Thursday, August 31, 2017

60 Knots Against the Wind

Our sailboat can go 60 knots against the wind -when on its trailer and pulled by the van. Recently my lovely wife expressed how glad she was we can do that. We are not the type of people to stay in harm's way if we can avoid it.

The current hurricane situation is what brought that out. She likes the idea of being able to pull the boat out of the water and move. 24 hours later we can be 1200 miles away. Under normal driving conditions, I've often traveled that many miles in a day. That's an average speed of 50 miles per hour. Of course, we travel 60 to 70 miles per hour. Our average drops to 50 when we account for meals, fuel land bathroom stops.

By the way, a lot of our fuel stops don't happen at gas stations. Usually we at least start our trips with a full load of 4.5 gallon jugs of waste veggie oil. When we stop at a rest area, I'll take a moment and pour a couple jugs of veggie in the tank.

While I've often traveled 1200 – 1700 miles with little rest, I rarely do that anymore. Traveling with the van makes it pretty easy to pull into a free parking area and spend the night. Rather than drive until I turn into a zombie, I get a good night's sleep on the full sized bed in the back. It takes longer to get somewhere, but I'm not totally beat when I arrive.

It is nice to know I can go the distance if needed. Looking at the current weather map of the United States, one might have to drive a longs ways to avoid nasty weather. My lovely wife became a bit unsettled by the size of the current hurricane induce disaster. She likes the idea of not being stuck on a boat that cannot be moved with a trailer. It's early to get damage assessments, but I'm betting not many boats survived anywhere near the hurricane. That's a sobering thought.

When and if we do get a bigger boat, we will always have hurricane holes in mind. We did get a small taste of that when we had our Ranger sailboat. While we didn't get a hurricane, it was an unusually active thunderstorm and tornado period. We often headed for protected areas to sit out poor conditions.

This coming winter we aren't going to worry about that so much. If conditions are too bad to be on the water, we won't be on the water. There are times I wonder if what I really want is a bigger trailer sailor. There are pros and cons, like anything else.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Back to van projects

Overall, we've really enjoyed our ambulance, converted to mini camper, converted to run on waste veggie oil. Sometimes we run into issues, mostly do to the fact that it's a Wheeled Coach ambulance package grafted onto a Ford one ton van. The fact that I've grafted on a custom experimental fuel system doesn't help much either. Sometimes the pieces just do not work all that well together.

Take, for example, the second starting battery. This is my current pet peeve. Since it's a giant 7.3 liter turbo diesel shoe horned into a van, there's not a lot of room in there. They barely squeezed in one of the starting batteries under the hood. The second battery is located in the Wheeled Coach part.

The schematics show the battery on the passenger side of the vehicle. Nope. It's not there. It's on the driver's side, squeezed into a tight corner. I did not even know it was there when I installed the veggie tank, filter assembly, and 6 way valve. The new veggie parts cut off access to the second battery.

Even if the tank wasn't there it would have been tough to get to. A trained monkey with extra long arms and the ability to work blind might have had a good shot at it. Normal humans on the other hand . . .

So I've been giving it the old college try. I've ignored the problem and hoped not to have to deal with it. (what, where you do go to college?) Okay, to give it a real college try I'd also have had to order a pizza and drink a few cheap beers. Unfortunately, that's not a long term solution.

The second battery is getting pretty weak. I've made up for it by getting a really good Interstate starting battery, the largest and most powerful that would fit. It's reached the point where the bad battery is draining the good battery. To prevent that I've wired up a solar panel so that it can be switched from the auxiliary (3rd) battery that I use camping to the charging batteries. That's fine when I'm not camping, but not really a fix.

I've been dreading pulling the veggie tank. My fear is that after removing the tank and all the hoses, battery access would still be too tight for my huge ham hands. Today I figured out what to do. That battery really needs is its own access panel. I'm going to cut open the side of the van and put my own compartment door. There's a nice piece of heavy aluminum plate in my scrap pile that should do the job nicely.

Sometimes you just have to break out the power tools have at it.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

When to Evacuate

Do you bug out or do you bug in? The situation in the Houston area is a clear example of the problem.

My wife's parents bugged out. Actually, they were out of Texas and decided not to come back until it was all over. I've a sister-in-law in the Houston area. Her and her family have decided to bug in. So far, they are doing well.

One thing that became very clear is that you cannot rely on the government to tell you when to bug out. There were conflicting suggestions between state and local officials. There are people who decided to stay then later tried to bug out only to get stuck in their vehicles.

If you are going to bug out do it early. Don't wait for an official pronouncement. If and when that happens the roads will quickly turn into long parking lots. That's what happened to my sister-in-law during the Rita evacuation. They spent a long time stuck on the highway and never made it to their destination. They were fortunate that a church took them in for the night. No doubt the memory of that failed exodus is one reason they decided to shelter in place.

Fairly recently I posted a blog about the advantages of having an inflatable kayak to bug out in. I bet a lot of Texas folks would have loved to have a boat like that right now. A heavy duty, large capacity inflatable kayak will get you out of trouble. They are tough enough not to get punctured on debris and light enough to drag over shallow spots.

The big threat now is flooding. However, there are plenty of other reasons to get out of Dodge. Wildfires, civil unrest, hazardous material releases, and who knows what else. The trick to a successful evacuation is to leave early. Better to have the occasional false alarm rather than become a victim.

If you decide to bug in, make sure you have all you need. We see that this storm is going on a lot longer than expected. As the storm continues, more people will run out of resources and need rescue. Having a plan B is a good idea.

My prayers and concerns are with the people of Texas and Louisiana right now.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Better Together

We have a lot of division in this country right now. The blue states and red states don't get along. California wants to cut itself off from the rest of the country. Much of the rest of the country wants to let them go. The south and the north are opening up old wounds. The center part of the country hates being called “fly over country.” It goes on and on.

Texas is one of those places that sometimes gets vocal about becoming an independent country. Sure, they were independent once, but if you study History you'll see most Texans wanted to join the rest of the union as fast as possible. Mexico was still a concern and a threat.

If you travel the country you'll see there are big differences from one area to another. What's normal in one place is exotic in another. For me, that makes travel in the United States interesting. If everyone was the same, I might as well stay home.

Right now Texas in in the middle of a horrible storm. Damages will be in the many billions of dollars. If they were an independent country, they'd be in serious trouble. Fortunately, they are part of the United States. The rest of the nation will pitch in and help. Even New Yorkers will help, in spite of the fact that a few Texas politicians complained about helping New York after Hurricane Sandy.

Americans squabble all the time. As long as the conflict is kept to the level of a family squabble we'll be Okay. Families might fight among themselves, but unite when times get tough. Take heart Texas, the rest of the country has your back. We are stronger together than apart.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Watching the Storm

I am curious to see how the Trump administration is going to handle the response to the storm.

There was an interesting thing that stood out during the storm coverage. Anyone else notice how may of the emergency agencies are being headed by someone other than the normal head person? It's acting director this, or interim director that. Really brings home how many critical positions have yet to be filled.

There are some things that government should do. Protecting the people is one of them. That means more than just having a strong military. Disaster response is a big deal. I hope the administration has brought its “A” game to the party, even though they are working with the backup team.

If nothing else it really goes to show that we should be prepared to deal with disasters on our own.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Stay safe Texas

Stay safe Texas. Hope everyone is taking every precaution. This storm is going to go on for days yet. My prayers are with you.

My Texas in-laws are at their summer place in Missouri. They don't know if they'll have a house to come back to in Texas, but I'm glad they are safe now.


Friday, August 25, 2017

More fun in Canada

I've found it's a lot easier to cross into Canada as a US citizen than it is to come back to the US. It always was that way, but the US side has only gotten worse. Of course, even the Canadian side is a bit more serious. It's not like in the old days when could just slow down at the border and yell to the customs guy that you were going to Montreal to party. He's say “have fun!” and that was that.

I'm afraid my granddaughter has some of my twisted sense of humor. I knew the border agents always asks the kids who the other people in car are. She thought it would be funny to answer, “They are my grandparents . . . there, I told them what you wanted me to say.” While I thought was funny, I had to convince her not to do that. She kept her humor in check until we crossed the border.

Those border agents have no sense of humor. Let in one bunch of terrorists and everything gets all grim and serious.

When I was a little kid I thought all of Canada spoke French. It was a surprise to learn that most of it is English speaking. Since my only experience of Canada was going to Quebec, what else was I to think?

When the border controls tightened up and passports became a requirement, I didn't have one. It took years to bother with doing the paperwork. Money was always tight and passports weren't a priority. Not having one also allowed me to get out of going to weddings and funerals in Canada. A bit selfish but I got to see my Canadian relatives often enough in the US.

Borders are funny things. Near the border, the names are all the same. My grandfather's family was half Canadian and half American. His father kept crossing the border depending on where the work was. My grandfather happened to one of the siblings born on the US side. He decided to stay.

From where I live the closest “big US city” is Boston. Montreal is actually a little closer. There's a lot of interesting stuff within a day's drive in Canada that I've never seen. With the current exchange rate being favorable, now is the time to catch up.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Where in the world?

Where in the world did Sixbears go?

Here's a hint.

This stone circle is just across the US/Canada border in Quebec.

My lovely wife and I took our 10 year old granddaughter for a road trip. When I was kid, my grandparents never took me anywhere. Heck, they didn't even have cars.

We ended up taking the kid across a state border and an International boundary. Why not play tourist in a different country for the day? The kid is 10 and is already on her second passport. Besides passports, we had a notarized form from her parents giving us permission to take her with us. Also had a letter in case she needed medical treatment. Plus, we had to Canadian proof of insurance for the car.

Besides checking out the stone circle just across the Vermont border, we went about 50 miles further north to a crystal mine for their educational tour.

I knew my phone would not work in Canada so I brought along my old car GPS. Unfortunately, it did not have Quebec in the memory. We were reduced to using a crappy map and asking directions. By the way, my French is pretty poor. Also had the fun of constantly converting kilometers to miles in head. We took a few wrong turns, but we eventually got where we wanted to go. It's worth getting out of your safe zone now and then.

We plan on taking more trips into Canada. It's so close that it would be a shame not to.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Another Navy Ship Collision

We have another Navy ship collision. This time it's U.S.S. John McCain colliding with a commercial tanker. Something is definitely wrong. The international rules of the sea are very clear. Even in busy shipping lanes, these accidents should not happen. A whole series of bad decisions had to have been made.

This is in peace time with fully functional ships. We have the best navigational aids that have ever existed. That leaves human error. Training is probably part of the problem. Computer simulators aren't the same as being out on the water. I wonder if maybe people have become so reliant on electronics that a proper watch with human eyeballs aren't happening? That's just a guess.

Here's something to think about. The navy vessel collided with another large ship. I wonder how many small boats are just run over? Small boats are lost at sea without a trace all the time. The navy ship would hardly feel the bump.

The recent US Navy accidents have been with large commercial ships. Now imagine if they collision had been with a Chinese Navy ship in contested waters? That could cause serious diplomatic issues. Basic seamanship is important. I hope the Navy gets to the bottom of its issues soon. One can't but help wonder what other training they are falling down on.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

See You in 2024

A good friend of mine in western Kentucky offered to put my lovely wife and I up for the eclipse. They happened to be very close to the totality zone. Unfortunately, we were unable to make it. The final nail in the coffin: my lovely wife broke a tooth and had a dentist appointment.

We had to make due with a partial eclipse. It was still pretty cool. I make a simple pin hole projector out of some heavy paper. I drove over to the dentist's office in the oddly dimmed light. It wasn't like the dimness of a cloudy day, but something else. Kinda weird.

Someone at the dentist's office had a pair of proper viewing glasses. They were shared around. Then the dentist tried to look at the sun without the glasses on. I pointed out to my lovely wife that the half blind guy was about to mess around in her mouth with drills. She was not amused.

While the partial eclipse was nice, in 2024 northern New Hampshire will be in the path of a total eclipse. While it's close in distance, it's seven years away in time. I plan on making it.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Security Concerns

Never underestimate the cost of security. In pre-911 days we felt pretty secure. Once those planes fell from the sky and buildings came down, it was a different world. There were the obvious changes. Airport security got a lot more attention. Travel became more of a hassle and not just on airlines. Even the security on inter-city buses increased. Not only was it a hassle, someone has to pay for all that extra invasive security.

There were a lot of hidden costs. Public information on utilities became secret. While that may keep some vulnerabilities secret from terrorists, it also hides potential problems from people who should know. Everybody from fire departments to city planners now lack critical information. It affects everything from hidden chemical hazards during a fire to where it's safe to dig a trench. There are work arounds for some of these things, but everything takes longer, is more cumbersome, and incomplete.

Now imagine if every time you went out to do something body guards had to come along. In many parts of the world that's the reality. Everything that's done has a “security tax” added to it. Many things become too security expensive to bother with.

Let's bring things down to the level of a household. You might be pretty self-reliant. Let's say you have a big garden, a wood lot for firewood, and a stream for an emergency water supply. You are currently living in a pretty secure world. Your main concern about the garden is if deer are going to get into it. You can fire up your chainsaw and cut up firewood to keep warm. Should you need emergency water you just take a water jug to the stream.

Now imagine an insecure world. That garden has to be guarded not from deer, but from hungry people. Using a chainsaw is a security risk. It's loud. People can tell from miles around that you've got: a chainsaw, gas, firewood, and probably have a homestead nearby. If you burn the wood the smoke could give your position away. Going down to the stream? Better take a guard with you.

People have the mistaken idea that we are protected by the police and the law. There are never enough police to make everyone follow the law. Laws are only good if most people voluntarily go along with them. Police are there to deal with the few who don't. We are not protected by the government, but by a civil society. When we become less civil towards each other, the more security is needed. The more security, the higher the “security tax.” At some point it all breaks down. Being able to get along isn't just nice, it's essential for civilization.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Boat destruction

A few years ago I built a small 12 foot scow called an Ooze Goose. We hauled it all over the place, Florida, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, and back to New England. It was loads of fun. The boat rowed well and moved right along with an electric trolling motor. I had plans to put sails on it but never got around to it.

Well, last fall I got sick and didn't get a chance to properly cover it for the winter. Water got into the boat and did a number on it. I knew it had some damage, but Saturday I really got into it and discovered how bad the damage actually was. It was bad. Everything built with the heavier 3/8” plywood was in good shape. The 1/4” panels all suffered delamination.

I could have replaced all the 1/4” plywood, but instead decided to disassemble most of the boat. The cabin, and the sides were the worse. The bottom, bow and stern pieces were of heavier plywood and are fine. If I threw on some new side panels and some seats, it would make a pretty good rowboat. That's been moved to the back burner.

All the hardware and gear was salvaged off the boat. The current plan it to build a slightly bigger boat next year The 12 foot boat was a great learning experience. My lovely wife and I figured out what worked and what could be improved. We are seriously looking at Dave Zeiger's 16 x 4 Triloboat.

One of the problems with the Ooze Goose was with the cabin. It was physically big enough for two people to get in. However, it made the boat very bow heavy. The stern popped quite a ways out of the water. The Triloboat's cabin is in the middle of the boat, so the balance is better.

The boat is designed to maximize standard lumber and is supposed to be a quick build. Dave claims 3 days to a week for two people. That does not include the sail. I should be able to knock one out in 2 or 3 weeks easily. Barge type boats have a lot of carrying capacity and the flat bottom makes it a perfect beach cruiser.

While it hurt a bit to take the Goose apart, I now have an opening for a new project boat. That project can wait until the spring.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Trailer and solar boat

I'm glad I've decided to change out the bearings on the boat trailer. They aren't in bad shape, but the inner seals are gone. I've compensated by keeping everything well greased. The downside of that is that grease leaks out and splatters all over the wheel.

As it turns out the local auto parts place has to order the new seals all the way from Ohio. I'm glad I'm not stuck on the side of the road while waiting for parts to come in. Even though the bearings look good, I'm going to change them anyway. Might as well since everything is all apart. The old bearings look good enough to save for emergency spares.

Some years ago I built a wooden box to act as a sort of lazarette on the sailboat. It held a 6 gallon marine gas tank. The gas motor is long gone and I've been using an electric trolling motor to move the boat. I'm thinking of mounting a second battery in the box along with a charge controller. My 50 watt panel would just about fit on top of that.

The boat currently has just a 30 watt panel. That's been sufficient to run the boat's electronics and the trolling motor. If I use the motor a lot it may take a few days for the battery to charge up. That's not a problem here on the lake. It might be on the ocean.

That's why I'm putting in a second completely separate solar electric system. Both the trolling motor and the boat's electronics are connected to the battery with jumper cables. It would be easy to switch them from one battery to another.

The trolling motor moves the boat at about half the speed of the gas. That's sufficient for moving in and out of anchorages and marinas. In a pinch, it will move the boat for quite a few miles. While not as fast as gas, it's a whole lot more convenient. The motor is quiet and I'm not hauling gas around. Plus, the batteries are charging from the sun.

The best part of this project is that I do it without spending any more money. No, the best part is that it will actually do the job. The money thing is bonus.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

I keep getting tempted

Every time I think I have a plan for the winter and things sorted out, something comes along to tempt me.

Not that long ago I let a good deal go on an Oday 27. The boat was the guy's pride and joy. He did a lot of upgrades to the boat. Age caught up to him, his wife passed, and the boat had to go. At the last minute I decided not to go look at it.

Other people were interested. Then the boat disappeared from Craigslist. It was so far below market value that I was not surprised. Then out of nowhere I see the boat's been listed again. A recent photo shows that the boat's been cleaned up. The minor repairs have been done and the price is still low. The boat has to move before the end of the New England sailing season.

Okay, but there were serious considerations for not getting a bigger boat this year. One of them was that we'd have to leave early to get south in time to beat the cold weather. Another was that I wanted to go back to places where shallow draft is necessary. Then I look at the crap in the news and think it might be nice to take a boat and leave the country for a while. It's getting ugly.

Just to make things interesting, the same day I was informed about a sailboat for sale just down the road from me. This one is bigger than mine and is on a good trailer. My van could easily tow it. If the price sounds like it's in my budget, I'm very tempted to look at it. After all, it's just down the road.

Boats are an addiction. Maybe I should take up heavy drinking instead.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trailer work

Not much going on so I'm catching up on projects. Just picked up a new tire for the boat trailer. I bought one last year to keep as a spare. Didn't have to use it. Now that I have two I'll change them both out and keep the old tires as spares.

It's been about seven years since the wheel bearings have been changed. That's pretty good considering how many miles we've hauled the trailer. Going in and out of salt water all the time is petty hard on bearings too. I kept the bearing buddies greased up with good quality marine grease. Looks like that paid off. To be on safe side I'm changing the bearings. Much easier to do in my driveway than on the side of the road somewhere. Last time I blew a trailer bearing it was on the Tamiami Trail, US rt 41, crossing the Everglades. Not fun.

Usually by the time I get around to changing wheel bearings there's snow on the ground. That's what I did on my utility trailer. This year I'm actually doing the job in the summer. Almost feels weird to do the job without frozen fingers.

Overall the trailer looks to be in pretty good shape. The lights were upgraded to submersible LEDs a couple years ago and that saved me a world of grief. The old style lights were always burning out. Last year the cable winch was changed to a strap type and I'm happy with the change.

It won't be long before the trailer and the boat are ready for travel. My lovely wife and I hope to do some sailing on the big wilderness lakes here in northern New England. For now it's good enough to have the boat anchored at our beach. We can go for an afternoon sail anytime we want. It's also a lot easier to work on the trailer without the boat on it.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sea Eagle Kayak Update

You may live in an area where bugging out by water may make a lot of sense. When the bridges were closed after the 911 attacks, some people left Manhattan by kayak. You may not live on an island, but bugging out by water may be easier than by land. Many people live in apartments and don't have storage room for a full sized kayak or canoe. However, a good inflatable kayak can be stored in a closet or even the trunk of your car. Even if you never bug out in one, they can provide loads of fun right now.

I've owned my Seal Eagle 420 inflatable kayak for about eight years now. My lovely wife wasn't too keen when I bought it. For one thing it cost about $1,100 dollars. They made similar kayaks out of a cheaper material for a whole lot less. It didn't help that there were similar sized cheapo inflatables at a local store for under $100.

All was forgiven years later when we used the kayak to abandon ship in the dark. After navigating shark infest shoals we made a successful landing through the surf onto a beach. To be fair, she'd already warmed up to the boat well before then. It's large, stable, and durable. It survived landing on oyster beds and being ground against barnacles. The boat still does not leak.

In general, we are very happy with it. There are a few things that gave me problems. The first is that it didn't come with a pressure gauge. The standard kit did not include one. That had to be ordered separately. Another issue was with the foot pump used to inflate it. By the second year it had broken in half under normal use. We also found the “deluxe” seats were too low. The tiniest bit of water in the boat would get your butt wet. Cheap marine seat cushions give enough lift to solve the problem.

Later I bought a nice 12volt air pump. That was great but did not survive getting submerged in the shipwreck. Fortunately, the manual foot pump had been replaced with an inflatable hand pump with built in pressure gauge. It cost about $40. The gauge was full of salt and sand after the shipwreck, but I was able to take it apart and clean it. Works fine now. It only takes 5 or 10 minutes to pump up the boat by hand, and that's for an old fat guy like myself.

The last annoying thing is that the swivel clips that hold the seats are prone to corrosion. They might have survived in a fresh water environment, but salt water ate them up. Just replaced all eight of them for about $23.

All in all I've been very happy with the boat and the company. I'm not being paid by Sea Eagle, I'm just a satisfied customer. The boat has stood up to years of use and abuse. If your life ever depends on an inflatable boat, best to get a decent one.


Monday, August 14, 2017

A nomad's financial life

Some people have asked me how I take care of finances while on the road. It's easier than it used to be, but there are some hidden problems.

Back when my lovely wife and I were first on the road, the only Internet was dial-up and there were still payphones everywhere. My monthly check was deposited automatically in the bank. I'd use prepaid phone cards to call the bank to check up on my finances. A number of my bills were paid over the phone. I actually memorized all those phone numbers and access codes. One of main things is that I'd seriously simplified my finances back then. There were just not a lot of bills that had to be paid. Since my mail was going to one of my daughter's, she was kind enough to let me know when bills I had not planned for came in. I'd write and mail her a check then she'd pay the bill.

Now everyone has a cell phone, free wifi is common, and most businesses have on-line payment options. I take care of on-line business about twice a month. In the beginning of the month most bills are paid. There are a few that don't become due until later in the month, so I get to those about the second or third week of the month. Easy enough.

Before leaving I used to have my mail forwarded to my dad's place in Florida. He'd just toss it all into a box. When we'd be in his part of Florida, we'd stop in for a visit and would also catch up with our snail mail. Even in the days of on-line payment, there are a few odd bills that I write paper checks for. They tend to be things like small quarterly payments to my lovely wife's life insurance. Now that dad has passed, I'll have to figure out another way to deal with those odd bills. Maybe by now they've added on-line payments?

So we have Internet access, plus debit and credit cards for traveling money. In general, I'm a big believer in dealing with small local banks. That's great -until you have a problem with your debit card. I've discovered that the post office will not forward debit cards. If your card expires when on the road, you are out of luck.

There are a couple of ways around that. My lovely wife's debit cards have different expiration dates than mine. We might have to stick together when shopping but at least one of our cards usually works. Another way is to have an account at a nation wide bank. While my local bank would not ship a new card to me, the big name International banks have no problems doing so.

Of course, having some cash is pretty handy too. There are few problems with carrying big wads of cash. Okay, first you have to get a big wad of cash. Your cash could be stolen. It might get stolen by the police. In some areas they routinely confiscate cash as evidence of wrong doing. Also it's nearly impossible to rent a car just using cash.

I've had some other issues come up on the road. Back when I had medical insurance, they did not cover me out of their service area, which only included New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Not much good in Florida. That's one of the reasons I dropped it. No sense paying for insurance I could only use half the time.

Some people have asked me what I'd do if the Internet went down for a long period of time and I could not pay my bills. Well, if that happened, paying off a credit card while on the road would be the least of my worries.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Potassium Iodide

Potassium iodide is flying off the shelves. Nothing like the threat of nuclear war to help sales along. A lot of people are buying it because they know it's supposed to protect against radiation. It doesn't, exactly. What it does is flood your thyroid gland not allowing it to uptake radioactive iodine isotopes. Since your thyroid gland is “full” there's no room for the radioactive bits to get in.

Thyroid protection is good, but that's all it does. Not only that, there are potential side effects, nausea, diarrhea, headache, depression and potential allergic reactions. You should research the full range of possible problems.

Potassium iodide does not protect against other radioactive particles. Is it worth getting? That's up to you. As for myself I've keep some in my home and vehicles for years. At the time I was more concerned about malfunctioning nuclear power plants. After all, we've had Chernobyl and Fukushima. I don't consider it unreasonable to protect against a type of disaster that's happened twice.

Unfortunately, you'll probably pay top dollar for the pills now. It's up to you to decide if they are worth having or not. I bought some because there are so few ways to mitigate radiation poisoning that any little bit helps.

Wikipedia has a pretty good introduction to Potassium Iodide. Unlike many sources of information, they aren't trying to see you any pills, so they are worth checking out.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

How do you go back to the real world?

Do you ever wonder what happens to people when the adventure ends? What does a person do after they've hiked the Appalachian Trail, lived on a boat, or traveled the country in a van? What is the rest of their story like?

Most of them have a really hard time adjusting to “real” life. Take the hikers for example. Some find ways to keep hiking. They may work six months of the year, then hike the next six months. Often the next hike they want to do is the Pacific Coast Trail. A few try to do a balance of work/hiking. They end up moving to an area where they can do a lot of day and overnight hikes. I have known a few who got stuck in the 9 to 5 world, but they were depressed alcoholics.

In the boating world, when someone moves off a boat back onto land it's called, “swallowing the anchor.” Boaters have such colorful terms for everything. Some go back to living in the real world, but darn few look happy about it. Often they look for other adventures. Some go traveling in an RV, have motorcycle adventures in Europe, or find some other adventure. One guy I knew went from being captain of a classic schooner to being a full time wilderness canoe guide. He felt canoes were a lot less work and responsibility.

As for myself, I haven't had a real job since 1993. The idea of going to an office and wearing a tie appalls me. Working full time for someone else is a horror thought. I'm willing to do a lot of creative things to avoid a normal regular life. As I see it, modern normal life isn't normal. Okay, maybe it is for some people, but not for me. Even my last “real” job, firefighter, wasn't normal. Running into burning buildings that the rats are trying to leave isn't normal.

If you've got the adventure gene it's tough to fit in. Maybe if you've never done any long term adventure, the gene can remain dormant. Once it's woken up, there's no hope for it. Just accept that you've got to do something different. Eventually age or illness catches up with all of us and we have to dial things back. However, some people die before they've ever really lived.


Friday, August 11, 2017


Miami and New Orleans were both recently flooded by heavy rains. Miami is barely above sea level, the limestone it's built on is porous, and parts of the city flood every time there's a high tide. New Orleans could be flooded just by turning the pumps off. If I had a job that required I live in either of those cities, I'd live on a boat.

You don't have to live in a coastal city to have flooding issues. Our cities are built to handle normal weather. A “100 year flood,” is one of those things they don't build for. The only problem is that those “100 year floods,” seem to come around every three or four years.

My state of NH did a study where they discovered that our rain events were becoming more intense. Storms drop a lot more water in a shorter period of time. They've quietly been making improvements like digging drainage ditches deeper and replacing small culverts with much larger ones.

I live 1000 feet above sea level. If I'm ever flooded out, it would have to be a civilization ending event of Biblical proportions. That doesn't mean I'm not affected by flooding. Some years it's been impossible to get into town because all the roads were washed out.

The last thing you want to do is to drive through a flooded area. It might look like there's only six inches of water on the road. However, that water may be hiding the fact a 6 foot culvert is completely washed out. People also tend to underestimate the power of flowing water. Water is heavy and can easily push cars and even large trucks around.

You also want to avoid wading in flood water if you can. There's the threat of being injured on submerged debris, but that's just the start of your worries. Sewage treatment plants, septic systems, chemical storage areas, gas stations, and other places with hazardous chemicals get flooded. Flood waters are a mix of infectious toxic sludge.

There are some problems with flooding that many people don't think about. One of major problems is that while there is water everywhere, none if it is fit to drink. Most people rely on water treatment plants for the their water. When those get flooded you are out of luck. Have a decent backup supply. Water filters are good, but they may not be able to handle the bacteria, virus, and chemical loads in the flood water.

Another issue is fire. Seems counter intuitive, I know. Think about it, flood water can short out electrical systems causing fires. People who lose power may set their house on fire by using candles and camp stoves. Due to the flooding, small fires become large ones because the fire department cannot respond.

Make sure you have water and food. Practice fire safety. Don't be in a hurry to get anywhere. Even Noah's flood eventually drained away. Of course, Noah wasn't in New Orleans.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

North Korea Endgame

I try not to panic when North Korea does a bit of saber rattling. The difference right now is that they may actually have a saber to rattle. The intelligence briefings don't come across my desk, but it appears they could have missile ready nukes. About twenty years ago under the Bush administration it looked like we could have had a diplomatic solution, but that never came to pass. Now we are stuck with the fallout from that failure. Maybe real fallout.

US options are pretty limited right now. Economic sanctions have not worked. It's not like North Korea was ever tightly connected to the world's economy in the first place. Apparently Kim has even managed to somewhat improve the economy since he came into power.

So what does the US do? We sail a few aircraft carriers off the coast. Some bombers fly around a bit. Sometimes troops and equipment in South Korea get shuffled about, like chess pieces that never threaten the king. After decades of this the North can't take the threat all that seriously, can they? While all this was going on, the North Koreans were testing atomic weapons and mastering missile technology.

It doesn't look like a diplomatic solution is likely. In fact, the Trump administration has cut funding in that area. Trump himself has upped the rhetoric and seems to be cribbing Kim's “Death to all” vocabulary. So that's a change from the past. Where will it lead? Will Kim assume that Trump is just blowing smoke and ignore him? That would make the President look weak.

One option is for Kim to launch an attack on US assets. He's threatened US cities and the US base at Guam. I'm not sure about the North being able to hit US cities, but an attack on Guam is definitely within their capabilities. What happens after that is anyone's guess. However, I don't think it will end with the US taking its lumps and backing off.

That would be just the excuse Trump and the military needs to attack North Korea. The United States could decide that Kim's nukes have to go and attack the nuclear facilities. One handy thing about attacking nuclear weapon production areas, the US could even use tactical nukes and claim the radiation is from the North's nuclear program. Don't tell me they haven't thought of that.

Don't think the US would never attack first. We do it all time. If Trump feels threatened by a possible impeachment, a good little war would be the perfect distraction. One cannot rule out the possibility.

So how does this end? It will be a quick little war and everyone would be home before Christmas. Wait, no, that was WWI. That didn't turn out so well either. China and Russia would not be happy with a nasty little war right on their doorstep. Last time that happened a zillion Chinese “volunteers” swarmed across the border.

South Korea would suffer greatly. Their capital is within heavy artillery range of the North. It doesn't even take high tech weapons to devastate the country. Their military, while smaller than that of the North, is better equipped and trained. Then there is the little issue of US troops on the ground. Our men and women would be involved from day one.

Japan would probably get involved. North Korea threatens them all the time too. They are pretty close geographically, so there would be plenty of opportunity for conflict. In recent years Japan has been strengthening their military and quietly flexing their muscles. The official pacifism of the post WWII years has steadily eroded.

If I had to bet, my guess would be that any sort of military action would quickly or eventually spiral out of control into a greater conflict. Millions would die.

If you are prepper, your very last get out of Dodge moment will be when military action starts. If you are lucky you'll have enough time to leave the cities. However, if the first attack is on a major US city, then forget about it. Transportation out of all major cities would soon gridlock. If you are lucky your warning will be either something like a North Korean attack on Guam, or a US surgical strike on Kim's nukes. That might give you enough of a head start.

One thing for sure is that situation is not going to remain static. Something is going to happen. Cooler heads and diplomacy? Yeah, that would be nice.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Technology Creep

I tend to be a late adopter of most technologies. There are exceptions to that, but they are special cases.

First of all, to be clear, I'm old enough to predate GPS, cell phones, the Internet, and satellite communications in general. When hiking through the woods, the height of technology was a map and compass. When I went out in the woods,it was assumed that I would be out of contact for the duration.
Back then we carried a copy of AMC's Guidebook to the White Mountains. It covered a much larger area than just the Whites. There were detailed descriptions of hiking trails with estimates of hiking times. The back of the book had sleeves containing an assortment of very good topographical maps.

I happened to love the isolation. Some people would bring a transistor radio hiking not to lose track of what was going on in the world. For me, it wasn't worth the weight. The world could go on just fine without me. The first time I saw a cell phone out in the woods, my impulse was to rip it from the guy's hand and toss it over the cliff. I held back from doing it but I knew the glorious isolation was gone.

I just watched a YouTube video of someone who's about to take their boat through the Everglades. That's the land beyond cell phone service. When I went through there in 2015 on my sailboat, I didn't get cell service until we had crossed Florida Bay and were hitting the Keys. We had a short range VHS radio that also provided weather broadcasts. Navigation was with a simple handheld GPS, compass, and paper charts.

The boaters in the video were pretty freaked out about being out of cell phone range. Their solution was to purchase a Garmin inReach Explorer+ Satellite Communication device. It provides tracking, electronic charts, and two way text capabilities. They will never be out of contact.

There are gains in safety, but the world is just a little smaller and a bit less exciting. Except for me, as my pockets aren't deep enough for such a device. I have to watch my budget to run a new coax cable up the mast for my base VHS radio. 99% of the time the little handheld radio is sufficient, but the larger in-boat unit with an antenna on top of the mast gives more range.

Will I ever get a satellite communication device? Not in the short term, but prices are dropping all the time. At some point I might have one on board just for the extra bit of safety. Although most of the time I'm not even using the electronics I do have. I turn on the GPS, get a compass bearing, then turn the unit off until the next way point. No need to wear out the batteries.

Personally, I really respect those Polynesians who could navigate the sea just by observing the world around them. The sky and sea told them everything they needed to know.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dirty Boat Launch

My lovely wife and I gave up on trying to get the boat clean before launch. We weren't making a lot of progress. The boat was parked in a cramped area under trees. Every time it rained the boat got dirty all over again. Since the mast was down we had a lot of standing rigging laying around in the cockpit. That was a pain to work around.

A few days ago we discovered a problem that needed fixing before launch. The scupper drain was dumping right in the bilge instead of out of the boat. My 10 year old granddaughter was able to reach the offending part with her tiny hands. Then it was a simple matter of putting everything back in place.

Even though the boat was pretty dirty, it felt good to get out on the water. The sailor dog really enjoyed it too.

Most of the crud from trees washed off with water and rags. A little bleach should take care of the trouble spots. Fortunately, the cabin was in good shape. A simple wipe down should be all it needs.

Both my wife and I are still recovering from leg injuries so launching took longer than normal. The rigging needed to be untangled, and hardware had gone walkabout. It was pretty annoying to be unable to find the original parts. I rigged a substitute from the spares, only to discover the original bits once out on the water.

It feels good to have the boat on the lake and in working order. We did a lot more sailing around than cleaning, so it was a fine day.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Places to go, things to do

We have a friend who posts on Facebook all the events she says she's going to. Maybe she'd like to go to them, but it's physically impossible to be two places at once. The poor girl overbooks like crazy. My lovely wife and I have a saying: we can't be at all the places doing all the things. There are only so many hours in the day, and only so many resources at our disposal. You have to pick and choose.

For years I've been looking to sail the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) from mile marker 1 all the way to southern Florida. I even had a nice ICW guidebook for the trip. That was lost in our shipwreck before we even got a chance to use it. Oh well, such is life.

We came very close to doing it this fall, but then I woke up one morning and decided it wasn't the year to buy a bigger boat. While it's possible to do it in an Oday 19, it would not be very comfortable for us. We decided to do one more year of shallow water sailing. The little Oday is well suited for the shallow waters of Florida's Gulf Coast, Florida Bay and the Keys. There are some pretty cool places that you can't get into with a greater than 3 foot draft. We figure the ambulance/camper van has at least one more long road in it. After that, who knows? For now it's a pretty good tow vehicle for the sailboat.

Here it is August and we are making winter plans, but it's not too early. There are places we want to go that will require reservations well in advance. Fortunately, there are also plenty of places where we can probably get into by just showing up. We have back up plans in case those places are not available. In a pinch we can always dry camp for the night as the van is pretty self contained.

One of the things I'd like to get before the trip is a decent waterproof camera. Camera phones have come a long way, but having a stand alone camera would be nice. My poor phone is already doing heavy duty as everything from a chart plotter to the heart of a music system.

Yesterday my lovely wife and I made a list of all things we have to do before we go. It's a long list. Some things are more critical than others so it's good to have it written down. Of course, if you know anything about lists, they tend to never get much shorter as new things are added. Eventually enough of the critical stuff is done and it's time to go.

My lovely wife and I are looking forward to doing some more traveling. There's a lot of things to do here in New England and Canada before the snow flies. Let's not even start on the house projects yet to do.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Snorkel Gear

I just ordered some new snorkel gear. It's good exercise and I do live on a lake. Swim fins that fit are not easy to find. My feet take something around a size 14/15. Most shops do not have those in stock, but Amazon does. The selection of diving gear is pretty limited here in the mountains. The only gear readily available is pretty cheaply made. The best option is to order equipment on-line. Decent equipment doesn't cost all that much and makes all the difference in the world.

One of the things I'd like to check out is how the swing keel on the sailboat functions. It will be easier to check it out in the water that to try and jack the boat up on land. Also, this winter we've been planing a lot of sailing off the coast of Florida. It doesn't take long for marine growth to get out of hand on a boat's bottom. Being able to clean it off might come in handy.

One of the things I'd like to do is to snorkel some of the coral reefs in the Florida Keys, before they are all gone. My lovely wife and I have been doing some planning for our winter excursion. An extended trip through Florida Bay and the Keys makes a lot of sense. Having the right gear to truly explore the marine environment will make the trip that much better.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Short Arm of the Law

We've all heard about the “long arm of the law.” Well, out here in the country we have “the short arm of the law.”

Just like Starbucks, pizza delivery, and EMS service, “the law” does not have much of a service area out in the hinterland. Oh, they'll eventually make their way to the sticks, but they'll show up like your pizza would: too late to satisfy.

There's a saying out in the country, we don't have 911 we have guns. That's true enough. Sure, just about everyone has 911 -if they have some sort of phone. Might be a landline since cell service is spotty. We don't call 911 when someone is trying to break into our house. We call 911 so they can send someone around to pick up the body.

Okay, that makes the country sound kinda grim. Yes, we tend to be well armed. Mostly that's because a lot of us grew up hunting. Wild game on the table is no surprise. Country people know they might have to shoot a fox in the hen house or discourage a bear. Target shooting is loads of fun and many of us have ranges in our backyards.

Just as important as firearms is having neighbors you can trust. We don't even have to particularly like each other or agree politically. If one of us has a car stuck in the snow, you get out and help push. Maybe you'll be the one who needs something next time. Your neighbors are a lot closer than the police are. Best to be on civil terms with them.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Your Garden Won't Feed You

Don't count on your garden feeding you in a collapse situation. I don't care if you are a really good gardener and are currently growing a lot of your food now. In a collapse situation that food might go to someone else.

Gardens are easy to raid. I bet you have a good idea about who has a garden in your neighborhood and who doesn't. If you have a garden, people know. If food is in short supply everyone will be thinking a lot about your garden. Unless it's fenced in and under 24/7 guard it will become a target.

Right now in “normal” times, I know people who have problems with their gardens being raided. A friend has neighbors who are all upper middle class to outright rich. He isn't and depends on the food he grows. His neighbors think nothing of walking off with veggies. Imagine how it will be when times get bad.

When times are truly tight, people won't even wait for the food to grow. They will come in the night and dig up your seed potatoes right out of the ground. Weeks later you will wonder why your potato crop never came up. It's happened in the past. It will happen in the future.

So what can you do? Store a lot of stored food and write off the garden, at least for the first year. If you are in a rural off the the beaten path place, your garden might stand a chance -if guarded. Having hidden garden patches can work. The trick is that they have to be plant them and forget them crops, like sunchokes. If you have to hike out to your secret plots every couple of days it won't work. Every time you leave your homestead, you are in a higher danger situation. You could be followed to those plots. Going there all the time will make trails for others to follow. Remember to bring a guard to watch your back as your work.

Hungry people are desperate people. Your garden does not stand a chance against the human locusts.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Glues and screws

Sometimes it's is the small things that matter. Lots and lots of small things. If you are going to do your own repairs, you are going to need a lot of glues and screws. (and nails and zip ties and wires and duct tape and what not)

One thing about living out in the country, the hardware store is not around the corner. You've got to have a good selection of fastening hardware. Often a few screws and a bit of glue at the right time saves you major work later.

Having the proper bits and bobs can make all the difference. Screwing down loose flashing can save your roof from blowing away. When disaster does hit it's critical to have hardware on hand to effect repairs. After a disaster the lines at the hardware store can be just as big as the lines as the gas stations.

Ever since I started living out in the country I've made a point to keep a good selection of hardware on hand. As a practical matter, it's a pain to drive into town when all you need is a half dozen wood screws. Over the years my piles of odds and ends has gotten pretty big. When you buy stuff by the pound, the left overs add up.

Really organized people keep everything stored in various labeled jars and cans. Too bad I'm not one of those people. I do have a pretty good idea where everything is located -unless my lovely wife gets into my stuff and cleans and organizes. Then all bets are off. Oh well. That's why I keep my junk it several places. Yes, even my junk has backup.

Remember the proverb: for want of a nail the kingdom was lost.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sudden Changes of Plans

My lovely wife and I have been known to change plans at the drop of a hat. One time we were heading from mid Florida to our registered camping sites in the Everglades. While heading south we got the idea that it would be nicer in the Ocala National Forest the next few days. I turned the car around. She got on the phone, canceled our previous reservations and made new ones on the fly.

Well, Monday we were going to head down to the coast to look at some boats. The idea was that we'd pick up a boat on the coast, sort it out, then head south by October. Any later than that and the odds of getting caught in a snowstorm go way up.

Monday morning comes along it occurs to me that I really don't want to miss October in the North Country. It's a beautiful time of year. My lovely wife and I had a little discussion. While she was willing to head out early, she's just as happy to leave later. Instead of buying a larger boat, we will do one more winter with our trailer sailor. There are a lot of special spots along the coast of Florida that can only be accessed with a shallow draft boat. The Oday 19's 4' 4” draft drops to just one foot with the swing keel lifted.

While a larger shallow draft sailboat would be nice, I'm not going to go out of my way to find one. The one we have can do the job just fine. Getting a larger sailboat for long term living aboard can wait. There will be boat deals again next year. I got on the phone and told the boat broker that we would not be viewing the boat and he can show it to the other potential buyers.

Rather than stretch the budget on boats, I'm going to do some much delayed work on the house. Leaving later also gives us more time to get back into condition after our injuries.

Of course, being who we are, our plans could change again. We are having a blast figuring it all out.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Racing the bank

One of my banks decided to a complete shutdown of their on-line banking on the last day of the month. That's when a lot of people get paid. I know I do. There was a narrow window between when my money was deposited and when they were shutting down the service. I quickly logged on and transferred my funds to where they needed to go.

Now I could have driven into town and walked into the bank and gotten a wad of bills. Then I'd drive all over town doing my business, just like in the days of the pioneers. Okay, that's doable, but a royal pain.

I happened to be local, so at least I could have done it. The problem is that I just as easily could have been two thousand miles away from the nearest branch of my bank. Having my funds locked up while away is no fun at all. It's happened before when my debit card was deemed to be fraudulent, for no known reason whatsoever. No matter how had I tried and how often the bank assured me the problem was fixed, it wasn't fixed.. Fortunately, my lovely wife's debit card, on the very same account, worked fine.

The obvious solution is to travel with a significant amount of cash. The problem with that is you stand a good chance of getting robbed, by the police. In many jurisdictions they confiscate cash as evidence of illegal activity. Good luck on ever getting it back.

Okay, these may seem like minor inconveniences to some people. For me they are red flags. When a country's financial system is falling apart, one of the things they do is currency controls. They make it much harder to move money around. They make it especially hard to move money out of the country.

Do I think this is the start of currency collapse? Probably not. However, it's one of those things you look for. On a practical level, I've the annoying problem of how I'm going to keep my bills paid when traveling.