Thursday, December 31, 2015

On to Pelican Bay

We spent a peaceful night at anchor off Picnic Island. In the morning I inflated the kayak so we could take the dog to shore. While I was inflating the kayak and assembling the seats and paddles, my lovely wife made up a thermos of coffee for on the beach. Nice. Clever Girl.

We'd never practiced getting in and out of the kayak with this sailboat. We managed just fine. Leaving Picnic Island was not so easy. There is a very fast current next to the island. That in itself makes it hard to raise the anchor. To make things worse, the wind, working against the current, had spun the boat around and wrapped the anchor rope around the keel. I could not pull it free by hand as the current was too strong.

However, but moving the anchor rope from the bow to the cockpit winch the angle changed enough to free the rope. The current still had to be dealt with, but now I had the mechanical advantage of the winch. That did the job.

We didn't get too far before running aground -in the channel. Then the wind pushed us into the shallows but good. Normally I'd row an anchor out and winch us off. The problem was that we were in a very narrow channel with a tremendous volume of boat traffic.

By taking down the sails and reversion the motor we were able to ever so slowly claw our way back to the channel.

After that we had a great day of sailing. The only downside was all the boat traffic kicking up huge wakes and tossing us around like a cork in a washing machine. The wind completely died a few miles before we reached Pelican Bay. Our trusty 2hp Honda outboard got us into the Bay.

There are a lot of boats anchored here. No doubt the holiday week is to blame. Even so, we had no difficulty finding a place to anchor. I've been thinking about Pelican Bay for months. Ed Robinson wrote a series of books, both fiction and nonfiction in which Pelican Bay plays a prominent role. In fact, I'm told the author lives on his boat and can often be found here. Although the last I head he's down to Marathon in the Keys right now.

We only had a few light snacks while sailing. Due to the bright sun and warm temperatures I was more interested in keeping hydrated so filled up on water. Once the anchor was set, I cooked up a big chicken and pasta dinner. By then we were more than ready for a decent meal.

The sun had started to set by the time we were done. I took a cold beer and my tablet out into the cockpit and took a few photos in the fading light.

By the way, it's our 37th wedding anniversary.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

We did it!

We finally untied the lines and set out down the river towards the Gulf. Winds were less than favorable so we had to tack into the wind. It's tricky with a 4 foot keel on a narrow river. The new GPS really helped us stay away from the shallow water.

At the end of the river is a section of the ICW known as the Miserable Mile. They call it that for a reason. That's where river, tidal currents, fluky winds and heavy boat traffic meet. The channel is very narrow so everyone is crammed into that small tricky area.

As luck would have it, (bad luck) the wind met us right on the nose with no room to tack. Just to make things interesting I flooded our little outboard and it would not start. The boat started to drift into the shallows. My clever wife had the tiller and did a quick 180 degree turn and sailed back up the river until I was able to start the motor.

I'd hoped to enter the Miserable Mile at slack water, because we only have a tiny 2hp engine. Unfortunately the tide was pushing against us. However, the outboard had enough kick to push us through. Boat traffic was horrendous. Huge power boats threw up enormous wakes that tossed us all over the place.

Currently we are anchored off of Picnic Island. The island was a very busy place until sunset.

Now we have the place to ourselves.

It feels really really got to finally get out on the water. I'm loving it.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

High speed boat chase

Things are interesting here in Fort Myers. There men were apprehended on the high seas after a 20 hour boat chase. They stole a “go fast” boat. These babies have 3, 300 hp outboards on the back. Apparently they are in high demand in Mexico.

I didn't see any of it as it. Just as well we were not on the water. Imagine being run over by such a boat? The chase was pretty reckless for a while there.

The same day a sister ship to the one that was stolen pulled into the marina. The boats are just big enough to hang all that horsepower on the transom. Imagine how much gas those 300 hp outboards must burn?

I'd planned on heading out of the marina today, but my lovely wife said Tuesday. Tuesday it is -for real this time as I told the marina to process my paperwork. This has been an expensive few months. Some time living free at anchor will give my budget a chance to recover a bit.


Monday, December 28, 2015

Back home on the boat

It's nice to be back home on the boat. I'm looking forward to finding a quiet anchorage, kicking back and relaxing.

We will be one of the few heading out as almost nobody wants to move before the New Year. Today I found out there will be a fireworks display at the park next to the marina. The marina is great place to view the action, but the poor dog would go nuts. It's just as well that we'll be away.

The boat is well supplied with stainless steel hardware, marine paint, and other materials. There's no excuse to get bored.

Every day I become more and more aware that the marina sits right in a city. It's not a huge city, but big enough to have city problems.

This is the city that had a deadly shooting during the zombie walk at a zombie convention. That happened just down the street from the marina. Just beyond the very attractive downtown the neighborhoods get pretty sketchy. There also appears to be a sizable homeless population. That in itself doesn't freak me out, but it's a sign of the times.

Hope to be blogging from out on anchor soon.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Back to the Fort

Fort Myers, that is. We are heading back to the boat after pretty much doing what we set out to do. Christmas was spent with our Florida family. Just about everything we needed for the boat has been purchased. Our sail has been reinforced. My lovely wife and I even got to see the new Star Wars movie.

I'm really hoping to untie the lines on Monday. If everything goes right we'll be able to do so. That could happen. After all the delays we've had, it would be nice if something went smoothly.

Weather here has been unseasonably warm. Sure, you don't expect real cold in Florida in winter, but it's been warm even for Florida. Normally we'd be in a hurry to head south towards the Keys. This winter we can head north from Fort Myers for a bit. There are people we'd like to get in touch with -once we find out what their plans are.

Of course, scheduling anything while traveling by sailboat is an exercise in futility. After all, we ended up renting a vehicle for our Christmas gathering because we didn't have time to sail there.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy National Gift Return Day

Today is the unofficial gift return day. That's when people trade in those things they don't want for something they do. Sadly, it's also engagement ring return day for those sad guys who's girlfriend said “no” at the Christmas marriage proposal. Sorry dudes.

I hope the commercial nature of the holiday did not ruin it for too many of you. My family's happiest Christmas took place the year we were totally broke. We let the children know they'd be getting very little for the holiday. We invited a lot of friends and family over Christmas Eve and had a really great celebration. There really is such a thing as the Christmas spirit.

Christmas is not my favorite holiday. Some holidays come with a lot of baggage attached. I've gotten better about it in recent years and do my best not to be a Hum Bug. This year we spent it with my step-mom and my new extended Florida family. We spent the holiday in her retirement park. One of the fun things was driving around in a golf cart, checking out all the decorations. Some of those retired folks go all out.

My lovely wife and I did not get anything for under the tree. Our gift to ourselves is sitting in a marina right now. We did pick up some nice things for our boat, so that counts. West Marine had a great sale on a handheld chart plotter. I'd wanted one for years and the price just came down low enough. We also got some essential but lest than flashy gear like sail repair items and hull plugs.

We'll be heading back to our boat soon and hope to be out on the water, maybe as early as Monday. If one is not careful it's possible to get stuck in a marina. Life is just a little too easy. While it's great to meet people and to have access to shore amenities, that's not what boats are made to do. The worse chains are the ones that you let slowly grow on you. There's sailing to be done.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas one and all. Hope the holiday season is treating you right. If it's a hard one, just know that you aren't alone. Everyone be kind to yourselves this year. It doesn't have to be a Hallmark Christmas to be a good Christmas.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Car Rental Crazies

Okay, here's a head's up. If you are going to rent a car around a major holiday, make sure you do it in advance. I'm glad I did.

I had Enterprise pick me up at the marina. Somehow they never gave the driver my new cell phone number. The one they used belonged to a phone that went swimming in the ocean a year ago. It was the driver's first day on the job too. In spite of that it only took him an extra 5 minutes to find me. Then the guy wasn't too sure he could find his way back to the rental place, but we made it just fine.

That's when things got interesting. There was a whole extend family hanging around the car rental -a very well dressed and near to violence family. Apparently there was some last minute problem with their car. I did not want to get involved, but things were getting really heated.

I'd reserved a compact car. They had nothing on the lot. A few minutes later a full sized crew cab pickup was turned in. Enterprise asked if I wanted it for the same price as the compact. Heck yeah! It got me out of there and on the road. That angry family was looking at me funny as I drove off the lot. Not sure what their problem was, but I knew they'd never catch me on foot.

My lovely wife and I had compiled a list of things we needed for the boat. A goodly part of that list was filled at a West Marine on the way to my step mom's. Traffic was crazy, but we made it here just fine. This will be Christmas will our Florida family.

Hope everyone out there has a good holiday. Be safe out there.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Electronic Road Warrior

Things have come a long way since I first started spending winters on the road, about 16 years ago. (can't believe it's been that long!) Back then most business was done over pay phones using calling cards. Ancient History.

For a couple years I did a fair amount of Internet business using dial-up connections. There used to be a campground in Key Largo with a bar overlooking the Bay. They had Internet phone connections right at the bar. I'd plug in and reach behind me for a cold beer. Nice and civilized.

There were times I'd strap an acoustic coupler to a pay phone and do business at a very slow rate. At least it usually worked.

These days I carry a hotspot that lets my computers get on the Internet over the cell phone towers. The marina has wifi, but until today it was hit or miss. The service guy just upgraded the system and now service is decent.

Good thing as I've a lot of business to take care of today. It's nice to not have to burn my own data plan to do it.

Interesting to think that my whole electronic existence could go away with an EMP or massive cyber attack. Since much of my electronic financial life consists of me paying bills, it wouldn't bother me too much.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Off the back of the boat

This is the view from the back of our sailboat. That boat in the left of the photo is about 75 feet long. The bridge in the distances is the Rt. 41 bridge into Fort Myers.

I would have liked to have taken some sailing pics, but it didn't work out. Once we got away from the big condo towers near the marina, the wind was much stronger than we thought. (and was predicted!) It was all we could do to hold on. Sailing pics will have to wait until things are a bit more sedate.

We are still learning this boat. Doing it while flying along at full hull speed, navigating the channel, and dodging hazards keep us too busy for photos. The sailing was a bit tricky.

The good thing is that we really got to push the boat to see what it can do. It can do plenty. I like it. As I'd hoped, this boat sails well.

The boat came with a little Honda 4 stroke 2hp outboard. The previous owner claimed it could push the boat along at 4 knots. I did not believe him. Today, I'm a believer. It did exactly as claimed. An honest seller, go figure.


Monday, December 21, 2015

All God's Creatures are Lost

But some have sailboats.

One nice bonus about spending more time than we'd planned in the marina is that we've had some time to get to know people better.

Last night my wife was wondering what a sailboat had tied to its deck. The owner came out and was more than happy to answer her questions. Like my lovely wife suspected, the bundle on the deck was his deflated dinghy. My lovely wife got a kick out of that as it was the same area where she had me tie our deflated kayak.

We've been getting a lot of good local knowledge about sailing in this area. For example, we've learned that one of the nearby locks is under construction and is closed except for weekends and a once daily opening during weekdays. That will have some bearing in our future plans.

A lot of people in this marina have been to the Bahamas and they all have nice things to say about it. That's great as I've been trying to convince my lovely wife to sail there. She tells me next year. I'm fine with that as we are getting used to this boat. There are plenty of things to see around Florida yet.

One guy told me about some very remote anchorages in the Bahamas where few people go. It's almost surprising that a place so close to the hustle and bustle of Florida can be deserted. However, once you think about it, it makes sense. Power boats are limited by how much fuel they can carry. Most sailors stick to the tried and true routes where supplies are available. Not that many people deal well with isolation so they seek out places where others gather.

We are all about beautiful natural places, so it's just the sort of adventure we'd like to do. I'm also curious to see if those areas are suitable for emergency bug out locations. Life on the mainland is wacky at the best of times, never mind during a national emergency.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Office seasickness

I was trying to write a blog post last night, but the boat was rocking in the wind and waves. About the time seasickness started to set it, putting the computer away seemed like a very good idea indeed.

Maybe if my lovely wife and I hadn't just had a very nice, but spicy pizza in town. At any rate, the blog could wait.

There's a lot within walking distance from the marina, plus there's a free trolley available. No wonder so many people like to park their boats here for the winter. We enjoyed our pizza at outdoor tables where we could enjoy some people watching. Later, we caught a free concert in a nearby plaza. The band's first set came to an abrupt halt when high winds blew over their light tower over. By then we decided to start heading back to the boat. After all, it was almost 8:30.

There's a saying, “Cruiser's midnight.” That's about 9 p. m.. Days on the water are long and by 9 most folks are ready to call it a night.

Yesterday's fiberglass work went well. There was less fiberglass work to be done than I'd originally thought. With that job out of the way I'll be able to leave most of my fiberglass kit at my step-mom's, along with a power sander. One tool that's proven surprisingly useful is my hacksaw. I'm going to pick up more blades for it. In the next few days we are going to try to figure out what we really need on the boat and what can be left behind.

Things are moving in the right direction. We are going to do more practice sailing. Everything in moderation. It was a good idea to take a break and bring my first mate out for pizza and music.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Big boats and bigger boats

We are the smallest boat in this marina. Sure, we've gone up from a 19 foot boat to a 23. That's still nothing in the world of boats. When I was having problems with my boat's outboard many people here assumed it was the outboard for a dinghy -an under powered dinghy at that.

There are millions of dollars worth of boats all around me. I paid $2500 for mine. Even so, most people here have been nice. They think we are nuts, but that's par for the course. There is always someone with a bigger boat.

The problem with big boats is that there are fewer and fewer places that can accommodate them. They have to anchor out far from shore. Then they need really powerful and large tenders to whisk their people to shore. At some point having a helicopter pad is necessary as the distances are too great.

While there are big and expensive boats here, they aren't helipad big. They are of a size where they can come up the river and into the marina . The boats are practically stacked on top of each other. This is a popular place to spend the winter.

As people settle in I've noticed a familiar dynamic at play. People come from all over, many to escape the cold of northern winters. Some people move in and live year round. It reminds me of a Florida trailer park. Sure, the “trailers” are expensive boats, but they are stacked in almost on top of each other. Everyone gets to know their neighbors.

They'd run me out of the marina if I'd ever dared to point out the similarities to a trailer park.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Just the two of us

Good news on the outboard motor front. The local marina can dispose of bad gas. The dockmaster helped me dump the fuel tank. I'd read the manual so I knew there was a separate drain for the carburetor.

One of the guys down the dock from me was making a Walmart run and offered to pick up anything I needed. Carburetor cleaner seemed like the thing so he picked up a spray can. I was able to spray cleaner without having to disassemble too much. Once everything was cleaned up I added a little fresh gas. After a few pulls to get the gas into the engine it kicked over.

Now it runs well. In fact, my lovely wife and I decided to take the boat out for a sail. The motor was used a short while until we were out of the marina into the river. Then it was turned off until we came back in. When Dan the previous owner took us out he was able to land it at the dock without a motor. Of course he's been sailing these waters for over 10 years. I was happen to have a decent landing using the motor.

Heck, I was happy to not collide with anything or anybody. My lovely wife and I managed the sails just fine. We tried a few different arrangement just to see what it could do. Winds were fairly light, but we did hit over 5.5 knots for a stretch. That doesn't sound like much to you power boaters, but it's a good enough speed in a small sailboat.

Oh, one other thing. The big condo towers next to the marina will have to come down. They bock my wind.

We are going to run out of Fort Myers for a while yet as we sort out the boat. Rather than try to press onward to my step mom's for Christmas, we decided to leave the boat in the marina and rent a car. I've one reserved for the 23rd. By then we'll have goodly list of last minute things for the boat.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Test sail

When we purchased the boat we knew there was a problem with one of the scuppers. A scupper is just a drain, but it's important as it allows any water that gets into the cockpit a way to get out. The guy who sold it too us said he'd fix it. It took longer to fix the problem than expected, but that's not unexpected. However, it was resolved the same day so that's pretty good.

We even got a chance to sail. Winds were light, but we did get a chance to sort out how everything worked. One the downside, the outboard died on us. It was rough starting it in the marina, but I had gotten it going the other day. Today, when we tried it, it only ran for a short spurts. The previous owner pulled the spark plug and is in search of a new one.

I did straighten out my problem with the marina. They wanted to put a boat in my slip, but they can wait a couple weeks. In the mean time the boat can go in a different slip. The smart thing might be to do a series of day sails until we really get the hang of the boat.

At least we haven't been following the Republican debates. Instead, we listened to jazz while sipping on rum coffees. Life without TV can be wonderful.

There are a few people here with Christmas spirit.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Holding pattern

It's a truism that everything takes longer. That certainly applies to anything concerning boats. I'd expected to be off and away from the dock by now. The big hold up is that I'm still trying to get together with the previous owner. We are trying to work around his schedule. He has some boat parts for us and wants to take us sailing. Since we want to be “shown the ropes” it's worth waiting for him.

However, I think the marina is looking to get rid of us. The place is really filling up. Marinas charge by the foot so I think they are hoping to replace us with a much larger boat.

The weather had been nice, but a cold front is moving in. My big concern is that the winds are exactly in the wrong direction. Our outboard is tiny so there will be no bashing into the waves. That and I still have very little gasoline. Maybe if I can come to some agreement with the marina we can sit out the bad weather.

The wifi at the marina has been pretty hit or miss. Sometimes I can watch Youtube. Other times it's too weak to deliver e-mail.

I've a couple photos of the boat as a work in progress, but it's been difficult to upload them. My solution has been to activate my AT&T hotspot and get on-line that way.

Solar Panel and outboard.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Dock Rats

This marina is pretty nice. The price seems a bit high to me, but the monthly cost brings the price down to something more reasonable. Of course, if you look at it as a seasonal Florida rental, it's a bargain. They did cut us a break. Boats are charged by the foot. A 40 foot boat pays more than a 30 foot boat. This marina has a 30 foot minimum charge, but they are charging us the actual length of 23 feet.

Marinas collect people. They come in on their boats, tie up, and inertia sets in. It's easy to plug into the water and electric on the dock and not have to worry about how your anchor is set. It can been good for a while, but that's not what boats are meant to do. To me, boats are all about freedom. Moving into a marina can be a self imposed prison.

I had one guy ask me why I'd want to go anywhere else as this marina was so nice. I told him the world was full of nice places and you can't see them if you never leave. Maybe it'll make sense to me to tie up to a nice marina when I'm 90.

Our boat projects continue. I dug out the little Honda and got it working. I think the gas was treated as it hadn't gone bad. However, old gas, even if treated, loses some of the more volatile compounds. That makes it harder to start a small engine. It took a bit of fiddling around, but I did get the little motor running well.

Very little gas came with the boat. That's both good and bad. It's good as there's not a lot of old gas to worry about on the boat. It's bad because I've got to get some before I go too far. The nearest gas station is a long walk. They deliver gas to the marina, but it's by the truck load. Since I need like 2 gallons, I don't think they'd come out here for free. There are marinas close by with fuel on the dock, plus someone might give me a ride to a gas station.

We plan on casting off the lines by the middle of next week or so.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

All my boaty stuff

Yesterday was another long one. The car trip back to the marina was exhausting. I've been traveling pretty much nonstop. It didn't help that we were caught in traffic and delayed over an hour.

It took me two days to haul all my stuff out of my car. However, my lovely wife's stuff hadn't been packed yet. When we were dropped off at the marina, we filled two more marina carts. To be fair, a lot of the load was the composting toilet. It took well into the evening to get enough space cleared out so we could have room to sleep.

Once we were dropped off we were on our own. That's the point where I hoped I'd brought enough tools and hardware to complete my projects. It's a long walk to the hardware store so I made do with what I have. For example, the screws I had were too long for securing the composting toilet, but I have a hacksaw. It's all good.

So now the composting toilet and the solar panel are both installed. The charge controller needed to be taken all apart. Someone in China must hate their job. The screws that hold down the wires were all torqued tightly the wrong way. Only by disassembling the whole controller was I able to figure out what happened. It tool some searching around, but I did find the right screwdriver to really reef on the screws without stripping them.

The boat looks pretty messy right now. I'm kinda glad we are at the end of the dock where I can do my projects without bothering people. I think it might be nap time. The clean up can wait a bit.


Friday, December 11, 2015

No photos today

No photos from the marina today. Out straight again.

The composting head came it. Looks like it's all there. It should fit nicely into the boat. Of course, the boat is a total mess right now. Nothing has been put away.

The big goal was to get everything to the boat as I am putting the car in storage. When you live on a boat it's not easy to make a quick run to the store. There is a Publix only a half mile away. That's actually not too bad, but it's a long haul for heavy things. Today I bought canned and dry goods. We'll take a walk over to pick up the fresh stuff just before leaving.

I think I have everything needed to fabricate a mount for the solar panel. In fact, it better be enough as it's a good long walk to the hardware store. Yes, I've heard of things like cabs, but they want money. Don't talk to me about Uber.

The guys are the marina can't wait to meet my lovely wife. (Some doubt she even exists.) They wonder what kind of woman will go off sailing with a character like me on a small boat.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

The boat floats!

It had been nearly a month since I bought that old Ranger 23. Wednesday I finally drove down to FT. Myers to see what the heck I'd gotten into. Driving over the bridge into the city I risked a quick glance down to the marina and spotted my boat. Nice to see it was still floating.

The boat is located at the very end of the dock. There's a long hike, a 90 degree turn, another long hike, another 90 degree and a short hike later the boat came into sight. Schlepping gear occupied most of the afternoon and well into the evening. It's still not all moved over. Amazing how much stuff can be packed into an economy car, especially with gear piled on the roof racks. The 80+ degree heat didn't make it any easier, especially after coming down from frosty New Hampshire.

The previous owner left an old hose in the boat. He said he never used the sink so had no idea if the faucet pump worked or even if the tank held water. Yes to both, but no way is the water fit to drink. It got a big dose of bleach. The sink will be fine for washing dishes. Everything will be super sterile. That will save my water jugs for drinking and cooking water.

Most of the power plugs at this marina are the big 50 amp connectors. My 30 amp plug was not compatible. However, I've learned a few tricks over the years and also brought a 100' contractor's extension cord and was able to reach a regular 20 amp plug. That's more than enough power for my needs.

The next thing is to find a building supply store. All the materials will have to be at the boat before the end of the day. We'll be leaving the car at my step-mothers place for the duration. The parking is free, and that's a good thing.

I wish I had a chance to take some photos of the marina, but darkness crept up on me. Maybe tonight's post. It feels good to be working on the boat, getting it ready for travel.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015


My lovely wife and I were able to take care of our business in Central Florida. Now I'm heading down to Ft. Myers to work on the boat. The most important job, according to my lovely wife, is to vacuum up any spiders or other weird bugs. While it's docked at a marina a few pressing projects can be accomplished.

Mainly, the idea is to do what has to be done at the dock, then make sure there is enough stuff on board so we can work out on anchor somewhere. That includes cooking fuel and provisioning. The idea is to make the boat seaworthy, comfortable, and has enough rum, scotch, and bourbon to provide the necessities of life.

We are way overdue for some lazy days on the water.

I keep getting asked what we are going to do for Christmas. Dang if I know. We'll be on a boat. No telling exactly where we'll end up.


Monday, December 7, 2015

On to Florida

We made it to Central Florida. It was a good 550 mile day. We have some business to attend to then on to the boat in Ft. Myers.

My solar panel is here already. The composting head has been shipped and should show up in a couple days. Things are coming together.

Rest now. It's been a long few days.


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Somewhere in North Carolina

We had a late start Sunday. Heavy fog moved in overnight. Pennsylvania roads are tough enough with good visibility. It was almost noon before it lifted. We are in North Carolina now and plan on Florida sometime Monday.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Another long drive

With our business in New Hampshire wrapped up, my lovely wife and I are back on the road. Originally we'd planned on a Friday departure, but my wife's tummy bug said otherwise. That's part of the reason we had a fairly late start on Saturday.

There was also a couple errands to run and one last stop at the house before heading south. A few things were dropped off, lightening the load a tad. When going through my charts I discovered my ICW chart book wasn't in the chart bag. It took some digging around my home office, but finally the chart book was found.

The previous owner of my sailboat sent an e-mail. He has the parts for an unfinished job and wants to help me do the final repairs. That, and he want's to take us out sailing to literally show us the ropes. We could sail it with what we know, but he's going to show us how to race it. It was with some pleasure I was able to inform him we were already in transit.

However, we aren't pushing day and night like we did on the northbound trip. Currently I'm in a hotel in PA. We didn't hit the road until after noon, but still put in over 465 miles. It's a start. While we were still three hours out my lovely and clever wife booked a pet friendly room, getting one of the last ones in the area. Nice.

With any luck we'll be on the trail bright and early.


Civilization and Religion

Back when London and Paris were bucolic mud towns who's residents were ignorant peasants, there existed places where civilization's light shown bright. There were cities with night lights, clean paved streets, the rule of law, and good medical care. Philosophy, mathematics, poetry, literature, art, engineering, and science thrived.

I'm talking, of course, about the Islamic world of the Middle Ages. The rules of the time had no difficulty with Islam and progress. That came later. Actually, the current flavors of repressive religious interpretation are fairly recent. Just look at photo's of Kabul in the 70s. The women on the street would not look out of place in New York.

Religious radicals are not limited to any one religion. Christian nut jobs do a pretty good job of shooting up places like Planned Parenthood clinics. Don't ever say the shooter was radicalized by his church. We can't talk that way about Christians, now can we?

I guess I just did. Oh well, there go some more of my readers. I'm an equal opportunity sort of guy -I insult everyone's religious radicals. There are even some radical violent Buddhists out there. How the heck does that happen?

What do religious radicals have in common? There lives are not working for them. Sometimes it's a matter of their being absolutely zero opportunity. “Terrorist” might be the only paying gig in town. Being a suicide bomber with a promise of paradise doesn't look too bad.

Then there are those people who may not be desperate financially, but are desperate to have meaning in their lives. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. What young person doesn't want to be part of a larger struggle while fighting on the side of right against the forces of evil? Of course, it's all about who defines what's good and what's evil.

Western Civilization isn't doing all that great a job providing meaning in people's lives. Maybe we need a new economic model. Perhaps we need better philosophies and social sciences. Western civilization is barely working in the industrialized world. As most economic benefits now flow to the 1% there's a lot less incentive to go along with the program. People are looking for alternatives.

In many parts of the world Western Civilization was imposed on people. There are benefits, but since most of the colonizers were their to exploit resources and people, it was a harder sell. Now with even fewer of the benefits going to the common man, it's no wonder people are looking for alternatives.

Religion has always been quick to exploit discontent -the more radical, the better.

The solution? Darned if I know. However, until we recognize the common problems we can't begin to fix them.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Guns and books

Things don't add up. Firearm background checks are supposed to be way up. Guns are supposed to be selling like crazy. However, I know for a fact that one major firearms manufacturer is laying off a lot of people. Maybe it's a simple case of over production that capitalism is well known for. Maybe, yet they've gutted the engineering staff, the people who are supposed to be designing the products of the future. Seems to me these are the guys you'd want to keep around. New product designing has come to a screeching halt.

Maybe it's one company's bad business decisions, but it doesn't fit with the overall story the main stream media is putting out.

I'm wondering. Was the latest mass shooting in another “gun free zone?” Maybe they should be renamed “defense free zones.” I never feel safe in those businesses where firearms are prohibited. All those signs say to me is: soft target. You don't see terrorist shootings at the local gun range.

I've just finished reading Voyage, After the Collapse, by Scott B Williams. It's the most recent installment in his Pulse series. It's an EMP disaster series. It's great for those of us who like both survival fiction and anything to do with small boats. For me there's the added bonus of having sailed in some of the same waters the story takes place in.

The book was enjoyable. Williams's fiction writing is improving. My biggest quibble is that the book seemed too short. Things were just getting really interesting when it came to a sudden end. I'm going to buy the next book anyway. No need for cliff hangers to keep me coming back.

One thing that came through loud and clear in the book was that in a total collapse situation there are those with firearms and then there are victims. Of course, we aren't in a massive EMP situation right now. Our slow collapse is uneven.

One of the states I dive though on my way south is Massachusetts. I can legally pass through the state with a firearm if certain conditions are met. For example, the gun and ammo have to be locked away separately. With my converted ambulance that meant installing a small safe for the guns and using the old drug locker for ammo storage. Right now carrying a gun in some states puts me in more danger from law enforcement than criminals.

99% of the time being safe on the water doesn't take a firearm. Situational awareness, a bright spot light, wasp repellent, and a machete can handle most security issues. I have carried a gun on my boat in the past. Florida recognizes New Hampshire's concealed carry permit. Mainly I had it so pythons in the Everglades wouldn't eat the dog. I'll just let everyone guess if I'm carrying a gun this year or not.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Another house raid

My lovely wife and I made one more trip to the dome home. This trip was mostly to raid the Oday for boaty bits: electrical odds and bobs, boat hook, snorkel gear, paddle, power cord with marina plug and a copy of Chapman Piloting & Seamanship.

Chapman's is the go to book on seamanship, the bible of boating. My lovely wife and I are mostly self taught sailors. Part of that learning process has been “daily readings from the Book of Chapman.” We pick a section of the book, often at random, and read it out loud. The book is a wealth if useful information and often used as a textbook for boating classes.

I was going to pull the old solar panel off the boat but came up with a better idea. While the little 30 watt panel provided good service it's a bit undersized for the Ranger 23. Thanks to a coupon and a Google payment for this blog, I was able to order a 100 watt panel with cables and charge controller. Thank you loyal readers!

There's room on the back rail to mount the panel. I've experience with the 105 watt panel mounted on the van so I've some idea what to expect. The boat mount should produce more power than the roof mounted van panel. The vans panel is flat mounted to the roof. The one on the boat will be installed so it can be tilted to better capture those elusive photons. Also reflected sunlight off the water gives a noticeable boost. That's why people get sunburns so easily while boating -and not just the melanin challenged either.

The boat has a new battery, so with the addition of a good solar panel we should have plenty of power for our needs. That will allow us to stay out on anchor longer, saving on marina bills. Now if I just add some fishing gear and decent rainwater catchment, we should be able to live on the water a long long time.

With our house raid complete, we locked up the doors for a few more months.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ice storms and other distractions

There's an ice storm in progress this evening. My lovely wife and I were invited over to some friends but we aren't traveling anywhere. More ice and snow are in the forecast. Hopefully it will clear by the end of the week so we can head south.

The White Mountain Cafe in Gorham NH has a ham sandwich called the Monroe, named after Mt. Monroe. It's the closest thing I can find locally to a Cuban sandwich. It's good, but it's not quite the same as those sandwiches made by actual Cuban immigrants in the Florida Keys. You know it's an authentic place when it has a small boat out front in which young Cuban men dared the waters from Cuba to Florida.

Those Cuban sandwiches are pretty healthy too. So how can a pork and ham sandwich be healthy? Well first we have to kayak from our boat to land. Then it's a long walk across Boot Key to the restaurant. Those sandwiches are earned.

People ask me how I can boat in shark infested waters. It must be so dangerous. Yes, it is possible to tangle with a shark that wants to take a bite out of your inflatable kayak. However, here in NH it's much more likely that someone will get hurt and killed slipping on ice. Falling down isn't as dramatic as a shark attack, but it's much more likely.

For the last couple of days I've been sorting out my personal business. One company was giving me a lot of trouble. I had on-line payments with them before, but because I closed one account they automatically closed on-line access to my remaining account. Since I'm staying in town I don't have access to all my paper work back at the lake. Their “security policy” would not let me pay my bill. Finally I told them that if they didn't straighten out the on-line payment system they would not get paid at all. Suddenly they found a way to make it happen. Imagine that.

I'd planned on sorting out this stuff in the fall, but my dad's sudden illness put everything on hold. As a stop gap measure mail was forwarded to his place. Eventually my business will be simplified even more, but as a mid term solution I'm setting up more on-line payments.

Last winter while traveling in rural Texas I purchased an AT&T hotspot for Internet access. When I got home in April I let the service lapse. Yesterday I was able to charge it up and reestablish the account. Fortunately I'd kept good notes on how to set up the hardware and software. It saved me a lot of grief. The service isn't cheap. Currently I'm paying $75 for 8 gig of data. Last year I often found myself adding a couple more gigs at the end of the month for a few extra dollars.

There are cheaper services out there, but AT&T provides good coverage in most of the areas I travel in. If it allows me to spend more time out at anchor than in a marina it pays for itself.

A good part of the afternoon was spent dealing with my health insurance -a very frustrating and eventually pointless exercise. The government informed me I might qualify for cheaper insurance, about half of what I'm currently paying. After dealing with their crashing web site, spending long stretches on the phone, mostly listening to crappy on-hold music and plowing through paperwork, I got the final result. Not only do I not qualify for the cheaper rate, my insurance is going up $50/month.

While it's not great insurance, it's still $600/month cheaper than what I was being billed before Obama care. In fact, I couldn't afford insurance and had none at all. It was tempting to let it go, but since my dad just passed away I'm feeling a bit more mortal than usual.

Most of my business up here in NH is done. One more trip up to the lake to raid my old boat for gear should do it. However, I'm not going to budge until the ice is clear. Schedules are killers so I'm doing my best to avoid having one.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Poor in America

I can fake being middle class. I've a home on a lake after all. Never mind that my dad bought land back in the day and gave me a heck of a break when I bought it from him. Sure I can spend money on things like boats -old old boats. It helps that so many of my other expenses have been cut to the bone. There are people who spend more on fancy coffees than I spend on energy for my home.

Part of my low cost of living is that I can do so much for myself. My pension might be small, but it gives me the freedom to use my time on money saving activities.

The rich know how to pass on wealth to their children. When my dad passed he had next to nothing. His big ownership item was an old trailer in a retirement park. My step mom got that and I'm glad she did as I don't want' it. His car was financed and dad had very little savings. Actually, I'm relieved that it didn't cost as much as I'd feared to bury him. A good part of the cost was covered by donations from friends and relatives. All I took home from Florida was a small welding machine and a rifle. My mom's medical expenses bankrupted him years earlier.

In today's America money is free speech. Corporations are people. Poor people are useless eaters. The stress most people have to deal with: crappy jobs, poor food, and dismal medical care is doing us in. That's what the collapse looks like -a disappearing middle class and a sharp divide between rich and poor.

The system is rigged so it's our best interest to live in the cracks like crabgrass popping through sidewalks. We've got to fly beneath the radar. For me part of that is being able to sometimes pass as middle class. It's a disguise.

We are raised from a young age to think a certain way. Most schools are big indoctrination centers. As a kid I couldn't see much difference from prison. Good thing I figured out that learning and school can be separate activities. Our parents were brain washed and they passed that down to us. Some were more brainwashed than others.

For a while it wasn't too bad as myth had some relationship to reality. The disconnect from what we are told and what we see is getting too big to ignore. There's a war on against poor people and the super wealthy have all the tanks. That doesn't mean we can't resist, but you can't fight them head on. Think like irregular troops hiding in the mountains. It's important that we don't live the constrained and boxed in lives they want to squeeze us into. Find your freedom. The first step is realizing it's not your fault, but you can save yourself.


Monday, November 30, 2015

Changes in my home town energy mix

My lovely wife go away for a few months and things change back in my home town. The most noticeable change was the half a dozen windmills on a nearby mountain. Pretty impressive. Back in September we saw the materials being assembled at a staging area. Since then they've been assembled.

Some people think windmills are unsightly, but what are the alternatives? Sure beats the heck out of mountain top removal to mine coal. The same people who complain about windmills certainly don't want to live without electric power.

People also complain about solar electric power because they don't want to look at the panels. What a delicate bunch of whiners! These are probably the same sort of folks who are offended by clotheslines.

Wouldn't it be great if those blocked alternative energy production lost the right to have electric power supplied at their homes? It's not fair that some community has to have a dirty coal plant but the bulk of the power gets shipped to rich distant communities?

I wonder how much of the locally generated power goes downstate on the big transmission lines and how much is used locally? Not only does this town have windmills, it has hydro dams, biomass generation and even some limited commercial solar electric.

About two thirds of power generated is lost over long transmission lines. It would make perfect sense for most communities to generate their own power. Eliminating long distance lines would save a lot of energy and materials.

In a slow collapse grid maintenance is one of those things to get neglected. We already see that happening in much of the world. The short term fix has been for businesses and individuals to use small diesel generators to supply power. That's a pretty bad fix as small generators are expensive to run and wear out under constant use. Places that with experience with alternative energy generation and infrastructure should be in a much better position.

It would also make sense to move manufacturing close to places with good alternative power generation. However, available power is not the only consideration. Transportation is a big factor. In the future good rail or canal service, being cheaper than truck hauling, could make a big difference. A location with access to cheap reliable power, raw materials, and water transportation will do well. They did well in the past. Only cheap energy, labor, and transportation allows manufacturing in China to make sense. Don't expect those advantages to last.

Of course, I'm a big advocate for people having at least some power generation capacity. Relying on an increasingly underfunded and maxed out capacity grid seems like a bad bet.


Saturday, November 28, 2015


We had a memorial service for my dad in New Hampshire on Saturday. It went very well. We'd had a service in Florida but I felt the people back home needed closure too.

It was nice to hear how dad had such a positive influence on so many people. His life was well lived.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Money access and traveling

One of my credit cards expired while I was in Florida. Even though my mail gets forwarded, credit cards are not and are returned to the bank.

Since I'm back in New Hampshire I decided to walk into my local credit union and get a new card. Here's the deal, my daughter suggested we could stay at the house they bought for an investment. It's being renovated, but the heat is on, the appliances work, and it's actually pretty comfortable. That way I can leave my house closed up as we will shortly be heading back to Florida. Right now my mail is being forwarded to my daughter's house. With my house still closed up I don't want to drive 30 miles every day just to pick up the mail.

I went into the credit union and asked if I could pick up the card right here. No problem, but it would be at least 10 business days. There's a fair chance I'd be back on the road before the card came in. Fine. For a fee they could expedite the process and it'd only take a few days. The card came in and I picked it up.

Then it got interesting. To activate the card I needed to call from my home phone. My home phone is through Vonage and needs the Internet to function. To save money I've suspended the Internet service until spring. No Internet, no phone.

While still in the credit union I had them change my primary number to my cell phone number. Before leaving the teller I called and made sure the card was activated. The only problem is that eventually I'm gong to have to get the phone number changed back to my Vonage number. There is no cell phone service at my house. During the spring and summer I can go weeks without using a cell phone.

While waiting for all this to go through the teller shared a story about her father. He's been living in South America for years, yet still uses his New Hampshire credit union. The daughter's place is listed as her father's legal address. His new cards come to her house. She mails them to South America. He calls her when he gets them in hand. Her home phone is also listed as her dad's number. She calls in the activation and then lets him know his cards are good to go.

My personal business is still more complicated than it should be. Since we'll be spending considerable time away on our little sailboat, I'm going to have to find better solutions. At least I'm home part of the year. It's easy to hang up the phone on someone. When I'm physically in their building, they have to deal with me.


My favorite holiday

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I hope all my readers out there had a good one. This year my lovely wife and I were invited to spend the holiday with my son-in-law's family. It was great. Good food, great conversation and everyone got along. That's no mean feat these days and one I do not take for granted.

Believe me, had people decided to take offense with other people there it would have been easy to do. However, everyone remained civil. We could use a lot more of that attitude out there in the wider world. Personally, I'm thankful that civility and good will can prevail in this day and age.

The best part of the holiday is that there's only so much commercialization that one can do with it. After the grocery shopping is done, that's pretty much it. Now wonder there's such a push for everyone to go shopping on Black Friday. Christmas is the big money maker for retailers and they want everyone to dive in with a bang. However, Black Friday shopping has taken a slight downturn. Maybe no one has all that much money to spend. Perhaps we are better shoppers and realize most of those “deals” are really not worth it. If there are a few dollars to be saved is it worth suffering the Black Friday craziness to get it?

I don't think so.

Avoid the shopping rush. Celebrate national left over day. Nothing like a nice turkey, stuffing, cranberry, and gravy sandwich. Sure beats shopping.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Travel Mobs

There are a lot of great places to travel. Information about trips and destinations has never been more easily accessible. With a little research it's possible to get more than enough information to plan most trips.

At one time the intrepid traveler would be lucky if the destination bore any resemblance at all to the published guidebooks. Now it's possible, in the comfort of one's own home, to call up pretty decent satellite photos on a vast array of electronic platforms. We've also got great maps, charts and GPS navigation.

In spite of that people pay outrageous fees to attend seminars and to hire guides. One time some family members and I went for a short hike. There's a spectacular view from cliffs about a two hour hike from the road in northern NH. The trail is pretty much a straight shot from the parking area to the top.

We were enjoying the view when a good sized crew of people joined us on top. After talking to them for a while it became clear that they were all part of group from Boston. They had paid a significant fee for a guide to take them on that hike -that 2 hour straight shot up the hill hike. Maybe it's because I've never had much money to throw away, but that seemed crazy to me. Anyone who could not follow a wide straight trail for a couple hours probably had no business in the woods in the first place.

Then there was the time when a favorite canoeing spot was featured in a premier glossy outdoors magazine. The author pointed out how underutilized that section of the river was. For the next few years that river was nothing but underutilized. Eventually the crowds went off to new places recommended by the magazines.

Now I dread opening up sailing magazines. They are putting on expensive seminars and guiding trips for places I've been and places I want to go to. That has the effect of overwhelming some of the more fragile places. It's one thing if a place is visited by individuals and small groups over the course of the year. It's something else when everyone shows up at the same time. Vegetation bounces back if a few people hike over it. When hundreds do in a few days, it gets wiped out. A few people can ease into an anchorage and view wildlife. Many people and all they can see is each other. It's not the total number of people so much as the fact that they are all there on the same day.

What is it with people that they feel they need to be led around by the hand? Some may think it's safer to travel in groups, but often it isn't. As an individual I can decide the conditions aren't very good so the trip gets postponed a few days or weeks. No problem. However, a scheduled trip is a scheduled trip. It would take a hurricane to make they cancel and have to send all the checks back. A large group brings problems of their own.

There are many many organized trips guiding people all over the planet. Woe be it to the individual traveler who follows in their wake. By the time he gets there the locals are sick of tourists, prices are higher, and some of the good stuff is ruined. Locals will interact differently with a few travelers and you can really experience the area. A large group has its own dynamic where they mostly experience each other.

For me, there's two big issues at play here. One is the high price of these services, the other is that you are traveling in a mob. Those articles about guided trips are very useful to me. I can find out when those big guided trips are and can then avoid them.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Dismal public transportation

There's a whole lot of logistics concerning my trip south early next month. One of the problems is what am I going to do with the car? Leaving it at my stepmom's could be worked out, but my boat is 170 miles away from her place. Florida is big. Like most of the US it doesn't have much of a public transportation system either.

Right now I'll most likely just look for a reasonably secure storage place for my car near where my boat is currently located. (Ft. Myers.)

For a while I thought I'd found a good solution. Why not rent a car, drive it one way, then rent another one when it's time to come back? Weekly rates on cars are pretty reasonable, right? Indeed they are, unless you intend on dropping off a car somewhere else rather than at the place you rented it from. Holy smokes do they charge for that little service! I've purchased second hand cars for less.

Anyone else remember when cheap bus service went to just about any little podunk town in the country? It wasn't the fastest way to travel, but it got you anywhere you wanted to go for a reasonable fee. Now there are many gaps in the system. Many of the places I'd want to travel to or from have no bus service at all.

Trains? I'd love to go on a long train trip someday, but they service fewer places than buses.

I don't fly. It's not that I have anything must against it, except for the silly security theater. Even before 911 I didn't have much patience for the security people. Now it's just best that I avoid flying. Besides, I've too much gear to haul around.

There's not a lot of time to figure out what to do. We are leaving to head south around December 4th. Right now we plan on taking the car and leaving it in storage somewhere in Ft. Myers. We are doing much of this by the seat of our pants. Hopefully, we'll be better organized next year.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015


My lovely wife and I will be up north in New Hampshire less than two more weeks. We have a lot to do during that time. Good thing that not a second of my precious time will be wasted doing Black Friday shopping. Live is too short for that craziness.

We've been staying in town. My daughter and her husband are renovating a house and it's far enough along to be comfortable. That's wonderful as I didn't have to bother opening up my winterized house. It can wait until spring.

My lovely wife and I took a trip up to the homestead today. It's frosty in there. Those night temperatures in the teens freeze things up nicely. We were able to drop off some items at the house and picked up a few more. Our time was limited because the power is completely shut down. It got too dark to work by 3:45 p. m.. Now you know why everyone in the North Country suffers from vitamin D shortages.

Dad's ashes have been dropped off at the local funeral home. His mortal remains will go into the ground next to mom's. It's a bit delicate deciding where to bury someone after remarriage. Personally, I feel the wishes of the living trump those of the dead. Taking dad's ashes north was plan B, only after his widow discovered he could not be placed in the Florida cemetery close to where she lives. When that fell through there was still a spot reserved for him in New Hampshire, so I drove the ashes north.

Had I followed dad's wishes, the ashes would have gone into the dumpster at the park. Dad knew his ashes weren't him. He loved going to that dumpster. The old man was really into getting rid of clutter and the dumpster was his friend. His golf cart was modified to haul cargo. It was like a little truck.

It's been great to meet up with many of the people back home. The people here are warm, but the climate is frosty. We'll be back to sunny Florida and on a boat before long. Have I mentioned that it's frosty around these parts?

I'm not sure if I've gotten soft . . . or smart.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Internet Issues

I've been having Internet issues. It should be sorted out now.

I'll be back.


Refugee . . . nope

Recent world incidents set me off in a blog writing frenzy -which I just deleted. It's tempting to analyze what's going to happen next in the Middle East. However, there's precious little I can do about any of it so it's not one of those things I can take action on.

Some things you can prep for. Some things you can't. However, the last place you want to be is in the middle of a war zone. When things get too desperate the only thing to do is to try and leave. At that point you are a refugee and it's tough to be a refugee. You arrive at a new country after being robbed, beaten, raped or worse. Let's just say the people at the host country don't exactly get to see you at your best. You do not want to be that person.

Here's the weird thing. Most people can leave a country with a decent amount of comfort and for less money than you'd have to pay a human trafficker. Timing is everything. The trick is to leave when things still look pretty normal. Much easier to get a visa and book a flight out of a country that's not actively falling apart.

Only those willing to take a hard cold look at their situation can take of advantage of early exit. It's hard to leave everything in one's life behind -especially when life still doesn't look too bad and there's hope of everything going back to normal. Nobody wants to be Chicken Little, shouting about the sky falling. (of course, sometimes the sky really does fall.)

Worried about friends and family? If you successfully escape and establish yourself in a new area it gives the folks who come behind you a place to go.

We forget how blood awful being caught in a war zone can get. Recently I was reading about the ancient city of Merv. Almost nobody has heard of it, but at one time it was the largest city in the world. Why don't we know about it? In the 13th century the Mongols conquered it. Some historians estimate over a million people were put to death. That's a lot of heavy messy labor with a sword.

Any place can turn into a Merv. Conditions can go south quickly. The unthinkable happens. The way to avoid the unthinkable is to think about it anyway. Imagine being a citizen of Merv. Everyone must have thought things wouldn't get too bad. Some guy who hit the trail when the Mongols were just a rumor would have thought to be a nut, by a million people -who later were put to the sword.

For those of us with modest means the best way to avoid desperate measures is to keep our eyes open and act before anyone else.


Friday, November 20, 2015

Made it!

My lovely wife and I made it back to New Hampshire. We left Florida Wednesday at noon and arrived at my daughter's 39 hours later. We encountered rain all the way. It was a long slow drive, but we made it in safely.

American highways get weirder every year it seems. For example, Thursday night in Connecticut we encountered a car driving without headlights at night and in the rain. Want to make a bet that they were impaired too?

Lots to catch up on.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reverse snowbird

My lovely wife and I are somewhere on the road, doing the reverse snowbird. We are leaving warm and sunny Florida for frosty New Hampshire. The climate is cold but the people are warm.

We will spend Thanksgiving with family, wrap up dad's affairs, then head back south. Thank goodness we have an economical car and the price of gas is low.

I've been putting together a list of things to bring south for the new sailboat -everything from a third anchor to a travel guitar. With any luck we'll be back at the boat before marina fees eat us alive. Once we retrofit and provision we'll go anchor off a nice island somewhere and decompress. I've got a nice new pair of tinted reading glasses for books on the beach.

Our trip south back in September was hasty and unplanned, but dad needed us as soon as we could come down. The easiest thing to do was to get our mail forwarded to my dad's address. Since we were hanging around the house anyway we could deal with the mail as it came in.

Recently I've filled out paperwork to automate more of our finances. Just about everything else can be dealt with on-line. I've an ATT&T hotspot device that should allow me to connect to the Internet at most places we plan on sailing to this winter.

It's a plan.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Sounds like surprise! Don't be surprised when it's time to use your supplies. So you are pretty well stocked up with at a least a few months worth of supplies. Good for you. On the other hand, maybe you were stocked up pretty well and then forgot about it.

Over time you dip into your stash with the good intention of replacing them as soon as possible. Maybe you had a few tight weeks or months where you dipped heavily into your stocks. It feels good to be able to do that and you planned on restocking as soon as times get better. What if they really haven't gotten too much better? What if you thought to treat yourself with some nice things rather pile up those cans of beans again?

The next time you come to dip into your supplies you may find them a bit thin. Another thing that happens is that there's a good supply of the basics, but all the yummy stuff has been raided. Sometimes a key item that makes life better is gone. Imagine a Cajun trying to live without hot sauce?

There are two schools of thought concerning food storage. There's those who stock up on things like MREs and other long term shelf stable foods. Another approach is store what you eat and eat what you store. The idea is that the food stocks get constant rotation because it's what you normally eat. Both approaches have pros and cons.

If you've never eaten freeze dried foods using them in an emergency could be a steep learning curve. In addition to the problems the emergency is causing you may also be dealing with intestinal distress. For example, US military rations are very low in fiber. After a week or so you'll really miss that fiber.
Another problem with the long term food storage thing is that out of sight is out of mind. Maybe mice found them. Perhaps the kids took some for a fishing trip and never replaced them -a bunch of times.

The rotating stock problem sneaks up on you. It's easy to get into the habit of not quite replacing as much as you are using -especially if the budget is getting tight. You think you are doing fine as you are buying and stocking food, but suddenly you have 40% less than you should.

Now's a good time to check your pantry and see how it looks. Imagine if you had to get by with what you have right now -without any trips to the store to fill in the gaps.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Time to be unpopular

War drums are beating. Revenge is in order for the events in Paris.

I am not a pacifist. On a personal level I'm well armed and prepared to defend me and mine. However I've a very bad feeling on where things are heading.

Anyone remember how well our response to 911 worked out? Two wars? Hundreds of thousands of lives lost? American liberties curtailed? It begs the question: who's going to benefit from a wider war?

Eighty percent of all conflicts end with a negotiated settlement. Only 20% are decided by total military victory. Why then is the negotiated path in such disfavor? I suspect total military victory is more satisfying somehow. It's the old eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. However, relying on outdated religious texts for guidance isn't the best solution for people of any religion.

There's room for negotiation in significant areas of the Syrian conflict. Of course, the Islamic State with their whole idea of a Caliphate is something else entirely. Dealing with them will take some of the same techniques that are used to deal with a fanatical cult. Force will be part of it but force alone won't do the job. Another part will be busting the myths that motivate their fanatical followers. Their fighters believe they are part of something special ordained by god. That is both a strength and a weakness.

It's a strength but only while events on the ground follow their myths. Sow doubt in the minds of the warriors and the so called Caliphate could fall apart quickly. It's far from an impossible task. They are operating from a 7th century handbook for goodness sake. We should have learned a few new tricks since then.

Break up the Islamic State, establish peace on the ground, and the refugees flooding Europe can all go home. That should be enough motivation right there.

Of course, many people want to just nuke the heck out of them. Yeah, that would work, but what kind of people would that make us? Too stupid to find a solution without killing everyone and turning whole countries into nuclear wastelands?

We are better than that, aren't we?


Monday, November 16, 2015

Emotionally exhausted

Sunday we had a memorial service in the retirement park where dad lived. It was well attended. He was well loved and respected.

I said a few words and cried like a baby -and I'm not ashamed of that at all. Not that many people are blessed to have as good a father as I had. At age 57 I got to enjoy his company for longer than most.

Dad lived to 80 and was in pretty good health until the last few months.

Soon I'll be heading north from Florida back to New Hampshire. We are in the process of setting up another service in his home town for all this family and friends who could not travel south. If all goes well I should be back on the road in a few days.

Once affairs up north are settled, my lovely wife and I will come back to Florida. We plan on spending some quality time on our sailboat. My soul could use a quiet anchorage somewhere with dolphins to keep us company.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Legal, social, and political

Our political leadership would like us to think our problems are economic, technological, environmental, or something of that nature. Those are the challenges, but the problems are political, legal and social.

Name a hard problem and odds are some of the best solutions are prohibited. Energy issues? Power expensive and environmentally unsound? Politicians will make fine speeches but they won't let you string a clothesline in your backyard or put solar panels on your roof.

Food issues? Expensive. Poor quality. Pesticides. Grow your own, but heaven help you if you want to rip the grass out of your front yard and plant veggies. That's against zoning and prohibited. Wouldn't want an unsightly food garden bringing property values down now would we?

Forget about solving problems between people without involving a host of lawyers and judges. Everybody needs a cut.

Medical problems? It's illegal to really take charge of your own medical care. If you are really lucky you'll be able to get a friendly doctor to work with you, but that's rare. The insurance companies won't pay for much of what's been known to work either.

What do these prohibited solutions have in common? They bring power back to the little people. Solving problems at the local level are a lot quicker and better than a top down approach.

There are a handful of things that's supposed to work better from the top down, but it's a lot fewer than most people believe. Those in charge rather have a poorly functioning solution that they are in charge of than a good solution that bypasses them.

All the self reliant things I've been able to do has been not because of the laws and leadership but in spite of them. Good thing I live in the far outskirts of civilization where there are fewer laws, codes, and enforcement is spotty. I put up solar electric panels without a single permit. Wired my house myself. Converted vehicles to run on waste veggie oil and turned my basement into a fuel station. None of that would fly in a “civilized” area.

I've got great faith in individuals to find solutions, not so much faith in those “leaders” who want to tell us what to do.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Deepest Sympathy for France

I have the deepest sympathy for France and the French people today. The City of Lights is now dark.

My prayers are with them. Sorry. Not much else I can say right now.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Florida Took My Money

I'd originally thought to title and register my boat in New Hampshire. That way I wouldn't have to pay Florida sales tax as New Hampshire doesn't have one. However, Florida registration is so much cheaper that it pretty much offsets the sales tax. Had there been any sort of problem with the paperwork it'd be much easier to sort it out while still in Florida. One added bonus I hadn't thought of was that the Coast Guard numbers transfer. Had I registered up north I'd have to buy and attach new numbers. Now all I have to do is to put a new sticker on the boat.

Now I'm waiting for an insurance quote from Boat US. In the past when I had problems they took very good care of me. Marinas, like the one it's currently sitting in, require insurance. The previous owner is keeping his insurance on until I get insurance of my own. That's kinda a gray area legally, but at least the marina isn't in a hurry to kick me out. Of course, they took my money too. At least I don't have to worry about the boat.

Funny thing about the marina. Without realizing it, I tried to pay the fee with an expired credit card. It had just expired and neither I nor the marina secretary caught it. Credit cards can only be delivered to your home address. The post office will not forward them. The back up emergency card I used instead had just been activated the day before we headed south. Talk about cutting it close.

We still caught in paper work hell with my dad's funeral business. Until that's straightened up we won't know exactly when we'll head north. Until we know that we won't know when we'll be back down.

At least I'll have a boat with all the paper work in order waiting for me when I get back. Can't wait to find a quiet cove somewhere, pour myself a rum and watch the sun drop into the ocean.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chucking it all and running away

Who doesn't like to dream about chucking it all and running away somewhere? Maybe you want to move to an isolated cabin in the woods, or live like a vagabond on the road, or even live on a boat. It's great to dream. Come to think of it, it's great to actually do those things too.

That doesn't mean that life is totally carefree. One of the authors I like to read laid out he eliminated debt, sold his stuff, then moved onto a boat with his wife. It sounded all free and easy. Later I read another book by the same author. One of the big reasons he moved onto a boat in sunny Florida was because his wife had serious medical issues. A low stress life and warm weather helped her condition. He almost went broke too -until he started selling books about life on a boat.

Some people live unconventional lives because they can't handle “normal” life. Those who don't fit in might even be diagnosed with a mental condition. That's assuming living in an artificial world doing work we hate is normal. There are a lot of people in America who take powerful prescription mood altering drugs just to get through their day. What if the problem isn't with them but with the world they live in?

Could it be that the popularity of apocalyptic literature is because there's a wide spread desire for the world we live in to go away? I've always liked those books growing up -thought there was something fundamentally wrong with the world. That can be a trap. Either the world won't fall apart, or it'll fall apart the way Syria is falling apart now. Just because a horrible system is falling apart doesn't mean it won't be replaced by an even more horrible system.

Good thing it is possible to find a measure of freedom and relief from the ills of the world. Most of the unconventional people I know have some connection to “the real world.” It's often necessary to keep living the way they love to live. The guy living out of his van has to find the occasional paying gig to keep the wheels on. Eventually even the most hard core sailor has to come into port for supplies.

I turned my unexpected medical retirement into a chance to have adventures. Even before then I was on a path to retire by age 45. Some people are perfectly fine working until they are old, bent, and used up, but I'm not one of them. To get out of the system before that requires planning and sacrifice.

For me it took about 6 years sort out my affairs to where I could travel. It took that long to settle up my benefits and to regain enough health to be able to go places. As much as I loved being a firefighter, it almost killed me. Once I could function again I wasn't going to waste my life watching TV.

There's no one way to find an escape from the world that's killing you. A big example is to get rid of all debt. That certainly helps, but it's not a deal breaker. I still owe on my house mortgage, but I'm not sweating it. That's getting covered by my little pension. If that pension went away, I guess the house would too. Then I'd have to live on my little boat full time. Good thing that was paid for with cash. For me the lesson is to have your escape plan paid up free and clear.

We happen to like our dome in the woods. Living there during the warmer months is wonderful. We also get to spend more time with family and friends. That another thing a lot of people feel they have to give up -everybody from their old way of life. I've some friends that go back to when I was a toddler and I feel no reason to cut off contact with them now.

My situation is working for me now, but that doesn't mean it couldn't change. For years my lovely wife and I spent winters living out of a tent and doing a lot of canoeing. Since both her shoulders had surgery, long distance paddling isn't a good idea anymore. We found sailing is good fit. We'll keep doing that until it doesn't work for us anymore.

Chucking it all and running away isn't a one time thing. It's a process and an attitude.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

New Old Boat

My lovely wife and I went and done it. We bought a boat. It's an old Ranger 23. Of course it's going to need a little work to get it the way we want it, but it's basically sound. Here's our new winter home:

We decided to get the boat we actually had cash for rather than stretch the budget. As it is there are always unknown expenses when buying a boat, even a brand new one. We are paying for one month's marina fees to give us time to sort out our personal business. Then we are going to move the boat to someplace a bit less pricey -like out on anchor. At the end of the season we'll put it up in a boatyard where the prices aren't too bad. We've got a few in mind, but it really depends on where we end up at the end of the season.

For most people this would be a tiny boat. Fortunately, we started out with a 19 foot boat. Having comfortable sitting head room and a table I can use is a huge thing.

We hadn't planned on moving quite so quickly, but the owner was available to show it, plus there was interest from a few people. However, I'm the one who showed up with cash.

Should be interesting. Before too long there should be more post about life on the water.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

And now back to boats

There's been an old “classic plastic” sailboat on Craigslist that I've had an eye one. I've looked at a hundreds of boats on-line. Checked out their ratings, build quality, specs, history, designers and all that. Once in a great while I've gone to the sailing forums, but it's not the best place to get information. Too many of those people on forums are out and out mean. They have their views and everyone else is an idiot -not very helpful.

My lovely wife and I talked it over. We decided to send and e-mail to the boat owner to see if the boat is still available. We will be going north for a couple/few weeks to take care of the last of dad's business. It would be nice to have a boat waiting for us when we get back to Florida. If that doesn't work out we'll most likely just come back south and get serious about boat shopping.

The price is right and I would not be surprised if the boat is no longer on the market. The rigging and sails are fairly new so that's a huge thing. Perhaps the reason it's been listed for a long time is that the motor that's included is small and under powered according to the conventional wisdom. The owner sailed the boat without any engine at all for years. Since we are all about sailing it's tempting to get a boat that sails well -fast and easy to handle. Motors are for puttering around busy anchorages and marinas -not for making passages.

There is another newer and nicer boat that caught our attention, but we'd have to go into debt a bit to pay for it. We've saved up enough money to buy the other boat, so we hope it's still around.

I'm uncomfortable with the whole idea of having a bucket list -a list of things to do before you die. The whole checklist nature of it turned me off. What happens if you check off everything? Do you then have to lie down and die? Have you ever talked to people do those crazy tours? See eight European countries in six days! Blah! That's checklist mentality.

My “bucket list” isn't really a list. Have more adventures. Life is unpredictable.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Baby Boomers Ruined Everything

That's pretty much the gist of a recent Washington Post article. Blaming a group of people for the world's ills has always in fashion. I don't buy it.

The baby boomers are a huge demographic. Such a dramatic spike in population is bound to have an effect on just about everything. We hear about all the advantages we had. Yes, we grew up during a time when there was a lot more resources available to us. Yes, we used them, but that's we learned to do from the generation before us. They wanted us to have a lot of stuff. Who'd say no to that?

It wasn't all advantages either. I remember being in classrooms of 40 students. For a while there were two shifts of students. One class started early in the morning and a second was held in the afternoon. It's not exactly an ideal learning environment.

There was also a big difference in the experiences of the leading edge baby boomers and the trailing edge. Those of us at the end sometimes found all the good jobs filled up. I noticed it locally. Those good blue collar jobs lasted long enough for people to retire, if you were on the front edge. Those at the end of the boom found themselves in their 50s and out of work.

Lumping a whole generation together really ticks off those of us who did follow the herd. For example, don't blame me for the ills of Social Security. I'm not even in the system.

Pitting one generation against another keeps us all from working together. Every generation has something positive to contribute.


Sunday, November 8, 2015


Early Saturday morning dad passed away in his sleep. I was lucky to have him for a dad. He was a good man and always there for me. Every kid thinks his dad is a hero. I never stopped thinking it.

He's missed.

I loved him.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

In a hundred years no one will care

That's what I tell myself when I start to take myself too seriously.

About 100 years ago the world was embroiled in WWI. It was horrendous. The loss of life was on an industrial scale. Hundreds of thousands of men died to advance a few miles one way or the other. It was a titanic struggle. Now only historians know much of anything about it.

When I was kid there was still a lot of WWI vets around. Those old men, some with missing limbs, used to scare me. There was something in their eyes. Of course, 50 years later they are all gone. Now we are quickly running out of WWII vets. It won't be all that many years before they are gone too.

Sometimes there are evils in the world that must be eliminated. Nazi death camps were real. Other times, the rights and wrongs of it are muddier.

Recently I was reading about J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. He served in WWI and was one of the few of his college class to survive. He said that at first he believed the Germans were evil beasts. Later on he came to the understanding that there were good and evil men on both sides.

100 year ago the world was chewing up its young men on the battle fields. I wonder what wonders the world missed out on because of it. All those human lives wasted. All those creative minds lost forever. We almost lost Tolkien and the world would have been poorer for it. No doubt we are poorer for the loss of the contributions of all his fellow soldiers who didn't make it.

A 100 years later all we have is the political mess that WWI set in motion. In 100 years my life most likely won't matter to anyone. That's how it is with most people, like it or not. At least I didn't throw it away for a cause that no one will care about in 100 years.


Friday, November 6, 2015

Passing on the travel genes

Since I've been staying pretty close to my dad's place these days I've been doing a lot of reading. As you might expect a lot of that reading is travel tales, especially sailing stories.

No doubt helping provide end of life care for my dad has put me in a reflective mood.

There are people who sail over the horizon leaving friends and family behind. Those bonds don't seem to hold them as tightly as their desire for the new and different.

Other people are are content to send down deep roots. They build a life around their home area, family, friends and their community. At the end of their life they are content to have surrounded themselves with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

There really is such a thing as “travel genes.” If there wasn't humans would be an isolated species off in the corner of the world somewhere. For some people that travel is their strongest motivation.

Some of those genes get spread around by travelers. More than a few strays have been let behind in someone else's nest. Another successful strategy is to stay and nurture your offspring to do what you can for them.

Then there are those of us who want it all. We want roots and connections, yet also want to experience new things. So what do we do? Some of us raise kids then travel. Other take their families on adventures. Everything is a compromise. I may envy those who's dropped anchor in exotic distant ports and were young and full of energy. On the other hand, I would not have paid the price. I needed that youthful energy to raise my kids.

. . . besides, I ain't dead yet.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Socialist Booze

My lovely wife and I were in search of a bottle of rum. (Why is the rum always gone?) Normally we leave New Hampshire with a half gallon and it gets up through the winter. We aren't big drinkers, but we like the occasional sundowner. It's also nice to be able to offer people a friendly drink. This year we hit the road with just a wee flask of the holy water.

Today we finally got around to picking up a bottle. We were able to find a bottle but rum isn't exactly exotic. These privately run liquor stores around here all look kinda shabby. Maybe it's the bars on the windows. Mostly it's the poor selection. Heaven forbid if I wanted a decent bottle of single malt scotch.

I miss the liquor stores in New Hampshire. They are clean, well lit, have excellent selection and helpful staff. As a special bonus, the prices are some of the lowest in the country. They are also a state run monopoly. When prohibition was finally repealed each state took their own approach on how booze was going to be sold. New Hampshire decided to handle liquor sales in state operated stores. They do a good job of it too.

One of the saddest liquor stores I saw was in Kentucky. The county we were in had been a “dry county” that prohibited liquor sales. The store was basically a pile of boxes on the floor with some industrial shelves where a few items were haphazardly stacked. Pretty sad looking. I hope it got better.

Now I understand there are plenty of people who should not drink. I can respect that, but please respect that there are some of us who can take a drink without having to see the bottom of the bottle. Then there are those who against booze for religious beliefs. Fine. As for me, I believe I'm going to have a drink.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Write a novel month

As if I don't have enough to do. This month I've joined National Novel Writing Month. The goal is write a 50,000 thousand word novel during the month of November. Pretty lofty goal for anyone. I've written a couple novels before under different pen names.

What? You didn't know I wrote novels? Don't worry, few do. Writing novels is a good way to make a small fortune -as long as you start with a large fortune. I've just finished a rewrite on a novel I've been working on and off for years. It will take about a month for my writers' group to get back to me on that. I hope to get it into print before too long. (Yes Adam, it's that novel.)

The timing was pretty good as I finished at the end of October. Usually I remember NNWM about halfway into the month. This year I signed up at the last minute and started writing. Well, it's day three and I've surpassed 5,000 words, so I'm on track.

Normally my novel writing is kept separate from my blog. However, I've decided to publish this one as Sixbears. While I'm drawing heavily on my real life, I'm describing the novel as “magical realism.” It will have quite a few fantastic elements in it -some of them made up. I've got my creative license. I can do that.

I'm on track, but I've got to do better than that. Sooner or later there will be days when I cannot or will not feel like writing.

Right now I've one eye on the computer and one eye on my dad to see if he need assistance with anything. As he cancer progresses he needs me sometimes, if only to let him know I'm still there.

Writing a novel has proven to be a good distraction.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Canadian Health Care

I was talking with a Mohawk from Canada the other day. He spends about 8 or 9 months of the year down here in Florida. Unlike other Canadians he doesn't have to return to Canada after 6 months. It's one of the few advantages of being recognized as belonging to the First Peoples. A buddy of mine has the same deal but in reverse. He's a US citizen who owns property in Canada and can stay up there as long as he wants.

The Canadian said he'd move down to Florida full time except for US health care. He and his wife try to schedule most of their healthcare while up north.

US politicians go and on about the horrors of Canadian healthcare but I've yet to meet one Canadian who would give it up for what we have in the US. Of course, if you are wealthy or a politician with the best of US care the Canadian system might be a step down.

Right now I've the cheapest bronze plan I could scrape up money to pay for. Before that I went two years with no health insurance. There's a couple of times I should probably have gone to the hospital, but I sucked it up and took my chances. Socialized medicine doesn't look too bad to me. On the other hand, a totally open market system might not be bad either. Real open competition should bring prices down to earth.

Right now I'm a getting an up close and personal look at end of life care. The hospice people are good, but are locked into pretty tight constraints. They can't do some fairly simple things that could make life better for people. The patient would have to drop hospice, get medical treatment, then go back on hospice -with all confusion and messed up paperwork that would entail. Hospice and regular doctors don't really work together. It's a mess, all because of the way things are paid.