Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dog Beach by Sea

Last year my lovely wife and I took our dog to the Bonita Beach Dog Beach. This year we sailed down the coast in an attempt to find the same place by water.

All along the beach we saw numerous parasails.

We put in at the Sanibel Causeway Boat Ramp, which is about 12 miles north of Bonita. The weatherman had promised a 15 knot north wind for the day. The weatherman lied. Instead of a nice quick trip down the coast, we experienced light, changeable, and variable winds for most of the day. The wind even died completely, leaving us to bob around in the waves. Had the wind been more favorable, we’d have been at the pass well before dark.

As it was we didn’t get down to the pass until after dark, and low tide. Had we known exactly where we were going, we could have navigated the pass. The darkness and lack of water defeated us. After grounding three times in a row, I gave up and threw out the anchor. Soon there was just enough water to float us off the bottom, but I had given up for the night.

In the morning it was very clear where we had gone wrong. There are two very long sandbars on each side of the pass. At low tide good sections of them are exposed. My boat has a shallow draft, but it doesn’t have wheels. We were within 200 yards of the pass, but lacked the water to get there. The tide was only about half way in before we were able to motor through the pass.

We found the dog beach to be much cleaner than in the previous year. There’s a strong local effort to keep it clean that payed off. Doggie waste bags and disposable containers are now available.

It was easy to anchor right off the beach and wade it. We had such a good time there that we spend the whole day. There were small craft advisories out in the gulf, but we were protected well enough and decided to spend the night right where we were.

After and early lunch the next day we sailed back north. Once again the weather forecast was wrong, but this time in our favor. Instead of light winds from the north, we experienced moderate winds from the Southwest. After tacking out the narrow channel, we had a straight shot up the coast. The sun was out, the wind was right. All in all, it was a fine sailing day.

One the things I like to do is see how close we can get to where we are going without using the motor. With a bit of fancy sail handling from my wife, we were able to sail right up to the boat ramp. Had we no functional motor, we could have pulled the boat along the docks to the ramp. As it was I used it for a hundred yards so we could quickly get the boat clear from a very busy ramp.

It was a great little 3 day trip -probably our last for the season in Florida. We are meeting with friends in St. Augustine on the way north. They don’t sail, so my wife and I will be staying in a campground this time.

I’m told the ice is breaking up off the lake back home. That’s almost three weeks earlier than normal. We we get home, it should be possible to launch the boat right off and do some lake sailing.


Friday, March 30, 2012


The sailing post will be coming. Right now I’m trying to catch up after an eventful evening. Thursday, we had the boat loaded up by 6 p.m. and we were heading out towards the highway. The steering on the truck felt a little funny so I pulled over. There was nothing obviously wrong so I eased down the road a bit more.

Once on the highway, it seemed fine -for about 20 miles. Then the wheels started pulling all over the place. That’s when I moved it over to the side and shut it down. A tow truck stopped to see if we were in need of assistance. Indeed we were in need.

Eventually, between my BoatUS membership and AAA, I was able to cover most of the 157 mile tow back to my dad’s place. Right now the truck is in the garage. The mechanic has found problems in the steering linkage.

As you can imagine, it was long long evening after a few days on the water. I’m pretty beat. At least we had the resources to make everything come together. It wasn’t like anyone was bleeding, or anyone was shooting at us. We’ve got to keep these things in perspective.

Then there’s the two dozen roses. . . .


When we pulled off the road, there was another guy also broken down just ahead of me. He asked to borrow my cell phone as the battery died on his. No problem. In thanks, he presented my lovely wife and I with two dozen roses. Apparently, he was driving a flower delivery van.

Life has some bizarre little twists sometimes.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Another Chart

My lovely wife and I drove to a marine supply store to pick up another chart. Where we want to travel was off our existing charts. It was with a certain sense of glee that we headed to the store. Lots of fun stuff to look at there.

We did find a suitable chart, and we also checked out a lot of other shiny wonderful things in the store. Then we gasped at the prices and left with just a chart. I must admit to having been tempted by a chart plotting GPS, as that was one little item that had come down in price. Theoretically, one could save money going totally with electronic charts. Then again, theoretically, one could have his nice electronic gizmo fail and really wish for a paper chart.

Yep, we are heading out soon for a few more days sailing. I don’t think I’ll even bother looking for a wifi signal. I’m afraid I might find one. Then I’d be tempted to check the news rather than check out the real world around me.

We should be back in 3 -4 days or so. With any luck, there will be photos.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Welcome to the third world

My brother-in-law was born and spent his early years in Mexico. He’s a US citizen now, living the middle class life. He’s got a wife, two kids, and a house he’s underwater on. My sister-in-law works as a teacher. He makes good money as a translator.

I got to spend some time with him during my little trip to Texas. They are getting by well enough, probably better than most. He’s got no regrets about leaving Mexico, that’s for sure.

However, he is disturbed to see the US becoming Mexico. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The middle class is disappearing. He fears that there will only be the rich and the poor. That’s not a great way to live. My brother-in-law knows what that’s like more than our native born citizens. It scares the hell out of him.

It worries me more than a little myself.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Used books

My lovely wife and I drove to a good used book store. There doesn’t seem to be as many of them around as their used to be. I wonder of that’s the reason used book prices seem to have firmed up as of late.

Sure, it’s still possible to find used books on-line for next to nothing. Once the cost of shipping is added in, the price jumps up quite a bit. As we see transportation fuels going up in price that can only get worse.

Perhaps the remaining used bookstores recognize the changing conditions and have acted accordingly.

Of course, my observations are “statistically insignificant.” However, if my readers have noticed the same thing, maybe I’m onto something.

I’ve purchased used books on-line, a fair number of them. Those books were out of print and I felt fortunate to be able to use the power of the Internet to search them out. Price wasn’t as big a factor as just being able to locate them.

While it’s great to be able to order a specific book on-line, nothing beats wandering the shelves of a good used bookstore. That’s where you find treasures you weren’t looking for. Today I picked up some titles from authors I’ve enjoyed in the past, but wasn’t familiar with the specific titles in the store. Some had been out of print for a long time, but others might even still be available. Had I not seen them on the shelves, I would not have known to order them.

Another great thrill is discovering authors I’ve never read before, often in fields of literature I don’t usually read. Since the books are used and the price is lower than new, I’m more willing to take a chance. That’s how some of my new favorite writers are discovered. The writer’s benefit as I’m more likely to buy their new works.

My wife and I would sure hate to see any more used bookstores disappear. For the serious reader, they are like vaults of hidden treasures.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Scouting Mission

My lovely wife, Brownie the Sailor Dog, and I did a little scouting mission. I borrowed my dad’s car and we hit the coast.

Earlier in the day my lovely wife and I did some research on the Internet, but nothing beats boots on the ground. With a list of addresses we hit the road.

We were looking at places to take a sailboat. The first order of business: boat ramps. Florida has a lot of them, but the quality, prices, and rules vary. Often there is a difference between what you see on the Internet and how things really look on the ground. The one we checked out . . . checked out.

Looking to the future, we’d like a bigger boat, but don’t want it to financially break us. We really like the idea of leaving a boat down to Florida. Trailering a bigger boat would be a pain, or even impossible. One option is to leave a boat drydocked for the summers. We checked out a number of marinas to see their operations.

Since we were in the area, we drove down plenty of side roads, checking out the houses on the water. There are plenty for sale, not that I’m buying. I’m not interested in buying property in a community where I don’t vote. At least I can go to town meeting back home in NH and have a voice. More property goes against our desire to live a more mobile existence. However, for the right price, renting might have potential.

The next thing on our list was to have dinner and drinks at a funky restaurant on the water. There’s aways a funky little restaurant on the water. This one delivered. Funky atmosphere, good food at reasonable prices, and decent beer on tap.

Hey, scouting is thirsty work.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Investing in electronics

Few things have dropped in price faster than electronics. That’s one of the reasons I buy the bare minimum that will do the job. I remember about 20 years ago, a friend of mine said he owned about $20,000 worth of electronics. Any idea what those are worth today? I’m guessing almost nothing. How many people want to buy a 20 year old computer?

Think about that 20 year old computer when you get tempted to buy the newest and best bit of electronics. Imagine that a few years down the road, that bit of electronics will be little more than junk.

Now there are good reasons to buy the best in electronics. An engineer needs a darn capable computer to do his job efficiently. A musician may justify the purchase of good recording gear. A serious gamer may justify having a really good gaming platform. I’m not criticizing the last one. People can spend a lot of money on their hobbies. If that’s what they want to do, that’s their business.

If you are buying the latest shiny electronic device, be aware that you may be throwing money away. Compare that to buying something like a good shovel or a quality socket set. Twenty years later both of those things are probably just as useful as the day they were bought. It’s tempting to buy the hot new products but make sure there’s a real reason to do so.

I’m assuming few of us have money to throw away.

There’s a couple of other concerns that keep me away from expensive electronics. The sun is entering a time of increasing solar activity. A rogue pulse of energy from the sun could turn electronics into bricks.

We can debate the odds of that happening, but there is something that is of real concern right now -at least to me. Most of my electronic power is generated from my own solar electric system. Electricity is not unlimited. I have to justify how it’s used. My electrically powered equipment is carefully chosen. Not only is it inexpensive, it’s efficient. I’m one of the few people who what to know exactly how much power something uses before I buy it.

Electronics can be lots of fun, they can be useful, but they aren’t investments.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Have screwgun will travel

A couple of years ago my lovely wife gave me a really nice little bit driver. It’s a Bosh. I’d told her once that if she ever gets me cordless tools remember one word: lithium. Cordless tools with good lithium batteries can be lighter and still pack plenty of punch.

Today I was glad I brought it with me. My dad and I just laid down a new subfloor in his bedroom. He’s been rebuilding the floors in his Florida home. Those prefab places were put together with staples and particleboard. Over time, the floors develop soft spots. A good layer of plywood does much to stiffen things up.

I screwed down all the plywood. Dad’s knees are not what they used to be, so I was glad to help. It was good to do a project together and give him a hand.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dead Tires

Anyone else notice all the dead tires on the side of the road? The vast majority of them are truck tires. Some sections of road on my recent trip were so littered with rubber that it would be dangerous to try to pull to the side of the road.

There’s always been a few trucks losing tires. Inside duals are particularly prone to disaster. The driver can’t see them in his mirrors. A tire low on air can go unnoticed until it fails catastrophically.

While tires have always failed, it certainly seems there are a lot more of them. There are plenty of possible causes: more use of retreads, overloaded trucks, tires used past their time, drop in quality -lots of possible causes. It could be as simple as road clean up not happening as much as it used to.

Anyone else notice? Any ideas?


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No politics or religion

Both of those subjects were consciously avoided by my in-laws, my lovely wife and I. We weren’t going to change each other’s ideas and it would only lead to harsh words. Instead, we focused on enjoying our visit. There was much else we could talk about. It was good to see them.

People’s politics, and yes. even their religion, can change over time. Why get in a tizzy over stuff like that? Family will always be family. We all want the best for each other. Our differences are in how those good things will best be achieved.

It got me thinking. Maybe the whole country should take that approach: focus on what we have in common. The things that divide us should be put on the back burner and we should focus on the positive. Keep the important stuff in mind. We all want to be able to live in peace with a measure of prosperity. We want to see our kids grow up smart, healthy and happy. The differences are in how we expect to get there.

Maybe we should all chill a bit. Accept that maybe no one of us has all the answers. Think back to a time in life when your politics or other beliefs may have differed from what they are now. If we can accept change in ourselves, maybe we should allow other people to evolve.

Once we do that, we may find something else in common. There are those who use political and religious differences to weaken and control us. We may treat those people with the contempt they deserve. Too many careers have been founded on fear and hate. Why should people benefit from our strife? Let’s put those things aside and enjoy what we have in common -just like family.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Back from the great state of Texas

My lovely wife and I pulled into my dad’s place at 3 a. m. after a 17.5 hour drive from Texas.

The drive was long, but uneventful. My only encounter with a State Trooper was at the Florida welcome center. He was a dog lover and wanted to say hi to my dog. When the dog jumped up in the driver’s seat, the trooper asked if the dog was going to drive -after all, he had a dog license.

I told him I’d let the dog drive, but I’d hold his leash ‘cause I’m not crazy.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pleasures of Travel

One of the pleasures of travel is the people you meet.

My lovely wife and I had the good fortune to meet Dizzy Dick and his gracious wife. While it’s nice to be meet people on the Internet, it’s even better to meet them in real life. Dick and his wife entertained us on their RV. We talked much of the day away and it seemed like but a short while.

The main reason for this trip to Texas was to visit my wife’s family. Her parents have been living in the Lone Star State for something like twenty years. My wife’s sister and husband for thirteen. Her children, a boy and a girl, are native Texans. Living two thousands miles apart, we don’t get to see each other nearly as often as we’d like.

I’m one of those fortunate people who actually likes and enjoys the company of his in-laws. We saw my wife’s parents in New Hampshire about a year and half ago. My sister-in-law and her family we haven’t seen for five years. Her son was only two then and didn’t remember us at all. The daughter is 12, so she was old enough to know us. We keep in touch as much as we can, but life is busy. Before you know it, those kids will be off having lives of their own.

We are tip toeing around the subjects of politics and religion. Visits are too short to spend the time of arguing over things that probably don’t matter as much as family. It’s nice that we can all focus on what really matters.

In a couple days I’ll be making my way back to my dad’s in Florida. There are more people to meet along the way: family, friends, and friends we haven’t met yet.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Childhood dreams

I must have been around 7 or 8 years old. I had this dream of running off with the garbage men. Those guys were the coolest. Their job had a really really relaxed dress code. Back when I was kid, they rode on the back of the truck out in the open. That was the neatest way to travel. Imagine standing on the outside of a big truck as it rolled down the road. What kid wouldn’t like that?

Running off to live the free life of the garbage men was my childhood dream. Over time, my parents really got tired of me talking about it. When the big sanitation truck came rumbling into my neighborhood, I would run out to see if they’d take me with them. One day my mom figured she’d cure me of this obsession. That day the guys on the truck were known by my folks. Mom said I could run off with them and they played along with it.

I hopped on the side of the truck with the guys and we went down the road. Mom must have thought I’d freak out and be cured of my obsession. I freaked out -when the truck stopped about 100 feet later and they handed me back over to my mom.

For the time it took to travel that 100 feet my dreams had come true. Suddenly, all those dreams were dashed. It was the highest high and lowest low I’d ever experienced in my life, all within a few minutes.

I was thinking of that experience recently. Kids get some idea what a fun and interesting life would be, only to be discouraged by adults. I guess mom always wanted me to be a doctor. Oh well, that didn’t happen either.

In the end, I did get a cool job where I got to ride on the back of the truck. I became a Firefighter back in 1979. Back then Firemen still road standing on the back of the tailgate. Yes, it was the coolest way to travel.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Insane Corporate Being

Corporations have the right to free speech, as if they were real people. Of course, people speak with voices. Corporations speak with money. No wonder politicians listen closer to corporations.

Let’s look at the corporate being. What kind of creature is it? It’s a creature created as a money pump. It must extract and concentrate wealth. It has no real other function. Public relations flacks promote some drivel about things like good corporate neighbors, but it’s a mighty thin facade. When a corporation does something other than concentrate wealth, it’s being made to do it. If it wasn’t for tax breaks, there would be no corporate charity. In fact, corporate officers who lose focus on wealth concentration are replaced.

A real person who only focused on wealth, to the exclusion of all else is a psychopath. In fact, that’s the sort of person who does really well in a corporate environment. They are driven. All human values have no impact on their decisions.

Maybe we should treat corporations like real people -real psychotic people. They are sick and dangerous and should be restricted in what they can do. That’s one of the jobs that government used to do, but now government is an enabler. Crazy people are watching the crazy people. It’s no wonder we live in a crazy world.

The first step to sanity is to reverse the decision that gives free speech rights to these nonliving pseudo creatures called corporations. Then we have to treat corporations like we’d treat a psychotic person. It might be impossible to change its nature, but it is possible to restrict actions. That’s done with close observation and tightly enforced rules.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In Texas

The 900 mile road trip from my dad’s in Florida to my in-laws in Texas took about 18 hours. That included fuel, rest, and food stops -along with waiting out an impressive thunderstorm in Louisiana.

There’s very limited Internet access from my in-laws, and it’s expensive. I can only access my accounts from public wifi hotspots. There ain’t a lot of them in rural East Texas.

This trip is to meet up with my wife’s family, so I’m at their convenience.

My father-in-law gave me a some good boating equipment: two anchors, a spotlight, and a decent flush mount marine compass. All those things will be put to good use on my next boat project. He’s been digging out his old books and charts, and I’m happily taking all of them. Back in the 70s, he used to shuttle boats all up and down the Atlantic coast.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Texas bound

Currently on the road to Texas.

I've no idea how good my Internet connection will be once I'm there. Don't worry if posting gets spotty for a bit.

All the best.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Projects to greet me on my return

I just got news that the title problems with my ambulance conversion have finally been straightened out. When I get home, I’ll be able to put license plates on that beast. For newer readers, I’m in the process of converting an ambulance into a mini-camper/boat hauler. Bad weather and title problems put the project on hold. When I get back, the first priority is to get the rig road legal. Then it’s being converted to run on waste vegetable oil. Finally, a few more camper modifications will have to be done. Dad donated a nifty 12 volt/120 volt refrigerator to the project.

Another project is an Ooze Goose. I downloaded the plans. They are extensive, leaving nothing out. There’s things I really like about this boat. It’s small and should be a quick build. It has a usable cabin where someone can get away from the weather and bugs. I want to experiment with a scow design and a lug rig, so this will be a good test bed. Plus, I like the idea of a light sailboat that I can drag off into the trees and hide. I bet it’ll be light enough to throw in the back of a truck. The only big downside is that the plans are metric. I’ll have to buy some new measuring tools.

I’m sure there will be plenty of other things for me to do once I get back. At least I won’t have to reopen the house. I’ve house sitters who’ve kept the fires burning while I’m gone. There won’t be leaking plumbing to patch up. It seems that no matter how careful I am draining plumbing, some little thing somewhere will spring a leak.

We don’t expect to head north for over a month yet. There’s plenty of time for more projects to pile up.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Is there an App for that?

I’ve always been one to pick and choose my technology. Some things I’ve embraced before most people: alternative energy is one area that comes to mind. Other technologies I’m perfectly happy to be a generation or two behind: computers is one area that’s true. My computer needs are modest enough that slower speeds and lower tech is fine. Some technologies I’ve yet to find a need for. Right now, I have nothing that runs “Apps.”

Cell phone technology is one area I’m definitely way way behind the curve. My first cell phone was one of those bag phones. I got one just as the whole bag phone technology was almost completely replaced by smaller and smaller pocket phones.

Why did I embrace the older tech? Power. The old phones had one feature that was important to me over all others. The old phones had a lot more range than the pocket phones. At the time, my wife was working 50 miles away. Her drive took her through the mountains. Cell towers were few and far between, so having more power and range was important in an emergency.

Today, there still isn’t reliable cell phone service at my house. My wife and I have only one cheap $10 cell phone between the two of us. It makes phone calls, that’s it. That’s all the cell phone tech I need right now.

Friends and family have phones with all the Apps. I’ve played with them, but have no justification for getting one. While some functions would be useful to me, they aren’t useful enough for me to get an expensive phone and pricey monthly service plan -even if I could get a cell signal at my house.

The new tablets is another technology that my record is spotty on. In a way, I was a pretty early adopter of the technology. I had a series of early model PDAs. Anyone remember Palm devices? Now most of their functions are in cell phones. For a number of years, I used to review a lot of documents. I’d download them onto my computer than transfer them to my Palm device. Then I’d make notes, upload the notes onto my computer, then e-mail my notes.

One would think I’d be one of the early adopters of the new tablet devices. I’m not. My days of reviewing a lot of documents are in the past. I do have the most basic of book readers. Much like the old PDAs, it must be physically connected to my computer to load books. All it does is display books and store and play music files. The more advanced technology tablets do not interest me. Rather than buy a tablet, I spent my money on a cheap netbook -it was more useful to me for the way I actually work. Having a decent keyboard is what’s important. Heck, even back in my PDA days, I had a folding keyboard that would connected with the device.

Now I’m not saying that my technology choices are the only right choices. They are my choices for the way I live. I’m pretty much immune to advertising and peer pressure. Technology has to sell itself to me on its own merits. I may get one of those devices one of these days, but if I do, it’ll because of a hard nosed cost/benefit analysis.

Of course, I’ll happily accept new technology as a gift. Nothing like getting something free to skew the cost/benefit analysis.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Can’t afford to live in a tent anymore

Ten years ago, my lovely wife and I used to travel around the country, living in a tent. Today I’ve come to the sad conclusion that we could not afford to do that today. Back then, we stayed in campgrounds a lot more than we do now. Mostly, we stayed in state parks and lower priced private campgrounds. Sometimes we stayed in more expensive campgrounds, but that was to experience special places.

Prices at campgrounds have risen. My income hasn’t. That’s it in a nutshell.

Sure, we could camp off in the woods in National Forests or stealth camp. That’s fine now and then, but having a few facilities are nice.

We have reservations in a couple campgrounds for the trip back, but it’s a tiny fraction of our time away from home. It won’t bust the budget.

Instead of campgrounds sometimes we stay with friends and family. Years ago, we occasionally crashed at other people’s houses, but not like now. This year we’ve spent a fair amount of time at my dad’s. He’s got a spare bedroom, place to park the truck and boat trailer, and even loaned us a car. We also make use of his park’s hot tub and swimming pools. Most importantly, I’ve been able to spend time doing things with dad. Even with helping pay dad’s expenses, it’s cheaper than tent sites.

The other thing we’ve been doing differently is spending time on the sailboat. That’s been a surprisingly economical thing to do. Take our last 4 day trip. We spent only one night in a marina, the other nights were at anchor. Anchoring is free. The marina we stayed at charged $1/foot. With our 19 foot boat that came to a reasonable $19/day. Few campsites in the area are that cheap, and none a nicer place to stay. Oh, yes, we did burn about 1/2 gallon of gas for the outboard.

In the future the only thing that makes economic sense is to spend most of our time on a sailboat.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Solar Storms?

If this solar storm really does hit, most of my readers won’t be reading this blog post.

My guess is that most of you are still here -this time. It’s just a matter of time before we have a big enough storm to seriously shut down a good bit of our technology.

I actually took a few precautions for this event. Had I been home in in NH, I wouldn’t have to do anything at all. Independent power, water, septic, and food storage is normal everyday life there. At my dad’s trailer park, it’s different. Everything is on the grid here.

I pulled all the water jugs off my sailboat, refilled them, they stored them in my dad’s sun room. While on the boat, we gathered up all our storable food and brought them to the trailer. The vehicles are fueled up. Even my camp stove is full and ready to go. If the grid goes down, few stations will be able to pump gas.

One of the big things that happen when the grid goes down is that nobody knows what’s going on. So that doesn’t happen, I’ve a short wave radio stored in a metal ammo can. That should keep most of the EMP out.

With any luck, this is only a drill, but one never knows when disaster will strike.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Back they go

One of the things that surprised me this Florida trip is the large number of retirees putting their places for sale and heading north. There seems to be three common reasons for doing so. For any individual person, more than one factor may be involved.

Being closer to family is a big one. Travel isn’t as easy and cheap as it once was. Fewer and fewer people are hopping on a plane for a quick visit with the kids. Those who drive are very aware of the rising price of gas. Being closer to family is winning out over sunshine and days on the golf course. The flip side is that the kids can’t afford a southern vacation anymore.

Ill health is a common reason. Frankly, some are going home to die.

Another reason is that their pensions can no longer support them. It doesn’t cost all that much to live in a trailer park in Florida, but even that low hurtle is too high. Social Security isn’t much to live on. Those living on investments have taken a bit hit. If they are lucky, they have kids or other family willing to take them in.

The phenomenon of retirees heading south has only really existed for a relatively short period of time. Historically, elders would live in extended family groups. For many, those days have returned.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The price of sailing and independence

One of my daughters bought me a subscription to one of those glossy sailing magazines. I’ve enjoyed the gift and have even learned some useful sailing hints from it. Sailing is relatively new to me, so any source of information is greedily consumed.

The exotic locations and expensive boats are fun to read about, but 90% of the articles have little to do with the way I sail. The obvious difference is that most sailing in those magazines are done on a budget orders of magnitude bigger than mine. That’s fine. After all, if it wasn’t for those high priced advertisers none of those magazines could be published. That’s the nature of business, but it’s no wonder some of those articles appear to be little more than advertisements themselves.

I could never afford most of the things advertised, even simple things like anchor chain. My big heavy duty piece of chain (attached to a budget anchor) is something that fell off a logging truck.
Even if I could afford one of those big new boats, I have a lot of problems with them. Too many appear to be nearly impossible to fix or service without the full facilities of a good boatyard. High labor costs, combined with specialized parts make that a high dollar operation.

That bumps against one of the things I love about sailing: freedom. When we headed out from the dock recently, my lovely wife looked at the huge expanse of ocean all around us and said, “We could go anywhere!”

That’s the promise of a sailboat, the potential to go anywhere. Of course, there are practical considerations, but even in my tiny sailboat, many thousands of miles of the watery realm are open to us. Anywhere with water and wind is our domain.

Of course, that only works as long as the boat can be repaired and maintained. Go to any good sized boatyard and gaze upon a multitude of boats not going anywhere soon. Some are waiting for parts. Others are waiting their turn with some specialized equipment or highly trained expert. Some boats may be waiting for their owners to get the money together to do the work.

Is it any wonder that I’m attracted to those who build their own boats? The ones that really impress me are those who build the boat, then load all the tools into the boat. Any leftover fasteners, glues, paints, and materials also come along for the ride. They have the knowledge and equipment to completely rebuild a boat from the keel up. Imagine that level of independence. Imagine that level of freedom.

It’s not necessary to build your own boat, but being able to do most of your own work is a big plus. Having a boat without a lot of specialized parts is useful. Knowing how to repair a damaged hull, torn sail, or sick engine keeps a person on the water. It also keeps them out of the poor house.

Those slick magazines are nice, an enjoyable read, but don’t let them sucker you into buying a boat that won’t deliver on that freedom promise.


Monday, March 5, 2012

North Anclote Bar

Three times I’ve sailed past this bit of land, and each time had to pass it by. It was either too dark or too windy. Finally, we arrived early enough to approach the island. Winds were from the south and mostly blocked by Anclote Key.

The beautiful thing about North Anclote Bar is that it doesn’t exist. On the navigation charts, it’s listed as shoaling -not an actual island. On the main key, there are rules. Dogs are not allowed. The state has rules about what goes on there. Locals tell me that the Bar appeared after a major storm one year. Apparently, the state hasn’t gotten around to acknowledging it. That’s the nature of things in Florida. Land appears and disappears after each major storm.

We approached it Thursday afternoon. On the east side of the island, the water was blue. On the west, it was bright green. We anchored close to shore and waded it. It’s a good place to swim and a terrific place to beach comb. Sea birds love this little bit of land. My lovely wife loved it as much as the sea birds.

Locals seem to be the main visitors. A little local knowledge helps getting in and out of the island. Don’t try this with a deep draft vessel. I made the mistake of anchoring on top of a narrow sandbar that dried out later that night. Twenty feet either way, and I’d have had plenty of water. We were grounded for a short while. I knew we were close to shore, but wanted to hug the island to stay out of the wind. Judged it a bit close. There was no harm done. As soon as a bit more water came in, I moved the anchor out slightly deeper.

It was a great place to stop -last bit of land before we crossed the open Gulf of Mexico. When we bought a sailboat, this is the sort of thing I imagined doing with it.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Open Sesame!

There’s something very satisfying about waking up on a boat right where you anchored the night before. As we slept, the wind had shifted to a more northernly direction. Our large Danforth anchor never budged.

Due to the wild sail the night before, we were very close to our destination. It was just a short trip through the bridge and up the channel to Calidesi State Park Marina. Since the winds were unfavorable, we motored.

Brownie the Sailor Dog was very interested in the whole draw bridge operation.

I still get a kick out of having bridges open for me.

We had a mellow day at the park. My lovely wife went swimming at the beach.

I found a nice swinging bench in the shade in which to read. All in all, a very pleasant day.

My wife had an encounter with a very large rattle stake -right next to the “Caution, this island has rattle snakes” sign. She noticed it, gave it plenty of room, and warned other people. The snake relaxed and disappeared in the underbrush. Later that day, we noticed the park people had cut the brush further back away from the trail.

We know from Genesis that Paradise has a snake -that doesn’t stop it from being Paradise.

Calidesi is one of our new favorite places.


Friday, March 2, 2012

Wandering Sailors

We are back from another successful sailing trip. I’ve no idea what’s going on in the world right now, and I’m not particularly bothered by that. A sailboat is a world of its own.

My lovely wife left Bayport around 10:45 a. m.. on Tuesday. All our stuff was finally loaded and the boat set up and launched.

We knew we could not reach our destination before dark, but we were comfortable with that idea. The boat has lights, so why not use them?

The sail in the open Gulf was pleasant, but not fast. Mostly we poked around 2 - 3 knots with the occasional burst of 4 knots. Our goal was to anchor off of Anclote Key. It’s not the best anchorage -little protection from east winds. We did anchor there before, so we knew what we were getting into.

After the sun went down, the wind picked up -strong and from the east. We reduced sail and still moved along at near hull speed. Just to make things interesting, we wandered in the shallows, dragging the rudder in the mud. No problem. All I have to do is pull a slip knot and the cord that holds the rudder down is loosened, allowing the rudder to kick up.

Normally, it’s an easy, uneventful procedure. Normally. For some reason, the cord hooked the ring pin that secured the backstay pin and sent it flying. There was nothing to keep the pin from falling out. Had that pin fallen out, the backstay would come down and the mast with it. At hull speed. In rough seas. At night.

Fortunately, I had a hitch pin in my shirt pocket and jammed it into the pin, saving the backstay, and the rest of the rigging.

The rest of the night sail was busy and wet, but with the exception of the pin incident, we never felt in any sort of danger. I knew there were some spoil islands down the channel that we could anchor behind, out of the wind.

We were very happy to have this patch of ground blocking the heavy winds. I dropped the anchor, 12 hours and 42 miles later. We slept well that night.