Friday, July 29, 2011

Breaking 100

No, unfortunately, this is not a post about finally breaking that magic number in golf.  My Garmin wind speed and direction sensor also measures barometric pressure and air temperature.  After a low last night of 73 degrees I have now seen a high of 106 degrees,  The temperature, not the heat index.

In my first winter of full time cruising I spent most of January and February in Key West.  We had unusually low temperatures - daytime temperatures in the 40's and occasionally in the 30's.  At the time I realized that full time cruising is something like camping - you are exposed to the weather 24/7.  Yes you can huddle inside the boat in the rain.  When you do it is almost always hot and very sticky.  You can put up window screens to try and keep the bugs out.  They work pretty much but not perfectly.  But the reality is that you are always not far from the weather.

XO seems to be enjoying the heat.  Of course the Tonkinese breed is from Southeast Asia where it does get quite warm.  In fact he gets upset when I lock him in Reboot with the air conditioning on. He starts to cry.  When it gets warm inside he just stretches out and dozes.  At least one of us is happy.  And no, with Reboot sitting in 88 degree water the air conditioner doesn't make much progress against the heat.  In fact I have learned that it is actually more comfortable to just keep fans running air through Reboot during the day than wasting money on the a/c.  I run it after sunset to get the temperature down for a decent nights sleep.  Needless to stay I don't do much cooking except in the early morning.  And there is not much point in moving further North as the weather is terrible all the way to Maine.

I brought Reboot to New Bern to overhaul her and get ready Reboot for our next adventure.  The extreme heat has made it harder to overcome my natural reluctance to do hard work.  I do a little bit each day.  I was so excited when the seat I was sitting on writing this blog went crack and dumped me on the floor.  At least I know that I can take it over to The Grill Man and get the welds re-welded.  One step forward, two steps backward.

Fair winds and following seas.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Another Capsize

By Cindy Clayton
The Virginian-Pilot
© July 26, 2011


A man and woman were rescued Tuesday night by the Coast Guard after their sailboat capsized in Albemarle Sound.

The couple’s neighbor called emergency dispatchers shortly after 8 p.m. to report the couple had left about 4 p.m. and had not returned before storms moved through the region, a Coast Guard news release says.

Dispatchers notified the Coast Guard and an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Elizabeth City found the couple shortly before 2 a.m.

The woman was hoisted from the water and a Coast Guard rescue boat crew helped the man get the sailboat upright so that it could be towed to the Midway Boat Ramp.

No injuries were reported.

Auxiliary members of the Coast Guard and North Carolina wildlife officials also helped with the search.


We have been routinely having afternoon thunderstorms.   Albemarle and Plamico Sounds have very bad reputations for being dangerous in bad weather.  It appears they are well deserved.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Good article on Chicago-Mac tragic race conditions

Good article on observed weather conditions in the tragic Chicago- Mac race at

What is most interesting to me is that the boats decided to "run off" rather than reef in hopes that the storm would be over quickly.  As a cruiser who has been caught in thunderstorms that last 30 minutes or more I honestly don't understand this as a strategy.  It would appear that guessing wrong can kill you.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Topsail Beach, New Bern and Heat

I took Trevor down to Topsail Beach where his mom had rented a place for the week.  I got to see Rick and Anita for the first time in 15 or 20 years.  Rick and I used to work together at Bunge Corporation.  Rick had been quite sick for a while and I was delighted how well he has recovered.

We spent quite a bit of time sitting on the porch watching the ocean. It was quite cool and breezy.  We commented on how just a mile or two inshore it must have been quite a bit hotter.  Topsail is a typical beach community - I think more high end - and quite pretty.

I drove back to New Bern to the heat.  It just broke 100 degrees and I can hear thunder so I presume we are about to get hit again.  There has been quite a bit of damage from lightening in the past couple of weeks so I hope we will not have any more this time.

I have been thinking about moving North for a while. But when I look at the weather map it is as bad or worse there.  I will stay here and wait for my sails to be delivered.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Questions, questions - The Chicago Mac tragedy

With the announcement of two deaths in the Chicago-Mac race many are asking questions about what happened.  We know that there were eight persons on WingNuts.  Five were rescued immediately a sixth a little bit later, and the two died.

I approach this story from two dimensions:  as a former Chicago-Mac racer I know that there was a great deal of safety equipment on WingNuts.  What happened that the safety equipment was insufficient?  As a single handed cruiser I also have questions about how WingNuts got caught in the thunderstorm and capsized.  IMHO thunderstorms are the most frightening events at sea.  Yes, high winds and high waves are very scary but they usually build over time giving one the opportunity to "batten the hatches" and get ready for the blow.  Thunderstorms can rise up quickly, can have very strong winds, and can chop up the wave train in ways that are very uncomfortable not to mention dangerous.

These sailors had decades of experience.  They were in their home waters.  They had sailed this particular route many times in the past.  What happened?

I hope that after the families have had a chance to grieve we will get an "after action" report from the surviving crew members that will help us avoid having this kind of tragedy happen to us in the future.  In the meantime I will not speculate on what happened.

I lost my jib in a similar incident about two months ago.  In my case I had an equipment failure - the furler jammed preventing me from getting the jib down.  The jib shredded.  That was better then it causing a capsize.  It was an event I will hopefully never re-experience.

So we will wait for more information  Hopefully we will get a detailed disclosure of exactly what happened.

Fair winds and following seas.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Two bodies found after capsize in Chicago Mac Race


The bodies of two sailors who disappeared when their boat capsized in a storm during the Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac were recovered by Coast Guard divers Monday morning and identified as the skipper of the boat and a crew member, both from Saginaw, Mich.

The yacht club said they were the first sailors to drown in the history of the well-known race, which dates to 1898 and has been run annually since 1921.

Mark Money, the 51-year-old skipper of the 35-foot yacht Wingnuts, and crew member Suzanne Bickel, 41, were both experienced sailors, according to the Chicago Yacht Club. Morley had 44 years of sailing experience, including six Chicago-to-Mackinac races and 85 qualifying races, and Bickel, his girlfriend, had sailed in two previous Chicago-to-Mackinac Races, with 16 qualifying races.

Their bodies were discovered around 7:45 a.m. Monday in northern Lake Michigan off the Michigan coastline southeast of North Fox Island, according to the Coast guard. They drowned when their boat flipped in 60 mile-an-hour winds and six-foot seas.

The yacht’s six other crew members — including Chicago architect Lee Purcell, 46, and five others from Michigan — were pulled from the water by the crew of another boat competing in the race, the Sociable, according to Purcell’s mother, Alice Pugh, of Michigan City, Ind.

The disaster brought back terrible memories for Pugh. She said her husband, who was also named Lee Purcell and also was a keen sailor, drowned in Lake Michigan in a boating accident before their son was born.

“It was a close call for me,” she said, adding that her son had called her at 6 a.m. to tell her he was OK but “pretty shook-up.”

Her son grew up on Lake Michigan and couldn’t be dissuaded from sailing, she said.

“You can’t discourage someone if it’s what you love to do and you think you have everything under control,” Pugh said.

Purcell had crewed for several years on Wingnuts, which was owned by a group of four friends from Michigan, and had entered several Mackinac races previously, she said. He had been on the Lake in heavy storms before, she said.

The Coast Guard was notified about 12:20 a.m. Monday that the Wingnuts had capsized in the waters southeast of North Fox Island, according to spokesman Lt. Adam Saurin.

A rescue helicopter from Traverse City, Mich., as well as a cutter and dive team from the Charlevoix, Mich., Coast Guard Station, were deployed in the search, Saurin said.

The skipper of the Sociable radioed for assistance, and 10 boats in the vicinity abandoned the race to join in search efforts for the missing sailors, according to the yacht club.

Chip Cummings, whose 16-year-old son C.J. Cummings, of Grandville, Mich., was one of the six rescued near Lake Michigan’s Fox Islands, said the Wingnuts was overcome by sudden strong winds and waves that flipped it.

His son and others pressed alerts on their life vests signaling trouble and sent a GPS alert to the Coast Guard, he said.

All six people who were pulled from the water were wearing life jackets and two had personal locating beacons, Saurin said. It wasn’t known if the two who died had been wearing life jackets.

Joseph S. Haas, the commodore of the Chicago Yacht Club, said the race organizers “express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the crew of Wingnuts. The crew of this boat exemplified the spirit of the Chicago-Mac that is steeped in tradition of family, friends and passion for the water.”

The 333-mile race from just off Navy Pier to Mackinac Island is the oldest annual freshwater distance race in the world. An estimated 3,500 crewmembers on 355 boats participated.

In 1970, more than half of the yachts participating in the race took refuge from northerly winds gusting at more than 60 miles an hour.

In 1937, only eight of 42 boats finished because of high winds.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Finally - Free International Charts

From the SSCA Web Forums. The original post is This is great news - a start in the right direction.  I am going to do some more research and get back to you later.
Recently NGA has release a lot of charts worldwide through this site:
These charts are the old DMA charts, quite a few are updated though.
The website displays these charts through a software called "Zoomify", and each chart is made up of thousands of small picture tiles.
The pictures behind the website can however be De-Zoomified, and converted to a full chart picture, through freely available scripts.
We are a few members of the OpenCPN community, who has started a project to do just that, and save the full pictures for later conversion to BSB/kap electronic chart files. Compare to what happened to NZ LINZ chart picture files.
Read more about the project here: and here
A few preliminary test charts are available for download here:

This is a very big project, and even though we are trying to automate as much as possible, a lot of human interpretation of the pictures are needed.
Any interested users of this board are welcome to help us. The first task is to download the pictures in form of thousands of tiles and stitch them together, with the help of a script. The so prepared pictures is then uploaded to a central server with ftp. All you need is a computer and a good INTERNET connection. Help is available to get started.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Dance of Dragons

A Dance with Dragons: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book FiveStill love the series but it seems like lots of pages that don't move the plot forward.  It is starting to feel more and more like the Wheel of Time series which we all know ground to a halt.  Hopefully Mr. Martin will not die before he completes the series. I rated it a 2 out of 5 on Amazon.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mila Kunis, Yvonne Strahovski #7 and Military Service

 It would appear that once again I have been trapped into changing times.  My invitation to Yvonne Strahovski has gone unanswered.  On the other hand Sgt. Scott Moore seems to have landed a date to the Marine Corps ball with Miss Kunis.  His strategy was to use  I just blog.  It would appear I am behind the times.  Following up we have Cpl. Kelsey De Santis - the only female at the Martial Arts Center for Excellence (MACE) at Marine Corps Base Quantico, has invited Justin Timberlake to attend the Marine Corps ball with her.  He is playing hard to get at the moment.

Hey wait a minute.  I have a uniform.  I can go to the ball.  Where are my invitations from beautiful Hollywood people?  Should I be searching Youtube?

My friend Ed from Door into Summer would tell me its because I am only a Navy guy (he would not use guy) and not a Marine. I think it is more likely that its because I am old and rusting.  It is sad that most of the ships I have served on are in mothballs or scrapped.  But I still can fit into my dinner dress uniform.  That's something I guess.

As jealous as I am I think this entire episode is great.  The more my brothers and sisters can get recognition for their sacrifices for our wonderful Nation the happier I am.  They are getting the job done with little fanfare.  Quite a contrast to our Federal politicians who can't seem to get the job done on the debt crisis with 24/7 news coverage.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Will your GPS work when you need it?

Please take a moment and follow this link to understand how potential Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval of LightSquared broadband service could adversely impact your ability to use your GPS.  There is also a link to send a message to your representatives in Congress.

From the Boat US Government Affairs Web Site:

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave conditional approval to a private company, LightSquared, to begin a nationwide broadband service right next to the radio spectrum used for GPS. After concerns from user groups (including BoatU.S.) the FCC required significant testing and a report for potential conflicts with aviation, cellular, navigation, and four other GPS uses before this proposal could move forward. In that June 30th report the navigation sub-team concluded “that all phases of the LightSquared deployment plan will result in widespread harmful interference to GPS signals and service and that mitigation is not possible.”

Points to consider:
Global Positioning System (GPS) technology has become embedded in modern daily life. Users include recreational boaters and commercial mariners, pilots, farmers, surveyors, construction workers, hikers, delivery drivers, dispatchers, lumberjacks, first responders, and emergency vehicles.
LightSquared should only be given approval if it can be proven that there will be noGPS interference.
In 2010 alone, 122 million GPS units were sold. Retrofitting legacy units to accommodate LightSquared’s needs is not feasible.
Even if LightSquared moves to a lower spectrum, lab testing revealed many GPS devices still suffered from harmful interference.
American citizens rely on the FCC to protect the bandwidth as a national resource; compromising GPS compromises American lives.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Help save the Washington DC anchorage

    Changes are being proposed to Washington DC’s waterfront which will severely restrict anchoring in the Washington Channel. The Washington Channel has long been an educational stop for cruisers wanting to visit our nation’s capital and visit the scores of free museums in the city. There are routinely a dozen boats anchored in the channel and the numbers are increasing as a result of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge which permits vessels with vertical clearances of 75’ to transit without any bridge openings.
    Local developers and the District of Columbia officials are pressing Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers to permit the extension of piers by 200 feet into the channel. They are also pressing for fixed fore and aft moorings with spacing of 30 feet. These changes essentially eliminate any anchoring in the protected upper reaches of Washington Channel.
    Three steps are required before DC can take this beautiful anchorage from the cruising community. First the Army Corps of Engineers must approve the DC proposal. Currently the Army Corps of Engineers has posted Public Notice PN 11-50 and has solicited public comments before July 15th. Second the District of Columbia must receive public comments in a Zoning hearing on the 17th of July. Last, Congress must turn the federal waters over to the District of Columbia for District use. Two Congressional Bills have been introduced to allow this transfer of the Washington Channel. Either House Bill HR 723 or House Bill HR 2297 will allow the transfer the federal channel to DC.
    If you want to retain the Washington Channel anchorage for cruising, we suggest you forward your comments to the US Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore office. If you are local to DC, attend the rezoning hearing on July 17th and express your views. All voters who want to stop this transfer may contact your Congressman and ask him or her to vote down any attempts to de-federalize the Washington Channel (HR Bill 723, HR Bill 2297)
    To respond to Public Notice PN 11-50, you may contact the District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, PO Box 1715, Baltimore, Maryland 21203-1715, US Army Corps of Engineers, or email the project engineer or call her at (410) 962-4501.
    For additional information on the Washington Channel proposal, google “usace pn 11-50”
    To look at the District of Columbia’s waterfront proposal, google “DC pud 11-03”

    Thursday, July 7, 2011

    Google Tisp

    A new concept in Internet connectivity has been announced by Google - the Tisp!  See the link here!

    Technology is truly amazing

    The "Grill Man"

    Do you need to cook a pig?  Do you want a good old fashioned heavy duty grill?  Enter the "Grill Man" in New Bern, NC.

    Actually I don't need to cook a pig.  I am always willing, however, to go to a pig roast.  In fact, at my last pig roast I got the opportunity to "sip" a bit - if you know what I mean.  That was quite an experience for this Yankee boy!

    So why do I mention the "Grill Man" in what is, at least most of the time, a sailing blog about cruising?  Like the homeowner who wants custom cabinets for their kitchen, sailors occasionally need a lit bit of custom work done to fulfill their vision.  In my case it was a custom plate to hold the air conditioning duct work into a hatch when in port.  I wanted it to be rigid and waterproof, hence the need for a stainless steel plate.  Danny over at The Grill Man fixed me up with the plate in the photo above.

    Why did I decide to install a home use portable air conditioner in Reboot?  The answer is pure money.  A 6720 BTW carry on through the hatch air conditioner sells for $1,399 at West Marine.  A built in 5,000 BTU marine air conditioner ranges from $1,799 and up. I spent $325 for this 10,000 BTU floor mounted air conditioner at Lowes.  Yes, it is a pain in the neck.  Yes, it is unsightly and in the way.  Yes, I have to figure out where to store it when underway (which, of course would also be required for the "carry on" air conditioner.)  But the difference in price was compelling.

    I selected New Bern, NC as a port to work on Reboot as it has a good reputation for excellent marine services, inexpensive dockage, and a friendly town.  Both Harvey Smith who worked on my engine and Danny at The Grill Man have certainly fulfilled New Bern's reputation.

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    Half Measures

    No, I am not going to kick the U.S. debt crisis can down the road...

    One of the most frustrating parts of cruising is the cost of transit slips.  In most cases the daily rate is such that a stay of more than 5 days is more expensive than the monthly rate for the marina.  Unfortunately the daily rate of marinas has risen to the point where even a one night stay has risen to the point where it is a substantial hit.  For example, a one night stay for Reboot in most US marinas is in excess of $100.  In bigger markets that number can approach $200.  When you consider that, bad weather aside (when a dock can be the only way to get a good night's sleep) the services provided by the marina are trivial - essentially the ability to plug in your shore power.  Enter a half measure solution in Europe, the Trans Europe Marina program.  This is a group of European marinas that provide half price transient berthing for up to 5 days for boats that have permanent slips at the other participating marinas.  They are trying to build a network of marinas that are "one day" apart.

    A couple of thoughts:

    1.  The number of empty slips at marinas in the U.S. seems to be quite high as I move around.  The only time that there seems to be a problem getting a slip is when there is some kind of festival or event in the marina town.  Certainly from an operator prospective anything to attract additional business is a good idea.  Since marinas have high fixed costs and almost no variable costs (particularly those who meter and charge for electricity separately) occupancy rate is everything.

    2.I think, based on exhaustive research (I was too exhausted to do any research) that the actually number of transient boaters is very low.  Sailboats are very slow - i.e the transit from New Bern to Ocracoke for the festival occupied one full day each way.  Powerboats are very expensive, more so with current fuel prices.  Mario at Fish and Race in Key West (they repaired my outboard) gave me a rule of thumb for powerboat fuel consumption - 1/10 of the horsepower per hour for gas engines, figure 1/2 of that for diesel engines.  At $4.00 per hour (low for fuel dock fuel) a 100 hp gas engine is burning $40 worth of fuel per hour.  With slip fees and fuel fees a simple weekend cruise can easily approach $1,000 - not to mention the costs of eating out in the local restaurants.  I see very few transient power boats (except the snow birders on the ICW) in the marinas I visit.  Even trawlers, noted for their excellent fuel consumption, are absent.  With the economy being what it is that is quite a hit for a weekend on the water away from home.

    3.  Real transients are treated like the "millionaires and billionaires" that some say are not paying "their fair share."  Not only do you see this in transient slip fees but also the check in and check out fees in many countries.  On my recent trip to Central America I was paying an average of $350 per country for clearances.  On my way back from Guatemala I bypassed Belize and Mexico to avoid $500 of clearance fees. The truth is that most of the cruisers are on very limited budgets.  In general the full time transient cruising community are retired persons on fixed budgets.  High fees drive cruisers away.

    I laud any attempt to lower the cost of cruising.  But my take is a dramatic reduction in transient slip fees would do more to attract business then a "special deal" such as Trans Europe Marinas.

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    4th of July

    It is the 4th of July and I am working on Reboot (of course I am doing lots of other things to avoid work like writing this blog.)  I am still in New Bern, NC.

    There is quite a population of ducks here in the marina and it being Spring and now Summer it is breeding time. We get to enjoy the mother ducks and their ducklings as we walk and move around the marina.  The other day we were out in the dinghy and drifted up on a group of ducklings and their mother.  Since we were just drifting they did not really take off until we were about 1 foot away.  Great fun.

    "Our ships at sea" (The Monday toast)