Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hey MO!

MO, as in Missouri. Today is a day of driving. We are heading north from East Texas to my in-laws place on Table Rock Lake.

I hope nothing major falls of the van or the trailer. It's been a long strange trip.

We've no idea exactly how long we'll be in MO. Right now we are in no hurry to go back to New England, where it's been snowing. April in New Hampshire can break your heart. There might be a few warm days but it could turn cold and snow at any time. Maybe once the ice leaves the lake it'll be time to head north.

Our path home will most likely be a long and twisty one.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Places to visit, places to live

There are some great and amazing places to visit, but that doesn't mean I'd want to live there. Sometimes it's a simple as the seasonal differences a place has. Summer might be wonderful, but winter awful or the other way around.

The economy of an area means different things to the tourist and the hospitality worker. The thing that make for nice cheap vacations with excellent service might be the fact that the workers have few other options. Making a living in a vacation town can be tough.

Then there are nice places but the people are awful. Maybe not all the people, just that ones that kidnap tourists and hold them for ransom. Many places are wonderful to live in, but only as long as you were born there and not some kind of outsider.

Don't forget politics. I've been to places where the weather is great and the people generally nice. However, don't you dare talk politics. I've been labelled both the crazed gun toting conservative and a socialist liberal, depending on the location. Go figure. What makes someone conservative or liberal varies quite a bit. Some places it's all about religion. Other places religion doesn't matter; but how you feel about ecology could be the trigger. Different regions have their hot button issues.

It takes time to discover what a place is like. You've got to experience during good and bad times. Soemtimes it takes a while to figure out the people. Maybe there's a darn good reason they are the way they are. Sometimes a place's History overwhelms it's present. The Middle East comes to mind.

Of course, don't forget to look in the mirror. If you travel and expect other people to be just like home, might as well stay home. The “Ugly American” is no joke. Never hurts to be polite while traveling -except in France. There politeness is a weakness.


Sunday, March 29, 2015


In a few weeks my lovely wife and I will be making our way back home. Our thoughts are turning towards the things we'll have to do once we get there. Of course, the first thing we'll have to do is unwinterize the house. Heat, water and power have to be restored. With any luck that won't take too long. Once our basic shelter needs are attended to, then what?

My lovely wife insists that the first major project we have to complete is a new boat dock. Is she a water person or what?

Our beach area is very shallow. That's great when swimming. There are no drop offs where little kids can suddenly find themselves over their heads. It's not too bad for canoes and kayaks -boats that are normally beached anyway.

Powerboats and even more so sailboats, have a hard time. The normal procedure has been to anchor the bow and tie the stern to the shore. That works well enough, but the only way to get into the boat is to get your feet wet. That's not bad on a hot summer day, but it's not so great during the spring and fall.

There are some storm damaged cedar trees near the beach that should make excellent support beams for the dock. Cedar is naturally rot resistant, a good thing around water. The trail to the beach is about 350 feet long. About half the distance is steep hill, the other half consists of bog bridges though cedar swamp. That's not the best path for hauling materials to the beach.

Fortunately my little lake has a nice boat ramp. It's a lot easier to move heavy things by boat than by trail. Once the boat dock is in place it will be even easier.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thriving cities and dying countryside

When even Cracked does an article about the dying suburbs, something major is going on.

Cities have some serious advantages over the suburbs and rural areas. Everything is more compact. More people can be reached with less: less water lines, less roads, less power lines, and shorter distances to essential services. Even crime is getting worse outside of cities. Suburbs and rural areas don't have the resources to hire and maintain police departments. In my town we actually hire police from a nearby city because we can't afford our own.

The only thing that made suburbs and rural living possible was the car. True, the early suburbs were serviced by good trolley systems, but soon the car took over. These days Americans are falling out of love with their cars. They are expensive to buy, maintain, and transportation infrastructure is falling apart. Cities might be expensive to live in, but a lot of that expense is offset by not needing a car. Cities usually are both walkable and have decent public transportation. (except for a few, I'm looking at you Houston)

It wasn't all that many years ago there were good jobs outside of the big cities. Growing up I remember armies of men walking to the mill with their lunch boxes in hand. Those jobs are gone -along with half of my hometown's population. Instead of good manufacturing jobs high school graduates have to commute to low wage jobs in big box stores.

That being said, I'm not a fan of big cities. I have a real need for the natural world. Cities have everything but land and space. Cities also have a lot more rules and better systems of control. That's great if you are protecting citizens from outside threats. It's not so great if your government is the threat. In cities, safety costs a certain amount of freedom.

Of course, all that rural land is where people build meth labs, grow weed, and distill white lightning. Call it the downside of light government control.

Political power lives in cities. As times get tougher, the countryside is stripped bare to keep the cities going. That doesn't end well. When the cities finally do collapse, the countryside is so resource poor it can't support many people. Not only that, they can't protect what little they do have as there aren't enough people to provide security. Roving bands raid at will. We've seen it during the collapse of the Roman Empire, but it was like that in recent years when Argentina's currency collapsed.

In spite of the downsides, there are some of us who just don't do well in cities. One solution is to live way out in the country in places not worth robbing. The problem is being able to earn money in the here and now. While it's possible to live off the land, it's really hard to pay the taxes, fees, and expenses while doing so. No wonder the suburbs and rural ares are filling up with the retired, disabled, and those on welfare.

If I had to depend on a city for my livelihood I'd most likely live on a sailboat in a marina. That way it would be possible to reap the benefits of city life, but still have the ability to cast off the lines and disappear over the horizon. Dimitri Orlov who writes extensively about collapse lived on a boat in Boston. Of course, recently he's untied the lines and disappeared over the horizon, so maybe he knows something.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Keeping up with the snail mail

Oh boy, I just filled out another temporary change of address form. Thank goodness it can be done on-line. It costs $1.05, but that's cheaper than the fuel needed to get to the post office.

Good thing all my important bills can be paid on-line. The paper bills have been catching up to me just a few days before they are due or in some cases after. Yesterday I paid my car and medical insurance. Today the paper bills came in. I mark them “paid on-line” and pack them up in my computer bag. Of course, I also save electronic confirmation of payment.

Some bills are non recurring and take some time to catch up with us. For example I just got a bill from my wife's eye doctor who she saw back in December. It took until recently for the insurances to figure out what they would pay and what we owe.

Then there's the darn electric bill. Normally our bill is around $25 -$30. Most of that is the just the “meter fee.” Back in December we used a lot of electricity. The solar panels didn't get much sun and we even used some electric heaters. The bill was around $120, which is very high for us. Our January bill was just as high, which is odd as for most of the month we were gone and main power breaker turned off. That's an indicator that they never read the meter. They just sent a bill based on the previous month's usage.

My lovely wife suggested that we just ignore that bill. I'm fine with that. Eventually they'll 'read the meter and make corrections. . . or not. Whatever. That's the attitude one gets when they make most of their own power. Threats of being shut off don't impress us much.

We can't even deal with the electric company on-line as they bought out our old electric company since we've been traveling. The old Internet contacts no longer apply.

Henry David Thoreau told us to simplify, simplify, simplify. One does what one can, but in the modern world there are limits. Even those folks who live in a small remote cabin have paperwork to deal with these days. Sorry Henry.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Running the roads

Well, I'm finally in good standing with the state of Florida again. I paid my little traffic fine for the accident I had last month.

As luck would have it, I also just got my auto insurance bill. Since my lovely wife's car is parked for the winter, and pretty much junk, I've only got comprehensive coverage on it. The van just has liability insurance. My bill comes out to $64.50 -quarterly. That's not too hard to take.

In the near term I'll be running the roads. Of course, since I'm a good two thousands miles from home that's pretty much a given. Not only that, we'll most likely take the long way home. Would not be surprised to add another thousand miles or so before we pull into the driveway.

While my auto insurance is reasonable, there are plenty of other vehicle expenses. There is much to be said to car free living. Of course, there's also something to be said for house free living. Plenty of folks live in their vehicles, by choice. In the end, we all have to live someplace.

The citizens of the United States are known for being in love with their cars. It's all tied up with freedom -freedom of the open road. Just look at car advertisements; people are driving off having amazing adventures. They never show the reality of a horrible daily commute in bumper to bumper traffic.

Personally, I'm torn. While I do drive to amazing places, I often have to deal with heavy traffic, bad drivers, and worse roads. Some days it feels like a scene from “The Road Warrior.”

The American love affair with our cars may be coming to an end. Millennials are less interested in car ownership than previous generations. Maybe driverless cars will become the norm. Then car ownership will be absolutely no fun at all.

Of course, in the short term, I'll be living in my van, down by the river. That's not a bad thing.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Let there be lights

I've had to fix and rewire the boat trailer lights a number of times this trip. Finally I broke down and decided to get a nice new set of LED submersible lights. Everything is working the way it's supposed to.

The lights needed a new trailer plug the very first day of of our trip in snowy New Hampshire. A light was broken in a fender bender so that was replaced in a Sam's parking lot. Some work was done while fighting off fire ants -not my best work. Salt water may have caused corrosion in one of the taillights It was a real pleasure to be able to take my time and replace everything.

There are thousands of miles to go on our winter journey. New lights should make the trip just that much safer.

That took care of my morning. After lunch I helped my father-in-law with some plumbing. There are some jobs that go a lot better with two.

Not every day is a vacation day. However, it was warm, sunny and there was no snow to shovel. It's all good.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The long road to Texas

Our time in St. Augustine was coming to an end. We were supposed to be off our campsite by 1 p. m.. Only problem, the van would not start. It kicked over, but would not keep running. That puzzled the heck out of me until I noticed a switch on the dash.

It looks like that while the dog was jumping around the cab of the van she tripped the veggie switch. In normal operation we only switch to veggie once the tank is good and hot. Cold veggie was sucked into the engine and plugged everything up.

The clock was running. I tried to clear the lines using a 12 volt compressor. I even switched out the diesel filter and sponged the waste veggie out of the filter housing. The van ran a bit then died completely. At that point no veggie at all was being fed by the fuel pump so I got the idea that maybe I lost another fuel pump.

In the mean time the park Rangers were trying to find a garage that could take the van. Cell phone connections in the park were terrible so they were using a land line at the Ranger Station. The garage that the park normally used was swamped by all the college kids on spring break. Finally ABC towing was able to take the van to a garage.

. . . which shall remain nameless. They agreed to take the van but once we got there we were told they could not work on it. ABC sent another tow truck. The driver suggested Karr Doctor in St. Augustine. I'm glad he did. They guys there really know their stuff. They quickly discovered the fuel pump was fine. I'd let too much air in the fuel system while changing the fuel filter. He was able to clear the system and start the van right up. They didn't even charge me. In fact, they wouldn't let me give them beer money. How's that for service?

By the time we took care of business we didn't leave St. Augustine until 6:30 p. m.. We only got as far as Tallahassee where we spent the night camped in a truck stop.

We got up early in the morning and continued out journey. There we were, driving down Route 10 in the dark. Suddenly I saw sparks behind the van. I assumed that one of my safety chains came loose and was dragging in the road. Imagine my surprise to see the trailer was completely missing. The receiver hitch had slide out and the bolt that held the safety chains on the trailer had snapped off.

My lovely wife called 911 to report a missing trailer. We assumed there might be a debris field all over the highway somewhere behind us. We had to drive 8 miles up the highway to the next exit then another 8 miles back. By the time we got there a sheriff had found the trailer off the road in a ditch.

The trailer was right side up on its wheels. A rope and a strap had snapped. Some wiring was broken. I made one more trip up the road to an auto parts store for some parts. It took about a half hour to do emergency repairs. The ditch off the side of the highway looked too soft to drive the van to the trailer so I tied a long rope and pulled it out that way.

Things were going pretty well until the afternoon when the trailer blew a tire. My spare tire was somewhere under a snowbank back in New Hampshire. A gas station let me leave the trailer there until I was able to pick up a couple of new tires at a Tractor Supply.

Eventually we made it to my wife's parent's place in East Texas.

Today I noticed a badly cracked steel beam under the trailer. My father-in-law and I were able to bolt a reinforcing beam to stiffen up the trailer. There's a short somewhere in the trailer light system. Before we head down the road I'm going to replace the trailer lights with LED submersible lights.

We've had some travel issues, but we've been incredibly lucky. No one's gotten hurt. Damage is limited. Repairs have been relatively inexpensive. In the end the problems are fixed and we have some cool travel tales.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Time

My lovely wife and I checked out some of the springs in the Ocala National Forest in Central Florida. We camped out at Alexander Springs for a few days, spent a day at Juniper Springs, then a few more days at Salt Springs.

This is a photo of Juniper Springs.

These springs are 72 degree water that just boil out of the ground. They are great places to swim.

I was suffering from a cold so didn't swim as much as I'd wanted to. I had plans to take the little boat down the Salt Spring run into Lake George, but wasn't feeling up to it. There were also whitecaps on the water so it really wasn't a great idea anyway.

After the Ocala we spend a few nights at Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine. My lovely wife was able to connect with her older sister in St. A, so she had fun. I spent some time trying to sort out computer troubles, but mostly I just hung out around the water.

Our departure from the campground was a bit of fiasco, but that's a tale for tomorrow.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

I've been hacked

I've been hacked, but I'm back.

There have been two issues. One is that Internet connections have been much harder to come by than I'd expected. Working on solutions for that.

The second thing is that my e-mail account was hacked and I was locked out. I was also locked out of Blogger. Those problems have finally been resolved.

Currently in East Texas. Hope to catch everyone up on what's been going on. It's been interesting, to say the least. More later, I hope.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

More about boat trips

When to head south? That's the question we ask ourselves each year. On one hand, we love spending time with family and friends around the holidays. On the other, sometimes I really suffer in the cold. Is is really fair to my lovely wife to pull her away from the grandkids just because I can't deal with winter?

It was nice to see everyone around Christmas, but I soon got so sick I had doubts about my ability to drive south. At the last minute our plans were changed so we could head directly to Florida rather than Texas. It was still cold in Texas and much further away.

Now the logical thing to do is for me to head south before the weather gets too nasty and I get sick. My lovely wife could stay up north with family and join me later. I've been resisting this very logical plan of action because I'd miss her something terrible. However, I'm not the best guy to be around when I'm trying to hack up a lung.

So with that in mind I've been doing some research. One of my goals is to sail the ICW from Mile Zero in Virgina all the way down to Florida. With that in mind I've been checking out boat ramps and RV storage in Virgina. Maybe I could launch the boat then store the van for the winter until we sail back up from the south.

Another option is to head directly to Florida. The van and trailer could be stored for free at my dad's. I could sail down the west coast of Florida and around the Keys. In the spring I could make my way north up the Atlantic side of the ICW.

The first way I'd only have to drive as far as Virgina. The van would have to be stored, but outside storage is pretty cheap. The second way I'd have to leave the boat in Virgina and rent a car to go back to fetch my van. That would incur rental and marina fees.

Those are two ideas that would work. I'll probably have some more before it's time to decide. Of course, plans can always change. This is just the kicking around ideas phase. As long as the boat and trailer and van are ready to go, I could wait until the last minute to decide.

It's all about keep options open.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

But enough of politics

Sometimes I can't help myself and descend into the pit of political commentary. I'd rather talk about boats, homesteading, self reliance, or anything else that I have some sort of actual control over.

Today it's boats.

We've been having fun with the little 12 footer I built and expect to go boating in more interesting places with it. Since my lovely wife got her discount access pass to Federal campgrounds camping is a reasonably priced activity. It doesn't help at state or private campgrounds, but we stay at enough Federal places that it takes some pressure off the budget. The little boat is great for day trips.

No regrets, but we miss the living on a sailboat lifestyle. Waking up to dolphins playing around our boat never got old. Sunsets on the water are amazing. Living on a boat allows us to travel, but still sleep in the same bed every night.

When we bought our little Oday 19 we thought it would be a good trainer boat. It's called “The Weekender” as it had a V berth and space for a cooler and porta potty. We took a boat designed for the occasional overnight and spent 10 weeks on it last year. For a number of reasons we've yet to upgrade to a bigger boat.

Price is a concern, of course. One thing we've pretty much decided is that we really don't want to let this boat go. Selling it would offset the price of a bigger boat, but that's hard to do. It doesn't help that most folks who've sold theirs express regret for doing so. It's a fun boat to sail. When it gets right down to it a sailboat is all about sailing.

After careful consideration my lovely wife and I think we could easily spend another winter living on it. Modifying our existing boat for longer trips is cheaper than buying a new one. One thing that would give us more usable room would be some sort of shelter over the cockpit. Last year I brought down a canvas tarp/fiberglass pole arrangement for use as a boom tent. It worked fine home on the lake, but we never used it all winter long. It took too long to set it up. The lesson here is that any sort of shelter arrangement has to be quick and easy to set up.

I've also been looking to replace the sails as our are pretty blown out. The outboard could be replaced or even repaired. Some new rubber on the trailer, some bottom paint, and we'd be good to go.

Frankly, it's a darn good feeling to know that freedom on the water is well within my budget.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Strange bedfellows against ISIS

What the heck are we doing? So now the big bogeyman is ISIS. I've no doubt they are nasty fanatics doing bad things.

So who else is fighting against ISIS? One of the big supporters of Iraq's efforts is Iran. Yep, we are on the same side as Iran with this one. Remember when they were the religious fanatics? Now they are the bad guys, but only on alternative days or some such thing.

Then there's Assad. Syrian government forces are also fighting ISIS. So we are fighting with the guy we are also trying to topple. Some of the guys who we were supporting to overthrow Assad are now fighting with ISIS. How well is that Syrian spring thing working out for us?

Then there are the Kurds. They are the world's largest people without a country of their own -unless you want to count the semi-independence region in northern Iraq. They also have a lot of people living in Syria. Kurds have some skin in this game.

The Kurdish situation is complicated. The US has a long history of supporting them only to abandon them when it becomes politically inconvenient. Turkey has been dealing with a Kurdish insurgency for years. They could roll tanks into Syria and settle the ISIS thing with boots on the ground. However, they don't really want to support Kurds. The US is providing some support for the Kurds in Syria, but they are careful not to anger Turkey. US air basses are more important than some Kurdish village in Syria.

So the ISIS thing is a mess, and US policies created some of the conditions that allowed them to thrive.

Speaking of messes, post Gaddafi Libya is now a broken country with just the sort of chaos that breeds groups like ISIS. That not enough? How about Yemen? It's another former US ally falling apart at the seams.

Don't even get me started on Ukraine.

Anyone else think the US is squandering its treasure, lives, and even its moral standing? The recent track record isn't all that great. In fact, our record hasn't been all that great since WWII. We really were the good guys there. (as long as we ignore the war crime known as the bombing of Dresden)


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Old Friends

Recently, old friends and I have reconnected. An old friend of mine that I know from my Firefighter days sent a letter. He had a partial address, but the letter still eventually made it to me -forwarded from NH to FL. Now we have our e-mail addresses, so that's good..

Also got in phone contact with another friend who I haven't seen in over a year. We had a crazy year of mismatching schedules, plus he's had some serious health issues. However, talking to him on the phone it's like we just saw each other yesterday.

Another buddy of mine sent me a photo from his home in KY. They got buried by a recent snowstorm. He jury rigged an old door to the front of a Korean War era jeep and plowed his driveway with it. We'd hoped to connect with him and his wife, but decided to go directly south this year to get out of the cold.
Maybe we'll be able to meet up on our way back.

I've been e-mailing and calling a lot of my friends lately. It takes a little effort to keep in touch, but if you don't the years zip on by and all contact is lost. Way back in the 70s I was hand writing letters to stay in touch with people. I'm glad I did. I think I should do that again, for old times sake if nothing else.

I'm not a big fan of High School reunions. The main attraction is to reconnect with people you haven't seen in years. I've pretty much kept in touch with those I want to keep in touch with. Some folks I'm perfectly happy losing touch with.

There's an old saying: friends help you move. Good friends help you move bodies..

It's good to have friends.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Back on-line for a bit

I'm still searching for a decent way to stay connected to the Internet while traveling. Last year I was using a hotspot from an iphone. That worked well enough in most places, but data usage fees ate me alive. As soon as I got back home I canceled my pay as you go service from Verizon.

My lovely wife has a cheap Straight Talk phone that works well enough, but it has no hotspot capability. Those who've hacked their phone to make it work as one have gotten their service canceled.

Now I'm looking at maybe getting a Straight Talk mobile hotspot for when I'm on the road. Reviews are mixed. Support services in particular have extremely bad ratings. The device itself looks well made. Battery life isn't great, but that can be worked around.

Data usage is also an issue here. It appears very important to use the security settings as you'll be buying date for strangers if you don't.

Soon I'll be off camping in the Ocala National Forest -not known for wifi connections. Later we'll be staying at my in-laws and last I heard they don't have Internet at all. Last time we visited we had to drive to another town and connect at a McDonalds.

The hotspot device might take care of my basic needs: banking, e-mail, blogging, news, and the occasional book download. As long as I don't stream video it might be enough of a solution.

I do miss all my blog friends, so I go through withdrawal when I don't blog.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Break Time

Just letting you good people know I might not be blogging for a bit. I'm fine, but busy with other things and dealing with spotty on-line connections.

All the best.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Trip to an Island Paradise

My lovely wife and I love Calidesi Island. We finally made the trip in our little 12 foot rowboat. We were able to find a free boat ramp about 6 miles from the island. The launch was only for shallow draft boats. I got the trailer partway in the water and muscled the boat off it.

I started out rowing as it was very shallow and I didn't want to damage the prop. Eventually we found a deep enough channel and I switched to the electric motor. The last mile and a half or so the motor quit. Wind and current were against me, but I was able to row the rest of the way to the park.

The Park Ranger was so impressed that I rowed in with a little boat that he charged us ½ price. Then we went over to the concession for the obligatory cheese burgers in paradise. We had a great visit. It's a beautiful place.

My lovely wife took a nap in the cabin while I rowed out into St. Joseph Sound. I decided to make another attempt to fix the electric motor. While I was working on that a Sheriffs patrol came over to see if I needed help. I said I was fine. Then they admitted that my boat was the most interesting thing on the water that day and they wanted to check it out.

I was able to get the motor working intermittently. The handy dandy special trolling motor connector wasn't making a good contact. It was frustrating so I finally cut the plug off and connected it directly to the battery. After that it worked fine. I still rowed through the shallows, but the motor saved me a lot of work.

One of the locals showed me the best section of the ramp to load the boat so we got it on the trailer without too much trouble.

All in all a mighty fine day. I wish I had a waterproof camera. These photos were taken with my new Amazon Fire so I only dared take it out on dry land.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Land, van, boat and freedom

There's something about being lord of one's own domain that's always attracted me. That “something” has a large element of freedom to it. When younger, for me, that meant having a place of my own. At 16 I had acquired a small lot of land. A couple years later I was able to add to it by buying two and a half adjacent lots. How many teenagers buy land?

It was raw land and at the time it wasn't practical to build something and live on it. Like most folks, I rented for a while. Apartment life was fine, but always in the back of my mind was the knowledge that my home was someone else's property.

The logical next move was to buy a house of my own. With ownership comes more freedom, but there are limits. Most people have to get a mortgage so the bank owns at least some of your place. Even a paid off home is subject to taxes, fees, zoning rules, and other restrictions.

I can understand why some people give up owning property and move into an RV or even a van. The “freedom of the open road,” is heavily romanticized, especially in America. Freedom is somewhat tempered by the reality of licenses, registrations, vehicle loans, and insurance. Then what do you do with your home on wheels?

Travel is the logical thing. Fuel and tolls must be paid, so that puts stress on the budget. At the end of the day, where does the intrepid Road Warrior rest his head? How much will that cost? RV parks have some nice amenities, but aren't cheap. You are basically renting a place to park. People can park for free here and there: parking lots, National Forests, and even some free campgrounds. The big problem with life is on the road is that you have to stay on the road. Unless you are spending money to stay in a private park, there are parking time limits. Eventually you'll be told to move along like a ragity hobo.

My search for freedom brought me to boats. There are requirements like registration, but many boaters choose not to get insurance. Many states don't require the operator to be licensed for boats with smaller motors. The Coast Guard has minimum safety equipment requirements, but that's something prudent people would want anyway for their own safety.

Marinas are a lot like RV parks. They provide a place to stay, electrical and water hookups, and everything from a simple restroom to boater's lounges with wifi, laundry, showers, TVs, libraries, microwaves -you name it. Many people never or rarely stay at marinas. Even in this day and age there are plenty of places where a boat can drop an anchor and stay for free.

So now I find myself at a point in life where we I have the house, the van, and a small sailboat. They all offer different slices of freedom. My home is my castle -a tiny castle in a big kingdom, but a castle none the less. My van allows me the freedom of road travel. The sailboat opens up the freedom of the seas.

At this point in my life, if I had to choose between a house, an RV or a boat, the boat would win. A boat provides the most freedom for the least cost. If that boat happens to be a sailboat travel is about as free as it can get. Unlike a house that stays in one place, or a RV limited to the roads, boats can easily slip over the horizon and appear in a completely different country. How's that for freedom?


Monday, March 2, 2015

Big and Foul

Today my lovely wife discovered a good foul weather sailing jacket for me. It has a waterproof lined breathable shell and a thick removable fleece liner. They can be worn together or separately. The jacket is a bright slime lime color with lots of reflective tape. It has a couple of big snap closed pockets and a good sized radio pocket.

What the heck are we doing buying foul weather gear in sunny Florida?

We plan on sailing down the ICW late in the fall. There's a good chance we'll be sailing in nasty weather. Being warm and comfortable is a huge thing. You are much less fatigued, can think clearer, burn less energy, and it's easier to stay positive. These are all good things when sailing.

Yeah, but why buy it now?

First of all, it's not really a $ailing jacket. Anything made for the marine market is crazy expensive. One way to reduce the pain is to shop in the same places that commercial fisherman buy their gear. Another way is buy good outdoor gear made for other sports. My jacket looks like the sort of thing any number of blue collar workers would wear.

The best reason to buy now is that it was marked down about 50%. We paid $55 at Rural King. (I've no connection to the store.)

Is is the ideal sailing jacket? No, but it's better than a lot of jackets sold to the boaty crowd. Is it good enough? Yep, and that's what really matters.

You know what this means? By the time fall rolls around, we should be ready to go.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Harsh Environments

I was reading some posts on one of those survival forums. It doesn't matter which one. The subject came up about how everyone who lived in cold climates would die if the grid went down long enough. Well, that's obviously not true, as the grid has gone down in cold climates numerous times.

That doesn't mean people don't suffer and a few even die. People freeze to death. Winter cold is no joke. That being said, almost all people in cold climates have cold weather clothes. They also usually have some good blankets. Some even have excellent cold weather sleeping bags. Mayy have backup heat like woodstoves or propane heaters.

One commenter said that only people, like Eskimos, could survive without technology. Actually, the people of the frozen north developed a whole tool kit of technologies to survive the cold. Their clothes kept them warm. Igloos provided shelter, and they had a whole range of hunting technologies to harvest the native creatures. They even developed kayaks for transportation, hunting, and fishing.

Ancient peoples all over the world learned to live in harsh environments, everyplace from the frozen north, to the burning desserts, to the deepest darkest jungles. None of those technologies needed electric power, computers, modern materials, or plastics.

There's no reason that modern people cannot learn from their ancestors. We may not be as comfortable. Life might not be as as convenient, but we can survive.

Now I'm a big fan of off grid systems. Having electric power when the grid goes down is very nice indeed. Being able to pump water to the house sure beats carrying water in jugs. More important than electric power is my woodstove. It provides, heat, cooking, and even some light through the glass door on the firebox. If I had to choose between a woodstove and electricity, the woodstove would win every time.

When planing for a survival situation, don't neglect the simple tools and skills that kept our ancestors alive. High tech survival tools are great, but high tech devices need high tech parts and skills to keep going. Don't forget the simple things that have worked for hundreds or even thousands of years.