Saturday, September 30, 2017

Near and Medium Term Plans

It's been about a week, and I'm far from better. However, I am on the mend. Sadly, my lovely wife just came down with whatever it is I've got. She's been working herself pretty hard lately and it caught up to her.

I hope to get to my water well project in a few days. Amazon has some pretty inexpensive endoscopes so I went ahead and ordered a 10 meter one. That should allow me to find the problem. The buried line can be checked from both ends. There will only be about 6 feet that I won't be able to see. If the problem doesn't show up in the scope, it's in the 6 foot section I can't reach. Between the scope and a drum auger, any blockage should be able to be cleared up. The problem could be a leak, but the scope should find that. If the scope saves me from digging up 66 feet of line, that's a good thing.

Hopefully I can sort out the water situation soon. The temporary surface line is working out, but eventually freezing temps will arrive.

With luck, the weather will hold long enough to get some projects done on the van and sailboat. We've pushed out travel plans off until after New Years. That will give more time for places like the Florida Keys to recover. They are a tourist area and if I can spend some time and money down there that will help out a bit.

Some people have suggested that I film my trips and put up a You Tube channel. There are people making a good income from posting sailing adventures. However, there's only a few making real money at it. After doing some research I figured out a ballpark estimate of what the top 10 sailing vlogs make. The top end is somewhere around $300,000. That includes money from You Tube, Patreon, endorsements, sponsorship and other things. By the time you get to number 10 on the list, the income has already dropped to about $30,000. While that's nothing to sneeze at, your budget gets blown if you need a new sail or major engine repair.

Make no mistake about it, filming sailing in paradise is a job. There's an investment in cameras, audio gear, computers for editing, software and other odds and ends. Putting out a weekly video takes a lot of time and effort. Then you have to search around to find a high speed connection to upload the video. Instead of seeing the sights, you are spending 12 hours at a wifi hotspot trying upload on a dodgy signal.

You also need to look good on camera. Being young, fit, and having bikini clad young ladies on the boat is a huge plus. It's not absolute necessary, but sex sells.

Being lazy, I'm going to continue operate on a shoestring budget on old and small boats. I will post photos and do my best to keep the blog up to date. Text and a few photos are not nearly as data intensive as video.

That being said, I did buy a well rated cheap knockoff of a gopro camera. There may be the occasional video clip included. The learning curve is steep as I've never done much filming of any sort before.

So if all goes well, the fall projects will wrap up in the next couple weeks. Then we'll do the final prep for winter and spring travel.


Friday, September 29, 2017

The New People

One thing about the Internet -it's easy to find like minded people. You can get together on social media and have a community of sorts. That may provide some emotional support, but that's about all. It's hard to provide real world assistance when your “community” is scattered across the planet.

Then there are actual brick and mortal communities -places with neighborhoods and public spaces. Every community has people who are outside the community norm. Sometimes they are tolerated. Other times they are shunned. Once in a while they are just considered local color. If you are moving into a place, it helps to move someplace where strangers are welcome, not just tolerated or worse.

In the past few years I'm become friends with a number of people new to the area. They are attracted by a number of factors: relatively low housing costs, easy access to nature, walk-able city, no sales or income tax. We are also getting people who find our area fairly welcoming and tolerant. While people in the area have always been friendly, it used to take three generations to be considered a local. That's changed a lot, even in my lifetime.

I think that greater numbers of people are aware of the real value of community. If you have no friends and share few values with the people where you live, it might be time to move. When times get tough, you are going to need to be around people who will help you out. Finding your tribe is important. One woman who I talked to said she lived in many different places, but this is the first time she's ever felt like part of a tribe. It's not about finding people who'll always agree with you. It's about finding people who can acknowledge differences and still like you anyway.

It's can be tough living here. Winters are brutal. Good jobs can be hard to come by. Many people end up working several part time jobs to make ends meet. The social and political environment will not be to everyone's liking. That's fine.

The Internet can be a really useful tool when looking for a place to move to. You can get a pretty good idea what an area is like with some in-depth on-line research. Then you should probably visit the area for a while, to see how it feels. Some things have to be experienced in person.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Generator or Solar?

What works best in a grid down situation?

I'm not going to lie. You get the best bang for your buck from a generator. A generator big enough to run a freezer and an AC unit can be had for less than $500. Enough solar electricity to do the same job will cost you thousands.

If all you are concerned about is having enough backup power to last a few days, by all means, get a generator. Make sure you know how to use it safely. Gas storage, electrical connections and carbon monoxide poisoning are all serious issues that must be dealt with.

Where a generator starts to fall down is during a long term outage. Storing fuel for weeks or months worth of use is not cheap. It's also probably prohibited by your town's safety codes. There are reasons for that. Bulk fuel storage is a specialized operation requiring proper equipment and training.

So how does solar stack up long term? The best part of solar electric systems is the fact that they just work. No need to tinker with them. No handling fuel. They are quiet and reliable.

What kind of system do you need? Like everything else, that depends. Ideally, you have a system on your house that pays for itself day in, day out. When the grid goes down you might not even notice as the system smoothly goes to battery backup. Now some worry that roof mounted panels could be damaged in a hurricane. True, but your roof will probably be flying off at that point and you'll have greater problems than a lack of electricity. Some people have had success with temporarily removing the panels and tossing them in a swimming pool for safety.

Even a small system can make a huge difference in your quality of life. A 100 watt panel, deep discharge battery, charge controller, and a small inverter costs no more than a cheap generator. It won't power your freezer, but it will charge your phone, keep a light on, power a fan, and do other light jobs. It will also do it long after your neighbor's generator has run out of gas.

If you've got an RV or a travel trailer, or even a van, you've no excuse not to have solar mounted on the vehicle. It makes dry camping much easier. You can drive the vehicle out of harm's way. When you get back to your home, you have a power source available for fixing your house.

Another option is to build a power trailer. Take a cheap utility trailer, mount a battery bank, panels, and associated electronic and you are good to go. These are great where there are ordinances against having solar panels on your roof. I know people in that situation. They park the trailer in the driveway or behind the house and snake a power cord to to the house to run a few items year round.

This power trailer was built to power concerts in areas beyond the grid. It has better quality electronics than most because it powers high end audio equipment.

The thing with generators and solar, it doesn't have to be an either/or situation. They can work well together. For example, a generator might be run for just a few hours a day -just enough to keep the freezer cold and to cool the house down a bit. The solar electric system runs full time to power lights, a radio, and charge electronics. That stretches out your generator's fuel supply.

Waiting for the grid to come back up is a terrible feeling. It's even worse when you have no power at all, your phone is dead, and radios don't work. Backup power can be a life saver, and it always provides some peace of mind.



I'm still dealing with being sick. My strategy has been to try and sleep it off. Still in the middle of it. My lovely wife has taking good care of me. While I've been out of it, she's decided to clean my office. You've no idea what a herculean task that is. Progress has been made.

While sick I've been missing out on some of the warmest weather we've ever had for the end of September. Temperatures hit 90 yesterday. That's insane. Gardens and flowers are still out in force. We've yet to have a frost. That's unheard of here in the northern mountains of New Hampshire.

I'm going back to bed. One day I'll wake up and be well.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Puerto Rico

There's a lot of survivalist fiction that tries to depict what life would be like in a grid down situation. In Puerto Rico, that hypothetical disaster has become reality. The whole island lost power, millions are in the dark, and there's no firm estimate when it will be back.

Puerto Rico is in a strange place politically. It's a US territory. Its citizens are US citizens. However, they don't have the same rights that citizens in a US state would have. That puts the island in a sort of limbo. It's economic problems have been getting worse for many months. The way its government is set up, they have very little power to fix things themselves. For years the mainland has taken advantage of the island's status. Big businesses made a lot of money on the island and gave very little back.

It's history is important, but the main issue is what happens now. We have very spotty information on how bad it really is there. Communications are so bad that the governor himself can't reach most of the island.

What has come out doesn't sound good. Hospitals are shutting down as their generators run out of fuel. Emergency services are overwhelmed. A dusk to dawn curfew is in effect. There are stories of looting and violent crime. Authorities are stretched thin.

The United States, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, will be judged on how it reacts to the crisis. They are US citizens, just as deserving of aid as Texas or Florida. For that matter, don't forget the US Virgin Islands, another US territory in need.

If the emergency response isn't strong enough, Puerto Rico's citizens have only one viable option for a normal life. As US citizens, they are free to come to the mainland. Don't be too surprised of the vast majority of the three million residents leave the island. Get ready to welcome your new neighbors.

It may be days, weeks, or months before the general public has a firm grasp on the situation -if they are still interested. By then the nation will have moved on. We should not forget and help as much as we can.

Now imagine if there was a massive EMP or solar storm that knocked out the power in most of the US. It's a possibility. If we can't restore power to a couple of islands, how well would a nationwide blackout be handled?


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Under the weather

I've come down with something: cough, fever and all that. Due to my lung issues I really suffer when I get a cough. Just to make things interesting, my cough syncope has come back. What that means is that sometimes when I cough, I pass out.

At least the weather is nice for the foreseeable future. That will give me time to get better before the cold sets in.

Of course, my water well project has been set back. I've got a drum Auger with 1/4" x 25' Spring Cable on order. First I'm going to check the lower end by the well. If that's clear, then I'll fish it in from the basement. That should allow me to check most of the line for the blockages.

M. Silvius suggested I get hold of a camera that can be snaked down the pipe. If the spring cable is inconclusive, that's what I'm going to do. Anything is better than finding the problem area by digging it all up. We've got technology these days.

Right now I'm not doing anything at all but trying to recover. Pretty annoying to have this setback. I was just starting to do more walking to get back in condition. That's going to have to wait too. Such is life.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Cruisers going dark

I follow a lot of sailing blogs, podcasts and YouTube channels. The Caribbean and Florida interests me so I've concentrated on those who sail in those waters. Lots of those boaters got hit by the hurricanes. Not all of them have been accounted for. Only a handful have survived in relatively good condition.

A few got out of the hurricane zone in time. Some got lucky and missed the worse of the storm. Those who survived in the zone did so with good planning and lots of luck. Even if your boat is well prepared, it could get hit by another boat that broke loose. It appears that's what happened to many boats in the Boot Key mooring field in the Keys. Boats would break free and collide with other boats and so on.

One of my concerns are some of the boating communities that don't have a public presence. People like to think of boaters are wealthy people who have expensive toys. While there are some like that, many are people without much money. They are eking out a living on old boats. They live at anchor, working low wage jobs or living on small pensions.

There are anchorages of those people all over Florida. The anchoring field off of Key West comes to mind. It's a pretty sketchy anchorage at the best of times. Even minor storms cause boats to drag at anchor. There's also a significant low rent boating district off of Bradenton Beach. My lovely wife and I have anchored there a few times ourselves.

What concerns me is that these people are pretty far off the grid at the best of times. Many of them could go down with their boat and nobody would notice. People come and go all the time. Who's to say whether or not someone moved on or sank to the bottom?

Why should we care? Well, first of all, they are human beings like everyone else. That should be enough. There is more though, they are free people, not tied down to the rat race. I, for one, was excited to learn that there were people out there living good lives on less than $500/month. It's like they found a cheat code to life.

At the best of times, they are tolerated. Often they would be harassed by waterfront property owners who did no like to look at them. Law enforcement knows who pays their wages, and it's not the sea hobos on old boats. I'm sure many of those rich property owners don't care if those boaters survived the storms or not -as long as they are gone.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Lake Party

We had some people over for a party the other day. We got to introduce people to each other who live in the area but had not spent any time together. There were some great conversations and some new friendships made.

There was a new guy who just moved into the area. He's spent six months working on sailboats in the Virgin Islands. He was trying to learn everything he could about boats. He did every kind of work imaginable, even those nasty jobs deep in the bilge.

He reached a point where he had to decide on if he'd stay on boats or do something else. He decided to move to New Hampshire. A fried if his was moving into the area so he had a place to stay. The guy started a knife sharpening business and got into the local music scene. He connected with a fellow musician at the party. They made plans to work together.

The new guy was telling me that of the nine boats he worked on in the islands, every one of them sank. All were total losses. I think he made a good decision to come to New Hampshire.

We had a good gathering. The weather was perfect. The sunset over the lake was amazing. Later we gathered around the campfire. It was nice to learn things about people I've known for years, but never really knew. The addition of new good people to our area is always a plus.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Back to the well

My lovely wife is finished with her painting project. I'm back to trying to puzzle out my water well issues.

I figured a way to back flush the supply line. It took some time to get everything set up. Eventually I found enough connectors and clamps to cobble something together.

After back flushing the line for a long time, I hooked up the pump to the old line. There was no significant improvement. Right now I'm leaning towards the line being partially crushed. It's come down to pick and shovel work. The first section I'm going to check is where the line comes into the basement. My lovely wife is going to help me move stuff out of the way so I can dig.

One spring I had to dig up the line there because it froze solid. Digging through frozen gravel was like digging through concrete. It took days to get that dug up and thawed out. Since that area gave me trouble once before, that's where I'm going to start. Fun, you bet!

It was frustrating to work most of the day and accomplish very little. At least I know what doesn't work. Also, I fabricated more robust connectors on my temporary supply line. That temporary solution might have to last for longer than I'd hoped.

I'm not angry or upset. Stuff happens. All I can do is to keep plugging away at it until a solution is found. It's a puzzle that has to be solved, that's all.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Prepper with a gun and MREs

A friend of mine was telling me about a guy who called himself a prepper. My buddy got to talk to the young man. The guy had a car, a gun and a bunch of MREs. That's about it -no sleeping bag even. Not only was he short on gear, his skills were pretty limited. He could not start a campfire without lighter fluid.

My friend took him under his wing. The young man had a lot to learn, but he is willing and pays attention. One of the big lessons was that prepping isn't just for the end of the world with no rules or laws. You are much more likely going to need gear and skills for things like storms that take the grid down. He even got across the idea that being prepared can help you with common things like a bout of unemployment.

My buddy is helping the young man, but is also helping the community. A man with supplies and skills are an asset during an emergency. Someone who has little more than a gun can become one more problem to solve. If your only tool is a gun, everything needs shooting. I wonder how many people think being a prepper is nothing more than firearms and MREs?

Personally, I'm pretty concerned about people relying on MREs as survival food. Maybe they are fine as part of a varied food mix. Relying on them exclusively will get you into trouble. MREs were designed for people going into a combat situation. They are very low in fiber. The idea is that troops literally will not be caught with their pants down. Unfortunately, you won't poop for a month if those are all you eat. That can't be good for you.

There may be times when the lighter weight and ease of preparation make dehydrated meals a good choice. If you have to stock up on dehydrated meals go with food designed for backpackers. Most people think the taste is better and you can get meals with enough fiber for healthy living. Neither MREs or backpacker meals are cheap. Most of my stored foods are things like wheat, rice, beans and normal grocery store foods.

I have 30 day buckets of dehydrated backpacker means in my van and in my boat. They don't take up a lot of room and are very stable. Sometimes it makes sense to spend a bit more money to save weight and space. Even so, even on my vehicles, most of my day to day food is pretty normal stuff.

One thing you can about the guy with a gun and MREs -at least he didn't have just a gun.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Hurricanes and Sailing

Our friends in St. Thomas just survived another direct hurricane hit. Puerto Rico just lost its complete grid. We'll need some time before we learn how bad things are there.

The hurricane season is barely half over, and it's been a tough one. I follow a lot of sailing blogs and YouTube channels. Some boaters have retreated to the mangroves and their boats survived the storms. Other sailed south to get below the likely path of hurricanes. Many pulled their floating homes out of the water and secured them on land. A number, in spite of their precautions, lost their boats completely.

So, with all the destruction, how do I feel about sailing now? It's been a time for reflection, that's for sure. In the short term, we moved our departure date from the end of November to sometime in January. By then we should have a clearer idea what's going on.

We did not buy a bigger boat this year and I'm happy with that that decision. Next year, if we can swing it financially, we shall upgrade. We might get a bigger trailer sailor so we can get load the boat on a trailer and drive out of harm's way. Another option is to get a bigger boat but keep it out of the hurricane zones.

Originally, we thought we'd like to keep a boat in Florida during the summer. That no longer seems like a great idea. We can either sail up to New England in the spring or keep heading south below the normal hurricane zone.

It might seem crazy to even consider spending half our time on a boat. The thing is, we are water people and have not given up on the life.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Painting and hiding

My lovely wife is painting. I'm hiding from it. My damaged lungs are sensitive to paint fumes. Painting projects are planned for when I'm out of town for a few days. Unfortunately, the kitchen is taking longer to paint than she hoped.

There are a couple of fans going full blast. By the time we go to bed, I can tolerate being upstairs in the bedroom. The downstairs is pretty much off limits for a good part of the day. Yesterday I spent part of the evening out in the van.

I feel bad that I can't help her. Low VOC paints help, but are not perfect. At least I've been able to sand cupboard doors by removing them and taking them outside. We've had a good run of nice weather and are taking full advantage of it.

It's funny, my lovely wife is all concerned about the colors she picked out, worried that I might not like them. Anyone who does the painting can choose the color as far as I'm concerned.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Storm Deals

Most of you have seen pictures and video of the recent hurricane destruction. One really dramatic visual is of all the boats damaged by the storms. Ever wonder what that does to the second hand market?

While I don't want to sound like a vulture, it's a fact of life that wide scale disasters affect markets. The used boat market happens to be one of the more visible ones.

There's two things that most people think of. One is that there should be a lot of handyman specials out there. The second common thought is that with all those boats out of action, demand for boats should be high.

While there are some amazing deals for damaged boats, you have to be really careful. Make sure you have the skills, time, and place to work on a boat. Storm damaged boats are not like other older boats in need of repair. Boats that age through normal use have common and well documented issues. A buyer can research the problems areas and keep an eye out for them. A boat that's been picked off a house with a crane will have issues that are out of the ordinary. Close and in-depth inspections are in order. Many “free” boats will be too expensive to fix.

What about prices going up because so many boats were destroyed? It's not that straight forward. Many boat owners, who's boats were nowhere near the storms, suddenly decided to put their boats on the market. The once vague notion that hurricanes might be an issue becomes a pressing worry. Many are scared of being caught on their boat in a storm. Others don't want to worry about finding a safe place to store their boat during storm season. Insurance increases can also be a factor.

Then there are market forces that have nothing to do with hurricanes. This time of year, here in New England, the boat market has a lot of good deals. The boating season is quickly coming to an end. Boats will need to be pulled out of the water and put in storage. Owners are often willing to make a deal so that weatherization is someone else's problem.

While I'm at it, beware of used cars that were in the flood zone. They may look like a good deal. Then the electrical systems start to fail soon after you buy them. They can also rust in odd places because water gets trapped where it normally doesn't get into.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Three Days on the Road

I got in late last Sunday night after three days downstate. I was too tired to post my normal blog.

While I was gone my lovely wife started a painting project. Paint fumes cause problems for my damaged lungs so she tries to do these things while I'm away. The project appears to have gotten out of hand. House projects have a tendency to grow.

She had fans going full blast so I was able to sleep in my own bed last night. However, after today's painting I'm probably going to have to sleep out in the van. No biggie. The bed there is comfortable and she'll join me out there.

She's working on the kitchen right now, but I was able to move enough stuff around to start the coffee perking. Life is good.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Wounded Old and Treacherous

Nothing like an annoying long term injury to make a person feel old. Pushing 60 doesn't help either. I didn't feel old until that nasty leg infection laid me up for months. The injury, plus the lack of activity, really laid me low.

After a couple days of hard labor working around the house, I was done in. You know it's bad when you shake out two Ibuprofen. One falls on the ground so I take the first and wait for it to kick in before trying to bend down to pick up the second. I had to laugh at myself.

While I can't anything about the calendar, I can get in better condition. That's more important than ever right now. Some people age gracefully. Some just get more ornery. A friend's grandfather, a miserable old cuss pushing 80, used to get into bar fights. He'd kick the tar out of some cocky young guy. My friend and his dad would go down to the jail to bail the old guy out. He knew no one would ever press charges. What young guy wants to admit he got his backside handed to him by an old man?

I don't want to be a miserable old cuss, but I don't want to be a push over either. There are too many adventures to be had yet.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

More details from the ground

While my dad has passed and no longer lives in a FL retirement park, my lovely wife and I still know people who live there. This park is in Brooksville, maybe 50 miles north of Tampa. Early indication were that it wasn't that bad. Everyone we knew got out of the part and were in shelters or hotels.

Last night we got more details. While it wasn't anything like the devastation in the Keys, there were sections that did not do well at all. The two small ponds on the property became one good sized lake. Low lying trailers were flooded.

The scary part was the handful of trailers that had huge oaks come down on them. One of the things that made the park nice was all the shade from the mature trees. Those trees were less nice when falling over in high winds.

The power is still out in the park. In Florida, the lack of AC alone can do damage to a building. Black mold is always a concern. Many trailers were built with wafer board. Less expensive than plywood, it was especially popular with trailers built years ago. Heat and humidity can cause that material to basically fall apart.

I remember a housing development in another part of Florida that suffered from the 2008 housing crash. There were about 300 houses in the project. Very few of them were occupied when the developer when bust. After 6 months of being left without air conditioning, the walls weakened enough that the siding fell off. What a mess. Of course, during the housing boom a lot of construction was pretty slap dash.

I'm guessing that the longer the power outages lasts, the more houses will become unfit for habitation.


Friday, September 15, 2017

Temporary water fix

After a few days messing around with my well and pump, the house finally has water again. I suspected the water pressure was too low to trip the pressure switch. The last time that happened the pump was dying. This time, that wasn't the case. Turns out the problem is somewhere in the buried water line. This line is 66 feet long and 6 – 8 feet deep to get below the frost line.

My temporary solution was to run a hose directly from the pump to the house. It's not buried, so when the hard frosts arrive it will freeze. Fortunately, we are having a really nice September. Warm weather is predicted for 10 days out. That buys me some time.

I really do not want to have to dig up the whole line by hand. There are some trouble spots that I can check out first. There's a section that froze hard one year, so I'm going to check that first. Maybe it was weakened and didn't completely fail until now. With luck I'll find the problem and be able to splice in new line.

What I'd really want to do is to put a new well on my land across the street. It's up hill from the house so gravity would do most of the work. That's not in the budget right now. We were thinking of maybe getting a home loan to catch up on projects we've been putting off. We did not plan on that until the spring.

For this winter, we are going to make the old well work. Maybe when the water line freezes it'll be our cue to head south for the winter.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Water system problems

We've had water system problems for the last couple of days. Every other plan and project has been set on the back burner until we have reliable water again.

On the bright side, the well is full of water. It's a plumbing problem of some sort. So far I've replaced a check valve, a pressure switch and a pump. It pumps water up to the house, but the pressure might be too low. That's one more trip into town to pick up a new pressure gauge. That way I'll know for sure.

So far I've spent $400 without solving the problem. I don't feel too bad about the parts I've changed as they were all pretty worn. Better to replace them now than in December.

It's starting to look like the problem might be a damaged water line. Really really really hoped it was something else. The line is 66 feet long, buried between 6 – 8 feet to get below the frost line. It's in a very steep hill, too steep for heavy equipment. One summer, a very long time ago, I buried the whole thing using hand tools.

By Thursday night I should have a better idea what has to be done. One of the joys of home ownership out in the woods.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Life without AC

Most of Florida and other parts of the Southeast are without power. That means they are also without air conditioning. It's going to be tough.

The south really boomed when air conditioning became common. Losing it is like going back to an earlier age. However, the house designs of the past that made the south somewhat livable are rarely used now. Many places have windows that do not even open.

The north has the cold, but a house can be heated with fairly primitive technology. There are no wood fired air conditioners. As I write this I have a nice kitchen woodstove that's perfect for heating and cooking. It needs no electricity to run. Not only that, I live in the woods, surrounded by fuel within walking distance.

Air conditioning has allowed people to live in a hot climate without ever having to acknowledge it. They go from their AC homes to their AC cars to their AC job. While that's pretty comfortable, they never acclimate to the climate. Only those who spend a lot of time outdoors gets a chance to adjust.

It's been my observation that it takes about two or three weeks for one's body to adjust to a hotter climate. It looks like plenty of people will be without power for at least that long. In the mean time, stay in the shade, catch what breeze is available, avoid heavy labor in the heat of the day, and drink lots of water.

People die from heat stroke. It's no joke. Hopefully power will be restored to most places before too long.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Window Pet Peeve

House windows are not cheap. Over 20 years ago I spent big money to buy windows for the dome. I was worried about the specialty windows. There were a couple of custom triangle shaped windows that concerned me, just because they were custom jobs. The windows that really worried me where the skylights. Everyone had horror storied how they “always” leaked.

Years later the triangle windows are still perfect. The skylights never leaked one drop of water. All the hardware on them works fine.

The windows that gave me problems are all the normal, off the shelf, rectangular ones. Their big feature was the fact that they cranked out. Everyone said they were good quality. The price certainly reflected that. Well, after ten years the company disappeared. Then the cranks started to fail. After a long search I was able to find similar replacement cranks, but they don't quite work as well as they should.

I should have known better. Mechanical crank windows fail. They just do. The original ones didn't just swing the window open. No, there's a few levers that moved the whole window out and to the side. A simple pivot would be too easy -and fixable.

Window hardware that fails is nothing new. Remember back when windows had pulleys and weights? When they worked, you could pull the window up or down and it would stay in place. The counter balanced weights did all the work. The weights ran in channels on the sides of the windows. Over time the ropes would break and the weights crashed down to the bottom. Eventually all those old houses had sticks to prop the windows up.

My first house had those old style windows. Feeling ambitious, I replaced all the ropes. It took careful sanding and lubrication to make everything work perfectly. While it was kinda neat to get everything working, they were still old windows. I repaired the old storm windows and that helped with heat loss. However, those channels for the window weights were uninsulated and drafty. No help for it.

From now on, I'm going to keep windows as simple as possible. Clever features complicate things that don't need complicating.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Florida Memories

A few years ago we sailed our Oday 19 down the west coast of Florida. We put in at Bayport, which is about 30 miles north of Tarpon Springs. We sailed all the way down to Bahia Honda in the Keys.

This photo is of the old bridge. It was a great place to look over the ocean. At night the islands looked like a string of pearls in the ocean.

Every evening we'd gather on the beach with other boaters staying in the marina. This was a typical sunset. The crew would bring snacks and we'd drink sundowners.

This state park is on the dirty side of the hurricane. Landfall was just to the west of it. I've no idea how it looks now.

My lovely wife and I have a lot of great memories of the Florida Gulf Coast and the Keys. We'd planned on going back to a lot of the same places this winter. Maybe we will, but it just might break my heart.

Lots of friends in family still in Florida. It will be a day or two before I know how everyone makes out.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Zero Day

Long distance trail hikers have the concept of a “zero day.” That's a day when they take it easy and hike zero miles.

I think you don't have to be a hiker to have a zero day. Saturday was my lovely wife and I's zero day. The week just caught up with us. We both woke up achy and sore with upset tummys. If we really had to function we could have pushed through it We didn't have to.

Friday we buried my cousin. As an only child my cousins were more like brothers and sisters to me. He was only 57, two years younger than me. He was a kind man and loved to joke around. For me the saddest thing was having to watch his mother. Parents should not have to bury their kids.

Well, for the rest of us life goes on. However, some days it just goes on a slower pace. Better to take the occasional zero day rather than wait until we get really sick and have to stop.


Saturday, September 9, 2017


I was talking to someone who normally spends winters in Key West Florida. He's already checked out camping places in Arizona. Like me, he wonders if the Keys will be open for tourists in a few months. If bridges, power, and the water supply are taken out, it could be some time before the area opens to tourists. Right now it's all speculation. However, he's smarter than me to have a backup winter plan in place.

I remember after the last batch of hurricanes came through Florida. There was damage, but it was limited to certain areas. Although the state was hit by a number of storms, none swallowed the whole state.

Even so, there were a lot of homeless people. Some were living in FEMA trailers. Many were living in tents located in unofficial camps. I remember one homeless camp behind a scrap yard that was huge.

Some of the official campgrounds had a lot of working people who had lost their homes. A few had jobs that they were going to every day. I remember school buses stopping at the campground to pick up kids. It was definitely a different vibe than the normal happy go lucky vacation campers.

I'm emotionally torn right now. If the state does open for business, they could really use tourist dollars. However, if resources are tight, I don't want to take away from the residents. It's not fun to party among shell shocked survivors.

So I'm In a wait and see mode right now. While Arizona is a popular place with snowbirds, it's too far from the ocean for my tastes. Maybe instead of buying last minute sailboat items I'll be buying extra insulation to get through another winter. Time will tell.

I've come to think of Florida as my second home and know a lot of good people down there. May they stay safe.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Trust in God

I've been paying close attention to the situation in Florida. There's something that a lot of people said that's driving me nuts. Over and over I hear people on barrier islands that say they are going to stay. The best scientific evidence indicates they should evacuate. History has shown that those islands should be evacuated.

Some say they trust in God so they are staying.

I'm a man of faith. I believe in miracles. However, I'd be evacuating out of those islands. Heck, I'd have left two days ago.

That does not mean I lack faith. The way I see it is that God gave me gifts and he wants me to use them. One of my gifts is a fully functional brain. God expects me to use that brain to make good decisions.

Not only that, as a former firefighter, I feel for those guys who'll have to recover bodies. Trust me, It's never fun to haul out mangled drowned human beings. Do those first responders a solid and save them the burden. I still get nightmares years later.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

We are the crazy ones?

Day in, day out, a lot of us bloggers stress the importance of being prepared for emergencies. Somehow that makes us the subject of ridicule. Most of us do not want anything bad to ever happen. We do not want to have to deal with an emergency. Should one happen we want to be prepared. That is not a bad thing.

Now we are seeing people lose their minds because a storm is coming. Grocery stores are having everything stripped from their shelves. Preppers are not there. They already have what they need. Every prepared person is one less person in the mob at the store.

The hardware stores are getting stripped of everything from plywood to screws. Now it seems to me, if you are in an area where putting plywood over your windows is necessary, you'd keep that stuff in storage. In the old days people in snow country would put up storm windows for the winter. They didn't throw them out in the spring and buy new in the fall. Wise people stay prepared for what might come.

There are people who are in a panic because bottled water is hard to come by. The vast majority of those people have perfectly safe drinking water right from their taps. Fill up containers from your sink and save yourself a trip to the store. If you lack jugs, do what they did in the old days and fill up all your pots and pans. Fill up the bathtub.

If you think you may have to evacuate, evacuate. Sooner is better than later. If you guess wrong and wait too late, you could die. Weigh that against maybe looking a tiny bit foolish for leaving too early. That should not be a hard decision.

On a personal note, there are folks I know in the Virgin Islands right now. I hope they are well. I suspect it will be some time before anyone hears from them.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Rinse, Lather, and Repeat

Hurricane Irma, as of the time I wrote this post, looks like it will impact Florida. Of course the models have an area of uncertainty. A few hundred miles one way or the other is the difference between disaster and a near miss.

The nation is just now come to grips with the magnitude of destruction that Hurricane Harvey left behind. We really do not need another storm to deal with. However, right now it looks bad. Irma is a huge storm. Not only that, there's another storm right behind it. Then, just to make things interesting, there's a troubling disturbance in the southern Gulf.

It's going to be bad in the Caribbean Islands. Some are better able to handle storms than others. Places like the low lying Bahamas are going to have a rough time.

In the United States my immediate concern is the Florida Keys. If I was there now, I'd be packed up and heading north. Most of the computer models show the Keys getting hit. Here's the thing about the Keys, there's a lot of people on those islands. There is one road in. During normal times traffic backups lasting for hours is common. Getting out at the last minute will be impossible.

Here's one more thing most people don't realize. The only source of fresh water in the Keys is a single pipeline. If you survive the storm, the pipeline won't.

If you've got a boat in the Keys, do your best to secure it, but then get the heck out of Dodge. There are a lot of boats in Marathon in the mooring field. Under normal conditions, it's a pretty protected anchorage. It is not a hurricane hole. It is not a safe place to ride it out. Take a bus, rent a car, book a flight -get out. If you have no money at all, start pedaling on a bicycle. At least you'll make it out of the Keys before the storm hits.

I'm told that hotels in North Central Florida are already booked. Personally, I wouldn't consider stopping until the mountains of Georgia.

Interesting times ahead. Keep an eye on the weather. Remember it's better to leave too early than too late. Don't let worrying about stuff cost you your life.


Music Festival Weekend

My lovely wife and I, along with many family and friends, went to a music festival over the weekend. Rock Farmer Records put on their first camping/music festival at Harvest Moon Farm in Newbury Vermont.

We pulled into the RV section and had plenty of room. Most folks were in the tenting section. In the center of the tent section was the huge bonfire. The gathering was informal around the fire, but the music was amazing. I'm told it went on until 3 a. m.. I did not and was glad the RV section was a bit removed so we got some sleep.

Sunday was a cold and rainy day. We claimed spots under the tents, put on our rain gear and enjoyed the music. Great time was had by all.

We really enjoyed this festival. It wasn't too big so everything was close, but it was big enough to have some great acts.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Paths of the Nomads

My lovely wife and I are busy planning our fall/winter trip. There are a number of things we are watching out for. We've been planning on heading to East Texas at the end of November to visit family. Now we are not sure if they will even be in Texas by then. That all depends on how the flooding affected their house. That information won't come to us for a few days yet.

Of course, the hurricane season isn't done. There's a category 3 spinning around in the Atlantic right now. Behind that is yet another potential storm.

Hurricane damage is not repaired overnight. My lovely wife and I were looking at some places to camp while were in Texas. Those places have been hit with heavy flooding. We no longer plan on going to them. They may not reopen by the time we are in the area, or will be open but still recovering. It's just as easy to go somewhere else.

I remember years back when we stumble across an interesting little campground in Mississippi. It was a great base from which to visit area attractions. That place was scrubbed clean off the map by a hurricane. It was never rebuilt.

It's not just storm damage that we avoid. My lungs were damaged when I was a firefighter. Places with bad air pollution are no go areas for me. That's one more reason for me to avoid a lot of big industrial cities.

It's not only urban areas that have problems. Toxic algae blooms create some nasty air conditions. In the past we've changed sailing destinations to avoid red tide. Also, cyano algae from Lake Okeechobee can pollute both the west and east coast of Florida. We pay close attention to the conditions in the lake. Too much winter rain can be an environmental disaster. Agricultural run off feeds the toxic algae.

My lovely wife and I have avoided areas with wild fires. Once we hurriedly pulled up stakes to get out of an area with a high tornado threat. As luck would have it, that area we left was badly hit less than 12 hours later.

The thing about being foot loose and fancy free is that we have options.


Friday, September 1, 2017


I was debating if I should bother getting any heating oil for the fall. Since we plan on heading south at the end of November, the heating season would not be that long for me. The situation with the Texas oil refineries inspired me to get a delivery. Shortages and price hikes may be in the works.

Wood is my main source of heat, but the furnace makes good backup. If I'm sick or injured, it's nice not to have to feed the woodstove. If we go away for a few days, there's no need to try and find someone to light the stove.

I'm not too worried about gasoline for the car. It gets terrific gas mileage so a price hike doesn't affect it all that much. The diesel in the van will get topped off. It runs mostly on waste veggie oil, but the engine and veggie tank have to be warmed up on diesel first.

In a real pinch I could use some of that heating oil in van as a diesel substitute. They are chemically quite similar. It's against the law as heating oil does not have road tax added to it. However, in an emergency you do what you have to do.

Previous Gulf refinery and pipeline problems caused supply issues on the East Coast. I haven't head of any problems yet, but it's not something they like to advertise. The threat of shortage can cause one if everyone decides to top off at the same time. My readership isn't large enough to cause that to happen, but I did want to give a heads up. The only shortages and price hikes I've heard of are right in the disaster zones.

If you've experienced shortages before you've probably already have a plan.