Thursday, January 30, 2014

Something about two days of rain

In every life a little rain must fall. This is day two at the marina. It's a nice marina, but the budget can't take too many more days here. On the other hand, the spacious boater's lounge with most of the amenities helped us pass the days in comfort. I guess weekly or monthly rates aren't that bad, but the daily rates are higher than we like to spend.

Fort Myers Beach is a nice little tourist town, but I'm told it will be packed solid here with people in the near future. For now, it's pretty manageable. The trolley system is well run. For fifty cents I was able to take it over to Publix to do the groceries. It certainly feels good to have the boat restocked.

Water containers have been refilled. The boat battery is recharged. Laundry's done. We are set for the next leg of our journey.

When I decided to head to a marina, one of the concerns was that my lovely wife wasn't feeling very well. Only later did we discover she forgot to take her evening's medications so that would account for her feeling off. She's better now.

One thing I discovered while in Publix is that there's something called “The Super Bowl” going on this weekend. Yeah, I'm that out of touch. Apparently this event requires massive amounts of finger food. While all those people are glued to the TV, I'll be anchored off a really nice little beach where we can let the dog run free. Life is full of choices.

These past couple of days have allowed me to catch up on the news, for what it's worth. Did the Zombie Apocalypse happen while I was away and this is the aftermath? That would explain how strange the news appears to me now.

Friday looks like another rainy day, but warmer and with favorable winds. I'll do a little end of the month business using the marina's high speed Internet, fill up the gas tank, untie the dock lines and be free again.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Where in the world?

On my last post we were on Cayo Costa, waiting for a break in the weather to head south. We woke up to dense fog from the south -not a good combination for sailing southward. I was pretty much resigned to spending another night. However, by 11 a. m. the fog lifted. Soon after our anchor was also lifted.

We traveled the ICW southward, motoring most of the way. When winds seemed suitable, we stopped the motor and raised the sails. Our speed rarely exceeded 2 knots. After an hour and a half of that the wind died completely so it was back to the iron sail.

My destination was Picnic Island, a small spoil island next to Sanibel Island. Just as we came to the island, the 6 gallon gas tank finally ran dry just a couple hundred feet short of where I wanted to anchor. Fortunately, I've a second 3 gallon fuel tank, so we were just fine.

Picnic Island is a nice place to walk the dog and for the crew to stretch their legs. Our anchorage was quiet and calm until just about sunrise. In the north, a black wall of nasty weather advanced like Sherman through Georgia.

I though we could outrun it across the bay. I was wrong. Seriously wrong. Half way across the bay darkness overcame us. That's all I needed to find myself down the wrong channel. The boat grounded, but we were going slow enough to back off the sand. We backtracked using my phone chart app and a depth finder. We didn't find the causeway until it was looming over us.

We tied up next to the boat ramp, determined to sit it out. Soon after we got in, a nice couple paddled in a double kayak. They spent the night camped on Picnic Island and got caught in the fog just like us. Like us, they even got grounded. . . in a kayak.

My lovely wife and I got to talking with the kayakers. They've been traveling south from Venice Florida and plan on going all the way down to the Keys. Nice to be young, strong, and crazy. As you can imagine, we got along famously. We even unloaded a couple of books on them. Raise our water line, lower theirs.

Once the fog lifted, Captain Sixbears made a command decision. We were low on supplies, my lovely wife was feeling a bit under the weather, and the weather was nasty. It wasn't in the budget, but I picked up two nights in a nice marina. That's what emergency funds are for.

So now I'm sitting in a nice warm boater's lounge, drinking coffee, and had a nice warm shower.


Monday, January 27, 2014

At the Shellbar

I can't call it a sandbar. That little strip of land consists of more shell than sand, so shellbar it is. Of course, will all the sundowners drunk out there, one could call it a booze bar.

Finally, we have a day worthy of Florida's reputation. Temperatures rose over 70 and the sun came out. After days of cloud and cool nights, it's a relief.

This will be our third night here, on or next to the sandbar near Cayo Costa. Winds have been unfavorable for southward sailing, but no matter what we are heading south in the morning.

The boat's battery had been severely discharged. I'd left something connected that I thought I'd unplugged. Combined with a couple of cloudy days, battery voltage dropped too low to do anything.. Thanks to a day's sun on the solar panel, there is enough power to run the laptop again.

On the bright side, I've pretty much lost contact with “the news.” That's fine. The longer I'm out on the water, the less sense the rest of the world makes to me.

I had a nice talk with a guy who sailed a small open boat all the way down from the Florida Panhandle. The weather has been cold and wet at times. All the guy has is a small tarp to sleep under. The guy doesn't even have a VHF radio. His rig is designed to slip under most of the bridges. A 9 foot clearance swing bring had him stopped, but I was right behind him and talked to the bridge master. Like us, he plans to sail down to the Keys.

I guess I'm not the craziest one out here.

. . . or maybe we are sane ones.


Saturday, January 25, 2014


I blew the budget at Palm Island Marina. The marina price wasn't too bad. It's the restaurant next door that proved a tad pricey. However, they had a most excellent key lime pie that put a smile on the lovely wife's face that make it worth the price. After dinner, we relaxed in the outdoor hot tub -just the thing for sore sailing muscles.

To our surprise, we didn't get up until almost 10 a. m.. After weeks of getting up before the crack of dawn it felt good to sleep in.

We didn't have far to go. Our goal was Cayo Costa State Park. Sailing was slow, but we stuck with it. There were many birds to look at.

That white line after the island is all birds.

Dolphin watching never gets old.

Eventually we landed the boat on a sandbar near the park. A cat was already there. We all introduced ourselves and before long we were sharing a few drinks. Not a bad way to end a day's sail.

This is as far as we got back in November. That's when my lovely wife broke a tooth and we had to deal with that instead of sailing. Feels good to back.


Friday, January 24, 2014

Wind Chill

Our anchorage was chosen wisely. We anchored the little sailboat in a protected nook, The cold wind blew. The rigging sang, but we had very little wave action. All in all, a comfortable night.

Morning found us with high winds still, and temperatures down in the low 40s. That's not what I came to Florida for. We were in hurry to lift the anchor. Instead, we paddled the kayak to Indian Mound Park and checked out the town. In our wandering we found a nice little restaurant for lunch.

One thing about traveling the way we do, we sure meet some interesting characters. Today it was the former crack dealer. He was in the park having his morning beers. The guy said prison was the best thing that ever happened to him. The guy used too much of his own product. Interesting people along the waterfront.

We didn't travel very far today. In November we made a stop at Palm Island Marina. It was a good stop for us so I insisted on stopping again. It's not a cheap marina, but they give me a deal. One also has to factor in the free laundry. That saves a few bucks. This is also a good place to charge all batteries and fill the water jugs. Our next stops will most likely be in more remote areas.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Still southward, but not too direct

The Sarasota mooring field provided an especially bouncy second night. There's little protection from the Northwest winds and we got the brunt of it. Our little boat bounces around like a cork on the best of times, so little sleep was had. The boat faired better than the crew.

With small craft advisories forecast, we decided to stick with the inside route on the ICW. One big downside of that decision was that we were at the mercy of the bridge opening schedules. Our first bridge did not open until 11 a. m.. Rather than keep bouncing around on the mooring ball, we decided to motor across the bay to a more protected spot.

That's where the fun began. The outboard picked up a big ball of fishing line. I quickly killed the motor to keep it from wrapping up any tighter. While that was going on, the wind blew us into the shallows where we grounded.

Working from the kayak, I soon had the fishing line cut away. Then I set an anchor out in the deeper part of the channel. All we had to do was to wait for the rising tide. One big pot of coffee and a game of cribbage later, we floated free. That only set us back about 40 minutes.

With a strong tailwind, we had a nice lively sail to Venice. Friends met us there. We hopped in their car and drove to a drumming circle on the beach. After the sun went down, they invited us to spend the night at their place. The boat wasn't exactly in a “sanctioned” overnight spot, but it was safe for the one day.

Today our friends even drove us over to a Publix for groceries before dropping us off at the boat.

Sailing was slow, but the sun was out and it didn't matter. My lovely wife spotted two manatees right in the channel. We were able to warn a power boat about them in time for him to avoid a collision. We all felt good about that. Those poor beasts have a hard enough time as it is. We felt privileged to see them out in the wild.

Right now we are anchored off the ICW near a public park. It's a good place to take the dog for walks. We should be protected from the worst of the predicted high winds, but only time will tell.

Still loving the adventure.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014


This will be our second night on a mooring ball in Sarasota. Monday's sail was pleasant, but not particularly fast, only 2.5 – 3 knots. No matter, it was good enough for me to sail rather than motor. Once at the marina we topped off the gas, and paid for a mooring ball. I dropped off my lovely wife and Brownie the sailor dog -along with a load of laundry. Once the boat was on the ball, I kayaked back to the marina. By the time we showered, ate and put the laundry away, I was too tired to blog.

Today we were joined by my wife's old college roommate and her husband. We hadn't seen them in 30 years. After a nice lunch on the waterfront, we all went out for a sail in the bay. As soon as we raised the sail, I gave the tiller over to the husband. The grin never left his face. He grew up with sailboats and has his heart set on a Hunter 38.

Now the Hunter is a nice boat, but a bit big for my tastes. To each his own. However, today the 19 foot boat on the water trumped the 38 foot boat of the future. We all had a great time.

One thing about living on this little boat, we wonder what we do with all the rooms in our house. It seems so big now. A person doesn't need a lot to be happy.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Staying free on the water

There are a lot of live aboards here in Florida's waters. On the surface it doesn't look all that hard. Get a boat, find a nice anchorage, and settle in. Get a place with access to fresh water and some basic supplies and there you go.

There are some traps to watch out for. The land folk will hate you for your freedom. They worked hard for their place on the water. The sight of dilapidated old boats cluttering up their view is an affront to tender sensibilities.

Local police, both land and water based, know who pays their salaries. It's not the sea hobos. I've heard tales of plenty of police harassment. Federal maritime law may trump local ordnances, but the local cop does not care about that. It doesn't help to be right if your boat is seized on some trumped up charge. It'll be hauled to the crusher and you'll be homeless. If you are living on an old boat to begin with, you probably don't have the money to fight the local establishment.

There are some defenses. Freedom might be a right, but it's not free. At a minimum, the boat's papers should be up to date. It's pretty basic, but it's surprising how many boats are completely unregistered. Have all the basic safety gear required by the Coast Guard. That's only good sense if you are going to be on the water.

Keep your boat as a boat. Make sure it has a set of usable sails and/or a motor in good condition. I've seen local crackdowns on that. Probably wouldn't hurt to not have a foot of bottom growth on your hull either. That's all part of your best defense -move. Maybe the local anchorage was great at one time, but things change. I've seen changes in towns in the few weeks since I've last been through this area.. One in particular has suddenly gone from very friendly to a whole lot less friendly. When the nice public restrooms on the docks are suddenly closed, that's a message.

Boat life can be incredibly free, but that freedom can't be taken for granted. On the bright side, there are still plenty of places who actually celebrate their water based neighbors. It's all part of the local color to entertain the tourists.

I'm still figuring this stuff out. Plenty of people made it work.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Of Books and Privateers

Sometimes I wonder if I love to sail because it's a good excuse to get away and read books in peace. At the end of the day sitting at anchor, there's only so much to do. Most serious sailors are readers.

Our boat is tiny, almost to the point of being comical. In spite of that, my lovely wife and I bought 5 hardcover books from the Bradenton library for only a few dollars. We both love helping libraries get rid of their old books. Right now we are lining the cabin walls with books. It's good insulation, right?

While wandering around town, we stumbled into an all-you-can-eat fund raiser dinner put on by the Anna Maria Privateers. Good food and plenty of live entertainment. Picture a crowd made of mostly people dressed as pirates, plus a goodly number in biker gear.
They seem like our kind of people.

Have I mentioned that Florida's been pretty darn cold? Well, for Florida? Lately it's been in the 50s during the day and the 40s at night. Last night we also got tossed around a bit by 20 knot winds. We've been comfortable in the boat's cabin, but that's because it's a small space and I'm a big warm bear. We are supposed to get some days in the high 60s, so that'll feel a bit better. There are times when I think we can't get down to the Florida Keys fast enough. It's a bit warmer there.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Clearwater to Bradenton Beach

Our little sailboat spent the night in Clearwater Beach tucked away in the most protected corner we could find. Even so, the gale force winds rocked the docks.

The next day we woke to small craft advisories, so you all know what that meant -finally, some good wind for sailing. The narrow channels of the ICW protected us from the worse of the waves, but we still got plenty of wind. With only one sail up we made a consistent 4 – 5.5 knots. That's not bad for a 19 foot heavily laden sailboat.

A good day's sail put us right on the north side of Tampa Bay at a protected anchorage near a causeway. In the morning a neighboring sailboat hailed us and asked if we wanted to come over for coffee. We gladly took him up on it. The guy had a wonderfully rattly old boat. He'd been living on the water, on and off, for 40 years. We had great conversation and good coffee.

Friday, it was deal calm and we motored all day. Since we were crossing Tampa Bay, I really didn't mind having glass smooth conditions. The only fright was from the massive ships crossing the bay. It was with some relief when I put the ship channel well behind me.

We anchored at Bradenton Beach, took the kayak to shore, landed next to some outside restaurant tables and ordered coffee and grouper fritters. It's all good.

Funny thing about taking the more protected ICW route. There are a lot of bridges that need to be opened so the mast of the sailboat can pass through. Many open on demand. A polite request to the bridgemaster and they open right up. Some, however, are on a schedule. Do you ever drive your car and get all red lights? Sometimes it felt like that with bridge openings. I kept just missing the time so I had to hang around in front of the bridge for 15 -20 minutes to catch the next scheduled opening.

Tomorrow we'll figure out how long we want to stay at this anchorage. There's a lot of things to do, but only so much room in the budget It might all depend on the wind.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Beast of burden

We had a nice pleasant little sail down to Clearwater Beach Florida, where we made good use of the free town docks.

I carried our laundry down to the full service laundromat. While that was being taken care of, My lovely wife and I had a late lunch/early dinner at Cooters. It's a dog friendly restaurant, so that works out well for us.

After our meal I carried the gas cans down the road a few blocks to a corner gas station. Beats the heck out of marina prices.

Once the laundry was done, we motored across town to the other free docks. From there I hiked over to Publix and stocked up on some much needed groceries. We weren't going hungry, but our menus were getting a bit weird.

Check out the osprey nest, complete with bird, on the ICW channel marker.

We have the boat tucked away down the end of a protected channel as rough weather is coming in.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

No Schedule, no problem!

My lovely wife and have decided to stay one more night on Calidesi Island. The morning was wet and we could hear the sound of distant thunder.

By afternoon the rain had stopped, at least temporarily, and winds had shift to the north. North winds are good for sailors heading south. However, by then I'd decided to sit it out. What can I say? I'm on island time.

Wednesday we should be able to head out early enough to get everything we want done. If not . . . there's always the next day to finish up. That's the beauty of having no schedule.

We do plan on taking advantage of some nice sailing days later in the week, if the weather man can be trusted even the slightest. These are waters that we covered back in November, so we have a better idea what to expect. Last night my lovely wife and I had charts scattered all over the picnic table and Active Captain up on the computer. It's much easier to pick anchorages out ahead of time. Few of those are set in stone, as right now our general plan consists of heading south. That's it. That's enough.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mental health break

First of all I must apologize for the lack of recent photos. My Internet connect has been though a weak cell phone signal. Blogger has had fits with it.

My connection to the outside world might be sketchy, but it's good enough for someone who really doesn't mind leaving some of the world's craziness behind. I'm only catching enough news to see if there's a zombie collapse. Barring that the rest of the world can take care of itself.

We started the morning with a walk along Calidesi's nature trails. Just the thing to build up an appetite for a bacon and eggs breakfast.

In the afternoon, my lovely wife and I set up the inflatable kayak and explored the mangrove trails. They are like living tunnels with a narrow winding channel through them. They are so narrow in spots that my wife's paddle got stuck on the mangroves on both side of the kayak. That stopped us dead. We untangled and made it though. One of the freakiest things was all the small crabs scuttling across the mangrove roots. At times it was like the trees themselves were moving. I liked it. My lovely wife, not so much.

Right now we almost have the whole island to ourselves. The only other boat in the marina belongs to the park volunteers. I'm enjoying the quiet.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Sunday is a day of rest

Some days the best thing to do is almost nothing at all. As captain of our little ship, I declared Sunday to be an R&R day. After the pounding we took on Saturday, it was a good idea. We aren't doing this trip as some sort of an endurance test.

It was clear, but cool, temps around 60 F. Had I come straight down here from the frozen north, I'd have been running around in a T-shirt. However, my lovely wife and had acclimated to the heat, so we had jackets on all day. Go figure.

The only big discovery of the day was that the snack bar now serves a better cheeseburger at the same price as before.

One of the things we always do is check out the other boats. We are curious to see how people manage.
There's an engineer who went into semi-retirement and now keeps a sailboat in Clearwater FL. He flies down from Indiana to enjoy his boat. It's an older boat, but he says that's been half the fun.

We'll spend Monday night here, then head out on Tuesday. Winds are supposed to be favorable. The plan, such as it is, involves a stop in Clearwater Beach to stock up on fuel and food. We never did our food shopping for the trip so have been living mostly off our food storage. Well, that and the occasional really good cheeseburger.

It feels good to be on the water again.


Sunday is a day of rest

Some days the best thing to do is almost nothing at all. As captain of our little ship, I declared Sunday to be an R&R day. After the pounding we took on Saturday, it was a good idea. We aren't doing this trip as some sort of an endurance test.

It was clear, but cool, temps around 60 F. Had I come straight down here from the frozen north, I'd have been running around in a T-shirt. However, my lovely wife and had acclimated to the heat, so we had jackets on all day. Go figure.

The only big discovery of the day was that the snack bar now serves a better cheeseburger at the same price as before.

One of the things we always do is check out the other boats. We are curious to see how people manage.
There's an engineer who went into semi-retirement and now keeps a sailboat in Clearwater FL. He flies down from Indiana to enjoy his boat. It's an older boat, but he says that's been half the fun.

We'll spend Monday night here, then head out on Tuesday. Winds are supposed to be favorable. The plan, such as it is, involves a stop in Clearwater Beach to stock up on fuel and food. We never did our food shopping for the trip so have been living mostly off our food storage. Well, that and the occasional really good cheeseburger.

It feels good to be on the water again.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Two Days on the Water

Friday, my lovely wife and I finally got back to our sailing adventure. We launched at Bayport Florida, a bit later that I wanted, but stuff happens. Winds were favorable but light. Later in the afternoon winds changed direction and hit us square on the bow. There was no help for it but to motor.

Even so, the last hour of travel was in the dark. Thanks to a depth gauge, GPS, and a chart ap on the phone, navigation went well. My lovely wife used our spotlight to pick out hazards along the way -mostly crab pots.

Our running lights failed but between a battery powered white light for the stern and the spotlight, we were not running dark. Once at anchor a quick inspection revealed it was only blown fuse, so that was an easy fix.

We anchored the boat at North Anclote Bar. The island provided protection from the worst of the wind and waves. Late at night another boat landed at the other end of the island. We were already in bed. They built a campfire and we could hear them talking. In the morning they were gone. My lovely wife discovered the coals were still warm so she built the fire back up. Nothing like breakfast next to a campfire.

Saturday proved to be damp and foggy. By one o'clock the fog had thinned considerably. Under good conditions it's only a two hour motor to Calidesi State Park. Rather than spend another night at the island, we motored out.

Of course, the fog settled in again. It's a weird feeling to have to rely completely on instruments. I like to see where I'm going. The fog was thin enough that we could see hazards in time, but too thick to be be able to see from one channel marker to the next.

Then the wind picked up, directly on our bow. Our 2 hour trip stretched out to 3.5 hours. We made it to the marina just before 5, and ahead of a thunderstorm. So here I am, at the marina pavilion, sipping hot coffee and blogging.


Friday, January 10, 2014

Dress up

They say to dress, not for the job you have now, but for the job you want. I'm wearing shorts, a faded T-shirt and old flip flops. I might be overdressed. Maybe I can ditch the shirt.

To dress this way one is usually either very poor or very rich. The poor have no choice. The rich have no one to impress.

At one time I wore a uniform. It was one of the few things I hated about being a firefighter. Not that I had anything against being identified as a firefighter. It makes sense to be able to recognize the man coming into your house with an ax as one of the good guys. What drove me nuts were the officers who made a big deal about our uniforms being perfect. Some of these guys loved their pretty white shirts and gold buttons. That's fine for them, but my uniform was going to be in a burning building, not out in the street talking on a radio. If my badge was a tiny bit crooked, it wasn't going to matter.

Most jobs require a uniform. It might be blatant, like a set of blues with your name on the pocket. It could be subtle, like that suit you wear to work. While not a “uniform” exactly, there are certain norms that are violated at your own peril.

One of the real pleasures of my life right now is that I can dress the way I want. If I'm wearing shorts, it's because it's warm. If I've a heavy coat on, it's because it's cold. Last night I was packing my clothes for sailing. My wardrobe is almost totally picked for function. Somehow that feels kinda good. There's no one to impress and nothing to conform to.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

The minimum wage job

Being paid minimum wage is a sure way to know the people you work for don't care or respect you. They'd pay less, but it's against the law.

Maybe the company you work for can't afford to pay more than minimum wage. That's only true if all the management also only gets minimum wage.

If minimum wage was such a good idea, your boss would work for it too.

Should companies that can't pay more the legal minimum wage deserve to exist? Are they badly run, or do they make a profit? Pay dividends?

Here's the thing that really freaks me out about minimum wage. Workers generally are not only paid badly, but also treated badly.

Maybe I'd accept a minimum wage job if the other perks were amazing: Full health care. Company car. Free meals cooked by professional chefs. Paid vacations in exotic locations. Free quality housing. Use of the company jet.

Nope. Odds are, if getting paid the minimum, your company treats you like crap in many other ways.

What about the nobility of work? Yeah, what about that? If it was so noble, it would be worth something, right?

Minimum wage jobs have changed. They used to be either jobs worked by kids living at home, or people at the bottom rung at a company they could move up in. My father-in-law started work at a gas station but worked his way up to being a company chemist. That kind of mobility is rare today.

Minimum wage jobs can be traps. By working two or three of them, you might scrape up enough money to survive. However, you don't have any extra time, money or energy to rise above that level. At one time it was possible to pay for college by working part time during the school year and during summer vacations. In real actual dollars, wages have gone down and education costs have skyrocketed.

Let's say you had a decent job that paid $20/hour. Then the job goes away. Maybe you collect unemployment for a while. Maybe you are too proud and take a minimum wage job because any work is better than no work. (that nobility of work thing again) Working that low paying job makes it harder to get another good one. Human resources have no respect for minimum wage workers so they will have no respect for you. They will think there is something wrong with you.

I've go no disrespect for people who work minimum wage. They get enough of that from everyone else.

If you are an adult trapped in a minimum wage job you have three choices. Do everything you can to get out. Everything. Learn a skill someone will pay money for. Start a business. Every spare moment you have should go towards that goal of a better job.

A second choice is to live in such a way that low wages are all you need to get by. Live in microhousing or shared housing, avoid having a car, garden -do everything to live as frugally as possible.

The third option is to just keep working those low wage jobs and hope for the best. Yeah, good luck with that.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Road warrior bill payments

My lovely wife and I closed our New Hampshire home in October and headed south. I made a lot of changes in the way our finances ran.

Before the trip bills were paid by check. It was easy to keep things straight. Very few things were paid automatically. That system certainly wasn't going to work when mail might take weeks or even months to catch up with me. With that in mind changes were made in my payment system so that it could be run from afar.

How's that been working out for me? It works fine about 85% of the time. I wish I could have streamlined things a bit more, but was hampered by my main financial institution being absorbed by a bigger institution. The chaos of that changeover ate up a lot of time and energy.

One of the things that worked well was getting rid of a few bills entirely. Cable Internet service is temporary shut down. The electric company has been canceled completely. It seemed like a good time to go completely off grid. Those are two bills that need to get paid even if no services are used. It was much easier to deal with the Internet provider, a small local company, than the power utility, a big Interstate corporation. The house has its own well and septic system, so those are two bills I never have.

Most of the other bills were set up to be paid automatically. While I'd never been a big fan of automatic payments, these are working out well. The key, at least for me, is that the bills paid that way are the same amount every month. In fact, it worked out so well I won't go back to paper checks when I get home. At the price of postage, that's a small but real savings. It saves time too.

Insurance is something that didn't work out as planned. My house insurance is paid twice a year. The vehicle insurance is paid quarterly. The plan was to pay those on-line as they became due. Problems arose when I discovered the on-line payment site had changed after I left. My old logins didn't work on the new site. Fortunately, I was able to get my local agent on the phone and she sorted everything out for me quickly and easily. As for boat insurance, Boat US's on-line insurance payment system was pretty straight forward.

Getting the sailboat's new 2014 registration was interesting. I called my town clerk on the phone. She instructed me to write two checks, one to the town and one to state. A stamped self addressed envelope, copy of the old registration, plus the checks had to be sent to the town. It took several weeks for the new paperwork and boat stickers to come in. Good thing we were hanging at dad's for the holidays during that time.

One thing that this trip has brought home to me is how many darn bills I actually have to pay each month. By next year, there will be a lot fewer of them, that's for sure.

To keep keep track of this stuff I've needed reliable Internet service (provided by an iphone), cell phone service to talk with people, and a place where I could eventually catch up to my snail mail. While not as streamlined and effortless as I'd liked, it works well enough to do the job.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Weather Hold

The sailboat is ready to go. It's got new bottom paint, an upgraded electrical system, and some new equipment. All that's needed is to take on fresh water, food, and load up the rest of our gear. The trailer has new LED lights. The tow vehicle has a new vacuum pump and trailer ball. We are ready to go, but probably won't

The massive cold front affecting much of the country has pushed nasty weather all the way down here in Florida. While it's not really cold, it's cold for Florida. More important are the small craft warnings out in the Gulf.

We could head out on Wednesday, if we don't mind starting out in near freezing temperatures. Then we'd be looking at rain and thunderstorms the next couple of days after that. It's one thing to have to put up with nasty weather when already on the water. It's something else entirely to head out in bad weather when it's not necessary.

My lovely wife's fibromyalgia is acting up a bit more than normal, so that's a consideration. It's one thing to have a bad fibro day when all she has to do is lie in the sun. It's something else entirely when the weather is cold and wet. She's not a complainer, but I want her to keep having good memories about sailing.

In the mean time, maybe I can talk my dad into letting me help him with some projects around his house.

Hopefully it won't be too long before I can post some nice sailing pics once more.


Monday, January 6, 2014

Savory soup from the neglected garden

Nothing like a good savory soup. At the end of summer I dehydrated some sliced up sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes). The soup made from them was very savory and filling. It was simple: dehydrated sunchokes, dehydrated mushrooms, and a few spices. That's about it.

The soup was good, but it was also good news for me. Last year my garden did not get as much attention as it needed. Fortunately, sunchokes appear to thrive on poor soil, bad weather, and neglect. They produced really well with little effort.

The problem is what does one do with them? Some were used when fresh, but unlike potatoes, they can't just be stored in a cool dry place. They last for days instead of months. Dehydration appears to be a good solution. That's great, as the garden will most likely produce even more sunchokes next summer. The thing with sunchokes is that once you plant them, it seems you'll always have them. The year before I dug up all the ones I could fine, and they bounced back stronger than ever.

I've a number of food producers that don't require much effort besides the sunchokes: filberts, chives, assorted berry plants, pin cherries, herbs and a bunch of wild plants. One of my gardening goals for next season is to find more plants that produce well with little effort. Some people love to garden. That's great for them, but I just like to eat.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Transportation Joys

I refuse to fly. People complain about the TSA, but keep putting up with them. If more people boycotted air travel maybe something would change. Do what you want, but I've made my choice.

Unfortunately, that pretty much guarantees I can't use public transportation to travel long distances. Train service is a joke. It still exists, but with limited routes and high prices.

At one time it was possible to take a bus just about anywhere in the country. It might not be the fastest way to get from one town to another, but it could be done. The price wasn't too bad either. Bus service is a shadow of its former self. Cheap air travel is said to have killed buses.

My dad doesn't exactly live out in the sticks. There's something like 200,000 people in his county. While not exactly New York City, it's a far cry from the 1,200 people in my home town. The sad thing is that it's not possible to get out of there using public transportation. A local bus service exists, but it doesn't connect to anything.

The only option is to drive one's own car, or to drive a rental car. That's pretty much the situation in a good part of the country. While a rental is an option it requires a driver's license and a credit card. No license? Bad credit?

Walk peasant.

While it's possible to live in a big city and not have a car, the rest of the country is out of luck -unless they want to get manhandled by the TSA.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Our own Tortuga

Rules and laws are funny things. Just when you think you've got handle on how to stay out of trouble, the rules changes. Sometimes the laws themselves don't even have to change, just the interpretation or enforcement of said laws.

This article in “Lattitude 38” is a good example of the hardship caused by some newly appointed bureaucrat enforcing laws his own way. (scroll down to “Why Mexico is still a Third World Country”) US pleasure boats from the West Cost have been going down to Mexico for years. This year many boats have been impounded due to some bureaucrat's decree. Apparently he's in the wrong, but the boats are still impounded.

There's no need to go to Mexico to find that sort of thing. Anyone who's had to deal with a building inspector, tax assessor, or law enforcement can see how it goes.

Ever long to go to a place beyond the reach of government appointed busy bodies? After all, pirates had their Tortuga. For a time the island was ungoverned -a perfect base for pirates.

I did a quick search to see if there were any unclaimed territories out there today. I came up with three. There's Marie Byrd Land, a big chunk of land way down in the remotest Antarctic. Bir Tawil is a parched piece of land between Egypt and the Sudan. Then we have the big one, International waters.

Theoretically, one could float around far off shore from any nation and be free from their meddling. While that's true, sort of, eventually one has to come to land.

The Sea Steading Institute wants to build big floating cities modeled on Libertarian principles. It's not a new idea, but this is one of the better funded ones. It also looks like they may actually build one. However, there are problems. They won't be out in the open ocean. They are trying to cut a deal with different countries to anchor in their waters. They might achieve some sort of semi-independence due to having a lot of money to negotiate good terms. However, just having a lot of money already insulates people from laws. No need for a honking big raft.

What's a person of modest means to do? Sure, buying an old sailing boat and reaching International waters is very doable. However, one cannot stay out there forever. Eventually, one must resupply and make repairs. The pirates had their Tortuga -until it was brought under government control. What do we have?

In these modern times governments can enforce their will over every inch of the glob. Even the Antarctic isn't far enough. What's a freedom loving individual to do?

Here's the loophole: while governments can enforce their will anywhere, they can't enforce their will everywhere all the time. If they could, there would be no rebels in the mountains and jungles. No smugglers would exist. Drugs would not cross borders. Every J walker would be caught and fined. In spite of governmental desires, the total enforcement world isn't here, nor do I think it ever will be. (that's an essay for another day)

Anarchists speak of Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ). They take advantage of government's inability to have massive force in all places at once. It's the chance to operate without formal structures -at least for a period of time. People can gather in remote places and do what the heck they want -until the authorities get bothered enough to care and marshal the resources to do something about it.

Of course, before that point is reached, the group disperses and moves somewhere else. Now throw in a functional economy in your TAZ and wandering folk have a place to resupply.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Every part of the Buffalo

It's been said that Native Americans used every part of the buffalo. Nothing went to waste. I'm not carving up a buffalo, but I do carve up pieces of dead technology.

I gave up on trying to fix the old inverter that came with the van. It has too many obsolete parts. Just throwing it away wasn't an option. There are other useful parts to be salvaged first. The heavy duty DC cables and plug will go on whatever inverter I buy to replace the old one. It had a nice medical grade GFI AC power plug with will find a home somewhere. One prize is the cooling fan. Many cooling fans in electronic equipment run off of 12 volts DC. They make nice little fans for bringing a little fresh air into my sailboat's cabin. Then there's a big pile of screws, nuts and bolts.

As you can imagine, I've got a hard time throwing anything away. Sometimes it drives my lovely wife nuts. Over the years, she has learned. Salvaged materials can save a lot of money.

One person's junk is another's treasure. What separates treasure from junk? Knowledge is the big one. There's no use collecting junk if you don't know how to do anything valuable with it. I'm continually amazed at the number of people who have no idea how the technology of our world is put together. We are supposed to be tool using animals with big brains.

It only makes sense to have at least some rudimentary idea how keep things going. I've run into adult males who don't know how to change a light bulb. They deserve to stumble around in the dark.

That's not to say we should know everything about every bit of modern technology. It's too complex. However, with the proper tools and information, a lot can be figured out. Along with tools and information, we need materials. If the materials can be salvaged, that's even better.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Predictions for 2014

Nope. Not going to make any.

Anyone can look at the trends from 2013 and make an educated where these things will end up. In fact, a lot of them will probably end up where we expect them to go. Anything that can't go on indefinitely -won't. It's a truism, because it's true. Plenty of other people do a good job of connecting the dots. No need for me to join them.

What really interests me is the things we don't see coming. Disruptive things. Game changers. Can you guess why I'm so interested in them? Why does a bit of chaos make me smile?

Think about it. Who benefits from the status quo? Those at the top, that's who. Anyone think they've had their way too long? The rich get richer. The powerful get more powerful. That's the applecart, so it's no wonder I'm interested in the things that can upset it. To continue the metaphor, us little folks don't have any apples in the cart anymore.

What are game changers? It could be a disruptive technology. It could be a political awakening. Religious change. Spiritual awakenings. New financial systems. Those are just some general categories -no specifics here. Real disruption most likely will come from way out in left field.

The big difference these days is that changes, thanks to the interconnectedness of the world, can spread faster than ever before. Even more disruptive is the peer to peer nature of the Internet. There's no need to go through authorities, bosses, or chiefs of any kind. Peon to peon communication was never so quick or widespread. No wonder the powers that be want to spy on everyone all the time. They are terribly afraid.

While I won't make any predictions for 2014, I will make a humble suggestion. Keep your eyes open for those game changers; if for no other reason than to avoid getting hit by a falling applecart.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Hope this will be a good year for you and yours. It's easy to focus on all the negativity -and I probably will later in the year. For now, however, let's just say it's a new year with infinite possibilities.

2014 is unwritten, so let's see what we can make of it.

All the best.