Monday, July 31, 2017

Some Monday mornings...

Some Monday mornings are harder to take than others. This Monday morning dawned gray and wet after a night of little sleep, mostly due to the bursts of hard rain that kept hammering the boat. We had been watching a small area of storms forming out in the Gulf of Mexico during the weekend. All of the weather gurus were nonchalant about the possibility of it turning into anything more than a bunch of rain, so splashing off to work seemed like the thing to do. People were talking about the weather though, and just an hour or so into the morning’s work Deb came by to let me know that the little area of rain had become a tropical storm aimed pretty much our way. We have grandkids around and, maybe, it would be best to get them somewhere safer than on a boat in a tropical storm. On the other hand, it is Florida in the summer time; rain and a little wind are part of the life. Besides, how big can a storm grow in 50 miles and a couple of hours? Deb settled the little ones into the v-berth and cranked some cartoons up on the iPad.

The history of Emily as seen on

During first break, there was a lot of talk about the incoming weather. Some of the guys had already bailed out as nearly all outside work had ground to a halt. My project for the day was in the paint shed, which isn’t really a shed - two stories of fabric stretched over an aluminum lattice that hums in the wind. But it does help keep the rain off of one’s bald head. Still, the sky looked dark with fast moving, low level clouds racing overhead. Word soon spread that our little batch of storms, now tropical storm Emily, was picking up speed and about to crash our Monday morning work party. Not ten minutes after break had ended, the winds picked up, waves started breaking over the sea wall, and the rain could be seen boiling up over the barrier islands. So I took a few minutes off to check on Kintala and her crew of Daughter Eldest and grand kids (3).

I got there just as Deb was about to walk the two boys over to the head. Once the weather arrived it seemed a good bet they would be boat bound for a good part of the day, so a preemptive potty strike seemed like a good idea. The shower house is about 200 feet from Kintala’s dock. About 100’ into the trip the leading edger of Emily arrived. Two little kids in 60 knot winds and driving, sheeting rain. That will be a story they tell for many a year. Deb and I hustled them inside than I went back to the boat to check on the remaining crew of Daughter Eldest and grand daughter youngest.

Even in the lee of the boat house Kintala was heeled over enough to send glasses and dishes cascading off of counters and onto the cabin sole. The rain was horizontal in straight line winds that must have been over 60 knots.  Every phone on the boat started to blare, a tornado warning was issued and we were being advised to “take cover immediately”. Daughter Eldest was a bit beside herself as the last she had seen of her parents and her two boys was all of us being swallowed up in the onslaught and disappearing from sight. I let her know that all were fine but we needed to get them back on the boat, the bath house being the last place one would want to be in a tornado. Two hundred feet can bet a long way in that kind of weather, but the four of us held hands and made it back to the boat without a problem.

Just as we got back aboard, Son-in-Law and new coworker at the boat yard, who had been helping me with the project in the paint shed, showed up. He had been inside when one side of the shed had failed under the pressure, all but the two corner posts buckling in and threatening to bring the whole thing down on the three boats parked inside. As he told the story, Deb and I adjusted the lines to keep Kintala off the pilings in the shifting winds. With our boat as safe as it could be and everyone accounted for, I headed back out to the yard to help do whatever it was that needed done.

There was some scrambling going on. The wind had ripped the headsail open on a boat whose mast had gone up late last week. Its rigging had yet to be tuned, so a team of five was tightening up the rig and wrestling with the wayward sail. The sail could not be saved, but the tight rig held the mast in place. Such was not the case out in storage A. Just a few hundred feet from Kintala a mast sheared off at its base, crashing down across the next two downwind boats. Storage C saw boats lose their canvas, and just on the other side of the fence several large trees are down. A Couple of large dock boxes were, literally, blown apart, the tiny bits scattered to the winds.

Somewhere in the midst of all that, a couple of us  grabbed a length of heavy line to shore up the paint shed the best we could, using a couple of well placed trees. Two of the boats threatened by the shed were on trailers. They got pulled clear, chocked and blocked.

Power went down throughout the boatyard and isn’t back yet. The sky is still heavily overcast but the winds have died away and the water is settled. My guess is that those who live on land will be berating NOAA for being slow, then being alarmist by “naming” the weather on a typical Florida day. Those of us who live on boats, much closer to the weather, will have a slightly different take. Sure, it was a small storm. But it came basically came out of nowhere. At 0700 it was a tropical depression. By 1030 a tropical storm was pounding its way on shore, likely dragging something along that, if it wasn’t a tornado, was certainly close enough for my taste. By noon it was over and people were assessing the damage.

Some Monday mornings are harder to take than others.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A different take on stuff...

Every tribe has certain markers, common characteristics or habits shared by a majority of the members. One characteristic of the cruising tribe is a nonchalant attitude when it comes to filling one’s life with bits of this and pieces of that…stuff. The travails of downsizing from a the typical American home filled with personal items to a boat is a part of nearly every cruiser’s story. Even after the move is made, finding room for the things that were brought along is a regular challenge. As time flows by, even some of the things brought along, things felt to be “essential”, get lost in the corner of some little cubby somewhere. Months go by, the thing gets forgotten and, even though it might still be on the boat, it is one more thing dropped from life’s space. Then the boat shows up in a boatyard somewhere…and suddenly there is stuff everywhere.

Mid-project on our old boat. Stuff everywhere and plastic protecting the scratch-prone surfaces

Boat techs live and work in cubby holes. That is where the wires, pumps, hoses, and switches dwell that we run, change, clamp, and replace. But rare is the event where we can reach, or even see, those things after opening a door and lifting up a hatch. What we will see are trash cans, life vests, cleaning supplies, dishes, cookware, bedding, towels, and clothes. Getting to items needing repair often requires moving mattresses, cushions, or multiple pillows out of the way. And then the question becomes, where does one stuff the stuff that needs to be moved in order to reach the stuff that needs to be fixed? The interior of any boat getting extensive work rapidly takes on the look of a giant, 3-D, Chinese puzzle. One can’t move anything without it fowling something else and, once it is moved, there is no place to put it. It is one of the peculiarities of working in a boat yard, there is no storage space off the boat. Even if there were, think of a boat on the hard. It is the second story of a house that has no first floor, with only a ladder for getting to the street.

Working in the cockpit is only marginally better. Open any hatch and what is found are fenders, lines, deck brushes, hatch boards and more life vests. They will quickly fill a cockpit so tiptoeing around on the coaming, on that aforementioned second floor, is a regular exercise in maintaining one’s balance. Sometimes the stuff ends up on deck. In any case, at the end of the day it all has to go back in the lockers so at not to be blown around or utterly soaked in the ever present thunderstorms that frequent these parts. (I know, this stuff is supposed to get wet. But stash a wad of rain soaked life vests in a locker; close it up tight for a week or so in the Florida heat, and then be around when the owner pops the top before leaving with his boat - and after paying a rather sizable bill.)

One of my personal trials seems to be engine hatches - Catalina engine hatches in particular, though they are far from the only offender. Once the hatch, unwieldily, heavy, and dirty, is removed, where to put it? There isn’t enough floor space to set it out of the way. Even if there was, it would likely be covering access to someplace else that needs to be reached. Can’t put it on the table, hell, the table itself is already in the way. Can’t go on a counter. Engine hatches end up being a lump of inconvenience to be suffered for the length of the job. On top of that, getting in and out of the boat is now an exercise in exercise.  The hatches that swing up are, sometimes, worse. There is simply no way to get in and out of the boat with the hatch up, and the head room under the hatch is often severely limited. Banging the back of one’s head hurts just as much as any other head hit. At least the blood doesn’t run into the eyes.

Mattresses are another spiteful thing. Drag one out of the aft cabin to reach a leaking holding tank, and what to do with it? A giant, floppy irritation that is going to sag in the way no matter where it is stashed. Often, before the mattress can be moved, the bedding has to be removed. How is a sweat stained, grubby boat tech working in temps well over 100 degrees going to manage that without staining the pretty whites and, once again, where to stash them so they stay pretty and white? Sometimes, before removing the bedding, a pile of dirty clothes has to be moved. They didn’t include that in the “boat tech guide to happy living” brochure. I don’t worry about staining dirty clothes.

It doesn’t help that, when working on a boat, we generally bring a bunch of our own stuff on board, hoses, extension cords, fans, lights, and tools. The boat is already full, now it is over flowing. Getting tangled up in one’s own extension cord and thus pulling one’s own light down on one’s own bald head, followed by a cascade of screwdrivers and wrenches, is just one of the joys to be found in this profession. Try to turn to get out of the way and skin one’s shins against the engine hatch.

Sometimes we get a boat that has just recently been purchased. The original owner has removed all of the stuff, and the new owner has yet to put replacement stuff on board. A happy occasion. Last week included working on just such a boat. Only a trash can and a couple of small bins of brick-a-back stood in the way of reaching the autopilot computer. Cockpit lockers were only half full. If access was needed to the port side, everything fit in the starboard hole, and visa-versa. The lockers themselves were large enough to crawl inside and move around…some. One day it started to rain and pulling the hatch cover partly closed meant I had a dry space in which to work while hanging the ram and rudder position indicator. How cool is that? There was even room in there for a fan, so it really was cool…er.

The inside of the boat wasn’t near as much fun. The cabin was tiny! Standing up inside was impossible, being on my knees was the exact right height for “standing” at the sink. Half way along the settee, going forward, the ceiling dropped a foot or so lower. Already bent 90 degrees at the waist to move means not really looking where one is going. Ouch. I soon learned to move slowly in that boat, caring not what that meant to the labor bill.

The v-berth was already stuffed full of cockpit cushions, topped by the helm wheel. Gaining access under a settee meant piling cushions from one on the other, filling that side of the boat nearly to the ceiling. Needing to be under both at the same time was, fortunately, only needed once. On that occasion the cushion pile went on the galley counter, completely blocking the companionway. Finding a place to stash locker hatches was a constant challenge. This was a very pretty boat, with high gloss varnished inside decks and teak glowing in the sunlight. It is the kind of finish that will scratch just from brushing it with a hatch corner or belt buckle; that will nick at the touch of a screwdriver blade. Cardboard and tape were liberally applied, but had to be folded up and stashed somewhere when the floor needed to come up.

Then, of course, the floor needed to be stashed someplace as well.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Getting finished...

The anchorage at Snead Island Boat Works
Finishing a task is the best part of the task. Most tasks however, get started, get interrupted, get restarted, then kind of bumble through to the end. The interruptions come in many forms, weather and scheduling among them. But waiting on parts seems inevitable.

There are a lot of old boats out there, boats built by manufacturers long out of business, who installed parts made by manufacturers now equally long out of business. Finding parts that will get the job done isn’t hard. Finding parts that will get the job done, use the same wires, have the same bolt patterns, fit in the same spaces, and fill the same holes? That is another matter. At one point last week every one of the five boat tasks assigned to yours truly was waiting on parts. A bait-well pump came in for one boat, but not the circuit breaker for its bilge pump. Mounting brackets for a TV antenna going on a mast came in, but not the associated coax cable. Lift struts to help carry the weight of the massive engine covers on a sport fishing boat are two weeks back ordered. We had a mixing elbow for a boat just surveyed, but not the associated exhaust elbow. In fact, no one has the associated exhaust elbow. That particular part for that particular engine is no longer available. But there is a different part that will work, using different bolts; and it was on the way.

The fifth boat is my “filler boat”, getting its autopilot system replaced. When other tasks get brought to a halt that one is waiting. All that needs done is to close whatever boat was being worked on, pack up tools, wind up extension cords, collect fans, load the golf cart, find a place to store parts for tasks interrupted, move, unpack tools, unwind the extension cords, deploy fans, climb aboard, and get started. Sometimes a task never does get finished, at least not by me. It isn’t the least bit unusual to get pulled out of the middle of a job, never to see it again. One might wonder how we manage the transition, making sure that everything gets done that needs to be done. In my old life there was a very definite “hand-off” procedure between shifts; and a paperwork trail that everyone involved in a task could follow. There are no such things in the marine industry but, somehow, things generally seem to work out. (To be fair, "generally seem to work out" would not be a standard most people would find comforting at 35,000 feet going 500 mph. At sea level doing 5 knots with land in sight? Different story.)

But Friday was a good day. The exhaust elbow came in. With it and the mixing elbow screwed tight to the adapter and the proper bolts, lock washers, and gasket located, I loaded up and headed over to the boat. It wasn't were I left it, a real puzzle since the engine was missing some serious bits. Turns out a paper trail might - at least once in a while - be a good idea.  And I have a new directive to "tag" a boat I have disabled by pulling parts off of it.

Boat located, along with another tech who was head down and waist deep, already in the hole where the exhaust was located. He was doing a different task. He had tools, fans, lights, and his own parts scattered around. Bolting up the exhaust would be no big deal. After all, he gets paid by the hour just like me. One task down. An easy pack up and move. (And yes, I was very careful to make sure he knew exactly what it was that needed done.)

Wiring in the new bait well pump wouldn’t finish that task, but there was hope that the bilge circuit breaker would arrive before the day was out. I knew the old pump was toast because I had jumped it straight across a battery and all I got was sparks, no spin. But the new pump wouldn’t work either. Curses. Literally, lots and lots of curses. The problem tracked to that pump’s circuit breaker being intermittently open as well. Wiggle the post to get power, wiggle it again to make the power go away. Both of these breakers are the kind that have little buttons on them, they can be reset but not opened. Poor idea on a boat. They just sit, inactive, year after year, slowly deteriorating. There are six in this boat, two are bad, the others can’t be far behind. Yes, the panel should be rewired with new, better breakers. No, no one is going to suggest or approve such a thing on a toy that is used to go fishing on weekends. Anyway, the new pump is in and secured and the two little open holes in the panel will get filled as soon as the parts arrive. Task two as far as it can go. Pack up and move.

I did think about leaving a note on the boat about the circuit breakers. But the open holes are directly in front of the helm and I talked to the owner on Wednesday, telling him we were waiting on parts. On Thursday he took the boat out anyway, with the circuit breaker for the manual bilge pump missing and the bait well pump screwed into its housing just hand tight. If he don't care, I don't care either.

The lift struts came in but that boat can wait a bit. No one is pressing to have that one finished…yet. Those parts stayed stashed behind the counter until later, but there was a new roll of coax back there as well.

Sixty six feet of it went smoothly into the mast.  A connector and a couple of clamps would see the mast ready to go back on the boat, after a quick check of the lights. Everything electrical in this mast is new: wiring, lights, antennas, and wind sensor. This often happens with lightning hits. But the quick check of the lights revealed that the deck light wasn’t working. Two wires, how could I have messed that up? But, as it turns out, the manufacturer didn’t bother to plug the light bulb in at the factory, just stuck it in the hole and put the lens on. Thank you very much. It was an easy fix with the mast on the ground, which is why I check them before the mast goes in the air. Mark this task as “done.” Pack up and move. (The boat itself is far from done, but the only monkey I have in that particular circus is reinstalling the alternator, which went out for repair.)

And with that, it was back to the autopilot install. This is supposed to be a “plug - ’n - play” job. The old system failed. Instead of fixing it, the owner decided to replace it with the new version. All of the parts are supposed to go in the same places, using most of the wiring already run. Which sounds like a really good idea, yes? (I can see some of you shaking your heads already.) Of course not all of the parts are exactly the same size as the old. The flux gate (yep that is its real name) is much larger than the original, connects to a network and not directly to the autopilot controller, and will not fit where the old one was located. The hole in the cockpit wall where the old control panel was located was cut too big for the new one to mount. It had to be filled and the mount holes re-drilled. Okay, not quite “plug - ’n - play” but not too bad. Except…

...what if the original problem is not a component failure? What if there is a jacked up piece of wire somewhere, a connector corroded, or a butt splice pulling free? What if someone ran a too-long screw into a wiring conduit while mounting a fan or something? No one really knows exactly why the system doesn’t work, and the problem is intermittent. It powers up, but that is only two wires out of dozens. There is no test box to install that will verify that signals are actually flowing from one unit to another. The assumption of a component failure is based entirely on what a guy who fixes autopilot boxes told us over the phone.  I sure hope he is correct. If he isn’t there is going to be one really unhappy boat owner, in spite of the fact that it was his call to replace the system rather than figure out, for sure, what the problem might be. We will not know until next week some time when that particular task is finished. Maybe the owner will be a happy little camper and all will be well with the world.

Or maybe there will be another task waiting to be finished.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Home by Five

When I was 8, we roamed the square mile or so that was our neighborhood the entirety of every long day of summer. Our parents rarely saw us during those days, usually only long enough for us to grab a snack or some Koolaid and head back out. Always, the admonishment from Mom was, "Be sure to be home by five to set the table."

Having all five of us seated around the table as soon as my dad walked in the door from work was an unwritten law. Nothing got in the way. The schedule was sometimes a few minutes either way of 5:30 depending on the Pittsburgh traffic my dad had to juggle or how complicated my mom's menu was, but family dinner was family dinner, a long-standing tradition that provided so much more than physical nourishment.

Many years later, we established the family dinner in our own family. The world was yet to see a 50% divorce rate and most of my kids' friends also had family dinners. But by the time they were in high school, organized sports had bred the Soccer Mom and the family dinner began to fall prey to drive-through fast food lanes and microwave single-serve entrees eaten over a smart phone or tablet.

The first dinner on our new table back in 2013
I recently wrote a post about how we're managing to survive having seven people on our 42-foot sailboat over the summer, three of whom are my grandkids. In it I talked about manners and how important they are when cramming a lot of people into a small space. One reader observed that maybe the increasing size of houses might be contributing to the lack of manners I see every day. While that might be a possibility, I believe that the death of the Family Dinner has contributed to so many of society's ills. We are an increasingly lonely people, struggling to find some place to connect in a wholly connected society. In our effort to chase satisfaction through endless scheduled activity, we have given up the one thing that could offer it. The plain, old-fashioned family dinner.

Dinner was The School of Human Behavior. We talked about our days in school during the school year, or the forts we built in the woods during the summer. We learned manners by being taught to ask politely for something to be passed. We learned to respect each other by listening and not interrupting someone's story. We learned responsibility by participating in the preparation and cleanup. We learned to express gratitude by appreciating my mom's hard work to prepare the meal. We learned to participate in effective conversation. We laughed together, we got angry at each other, we learned to appreciate each other's feelings. We felt connected. Not too bad for an hour a day investment. So whether you live in a 400 square foot boat, an apartment, or a McMansion, try hollering, "Be sure to be home by five!" to your kids as they go out the door. You won't regret it.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


So a big powerboat got tossed into the water last Friday, one that has been sitting in the yard since we had tucked Kintala into her slip. Having never been tasked with doing anything on that particular boat, I had no idea of what was being done or when it was supposed to be finished. Nor did I really care; not my circus, not my monkeys.

Kintala tucked into her slip next to the power boat shed

Once it was in the water, Boss-not-so-new pulled me off the mast I was rewiring. I don’t know the whole story, but my guess is the owner of the boat told us to splash the thing.  I’m sure it was suggested to him that might not be the best idea since there were several leaks that had yet to be addressed. For some reason he insisted, and thus was I handed a bucket of monkeys in the guise of making sure the bilge pumps were operating. Apparently, it is bad form to have a boat sink at the dock even if the owner insists on putting it in the water. I have trouble getting my head around that, but what else could be done? There is no law that says a yard can’t launch a leaking boat. If we insisted on not putting it in the water wouldn’t we, in some fashion, be stealing it? We get paid to fix boats, not protect owners from themselves. And, come to think of it, that might be a good thing. I don’t know if there is enough money in the whole world to cover the costs of protecting - some owners anyway - from themselves.

The first challenge in any boat is to find the appropriate controls and switches to make the things happen that one wants to happen. Old boats tend to collect switches that have no labels, switches that are labeled to do one thing when they have been rewired to do something else, and switches that, though labeled, don’t actually do anything at all. Not only did I have to figure out how to work the pumps, we had to know, for an absolute certainty, that the batteries were being charged from the shore power. Not as easy as one might suspect since this boat has no switch marked” battery charger”. It does have one that says “converter” which did the trick; verified by checking the actual voltage that hit the batteries when the “converter” was turned on.

The boat has a set of circuit breakers that “arm” the three bilge pumps to come on automatically with the activation of a float switch. It also has three switch/circuit breakers that just turn the pumps on. Little lights next to the breakers and/or switches indicated that the pumps are armed and/or that that they are on.

Not actually true. The lights simply indicate that there is power on the breaker panel end of the wire. If the wire is broken or the pump itself inoperative, the little light will happily glow just the same. With the boat leaking, trusting little glowing lights was likely not what Boss-not-so-new had in mind. Thus I crawled my way into the various places where the pumps were located, all switches in “manual run” and verified that each pump was, in fact, pumping. Then I went back to the panel, turned all the pumps to “armed”, and crawled back down into the various places to check that the pumps came on with the float switches activated. Two did, but the forward one, the one whose place was deepest and hardest to reach, didn’t.

Of course.

The first check was the float switch itself, since the pump worked. Actually not the switch so much, since the wiring to the switch appeared to be pulled apart, kind of, not really cut. Not sure how that could have happened but hey, take the easy way out first. It only took a few minutes to do a temporary patch on the wires, just to see. Which was good since, even wired up, the switch didn’t work and the pump didn’t run.

These switches normal fail “open” meaning that they don’t put power to the pump motor even when the water gets deep and scary. But this one tested as having failed “closed”. This was not good since that meant the pump should think that the water was deep and scary and be running, which it wasn’t. Since the switch was clearly toast, changing it was the first order of business. The new switch didn’t make the pump run though, truth to tell, I was hoping some kind of electrical magic would happen. So now the challenge was to figure out where the electrons were going astray between the control panel and the pump.

The wire off the back of the circuit breaker was a pretty purple. The wire at the motor was an ugly black…with a butt splice already in it. As usual there was no hint of a wiring diagram or schematic anywhere. Still, the only reasonable assumption (given that the circuit breaker shouldn’t be doing anything other than powering up the bilge pump) was that the wire should go directly from breaker to motor. Clearly this circuit had been butchered, at least one wire spliced in that wasn’t there when the boat left the factory. There is no telling where in the boat this particular butchering took place, and the work day was running out.

So I butchered it some more. At the moment the “Manual” switch powers up the pump through the float switch. No one is going to be on the boat this weekend, and Boss-not-so-new is fully aware of what I did to keep the boat from sinking. (Note: Fatty Goodlander would say that the boat wasn’t sinking, it was leaking. IF the pumps failed, THEN it would be sinking.)

Poking around also revealed that most of the circuits on this boat, including the other two bilge pumps, are put together with wire nut, not butt splices. Wire nuts are fine, if one is wiring a house. When one is wiring boat circuits that are likely to end up in the water (like bilge pumps), wire nuts are, well, just nuts. I hard wired in the forward bilge pump because I couldn’t make my fingers do anything less. But no one was going to pay me to rewire the rest of the bilge circuits and, well, I work for money. Not to be too blunt, but if you insist on putting a boat in the water that is “leaking” then I don’t really care if it sinks, only that it doesn’t sink because of something I did.

At one point, while working on the forward pump, I realized that the center pump had quit working. I realized this because the water at that pump had gotten deep enough to float its switch (the one I had tested before) but the pump wasn’t running. As it turned out there was a single butt splice in the center pump’s power wire, a splice that had never been crimped shut. My moving around in a tight place had pulled it loose, disabling the pump. An easy fix but…seriously?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Fourth of July Muse

One of the many storms blowing down the Manatee River this season
Kintala is sitting in the exact same place she was last Fourth of July weekend, tied in the same dock, facing the same way, using the same lines. We were here for many months last year. We have already been here several months this year and there are, at least, several more months to go. That being the case I suspect we can’t really call ourselves “cruisers” at the moment. We have been cruisers and hope to be cruisers again. But for now we are live-a-boards, staying in one place, with each day pretty much like the day before. (Except for holiday weekends!)

It isn’t a bad way to live. We are still on the water. Pelicans, dolphins, and manatees are occasional visitors, sunsets can still be spectacular and - at least after work hours are over - it is often as quiet as an island anchorage. There are likely a billion or more people on the planet who would love to change places with us. Some might be fellow Americans drudging through days in a cubicle, buried under interest payments, and wondering if they will ever get the chance to live a different kind of life. (They should feel free to enjoy their air conditioning though. Working in the intense Florida summer time sunshine will put a dent in anyone’s day.)

Grand kids looking at the weird color sky
We still live far outside US of A normal. Living in a tiny house discourages our being consumers in the normal American sense. Our lives are not full of stuff we don’t really need, use, or want. We don’t have anywhere to put such things, and don’t like spending money that could go into the cruising kitty on such things. In a way, it is fine that most Americans don’t live like we do for, if they did, the consumer economy would collapse within months, maybe weeks. That simply has to happen some day, but the transition to whatever comes next is likely to be a rough go. It needn't be that way, compassion and wisdom would go a long way to easing the path. From my point of view the US is a bit short of both such commodities at the moment, so stumbling along as we are might be the best choice for now.

I do miss traveling. It has likely been decades since I spent so many days in a row in such a confined space. This is actually “human normal”, most people spending the majority of their lives within 25 miles of the place they were born or raised. But, as some have pointed out now and again, I may not be “human normal”. Most of the cruising tribe shares this peculiarity, one of the reasons I miss being among them.

There are other reasons for missing the tribe. Many (not all but many) share my renegade view of current American politics. It isn’t so much that I am the renegade, but I am secular, pro-science and education, pro-human, civil, women’s, and workers' rights. I am anti-authoritarian, anti-war, disdain religious fundamentalism, racism, and gay bashing in all of their guises, and have zero faith that the profit motive results in anything but greed and abuse.  To my deep dismay, the President of the United States has been pretty open about regarding people like me as his enemy. Members of his Party and his other supports loudly echo his views, cheering him on as some kind of hero.

It is weird being away from the community I know while living in a country I barely recognize. Once my country, but now one that sees me as some kind of threat. And I guess, in some tiny, near negligible way, I am.

Happy 4th of July