Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lighting Strikes

If it was one of my favorite Lou Christie songs it might have been fun.  Unfortunately lightening struck something close to Reboot yesterday.  It was raining so hard that no one is exactly sure what got hit but all of the masthead instruments on Reboot stopped working as did the cable TV signal.

The good news is this morning after a reset the masthead stuff is back saving me about $400 for new instruments.  They are still trying to figure out if a particular boat got hit and debugging the cable TV.  Actually the cable TV has a Direct TV feed so it may be the antenna or decoder.  This could be a gift if the decoder is fried as it is about 10 years old and only gets a very few stations.  Maybe a new one would give us better coverage.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Trusting your chart plotter

Three women were following the in car navigation system of their rental car when the route drove them down a boat ramp and into the water.  Confusing the issue further was the fact that the women were tourists from Mexico and didn't speak English.  You can read the story here.

This story is kind of funny, particularly since it appears that no one was hurt.  But it reminded me of my recent trip to Central America.  The charts for Mexico, Belize and Guatemala are very old and pretty much terrible.  Since the electronic charts just reflect the underlying data of the paper charts my chart plotter frequently had me on land when I was in fact in the water.  I remember in particular sitting out bad weather in Cayo Norte with the chart showing me a lighthouse off my bow that was in actually off my stern.

Coming back to the US I breathed a sigh of relief.  Now my chart plotter would reflect reality.  But does it?  This incident reminded me that traveling the ICW "following the purple line" doesn't always keep you safe.  The Mark 1 eyeball is still your best navigation aid.

"Wives and Sweethearts" (May they never meet!) - Its Saturday


Yesterday I was having a quiet lunch when I got a call to inform me that a boat coming into the marina had lost control and hit Reboot.  The New Bern Grand Marina, like many others, has some pretty bad currents at certain times and the transient boat coming in was unaware of just how strong the current was running.  In the end they hit 4 boats before getting safely tied up at the dock.  Fortunately it appears that Reboot was spared any damage.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones)

When visiting Madison for Spencer's graduation I got hooked into the HBO Series Game of Thrones.  It is based on a very well loved and reviewed book by George R. R. Martin.  The first book is A Game of Thrones but the series (4 books published, the 5th due out in a couple of weeks) is known as A Song of Ice and Fire.  Thanks to modern technology and the sleep wake cycles of college students (including recent graduates) I actually got to watch the first few episodes twice.  I was absolutely captivated by the story and the quality of the production.  The HBO web page is here.

The down side of course was that I don't get HBO on Reboot.  When I returned to New Bern I started searching all the local bars to see if any of them got HBO.  I figured we could have Game of Throne beer parties.  But none of the locations I searched out had HBO.

As an aside - Every bar of course had ESPN.  I have always wondered why people will sit in a bar and watch the talking heads on ESPN Sports Center with no sound.  I mean, I can understand listening to President Obama with no sound, you already know what he is going to say because he said it 10 hours ago, 20 hours ago, etc.  (An aside to the aside - OK, I tried to Rick Roll you on that one, but apparently www.whitehouse.com has been taken down.)  Did you know that on average President Obama makes a public appearance every 10 hours?  I wonder how he keeps up with the schedule.  In fairness to President Obama he actually says something different every once in a while. The penultimate person for saying nothing, in my option, is Alan Colmes.

But I digress.  Having discovered that I was not going to be able to watch the show on TV I decided to go to the source and read the books.  Am I delighted that I did.  I managed to do nothing but read the entire set of four published books over the course of several days.  What a terrific story.  And the twists just keep on coming.  Now I have to wait for A Dance with Dragons (book 5) to be published. It is scheduled for July 12th.  Once again I do not understand Amazon, they have priced the Kindle edition higher than the physical book.  Bizarre.  And that strategy is really annoying Kindle owners.

Buying the books also turns out to be an excellent strategy since it appears that HBO can get five or six seasons out of the story.  I knew I could not wait that long.  I am already upset that there will be at least a book 6 and book 7.  A problem with many fantasy writers is the story just goes on and on - like the old joke about economists: "If you placed all the economists in the world head to foot they would not reach a conclusion."  The most famous sinner in this category is Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.  I have provided the link so you can get a few minutes of humor reading the reviews for book 10. Of course he didn't get the hint, he has released book 13!  In fact Jordan didn't live to finish the story so the final three books (book 14 is alleged to be the last one) has been written by a ghost writer.

But I digress again.  So to wrap up.  George R. R. Martin maintains a web page at http://www.georgerrmartin.com/ which also contains a link to his blog.  It is full of fun stuff.

And I am in love with the character of Daenerys Targaryen played by the very lovely Emilia Clarke.  A link to her IMDB web page is here.  Enough said.  No spoilers here. "Fire and Blood"

"A Willing Foe and Sea-Room" - Its Friday after all!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gunfight at the OK Corral

Have you ever noticed that in pictures and video of the revolts in Southwest Asia (e.g. Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan) some guy or guys have a big gun that they are firing.  Now what makes this funny is that they are always standing up with no cover expending large quantities of ammunition.  Frequently they are expending the ammunition into the air.  Don't they understand the old saying "what goes up must come down?"  If on the other hand you see pictures of the US Military they are either not firing or they are taking shelter.  I can understand that 100 years ago or so the weapons were so inaccurate that you stood a chance of doing the Matt Dillon thing.  Also, I learned that there was so much smoke from the gunpowder used at the OK Corral it is likely that after the first couple of shots no one could see the opponents.  But I can't believe that the tactics shown would result in anything other than the death of the shooter in the first second or two.

Of course the simple explanation for all of this is the media.  I can just imagine Geraldo Rivera saying "roll film" and "give me a good show guys, I need the ratings."


For those looking for a way to get a few laughs and waste a few hours (like me) I introduce you to http://failblog.org.

(Warning, there are some pretty raunchy "fails" so if you are easily offended you might hit the "G" rated button.

Getting Pinged

In the past few days the number of hits on my blog has increased quite a bit.  I would love to believe that it is because I am such a great writer full of interesting stuff but I have concluded that this is not true (alas.)  There are a number of services that "ping" your web site to generate traffic.  The concept is that the more "hits" you get the higher the search engines will place you in the results.  This is important since most people rarely go past the first page of the search results.  Of course this is old news.  The search engines are aware of the concept and have been written to take it into account when providing rankings.  One way to try and beat the AI in the search engines is to hit the original site and then link out to other sites.  The idea of course is that this looks more like real human behavior. Blogger provides analytic capabilities including a back trace that tells you where your traffic is coming from.  Almost all of the extra hits are from the same web site.  The reason that I do not name it is twofold:  first, I think it is a great site, and second, I don't know that it is the primary site or just further down the tree.  I would not want to smear it when it does not deserve it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Night Storm" - Aviation Survival Training

Proving that chatting up other people in bars has a positive payoff I was invited by two Marine Harrier pilots to "come and watch them drown" during their Aviation Survival Training at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.  I went down with Claudia and Ed.  We had a great time.  The Aviation Survival Training Center is a big swimming pool.  The pilots, in full flight gear start by swimming around the pool.  This is designed to get them tired out so that the rest of the exercises are even more fun.  We watched:
1.  Pilots simulating being dragged by a parachute across the pool (while simulating that they had a broken arm.)  They dropped off a 30 foot high tower while the straps simulating the parachute dragged them across the pool until they got unhooked.  Oh by the way they were blindfolded.
2.  Being dropped in the pool again off the platform, dragged, and then required to get into the life raft that deployed from the bottom of their ejection seat.
3.  Being strapped into a seat and then turned upside down underwater.  They then had to unhook from the seat and return to the surface.  Phase two of this exercise was to be strapped in the seat, turned upside down, and then told that their harness had jammed.  At this point they needed to find their emergency air bottle (like a little SCUBA setup) so that they could breathe while they worked to get the harness unhooked.
4.  Survive a helicopter crash.  A good video of the simulator is at http://youtu.be/oLqXlEGxXxo
5  As a group get into a multi-person life raft.

By far my favorite simulation was "Night Storm."  This exercise sounds simple but in fact is quite exhausting.  The entire pool area is blacked out.  A fog machine creates dense fog.  Fire hoses create driving rain.  A surround sound system and strobe lights simulate a thunderstorm.  The pilot who is in his ejection seat life raft signals with his strobe light for a helicopter pickup.  The helicopter drops a retrieval basket and highlights it with a spotlight.  The pilot exits the life raft and has to swim to and get into the retrieval basket.  Two things make this particularly difficult.  First, the pilot is in full flight gear which means that the life jacket has deployed.  If you have ever tried to swim with a life jacket you know how tough it is.  Second, the fire hoses are directed in such a fashion that one is essentially swimming against the tide.  If you stop swimming the water drives you back to the other end of the pool.  When the students got out of the water you could tell they were pretty tired.

We were also treated to an explanation of the current flight suits, survival gear, radios and so forth by the ASTC staff.  Led by LCDR Turner they were most gracious and we had a full and fun day.

Fair winds and following seas.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ocrafolk Festival

Door into Summer and Reboot made a long hot boring transit back from Ocracoke Island yesterday.  Once again there was no wind so we motored the entire way.  Just before we reached New Bern the marine warning alarm went off on the Garmin chart plotter. A nasty late afternoon thunderstorm had popped up just north of Pamlico Sound and was headed our way.  Fortunately we got the boats back into their slips before the storm.  Then, as they sometimes do, the storm veered South and missed us completely.  Ed and I took advantage of the pool at the Hilton to cool off and then repaired to Door into Summer where Claudia had made us a very nice dinner.

The Ocrafolk Festival was a lot of fun.  We met our Bomba Shack friends (Leigh and David) and spent most of the weekend visiting the various entertainment stages with them.  They had rented a cottage as Bomba Shack is being repaired but had brought down a 21 foot runabout that they tied up next to Door into Summer.  Ed had expressed an interest in going out the Ocracoke channel into the Atlantic, transiting down to Morehead City, and then back up to Adams Creek and the Neuse River to return to New Bern.  We ran out the channel in the runabout watching depths the entire way.  We agreed that we could most likely make it out during high tide but there were very long stretches of very thin water.  I also was not big on having to steer all the way back up Adams Creek - a 5 or 6 hour stint at the helm without a break.  So it the end we decided to return the way we had come.

On the way in we had been warned about some skinny water and had passed over the shoaling without incident.  We also passed over the same shoal on the way out without difficulty.  Imagine my concern when, after breathing a sigh of relief that the shallows were over my depth gauge read 2 feet below the keel in what was supposed to be 14 feet of water.  My concern was nothing compared to Ed's.  He got down to 6 inches!  Was was even worse was that I was right on top of the track line on the chart plotter from our inbound trip.  The edge of the shoal had shifted about 10 feet during our stay.

The music at the festival was OK with three notable exceptions: Molasses Creek, Beleza Brasil and the Sunday morning gospel sing.  I have noted that many musical groups have one or two good performers and the rest are average.  Molasses Creek is a group where every performer could easily have a solo career.  It was great to listen to them.  Beleza Brasil was one of the first groups we heard. Madeline has the most amazing voice and got all of us shaking our bodies to the music. The Sunday morning gospel sing was great fun.  Picture 300 people you have never met, about 25 folk performers outdoors in a grove of trees.  Then add a gospel sing along.  The most amazing thing to me was that everyone knew the words.  One group that I did not hear perform except for one number Sunday morning was The Steel Wheels.  From the one number I did hear wished I had heard their entire set.

Topping everything off was Lee and David's multiple invitations to eat at their rented cottage.  I saw old friends and made new ones.  Thanks to Lee and David.  Since the festival is a great destination from New Bern we also saw several dock friends from the New Bern Grand Marina.

Sunday night Lee, David and their friend Ellen took the ferry back.  Door into Summer was docked at the National Park Service dock right next to the ferry terminal.  Ed, Claudia and I were sitting on the boat with some friends having a drink when the trio showed up on the top deck of the ferry to wave goodbye.  As the ferry blew its horn (very loud from 50 feet away) and started to back out of the dock one of Door into Summer's other female guests (note, one of the other guests, not Claudia!!!) jumped up on the deck and flashed Lee, David and Ellen --- and of course the 500 other people on the ferry!  We all started laughing.  This was all the encouragement she needed to jump back up on the deck and flash the ferry again.  Which proves that even old people can act like college kids in the right setting.

Fair winds and following seas

Friday, June 3, 2011

"By the deep", "by the mark"

If you are a fan of the Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels as I am you may wonder what the depth sounding calls "by the deep" and "by the mark" signify as the depth is always express in fathoms (standardized as 6 feet, originally the hand span of the person on board with the largest span from fingertips of one arm to the other.)

The excellent web site at http://www.navyandmarine.org/planspatterns/soundingline.htm not only explains the meaning but explains how to construct your own lead line.  The page is from the site of the Navy and Marine Corps Living History Association.

The Navy and Marine Living History Association, Inc. (NMLHA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation dedicated to the promotion of an awareness of America's nautical history and to the support of our living history member units who portray the sailors and marines of the many countries that played a role in the formation of our country in the period 1750-1900.

There is a lot of fun stuff on the site.  There is also a great calendar to reenactment events.


Ocracoke Island

Door into Summer and Reboot arrived last night at Ocracoke Island.  The trip down the Neuse River and into Pamlico Sound was uneventful.  What little true wind we had was always just close enough to the bow to make sailing impossible.  I have hoisted a temporary jib and hoped that with the jib and main I would be able to make some progress close hauled.  However the furler is not working properly so I could not get the jib deployed.

The beginning of the trip from Oriental followed the Intracostal Waterway route.  The rest of the trip was in water about 12 to 14 feet deep.  This is deep enough that I don't feel I need to keep my eyes glued to the depth gauge the entire way.  There is a bar across the sound so we did experience some depths of 5 to 6 feet under the keel.

The entrance to Ocracoke Island is, alas, like many long and skinny.  Since there is hourly ferry service to the island the channel is kept in much better shape than many, but it is still tiresome to have to hand steer for a couple of hours as you work you way in.  Entering Silver Lake I found that the anchorage was crowded with those who had come before.  Apparently there had been a cruisers gam the weekend before and boats were also arriving for the festival.  I dropped the hook.  Ed (Door into Summer) had taken a slip so they were all set (except for the substantial financial outlay.)  He dropped his dinghy in the water and came out to see me sparing me the effort to get Reboot's dinghy blown up and launched.  We reconnoitered the anchorage and found a good spot well back.  With Ed aboard we moved Reboot over to the new spot.

After a nice dinner on shore I came back for the night.  In the middle of the night we had a wind shift and everything spun around.  Only then did I discover that a small sailboat (maybe 21 feet) had 300 feet of rope rode out and was spinning around all over the place.  I managed to get Reboot clear only to hear from other cruisers that this boat (with current registration from 2009) had been the bane of the anchorage for weeks.  I am sure that the wind will shift a couple of more times so we will have to see what happens.

I have been fighting a major allergy attack ever since Madison.  After a quick trip to shore to see Claudia and Ed and David and LeeLee (Bamba Shack) I have spent most of my time napping.  Hopefully this will help me get over the postnasal drip and sore throat I have had for days.

I have been sitting on the deck listening to the music from a local bar.  The volume is just about perfect since I am 1/2 mile away.  I am sure it is ear splitting in the bar.

Tomorrow I hope so spend some more time on shore and also do some minor provisioning for the trip back.  Ed has suggested we go out the Ocracoke channel and return via the Atlantic.  I think that if they go that way I will take a pass.  Without a good working jib I am hesitant.  Plus, if we go out I will have to drive up Adam's Creek again, an 8 hour boring time behind the wheel.

Fair winds and following seas.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ocracoke Festival and why I still love Garmin

We are in Oriental getting ready to run down to Ocracoke (about 40 NM) for the Ocracoke Festival.  For the web page on the festival click here.  This is an annual event.  It looks like it is going to be a great weekend of fun with Door into Summer and Bamba Shack.  I expect to run into other boats that we know once we get there.  This will be my first visit by sailboat to the outer banks, I drove to Cape Hatteras many years ago and camped out for a weekend.  I am looking forward to it.

On the Garmin note, I am so delighted that they continue to provide free software updates for their marine hardware.  I am even more delighted that the software updates usually have new feature goodies included.  Way to go Garmin.

Fair winds and following seas.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Back in Oriental, NC

Ed and Claudia (Door in Summer) and I left New Bern this morning on our way to Ocracoke for the music festival.  We motored the entire way as there was very little wind.  It was Hot Hot Hot but other than that an OK day.  We are now in the Oriental Marina for the night.  We have both refueled and are ready to depart tomorrow morning for Ocracoke