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Sunday, November 17, 2019

Back on the train

We are hopping back on the trail today. It was a good visit with family.

There is no wifi on the trail until we switch in Chicago. However, I was able to finally get my Straight Talk hotspot up and running. I spent a lot more hours on it that I should have. If all goes I might be able to blog while on the train. Of course, there are areas where the cell phone service is pretty sketchy.

On the way over I was trying to use the cell phone to transfer funds from my bank account. Just before the transaction was about to go through, we’d enter a tunnel. The connection would be lost and I’d have to start all over again. After that happened for the third time, I put the phone away and waited until we were out of the mountains.

When we left New England at the end of October the weather wasn’t too bad. Since then my home area has been hit with a deep freeze. In California I’ve been running around in T-shirts and shorts, so it’s going to be a shock.


Saturday, November 16, 2019

New California Preppers

California now has a lot of people who’ve been thrown into the prepping world. Thanks to the power shut offs people have to suddenly deal with being on their own. They are being encouraged to have a bug out bag, generator, solar chargers, stored water -the whole nine yards. The only thing they aren’t encouraging people to do is to prepare for their own security. California isn’t exactly a gun friendly state.

A lot of people have had a rude awakening. If you haven’t done any of this stuff before you soon find there’s a learning curve. I was talking to one guy who put in a huge generator capable of running his whole house. When the power went out, the generator turned on. His refrigerator didn’t start. The guy’s wife was in a panic, especially after spending all that money on a generator. As it turned out his fancy computer controlled refrigerator needed a full half hour to reboot after a power shut off.

There’s a lot of people who’ve been suddenly thrown into the deep end of prepping. If you were lucky, only your power was turned off. The unlucky had to flee a fire storm.

Of course, like everywhere else, most people will forget the lessons learned. There will be a lot of lightly used generators for sale soon. Just like after a Florida hurricane, the lessons are soon forgotten. Staying prepared takes though and effort. Most people want things to return to normal so they never have to think about this stuff again.

However, there will always be a select few who learn the lessons and stay prepared.


Friday, November 15, 2019

Is California Unlivable?

There are articles out there claiming just that. People are leaving in great numbers. The fire situation seems to get worse every year. Water is always an issue. Taxes are high. It’s the land of earthquakes. Homelessness is a huge problem. State government is a mess. The problems go on and on.

So is it the end? Far from it. All of California’s problems can either be solved or lived with. One example, the number of homes lost to fire is directly related to the lack of affordable housing in more urban areas. Because of that people live further out in the hills where fire was always a problem.

The vast majority of the state’s issues can be solved with political change. I’m not even talking right or left wing politics. Drought does not care what your political party is. Things like better housing codes have greatly reduced the chance of severe earthquake damage. Many of the state’s issues can be addressed in a similar fashion.

Why would one bother? There’s a lot of vitality left in the state. I grew up in a dying New England mill town. It’ a real eye opener to see downtowns with thriving businesses and activities. There are millions of people who really want to live here.

On a personal level, my daughter and son-in-law are opening a second restaurant. Even with all the drawbacks, there’s plenty of opportunity to make a ton of money. While that’s still possible there will be people who want to live here -in spite of the drawbacks. California is a huge economy eclipsing the GDP of most nations.

Of course, all those sunny days are a real draw for a lot of people. As for myself, it’s too dry and I actually miss the rain. While I wouldn’t want to live here full time, it’s easy to see why people would.


Thursday, November 14, 2019

Business on the road

There’s a lot of talk about the joys of being able to work remotely. It’s a fine idea, but to actually do it can be a pain sometimes.

One of the big issues is getting access to everything. The financial stuff can be the worse. I ran into some problems with one of my banks. Sure, I remembered the password, but because I was logging in from a new location they asked challenge questions. Even when you know the answer that doesn’t mean you can successfully log in.

Here’s an example. Let’s say the question is the name of the doctor who delivered my first child. I know it was Doctor Jones. However, did I write Doctor Jones, Dr. Jones, Doctor Bob Jones, or Dr. bob Jones, or Doctor Bob O. Jones? The spelling has to exact. I guessed wrong on the spelling and was locked out.

Yesterday I had a meeting over Skype. It took almost an hour to get all the connections and the audio just right. Later one of my partners sent me an audio copy . . . and the file would not open.

That’s with a good wifi connection. It can be tough to get a decent connection. I still haven’t gotten my hotspot device to work properly. Maybe later today.

Next month I’ll be in a remote location where the only cell service is provided by AT&T. I’m not sure if I’ve got anything that can connect with that service. Worse come to worse I’ll look for a burner phone that piggybacks on AT&T.

One of these days satellite communications will be fast enough and cheap enough that none of this will matter . . . or the whole technological world will collapse. Either way, my problems will be solved.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

No Post Yesterday

There was no post yesterday. Frankly, I was pretty much out of stream. One six year old can easily wear out two grandparents.

Another thing is that there’s not a lot to say. We’ve been catching up with family that I don’t get to see too often. It’s a long way from New Hampshire to California. That’s one reason we haven’t been doing a whole lot more touristy stuff. Frankly, I’d rather shoot baskets with a six year old. (He out shoots me by the way.)

Then there’s the issue that some areas we’d like to visit are on fire, or at least are smoke covered from those fires. My days as a firefighter have taken their toll and I can’t deal with more smoke. I even packed a filter mask just in case the smoke here got too bad.

We have a few more things we’d like to do before taking the train back to the east coast. However, the big thing has been our visit with family, and that’s more important.


Monday, November 11, 2019

Famous Fog

San Francisco is famous for its fog. I took a photo from the famous Pier 39. If you look closely you can just see the tops of the Golden Gate Bridge poking up through the fog.

I also got a blurry fog photo of Alcatraz.

In spite of the fog, it was a good day. We took our six year old grandson to the aquarium and that’s always fun. My lovely wife and I got to poke around the marina -like we always seem to do when traveling.

We played tourist for a day, and it was worth going into the city.


Sunday, November 10, 2019

Avoiding the deep freeze

The weather back home is cold, but it’s supposed to warm up a bit . . . then snow for a couple days. After that sub-zero cold is predicted.

Here I am in the San Francisco Bay area, enjoying sunny days that get into the high 70s. Seems like a good time to visit my daughter here on the West Coast. I’ve worn shorts and t-shirts almost every single day since we got here. It has dropped into the 40s at night, but when the sun comes up it quickly gets comfortable.

Of course, I’ve lucked out as we’ve avoided most of the fire problems, only getting a little smoke one day. My daughter was also lucky to not have her power shut off. All those clear sunny days make it tinder dry. Then there’s the constant earthquake danger.

Just like everything else in life, you have to take the bad with the good. While I wouldn’t want to live here full time, this has been a great vacation for me.

We plan on heading back to New England just before Thanksgiving. At the end of the month we have to go back to our home to finish packing for Florida. The house has all the plumbing drained, Internet turned off, and most of the power shut down. On the bright side, we can light the woodstove and get some heat into the building while packing. It’s going to take plenty of hot coffee to get the job done.

Originally the plan was to have the Blazer and boat packed and ready to go. As the day of our California trip departure crept up, we concentrated on that. Even so the boat is about 95% ready and the Blazer about 90% packed. It shouldn’t take too long . . . except for cold, snow and ice slowing everything down.

There’s some slack in our schedule. There’s no need to pull a boat trailer through a snowstorm.


Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Sailboat Deal Breaker

My lovely wife and I were talking about sailboats. I know, big surprise. There was something that was bothering her about living for months on a boat, but she didn’t want to talk with me about it. She expected a fight.

It turns out her deal breaker was the head, or bathroom for you land lubbers. We had a composting head on our Ranger sailboat and I was really happy with it. There was a learning curve, but after that it was pretty easy to take care of. My lovely wife knew I was a fan of those systems.

Turns out what she really wants is a regular marine head, with a holding tank and everything. Not only that, she knows they can be finicky and require maintenance and repair. She also didn’t want to have to deal with any of that. It would be my job and responsibility. If you want to know how bad those jobs can be, watch a few Youtube sailing videos about marine toilet problems. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Here’s the thing, it’s the only item keeping her from long term sailing. She said she doesn’t care about hot water, showers, refrigeration, air conditioning or even a stove. My lovely wife doesn’t require a newer fancy boat, or even a dinghy with a motor. All in all, her one requirement is amazingly reasonable.

That’s the first thing I’m going to look for when we go boat shopping next. I’m also going to study up on different models and head repair. Probably also stock up on heavy duty rubber gloves that go up to my elbows.

All in all, it’s a small price to pay for a wife willing to go sailing.


Friday, November 8, 2019

Irrigation and Civilization

For thousands of years irrigation has made civilization possible in dry regions. This part of California is no different in that way. All around me I see green lawns, tall trees, high populations and busy activity. However, looking out over at the hills one sees lots of brown with strips of hardy evergreens. Lately we sometimes see smoke from not too distant fires.

Without irrigation the land could not support too many people. With it, farmers can grow enough food to feed a good sized segment of the country’s population. Civilizations have collapsed when their water supply failed. I don’t see that happening in the short term here in California. There’s too much invested in the region to give up on it. Politicians and engineers would move heaven and earth to repair a broken water supply.

Considering this is also earthquake country, that’s a good think. Personally, I feel a bit better knowing my daughter has some water storage in her apartment.

California is such a contrast from my home in Coos Country New Hampshire. The local Forest Rangers jokingly call it the “asbestos county.” Large forest fires are rare. We get a lot of rain and the area is full of natural ponds, lakes, streams and rivers.

My home has a well about 75 feet from the house that constantly overflows, even though it’s only about 5 feet deep. People are encouraged to store drinking water, but I really don’t have to bother with that at home.

Out here in the dry west, it really hits home how important emergency water storage can be.


Thursday, November 7, 2019


There’s nothing like traveling to the other side of the country to get some perspective in life. It’s always good to occasionally get out of one’s comfort zone. In short time I’ve been her I’ve heard more different languages and eaten more different foods than I normally do in a year. The Bay area is quite the melting pot.

While this is my first visit to California I’ve been out West before. My earlier observations still apply: it’s too dry out here. I hear it’s wet in the Northwest, but I don’t know if or when I’ll ever make it out there. The problem is that the best time to visit is in the summer. It’s hard to leave my spot of heaven in Northern New Hampshire during the summer. During the deep freeze of winter, it’s a lot easier to head out on the road. That’s not really the time to visit the Northwest.

Another thing that I realized is that there is no way I could afford to live out here. There’s plenty of jobs and opportunities but everything is expensive. The price of rents and fuel really stick out. Gas is about two dollars a gallon more expensive than back home. Rents are at least three times the cost -if you can find one. Everything seems to be taxed.

Being so far from home I have the opportunity to see it with fresh eyes. It’s hard to get a good hard cold assessment of your home area when living in it. Too much gets taken for granted. You have to go to someplace significantly different to become aware of how home differs from other places. Some things you think are universal are not. That can be a shock.

My lovely wife and I will be out here for a while yet. While here I’m going to take some notes and make plans for when we get back. The trip have been very educational.


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Backside of America

Funny thing about traveling by trail. You see things you don’t normally see. Every hear about “the wrong side of the tracks?” When traveling by train, you see the wrong side of the tracks all the time.

A lot of time the trail runs though industrial zones. It makes sense. Passenger trails travel mostly on freight lines. Trains are used to move a lot of industrial supplies. My lovely wife and I saw a lot of scrap yards while traveling the country. Maybe I’m weird, but I find that interesting too.

We also saw a lot of homeless encampments. If you are living in a tent pitched in a pile of trash next to the tracks, your life has gone seriously sideways. I feel both compassion and despair. As a human being it hurts to see other humans suffering. My despair comes from the fact that some people are capable of soaking up massive amounts of assistance without changing their lives. Having come very close to being homeless myself, I realize how easy the downward slide can be. It can be tough out there.

The train also goes though some very remote areas. I can’t but wonder what people do for work out in some of those places. There has to be some reason for small communities of mostly trailer homes to exist out in the middle of the high desert.

Of course, mostly we saw some amazing landscapes. There are also some amazing houses located way up in the mountains with million dollar views. Train travel shows you the best and the worse of the country. Unlike car travel, you aren’t concentrating on driving so can take it all in.


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Cool places you won’t see for long

One of the best things about traveling by train is being able to see the country up close. One of the worse things is not being able to see much of it for long.

We had a stop here at the Albany New York train station. It was a nice break. We walked around and checked out the place. My lovely wife and I even went outside for a while. That gave me the false impression we’d do that more often.

Our stop in Denver was just long enough to get to the end of the train platform, ride a couple of random elevators to the wrong place and then hoof it back to our train.

When we got to Reno the conductor warned us not to go to the casino. He said there was just enough time to run inside, put a coin the machine and then head back to the platform in time to see the train leave. He claims they leave people there all the time. They do not wait.

We did see one exception to this leave anyone late behind policy. Apparently the cook stepped out on one stop and the train left without him. They quickly noticed he wasn’t on board so they backed up the train. You don’t leave without the cook.

We did have some time in Chicago as we were changing trains there. We went and caught lunch at someplace not on a train. Our return trip is supposed to have an even longer layover, so we have some plans.

If you are a smoker you’ll probably find it tough to get your fix. Trains are nonsmoking. They do let you smoke at most of the short stops, but there are some fairly long gaps between those stops. Smokers have fewer stops than they used to because they left butts littering the place.

Our train ran into some delays due to broken tracks. It felt like they were trying to make up time by shortening the stops.


Monday, November 4, 2019

East Coast and West Coast Trains

Amtrack is in transition. The current head wants to concentrate on the short runs which are more lucrative. That’s a disaster for those people who need or want longer train trips.

One of the things that was cut out was the dining cars on the eastern trains. All that’s left is the snack bars. We were warned that there wasn’t much in the snack bars. With that in mind we brought our own healthy snacks. We figured fruit and nut bars were healthier than bags of chips.

As it turned out the snack bar wasn’t that bad. They had some decent microwave sandwiches. While that’s not great eating, it’s not too bad. My lovely wife actually enjoyed her cheese burger and my ham and cheese sandwich was fine. Still, we were glad we had plenty of healthy snacks with us. One bonus of Business Class was that non-alcoholic drinks from the snack bar were included.

Our train from Chicago to California had both a snack bar and a full dining car. The snack bar on that train was more like what we expected. The food in the dining cars was fine. Food is included if you have a room. They seated people with rooms for dinner first. If there were still seats available the dining car was opened up to Coach passengers. If you were paying for those meals you’d find them to be pretty expensive.

There’s enough menu variety that one could eat a different meal every time for the duration of the trip. Dinner requires reservations and someone comes around your room to see which seating you’d like. They fill up the booths so you never know who you’ll share a meal with. It’s a good way to get to know your fellow passengers.

Breakfast and lunch are first come, first served. There is always a vegetarian option if that’s your thing.

One thing the western trains have is an observation car. That’s a great way to take photos of the trip. That’s where I took this picture of Donner Lake.

That’s where the famous Donner party ran into bad weather and experienced some disturbing dining experiences of their own.


Saturday, November 2, 2019

Made it to California!

I’ve been silent here on the old blog for a while. Things have keep me busy. After winterizing the house for the season, we made our way south. Along the way we met up with friends for a late dinner. By the time we pulled into my eldest daughter’s place in Massachusetts, it was late.

After a couple days my daughter drove us to the train station in Boston. We made our connection. The business class part of trip from Boston to Chicago went well. The seats were fairly comfortable and leg room was good. Wifi was excellent. However, the tracks had a lot of rough parts so blogging with a laptop on my knees didn’t sound like fun.

I thought that it would be easier when we were in our own room on the California Zephyr. While the room was more comfortable, that train did not have wifi. Also there were a lot of places that didn’t even have cell phone signal. All we could do was enjoy the ride and entertain ourselves.

The Western trains still have dining cars and the food was pretty decent. Staff on the train were pleasant and helpful. I’ll blog with more details later. Right now I thought it best to send off a quick post to let everyone know I’m still alive and doing well.

I’ve some photos. This one was in Colorado on our way up the mountains.

More details later.


Sunday, October 27, 2019

The regular job trap

My lovely wife was finally able to find a home for some glass blowing equipment we had kicking around the house. Our youngest daughter had once been into that art and was putting together a studio. Then some other stuff happened. Such is life. I was ready to haul the remaining equipment to the dump, but my spouse found a young man from downstate who was a professional glass blower and could use the stuff.

I’m glad she found someone who needed the equipment. My lovely wife praised the guy for following his dreams and working on his art. Unfortunately, he and his girlfriend are “on a break” because she wants a regular job. Right now she’s training for one of those 9 to 5 positions. She was unwilling to put up with the uncertainties of being an artist.

Regular jobs sound good, but they can be a trap. The consistent paycheck sounds like a good idea. It’s great for your credit rating. With good credit you can buy nice things like cars, furniture and even houses. However, that could be a trap. Once you have those nice things the payments need to be made. For that you have to keep going to that regular job, even when it is no longer any fun at all.

Once could always change jobs they say, but it’s not that easy for most. Even if you find a job you’d enjoy more, it had better pay enough to cover those regular bills.

When you follow your dreams it may or may not pay. A few days ago we were talking to a young married couple we know. He’s avoided regular dreams most of his life. She works as a potter. They were struggling with a problem. He had a job interview for a state mechanic job. It was 40 hours a week with decent pay and benefits. The problem is that he’d have to have a regular schedule and do the same type of work over and over again.

He’s very talented when it comes to mechanical devices. While he could do the job, he said what he really wants to do is things like build rocket powered skateboards. Fortunately, his wife is very supportive of his dreams so I’m sure they’ll work something out.

Another problem with working non-traditional jobs is that it spoils you. After a number of years of that you become unfit for the shackles of the normal working world.


Saturday, October 26, 2019

Lost Technology

My niece and I were talking the other day I happened to mention that we used to use an acoustic coupler to connect a laptop to the Internet.

She had no idea what the heck I was talking about. My lovely wife and I started traveling during the winters about 20 years ago. We had to do a certain amount of business remotely. It’s hard to believe right now, but cell phones weren’t all that common.

Back then I used to carry a bunch of prepaid calling cards to make long distance calls. I’d do my banking over pay phones. Getting e-mail was an issue. That was back in the day of phone modems. Some places had phone jacks customers could plug into to connect to the Internet at dial up speeds.

A number of places only had pay phones. There was no way to connect directly to a phone line. For that I used an acoustic coupler. It looked sorta like a old school phone handset. It would attach to the phone with a velcro strap. Since it worked by actually making tones, it was even slower than regular phone modems. Often it would take 15 or 20 minutes to download my e-mail.

The best thing that could be said about them is that they worked . . . sorta. Old beat up pay phones didn’t have the best audio quality and that degraded speeds even more. Most of the time we made it work. Sometimes we’d connect late at night when it was quieter out as even outside noise could mess up the signal. Since we were tying up one of a handful of payphones, it was best to do it when most people were sleeping.

Why did we even bother? As clunky as the system was, it worked just enough to make doing our business possible. That allowed us to travel and have adventures so it was worth the hassle.


Friday, October 25, 2019

Winter Boat Preparations

West Marine keeps sending me notifications about sales on things used to winterize one’s boat. There are local businesses advertising their winter boat wrapping services.

I’ve been prepping my boat too, but for a different sort of winter. My boat is ready to be sailed in warm southern waters. A lot more gear and equipment has been loaded onto the boat, but not too much. The single axle trailer shouldn’t be overloaded. Some of the boat stuff has been loaded directly into the Blazer.

My lovely wife and I will be closing down the house for the season. Most of November will be spent on a train trip out to California. I hope we don’t get too much snow while we are gone. Once we get back to New Hampshire we’ll do a final load up on the Blazer and head south. It would be a pain to have to dig the boat and Blazer out of the snow first.

One year The boat was encased in ice. It didn’t all melt until we were almost in Georgia. To prevent that happening a large tarp will cover the boat for a month.

Before we had a sailboat we used to haul a large Old Town canoe down south. One year it was left down by the beach and we had a lot of snow. I had to snowshoe a trail 350 feet down to the beach and haul it up the hill. On our trip south we stopped for fuel in New York State. The attendant asked what the heck I was doing with a canoe in the snow. I told him I was going to drive south until it didn’t look silly -and that’s what we did.

One major preparation for the winter was buying boat insurance. It’s an essential part of my winter boating plans. Towing insurance is part of that too, both on land and on water. You never know.


Thursday, October 24, 2019

Wrong store for the right things

Sometimes the best place to buy something is not in the proper specialty store. Back when I was in the Fire Service one of the officers had a plumbing business on the side. He pointed out that you could take a valve from a plumbing supply house, slap some red paint on it, and sell it for five times the price in the Fire catalog.

One of the worse places to shop for boating supplies is at a marine store. One example, they sell a bosun's chair for ascending the mast. It’s possible to get better and cheaper gear from mountaineering stores. If you have to get marine stuff look at places that sell to fishermen. Often they’ll have the same products for a lot less money. Other things like foul weather gear might not be as pretty, but will probably work better.

I’ve even found stuff for my boat while shopping in craft stores with my lovely wife.

The little solar panel on my sailboat has been working fine for years. That came out of the garden supply section. The price was right and it’s held up perfectly in the marine environment.

If you want to see a huge price difference, look at a marine alcohol one burner stove. Then check out alcohol stoves designed for backpacking. One year I was cooking on my Oday 19. It’s too small to cook inside the cabin so I cooked out in the cockpit. Since it was outside I could use a MSR hiking stove that ran off regular gasoline. I put a fitting on my fuel line for filling the stove tank. It worked out just fine.

My local hardware store has gotten used to me wandering around their store seemingly aimlessly. The manager asked me if he could help.

I told him, “No, I’m looking for the wrong parts for the right job.”

“Oh,” he said, “You’re an inventor.”

He left me alone after that. The hardware store is where I bought 90% of the parts I needed to convert diesel engines to run on waste vegetable oil. That was much much cheaper than the kits available out there.

A lot of money can be saved with a little creativity.


Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Helping hand

There I was driving down a back road out in the woods, not far from my house. In the distance there was this truck that was half in the ditch. At first I was thinking that maybe my Blazer, in four wheel drive low range, could pull him out. There was a tow strap in the back. Back home there was some scrap wood that could be used for a ramp if needed.

When I got close I saw the back of the truck was full of beer cases and there were empties scattered all over the ground. My interest in getting them out of the ditch disappeared. In fact, I was kinda glad they were stuck in the ditch rather than driving drunk on the roads.

I like to help people. It’s good to feel useful. There are limits to my generosity. Heck, often I don’t mind helping people who are just plain stupid, but enough is enough. Those guys who drank too much and ran in the ditch? They are on their own. I didn’t force those beers into them. If that makes me a bad person, so be it.

Later that afternoon the truck had been removed. Maybe once they sobered up they figured it out.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Less than a week

It’s less than a week before we close the house down until sometime in the spring. We’ve been concentrating on the nuts and bolts stuff, like getting the boat and our camping gear ready. My lovely wife is almost done sewing new covers for the boat cushions. I’ve a transponder to mount, but that’s about the last of it.

There’s still a fair sized list of the business stuff that needs doing. I just made a list so as not to forgot anything. Monday it was my New Hampshire DMV day. My state allows residents to renew driver’s licenses up to six months ahead of time. Since mine was going to expire before we plan on getting home, it had to be done. Overall, it went fairly well. The lady who did the eye test seemed surprised when I passed. She asked in an angry voice if I had contacts on. Guess I look too old to see without glasses.

My Internet company allows me to suspend service while I’m gone, so that’ll save a few dollars. No sense spending money when I don’t have to. My mobile hotspot needs to be sorted out. The company says it’s activated, but there’s some sort of password issue that may require customer support. I hate talking to those people, but the clock is running.

By the way, after my little woodstove creosote incident, I ended up taking the woodstove all apart and removing all the soot. Since it’s a cookstove there are channels for the hot smoke to circulate around the oven. Those tend to soot up and need cleaning now and then. It’s in great shape now.

You never really get everything done before a big trip. The main thing is to make sure the essential items are ticked off the list.


Monday, October 21, 2019

Fire and Police

Some days do not go as expected. My lovely wife and I had a nice breakfast planned. My oldest daughter, my son-in-law and two grandkids were staying with us. It was a 20 degree morning and the woodstove was putting out some heat. Then it was putting out too much heat.

Creosote buildup in the stovepipe ignited. It became cherry red all of a sudden. I woke up the household and told them to get out. Then I called 911 to report a chimney fire to the local volunteer fire department.

I was able to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher. It had been contained to the stovepipe and the chimney was fine. The firefighters inspected my chimney and it was clear from top to bottom. All the creosote had been confined to the stovepipe. When it came right down to it, I’d successfully put the fire out before the firefighters got here, but I’m glad they checked everything out for me. You never assume you got it all.

With the stove and the house cold, we all went out to a local restaurant for their Sunday brunch. My lovely wife asked if I was going to change the stovepipe and I was happy to oblige. I left brunch a bit early to find new stovepipe before the local hardware stores closed at noon.

While changing out the stovepipe, my neighbor came over. She’d had a restraining order on her husband -which he violated. Now he’s in jail. They’ve been married for a little over a year. She was shocked to learn he had a felony conviction. The police were impressed with his firearm collection, especially his sawed off shotgun. My guess is that those violations alone will keep him out of circulation for a bit.

It was an emotionally trying day. It does feel good right now to have my feet up, the woodstove running well, and a good cup of coffee.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Safety on the docks

There are some boaters who only stay at Marinas. Others prefer to anchor out. The pros and cons are well known. Marina people can easily access land and all it’s amenities. Those who anchor out need some sort of dingy to get to shore. Marina boats can tie directly into grid power. Anchored boats must rely on their own systems, be they solar, wind, generator or a mix of sources.

Another big concern is safety. There are two kinds of safety I’m going to address here. One is security. How easy is it for thieves and bad people to get on your boat? The other is general boating safety. How safe is your boat from collisions, fire, and other boating hazards?

One would think that a very high end marina would be very secure. They have security guards and access to the docks generally requires a key code. My lovely wife and I stayed at a pretty high end marina while outfitting a boat. The sailboat was based in the marina when we bought it and they cut us a deal to stay there.

While they had full time security, the guard was a jack of all trades. Security was an incidental responsibility to his many other duties. There were gates with a keypad, but it would not take a lot of agility to get around them. That wasn’t really necessary though. Just follow someone going onto the docks and have them hold the gate open for you. After going past the security gate day in day out, you tend to think of it as more of an annoyance than anything else. You could just say you forgot the code and someone will probably shout it out to you.

Anchored out you are protected from casual thieves who don’t have a boat. If someone shady comes by, help is often just a shout away on the radio. However, that might be a problem in more remote anchorages. Personally, I feel pretty safe in a remote area. Most problems happen where there are a lot of people.

With your boat tied up at a dock you’d think it was safe. While we were at that fancy marina we saw a number of collisions. Often it was power boats going out of control. Alcohol is often a factor. Not only that, some people just aren’t very skillful at the helm. Real estate at a marina is expensive so boats are really packed in tight. Current and wind can really mess up docking maneuvers.

Anchored out, your main concern is the quality of your anchoring system and the bottom conditions. Even if you are secure, it’s common for other people to drag anchor and collide with other boats. During a storm it’s necessary to be concerned with everything going on around you.

So there are pros and cons to both staying at a dock and anchoring out. One of the big factors for me is that anchoring is free. Often that’s what tips the balance. It’s safer for my wallet.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Annoyance Exercise Plan

There are times when I think it’s the annoyances in my life that keep me healthy. Lately I’ve been out splitting firewood at least once or twice a day. I’m burning the stuff that’s been set aside for being too knotty or twisted to spit easily. Just breaking up enough for the day’s heat can be a workout involving wedges, axes, and a chainsaw.

It got me thinking about how much exercise I’m getting just living day to day. My land is steep and hilly. A trip from one end to the other can be a hike. My house has three levels so there’s a lot of stair climbing involved. Often I’m carrying stuff like baskets of laundry.

It’s seems I’m always lugging tools around and doing projects. There’s always something heavy that needs moving. It was worse when I was collecting waste veggie oil for my converted diesel engines. A 4.5 gallon jug weighed about 35 pounds. You pump 18 gallons of fuel into your car without even thinking much about it. For me that was 4 jugs hauled from the restaurant, to my basement, then back to the vehicle. That’s a 140 pounds of stuff lugged around. Frankly, that’s one part of the whole veggie diesel thing I don’t miss.

In my home town there used to be a lot of four and five story tenement blocks. A lot of them were built back during the depression when labor was cheap. Invariably there’d be little old ladies living on the top floors. Not only did they go up and down those stairs all the time, they’d haul their groceries long distances in little two wheel carts. Those old ladies were too tough to die.

Exercise is good for us, but going to the gym is hard. If there are enough annoyances in your life you can get by without one.


Friday, October 18, 2019

Coming Home

This was a quick photo taken through the dirty windshield of moving vehicle. I was just coming to the southern end of the White Mountains on rt. 93. After spending the night downstate, home was calling me. No time to stop for proper pictures.

I had a meeting with some good people for one of my side endeavors. Part of what was discussed was how to keep in touch and do business while I’m on the road. Even though getting ready for travel has taken up a lot of time, it was definitely worth taking a couple days to sort out some plans.

Once again this year my lovely wife and I missed the big boat show in Annapolis. Months ago we’d done some preliminary planning and research. Like so much else, time and money issues killed that idea. We’d even looked at possibly going to smaller and closer boat shows. There we ran into two problems. Once was scheduling conflicts. The other was that the boat shows we could make mostly concerned powerboats and not sailing.

When it come right down to it, instead of going to shows, we should save our money for the next boat. To be honest, we really can’t afford much of anything at those shows. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun to look. There are usually interesting talks and discussions that are worthwhile at these shows. By themselves they are often worth the price of admission.

Oh well, can’t be at all the places doing all the things. As it is we do an awful lot with very little and sometimes in life there are rainbows.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

Procrastinating Preppers

Sometimes I get these weird thoughts. Think back to your school days. Wasn’t there always some guy or girl who always procrastinated . . . and got away with it? You could be up half the night studying. They skim the textbook ten minutes before class and get a better grade than you.

I had this crazy idea that the world will be full of people who prep at the very last second and it all works out for them. That’s not as crazy as it seems. The world is full of potential problems, disasters and general craziness. There’s a lot of potential madness to prepare for. That in itself can be paralyzing.

The last minute prepper only has to focus on what’s really going down right in front of them. Instead of trying to prepare for everything from nuclear war to economic collapse, they have just the one big immediate problem to deal with. Their preparation, while hurried, can be laser focused.

Most preppers think in terms of scenarios. They imagine what could happen and prepare for those things. You ever notice how different preppers focus on different things? For some it’s all about defense and they absolutely need their AR-15s. For others it’s about food and their pantries and root cellars are stocked to overflowing. Other’s might focus on economic collapse and stockpile precious metals. The problem is that when something bad really is about to go down, these people will try to fit the problem into what they’ve prepared for, not what it really is.

Am I advocating preparing at the last minute? Not exactly. For all those folks back in school who could pull off procrastinating, there are many more who failed because of it. We can’t all trust to luck and winging it. However, survival is more than being ready for anything. That’s impossible. What is possible is having the basics for survival squared away and developing a diverse skill set. Keep your eyes open on what’s really happening. Don’t let your preconceived notions get in the way.

Class dismissed.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Waste of time and money?

At age 61, I just had my first visit to the eye doctor. Well that was interesting, but I probably could have skipped the whole thing.

I’ve been using reading glasses for a few years. With my driver’s license renewal coming up I figured I’d better get my eyes tested. Last time I was at the DMV I saw some poor woman flunk the eye test. She didn’t know she needed glasses and couldn’t get her license renewed.

Long story short, I’m not going to have any problem getting my license without glasses. The eye doctor showed me what glasses could do for me and it wasn’t much. Without glasses there was the very slightest blur to the letters -nothing to worry about. She admitted that people with my vision don’t normally bother with glasses.

So was it a waste of money? Not really. Now I know for sure how good my eyes are. Even more importantly, the doctor dilated my eyes and examined them for disease. They checked out fine. The dilation messed up my eyes for the rest of the afternoon, and I couldn’t get anything else done. Oh well. That wraps up the last of my medical visits before we go traveling.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Odds and Ends

Sometimes you sleep on a problem and wake up with a solution. I was able to paint most of the bottom of the sailboat while it was on the trailer. The parts I couldn’t reach were where the boat sat on the carpeted skids.

In the past I’ve dealt with that in two different ways. One way was to just beach the boat and heel it over on its side. The time I did that at the lake a number of people called to ask what was wrong with my sailboat. Another way that works is to float the boat off the trailer and load it off center by about four or five inches. This time around I happened to have a huge piece of an oak log, a jack and some scrap wood. By lifting the stern of the boat it had enough clearance to do the last of the painting.

A lot of people don’t even bother with bottom paint on a trailer sailor. If I’d only sail in New England I probably wouldn’t worry too much about it either. Down to Florida, marine growth is very aggressive. Just a few weeks in the water is enough to cause a barnacle problem.

Yesterday while working on the boat, three police officers showed up at the neighbor’s across the street. Looks like their constant fighting led to a restraining order. While I got along well enough with them, they didn’t get along very well with each other. The neighbors haven’t been married much longer than a year. I am curious to see who, if anyone, will be living there when we get back in the spring.

This afternoon I’ve an eye exam scheduled, just in case I need glasses. Rather find out now than at the DMV. That’ll be one more thing off the list. There’s some other business that needs to be dealt with yet. I can suspend my Internet service for when I’m gone and save a few dollars there. My hotspot for Internet connection isn’t working right yet. The list of little annoyances goes on and on. There’s no way to do them all so one has to set priorities.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Another job done

It was finally dry enough and warm enough to apply bottom paint to my sailboat. This late in the year that’s not a given. Big boats are nice, but when it comes time to paint the bottom, a small boat on a trailer has its charm.

While under the boat I discovered some fiberglass wear on the swing keel. Since there was still some epoxy lying around the house, it wasn’t too big a deal to mix up some filler and take care of that. The job was a bit awkward and messy, but that’s what old shirts are for, right? Felt pretty good about that until after I changed. Right then a glob of thickened epoxy fell out of my beard onto my good shirt. So it looks like this job cost me a good shirt and about a half inch of beard.

There’s a couple of little boat projects to do yet, but nothing major. My lovely wife is sewing up new boat cushion covers. I’m mounting a new transponder for the depth sounder.

We are getting down the last two weeks before shutting down the house. I’m feeling the time crunch. This week already has a number of things scheduled, including an overnight trip downstate. There’s a lot of packing to do. We have to prepare for a cross country train trip. Since the house will be closed up when we get back, our camping and boat stuff will be stored in the Blazer. I hope we don’t get completely buried in snow while I’m gone. It always feels weird to tow a boat through snowstorms.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Extremely Cheap Cars

I once bought an old Dodge wagon with the 318 engine for fifty dollars because the junk yard only offered the previous owner thirty five. It had a blown torque converter and the engine had lifter noise. A cheap can of additive solved the hydraulic lifter issue. A buddy at work found a torque converter in a vehicle abandoned in a farmer’s field. I did the work in my dad’s backyard. The car, after repairs, still cost less than one hundred dollars.

Unfortunately the gas gauge never worked. One cold night it left me stranded a long walk from home. That was it, time to trade the car in. We had driven it for two years by then anyway.

My lovely wife and I bought the first new car of our marriage. It wasn’t much of a car, a Dodge Omni with the four speed manual transmission and the gutless 1.6 liter Peuguet engine. The car was cheaply made; it didn’t even have a radio. We drove that thing for 10 years and it was falling apart: rust, broken door handles, and a host of niggling mechanical issues. One day my lovely wife got into an accident with a tractor trailer fuel hauler. She totaled the truck, so you can imagine what the car looked like. She was lucky to survive with minor injuries.

Over the years we’ve owned way too many junk cars. At least we aren’t buying Dodges anymore. Probably the best car we ever owned was an old Mercedes 240 D. It was very old when we bought it with 100,000 miles on the odometer. I converted it to run on waste vegetable oil and we put an additional 400,000 miles on it.

All I ever wanted from a car was transportation. It’s not about ego. I don’t have to have a big fancy lifted 4X4 to compensate for my short comings. Cars just don’t excite me, especially new cars. They cost too much money and are poorly made. While the best car I ever owned was that Mercedes, I would not buy a newer one. They are now over engineered with too many computers and too much cheap plastic.

While I had fun running four different diesel vehicles on waste veggie oil, that’s come to an end too. Newer diesels are too complicated and don’t convert well. Then there’s the issue that waste veggie is no longer free and harder to get.

So what’s in my future? With my budget, maybe walking. My lovely wife is currently driving a very cheap Nissan Versa Note with a manual transmission. I’ve got that 2004 Chevy Blazer for the main purpose of towing my boat. When those are gone, I’m just not sure. Maybe we’ll spend half the year living on a sailboat and not needing a car. For the other half? It’s anyone’s guess. Maybe there will be cheap reliable used electric cars on the market? Maybe the whole car thing will be over and we’ll be back to horses.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Some thoughts on California power cuts

A lot of ink has been spilled about the California power cuts. First of all, it’s inconvenient, but not the Armageddon that some people want you to believe. That’s not to say there won’t be some real suffering, especially for those people with medical needs.

There are some things people should know. The first is that the shutdowns were announced a long time ago and there’s been plenty of time to prepare. Western states are a lot drier than eastern states, making for a much higher fire danger. That’s true in years without drought and dry years make it much worse. After being blamed for the death and destruction of last year’s fires, PG&E can’t afford more lawsuits. They are already in deep financial trouble.

LA is in serious danger from major fires. There are no natural fire breaks and no way to really stop a major burn. The only danger more serious to LA is earthquakes. If there is a major earthquake, fire is a major hazard at the same time.

Many fires have been caused by high tension power lines. Personally, it’s my opinion that the nation should be moving away from big interconnected grids. When power is generated near where it’s to be used, there’s no need for high tension wires. A lot of energy is lost in transport and alternative energy is now cheap and clean enough to do the job. Doesn’t that sound like a better idea than shutting down the power every fire season?

California doesn’t normally experience power outages of this scale. Where I live in Northern New England, power outages can be measured in weeks for some people. Winter weather takes its toll, but I’ve lost power on clear sunny days. Such is life out in the country. That’s a major reason why I was an early adopter of solar electricity. It just works.

California is going to have to figure something out. These problems aren’t going away. Remember, what happens in California has a habit of eventually affecting the rest of the country.


Friday, October 11, 2019

Getting back in the swing of things

Well, the heating oil ran dry. Frankly, I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did. The nights have been cool. No, they’ve been down right cold. Some of the days haven’t been all that warm either.

So now I’m down to firewood. Since we’ll be closing up the house near the end of the month, I really don’t want to invest in a load of heating oil. That can wait until sometime next year. Firewood will have to do.

My wood pile has a fair number of unsplit logs. Last year when I was splitting wood, a lot of the twisty and knotty ones were set aside. Now that’s much of what’s left. Some of them are bad enough that I chainsaw them in half before splitting them smaller.

There I was puttering around the woodpile. It was going fairly well -until I realized how sore and tired the work made me. That long recovery from that nasty infection took more out of me than I realized. That last thing you want to do is swing an ax around when sore and tired. No sense getting injured. Instead of pushing on I took a couple of ibuprofen and had a nap.

Now I’m pacing myself until I get back in the grove of things. I’m not one of those guys who spends a lot of time in the gym. Normally my day to day life gives me a fair bit of exercise. After convalescing for a number of months I really got out of condition. While a lot of progress has been made, now and then some activity knocks me back harder than expected.

A winter of camping and sailing should be just the thing. Looking forward to it.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Vehicle to home conversions

There’s a lot of information on the Internet about people who convert vehicles into traveling mini-homes. Having converted an ambulance I’ve some ideas on the practice.

There are some really nice conversions out there. Some people put a lot of time and money into their vehicles. In many cases that’s a mistake. I’ve seen where someone did an amazing conversion: fine wood work, sophisticated water and electrical systems, and great attention to detail. No expense was spared.

Then I see the base vehicle that they started with is something like a 1987 Chevy Van with 200,000 miles on it. No matter how well it was maintained or updated, it’s an old van. It will fail. Then you are stuck with a lot of money sunk into a dead vehicle.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t do a conversion on an older vehicle. Just don’t spend a lot of money on it. You could also built it in such a way that the components can easily be removed and installed in something else. For example, when I finally sold my van, the fridge, bed, microwave, tables, and solar electric system were all easy to remove. All of that stuff found new homes.

If you are going to spend crazy money on a van to live in, might as well buy something ready to go. There are quite a few choices based on Mercedes Benz, Ford, GMC, and RAM vehicles.

Of course, some people convert vans for the joy of doing the conversion. Actually using them is secondary. If you are going to really use such a vehicle for extended periods of time I recommend going one of two ways. Either go high end and get something commercial, or go low end and do a quick and dirty conversion. If you take a used older vehicle and put a lot of money into it, it will break your heart when the engine or transmission fails.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Final Checkups

The crew is getting ready for travel. One of the things we need to do is to sort out any health issues.

I’ve had two doctor’s appointments so far this month. The first one was with a foot doctor to see how my ingrown toenail surgery worked out. The results were great and the doctor didn’t even schedule any followup. I just had a meeting with the doctor who sent me to the hospital with my leg infection last winter. That went well. He thinks my leg now looks “perfect.”

Next week I have one more appointment. This time it’s with an eye doctor. There are two reasons for an eye exam. Reason number one: I’m sixty-one and never had an eye exam. Reason number two: my driver’s license is due for renewal and an eye test is part of the process. Better to find out if I need glasses before the license test.

Unfortunately, my lovely wife is dealing with a broken toe. She’s determined to not let it slow her down two much but she really needs to rest it right now. Her next appointment is on Thursday and we have a our finger’s crossed that it goes well.

Even Brownie the Sailor Dog went to the vet. She had her annual checkup and her shots brought up to date.

With any luck we won’t have to deal with health problems while we are traveling. All that fresh air and exercise should keep us healthy. All we have to do is avoid injury, disease, and encounters with wild animals. Piece of cake.


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

So now we have chickens

We’ve got three chickens and a rooster with one bum leg living at our house. They aren’t our chickens but the neighbor's. The chickens go home in the evening to roost, but that’s about it. The rest of the time they hang around our place.

I think the chickens would rather deal with our dog than their owner’s two labs. Brownie listens pretty well and knows better than to hurt the chickens. I’m pretty sure one of the labs is the reason the rooster hops on one leg. The neighbors are also doing a massive landscaping job with heavy equipment running all over the place. That scares the birds and they come running across the street to my place.

My lovely wife and I told the neighbors not to worry about their chickens. We don’t mind having them around. They are amusing to watch. They also eat a lot of bugs. The dog hasn’t come home with a single tick since the chickens have been on patrol.

My lovely wife always wanted to have chickens. The problem with that idea is that we also like to travel. It’s not like we could take a bunch of chickens on the road with us. One chicken, maybe. There is that guy who sailed around the world with his pet chicken. Now we can enjoy watching them without having to worry about them.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Junk wood season

October is what I call junk wood season. It’s a transition month from warmer to cooler weather. Actually, here in the North Country, some days are quite cold. Last year we got our first snow in October and it didn’t melt until late spring.

This is the season when people really don’t want to spend money heating their house. Those of us with woodstoves hate to burn our quality wood so early in the season. The house tends to overheat. We also run the risk of running out of quality firewood before winter is over.

This is a good time to burn lower quality stuff. For example, right now I’m burning aspen and some softwood. Lesser grade woods don’t put out the BTUs and they don’t last as long. That’s fine when you only really need a fire in the evening and again in the morning.

The aspen came from my daughter’s place. The trees were growing into the power lines and had to come down. My softwood came from a friend who was cutting down trees for garden space. The wood, while not the highest quality, was free. My son-in-law even delivered the aspen, so you can’t beat that.

I’m also taking down a deck that has too much rot to repair. The wood was never pressure treated so it’s not toxic. The deck boards, once chopped up, will make good kindling.

We are closing the house for the winter in about three weeks. The junk wood should keep us warm enough until then.


Sunday, October 6, 2019

Cooking Methods

Sometimes I’m amused at my relationship with technology. Yesterday morning I was in a hurry for coffee so I heated the peculator on the induction cooktop. While that was going on I was stoking up the woodstove. The rest of my breakfast was prepared using wood fire. Like much of my life, it’s as if I have one foot in the 21st century and the other stuck in the 19th.

For my camping/sailing trip this winter I’m bringing two campstoves. One uses propane. The other uses gasoline. So why am I bringing two stoves? There’s a chance my lovely wife will be camping while I’m sailing for a bit. Even if that doesn’t happen, it’s always nice to have fuel options.

I also have a Back Country Boiler. It’s a light weight chimney kettle. Basically it looks like a cross between a fat metal water bottle and a rocket stove. Not sure if that particular model is still available, but there are other companies making them. The cool thing is that you can use little bits of scrap wood to boil water. It works fairly fast. I’ve even heated up my tea water using nothing but pine cones.

Maybe saying I have one foot in the 19th century is too modern. Cooking on an open campfire is one of my skills. That means my cooking skills go from caveman to spaceman.


Saturday, October 5, 2019

Lyme Vaccine

There’s a lyme disease vaccine entering its final trial stages. The last vaccine we had against lyme was pulled over safety concerns. There’s some debate on whether or not that was necessary. At any rate, that’s made getting a new vaccine to market troublesome.

My thoughts on vaccines in general tend to get me in trouble with both pro vaccine and anti vaccine people. I’m not against children getting vaccines. However, I have a problem with how it’s done. They give vaccines for a wide variety of diseases in one massive dose. You can get your child on a different schedule that doesn’t combine everything. That requires that you keep coming back to the doctor’s until all the required vaccines are given. I think that might avoid giving too much too soon to a kid and is easier on the body. I am not a doctor so that’s just my opinion.

I don’t get the flu vaccine. That’s my choice. If I don’t get it I may or may not get the flu. However, if I get the vaccine I will definitely feel sick from the shot. Your mileage may vary. Yes, I know all about herd immunity, but I still think my individual freedom has value too. I knew a person who was in charge of infection control at a hospital. To this day the flu shot is optional for workers there. However, if you don’t get the shot you have to wear a face mask. Last winter I saw a lot of hospital workers with face masks.

So what will I do if the lyme vaccine becomes available? I’m going to get it. Lyme is a nasty disease. I’m out in the woods all the time and have to do constant tick checks. The vaccine probably will be less risky than all the bug repellent I have to wear to go outside.


Friday, October 4, 2019

Two Automotive Predictions

The first prediction is that electric cars will take over a lot faster than most people think. One day you’ll wake up and they’ll be everywhere. How will that happen?

Electric cars have always had a number of advantages. They are easier to build and have less moving parts. Maintenance will be a lot less frequent. In the long run they’ll be cheaper to own.

There have been a few stumbling blocks to widespread electric adoption: cost, range, and charging infrastructure. Cost and range have been heavily influenced by the state of battery technology. Batteries powerful enough to provide sufficient range have been prohibitively expensive. Large scale manufacture of batteries and improvements in technology have taken place in recent years. It’s now feasible to have reasonably priced cars with a couple hundred miles of range.

Two hundred miles of range, while not perfect, is good enough. It’s enough range for the vast majority of people’s second cars. For many people it’s enough range for their only car. China is heavily committed to electric cars so you’ll see serious downward price pressure. Volvo is now Chinese owned and they’ve stated they are phasing out straight gasoline cars completely. That will be a trend.

Another thing that’s happening is the rapid growth of charging stations. There are more of them around than you’d think. State governments and electric utilities are pushing their expansion. It came as a big surprise to me to see a charging station next to the Mt. Washington Auto Road. There are phone apps for locating charging stations so they are easier to find.

The second prediction concerns self driving cars. If you listen to the hype it sounds like they are just around the corner. While huge progress has been made, they aren’t ready for prime time. It’s one thing to get good results on a prepared course. Out in the wild there are too many variables for safe operation.

Before we see self driving cars in your neighborhood, there will be commercial vehicles driving set routes. It will be easier to do. Trucks that can go from terminal to terminal will be easier to program. There’s also strong financial incentive to figure out commercial trucking first. Until they get that right, don’t expect to see driverless cars everywhere.

Those are my thoughts on the automotive future. Would I buy an electric car? If the price was right, it would be an acceptable choice to replace my small economy car. It will be a while before one can replace a tow vehicle for a reasonable price.


Thursday, October 3, 2019

GPS and Navigation

GPS has made navigation pretty easy. Just about everyone has a smart phone with Google Maps on it. With smartphone navigation so easy the stand alone GPS devices, like a Tom Tom, appear to be less popular. Maybe that’s just my observation. Even if that’s the case there are still people who like having a stand alone device for car navigation.

For Marine navigation there are a wide range of choices for various GPS mapping devices. Some of them are quite pricey. A good cheaper marine mapping option is a GPS enabled tablet running the Navionics app. There are also marine apps that run on smartphones. If you decided to go that route, make sure they can also run Active Captain at the same time. Active Captain adds additional crowd sourced information like marinas, anchorages, hazards, bridges, locks and other information.

I was looking over my own personal navigation situation. There are four GPS enabled devices in my possession. One is an old car GPS that’s terribly out of date and the company that made it is out of business. It still does a good job with old roads. When driving on newer roads it shows me driving across fields and through the roods.

My cell phone runs Google Maps, of course. It also has a marine navigation app with charts and Active Captain. The phone is waterproof so it’s actually pretty useful on a boat.

My new Garmin Inreach is primarily for the SOS function, text communication outside of cell range, and to let people follow my progress. It does have basic GPS function too. The problem is that the Inreach Mini works best for navigation when paired with a smartphone, so you still need the phone to really use it.

Speaking of basic GPS, I have an old Garmin Etrex. It’s extremely basic. You have to program way points from a paper chart into the unit. There’s no mapping, just a basic pointer system. It’s simple, but pretty reliable.

When it comes right down to it, I still believe in going old school. A compass and a map or charts still have their place. They don’t need batteries and that can make all the difference.

My best navigation while driving is my lovely wife with a decent road atlas. She enjoys telling me where to go.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Pet Peeve

Pet Peeve time. Here’s something I’m tired of dealing with. People see the things my lovely wife and I do and say they would love to do something like that.

. . . but . . .

They always have excuses why they couldn’t do it. People say they’d love to go camping like we do. However, they could never do it in a tent. They’d have to have a nice big RV with all the comforts. They can’t or don’t want to spend money on one so they can’t travel. If we were waiting for a perfect camping rig we wouldn’t go anywhere either.

People would love to live on a boat, but . . . yeah, it would have to be a floating apartment. Even a boat we’d be willing to live long term on is too small for these folks to spend a weekend on.

Another good one is the complaint that they could never afford to travel. If I had to have a lot of money I’d be working all the time and not traveling either.

A more valid excuse is that they aren’t healthy enough to travel. Okay, my medical issues kept us close to home last winter. That being said, my lovely wife and I have been living with health issues for years. One of the reasons we travel is that it keeps us moving and healthy. There’s a lot to be said for fresh air and exercise.

People say they want to have adventures, but most don’t really want to. They want to stay in their comfort zones. Even if it’s not fun, it’s familiar. People settle. It’s sad.


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Freedom travel

People who year for the freedom of travel have two major ways of doing it. One is by land, two is by sea.

A lot of people hit the road in everything from stealth converted vans to monster sized motor homes with a bunch of slide outs.

There are people out on the water in everything from 16 foot trailer sailers to boats so large you could load the 16 foot trailer sailer on top of it -along with the trailer and the tow vehicle.

This winter my lovely wife and I are doing a mixture of camping and sailing so it’s by land and by sea for us.

Nomads have other forms of travel. Just think of all the people who are hiking the Appalachian or Pacific Coast Trails. No giant vehicles for them. In fact, most of those folks carry less than 20 pounds of gear.

People travel the world on bicycles or motorcycles. I bet it would be fun on little scooters.

Then there are people on long trips in kayaks or canoes. One year my lovely wife and I sailed down the west coast of Florida all the way to the Keys. We met a young couple doing basically the same trip. However, they were traveling in a cheap sit on top plastic kayak. Ah, to be young and insane. I told the young man to take very very good care of his girlfriend. Guys willing to have that sort of adventure are a dime a dozen. Women willing to put up with it are one in a million.

A true vagabond will hop a freight train with their tiny bundle of essentials. I was wondering how fun it might be to upscale the experience. How about a coach class rail pass and a backpack with camping gear?

Are there any folks out there having adventures traveling around with amphibian sport planes? Seems like that would be fun.


Monday, September 30, 2019

The Season of Making Do

My lovely wife and I got really good at van life. The converted ambulance was working really well for us. Sadly, it needed expensive repairs we could not afford so we sold it. Then there’s sailing, the other thing we love to do. We could not afford a bigger sailboat this year. In fact, I refused a free sailboat just because we couldn’t pay the dockage fees.

Instead of a van, we’ll be camping in a tent this winter. To a lot of people that may seem like a big step backwards. It’s not for us, as we never completely gave up tenting. Last year we picked up a really nice L. L. Bean Alpine 6 tent at a half price sale. We tented instead of renting a hotel in Rhode Island last fall and the cost savings paid for the tent already.

Instead of buying another sailboat we are hauling our Oday 19 trailer sailer with us. The upgrades to the boat and trailer haven’t been very expensive. The Oday gets along just fine using free wind and the sun. The gas motor was replaced with an electric on charged by solar panels. It’s super cheap to run.

The one thing we did buy was a 2004 Chevy Blazer to tow the boat. We don’t have a lot money into that vehicle, but so far it does the job.

I was able to salvage a lot of stuff off the van before selling it, like the solar electric system, small fridge, inverters, 12 volt fan, and other odds and ends. We will be able to camp in cheap National Park sites that lack electricity and be very comfortable.

People ask me what we’ll do if it rains all the time while we are tenting. First of all, it’s a really good tent and can handle a certain amount of rain. However, if the rain goes on long enough it stops being fun. At that point we can always spend a few nights in a hotel. We save enough money tenting that we can afford a hotel now and then if we want to.

A winter of camping and sailing is cheaper than spending the winter in our house. We are turning the heat and electricity off. The Internet is being suspended until we return. More importantly, it’s a lot healthier for us.

In a year or two, if all goes well, we’ll look for a bigger boat. If that doesn’t happen we’ll figure something out. We always do.


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Taking everybody with you

One of the downsides of travel is leaving your friends and family behind. Sure, you meet people and make new friends along the way, but there’s something about people you’ve known for many years. They get you.

My lovely wife and I once met a group of people who traveled in RVs together. They were all friends who used to be teachers at the same school. They retired early together so that they could explore RV adventures as a group. We met them over twenty years ago, and we haven’t found another group quite like that.

Possibly it’s the way we travel. Maybe groups like that tend towards higher end RV parks? No idea. I also don’t know how long the teachers traveled together. They’d been traveling less than six months so anything could have happened.

In the sailing community there are people who have larger boats just so they can entertain. They’ll sail off to some exotic location. Friends and/or family fly out to spend vacations with them. It seems to work for them.

My lovely wife and I considered looking at boats large enough for crew. Then it occurred to us that few of our friends and family would visit. Many have busy lives and taking a few weeks off is difficult. Money is an issue. Those who have the time to sail with us for extended periods of time aren’t really into sailing and adventure. It’s surprising how many people we know easily get sea sick. For some reason a lot of people don’t want to put up with tight quarters, storms, sketchy plumbing, bugs, heat, cold, and weird food. Yeah, there’s that, but there are also dolphins, sea turtles, and sun downers on the beach. Some folks don’t think the highs are worth the lows.

Instead of trying to take everyone with us, we go home for at least half the year. That mostly works. Of course, the months of travel and adventure change a person. The people back home don’t quite get you the way they used to.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

Pulled the boat

The Oday 19 is finally out of the lake and on the trailer. I took it for one more sail across the lake and back, then headed for the boat ramp. I set out to do the job alone. It took a little back and forth to maneuver the trailer down the ramp. It’s different with a new tow vehicle. Years ago I added some guide poles to the boat trailer and it makes all the difference. The boat came out of the water nicely centered on the trailer.

There’s only one difficult part to do alone: taking down the forestay. That’s the cable that goes to the front of the boat to hold the mast up. When alone I cleat off the halyard and take as much pressure off it as possible. There’s a lot of on and off the boat to get it right. Just before that job my lovely wife met me at the boat landing. It went so much better with two. Her timing was excellent.

Now that boat is on the trailer it’ll be fairly easy to sand the bottom and apply fresh bottom paint. That’s the beauty of a small trailer sailer. The whole job will only take a little sandpaper and less than a gallon of bottom paint.

There’s a couple of little jobs to do on the boat, but they’ll go much faster with the boat on the hard.

It was a nice day for it. Temperature was in the low 60s, wind was light, and it was sunny. Some years I’ve pulled the boat in a snowstorm. That’s waiting a bit too late.


Friday, September 27, 2019

The robotic future is here

The robotic future is here.

. . . and it's more than a little creepy.


Thursday, September 26, 2019

Up on the Mountain

Okay, it’s a low mountain, but a mountain none the less. My lovely wife and I hiked up Mt. Jasper in Berlin NH. This is an absolutely beautiful time of the year for it. Brownie the Sailor Dog also enjoyed the hike. She acted like it was the best day ever.

While on the mountain I decided to do more real world tests of the Inreach satellite communication device. A text was successfully sent to my daughter and her reply came back just fine. I also downloaded a basic weather forecast. There’s the option for a more detailed premium forecast or a marine forecast. Since this was just a test, basic was fine. Actually, for most of my needs, basic is detailed enough.

While it’s possible to use the Inreach mini as a stand alone device, to really use all its functions you have to pair it with your cell phone. It’s worth doing just for the ease of sending text messages. The biggest and most important feature is the SOS button and that works just fine directly from the device.

It was a good day for a hike. While not a huge hike, it’s nice to have my health back so I can enjoy little excursions like this.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Weird Articles

I keep coming across all these workplace articles. People complain about their job: work conditions, lousy coworkers, bad bosses, poor pay, long hours -stuff like that. At that point I expect the authors of the articles to have some useful advice about getting out of that bad situation -probably by leaving the job as fast as possible.

Nope. That’s not how things are treated in these new self-help pieces. They tell workers how to suck it up and keep plugging away at a crap job.

There are reasons to work bad jobs under horrible conditions. For me, it’s only acceptable if that’s how you keep your kids from starving. Even then, all your energies should be going towards finding something better as soon as possible.

People do some amazing things to keep working bad jobs. Some months ago I ran into a relative of mine working the front desk of a certain company. I asked her when she left her old job. She hadn’t. This was a second, almost full time job. She then mentioned that she probably wouldn’t have to take happy pills if she wasn’t working so much. This is a woman who survived cancer, only to go on and make her life a living hell.

I’ve seen people lose important relationships with loved ones because they were working 24/7. They didn’t even like their jobs all that much.

I guess we all make choices. Personally, I’d live full time in a tent before I gave up my life to make a few bucks from a bad job situation.

The workplace articles are pretty discouraging. True, worker’s rights are slipping, but that’s no reason not to fight the decline the whole way. We are supposed to be happy slaves. The whole situation makes me a little angry -and I’m not going to take happy pills about it either. Anger can be useful.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Travel Shutdown

Thomas Cook, a major British travel firm, went belly up. About 600,000 people were stranded by the company’s collapse. British citizens are covered by a government insurance that guarantees they can get home. The other nationalities, who are the majority of their clients, are not so lucky. Various governments are trying to figure out what to do. My guess is that some people will just have to make their own way.

That must have come as quite a rude shock to a lot of people. In this day and age one of the main reasons for booking with a travel agency is that you don’t have to figure out anything yourself. It’s cheaper if you do your own planning and booking, but that takes some time and effort. The very sort of people who are stranded are the sort who don’t like to deal with unknowns and just winging it.

That’s what you get for trusting someone else with your transportation. Usually I like to drive myself. If the destination is across water, I want to take my own boat.

Of course, next month I’m trusting trains to get across the country. However, I don’t see the government abandoning Amtrak and stranding all the passengers. Even if that happens, it’s not like I’m across oceans. 3300 miles is a long walk home, but it can be done. I wouldn’t want to do it, but it could happen.

After the September 11 attacks people were stranded all over the country when all civilian planes were grounded. Amtrak was shut down for a short while. Some bus transport was suspended. People who absolutely had to get somewhere piled into cars and drove themselves.

We take long distance travel for granted, but the system is a lot more prone to disruptions than we’d like to think. During the terror attacks governments stranded people, but something as simple as bad business decisions could do it too. Just ask Thomas Cook clients about that.


Monday, September 23, 2019

Back to the Doctors

I’ve a doctor’s appointment today and another one scheduled for early October. Today’s meeting is with my foot doctor. It’s just a follow up on the minor operation she did on my toe. The work she did came out much better than she expected it to. None of the potential problems she was worried about happened. This should go well.

The next meeting is a little more serious. This doctor is the one who got me admitted to the hospital for my leg infection. There are darn few doctors who’ve earned my respect over the years but he’s one of them. I’ve actually been following his suggestions. He put me on a water pill, an aspirin a day, and a low salt diet. I monitor my weight on a daily basis to see if I’m retaining water. I can tell if too much salt gets into my diet as its easy to put on pounds of weight in a day -and then lose it the next if I’m good.

I’ve friends my age who’ve had serious health scares. Fortunately for them, they’ve had good medical insurance and get regular check ups. Having no insurance, I’m one of those guys who has to be dragged into the doctor’s. It is sobering to think that had I had some of the issues my friends had, I’d be dead right now. By the time symptoms show up it would be too late.

Of course, I could have died back when I was 35 and went out on disability from the Fire Service. My doctor says I’m the longest lived of anyone who’s gone out on disability that he’s had as a patient. I must be doing something right.

To get health insurance right now I’d have to sell everything and move into a tiny apartment and do nothing. That would kill me, so what’s the point? Instead I’m going on adventures.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Digital Nomad

There’s a lot of stuff to sort out before hitting the road. The clock is running since we have to be ready no later than the third week of October. I’ve been concentrating on the physical stuff, the tow vehicle, the boat, camping gear, and whatnot. That’s necessary, but preparing for our digital life is important too.

When we travel there are still bills that need to be paid. My goal is to avoid having to write paper checks. Unfortunately, one company we deal with is back in the dark ages and can’t be paid on-line. Good thing it’s a quarterly bill so we won’t have to do that too often. Just about everything else can be handled with on-line payments.

To get on-line we’ve two laptops, a cell phone, and a mobile hotspot device. Our cell phone plan is pretty bare bones and doesn’t have a lot of data. While it’s possible to add more, it’s expensive. In the long run it’s cheaper to use a Straight Talk hotspot. That device allows us to connect a number of devices to the Internet at the same time. Last time I used it we had very good service just about everywhere.

Unfortunately, when I tried to reactivate the hotspot the cell phone app informed me a new SIM card was needed. I really really really hate dealing with customer service. Fortunately, while it was still a pain, Straight Talk’s customer service department seems to have improved. They are sending me a new SIM card for free. It’s a good thing I’m not trying to sort this out while on the road.

My lovely wife and I are one of those weird couples who share a single cell phone. For this trip we might pick up a really cheap burner phone. There may be times when we are separated and still need to be in touch. We also have a couple of small two way radios. They can be surprisingly handy and don’t rely on the cell phone network.

Last but not least is my Kindle book reader. It’s always nice to have access to a lot of reading material without having to carry a hundred pounds of books.


Saturday, September 21, 2019

North Korean Weapons Program

In spite of some nice photos, smiles and handshakes, North Korea continues its nuclear program. This Newsweek article states that they could have up to 40 nuclear bombs in 2020. Too bad we aren’t paying all that much attention to them right now.

The crisis of the week involves Iran, another nuclear wanna be. Of course, they are working towards a bomb, while North Korea has already tested theirs. No matter, now we are going to worry about Iran. In fact the US administration is blaming them for a Saudi drone attack. That drone attack, while it did impressive damage, didn’t kill anyone. Pretty strategic, especially when you consider US drones just killed 30 farmers in Afganistan. That should insure a good supply of people who hate the US.

Does anyone remember when Venezuela was the big crisis? Those were days. Lately it seems that the United States can only focus on one crisis at a time. Not only that, some crisis are more popular than others.

Do you know who has not forgotten North Korea? Japan. They will not tolerate a nuclear armed North Korea forever. They have not been silent about it either. Not only that, Japan has seriously pushed the constitutional limits on their military. One small example: they have helicopter carriers that only need VTOL jets like the F-35 to be actual air craft carriers. By the way, they have a very aggressive program for acquiring F-35s. Imagine that.

Should Japan attack North Korea, the US would soon be drawn into the conflict. Any idea how China would deal with an attack? Is history going to repeat itself?

Interesting times.


Friday, September 20, 2019

Back up plan

My lovely wife and I have pretty firm plans for this winter. We decided on towing the sailboat behind the Chevy Blazer and do a mixture of sailing and tent camping.

Someone asked us what we’d do if there was a problem with the Blazer at the last minute. We both said we’d just load camping gear in her Nissan Versa and head south anyway. We’ve car camped with the little car before without problems. I bet we could even fit the Sea Eagle inflatable kayak in the car and do some paddling.

You’ve got to be flexible.

The first year we spent the winter south, almost 20 years ago, we did it in a Dodge Neon. Back then we carried an Old Town Discovery canoe on the roof that was bigger than the car. We traveled all over the south without any problems. Heck, we even had a dog with us back then. The Neons have a reputation for being crap cars, but ours never gave us any problems.

A few years ago we ran into a couple who didn’t even have a car. They flew to Florida and had an Uber take them to the campground. Their camping gear was minimal, but it was enough.

If there’s a will, there’s a way.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Twilight of Manufacturing

In yesterday’s blog I mentioned that couple who were traveling around the world using human power had been using second hand $100 bikes. They’ve been on them for thousands and thousands of miles with few problems.

However, it wasn’t just luck. One of the travelers, Zoe, has a background in Industrial design. She’s firmly convinced that a lot of older stuff was put together much better. There was a small weight penalty for going with older bikes, but they aren’t racing. It’s more important that the bikes hold together. The last thing you want is some major breakdown on a Peruvian back road in the middle of nowhere.

My auto mechanic is not a big fan of modern manufacturing techniques. One of his big complaints is the amount of cheap plastic built into cars these days. They use plastic on critical components that used to be metal. Even expensive cars use cheap plastic.

It’s not even good plastic. It’s possible to make good plastic parts that last. Like everything else, the good stuff cost more money. Instead they use junk that’s guaranteed to fail.

Marine stainless steel is something else that’s taken a huge tumble in quality. US made stainless from the 70s is much better than the junk coming out of India and China. People have been known to seek out junk boats just for the steel hardware to put on new boats.

Recently I was talking to a restaurant owner who uses a lot of induction stoves in his business. I happened to mention that my old cast iron works just fine. He told me that a lot of the new “cast iron” doesn’t have enough real iron in them to work right. The guy claimed that magnets won’t even stick to some of them.

So what’s going on here? Have we forgotten how to build stuff? The main issue appears to be money. Things are being manufactured as cheaply as possible. Personally, I’d rather have a few good things that last than piles of broken junk.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Human powered world travel

My lovely wife and I went for a drive to Rangely Maine. There was a nice talk by a young European couple, Zoe and Oliver, who’ve been traveling the world. Mostly, they are doing it all self powered. They’ve traveled by bike, backpacking, sailing and canoe so far. Here’s their Youtube channel.

So what does it cost to travel the world? That’s the question Americans tend to ask. In other parts of the world they are more interested in their marital status or why they don’t have children.

Yeah, yeah, but what does it cost? They estimated their trip would cost about $30/day. They worked for about four years and saved their money. They bought $100 bikes and took off. They still have the same bikes. The young woman, Zoe, had to fly back to Holland to have ovarian surgery. Flights home and back were not in the original budget. In spite of that, it’s been actually costing them less that $20/day.

They stress they are not tourists but travelers. There’s a huge difference. My lovely wife and really relate to that as that’s how we tend to think of ourselves. You’ve got to slow down, travel back roads, and get to know the locals.

One of the things you discover when traveling that way is that people, in general, tend to be kind. It’s something most people should do. You don’t have to go for years or do it with a bicycle, but you should travel if you can.

Don’t be a tourist who goes from resort to resort as you’ve never learn anything special. It’s also cost you a lot more than 20/day.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Winter is coming

No, I’m not talking about Game of Thrones. I’m talking about the snow and cold that afflicts the northern parts of our country. Winter in snow country is not something you want to go into unprepared. Back in the old days, those who didn’t prepare froze or starved to death. It wasn’t pretty. If you put up garden veggies or heat with firewood, you have some idea what kind of effort is involved. Winters can be harsh, but thanks to modern technology, it’s a lot easier than it used to be.

A former military friend of mine always worries about winter. He felt that if something nasty was going to happen to the country, winter would be the time for it. Heck, natural disasters provide enough drama even without there being evil intent. One good ice storm can take the power down and render the roads useless. He felt winter would be the the time for an adversary to do mischief.

With that in mind he recently added almost 500 dehydrated long term storage meals to his preps. He already had food storage, but it was bulky. Commercial dehydrated stuff is easy to transport and keeps for years. If you can boil water, you can prepare it. Buying in bulk like that, his price per meal was pretty reasonable. The guy felt is was cheap insurance. He now feels a bit better about the approaching winter.

Of course, my response to this coming winter will involve heading south. The idea is to trailer the sailboat south until it stops looking weird.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Saudi Drone Strike

A drone strike took out half of Saudi oil production. From a military standpoint, it was brilliant use of asymmetrical warfare. Houthi rebels claim to have launched the attack out of of Yemen. In spite of that claim, blame is being pinned on Iran.

Personally, I think it could have gone down a number of ways. It could have been an attack launched directly from Iran. It’s possible that drone technology could have been transferred to Yemen from Iran. The Houthi rebels are often supported by Iran. Don’t discount the possibility that the rebels did it all themselves. We live in a time of open source warfare. Things like drone technology are available on-line. A bunch of rebels could have home brewed their own drones with off the shelf components.

So what happens next? If we aren’t careful, a much wider war.

With the refinery down, the world loses something like 5 percent of its oil. Here’s the rub, some countries are a lot more reliant on Saudi oil that others. For example, the US doesn’t need it, but China and India could really feel the lack. It will affect the spot market so prices will go up. I’ve heard so called experts saying that gas prices in the US could rise as much as twenty-five cents. Frankly, that’s nothing.

What’s more important is possible effects of a larger war. More Saudi oil could be taken out. Iran, Kuwait, and Iraq could all be pulled out of the market if war comes to the shipping straights. A nasty regional war could spiral out of control. Does anyone see Israel not being drawn into this? Russia? China? The US?

This could be the start of something really nasty.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Wages and the Gig Economy

California passed a law that requires companies in the “gig” economy to treat workers like employees. Of course, the law is just a starting point. Companies like Uber are trying to get some watered down version when it comes to implementation.

Companies are complaining the law will ruin their businesses. My take on it is pretty simple. If your business model requires that your workers earn less than a living wage, you don’t deserve to be in business. Seems like a scam to me. Uber has never made money, yet it’s co-founder just bought an amazing mansion for 72.5 million dollars.

I am dismayed at the number of workers who don’t think they deserve a living wage. It’s not normal to have to work three low wage jobs to make a living. Productivity is way up and CEOs are doing quite well, thank you very much. Of course, at the end of slavery, some slaves were worried that they wouldn’t have their masters to take care of them anymore. The owner class has always done a pretty good job brainwashing people.

Even Henry Ford realized that the workers building his cars had to earn enough money to buy the cars they made. When the poor and working class earn more money, they spend it. That spending stimulates the economy and everyone benefits. The wealthy don’t stimulate the economy as much. They can only eat so many meals and wear so many suits.

At some point the economy is going to have to be reorganized. Even China, a land of low wages, is going into automation to reduce costs even more. If your job pits you against machines, you will lose in the long run.

I’m not sure what the solutions are, but building companies on the back of starvation wage workers isn’t going to work long term.