Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Debating with the magic

Kintala is still sitting on the hard, though the chances seem pretty good that she will be back floating
sometime within the next 48 to 72 hours. Even so, it is a perfect morning to sit in the cockpit, sip hot coffee, and gaze out at the open waters of Tampa Bay laying just off her elevated stern. The stray fishing boat leaves a track on the ripples while a few cruisers (and sadly one derelict) sit quietly in the anchorage. There is just a hint of the magic brushing the shore along with the gentle splashing of the waves. After a long and (sometimes) difficult summer it is a good reminder, this is why we came this way. And yet...

The view of the Manatee River from the cockpit on the hard.

The magic has a different feel to it this morning. Instead of calling me away to places natural and quiet, where wisdom resides and the best of what it means to be alive and aware can be strengthened, it chastises me for running from the maelstrom lurking just over the horizon. For the plan is to have Kintala well on the way to, if not in, the Abaco Islands by January 20th . There she will remain  for much of the following 100 days. By then we will have some idea of just how bad this new regime will be.

Perhaps it will turn out to be just more of the same; elitist, corrupt, and basically incompetent. That seems to be about the best we can do in America. We have been stumbling along thus for most of my adult life and have managed to hang on. There also seems to be a reasonable chance that this new regime will be such a spectacular failure that no one will have to do anything but watch as they throw themselves off a cliff.

Maybe, after the 100 days, we will return to a nation much like it was in the late 60s and early 70s; divided, torn, stumbling, but finding its way out of an interminable and useless war, and shedding the worst abuses of a powerful apartheid police state. The US of A emerged from those days bruised and scarred, but a better people and a more just nation than it had been when men, who had won medals fighting the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini, were lynched by the White Supremacists of the KKK. We also learned that no nation can be great when the air can't be breathed nor the water safely drunk; where the land is strip mined to mud and all the trees turned into lumber.

That understanding came at a brutal national cost. Many were killed and many more wounded in the one-sided battles of police v marchers or the National Guard v students. In addition to the violent government responses, terrorists weighed in. Churches were bombed and burned and civil rights workers were murdered. The government eventually, and reluctantly, bowed to the will of the protesters. The war was ended, civil rights laws were passed, a few of the terrorists were rounded up, tried, and jailed. (The police and the National Guard never were held to account.)

Personal costs were high as well. I was an anti-war and civil rights protester. My Dad had been a cadet at West Point when young, served in Korea and, well, wasn't the most inclusive man I have ever known. I left home at 19, returning only for visits that were often tense. As the years went by we learned to work our way around that history, but the mine field was always there. My Dad has been gone a little over a year now but I fear, if he were whole and hale today, we would find ourselves on opposite sides still. The battle over civil rights and ending a war set the stage for a relationship between a Father and a Son that lasted a lifetime.

So the magic comes with a bit of an edge this morning. The disciplines of the magic- wisdom, compassion, understanding, careful thought and an even more careful response - are best learned and honed in those quiet places. But where they are needed most is in the midst of the maelstrom, when power corrupts, runs wild, and threatens everything of value that lies in the path between itself and domination. Ducking and running is like spending hours mastering your part of a concerto, then not showing up for the concert.

Yet the magic is suggestive, not insistent, or vindictive. We plan to sail to the Islands for a while because that is part of the way we live now, and American politics has little to do with it. Other parts of the way we live include living light and mobile, ignoring consumerism in all of its forms, traveling, and getting to know people who are not exactly like us. It is also a lifestyle that goes easy on burning energy and extracting limited resources from the planet only to throw them into a garbage pile in a few weeks or months. It is one that a large number of my fellow Americans don't get, don't want, and don't care about.  Indeed, they don't seem to care about a lot of things I think important.

And maybe this new regime is more a reflection of that than anything else.

Still, the opposition is taking shape. Protesters are already in the streets, alliances are being formed, underground and sanctuary movements are coalescing, rapid responses to the inevitable government brutality are being considered and practiced, and communications are being established to counter the propaganda war. But a middle aged white guy living on a sailboat doesn't matter that much, and there may even be some wisdom to be found in sitting this one out. It is entirely possible that the incoming regime is exactly what should be expected when an empire has run its course, when (to butcher a phrase) failure is not only an option, it is the only option. Trying to stick a cork into the Titanic might have been heroic, but the ship was already damaged beyond repair.

Taking to a lifeboat was a much wiser choice.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sailing on borrowed time

The world unfolds in uncharted and unpredictable ways, making for good luck, bad luck, and (for those born under a bad sign) no luck at all. Unpredictable as luck may be, it also seems to be a bit malleable. Confucius, some 2000 years ago, said, “The more you know the more luck you will have.” Various golfers apparently took up that theme with variations of, “The more I practice the luckier I get”. One of my most used quips is, “It's better to be lucky than good” but, in all honesty, I don't really believe in luck at all. Nor am I a big fan of fate though, like most of the pilots I know, I regard “Fate is the Hunter” as a pretty good description of a professional pilot's life. Not being of the religious frame of mind the idea of “everything happening for a reason” seems a bit unfair to refugees and people dying of cancer. Such people also make Henley's “I am the captain of my fate: I am the master of my soul” little more than a poetic expression of pure hubris.

Still, the world unfolds in uncharted and unpredictable ways, sometimes holding us up, sometimes landing on our heads, and most times doing a little bit of both at the same time. The only thing we get to “captain” and “master” is how we fit what happens into our tiny corner of the world, how we let events shape the kind of people we become.

The reason the stuffing box was leaking and the
Three Bolts to Go that started this whole process.
Work on Kintala continues. Much to my surprise, I have done mostly support tasks; pulling the broken parts off, grinding the outside of the hull, bolting a few of the new parts back in. Much of the hard work has been picked up by the Yard Gurus. The Engine Guru was particularly aghast at his findings, having to crank the WesterBeast over nearly and inch and a half to get the new drive shaft centered in the middle of the stern tube. The old one was basically riding hard against the edge, with the dripless seal running way out of center. (Which actually says a lot about the seal since it didn't leak a drop in all the miles we have covered.) It seems pretty obvious: whoever did the last repair remounted the strut “close” then lined the engine up as best they could. Why the boat wasn't shaking itself apart is anyone's guess.

The Glass Guru wasn't impressed with his findings either. He discovered that strut was being supported by about 1/4 of an inch of glass, and that, not fully wetted out when it was laid down. I'm not exactly sure how Tartan mounted the strut in the first place, but I am sure they should have talked to our Glass Guru before they built the boat.

The boat has also seen a small parade of the experts who work here drop by to take a look, including a boss or two. The consensus is unanimous; one good line snag wrapped hard around our drive shaft would likely have pulled the strut clean out of the hull. Kintala would have sunk within minutes.

Clearly we have been sailing on borrowed time, three years worth in fact. Parts of those years were spent sailing around the crab pots of the ICW, the Chesapeake Bay, and the western coast of Florida. More than once we brushed past a pot not seen until the last moment and, last year, made the night motor up the Chesapeake strewn with pots and drift nets. A mistake on deck could have put a line in the water while in the middle of the Gulf Stream or in the Atlantic between the Abaco Islands and Egg Key. It isn't hard to image how disastrous it could have been.

Were we lucky? Was that not our fate? Or did we just make the best decisions we could along the way, based on what we knew at the time, and working with the resources we had available? Things unfolded the way they did, uncharted and unpredictable. We ended up here, surrounded by people who have the knowledge and resources to get us up and going again, safer and better than we were. Things don't always work out that way, and then we make different decisions and use different resources. All of which turns us into the people that we are.

Which, in our case, is grateful members of the cruising tribe, hoping to be back “out there” soon.

1/3 of the flax seal was missing, turned to mush in the grease. It had also not been placed in the trough correctly so it had
merely squished between the plates and wasn't against the rudder post.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Three bolts to go

For the first time in months, the WesterBeast rumbled to life with a purpose, dock lines were tossed, and Kintala eased her way back out of the slip where she has rested for all these long months. It was kind of exciting even if we were only headed to the haulout pit. We weren't really planning on being lifted out, but the rudder stuffing box had started leaking on the way up the west coast of FL, and it lies well below the water line. Lifting the boat just high enough to pull the three bolts that hold the stuff in the stuffing box, without having water flood into the boat, was among the very last things needing to be done in this summer of work.

It has been a while since I drove a boat in the tight confines of a marina, but there was zero wind, shift and throttle worked silky smooth, and we ghosted into the lift straps like we knew what we were doing. Half an hour, hour at most, and we would be back in the slip with the boat closer to 100% than she has ever been.

A few hours later Kintala was sitting on the hard.

I have always been a bit shy about the parts of our drive train that didn't get attention back when the v-drive exploded. I should have been even more concerned after learning of the water spout hit that had done so much damage to the boat including (apparently) shoving it backwards into some shallows that damaged the rudder. With the boat nearly out of the water we could see the shaft and prop, and decided to take a closer look. After careful consideration, a new prop shaft, dripless seal and cutlass bearing will be installed (long overdue and recommended last summer by the folks at Oak Harbor)

Another issue is the shaft support strut mounting itself. Once we really started to look at the shaft / strut /  bearing combo that hangs under the bottom of the boat, I grew convinced that the strut support had, at some time in the past, been repaired; a repair that left much to be desired in such a critical area of the hull. Where the shaft exits the hull also appears to be more than just a bit of a hack job. I just couldn't convince myself that it was going to be okay to keep going with things as they were.

It would be easy to get discouraged. We thought we were so close to being on our way once again, with a fat and happy cruising kitty and a solid boat. There were plans to visit family and have family visit us, travels that are due to start in less than two weeks. The Islands were calling for the winter. All such plans seemed to be at risk with the cruising kitty cringing in fear of the costs heading its way.

But it may not be as bad as we thought for those first hours of Saturday morning. The Snead Island crew is a crew of experts and we are (junior) members of the family. If there is anyplace in the world to get critical glass work done in a high stress area of the hull well below the water line, this is the place. What seems like a Major Big Deal of a boat repair is often, to them, a minor glitch handled as a matter of routine. Chop out, glass, re-align, and remount the shaft support? Sure, no problem. (We just did that exact same thing for the two big engines just installed in the project boat I've been working on all summer.) Source custom bits and parts? The number is in the shop's speed dial list. A new shaft, coupling, seal and bearing will be on the way before the week is out.

Since I like to imagine myself as one of the experts around here, much of the work will fall to me. But our glass slinger has been slinging structure glass for decades. The engine guy has aligned as many marine engines as I have done hot sections on aircraft turbines, or flown instrument approaches right down to minimums. I will not mind having them looking over my shoulders and offering suggestions.

So I am going to put off being discouraged until we see how it goes. A broken boat, even if it is pretty much all one owns in the world, is still just a broken boat. And it may well be that we (once again) uncovered a potential major problem the easy way, in the perfect place to address it with a minimum of fuss and risk. However bad (or not) this hit turns out to be, when done, Kintala will be a better, safer boat, than she was yesterday morning when we eased out of the slip...

...and thought there was only three bolts to go.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Anatomy of a Summer Refit

In case you're new to the blog or actually have a life, you may not have gathered that coming here to Snead Island Boat Works for the summer meant a lot of hard, uncomfortable work for Tim. But it also meant he didn't have to deal with The List. He hates The List so deeply that he turned it over to me a couple years ago. He hates it so deeply that when I showed it to him yesterday with all the check marks beside everything, he almost fainted. This summer, The List became my project. It's been a long summer of very hard work, but it's been a great summer for me because I've learned to do so many things that I didn't know how to do before, and I've become intimate with Kintala like never before.

I thought that any of you who are actually considering doing such a thing as full time cruising might like to see what happens after you've cruised for three years. So without further adieu, here's the summer refit. some of them have been linked to the post that talked about the project.

  1. Refinish hatch screens. The original finish was four years old and was getting grungy from all of the humidity. Humidity is your enemy in every way.
  2. Make jerry can covers. We have them for the fuel cans, but the water cans needed them.
  3. Make chafe guards. I found that Sailrite's boat blanket makes terrific chafe guards and they have the side benefit of being able to install after the lines are set. You just wrap them around and velcro them. They have held up well through some pretty tough winds this summer.
  4. Make shelf support for electronics shelf. After using the shelf for a year, it became apparent that it needed a bit more support in the middle of the span since we were putting so much stuff on it.
  5. Install iPad mounts on binnacle and dodger hand rail. We wanted mounts in both places so that we had options.
  6. Install new sump box and repurpose old sump box. Kintala had a large, deep fiberglass box that the shower and head sink drained into that was attached to a sump pump. The sump pump quit, and rather than replace it, we opted for one of those self-contained shower sump plastic boxes with the pump built in. I installed it under where the old box was. Then I cut the old box in about half depth-wise and built a wooden bottom for it. We now use that box to store soda and beer.
  7. Move fridge drain to drain into sump box. In the attempt to have as dry a bilge as possible, I moved the fridge drain hose so that it drains into the sump box.
  8. Install 12v plug in cockpit for iPads. I installed this close to the iPad mount on the binnacle.
  9. Repair stern nav light. Turns out that installing the 12V socket allowed me to find a loose wire that fixed the stern light. Things rarely turn out that easy.
  10. Install LED light strip in forward engine area.
  11. Install LED light strip in aft engine area.
  12. Install Mantus anchor swivel.
  13. Send headsets in for evaluation and/or repair if financially feasable. It was, and we're back in the headset business for anchoring and docking.
  14. Make windlass cover. Our windlass leaks a lot of water into the chain locker through the chain tube and we are trying to limit the amount of water that ends up in the bilge.
  15. Rebed all salon ports and repair teak. Long, long, involved project. The teak under the port frames had rotted and rather than scrape all the teak off the fiberglass (it was glued) and replace it, I elected to dig out the rotted teak, and fill it with fiberglass body putty then prime and paint it white. This lightened up the interior substantially.
  16. Replace headliner. A job that actually turned out to be easier than I thought, and that rarely happens. Took about a week total. A link to another post. And one more.
  17. Locate and repair water leak above port settee. After removing the headliner it was easy to see that it was the block on the deck that the main halyard would travel through if it was fed to the cockpit. Removed, rebed, and replaced.
  18. Make flag sleeve. We needed a sleeve to cover the flag when we aren't flying it. The flag gets filthy and there was no reason to have it deployed all summer.
  19. Replace galley faucet. We had a leak at the faucet head where it had cracked. While replacing it, I also added a water saver that I absolutely love.
  20. Mount battery bus bar. We had too many power wires coming off the battery terminals so I added a heavy duty bus bar to clean up the installation..
  21. Install remote oil filter and change oil. The summer refit items were mostly to add to either comfort, beauty, or ease of living. As a result, the remote oil filter was top of the list. Changing the oil always meant shedding blood and now it's super easy to do.
  22. Add new bilge pump and move existing one.  We wanted a bit more redundancy in bilge pumps. I added one of the new low-profile pumps and then moved the existing one. I also added one of the three-way bilge pump switches on the new pump. Our existing one was just a breaker so there was no test function.
  23. Change heat exchanger zinc.
  24. Change fuel filters / add electric bleed pump. Another one of those projects that you cringe at on a Tartan 42 with a Westerbeast is bleeding the fuel system. I wired in a small electric bleed pump that bleeds the system up to the high pressure injector pump. You do still have to bleed that injector pump and crack one of the injector lines, but it's a whole lot easier than it was and much less human bleeding while fuel bleeding.
  25. Remove alternator, send out for overhaul, reinstall. We have a Balmar 75 alternator that costs a fortune to replace. One of the benefits of working at a boat yard is that they know all kinds of places to get things serviced. Our alternator came back from the shop looking almost completely new for a fraction of the cost.
  26. Overhaul raw water pump. I originally was going to just change the impeller, but once I got inside I discovered that the whole pump was pretty shot. We ended up getting a new one. I still may overhaul the old one just to have a spare on board.
  27. Sew new cushion slip covers. We have white salon cushions and one of the ways we've found to deal with that is to make slip covers out of fleece blankets. The back cushions we leave the white, and use the slip covers only on the bottom cushions. I had made one set last year along with some new striped throw pillow covers, and this summer I made a second set with one of the other colors in the pillow stripes. This way we get a chance to change the look of the salon just by changing the slip covers.
  28. Replace head sliding mirror doors. We have a cabinet behind the sink that has two sliding doors that are mirrors. When it gets hot, the boat swells in just the right way to make the mirrors catch on the shelves. It made it almost impossible to open the doors and the silver was getting rubbed off the back. They looked tacky. I was able to get some thinner acrylic mirror so now the doors slide easily.
  29. Replace salon fan.
  30. Send compass out for overhaul.
  31. Replace compass light.
  32. Replace throttle, shifter, and fuel cutoff cables.Without any doubt the hardest job I have ever tackled on this boat.
  33. Run new control line for wind vane.
  34. Replace plexiglass engine instrument cover.
  35. Replace below decks down stay for inner forestay. We found that one of the strands was broken on the stay when we were looking at something totally unrelated. Good lesson to always be observant.
  36. Replace or repair whisker pole. After looking unsuccessfully for a newer one that was the right size for our boat, I decided to repair ours. We couldn't afford a new one. It was a bit of a job that took most of a week in addition to waiting for parts.
  37. Find a spare anchor. Our old Danforth spare that lived in the anchor locker literally rusted away. We discarded it and have been on the lookout for one at used boat part stores but finally caved and bought a new one.
  38. Repair crack in bowsprit. We had a very small crack in one of the welds in the bowsprit. As it turned out, a boat next to us was getting a welding job done and so we were able to have him haul the welding hose about 10 feet over to Kintala and do ours for $20. Better lucky than good.
  39. Repair bimini aft support. One of the rivets had worked loose and, while it was no structural issue, the rattling noise was driving  me crazy. I ended up drilling it out and using a screw and nut.
  40. Wire new galley A/C plug to inverter. We have a power strip on our electronics shelf that connects to the inverter, but I wanted a plug in the galley so that I could use my mixer and Magic Bullet.
  41. Replace topping lift. Ours is getting frayed at the top.
  42. Replace the staysail furler. Our staysail furler was one that came off the kids' disaster boat and, while we were incredibly glad to have it the last two years, it needed replaced. Friends of ours gifted us a newer Furlex furler when they replaced theirs so we had to install it.
  43. Replace staysail halyard. The old furler had a different kind of halyard that attached directly to the furling unit so with the new furler we needed a new halyard.
  44. Replace masthead wind transducer. Thanks to a very fat osprey in St. Lucie, ours was broken. 
  45. Refinish salon floor. Many previous posts about this. You can search by the floor refinishing tag. The decision was made to refinish rather than replace because replacing a boat floor while living on it full time is nearly impossible. Refinishing it while living on it was just barely tolerable. Worth mentioning the stain remover again here. And another post link.
  46. Make screen cockpit enclosure. We don't need the plastic enclosure at the moment because we're not going north into colder weather, but we wanted a screened in cockpit so we could sit outside in the evening.
  47. Sew new shade cover. 
  48. Replace holding tank vent filter.
  49. Replace exhaust hose and clamps.
  50. Service rudder stuffing box.
  51. Tons of logistical items. We had a whole list of things like doctor's appointments, dental work, renewing the Coast Guard documentation, renewing the Customs sticker, canceling and then renewing the Delorme InReach, getting Florida drivers licences, replacing expired fire extinguishers, checking and updating flares, registering to vote in Florida, registering and recertifying an EPIRB that was gifted to us, and tons and tons of research for parts and instructions on all of the above projects.

The things we didn't get to cross off the list that will either get done in the islands or next year:

  1. Modify lazy jacks. Ours hang up on the sail battens and need to be adjusted to minimize that.
  2. Refinish exterior teak.
  3. Polish stainless.
  4. Paint deck nonskid.
  5. Paint bilge (easier to do when hauled out so maybe next year).
  6. Replace aft cabin and v-berth fans (may yet get done before we leave).
  7. Repaint aft hatch by wind vane.
To be fair, it's been longer than a summer refit. Tim started working here April 1st and, with the exception of the departure prep list, I'm just now finishing up my project list. Eight months of pretty much four or five full days a week. So if you think that retiring onto a boat means you actually get to sit around and do nothing, this post might disabuse you of that notion. It's a bit like childbirth though - once you're sitting in the cockpit looking at the beautiful Bahamian waters, you tend to forget about all the pain of the refit. And I'm soooo going to enjoy sitting in my bug-free cockpit!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

President Elect Donald Trump

I actually wrote this 3 days ago, but it didn't publish as planned...

Part of my everyday, working philosophy is to face unpleasantnesses as honestly and forthrightly as possible, contemplating possibilities with whatever clarity can be found, and acting with such maturity and wisdom as I can manage. So I am going to imagine that I will wake up in a couple of days to President Elect Donald Trump. It helps that I live on a sailboat, owe no one on the planet any money, have a little of same in the bank, and the Islands are only a few days' sail away.

I have no idea how such a thing could come to pass but, then again, I have no real explanation as to how he ended up the leader the the Republican Party in the first place. Having him win this election is as unfathomable to me than the fact that he is famous at all. I haven't watched TV in nearly two decades so he was barely famous in my world. Sure I knew the name, but that was mostly because my last job was being a pilot for a casino company. Many of that company's senior management had worked for Trump Enterprises at some point in their career. They universally loathed the man, his only fame so far as I cared. I am still astonished that a TV con man parlayed that questionable skill into becoming a potential POTUS.

So anyway, what will it be like to wake up to Trump's America? Pretty much like waking up in Obama's America, at least at first. Wednesday morning I will roll out of the v-berth around 0700, do my morning routine, head off to work. In a few weeks we will visit family, then have family visit us. After that Kintala will be headed for the Islands for the winter and into the spring. With any luck we will be there on Inauguration day, anchored off some white sand beach, and paying absolutely no attention to the goings on of America politics. (Yes, the seasons will continue to unfold, the earth will still spin its way around the sun, and most of the people on the planet will not know or care who the President might be. As much as possible I intend to be one of them.)

A bit longer term, I suspect there will be differences. Millions of people stand to lose access to health care under any Pres. Trump / Republican overhaul of the health care system. Deb and I are likely among them. Women, particularly poor women, will find access to health care particularly difficult given the demise of Planned Parenthood. In general the poor, particularly poor kids, are going to find life even more difficult than it already is. In any case, Deb and I are pretty healthy and live a healthy lifestyle. And the fact is something, someday, is going to prove fatal. Will our lives be appreciably shorter under Pres. Trump? Possible, but not likely. Given that we do live on a boat, perhaps we will end up in Mexico and have access to acceptable and affordable health care that is unmatched north of the border.

Deb and I may also feel a hit if Pres. Trump and the Republicans have their way with Social Security; the “entitlement” program that we have been paying into for our entire working lives. Though my guess is it will be the generation after mine that will see the ultimate transfer of those funds to Wall Street. Even if Pres. Trump and the Republicans manage to “privatize” SS away, I still have a boat full of tools and a few good years of working left in these bones. Life will be much harder than we expected, but that is going to happen to millions of others as well, and I make no special claim of being exempt.

I never have, and never will, fall into the income category where Pres. Trump and the Republican's tax breaks mean anything to me. On the other hand, we live a kind of life where their cuts in domestic spending will likely not mean much of anything either. Being able to move means we are not tied to any particular failing water supply or sewage treatment system. We don't use roads much. Failing bridges and lack of maintenance on the ICW could be an inconvenience, but Kintala is an open water boat and we are getting ever more comfortable on her. It is likely we will manage just fine, not finding lead in our water or the bathroom plumbing exploding stink into our home. (Well, that last might happen but it will be the most “local” kind of fix, one we can do for ourselves.)

I do expect that a major armed conflict is in America's near term future but I don't think Pres. Trump and the Republicans will be particularly guilty of causing it. The fact is the military is America's biggest jobs program, and that program has to grow ever larger to keep people working, voting, and paying enough in taxes so the war machine can go on. War is the inevitable outcome of such an economic policy. It is an insane way to run a country, or a world for that mater, but there it is. In any case I am too old to be called up, though I worry about grand kids. Should we see an all out shoot-em-up between nations packing intercontinental missiles, who survives will be a matter of luck; few will get by unscathed. A Pres. Trump with an arsenal of nuclear weapons at his disposal isn't a happy thought, but he has eight grand children of his own, and some of them must live in prime target zones.

Regardless of the claims of Pres. Trump and the Republicans, global warming will continue, coastal cities will find the flood waters ever further inland, and millions upon millions of people are going to forced to migrate. However, it will be slow motion kind of disaster, costing untold trillions of dollars but spread out over the next several generations. I don't know that human kind has any option other than living with the world we have created. I don't think it likely, at this late stage in the game, that Pres. Trump and the Republicans can make it any worse. And really, I live on a boat already equipped with solar panels, off the grid much of the time, and floating on top of the water. That is pretty much all I can do about global warming.

Lots of people may well end up at greater risk from a militarized and emboldened police / security state, but it isn't likely that Deb and I will be among them. We have friends and family who are bi-racial, others who are gay, and know many who are not people of faith, or of the "wrong" faith. According to Mr. Trump's own words they will find themselves suffering under a loss of civil liberties, human rights, a freedom of choices. Should that happen how any of us can stand and fight on the right side of history is something we can't imagine...yet.

Public education will decline, given Pres. Trump and the Republican's infatuation with conspiracy theories, utter contempt for critical thinking or evaluating evidence, and worship of the Young Earth Creationist god. But public education has been in decline for a long time and a Pres. Trump administration couldn't do much more damage than has already been done. Eight of my nine grand children are home schooled and they are likely to be far better educated than most of their peers. This may well turn out to their advantage for, when they come of age, Pres. Trump (absolutely), the Republican Party (possibly), and the United Sates of America (maybe) will be history. There will be something new for them to build, and they will have to do it in a world unimaginable to the generation of Pres. Trump. Where they gathered the skills to do that rebuilding will not matter.

I hope that President Elect Donald Trump is nothing more than a fading hallucination, but the world is a crazy place and crazier things have happened.

Another part of my everyday, working philosophy is that much of what happens in this crazy world is simply out of my control. Around me political issues decades in the making collide, hostilities nurtured for generations overwhelm whole countries, and the unexpected consequences of decisions made hundreds of years ago are coming home to roost. There is nothing I can do to alter such large scale social currents. All I can do is regard the person next to me without malice and make my own decisions based on the idea of, first, doing no harm. Regardless of who is the President Elect, I am encouraged by the knowledge that there are others see the world in much the same way. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Project Report - Cockpit Enclosure

You do the best you can. You plan. You design. You make a list of materials. You source the best price and delivery. Inevitably, the project takes twice or three times as long and at least 30% more materials than you estimated. But once in a very, very rare while you get lucky and a project takes exactly what you ordered and much less time than expected. <gasp> did I just actually say that?

I've been sitting in the cockpit for the last two years trying to figure out just exactly how I was going to design a cockpit enclosure and, I admit, I was exasperated. Our cockpit is not square-backed like so many of the newer production boats. It curves. It also has a two-step coaming that starts out from the bulkhead at one height and then, halfway toward the aft end of the cockpit, it drops down a couple inches and narrows considerably as it curves toward the helm seat. I wanted to have the screen outside of the bimini frame, but, due to the way we mounted the solar panels, that wasn't possible. I'd been putting off the project just because I was so frustrated with trying to figure out how I was going to do it.

A couple of weeks ago, while waiting for a coat on the floor to cure, I took my Sailrite patterning plastic and my rolls of tape and began to tape it in place on the frame to see what I could come up with. Doing this in 95° Florida sun was probably not my best idea since it acted like a greenhouse and nearly roasted me to death, but after a couple hours I had what I though might work.

This past week I could no longer put off the project so I gathered my materials, moved my sewing machine out into the cockpit and began the work. After a bit of a slow start, something that always happens on any custom fit job, I found my stride and in just 5 days had the project finished. To say that I'm pleasantly surprised and that both the Captain and I are immensely pleased with the outcome would be the understatement of the century.

For those of you that might be thinking about tackling this projecct, here are the materials I used. My total project cost was somewhere around $350. I can't tell you exactly because some of the materials I used I already had in stock, like the thread as an example.

  • For the screen I used Phifer Solar Screen from Lowe's. I thought about using the Phifertex that everyone else uses, but this fabric is a little less than half the price and that was a big factor for us. I could also get it locally without freight.
  • For the framework I used Sailrite's 2" facing. It would have been much cheaper to make my own facing, but time was a huge factor to balance against expense and the pre-made facing would cut my time by almost half. I also didn't have a good place to cut facing or an iron to press it.
  • For the needle and thread I used a #20 needle and V-92 thread.
  • I used #10 YKK plastic zippers, some of them double pull and some of them single pull depending on the need
  • I used 1/4 and 1/2" seamstick tape. You have to tape every seam and zipper on a project like this so don't skimp.
  • I used stainless snaps cloth to surface where I snapped to the outside of the coaming and in some of the smaller areas where I couldn't use zippers to connect to the bimini I used the stainless cloth to cloth.
  • I used Flex Rail to attach the screen to the coaming where it dropped down in the aft area. I used Dow Corning 795 as a sealant and #6 screws every 8".
Fitting this area was the hardest. Our mainsheet and traveler run along the forward edge of the cockpit so there was a long discussion about whether to try to rig the screen so the mainsheet came through it in some way, or whether to disconnect the mainsheet shackle from the traveler and stow it on the genoa car track. We decided to do the latter for awhile and then we can always modify that screen panel to include some type of pass-through for the mainsheet later. Having the mainsheet out of the cockpit also gives us more living room. By the way, that lovely custom Bristol 57 in the background is for sale if you can afford to fork over a cool $599K.

I ended up with five total panels. Two on each side and one across the stern. The vertical line / zipper you see in the middle of the photo is the end of the first panel and the beginning of the second panel on the starboard side. If you look at the bottom of the photo you can see where the coaming drops down and narrows.

The lower section of the coaming is pictured here with the track mounted on top.

The aft lower section also runs in the track on top of the coaming and inside of the stern. The wind vane autopilot and the outboard are all outside the screen.

When we're parked for a long while the wheel is mounted on the rail. It fits nicely outside the screen. There are several places where I used short velcro strips on the outside of the screen to mount to the bimini frame to give it extra stability.

The view from the starboard outside.

One of the zipper seams which I designed to completely cover the zippers to protect them from UV damage. You can see one of the velcro straps there as well as the snaps that attach the screen to the outside of the coaming.

Before we did the new bimini and the connector, this is the enclosure we had for the dodger. Converting the upper corners of the dodger to accept the new enclosure was the hardest part of the job. 

Here is the outside of that corner with the new enclosure.

And here is the inside of that corner.

This was the second most difficult part, dealing with the aft stay. I ended up using two pieces of screen and doing the facing below the stay and a zipper above the stay. The whole piece slides into the track, then the middle zipper zips, then the top zippers, then the sides. It's a bit of a puzzle assembly, but it's pretty bug tight. We're pretty excited to have another living space for when the grand kids are with us next month. It will also provide us with good shade in the Bahamas. At some point when we head north again we'll do the plastic portion of the enclosure, but for now there was no reason to expose it to UV damage when we don't need it yet. All in all, next summer here at Snead Island will be much more pleasant with a place to sit in the evening.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Story tellers

I like stories, and I admire story tellers. Story tellers have always been important to humanity. Lesson plans and class rooms are how we pass along facts and knowledge, but stories and myth are how we share truth and wisdom. Sadly, story telling has fallen on hard times in our society. Part of the reason I don't miss TV is that the story telling is so lame, its main purpose to be just titillating enough to have the viewer hang around for an evening's worth of commercials. Books still do a pretty good job, though with the loss of editing finding a good story that is also well written is getting more and more difficult. For my money, outside of a good book, the best story telling our society has to offer at the moment is the occasional movie. (Though many of them are now focused on selling toys and video games, rather than telling a good story.) Still, there was / is some good story telling in movies, and movies hang around for a long time. Parked as we are here at a dock, two of our best sources for movies have turned out to be the local library and the $3 bin at Dollar General.

Over the last week or so, two older movies in particular have shared far better than average stories. The first was “The Great Debaters” (2007), the second “Guilty By Suspicion” (1990). The first told a tale of being Black in America, circa 1938 in Texas. The second was about being the target of the House Un-American Activities Committee (now known as the House Judiciary Committee) in the mid to late 1940s. Somber tales, both, touching on times when America was not so great. Yet even when America was not being so great, there were normal Americans who helped make her a little greater. Some risked the hate and mob violence of the Jim Crow South sanctioned by a heartless and corrupted government. Others faced a life of oppression at the hands of an openly heartless and corrupted government, one that had abandoned any pretense of honoring the Constitution, or even simple human dignity.

In both cases, those on the wrong side of history loudly claimed to be righteous in the eyes of a god, and the True American Patriots. History, of course, has judged them to be some of the nation's most notable hypocrites. But here's the thing: most of them died without ever knowing that of themselves. We know, and can learn from their failings, because the stories have been passed along.

Which is why I am such a big fan of the true story teller.

Most of us are never going to know how we might fit into the stories told by future story tellers, even if we are just anonymous background characters. But I'm going to take a guess at the kind of stories the story tellers will tell of our time; see what kind of characters we really are.

The racists, the ones claiming a special understanding of what god wants, and those most loudly claiming to be the True Patriots, will be villains scorned. Those who ignored the need to cherish and protect the earth that supports us will be reviled as some of the worst of humanity who ever lived. The story tellers will make them out to be ogres and trolls. Ugly, twisted creatures who reeked of rot and death.

 At some point, those who love war may fight one that leaves much of the world devastated. Those who survive and rebuild what they can (assuming there are any left) are going to tell stories of demons and monsters who nearly destroyed the planet. The war fighters will have sunk so low that the story tellers will not regard them as members of the human tribe. (A truth maybe, even if it isn't a fact.)

And the heroes? I'm not sure who the heroes are going to be. Perhaps it will be those who lead a peaceful revolution. Perhaps it will be millions who stood before the tanks or the armed mobs unmoved by fear, demanding, and then building, a society that truly is just. Maybe it will simply be those who survived and managed to carry on. Or they may be people who chose to take care of the people around them, standing at the front door of their neighbors and friends when the new brown shirts came for them, because that is what good people do.

The heroes might even be those who were unafraid to meet violence with violence. You never know. We would be listening to much different stories now, if the first people who dressed in white robes and danced around burning crosses as a black man hung dying above the flames, had been seen as easy targets rather than protectors of the "American Way of Life". I'm not saying we would have better stories than the ones we have now. (After all, stories of the civil rights movement are, by and large, pretty good stories.) Then again, maybe we wouldn't be writing stories about the return of Jim Crow.

Mostly though, I suspect the stories of our time will be ones of opportunities squandered, of chances missed, of a people who – for reasons unknown and perhaps unknowable – turned their backs on compassion, reason, and wisdom. The most noticeable trait of the story the story tellers will tell about us is that there were no heroes, They will tell of a people who happily - and knowingly - danced with the trolls and the ogres, following them out into the darkness...

...and were never heard from again.