Thursday, December 31, 2015

On to Pelican Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

We did it!

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

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

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

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

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

Now we have the place to ourselves.

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


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

High speed boat chase

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 28, 2015

Back home on the boat

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to be blogging from out on anchor soon.


Sunday, December 27, 2015

Back to the Fort

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

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

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

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


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Happy National Gift Return Day

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

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


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Car Rental Crazies

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Electronic Road Warrior

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Off the back of the boat

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, December 21, 2015

All God's Creatures are Lost

But some have sailboats.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Office seasickness

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Big boats and bigger boats

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 18, 2015

Just the two of us

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Test sail

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

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

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

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

There are a few people here with Christmas spirit.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Holding pattern

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

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

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

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

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

Solar Panel and outboard.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Dock Rats

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, December 12, 2015

All my boaty stuff

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 11, 2015

No photos today

No photos from the marina today. Out straight again.

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

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

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

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


Thursday, December 10, 2015

The boat floats!

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 9, 2015


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

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

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

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


Monday, December 7, 2015

On to Florida

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

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

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


Sunday, December 6, 2015

Somewhere in North Carolina

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


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Another long drive

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

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

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

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

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


Civilization and Religion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 4, 2015

Guns and books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Another house raid

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ice storms and other distractions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Poor in America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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