Sunday, May 31, 2015

During the life of a wise man

There's an old Chinese proverb that goes something like this: In course of a long life a man should be prepared to abandon all his worldly possessions at least twice.

That proverb came about during one of the more unsettled periods of Chinese History. A wise man would have to abandon all his material things to stay ahead of invading armies. Too much stuff just slows you down. The point is that fortunes can be rebuilt. You can't come back from the dead.

A prepper stores away the things needed to get though hard times. That's a marvelous thing. In day to day life having a deep pantry is only prudent. It doesn't take an end of civilization event either. Having the option to get dinner out of the pantry rather than driving into town during a blizzard is a good thing.

Us preppers are fond of our stuff. We've acquired the basics of survival over a period of time. Our preps many have changed and evolved to adapt to perceived threats. However, we can't let our things, no matter how wonderful they are, become our ball and chain.

If a forest fire is bearing down on your homestead, hunkering down with all your stuff is not a good idea. If you have to, leave it all to burn. Better it than you. Don't wait for the flood to wash your house away or for the hurricane to blow it to bits. Sometimes you have to hit the ground running and never look back.

Perhaps worse than natural disasters are the man made disasters. All the preps in the world would not have done much good if you were a Jew in Nazi Germany. Hunkering down and waiting it out did not prove to be a very viable strategy. Leaving the country was the only good option. Those who left early were better off than those who left later.

That got me thinking. There are certain procedures to leaving a country about to enter a period of turmoil. The early ones leave through normal channels. They take their passport, hop on a train, plane or boat, and off they go. In the early days they may even get to take a long a goodly amount of portable wealth. Later, there are more travel restrictions. It might be possible to leave, but the government severely limits how much money you can take with you. That's a hardship, but at least you leave though normal transportation.

Wait too long and normal travel procedures are blocked. Instead of traveling first class with tea and biscuits, you paid gold and jewels to a fisherman for the pleasure of hiding deep in the hold with his fish. At the first sign of trouble he might gaff you and toss you overboard to the sharks.

Most Americans are not prepared to suddenly up and go to another country. The majority of Americans don't have something as simple as a passport. I'm as bad as everyone else. Canada is a half hour drive away from me and I lack the paperwork to legally cross the border. It used to be easy. All you needed was a driver's license and a birth certificate. During the pre 911 days it was common to not show papers at all. Those days are over.

I put off getting a passport for a number of reasons. I hate paperwork. It cost money. I had an excuse not to go to funerals and weddings in Canada. That was pretty lazy of me. Monday my lovely wife and I are dropping off our paperwork to get a passport. No, I'm not expecting any sort of political disaster. (then again, it's the ones you don't expect that get you) Having a passport is only prudent. After traveling around the United States all these years, I'd like to branch to other countries. Besides, I am overdue to visit my relatives in Canada. The fact that it's wise to be able to quickly get out of Dodge is a bonus.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

In the Old Ain't Dead department

Aleksander Doba, at the age of 67, completed the longest open water kayak crossing of the Atlantic. He didn't even train for the expedition. I'm ten years younger. After a day of changing light fixtures my elbow is stiff as heck and slathered in Tiger Balm. I'd be hard pressed to kayak across the lake right now. Good thing I'm not interested in kayaking across the Atlantic.

Still, Doba's exploits encourage me. I hope I have a few more adventures in me yet. The Everglades Challenge had interested me. I hoped that I'd be able to finish the sailing rig on the Ooze Goose in time to compete in this year's event back in March. It was not to be. Just as well as the Coast Guard shut down this year's race on day one. The Challenge has a $390/person registration fee. There is also a long list of required equipment. Had I spent the money and time to start the Challenge I'd have been hugely disappointed. Entry fees were not refunded.

Two winters ago my lovely wife and I sailed in that area. We took our time, but in the end we covered about 85% of the course. Instead of heading to Key Largo after crossing Floria Bay we went west to Bahia Honda. We hung around Bahia Honda for the better part of a week. Nice beaches. At the end of that trip I felt fantastic. Sunshine, exercise, and a lighter diet all did their magic. I also experienced the wonderful waters of the Florida Gulf and Florida Bay.

Setting records isn't something that particularly interests me. In fact, had I entered the Challenge with my little boat I'd have done well to finish. There were much faster boats than mine in the race. I had some tricks up my sleeve that would have saved time, but I guess I may never know if they'd have worked or not.

So maybe I'll have to do something else. There are some crazy ideas that interest me. One idea I can't get out of my mind is doing the ICW from VA to FL in my little 12 foot boat. People have done it in less worthy vessels. After all, compared to Aleksander Doba I'm just a kid who wants to go on a short jaunt.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Gotta keep it mobile II

Yesterday it was all about the gypsy life on the road. Today it's all about the water. Some of the same rules apply. Keeping mobile is one of them.
There are plenty of free places to anchor a boat. Living “on the hook,” has some advantages. The big one is that it's free. However, even people who could afford to spend all their time in big full service marinas spend time anchored out. It's worth it for the sea breezes and privacy. Waking up to dolphins frolicking around your boat never gets old.

With solar panels, windmills, and plenty of supplies in the hold, a boat can be anchored out a long time. However, few people want to spend all their time on the boat. Some sort of dingy is in order. Semi-rigid inflatables are popular, but rely on having a good engine. They row like a bathtub. There are plenty of good cheap dingy options for people who don't mind paddling or rowing. A simple cheap plywood boat will do the job nicely. I like my 2 person inflatable Sea Eagle kayak as it can be deflated and stuffed in a compartment. With a functional dinghy, it's possible to ferry supplies back to an anchored boat and stay out for a long long time.

Even though it's possible to stay anchored in one place a long long time, it's probably not a good idea. Owners of waterfront homes complain about boats anchored in front of their property. Boats that dump their waste overboard, play loud music, run noisy and smelly generators, and let their boats decay into eyesore's give all us boaters a bad name. Laws passed to run those people off affect the rest of us.

Some wealthy homeowners just hate to see people living free and easy. I talked to one guy who lived for years, quietly anchored in a small bay and nobody bothered him. After high priced condos were built on the water he started to get hassled by law enforcement on a regular basis. Other boats moved off to friendlier waters. He's stayed, but makes sure his boat meets all Coast Guard requirements. That's a good idea anyway, but essential if you want to stick up for your rights to anchor.

Boats that move more often are not bothered nearly as much. It's a big ocean out there. I'd rather move than stay and fight.
Most states have limits on how long you can stay in their waters before you have to register your boat in their state. My boat is registered in NH but I like to sail in Florida's waters in the winter. If I was anchored in one place long enough they'd catch on, but I don't usually stay more than a week to ten days in one place. Besides, my boat is so small they can't imagine me staying on it for as long as I do.

Boats with shallow drafts have an advantage as there's a lot more places they can anchor. I took full advantage of my boat's swing keel and eased into beautiful little places that I had all to myself. When entering a crowded anchorage I could anchor close to shore in the shallows were big boats could not go. There are some larger boats that have shallow draft, so you aren't limited to the little minnows I sail.

Personally, I'm a big fan of sailboats. Trawlers might be roomier, but they can't harness the free wind. Sailboats, not being limited to fuel on-board, theoretically have unlimited range. That's a huge plus if things go sideways.

Boats have the ability to disappear over the horizon and go to other countries. It's a lot easier to cross International borders in a boat than a car or an airplane. You still need to have you papers in order when you get there, but leaving the country is no big deal. Nothing says mobility like being able to sail to any country with a coastline.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gotta keep it mobile

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to the nomadic lifestyle. Now I'm only semi-nomadic, but I'm on the road for enough months of the year to get some insight. This past travel season we did a lot more van living than we normally do.

The big thing about van living is you have to keep moving. Most people know that Walmarts allow overnight parking. Not all of them do so a smartphone app is a really handy tool. Also truck stops won't bother someone who spends the night.

When I stop at these places I make a point to do some shopping there, or in the case of the truck stops, eat a meal. Shopping and eating have to be done anyway so I'm not just some guy parking there but a customer. Keep the receipt handy in case they decide to hassle you. That's very unlikely to happen if you are staying just one night.

Problems arise when people take advantage and settle in for the duration. Not only will they ask you to move, they will get the police involved. Vehicles have been towed and impounded. When you live in in a van, it's your house they are towing away. You end up without transportation and homeless.

We stayed at a lot of Federal Parks. The price is reasonable, especially if you qualify for any of their discount programs. Commonly it was under $10/night. They have limits on how long you can stay, usually about 2 weeks. Sometimes you can't just scoot over to a nearby Federal Park and stay another two weeks. If they are in the same regional system your two weeks in the previous campground count against you. Rules vary so check and see what there at the places you want to stay.

One thing to do is to mix it up. We've bounced around from Federal, to state, to private campground with the the occasional overnight in a Walmart. There a few free places to park that don't have time limits. They are uncommon. Some are even in nice places. However, some of the people who stay there may be sketchy so keep up your situational awareness.

Your vehicle must be in good working order at all times. This, of course, is impossible. Even new vehicles break down. A good roadside assistance plan can be darn useful. Last winter we broke down on rt. 75 in Tampa while towing our boat. The good news is that our $37 dollar Boat US membership saved us a $500 tow.

Fortunately, we were able to go to my dad's place where I could do the repairs myself. Having family or friends with room to work on a vehicle is a godsend. Not only did I have a place to work on the van, we stayed at my dad's and I could use his car to pick up parts. Had we no place to stay we'd have had to pay for the repair work, pay for a hotel room, and maybe even rent a car. We could have done all that, but it would have blown a big hole in the budget.

There are those who only drive the newest RVs and only stay in full service parks. For the rest of us, having inexpensive or free places to camp is the key to making it work. It really pays to get to know others living on the road. They share information on good places to stay. They also share information about places that are no longer welcoming to the nomad. Sometimes that's whole communities.

One solution is the stealth vehicle. A stealth vehicle is one that looks like it belongs. It might be a plain looking van that doesn't seem out of place parked in a residential neighborhood. Some people have vehicles like cube trucks that looks like commercial vehicles. People have even found ways to blend in while staying in a car. One strategy to lessen discovery is to stop late and leave early. If residents never notice you, they won't call the cops about a strange vehicle in the neighborhood.

Never hesitate to move along if things don't seem right or if asked to move. Mobility is the nomad's greatest strength.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

One thing leads to another leads to fishing

In a previous post I mentioned that I'd decided to use an electric motor on the Oday 19 rather than replace the gasoline outboard. Tuesday I made it happen. The boat's main battery was moved from the cargo hold to the gas tank compartment. All the wires had to be rerouted to the battery's new location. The charge controller for the solar panel was also moved into that compartment. Now the boat is just about ready for a test run.

The only problem is that the little 12 foot Ooze Goose's trailer was parked in front of the Oday. That had to be moved. The boat could use some bottom paint, but that can be done down by the beach. With the boat off the trailer it will be much easier to fix the broken spring.

Since I was going down to the boat launch I might as well haul all my fishing stuff in the boat so I don't have to carry it down the long trail.

So I throw all the stuff I want to leave down to the beach into the boat and drive around the lake to the public boat landing. Unlike the weekend the place is deserted. The launch goes well. It's a short row to my beach, but the predicted rain held off. In fact, the sun was shining. Osprey and loons were busy fishing.

I took the long way around the lake to my beach. Sometimes it's just darn pretty to take the short way home. While I was rowing I thought I might as well drag a fishing line and lure behind the boat. By the time I got to my beach I'd caught a rather nice looking rainbow trout. One thing leads to another.

Now the little boat sits right next to the lake, along with all my fishing gear. Next time I want to go fishing everything is there ready to go.

Some projects may be delayed . . .


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

More dumb computer stuff

Okay then. After setting up a functional but old and slow computer I went back to see what I could do with my netbook. The first thing I did was a long overdue backup. After that was done the computer started acting wonky again so I shut it down.

With all the files saved my next plan of action was to upgrade the Ubuntu software. What the heck, it might have been a software problem, right? Wrong. All that did was give me a nicer desktop display of a malfunctioning computer.

So it was down to hardware. My keypad looked pretty crappy so I thought I might as well remove it and see what happened. To run the computer I plugged in a cheap USB remote keypad. That did the job. Perhaps there was some sort of short inside the keyboard? Whatever it was it caused my computer to act in a lot of weird ways. Looked like the harddrive was dying.

My little Aspire netbook computer is now in the sweet spot of technological obsolescence. It's still recent enough that parts are available, but it's old enough that suppliers are selling parts for whatever they can get. Originally a replacement keyboard was over $50. Now it's available for $12.88 -with free shipping.

I'm going to keep the old tower computer handy, just in case. Plus, instead of squinting at the 10 inch monitor on the netbook, I've connected the display to a big 22 inch monitor. That way I can keep pretending I don't really need glasses.

I'm glad the fix was so inexpensive. There are other things I'd like to spend my money on right now. For example, I took advantage of Memorial Day sales and purchased Thule roof racks for my lovely wife's new car. A car isn't fully useful to me until it has a good set of quality racks. Gotta have some way to carry my canoes. Over the years I've carried everything from lumber supplies to furniture on roof racks. They make all kinds of fancy straps and holders for Thule racks, but I'm a big believer in good rope and knowing how to tie my knots.

Oh, helpful hint. If you ever need to work on a computer, see if there's a youtube instructional video. After watching a couple of videos on my little tablet I discovered removing the keyboard was a lot easier than I thought. (another helpful hint, have a second device like a tablet or smart phone to watch those videos on.)


Monday, May 25, 2015

Life changes and intuition

Change almost always brings with it discomfort and sometimes outright pain. Change can come from outside forces: divorce, accident, job loss, illness and so on. Other times our discomfort is caused by doing new things we've never done before. Even if they are positive things we've striven for, they can still upset our equilibrium.

Having had both kinds of change, planned and unplanned, I'd much rather have some sort of choice. It's usually better to deal with change when you can than when you have to.

Everyone deals with change in different ways. I'm one of those people who trusts his intuition. The unconscious mind is a very powerful tool that can be developed and exercised. All of us have had “gut feelings,” or “slept on a problem.” Those are two ways our intuition can communicate with us.

I've been at this a long time. There are signs that things are peculating up from deep inside the unconscious mind. If I'm going through changes or about to, my dreams become very vivid and involved. It's like they've been shifted into overdrive. They've gone from 2 D black and white to 3D living color with full surround sound.

That's when I find myself waking up at 3 a. m. from a deep sleep. The only thing to do at that point is get out of bed for a few hours. Sleep will elude me so might as well do something. Once up I'll start writing things down. Maybe I'll write down some insight that came to me in a dream. Perhaps the dream was just a catalyst -something to kick start my conscious mind into high gear.

Now sometimes the thing that's been bothering me is pretty mundane. Maybe I've been having a hard time figuring out a building project and my subconscious will deliver up a new way at looking at the problem. Other times I'll wake up with ideas that change the direction of my life.

This time around it feels like something between the two extremes. That's good as there's an awful lot about my life I love. That doesn't mean it can't be better. At any rate, that discomfort that comes from impending change is starting to be felt. The only thing to do is to trust my gut and see where it takes me.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Saturday morning ice

Isn't Memorial Day weekend supposed to be the unofficial start to summer? Saturday morning there was a thin skim of ice on a water bucket of water I left outside. At the same time Alaska is experiencing some unusually warm weather -temperatures in the 80s. Weather or climate change? No matter, either way it's flipping cold here.

So it's back to keeping the woodstove fired up. That's a bit interesting as last year's woodpile is long gone. With all the cold weather we've had lately I've been cleaning up all the storm killed trees around the house. One of the cool tools I've picked up this year is a cordless electric chainsaw. It's got no difficulty cutting up a couple days wood on a single charge. Sure beats messing around with gasoline. Now I wouldn't want to cut a dozen cord of wood with it, but it's the perfect little trim saw.

Even days when it gets up to short and t-shirt weather, mornings have been cool. A fire in the stove first thing in the morning takes the chill out of the house. At the same time I cook breakfast on the woodstove and the water coils on the back help warm up a 40 gallon tank of water. That helps keep my cooking and water heating expenses down.

Warmer weather is predicted so I might get a break from my fire tending for a bit.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

When I'm done with a car

It's done. We got rid of our 2002 Chevy Cavalier. The brakes: lines, rotors, and pads were gone. Also there was possibly a leak in the master cylinder. The CV joints were making clunking sounds. The exhaust system was held up with wire coat hangers. The body was kept together with a disturbingly large amount of spray expansion foam and fiberglass.

Surprisingly, the engine started. In fact, after sitting inside a giant snowbank for 4 months, it turned right over. The engine ran rough and big clouds of white smoke blew out the exhaust, but it ran. The smoke might have been something as simple as the gas going bad over the winter, or it could have been as serious as a blown head gasket.

What does one do with such a fine fine car? Trade it in? That would have raised the price the of the deal. Sell it to a 16 year old kid? How could I have slept at night? This car once collided with a moose.

We did the only wise thing and called the local junk yard. (I mean auto salvage.) They were willing to haul it away for free. The fact that they also wrote a check for $100 was a true bonus. We didn't lose a car, we gained another parking space.

This car died well. All the major problems happened pretty much at the same time. The worse is when a car keeps having $300 - $500 dollar repairs over a number of months. You tell yourself that each repair would be last, but it never is. The thing to do with such a money pit is to drive it behind the barn and put a bullet through the engine.

So now we have a nice new car. I expect to drive it until the wheels fall off, or we come to the end of the petroleum age. Whichever comes first.


Friday, May 22, 2015

The doomcasters

I must admit, I'm as fascinated by tales of doom and impending disaster as the next prepper. Over the years my attitude evolved. As a teenager dire warnings of civilization ending calamity sounded exciting. That's the same attitude that fills armies with teenagers as war sounds exciting.

As one gets older a bit of wisdom sinks in. A smart man prepares for possible disaster, but prays it doesn't happen. A wise man does what he can to prevent calamity.

It's like when I was first hired as a Firefighter. At 19 years old a big fire was terribly exciting. At 25 I'd look at the same fire and know it was going to be a long and miserable job. At 30 I really began to appreciate smoke detectors, sprinkler systems, safety inspections, and all those other boring things that prevent a small fire from becoming a big one.

Even though I recognized the value of mitigating disasters, I knew that they still happened. In spite of man's best efforts to impose order on the universe, chaos is always out there. People like to believe that bad things always happen far away and to other people. I know better.

One thing I've learned over the years is that the doomcasters are rarely exactly right. That's not to say bad things don't happen: they do. In fact by the very nature of the universe, given enough time anything can happen. Never focus exclusively on any particular doom scenario.

Be like a Fire Department. Have a variety of tools at your disposal. Train in how to use them. Be prepared to be flexible and to employ those tools in ways never dreamed of at the Fire Academy.

So have some basic survival gear: food, water, emergency shelter, medical supplies, training, security tools, and most importantly, a flexible mind. Rarely do disasters unfold as predicted. They are dynamic situations, always in flux and changing. Don't discount the actions of other people. They could help or hinder your efforts.

So listen to the doomcasters, if you'd like, but don't take their word as gospel.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Fort Jefferson and points unknown

This nice areal view of Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas is now the desktop background photo on my computer. It's a US National Park about 70 miles from Key West. It's one of the places I've yet to sail to, but definitely want to go. If you can't figure out why from the photo I can't help you. There is no poetry in your soul.

There are a lot of places within reach of small sailboats that I haven't been to yet. The whole Caribbean is within relatively easy travel distances. Cuba too, for that matter, but the political climate is still not right for the average person to go there. Heck, for that matter, I've seriously had my eye on sailing the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) from Virgina to Miami -even have the charts and guidebooks. Life keeps intruding.

If I'm going to see these things in person I've got to get a move on. After all, at 57 I'm not getting any younger. Yeah, I'm not dead yet either. Many people don't even start traveling until they retire at 65 or so. There's even a guy who recently kayaked across the Atlantic at age 67. I don't just want to just see these places. I want to travel to them on a slow little sailboat. The journey is half the fun. Once there I want enough schedule freedom to really get a feel for a place. There's more to travel than ticking off sites on a checklist.

So what's the hurry, besides the regular count down of years? Things happen in the world. We are in a unique period of time when it is possible to travel to many different countries. Historically that hasn't always been the case. Things can change all of a sudden.

At 35 years old I was so injured I didn't know if I could ever do anything else ever again. It took a few years but I was able to regain enough of my health to enjoy life once more. Health and mobility are not to be taken for granted.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Where the days go

Some people really enjoy messing around with computers. I just want them to work. Getting this old and slow backup computer hammered into shape has taken longer than I like. For example, it took two days just to get it to talk to my printer. Finally I just kept updating Ubuntu operating systems until they were up to date enough. That takes hours of download time and hours of installation. Just walking away and letting it do its thing doesn't work either. Sooner or later a screen pops up and ask for my input. The whole process freezes until that happens.

That being said it is good to have the documents I needed freshly printed and ready to go. There is some satisfaction in getting this old machine to do what it should do -especially after pricing replacement laptops. Once I'm sure the old computer is stable I'm gong to try to move a bunch of files over from my dying laptop.

I had a lot more fun painting my little boat. Of course, nothing is ever direct. I picked up a new belt sander at the building supply store. Then I went back, returned it, and got the correct belt sander. Of course, it was at the store that's 50 miles away. After the boat was patched and sanded I found my paint had gone bad. Since I never really liked that color, sorta a sick yellow/gold, it didn't bother me all that much.

Just about any other color would be an improvement. I had my lovely wife choose the color. After all, she was the one picking up the paint. She chose a nice red brick color. I thought she must have put a lot of thought into it as it looks really good. As it turns out she was tired, her feet were sore, and the paint was already mixed so she didn't have to wait.

So where are the pictures of the new paint job? Well, there's this program I need to download them from my camera and I haven't loaded up the software yet.

. . . it's on the list . . . the ever growing, never ending list.



One of my loyal readers sent this podcast link about vacations. It's worth a listen.

There's quite a bit of science behind the idea that vacations are very good for us. It's something I've always suspected. Hey, if a little vacation time is good, a whole lot more must be better, right? After all, the good effects of a vacation only last a few weeks. That tells me that maybe we are not wired to work 24/7.

The United States is the only industrialized Western nation with no mandatory vacation time. Not only that, we do a pretty dismal job of taking what little time we do get. Contrast that to European nations where 30 vacation days are pretty common. It's pretty normal for people in Europe to take a month off in the summer. Guess what? It's not the end of the world when people go on vacation. Perhaps the benefits outweigh the downsides?

The reader who sent me the link said he hard time finishing the podcast. The truth hurts. He saw how his bosses manipulated him into working instead of going on vacation. (I don't think he'll let that happen again.)

My lovely wife thought I could use a vacation. A vacation from what you might ask? After all, we just spent months travelling around the country, camping and boating. She figures that I'm the guy doing all the driving, set up, and keeping the van and boat running. With that in mind she booked a cruise to the Bahamas. Someone else can drive the boat.

I was a bit surprised. That's not the sort of thing she'd normally do without asking me first. She thought I might say no so she made a command decision. Like a good husband I finally agreed to being pampered and waited on. See what sacrifices I make?


Monday, May 18, 2015

So now that we are back from camping

. . . we made plans to go camping.

We've booked some nights on the coast of Maine in early July. We reserved some time at a campground we've been going to since the kids were little. Now they have kids of their own and they are still going to the same place. The campground has been run by the same people all these years and now we are almost like family.

Many years ago my lovely wife and I poured over a Woodalls Camping Guide and circled a bunch of campgrounds that looked interesting. One day we drove around checking them out. Many campgrounds looked good on paper but we got negative impressions when we went there in person. A few times the facilities still looked good in the real world, but the campground management were grouchy and unfriendly. The place we ultimately decided on turned out to be better in person and the owners were really nice. We much have chosen wisely as now three generations of my family have camped there.

After that we'll try a night or two in a new place. Then we hope to connect with friends who'll be camping at a third place. They are the set up people for an event the following week. The campground should be just about deserted except for the advance teams. Could be interesting.

We don't even know yet what we'll take for camping gear. If the weather looks iffy we'll most likely take the converted ambulance/motor home. It's weather tight, has a lot of comforts and there's almost no set up time. Should the weather look good we might just go back to a more minimalistic camping and throw a tent in the car. Even after a few years of van comfort we still enjoy being in a tent. Maybe we were nomads in a previous life.

There is on big advantage to using the small car: parking. Maine coastal towns have narrow twisty little roads and parking is at a premium. In the past parking the van has been tricky. I've done it and can do it again, but sometimes that involves parking much further away than we'd like.

Whichever vehicle we use, we plan on taking our inflatable kayak. Can't go to the coast of main without paddling in the ocean.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Nicks and Dings

One good thing about building your own boat is that you know how to repair it when the time comes. My little Ooze Goose project boat got a little touch up after a hard winter's use.

There was the spot on the cabin where we broadsided a bridge near John Pennecamp State Park in Florida. Tidal currents can be tricky. The little boat picked a fair share of scuffs when the boat and trailer disconnected from the van on the highway. We had a harsh landing on a rocky lee shore on Table Rock Lake in Missouri. Just loading and unloading the boat all those times did a bit of wear and tear -to say nothing of thousands of miles bouncing along on the trailer. I should be grateful it's in as good a condition as it is.

I mixed up a batch of thickened epoxy and touched up all the rough spots. I replaced my broken belt sander so it shouldn't be too hard to smooth everything out. A bit of paint and it'll be better than new.

While I was at it I replaced the cabin hatch with one of my own design. It should do a more effective job of keeping water out of the cabin.

Weather permitting, it should back in the lake in a couple days. At the same time I'm working to get my Oday 19 ready. Progress is being made on the conversion to electric auxiliary power.

Once both boats are back in the water I'm going to finally finish up the Ooze Goose sailing rig. While I was gone for the winter a local Maker's Space has set up in town. They have some heavy duty sewing machines that should work just fine for making sails. I've got a barter deal going with them so it won't cost any money.

Building our own boat is kinda like painting a painting. When do you know it's done? At least paintings aren't normally exposed to a lot of wear and tear. Good thing I enjoy tinkering with boats.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Electric Sailboat Decision

After careful consideration and some field testing (lake testing?) I've decided to keep using an electric motor for auxiliary sailboat power. I'm not using one of those specialty high end electric outboards either. A humble 55 lb thrust electric trolling motor works just fine.

Last summer all we used on the sailboat was an electric motor. When the gas outboard broke it was a cheap and easy solution. After all, it is a sailboat. Expectations were low. If the electric motor could push us out to where we could raise the sails that'd be enough.

Performance was better than expected. My Oday 19 isn't all that big a boat, but it's not a dinghy either. Wide open the trolling motor could push the boat along at a steady 3 knots. Not only that it could keep us moving at that speed for hours. At the end of the day when the wind dies that's good to know.

Hull speed is rated at 5.5 knots. The 6 hp gas motor moved the boat at hull speed, so there was definitely some loss. The 1.5 knot difference doesn't sound like much -until trying to get into port against a 4 knot tidal current. It is a consideration as that's actually happened to us. We crawled into harbor at a bit over a knot.

Liquid fuels pack a lot of punch. Gas is available just about everywhere. It's a mature, well developed technology. It's also explosive, toxic, non-renewable, and just plain stinky. Gas outboards, especially my old one, are loud. Some of the newer ones are much cleaner and quieter, but they still burn gas.

Propane outboards tempted me. They burn cleaner, but are just as loud as gasoline engines and propane has explosion hazards of its own. Mechanically the only real difference between the two is the carburetor. Propane is often available around marinas because many boats use it for cooking, but it's not as common nor as easy as pulling up to the gas pumps.

How about recharging the trolling motor battery? All last summer the boat's solar panel kept the battery topped off. It was nice not to schlep gas cans down the trail to the boat. Also very nice to not worry about spilling gasoline into the water. Marine patrol takes that sort of thing very seriously -as well they should. In the past my lovely wife and I stayed in marinas part of the time. Most of them had electric power right on the dock so charging a battery from shore power is easy.

The motor worked on fine on my small lake, but what about bigger trips? We won't be able to power our way out of trouble if the wind dies. Fair enough, but if there's no wind the electric motor can push us along well enough. On a long trip brining along a spare battery or two would be prudent. What about those strong tidal currents? That's where careful attention to tides and weather forecasts take on greater importance. Good ground tackle is also more important. Anchoring and waiting for better conditions might be necessary.

One big advantage my lovely wife and I have is our lack of schedule. We can sit out poor conditions in a well stocked boat. If it takes an extra day or two to get where we want to go it's no big deal.

Having made the decision to stick with electric, I'm going to make some boat modifications. The big one will be moving the main batter to the gas tank locker. That will help with boat balance and free up some space in the cargo hold. Wires will have to be rerouted, but it will be worth it in the long run.

The Oday 19 is about at the upper limit for this sort of auxiliary power scheme. If and when we get a bigger boat I'll have to rethink the whole power thing all over again. Then again, we are talking sailboats here. There are many people who sail all over the world in good sized boats without any auxiliary power at all. Some boats even use a yuloh, which is a long sculling oar. That's a discussion for another day.


Friday, May 15, 2015

There go the cool kids

My area keeps losing people. That's what happens when the major industries have left and others are slowly sputtering out. The economy is getting reduced to whatever is needed to service the prison and recreation industries.

I suppose I should be grateful that anything is left, but I'm not. All the cool kids have left town.

It's nothing new. Way back in the 70s when I graduated high school all the people with get up and go got up and left. The natural environment was more of a draw for me than the lights of the big city. I felt myself fortunate to land a job as a Firefighter. Unfortunately most of my friends left and few returned.

Every time we meet new and interesting people it seems that before too long they move away again. This area is only a stepping stone for anyone on any sort of career path. For those who fall in love with the area it's difficult to stay. Often the job that brought them into the area has moved on.

Yeah, it's annoying, but what's the big deal? One problem is that areas with static homogeneous populations are statistically less prosperous than more diverse areas. If you think about it, it makes sense. Someone from a different background sees things the locals miss. Sometimes we don't know what our strengths are.

Don't believe me? If you've ever travelled think about the places you've been. I bet you've seen opportunities the locals haven't. Here's an example. Some folks I know when for a vacation on a Caribbean island. Everyone's having a good time at the bar until the power on the island goes down. The bar closed because they couldn't run the blenders. How hard would it be to put up a couple solar panels, in the sunny Caribbean, to run a few blenders? I bet a beach bar that stayed open during a power outage would have all the business it could handle. Before long the rest of the bars would have figured it out.

Sometimes it takes an outside to introduce new ideas. It's safe to do what people in your area have always done.

As for myself, I just want interesting people to talk to. That's easy to do in communities that attract people from all over. Maybe that's one of the reasons I like travel so much. If they won't come to me I'll have to go to them.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Frankenstein Dinosaur Computer

The hard drive on my laptop is making grinding noises. That's never a good sign. As soon as it started to malfunction I shut the computer down. The next time I fire it up I'll be hastily saving the most recent files that haven't been backed up yet. Hope I don't lose anything.

The laptop decided to die the same month we spent money to buy a car, along with the expense of registration and insurance. Good timing, but that's not much of a surprise. A new laptop purchase will have to wait.

In the mean time I dug around in my computer graveyard and decided to fire up an old tower that had been given to me years ago -when my son-in-law upgraded to something better. I hadn't used it in almost five years. It's so old it has both a 3.5 inch floppy drive and a Zip drive. The computer is running a very out of date version of Ubuntu.

I'm tempted to upgrade the operating system and see if I can limp along with this machine for a few weeks. If it runs too slow maybe I'll load one of the stripped down Linux systems. The trick is to not render the computer completely useless along the way.

After all, it did run good enough for me to write and post this blog.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It's like camping

It's like camping is a is an often heard phrase of derision to describe sailing on a small boat. As a sailor of small boats who equipped my sailboat with I lot of my camping gear, I can't really argue. Sleeping bags, backpacker stove, coffee pot, pans, knives, metal matches -yeah, a good part of my camping kit ends up on the boat.

Boats are supposed to be equipped with refrigeration, ice makers, 4 burner gas stoves with ovens, microwaves, washers and dryers -just picture what a well equipped condo should have and that's what they need. I've seen boats with well equipped gyms. (so the trophy wife can keep in shape.)

Then add in all the special boat equipment they must have. Electric windlasses, water makers, radar and a whole store's worth of electronics. Dingies with motors powerful enough to water ski behind have become almost common.

Then there are us little guys with the bare necessities -the “campers.” We cook on campstoves. Our refrigeration is a cooler or nothing at all. Water may come right out of jugs. Laundry involves hauling a dingy full of foul cloths to town or washing it ourselves in a bucket. Showers may be a solar shower hung from the lines or a swim in the water. We are no better than campers.

Guess what? For some of us camping is awesome! We like it. Here's the thing, we have all our needs taken care of, if at a minimal level. Life is simplified. There's a lot less stuff to worry about. We don't worry about broken water makers, refrigerators that fail, AC units on the blink, or a host of other luxuries.

Instead of chasing down tradesmen to fix all that stuff we are enjoying life on the water. That's not to say us “campers” don't enjoy a few luxuries. My lovely wife pointed out that with the money we saved by not buying a refrigeration system we could enjoy a lot of nice meals and drinks at dockside restaurants. After all, even campers go out on the town now and then.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Awakening Russian Bear

Russia seems to be in the news a lot lately. There's the conflict in Ukraine and the trouble over Crimea. Putin is aggressively pushing Russian interests all around the world. They've new tanks, new classes of submarines, impressive fighter jets, and a willingness to rattle their sabers.

We've got to ask ourselves: Is this really a threat to Americans and our allies?

Russia's Navy is acting like a world power again. However, the fleet travels with large powerful tugboats because their ships break down all the time. One of their new tanks recently shut down in the middle of a military parade. Heck, they had a fire on a missile launcher during a parade. That can't be good.

One can't but help wonder if the perceived threats are really that bad or if something else is in play? Fear is a powerful tool. Fearful people are easily manipulated. How much of the “Russian Threat” is of real military concern and how much of it is media hype to control us? It's very hard for the average person to find out.

Russia has always been hyper sensitive about having buffer zones. Ukraine is next door to them and they have a long history in the Crimea. Study the Crimean War sometime. That's not to say the world should ignore what Russia is up to, but their actions address the things they fear.

Who in the West is really in danger from Russian actions? Isn't it the petroleum industry that competes directly with Russian oil? Isn't it the banking industry who fear Russia's diminishing reliance on the dollar for International trade?

One thing I know for sure. I'll be damned if I'm going to support another war to protect Big Oil, Big Banks, and Big Business in general. They are probably more of threat to me than the Russians are.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Project Creep

Did you ever start a little project and before you know it it's a big project?

Last summer the cabin across the road from me was sold. The new owners planned to do some renovations and move in by March.

Here we are well into May and the place is nowhere near livable. In fact, they just decided to rip out all the old wiring. Maybe some of it needed to go, but all of it? I've been watching the job grow and grow.

Of course it didn't help that last winter was one of the worse in years. Their repair the roof project turned into a replace the roof project and they had to keep shoveling snow off their work. Not good. In winter everything takes longer and costs more. Personally, I've always done my best to avoid outside winter jobs. It's just not worth it.

It's easy for projects of any sort to grow and grow. If you aren't careful you run out of time and money and nothing gets finished. Sometimes a project takes so long that the original plan no longer makes sense. There are people who spent so long building the perfect boat that they are too old and frail to actually use it.

Right now at this point in my life I'm trying my best to finish up the projects I've got. Keeping project creep under control is a big part of the equation. Don't want to end up like my new neighbors.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

The power of reviews

Whenever I buy something the reviews are an important part of the process. The more detailed the reviews the better. Someone may give an item a low review for a feature that's not important to me so it might not be a deal breaker. For example someone gave a bad review on the car I just bought but his main complaint concerned the sound system, not a big deal for me. If the bad review concerns something basic to the function of the item that is a big deal.

As a public service to other buyers I've been posting a lot of reviews. Since I buy a fair amount of things through Amazon, they have a lot of my reviews. I never realized the power of a bad review until a company contacted me directly about a bad Amazon review.

I'd purchased some sanding belts for an old sander. They failed after just a few minutes of use. The adhesive strip that held the paper together failed long before the grit even started to wear down. The company shipped me new, much better sanding belts and practically begged for an updated review. Impressed with their service I gave them a better review.

Recently I had a more expensive product fail. It cost around $250. It worked great for about a year then fell apart. The warranty period was past. However, I wrote the company and told them how the thing suddenly fell apart. As a courtesy, I said, I was contacting them before posting an Amazon review. They kinda freaked. Photos were sent their way. They claimed they'd never seen such a failure before. Fine, but mine did fail and was not abused.

In the end they said they'd ship me a new one for the cost of shipping. Seemed fair to me.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Who's driving ATVs?

In recent years motor vehicle laws in many surrounding towns have changed to allow ATVs to travel city streets. Originally, the idea was to hook up to existing trails. For example there were two extensive trail systems only divided by a river. By allowing all terrain vehicles access to city streets they were able to use existing car bridges.

Of course, businesses along the corridor took advantage of ATV traffic and provided goods and services. That created a demand for more ATV access. Now it's possible to drive all over many cities and towns.

So who's driving ATVs this time of year? Older people. People with knee replacements and bad hips. Instead of staying home or using a powered wheel chair, they are cruising around on ATVs. I just saw one cruise past my house with a walking cane strapped to the cargo rack.

There are people who've bought ATVs who have no intention of ever driving them off-road. Instead they use them as City Cars. Some of the newer side by side machines are quite comfortable and well appointed.

Once school lets out for the summer the young people will be out in force once more. For now, however, ATVs are the toys of the gray haired set.


Friday, May 8, 2015

The car decision

My lovely wife and I knew we'd have to get a replacement for my wife's car when we got back home. We've been looking on-line at different models, reading reviews, and trying to decide what we really wanted. Then there's the cost issue as we are both on fixed incomes.

To complicate the issue, we weren't really sure what we wanted to do with the second car. Did we want something that could tow a boat? Perhaps we wanted something we could take tent camping? Super high mileage? Diesel? Gas? Maybe even electric? Pay cash? Finance?

We decided against getting another diesel. The newer diesels don't convert well to run on waster vegetable oil. The older vehicles that do convert more easily are . . . well . . . old. The ones we looked at either were beat, car show quality (and expense) or sorta suspicious. Would you buy a car with Uruguay plates from guys who sounded like gangsters?

One thing we did decide on was to no longer use our veggie van as a daily driver. That will save on wear and tear and we can save it for camping and boat towing.

I was really tempted by a used Ford Ranger. It was in good mechanical shape and had a manual transmission for better fuel economy. My lovely wife even took it out for a test drive. She liked it but was not in love with it. For me, one big downside was that it would soon need some body work. Frankly, I'm sick of patching up vehicles.

Then we went to a big dealership and talked to a salesman who we knew and trusted. He pretty much expected us to be looking for a beater. It's been decades since we bought a new car. We've driven a lot of older diesels. Then there were a couple of cars my daughters drove when they were in school, but didn't want to continue the payments after they graduated. They wanted brand new cars. The cars we got from the kids did the job, but they weren't something we picked out for ourselves.

We looked at many many cars. It was a long long day at the dealership. We were tempted by a Honda Insight. I found it a much more comfortable car than the Toyota Prius. In the end, the price was a bit more than I wanted to spend, plus hybrids are complicated cars mechanically. There were a lot of later model used cars we rejected from one reason or another. Sometimes it was due to them having too many miles on the odometer. Other times it was low mpg ratings.

In the end we went with a new car, but very low end and basic. We decided on a Nissan Versa Note hatchback. It's roomy for its size and I fit in it quite well. The hatchback gives us the room if we want to load up some camping gear or tools. Since it's a new car it has modern safety features which is important when hauling grandkids around. We went with the manual transmission, saving some money and adding a bit of driving fun. It's rated 36 mpg on the highway, which is pretty good without the added complexity of a hybrid.

Why new? I decided I didn't want to spend all my time fixing cars. There are other projects that are a lot more enjoyable. That's the reason we sprung for the extended warranty. It's a fairly small monthly payment. In fact, since we refinanced the house last year a much lower rate, there was some room in our budget.

What about Peak Oil and end the Petroleum Age? Yeah, I think that's a real thing. However, estimates on how we'll be affected by such an even have been way off. People adapt. Besides, if the worse predictions came true, a bank repossession will be the least of my worries.

So that was the thinking behind our car buying.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dry Days

The last few days we've experienced dry sunny days. Taking advantage of the weather I've got my little boat emptied out and drying. Before the rains come on the weekend I hope to have all the little nicks and dings patched up. We really put that boat through its paces and found a few minor problems.

I was never really happen with the cabin board and the top hatch. When there was a heavy rain some water could work its way into the cabin. If water can come in, so can biting little bugs. That has to be fixed and I've got some good ideas how to fix the problem.

Another way water could work its way into the cabin is from the cockpit. If water got into the cockpit, from wave action or just sitting out in the rain, it would slowly seep into the cabin -where it would pretty much remain until sponged out. It's not a lot of water, but I'd like to be able to rest in the cabin with dry feet. A bit of sealant should do the job.

After those things are dealt with a bit more paint should be in order.

We had a good time with this little 12 foot Ooze Goose and really tested it. The boat is surprisingly sea worthy. What it really needs is a sailing rig and that's definitely on the to do list. There's the beginnings of lee boards, a rudder and some lumber to start working on the masts and booms.

In the short term the plan is to make the cabin weather tight so I can then launch the boat onto the lake. There are fish that need catching.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

At all the places doing all the things

No matter how awesome things are going for you, there's always someone somewhere else doing it better -and with supermodels.

There are only so many days allotted for us on this planet. We don't know the number, nor do we know how healthy and wealthy we'll be during those days.

While in the middle of our travelling adventures my lovely wife and I would hear about someone we knew doing something amazing somewhere else. Worse, sometimes we could have been part of their adventure if we weren't already on one.

First world problem, I know.

Here's the thing. We aren't wealthy. We have some health issues we have to attend to. Like everyone else we have responsibilities. No matter, we are still seeking out new places and things to experience.

Lately I've run into a lot of people who wish to do something. They are dreamers but every wonderful thing will take place someday. Everything has to be perfect before they can have their amazing adventures. You know as well as I that few will ever cast off those dock lines and head out into the unknown. Of the few who do, many will be disappointed when they realize their dreams.

I see it all the time. There's the couple who buy a big RV and head out to see the country, but come home after two weeks and the RV rots in the driveway. We've seen people who plan on sailing the world but never cross an ocean. There are those who fly to exotic lands, but only stay in Western style hotels, eat the same foods as they do at home, and only deal with people who speak English.

You don't just jump into adventures and expect to be good at them right off. It takes a lot of stepping outside of the comfort zone to begin to enjoy it. There are people who are stuck and their ruts and do not want to get out of them. They go to work, come home, watch TV -rinse and repeat. Some people live their whole lives that way. What a waste of human potential. Will they have regrets on their deathbed?

Sometimes I have a twinge of regret that I didn't discover sailing at a young age. I'd have disappeared at sea at 18. Then again, I would not have married my amazing wife and had three wonderful daughters. No one can do everything. At least I've done something.

There are times when I hope the reincarnationists are right. That way I can come back and do the things I missed this time around. But why take the chance? Go to at least some of the places and experience some of the things before you die.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015


There's nothing too dramatic going on right now. Since we've been back home we've been reconnecting with people whom we haven't seen all winter. It's surprising how much can change in just a few months.

One of the ideas my lovely wife and I kicked around was maybe spending next winter home in New Hampshire. However, after seeing the effects of last winter it doesn't look like a very good idea. Too many people look like trauma survivors. Even folks who normally enjoy winter found it tough. Too many sub zero days with high winds.

Monday the day started at 30 degrees but by shortly after lunch it had climbed over 80. Kinda hard to know how to dress before leaving the house. We also had strong dry winds that kept fire departments chasing brush fires. From snow covered ground to brush fires in a little over a week.

We are checking out vehicles, looking for a replacement for my lovely wife's car. One day we even checked out a couple old Mercedes Benz diesels from the early 80s. I've owned two of them in the past. They are very easy to convert to run on waste vegetable oil. One looked pretty beat. Another looked great -until I saw it had been hastily repainted. That set off alarm bells. They were selling it for a high price like it was a gently used car, but I suspect the paint job might have covered up some hard miles.

Later in the week we are going to connect with friend who works at a big dealership. Maybe he'll be able to find us something interesting.

We've been so busy since we got home we have yet to fully unload the van. Other things keep intruding on our time.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Riots and other spectator sports

One line in this Washington Wire article caught my attention.

“A resounding 96% of adults surveyed said it was likely there would be additional racial disturbances this summer”

So I had to ask myself: what do they plan to do about it? Well if someone plans to riot they know what to do. What about everyone else? As for myself I live way out in the country where there's not enough people for a sewing circle, never mind a riot.

Let's say that you in a metropolitan area. At the very least you should have some idea if your city is ripe for the type of riots that swept Baltimore. In fact, you should have a darn good idea in which part of the city riots are most likely. If you don't your situational awareness needs some fine tuning or you should move out in the country with me. At the very least you should have some idea how to avoid the likely trouble spots. Riots rarely involve whole cities. The recent Baltimore riots were much smaller than the riots of '68 and even those didn't involve the entire city.

The best way to deal with a riot is to be somewhere it ain't. The thing that drives me absolutely drunken ape nuts is the people who'll go towards trouble. They want to see what's going on. It's exciting and they don't want to miss it. Next thing they know a brick hits them in the head and a police car runs over their legs. This we call bad luck. . .

. . . or we call it what it really is, stupid. I use to see a similar effect all the time when I was a Firefighter. Big fire at the toxic chemical storage area? Spectators all over the place. Bring the kids and pack a lunch. The police could not keep them away. What is it with people?

Whatever it is, don't be those people. Stay safe out there. As for people with real personal grievances? Destroying your neighborhood won't improve your life. In '68 more than a 100 cities had riots. Most of those neighborhoods never fully recovered. Some politician or “Community Leader” will get some recognition, power and a career boost. The average Joe won't.

The logical thing to do is to keep your ear to ground listening for trouble, then get yourself to a place where it ain't. Do you want to protect your family? Great. Now ask yourself if they'd be better protected by you standing in front of your house with a baseball bat or by being on a long camping trip in the mountains? Worried about your property? Is anything you own worth your life?

Unrest can get nasty and get there fast. Whatever you do, don't rush to have a front row seat at the erupting volcano.


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mailing Address

One of the great things about being home is having a stable mailing address. We do a lot of our business on-line, but not everything could or should be done that way.

Now that we are home mail is making its way back home from all over the country. Forwarding address were set up with plenty of time to spare -or so I thought. I'm amazed how slowly some of our mail has travelled. It's not called snail mail for nothing.

Some mail has just disappeared and I have no hope of ever holding it in my hands.

That being said, the US Postal service still does a better job than most other countries. At one time I was associated with a couple of businesses that mailed items all over the world. Trust me, it's possible to pay a lot more for worse service.

Now that I'm going to be home for a while I feel confident about ordering things on-line. In fact, there's three packages due next week. In spite of all the travelling we've done, there are some items not found in stores. It's much easier to find them on-line. Weird to think it's easier to order something and get it delivered way out in the woods than it is to find in a city.

However, one very nice thing about shopping brick and mortar stores in New Hampshire is the lack of sales tax. When I can, I shop local. Unfortunately my wants and needs are sometimes a bit out of the norm, so on-line is often my best option.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

Hand tool backups

Don't you hate it when power tools die in the middle of a job?

A good friend of mine gave me a much better gun safe than the one I was using. The only problem was that the old lock would not open. Little tip, don't try and reuse a padlock that spent time on a sailboat in salt water. When sailing I kept it well oiled and it never froze up. Just sitting for months it slowly corroded into a solid block.

No problem, I've got a reciprocating saw. It took a couple of strokes and died. The thing was just 22 years old too. That's when I was glad I had a hacksaw and some sharp blades. It didn't take too long to cut the lock.

It never hurts to have hand tool backups for all your power tools. Last year it was a skill saw that died on me -only 21 years old. Good thing I had some handsaws I could use to finish the job.

I've a drill that was bought at the same time as those other tools. Wonder if it's about to die too? No matter, I've got an old fashioned bit brace that could fill in as needed.

Just about every power tool has a manual tool that could do the job. It's a good idea to have them around. Sure beats being unable to finish a job. It's also sometimes darn handy to have tools that work off the grid. The sort of storm that takes down the grid is exactly the sort of thing that could require emergency home repair.

Now and then I'll reach for the hand tool before the power tool. Sometimes it's easier and quicker to do it by hand. You don't want have to set up an air compressor and an air nailer just to tack down a loose board.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Plans for next winter?

Spring has just barely taken hold here in the North Country and I'm already thinking about winter.

This past winter my lovely wife and I thought we'd do something different. We planned a lot more camping and less boating. We also decided to head west to Texas to visit her relatives. Next year will be something different again. Not sure how different, but different.

We had some mechanical problems with the converted ambulance camper van, but in the end we sorted them out. It's pretty comfortable. Often when we had the opportunity to stay in relative's spare bedrooms but we preferred sleeping in the van.

The van is a fine camping machine. However, I sometimes miss throwing a tent in the car and just going. There is much to be said for simplicity.

There were times when we really missed living on a sailboat, so that's a major consideration.

Whatever we decided to do, it will probably not cost us a lot of money. Imagine if we'd spent a pile of cash on a big RV. We'd feel pretty committed to the whole RV lifestyle. How about those people who buy a condo and now every vacation is at that condo? Wouldn't that get boring?

I've found that this is the best time to plan my winter. Our most recent travels are fresh in our minds and we know what worked well and what needs improvement. Since we often do things a bit different year to year time to prepare is a good thing.

However, since the ice has just cleared the lake, my next plan is a fishing license. Can't let plans for tomorrow ruin today.