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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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears





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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears



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.

-Sixbears