giving it the old college try.” This one isn't original to me, but I like it. So, “giving it the old college try,” means putting off the project until the last minute and ordering pizza while drinking cheap beer instead. If you've ever been to college you know it's true.

Sadly, “good enough for government work,” is still universally a way to say you are going to do a poor job of it and it doesn't matter.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Knowing that one guy

A friend of mine is pretty busy and sometimes hard to get in touch with. However, it's totally worth the effort.

In an evening's sort conversation:

He is going to weld one of my broken tools.
Fix the gasoline engine of a small generator I acquired.
We shared some information about good deals on solar electric batteries.
The guy may know someone who would like to buy my van.
He's going to set me up with some local maple syrup.
My buddy educated me on different boat trailer brake systems and gave me a link for inexpensive parts.

Of course, this is the guy who's house I wired and set up for off-grid operations, so it all comes around. Also may help him move a large propane generator he acquired.

Good to have friends.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Battery Shopping

The battery bank on my solar electric system finally died over the winter while we were away. That came as no surprise as the batteries were pretty much shot last fall. However, ten years is a pretty good run for flooded lead acid batteries.

I was thinking of putting off buying new ones, but changed my mind. While it's tempting to pay down debt, it makes no sense to pay higher electric bills either. Buying batteries and getting the system up and running again is a good return on investment.

Battery development has been rapid in recent years. My hope was that they'd be economical for my storage needs. It turns out that good old fashioned lead acid is still the best bargain. While lightweight lithium batteries make sense in cars, light weight isn't necessary for a house. The only time when the weight of the house batteries matters is when they are installed. After that they just sit there.

Getting the solar electric system up and running makes sense economically, but it's more important to have them for grid down situations. Storms in the mountains still knock out power often enough to be a pain. Only makes sense to concentrate on getting the system sorted out once more.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Tenting again

My lovely wife booked some camping time next month on the coast of Maine. We've been going to the same place since the kids were little. Now they have kids of their own. It's great to get out with family and friends. The campground has been owned by the same people the whole time, so they almost feel like family too.

Things have come full circle for us. We started out tent camping. Then we had a couple of vans that were equipped for sleeping. Now with the van dying we are back to tenting. Good thing we still like tenting. I've three two person tents in good shape. There is also a large eight person tent with attached screen house, and a big two room canvas tent. The canvas tent needs the poles repaired, but the others are pretty much ready to go. I'll take one of the big tents. If the weather turns bad it's nice having enough room to set up a table and chairs.

Our site is going to be one of those without electric power. That's not a problem as I pulled the solar electric components out of the van. It won't take long to set up a portable system. The non-electric sites are a lot less expensive in this campground, so it's all good.

One thing I recommend is testing out all your camping gear before heading out. You don't want to discover your tent has a big rip in it when you are setting it up in the rain. That would not be fun at all. Your camp stove is another item that could cause you grief. Nothing worse than being unable to make that first cup of coffee in the morning. While my lovely wife still thinks tenting is romantic, having a hot coffee in the morning keeps her mood up. No sense in suffering for nothing.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

What's up with oil?

A Forbes article covers the fact that Venezuela's oil exports are heading towards zero. That's pretty dramatic for a country that once was one of the world's major exporters. So how will that affect the price of gas at the pump?

I have no idea. You'd think that taking a major player out of the equation would cause a spike, but I won't bet on it. I'm just some regular Joe who reads too much. What do the experts really know? Best I can tell, they don't really know for sure either. There are a number of reasons for that.

The big one is that it's nearly impossible to get hard numbers on things like production, storage, and even national consumption rates. A lot of oil is controlled by nationalized companies and they play their cards close to the vest. For that matter, the state of oil controlled by private companies is considered a company secret and they aren't honest either.

A couple of years ago my lovely wife and I were in the Bahamas. Did you know there are extensive storage facilities, oil ship terminals, and refinery capacity in the Bahamas? I didn't until I saw it with my own eyes. Talking to one of the locals he informed me that the tanks were full to the brim. They were holding back oil in the hope that prices would go up. As soon as they did they'd release their stockpiles and make a killing. The problem was that pries weren't going up fast enough and the cost of storage was starting to become significant. Somebody gambled wrong.

Governments will lie about supply for its own purposes. For example, once the pipeline that supplies most of oil for the East was knocked out. There almost was a major shortage that would have shut down sizable parts of the country. The extent of the problem was kept secret until much later, after things were normal again. To be fair, an announcement would have caused a run on the gas stations that would have wiped out supplies and caused shortages.

Most people don't realize how delicately supply and demand are balanced. Locally, one time a snowstorm prevented fuel tankers from delivering for a day. All but one gas station in the local area ran out of fuel. That was just from one day's disruption. Most people just shrugged and filled up the next day. Now imagine if the trucks could not come for a week? A month? How would things look then?

Modern civilization needs oil. It's a little disconcerting to realize that few people, if any, really knows the state of world supply. We could be swimming the stuff or about to run short. One thing you can pretty much count on, you won't know there is a crisis until it happens. There are too many vested interests keeping secrets.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Just a reminder

You are on your own.

One thing last year's hurricane season demonstrated is that you are responsible or your own well being. That's especially true in the early days of a disaster. If a disaster is widespread, expect help to come much later and be much less effective. What you have left after a disaster is what you have to survive with. While response wasn't too horrible in most of Texas and Florida, the Keys were isolated for much longer. US possessions like Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are still a mess. The residents of those areas definitely know they are on their own.

I'm watching the weather closely this year. It's funny, I'm paying just as much attention to weather systems thousands of miles away as I am to local weather. Last winter my plans were altered due to the hurricanes down south. We'd planned on taking the sailboat to Keys, but decided to give them more time to sort out the wrecks, marinas, navigation aids, and the channels. I'm not sure exactly what we'll do if there's another bad season. Time will tell.

While hurricanes are fresh in my mind, I'm not forgetting all the other things that can wrong. All you have to do is to look at the rest of the world. Venezuela is a mess mostly due to poor governance. It goes to show that even a country with resources and smart people can be brought low. Brazil ground to a standstill by a truckers' strike. One of the things they were demanding was for the military to stage a coup. You can't make this stuff up.

Personally, I'm a big believer in bugging in, if you feel safe and have the resources to do so. On the flip side of that, being able to leave is if needed is a valuable option. I'm not just talking about having a bug out vehicle and a place to go. I'm taking about having passports and the means to the leave the country if necessary. That might sound extreme, but it gives you options. If you live near the border, going 50 miles to safety might involve an International crossing.

While I say you are alone, I only mean that in the sense that government aid might be slow in coming. If you have local resources like good neighbors, friends and family, your changes of surviving in good shape goes way up.