Sunday, March 30, 2014

The beat goes on

The water supply line for the house is still frozen. At least I have a well with an overflow where I can fill up my waterbricks.

A fair bit of my time is taken up with digging firewood out of the snow. I pull the pieces out of the snow, knock the worse of it off, then let it dry out by the woodstove.

There's a Buddhist saying: Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. For me, that means some things just have to be done, but your state of mind makes all the difference.

Progress is one step forward and another back sometimes. All my wife's car needed so it could start was some time with a battery charger. On the downside, there's too much ice in the driveway to drive it out. I tried to tow it out, but there is nothing solid in the front of the car to hook a tow strap on.

Going into town the roads are all broken up with frost heaves. Looking in my mirrors I saw a volunteer fireman with his red lights flashing. I pulled over to let him pass, but he pulled in behind me and walked up to talk.

“Do you want your bumper?” he asked.

Apparently on one of the more serious bumps the van's rear bumper fell off. The guy picked it up out of the road and caught up with me. That was real nice of him. We both thought it was kinda funny. Might as well laugh at life's little twists.

We did spend a marvelous evening with family and friends in town. After all, that's the main reason we are not totally nomadic.

Just to round out the evening, when we got home I tried to warm something up in the microwave and it wouldn't heat anything. Most folks would just buy a new one. My dad taught me that if it's broken anyway, it doesn't hurt to take it apart and see if it can be fixed. Sure enough, once I pulled the case off, there was an obviously broken wire. Once that was replaced, the microwave worked just fine. Chalk that up in the win column.

Most of my problems right now could be solved by a very lazy man. As the weather warms up, supply lines thaw, driveway ice melts, and there's no need for firewood. Since I'm not quite that lazy, I'll still fiddle around with those things. In the mean time, we've food, water, shelter and community. The basics are covered.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Digging out

I don't know about all you guys, but I miss posting pictures of sun and sailboats. Getting the house back up to speed has been a slow process.

The subzero temperatures made the warm up a long slow process. It didn't help that some creosote had broken loose from the stovepipe, piling up in an elbow. That restricted the draft until I let the stove die out, took everything apart, and cleaned it up. Between the weather warming up some and the stove running properly, the house is comfortable.

My wife's car is still only half dug out. Of course, it won't start. With any luck charging the battery should do the job.

The water supply line for the house is still frozen. In spite of more insulation it appears to have frozen in the same place as last year. If all goes to plan that will be fixed today. Then again, I said that yesterday.

Not all my time has been spent on the house. Last night we went with family and friends to hear a performance of “Hot Flannel,” paying what they call “Newgrass.” The fact that they were playing in the area is one of the reasons we came home a bit early. My lovely wife and I love live music. There was a huge amount of talent concentrated on that stage. The show almost made it worth putting up with the snow.

After being gone for so long, there's some business that needs to be attended to. Monday will be one of those days taking care of those little modern annoyances. I'd rather sail rough waters than navigate bureaucratic paperwork. Life gets complicated, but I'm working to simplify, simplify, simplify.

So I'm still alive, just busier than an one armed paper hanger.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Snow mount

How's this for a cool solar electric installation?

This is a 105 watt solar panel from Home Depot. It's charging a large 12 volt marine battery though a 10 amp digital charge controller. There's a 200 watt inverter powering the Internet cable modem, a wifi router, Vonage phone device, and a cordless phone. It's totally separate from the main house system.

Notice the old electric meter on the house? It's no longer connected to the grid. I'm debating if it should be removed from the house, or if I should keep it so people don't know I'm actually off-grid.

Once the snow melts down a bit, the panel will be mounted somewhere on the house. It doesn't hurt the panel to sit on the snow. In fact, a cold solar electric panel is more efficient than one sitting in tropical heat.

The woodstoves are warming the house. The kitchen stove's pipe had some creosote deposits. Once cleaned up the draft improved. Down in the basement, the big woodstove had a loose door gasket. A little gasket cement and it was good as new.

I'd planned on spending the night home in my bed, but my daughter asked us to stay one more night at her place -to watch our granddaughter so she and her husband could go out. There's always tomorrow.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I may have made an error

Perhaps I've come home too soon. It's -17F again this morning. I'm still not moved back into my house. Thankfully we've been able to stay at my daughter's. I've been having difficulty getting the house to a livable temperature.

The diesel in the van gelled and it stalled out a couple miles from the house. I climbed a nearby hill and got enough of a cell phone signal to call my daughter. She came to my rescue with a couple bottles of 911 fuel additive. That got me going again. Apparently, the local gas stations have run out of winter blend diesel fuel and only have summer blend. That doesn't work too well with these subzero temperatures.

Winter has been too cold and too long in these parts. Propane is in short supply. Wood pellets for stoves are totally unavailable. Seasoned firewood is the same. Heating oil is horribly expensive.

The snowbanks are high and frozen solid. I was making some painfully slow progress, chipping away at the snowbank with a round tip steel dirt shovel. Then the plow came, winged the snow banks back and undid all my work. Stoically, I set to work all over again. A neighbor came by and asked if I was going to do all that work by hand.

I said, “What are my options?”

He said, “I'm going to plug in my tractor and warm it up. You are too painful to watch.”

When I went back that evening, he'd cleared my parking space. The weather is cold, but family and friends are warm.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Home -sorta

My lovely wife, Brownie the Sailor Dog, and myself are currently staying at one of my daughter's in the town next to my mine. I've been to my house, but it's not quite fit for living in yet.

I may have made a mistake coming home when I did. It's -11F this morning. There are 4 foot snowbanks in my driveways.

After some effort, I was able to get a fire going in one of my woodstoves. There was a snowdrift on the roof, half covering the chimney. Fortunately, it wasn't completely blocked so there was enough draft to get a fire going.

The solar electric system started without any problems. A push of a button and the big inverter came out of it's long hibernation and energized the electrical wiring. Once the cable modem booted up I had an Internet connect. No heat or water, but Internet. Does that sound like modern times or what?

The plan is to get some heat in the house so we can move in.

Warmer weather is predicted for the end of the week, so there's hope.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Travel Stop

Two days of travel later and we are safely at my daughter's in Massachusetts. We plan on visiting for a few days before heading north to New Hampshire.

The trip was relatively uneventful. Even so, I think I was safer on the boat than on the highway, even taking sharks into account. American highways are weird.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thoughts on a cloudy day

My lovely wife and I are happy with our decision to camp in the van instead of being on the water in the boat. A series of cold wet days are dealt with better when it's easy to go inside a nice warm building and buy some hot coffee.

We are a bit disappointed that we've been unable to get out on the water. That hasn't stopped us from walking beaches, marshlands, and checking out boat landings. We hope to wet a hull on some future date so this trip is a bit of a scouting mission.

The Northeast is having one of the coldest springs on record, but we are heading north anyway. It almost feels funny to have a home to go back to. The van and sailboat are both “home” too. That's life of the semi-nomad. Unlike some some wandering tribe of old, our friends and family are not traveling with us, so it's back to settled life for a while.

I think that in some parallel world I accepted that gift of a 42 foot ketch and some version of me is sailing around the world. That guy is probably smiling a lot. Of course, I've been pretty happy in this version of reality, so maybe it's not the boat but the attitude.

There is something to be said for keeping things simple. Recently in a glossy sailing magazine there was an article about low cost economy repairs. His DIY project cost more than twice the cost of my whole boat, trailer, and motor. In truth, he did the job for thousands less than what a boat yard would have charged.

Then I pick up a copy of “Small Craft Advisor” magazine, where people are crossing oceans and setting records in tiny home built boats. That's a lot more my speed. In fact, in a previous issue they did a review the Oday 19, the type of boat we have. I love a magazine that reviews boats that are out of production, a bit older, but still sound.

We didn't get to see all the places we hoped to see, but we saw plenty. It was a great learning experience. Better yet, my lovely wife is still talking to me and still planning future trips. I guess I wasn't the only one having a good time.

Just a heads up: blogging might get more irregular than normal as we'll be traveling.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Barely legal

It's turning out to be a rather expensive ride home. The back tires on my van were legal -barely. Now if winter had gone back to the North Pole where it belongs, that wouldn't have been a concern. The plan was drive the van home and get the tires replaced next month -when I would have a bit more money in the account.

Barely legal tire treads don't fare all that well in snow and slush. If we don't hit any of that on the way home, there's snow predicted soon after our planned arrival. Since it was a cool a rainy day here in South Carolina my lovely wife suggested we could be productive and get some tires. It was a nice to surprise to be able to find decent snow tires all the way down here.

We did kill some time time at a bookstore. One nice thing about bookstores near the coast, there's usually a good selection of sailing magazines. Armed with new reading material, we headed back to the campground.

At the moment I'm running a small electric heater on the 600 watt low setting. It's about 40 outside but the van is toasty warm. In fact it's almost too warm. I don't plan on running it all night, but it's great to drive the dampness out before going to bed. One thing about this former ambulance, it's a well insulated box.

My lovely wife and I will have to come back here again when the weather's better. Too many waterways have gone unsailed and unpaddled.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

The long and twisted paths

My lovely wife and I were able to connect with a guy in Jacksonville who had some waste vegetable oil to spare. He sold me 10, 4.5 gallon jugs of good quality waste oil at 1.25/gallon. That replaces $4/gallon diesel. I was happy.

He was happy to meet another “greaser” nut. The young man just bought a van with the same make engine as mine. I was able to give him some pointers. He photographed my veggie conversion and was amazed at how simple it was. Too many “experts” on-line overly complicate these things. Many of them have something to sell. I was also able to give him some advice on how to simplify his oil collection and processing. His wife to be was pretty happy about that. Right now she avoids the garage as the things going on in there scare her just a bit.

Moving on into Georgia we spent a quiet night in a Walmart parking lot. It worked out. Quite a few RVs parked with us in the back of the lot, so that was a comfort. Our first night “camping” at a 24 hour Walmart worked out.

The next day we drove to Georgetown SC, checked out the dock walk and had dinner in the scenic downtown. Georgetown has a Walmart, but we were the only potential campers there and it didn't feel right. Over the years I've learned to pay attention to these things.

I did a little research on the Internet using the smart phone. There's a big PDF file that covers all the Walmarts where camping is definitely banned. Then I found an App for locating Walmarts with camping potential. We tried another store about a half hour up the road.

That had a better feel. There were some truckers parked in the back, along with a few cars with blacked out windows. Now etiquette dictates that one politely ask to stay the night. However, I was tired, it was late, and I'd rather get forgiveness than permission.

About 6 in the morning the dog insisted she needed to walked. Only then did I see the faded “no overnight parking” signs. Once the dog was set, we climbed back in the van and I went back to sleep. Might as well as no one tapped on the door in the middle of the night.

Later in the morning, as we were getting ready, one of our nocturnal neighbors stopped in to say hello. She liked our rig. She was living out of a Chevy Astro Van, full time. It had a porta potty, small sink, bed, shelves and storage. The lady works 6 months of the year in Canada as a paramedic. Her van is insulated for -40 temperatures and has a small propane heater. She turned the passenger seat around to face the back. All in all, it was a pretty efficient use of a small space. Of course, being a paramedic, she loved what we did with our decommissioned ambulance.

Our new paramedic friend confirmed that particular Walmart does not hassle overnight visitors. It's a regular stop for her. Years ago she used to live out of a big motorhome with her disabled mother. Now that she's alone, she downsized to the van. She also had a lot of questions about the sailboat. One of her occasional jobs is providing security at a marina. If she had a boat she could stay there for free.

Currently we are spending a few days at an actual state park campground. Since it's cool and raining, having access to electricity and hot showers is a nice thing. We've a good selection of DVD movies that we haven't looked at until now. There are plenty of things to do in this area, so we won't get bored.

It will be another week, at least, until we get home. No hurry, as winter is still in force in northern NH.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Repair Update

My lovely wife and I got up before sunrise to get to the garage as soon as it opened. With the brake system leaking fluid at a high rate, early morning travel in light traffic was a good idea. We made it safely to the garage.

Yes, for those who've been speculating, it was expensive. 10 feet of brake line had to be replaced, along with the master cylinder. On the bright side, that's what the emergency credit card is for. Being without brakes qualifies. Cash is always low by the time we start heading north. It seems there's always unexpected expenses at such a time.

I even made it back to the campground an hour before checkout. The boat was in the overflow parking lot. When I got there, some Good Old Boys were parked in front of my boat. They had taken one of my wooden wheel chocks to prop up a utility trailer to change a tire. The guys were a bit embarrassed to be caught at it, but no harm done. I was fine with it and they were soon out of my way. We got along.

Right now I'm chilling at the beach while my lovely wife takes a nap in the van. I did get her up at “Oh my God O'clock,” in the morning.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Unscheduled repairs

We pulled into the state park in St. Augustine Florida. While parking the sailboat, the brake light came on in the van. Sure enough, the brake fluid was low. I topped it off, but after a few shot trips it was low again. There are no visible leaks, so I'm a bit puzzled. Of course, I'm only a shady tree mechanic.

In the morning it goes into the garage and real mechanics can take a look at it. Hope they can fix it the same day. If they can't, it'll get complicated. We've been sleeping in the van and my guess is that hotels are pretty booked up this time of year. However, I'm not going to borrow trouble. I'll take things as they come.

On the bright side, we did connect with my wife's sister. We haven't seen her in two years It's tough when families are scattered all over the place.

My lovely wife made a contact nearby who might be able to spare about 50 gallons of waste vegetable oil for $1 - $1.50/gallon. Diesel is around $4 so that's a considerable savings.

The van problem is a hassle, but not one we can't handle. The miles take their toll.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Slow speed transportation

Buses are outcompeting trains in France. People rather go slower if it's cheaper. So much for high speed rail.

When I was a kid growing up in the 60s and 70s I assumed travel would keep getting faster and faster. Then the gas crisis hit and speed limits dropped to 55 mph. Over time speed limits crept up again, but they had been pushed back. It became clear to me that faster transportation was not a given.

Then we thought we were all going to fly at supersonic speeds. Economics and a fiery explosion put an end to that.

Regular air travel, for a lot less money, is fast enough. Of course, air travel is a tough business to make money in. The price of fuel has a huge influence on the price of a ticket. That alone could make a big dent in flying. I'm not saying it'll die any time soon, but expect the flying business to contract. Of course, there are people like me who won't fly because of the TSA.

Car travel can be a lot cheaper, especially if the car has more than one person in it.

Buses seem to be where the growth is. This past winter I got to ride on the Ft. Myers trolley bus system, one of the fastest growing systems in the country. Generally, I'm not a fan of public transportation, but the Ft. Myers system was convenient, well run, and cheap. I'm told it gets a bit overwhelmed during tourist season, but that's because everyone uses it.

There are plenty of people who have given up on personal cars. Compute the money that could be saved and for those who can fill their needs with a bicycle it makes sense. If your area also has a decent bus service you are golden.

High fuel prices and stagnant wages are pushing people towards slower, not faster travel. We are going from “the best” to “good enough.”

Personally, I'm really happy traveling just a few miles an hour on a sailboat.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fortress of Solitude

The adventures of the last few months have been great. Travel expands one's mind. My lovely wife and I have had a blast. However, our time in the south will be coming to an end soon.

In a couple weeks, if all goes well, we'll be back home in the woods. I've missed family and friends more than anything else. After that, what I miss is my fortress of solitude, my home office. It's wall to wall books -and quiet. Civilized places always have noise. Maybe you city folks don't notice it, but for me it's distracting.

We spent some quiet time on the sailboat, anchored in isolated coves away from civilization. There were some good places for thinking, but the boat was pretty cramped for writing. I'm too tall to sit up comfortably in the cabin. Some sort of table to put the laptop on would have been nice too. It's one of the things we'll be looking for in the next boat.

In the weeks and months ahead, I'll have the peace and quiet to reflect on this past winter. Solitude is good for that. Of course, one has to have something to reflect on. How much wisdom can a hermit on a mountain really have? Once in a while it's necessary to climb down and see what's going on in the world.


Monday, March 10, 2014

The slaves get angry

People like to complain. No surprise there. I've discovered that they don't want solutions, but only want to hear sympathetic noises.

When someone whines about the the high price of electricity, I tell them how they can reduce their bill or go off grid completely. They complain about sewer and water bills, and I tell them about my well and septic system. The high price of gas bothers them, and I'll show them my waste veggie burning vehicle.

It might be too much to expect a polite thank you and questions on how to do it. A tiny few want to know, but many more actually get angry at me. That puzzled me. My guess is that they rather keep being slaves to the system rather than do the work to be free.

One nice exception to that experience has been the live aboard boat cruisers. Most of them know the cost and the value of freedom. The life style requires a high level of self reliance. People who are out living on boats have taken risks. They've exchanged being normal for a high level of freedom.

I thought that I'd get a fair number of cruisers criticizing my choice to travel on such a small boat. That was rare. More often people would praise my choice to sail on a 19 foot boat. Many recommended that I stay away from big boats. The extra complexity and expense puts freedom at risk. Too much money and time goes into keeping a big boat going. Some learned the lesson the hard way. Several captains have actually gone from big luxurious boats to much smaller ones. Freedom was more important that physical comfort.

The system (government/business/etc.) doesn't want people to be free. We should all be good worker bees: paying our bills, getting into debt, being taxed to death, and totally dependent on the system. Free people rely less and less on the system. Even a small home garden gives people a taste of independence.

Funny thing about freedom. For some of us, even a small taste is very sweet. Some of us, having a small taste, want a whole lot more. The blinders drop from our eyes and we see the chains that bind us.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Northwards -soonish

Tuesday is the day we say goodbye to my dad and start our trip north. The first stop is only over in St. Augustine, so we aren't in a super hurry to get to the snow. My lovely wife loves the old city, so this stop is for her. Her sister will be in town so we'll get together. Any excuse to slow our trip northwards.

I bought a pair of high top sneakers for the trip. For 5 months I wore nothing but sandals or went barefoot. Sandals look a bit silly with heavy wool socks, hence the sneakers. Boots might have been a more practical choice, but I'm in denial.

I've been getting the van and boat ready for the next part of our journey. We'll be camping for a few days, so a lot of gear has to move from the boat to the van.

One of the things I found in our travels was a replacement for the van's inverter. Harbor Freight had a 1000 watt inverter for less than $80 and it runs the van's microwave. Nothing like a quick hot meal while on the road.

The electric trolling motor I ordered for the sailboat came in just in time. I carefully opened the box, read the manual, installed the propeller. On the way over to the sailboat, the motor fell off the golf cart and I ran it over, breaking the propeller. Don't you hate it when you break something new in less than an hour? On the bright side, Walmart had a suitable replacement. Problem solved.

Dad's given me some tools that he no longer has a use for. There's always room somewhere in the van for more tools. One of his gifts is an electric pole saw. I'm relived that he no longer feels the need to climb up on his roof to trim tree branches. The years are catching up with him and his balance isn't what it used to be. I can't help but worry about him sometimes. Before long I'll be on the top of a ladder, trimming branches and making my own kids worry.

Already there is a long long list of things to do when we get back home. Oh well, at least I won't be bored.

Gonna miss this sort of thing though . . .


Saturday, March 8, 2014


Travel is said to give a person a different perspective on things. I must admit that back home I live in a bubble of my own making. Living in the woods isolates me from so much.

Sailing gave me a different perspective, but not as different as one might think. A sailboat is it's own little world. No matter where we went, we always had our own boat to sleep on at night. We were in a little slice of our own reality.

The real culture shock has been hanging with my dad. Like many older retired folks, he watches a lot of TV -really loud. EVEN THOUGH HE'S NOT DEAF. Everyone else mumbles. There is no escaping the never ending stream of commercials. How do people up up with that crap day in and day out?

Then there's the world of endless strip development. You Americans know what I mean. The roads are lined with car dealerships, fast food places, pawn shops, store front churches and sex shops. The mix might vary a bit by region, but the look is much the same. For some reason that monument to capitalist excess and bad zoning laws bummed me out.

The whole house of cards rests on cheap imports of fuel and goods. There is no way most of those places could stay open without relatively cheap and abundant energy. Maybe fracking has extended the day reckoning for such places. A bit more fossil energy made it into the system, but at huge financial and environmental costs.

I don't want to sound too much like Howard Kunstler here, but he has a point. This lifestyle is not sustainable.

I've no illusion that my little bubbles of isolation will be unaffected by major upsets. At best, I think that my choices may mitigate the damage. Perhaps things will only get bad instead of horrid. If nothing else, at least I don't mistake the world on TV as the real world.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Alternative energy upgrades

My house has a middling big solar electric system. It provides power for most of my needs: lights, water pump, computers -most things.

Grid power provided two major functions. It acted as back up power that could charge up the house batteries during a run of cloudy days. The second use was for tiny constant loads: wifi router, cordless phones, and the Vonage phone box. By running small constant loads on-grid my big home inverter could go into “sleep mode” when there are no power draws. The big inverter's efficiency plummets when powering tiny loads.

When we shut down the house in the fall I notified the electric utility to completely disconnect grid power. I knew we'd have to make some alternative energy upgrades in the spring.

That time is right around the corner. Backup power will be provided by a gasoline generator. While I'm not a huge fan of gasoline engines the generator was given to me for free. Not only that, this winter a good friend gave it a tune up. That takes care of half my problems.

I've decided to take care of the small loads by putting in a second solar electric system. I just ordered a 105 watt solar panel and 10 amp digital charge controller from Home Depot. The components are being shipped to my daughter's place back in New Hampshire. They'll be ready for me when I get home.

From here in Florida I picked up a large heavy duty 12 volt marine battery. Until I get home, the battery will be a backup for the boat's electric trolling motor. Once home, it will be the electric storage part of the new solar electric system. The small inverter that's currently on the boat will handle the small electric loads, fairly efficiently too. When we leave the house for any length of time, the inverter can easily be turned off, allowing the solar panel to top off the battery.

Two completely independent solar electric systems will back up each other. If the main one goes down, I won't be totally without power. If the small one fails, loads could be temporarily shifted to the big system.

Nothing like having a bit of redundancy.

I'll keep everyone informed on how that works out. Should be fun!


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Opening the house

Back in October, I winterized the house and shut it down. Some snowbirds keep their houses heated all winter. When they get back in the spring all they have to do is restock the refrigerator and they are back in business. While that's convenient, I find it wasteful to heat a house with no one living in it. Not only that should something happen to the furnace the house will suffer extensive damage from freezing.

For me, keeping the house warm would eliminate a huge cost savings. That cost savings is one of the things that help finance my southern adventures. Of course, when I get home, there will be a lot more to do than restock the refrigerator.

The first thing I can do is to turn the electric power back on. My house is now totally off grid so power comes from solar electric panels and is stored in a battery bank. The inverter that powers the house was shut down, but the solar panels kept the batteries charged up and unfrozen. It's just a matter of throwing a few switches to energize the house wiring. With the power on, I won't have to stumble around in the dark.

The next thing to do is to get some heat in the house. When we get back it will still be winter conditions. In fact, inside the house might be colder than the outside. First I'll have to check the chimney to see if it's clear. One year ice and snow filled the bottom of the chimney, well above where the basement stove was connected. Fortunately, the kitchen woodstove was above the blockage so it was possible to use that stove. The heat from the kitchen stove eventually melted the ice in the rest of the chimney.

In few hours the woodstoves make the house nice and warm -right next to the woodstoves. It could take as long as 3 days for the house to be completely warm. The thermometer on the wall might be read 65, but the furniture stays cold longer.

The next fun thing is getting the water operational again. All the drain valves will have to be closed. The supply line from the well will have to be connected again. Last year the water had frozen deep underground and it took 3 days to get the water flowing. If there are no complications, it can take as little as 15 minutes. The plumbing is closely monitored for any leaks. Wish me luck.

With power, heat and water, the house is comfortable once more. It can take half a day, or it can take 3 days.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

To the Frostlands!

My lovely wife and I have decided to cut our southern trip a bit short. Instead of arriving home the middle of April, we are shooting for the last week of March. Yes, I know winter is in full force up in New Hampshire. It was -20F in the morning. On the bright side, black flies are down to a bare minimum.

We hope to get a few days in the St. Augustine area. Right now there are no openings at the State campground, so we are looking for a boat ramp in the area where we can keep the van and trailer for a few days. We'll figure something out. I wouldn't mind being on the water at all.

The loose plan is to spend some time in the St. Augustine area, a few days in Georgia, and maybe visit new friends in N. Carolina. After that, it's a long push to New England -weather permitting.

A friend of mine cut up some firewood for me, so we should be able to keep warm until spring really gets to the North Country.

In other news, we've decided what to do about our outboard issues. When up in New England, we barely use the outboard. We really don't need a powerful motor with a lot of range for 99% of the sailing we do there. With that in mind, we ordered an electric trolling motor with 55 lbs of trust. That should be enough for our needs. I use the motor so little during the summer that my solar panel should be enough to keep the battery charged.

The next time we go on long southern boat trip, we plan on having a different boat anyway. Ideally, having a boats in both NH and FL would be the way to go. That would save a lot of towing.

I'm thinking that our time remaining down south is short, but it's still longer than most people's vacations. Good thing this isn't a vacation, but a lifestyle.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Blame it on the Ukraine

It's said that while history doesn't exactly repeat itself, it does rhyme.

That's why I've been reviewing a bit of history. The Crimean War isn't exactly well studied in American schools. Maybe it should be. How about “The Charge of the Light Brigade?” That bit of poetry is more recognized than the war it took place in. Most kids in school probably haven't been exposed to the poem either.

How about Geography? Take a good look at a map. See where the Ukraine is? See where the Crimea is? Oh look, what's the big powerful country right next door? Russia. How about on the other side? Poland? The Balkans? Seems like Europe might have some skin the game?

The United States? It's not anywhere in the neighborhood. Of course, that hasn't kept American troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe it should have. At least Russia has geography and history to point to as excuses for their involvement. (Not saying they are in the right here, just that they really do have skin the game.)

Maybe it wouldn't hurt to review the Crimean War. It was a huge failure of balance of power politics that had kept the peace. Railroads and telegraphs made it a modern war -faster travel and communications. The war set up the conditions that eventually led to WWI. Yep, conflict in this little piece of real estate once became the spark that broke the world.

Too bad no one ever learns anything from history.


Monday, March 3, 2014

“How are things in civilization?”

“Still obsessed with material things.”

That's a conversation overheard at a dinghy dock. It's different out there on the water. I miss it.

We met some of the most interesting people. There's a big difference between those out on the water for a day and those living the life. Living on the water for any length of time requires a certain mindset. These people have figured out how to step out of the regular 9 to 5 existence -maybe for a few weeks, or maybe even forever.

For the last few days I've been back to land life. Sure, there are perks. It's easy to hop in a car and run down down to the store. My lovely wife and I have been to two movies since coming back.

Those things are nice, once in a while, but the price is high.

Of course, once we are back home, we'll be in the woods once more -not exactly a civilized place. However, it is a good place to plan our next adventures.


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Buying dead end technology

I hate paying top dollar for dead end technology. That's why I'm having a hard time figuring out what to do about my dying outboard motor. It's an old 2 stroke, fuel inefficient and loud. On the plus side, even after the throttle broke, it is a simple enough engine that I could get it running again. That old engine got the boat across Florida Bay, so I almost fell like I owe it something.

Okay, a purist would say it's a sailboat and doesn't need a motor. While that's technically true, a motor sure makes things a lot easier. When the wind died while crossing the bay having a motor sure beat bobbing around for a day waiting for a breeze. Few people anchor out for hours waiting for the tide to turn.

So I'm pretty much committed to having an outboard, which is a bit weird. For years I've been working to reduce my dependence on petroleum products. The gasoline engine is a dead end technology. Maybe not for years and years yet, but we are just one International crisis from it becoming cost prohibitive.

An electric motor would work -not for crossing Florida Bay, but one would allow us to get in and out of marinas and what not. Even with all its limitations, going electric is tempting. Of course, putting a lot more solar power on the boat would almost be a necessity.

Then there are the new Lehr propane motors. I finally got to see one at a marina. The guy tied up next to us had a 5hp kicker. He seemed to like it, mostly as he really hated gasoline engines and this was an viable option. Reviews on the motor are mixed. One thing that surprised me was how loud the motor was. It was as loud as my old 2 stroke, and there's no excuse for a modern engine to be that loud.

Then there are the Chinese knockoffs of old Yamaha designs. They are cheap; cheap to buy and cheaply made. My guess is that servicing them for anything more complicated than spark plugs might be hard to do. Let's call this the disposable outboard option.

Maybe I'll just keep my eye out for a reasonably priced used motor.

It kinda makes me glad that the little sailing scow I'm building will have oars for a backup.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Refrigeration revisited

Before we started out little sailing journey I looked over a lot of refrigeration options. None of them quite fit the bill. Power usage, price, quality, size and overall hassle factor were all considered. Finally my lovely wife suggested that we do without and just eat out more.

Overall, that pretty much worked out fine. When near civilization, we did eat out now and then. There was a small cooler on board, but it only kept food cool for a day or two. When we bought fresh food, we made sure to cook and eat it right off.

Some food items like apples and carrots lasted well enough without refrigeration.

It possible to eat healthy using canned and dried goods. However, I did wake up one morning dreaming about salads. When next we shopped I bought a big container of washed greens and ate them all up between dinner and breakfast. Yes, I even had salad greens for breakfast, while they were still fresh.

That being said, when we get back home I plan on ordering a good quality high efficiency marine grade portable refrigerator. So what's changed?

Well, for one thing, out house is now completely off grid. Having a high efficiency DC refrigerator for household use makes sense, especially when we can take it with us on the boat when we leave. After living without refrigeration, even a small marine unit will feel like luxury. Combined with a small basement root cellar, and eventually a spring house, it should be sufficient for day to day use. When we do have a lot of company, we could fire up the big conventional fridge for temporary use.

Marine refrigeration isn't cheap. When used only a few months a year, it's hard to justify the cost. However, since it'll be used both at home and on the boat, it's easier to spend the money.

Maybe I just want to have the occasional cold beer . . .