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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ratlin' up to the yard

Just so you don't think that ALL I do is go to the store and sit around doing crossword puzzles, here's a picture of what I did yesterday.  I installed ratlines on the starboard lower shrouds.   The mast steps are great for climbing all the way up to the top of the mast but if the mainsail is up it's a little more difficult.  Besides, one has to be all harnessed up when using them.  Enter, the ratlines.  Made from well-varnished white oak, they're about 1-3/4" thick to be semi-friendly to bare feet.  They're very easy to climb and, because they cant inboard, they feel quite safe.  Just the ticket for working on the spreaders or, more often, for "ratlin' up" to get a better view when navigating shoal waters or looking for coral heads to avoid.  Most boats that have ratlines only seem to have them on one side of the mast.  But I plan to put them on both sides so that there is always a clear view regardless of which tack we happen to be on.  People without ratlines are always yappin' about windage and weight aloft, but I have a feeling we're going to love them regardless of what the detractors say.

BTW: they have been Lulu-tested and declared "Safe-feeling" and "fun".  So there.

Going to have to fire the watermaker back up

We'd put the RO watermaker to bed a couple months ago.  After satisfying ourselves that it worked as advertised, it seemed pointless to keep using it when perfectly good water was available right at the dock.  So we went through the "picklng" process which has to be done anytime the unit isn't used within 5 or 6 days of the last time.  Pickling consists of pumping a biocide (in this case RV water system antifreeze) into the system so that any biological stuff that is stuck on the RO membrane can't proliferate and foul the (expensive) membrane.  Hadn't planned to fire the system up again until just before launch time next summer.  Then winter hit.  We've been experiencing nights in the 20s and days in the 30s most of the week.  Naturally, the water pipes on the dock froze and broke.  We've been assured that the water will be turned on as soon as the weather eases and they can get everything repaired.  Pretty sure we'll be out of water before that happens.  So, it's either schlepp the water from somewhere (not sure where) or use the watermaker.  And, since we bought it so we wouldn't have to schlepp water, the choice is obvious.  You know what the worst part is?  On Friday I told myself that I should probably fill the water tank just in case they decided to turn the water off.  Oops.  But you know what's probably even worse?  I bet that on Friday, the maintenance crew told themselves that they should probably turn the water off just in case it gets as cold as predicted.  Oops, again.  At least my oops didn't result in as much work as their oops did.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A day in the life

I've had a couple of requests from people who actually read this blog
for a new entry or two. Seems I've been remiss. But frankly, not
that much is going on. However, when I read over some of the blogs
that I follow, I find that I don't really care whether or not
something earth-shattering is happening, I just like to follow their
day-to-day lives. So, maybe you're like that too. I guess you always
have the option of not reading the blog if it's too mundane for you.
Warning: what follows might be construed as BORING, so proceed with
caution. Of course, you're probably reading this on company time
anyway, so what do you care how boring it is? Beats working.

It occurs to me that some of you might be interested in what it is we
do on a day-to-day basis, living on a 28 foot boat without a car.
What follows is fairly typical. May give you a little insight into
whether or not you want to retire.

Typical day:

The day often starts around 4 or 5 AM when one or the other of us wake
up to use the head and then can't fall immediately back to sleep. At
this point it's time to turn on our individual reading lamps after
quietly whispering "I'm going to have to read awhile." If the other
is fast asleep, nothing much happens. But, more often than not, we're
enough awake to murmur an "OK" and then turn over so we're facing away
from the light. Anyway, this reading usually lasts an hour or so,
after which time the eyes are scratchy and the various idiotic
thoughts that had been keeping us awake are sufficiently displaced by
whatever we're reading to allow sleep. Then it's back to zonkerville
until it's the "normal" time to wake up.

For me, "normal" wake up happens between 7:00 and 8:30. For some
reason it now seems uncivilized to rise before 7:00. Anytime after
that is OK. I get up to (at this time of year) a cold boat. I pull
the curtain separating the v-berth from the rest of the cabin. This
is largely for my own mental comfort as it really does nothing to stop
the noises that I make from traveling to the "bedroom" with virtually
no diminishment in volume. I try to be very quiet but noise happens.
Fortunately, Lulu can handle it. I fire up the heater which consists
of plugging it in and turning it on. No more building a fire in the
woodstove for me. Then I have to venture out into the cockpit to turn
the propane on. Many people are wary of propane on a boat because,
being heavier than air, any leakage can accumulate in the bilge until
there's enough to completely ruin your day at the first strike of a
match. So, to be safe, we always turn the gas off and on at the
bottle. So, gas on, I light the stove and start the coffee water.
Recently I started using two coffee-making methods every morning. I
set up a drip pot which makes enough to fill the thermos so it's ready
when Lulu gets up. Then I also use a Melita funnel and #2 filter to
make a large commuter cup for my immediate needs. I get dressed while
the coffee's brewing and usually work on a crossword puzzle and eat an
apple while I'm waiting. Once the joe's done, I grab the laptop and
head to the marina's laundry room to do my interwebbing and to leave
the boat nice and quiet so Lulu can sleep as long as she likes.

My internet routine consists of reading and writing e-mails and then
visiting several blogs, a couple of discussion groups, a weather site
or two, a site following the boatbuilding progress of a fellow we met
in Texas who's building a George Beuhler-designed Diesel Duck 44, our
mail forwarding service site, and our bank site to see if we still
have any money left. By the time my coffee's gone I'm usually done
and head back down to the boat. This could be anytime from 8:30 to
10:00, depending on when I got up. By this time, Lulu's up and
working on a crossword and drinking her coffee. Usually she's already
eaten breakfast. This is where her and I part ways. For Lulu, the
perfect everyday breakfast is granola with a banana and coffee. For
me, the perfect breakfast is hot and salty. That could be anything
from a breakfast burrito made with eggs, chilies and cheese, to last
night's dinner reheated. So, Lulu continues to work on her puzzle
while I make my breakfast. We're usually figuring out what we're
going to do with the day during this time. I work on my crossword
while eating and generally for a little while afterwards. We don't
like to rush in to things. If I have a project, Lulu will do the
breakfast dishes but, if I don't, I usually do them since I'm the one
that made the bigger mess. We're usually ready to get on with the
business of the day about 11:30 or so.

More often than not, we'll have a need to go to town. This is usually
to get some groceries. Since we have to carry everything on our
backs, we can't just make one big trip every two weeks. Instead we
need to make small trips every few days. But, y'know, what else do we
have to do? If we can manage to work it out, we'll catch the Newport
City Loop Bus (aka "the shuttle") to town. This is more important
when the weather is really nasty. Don't really want to be walking
across the bridge when the wind is blowing 40 mph+ . And, if it's
raining? Well we have good raingear but let's be real. The trouble
with the shuttle is that it's just one bus running the whole route.
One circuit takes almost 2 hours. They run 6 full circuits a day.
One of the morning and one of the afternoon circuits take an extra 20
minutes to allow for a break for the driver and the mid-day circuit
takes an additional hour so the driver can have lunch. Consequently,
it's often much faster if we just walk at least one way. But, if we
have a heavy load, that's no fun at all. So, a trip to town is going
to consume a minimum of 2 hours whether we ride the bus or walk. If
we have any running around to do, it could take much longer.
Yesterday, I had to hit 6 different stores. I biked over and from
store to store. My last stop was for groceries. We were low on some
of the canned stuff (mostly chili and soup; the kind of stuff I eat
when Lulu's not here). Between the canned goods, a half-gallon of
milk, some apples and bananas, plus all the stuff I'd already gotten,
I had a REALLY HEAVY pack. It was so heavy that I didn't feel safe
riding the bike. I was way too top-heavy. Fortunately, the shuttle
is set up to carry up to two bicycles. So I went across the street,
waited about 10 minutes and caught the shuttle home. However, the
place I caught it was more or less at the start of the loop relative
to the marina. So, even though I was aboard at 3:34, I didn't get
back to the marina until 5:03. My trip to town took a total of 7
hours. Is it any wonder that on some days we don't get much done
beyond "going to the store"?

So we get back to the boat either by shuttle or foot. Before we've
been back very long, it's time to start dinner. Lulu's willing to
cook anything. She just doesn't like to have to think of what to
cook. So, if I can come up with something it makes her very happy.
My rule is that, if she cooks, I clean up, and so I do. Afterwards,
we usually work on those ubiquitous crossword puzzles some more and
then, long about 8:00, pop a DVD in the lap top and watch a couple of
TV shows until we're ready for bed. Bedtime can be anytime from 10:30
to 1:00. When we were working it was always 10:00. Period. Except on
weekends when it would be extended all the way to 11:00.

Now, not every day is exactly like that. They all start about the
same but sometimes we have projects to do instead of going to town.
Other days, I help out at the Aquarium. I currently do volunteer
interpretation every Sunday afternoon. In addition, every other
Thursday I spend a little over 2 hours cleaning the otters' toys. Ya
see, the otters are very intelligent and inquisitive. They also get
bored easily. So, the aquarium staff has amassed a huge pile of
"toys" for them to play with. These include traffic cones, lots of
rubber and/or plastic balls of varying sizes, strips of fire hose, a
disassembled Playskool playhouse, a beer keg, etc, etc. They use an
Excel spreadsheet to randomly choose which toys to toss in each day.
Well, all the toys need to be washed off and disinfected every week
and they recruit volunteers to do it, and I'm one of those
volunteers. The payback is that, if you get done in time (which is
pretty easy), they let you stand inside the exhibit while they feed
the pinnipeds. The seals are fairly boring but the sea lions have to
perform various stunts to get their grits. It's quite a show and you
get to be right up close to the action. Other days we might do some
laundry. Some days Lulu cleans "house". And other days we just goof
off. Good thing we're both easily amused.

Just to give you a taste, here's my actual to-do list for tomorrow.
Keep in mind that Lulu stayed at Cody's an extra week following
Thanksgiving and will becoming back tomorrow.

___ wrap Lulu's Xmas gifts
___ straighten up the boat
___ pick up prescription at Rite-Aid
___ pick up "marine fact sheets" I had spiral-bound at Staples
___ get Lulu some granola (since I'm pretty sure she's out of the
stuff she made and she'll need something for breakfast until she makes
___ check the used DVDs at the thrift shop to see if there's anything
worth buying
___ call Lucas and wish him a happy 30th birthday
___ take a shower
___ meet Lulu at the bus depot in the afternoon

Geez! I don't know how much longer I can maintain this pace.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Another windy day

We were all set for a MAJOR blow here in Newport yesterday.  NWS (National Weather Service) was predicting gusts to 60 knots while some of the folks on the docks were saying they'd heard we were going to get gusts up to 90 miles per hour.  All day I kept tuning in to the NWS weather station to hear if things had been updated but 60 knot gusts are as high as they ever predicted.  Just before I went to bed last night, I found out where they were getting their 90 mph predictions: off the stupid local radio stations.  Now I've been aware for quite awhile that the so-called "news" on radio and TV tends to be somewhat overblown, but come on!  If they aren't using information from NWS to make their predictions, what are they doing, just making up whatever sounds spectacular?  Trouble is, after listening to these sources over the years, I've gotten a skewed idea of what various conditions should feel like.  25-30 knot winds should just seem like a fresh breeze if you base things on what the TV/Radio weathermen tell you.

Awhile ago, we bought a Kestrel wind monitor so we could start getting a feel for what various wind speeds feel like.  Putting names to faces, so to speak.  I was so disappointed the first couple of times I used it because, even though it seemed to me like it was blowing pretty darn hard (what I would have estimated as 20-25 knots), I couldn't get the wind gauge to read much over 12-13 knots except during the gusts when it might almost reach 20.

Yesterday we were predicted to get 30-35 knot winds with gusts to 50 (later amended to 60) knots.  I checked the NWS site today. They have weather stations along the coast and one is about a mile from where we're moored.  It's sitting on a sandy knoll above South Beach where the south jetty starts.  So the weather there is going to be very similar to here although the weather station's wind speeds will probably be a bit higher.  The weather station readings are recorded hourly and posted to the internet.  So here's how yesterday shaped up:


11177:00 am  SW1518

11176:00 am  S1823

11175:00 am  S1921

11174:00 am  SW1922

11173:00 am  SSW2330

11172:00 am  SSW2124

11171:00 am  SW2325

111712:00 am  WSW2125

111611:00 pm  SSW4048

111610:00 pm  S2734

11169:00 pm  S3241

11168:00 pm  S4252

11167:00 pm  S3136

11166:00 pm  S3850

11165:00 pm  S3139

11164:00 pm  S3337

11163:00 pm  S2935

11162:00 pm  S3341

11161:00 pm  S3540

111612:00 pm  S3241

111611:00 am  S2933

111610:00 am  S2935

11169:00 am  S3038

11168:00 am  S2934

What does it all mean?  Well, it flat blew yesterday.  Just before I went to bed, a gust came through and heeled the boat 10 degrees to port. And held her there for a few seconds.  Probably would have heeled further but the mooring lines on the starboard side held her.  This is in a protected (well, sort of) harbor.  At times, as I was walking up the dock or across the parking lot, I had to stop and plant myself with both feet to keep from losing my footing.  The boats in the marina were all dancing in their slips.  Tarps were blown off.  Canvas covers were unsnapped by the wind.  I mean it blew!  But look at the recorded wind speeds.  Mostly in the mid-30s (as predicted).  A few excursions over 40 knots but the highest gusts recorded were 50 and 52 knots.  Since 1 knot = 1.15 mph, that's recorded gusts of 57.5 to 60 mph.  A far cry from 90 mph.

So, big deal, what's my point?  My point is, take your TV and Radio weather predictions with several grains of salt.  They seem to cater to the portion of our brain that wants to be able to say we suffered.  Think about it.  When you're talking about the weather with your co-workers, don't you usually relate the report you heard that had the most dire prediction?  When it's cold and 2 weathermen say it's going to get down to 20 and one says it's going to get down to 15, which one do you repeat?  Same thing when it's hot.  We're suffering from weather inflation and as a consequence, when I'm reading my sailing magazines and the writer talks about sailing in 15-20 knots of wind, I have the idea that this is just a gentle breeze.  It's not.  15-20 knots is a fairly stout wind if my Kestrel is to be believed. 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Blew like a sonofagun yesterday

The weather predictions over here on the coast seem to be a lot more accurate than they were in the valley.  For instance, yesterday's prediction called for a 100% chance of rain and 25-30 mph winds slacking off after 6:00 PM.  Well, it didn't rain too much until about 3:30 and then it just opened up and poured.  The wind blew like crazy starting about noon-ish.  It blew 23-32 knots (26.5 - 36.8 mph) with gusts to 41 knots (47 mph).  And then, at 6:30 PM, it was like a switch was flipped.  The wind dropped to a more normal 5-10 knots and the rain slowed down to the occasional smattering.  It blew a few times during the night but all-in-all not so much.  While it was blowing, it was pretty exciting.  The boat rolled and pitched pretty good alongside the dock.  One dock box was blown apart, a few sets of boat steps blew over and I had to fish a couple of crab traps out of the water this morning.

A precursor of what's to come in the next few months.

The vultures are circling but it's not what you think

Fellow children of the 50s and 60s, we've been duped!  All those TV shows we watched where Palladin or Festus or someone was crawling across the desert after the bad guys had pulled some underhanded trick were giving us misinformation.  I'm not talking about the "water in the heart of the cactus" deal.  I fully expect to be able to open a cactus when I'm dying of thirst in the desert and pull out what appears to be a baggy of fresh water.  No, I'm talking about the vultures.  You know, they show the vultures flying around in circles above our hero just waiting for him to die.  The implication being that they could smell death and the their sense of smell was so acute that, once they started to circle, it meant sure death.  Well, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, where I'm volunteering,  is now home to 2 new turkey vultures.  Since we are expected to be able to pass on a little info about the aquariums residents to visitors, the "Bird Department" put on a little enrichment session the other night.  Here are some of the things I learned about vultures:

Our vultures were rescued from a teenager in the midwest who took the chicks out of a nest.  This is, of course, quite illegal and once his folks found out about it, they called the authorities who called a raptor rescue group.  The chicks had already been imprinted by their exposure to humans and so, could never be returned to the wild as they lack the necessary survival skills.  The Aquarium is their new permanent home.

They are brother and sister named Ichabod and Olive and are about 18 months old.  Turkey vultures in captivity live 25-30 years.

They cannot smell impending death.  They can, however, smell dead stuff up to a mile away.  They are one of only two species of birds that can smell.  Their "noses" are built in such a way that they can also tell from which direction the smell is coming.  When you see them circling in the air, they are simply riding the updrafts, looking for food (things that have already dies, not Marshall Dillon on his last legs).  They also can be just playing or gliding around because it's fun.

They are nature's cleaners.  They can eat diseased animals and, because of the strength of their stomach acids will discharge non-diseased poop. Their urine has a high strength uric acid component and they urinate on their legs to kill the pathogens that might be present due to standing in dead carcasses.  Of course, they probably don't know they're doing this.  They just know the pee feels nice and cool on their legs and feet.

They've been known to gorge themselves when the opportunity affords.  To the point where they're too heavy to take flight right away.  They can, however, puke up what they ate to lighten their loads if necessary.  They also puke on themselves if they get too stressed.  When you come across some roadkill with a bunch of vultures lunching on it, slow down!  These guys are not crows and can't take off as quickly to avoid getting smacked as crows can.  And you don't want a 6 lb. vulture with a 6' wingspan coming through your windshield.

The Cherokee Nation calls the "Peace Eagles" because they are as big as eagles but never kill anything.  Given a choice, they prefer fresher rather than older dead meat and prefer dead vegetarians to dead carnivores.

They're family-oriented: live together and share a roost tree; monogamous; and will share a carcass with each other.

Have been recorded flying between 15 and 45 miles per hour.

A group of vultures is called a "venue".  A large group of flying vultures is called a "kettle".

Why does an aquarium have vultures?  Because, although technically not shore birds or even sea birds, they do live around the coast and are frequently spotted on the beach dining on dead seagulls so they're part of the overall aquatic/estuarial environment.  And besides, we had a space where a previous Plover display was.  The Plovers didn't work out very well.

So, turkey vultures are my new favorite bird. Well, not for eating.  That honor goes to the actual turkey.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oregon Coast Aquarium

Although the weather here in Newport has been amazingly nice of late,
I know full well that it won't be that long before we'll be hunkered
down in the boat with the wind and the rain whipping the marina into a
frenzy outside. After a couple weeks of that it would be nice to have
a little diversion. So, with that in mind, I decided to volunteer at
the Oregon Coast Aquarium (OCAq) until our planned departure next
summer. This decision came at a really opportune time since it just
happened to coincide with the OCAq's scheduled classes for new
volunteers. And, the Aquarium is a whole 5 minute walk from the boat.

Now I figured that volunteers would be put to work greeting visitors
(some are) and helping clean up (some are) and maybe helping out with
setting up exhibits (some are). However, the vast majority of the
volunteers fill the Aquarium's greatest need: on-floor interpreters.
I had no idea what that was but, heck I'm game so I decided to train
to be an interpreter. The classes are all day (9-5) every Saturday
for 6 weeks. That's a lot of classwork. We also get 2-3 hours of
homework each week. But since the interpreters are generally the
public's main contact with the Aquarium, it's important to have some
vague idea of what we're doing. The job of interpreters is to work
out on the floor at the exhibits helping visitors to not only
understand what they are seeing, but possibly to enable them to tie it
in to the bigger picture and to learn a little bit more about the
critters than what is printed on the reader boards. I've been
learning a LOT and I've only just completed week 3. I'm completely
overwhelmed but have been assured that it will all fall into place as
time goes on and I gain experience on the floor. For my own benefit,
I think the stuff I learn is going to make re-reading John Steinbeck's
"The Log From The Sea Of Cortez" way more interesting and even more so
since I plan t read it when we're actually in the Sea of Cortez.
Plus, I get to come and go at the Aquarium as I please which is pretty

After our 6 weeks of training we'll shadow another volunteer for a bit
and then we'll be turned loose. We're expected to work one 5-hour
shift per week although I've signed up to work two. It's all a bit
intimidating right now, but I'm anxious to get started. If the
schedule works out I'm also going to volunteer to help tear down the
rotating exhibit (currently"Oddwater") in November and help build the
new exhibit ("Swamplands") which is scheduled to open in May.

A few interesting factoids I've learned so far:

- Fish have pectoral fins, eels don't, Therefore the Wolf Eel isn't
really an eel.
- Sea stars can extrude their stomachs into or onto their prey. Ochre
stars, which dine primarily on mussels, can get their stomachs through
such a small opening that they only have to open a mussel the width of
a human hair. As they digest the mussel, they consume the tissue that
holds the shell closed so they can get their stomachs back out again.
- Sunflower stars, with up to 24 arms, can move at speeds up to 4 feet
per minute.
- When threatened, the California Sea Cucumber ejects his sticky
internal organs out his anus, distracting the predator. He'll grow
new organs in 6-8 weeks.
- Some scientists believe that anemones may live up to 100 years.
-Some species of Rockfish are believed to live over 200 years. That
means that a rockfish alive today could have been alive during the War
of 1812!
- An octopus can get its entire body through an opening that's only
big enough to accommodate its beak.
At least 75% of all animal species known to date are of the phylum
Arthropoda (meaning "jointed appendage"). This includes invertebrates
like crabs, shrimp, barnacles, spiders, etc.

And we've only studied through the Sandy Shores exhibit so far. Still
to come: Rocky Shores, Coastal Waters, Orford Reef, Halibut Flats,
Open Seas and Passages of the Deep. Not to mention the mammals
(seals, sea lions and otters) and the aviary, including the newest
acquisition, a pair of turkey vultures.

This is all pretty cool.

Oh, and if you want a gross-out, check YouTube for videos of the
Pacific Hagfish. We got to see and handle one of these creepy little
guys which are often referred to as "slime eels" for good reason.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Let's try that new view from aloft again

Since I was way up there installing one end of my single sideband (SSB) radio antenna anyway...

Oh, and the reason the foredeck looks different than it did in the last view from aloft is that the 10' Porta-Bote dinghy is now unfolded and sitting upside down on the foredeck protecting the forward hatch, jerry jugs, and windlass from the ravages of winter soon to come. In the previous picture the dinghy was not seen as it was folded up and sitting on the starboard sidedeck.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Good to be home

October 1 and the marina is clearing out. Most, if not all of the
summer folks who live on their boats have headed home for the winter.
I think there is only one other year-rounder on E dock with us. The
parking lot is practically empty. It's a beautiful morning although
they're predicting a 50% chance of rain this afternoon. Of course,
50% chance pretty much means "it might rain and it might not". Got up
bright and early (9:30), made some coffee and read an old issue of
Cruising World that I found in the laundry room. Lulu got up about 15
minutes later and had her usual breakfast of granola and banana. I
opted instead to fix myself a plate of fried potatoes and eggs.

Right now, Lulu is off to town to check into a 3-day-a-week job
cooking for Meals On Wheels. She's trying to find some sort of part
time cooking job to keep her busy and bring in a few extra bucks
through the dark months. I, on the other hand, am not quite so
anxious to jump back into the workaday world. I like getting up at
9:15. Not to be labelled a complete layabout or slugabed, I am
volunteering at the Newport Aquarium. My first all-day training
session is this Saturday at the ungodly hour of 9:00 AM. Oh well,
I'll soldier through somehow. I have 3 training sessions and then
commit to 100 hours of service over the course of the next 9 months
(ordinarily it would be over a year but we won't be here for a full
year). Should be pretty interesting to see what goes on behind the
scenes at the Aquarium. The free passes will be nice, too.

Yesterday I went up the mast to install the final mast step that I had
somehow neglected to install when we were in the yard. This step is
the last climbing step. It's just below the two steps at the very top
that are used to stand on while working on the lights and such at the
very top of the mast. The big deal about yesterday's trip aloft was
that I did it by myself. No one on deck belaying my safety line.
"Waddya, stooopid?" you ask. No, no. There are safe ways to do
this. And, the time may come when I have to go aloft at sea when Lulu
is needed for other things, like steering the boat. So, best to learn
it dockside. The trick is to be able to be tied off to a safety line
in such a way that you can still climb but, if you should lose your
grip, you're held in place by a safety tether. There are mechanical
devices for this called ascenders or Jumars. Rock climbers use them.
However, there is a much cheaper way. By tying a couple of safety
tether loops to the safety line using a prussik knot (http://www.indoorclimbing.com/Prusik_Knot.html
). You can then slide the safety tether ahead of you going either
direction and, if you fall, you'll only fall as far as the amount of
slack in the tether. I use two safety tethers for insurance. It
worked like a charm and was by far the easiest setup I've used for
going aloft yet.

note: Some of you have chided me for my use of nautical terms that you
find completely unintelligible. So, the following section has the
lubber's translation in parentheses. I'll use this method in future
blogs when I remember to.

Today's job is to plug up a rain leak. Found water on the ceiling
(outboard wall or hull liner) next to my side of the bunk yesterday
morning. This seemed weird because, although it had rained the night
before, it hadn't rained very hard. We've been through lots rainier
nights with nary a leak. Well, on investigation, I found what I think
is the source of the leak. On the inside of the starboard (right hand
side when facing forward) bulwark (outermost part of the hull that
rises above the deck 6-8 inches and keeps whatever you just dropped
from sliding immediately into the ocean) there is a spring-mounted
block (pulley) through-bolted. This block was used as a fairlead (a
device for ensuring that a line runs "fair" or in a nice straight line
where you want it to go) for the staysail sheet (the staysail is the
triangular sail aft of the jib which is the furthest forward sail.
the "sheet" is the line that is used to control the sails). With the
boomless staysail, the sheets run differently and the block was not
being used. However, I decided to use it to run the furling line from
the jib furler (c'mon, we talked about this in an earlier entry. The
furler is the device that allows me to wrap a sail up like a window
shade instead of removing it when not i use). The base of this block
appears to be the source of the leak. Why hasn't it shown up before?
Well, when there is pressure on the block, it is pulled away from the
bulwark. We have never had the block in use in the rain before. But,
with the furling gear installed, I want to keep the furled sails
wrapped tightly so the wind won't pull them open. This means that
both the furling line and the sheets have considerable tension on them
all the time. This apparently was enough to pull the base of the
block out from the bulwark enough to let some rain water in. I'm
dragging my feet a little because in order to rebed (put fresh
caulking under the base) the block I have to remove part of the
overhead (ceiling) and ceiling (wall) from my side of the v-berth (our
bedroom). This of course requires that I remove 2 bookshelves and
possibly a light fixture. And all this is just so that I can (I hope)
get my hand up into the bulwark enough to get a wrench on the nuts
holding the block in place. But, such is life on a boat.

OK, enough procrastinating. Time to get to work. Happy October 1 to
you all.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Groovin' on the Greyhound: a diversion

OK. So maybe sometimes having a "steenking car" would be kind of nice.

It all started 10 years ago or so. Being a member of the class of
'69, my 30-year high school reunion was held 10 years ago. I gave
this little or no thought at the time. I'd remained successfully
incognito from the alumni committee for 30 years in spite of having a
listed phone number all that time. Not that I really had anything
against reunions. I just figured that the folks I hung out with in
high school would be very unlikely to show up at a reunion. Much too
'establishment', right? However, one sunny Saturday morning in
September of 1999, I get a phone call:

"Is this Stephen Yoder?"

"Is this the Stephen Yoder that went to Willow Glen High School and
graduated in 1969?"
"Uh...maybe." (Pretty clever answer, huh?)

"Well, this is Samantha Bryner and me and Randy Siegel have been
trying to find you."

Whoa! Sam and Randy were on my "A" list of old friends. They had met
up at the 30th reunion and decided to use the wonders of the internet
to track down the old gang. So far they had tracked down me, Bill
Allayaud, Thom Johnson, Vickie Veltman, Ned Williams and Chuck (now
'Charles') Perrone. Soon to follow were Nick Lange and Grant
Fellersen. As many as could proceeded to get together in December of
'99 and every couple of years afterwards during which time the group
was expanded beyond the original core.

Fine, but what's this got to do with a Greyhound? Well, originally,

During the course of these biennial get-togethers, it started sounding
like it might actually be fun to go to the 40th reunion in 2009. I
knew I'd be retired by then and figured that this would be a once-in-a-
lifetime chance to pull off a really cool entrance. Since the 30th
(and I think the 20th) had been held in Santa Cruz, I figured they all
were. Now Willow Glen High School is in San Jose but Santa Cruz was
our playground so it made sense to reunite there. Well, Santa Cruz is
a harbor and we had plans to be starting our retired life of living on
the boat in hot places in 2009, so I figured it would be way cool to
sail into Santa Cruz and dinghy ashore for the festivities. When the
inevitable "So, what are you doing these days?" question came up I'd
be ready. And I'm not above getting a parrot and earring for the
occasion either.

But alas, as regular readers of this blog know, it didn't quite work
out that way. First off, we didn't get away from our home port of
Newport in time to head south this season. But, even if we had, they
went and held the reunion in SAN JOSE instead of Santa Cruz. What the
heck were they thinking? It's would way be cooler to be standing in
the Coconut Grove and point out to the Santa Cruz harbor and say
"That's my boat at anchor there" than it would be to be standing in
some meeting room at a San Jose hotel telling about the boat at anchor
in Santa Cruz. Oh well, since I didn't sail the boat down anyway.....

But the second item that turned my glorious return to the fold into
"lame" instead of "cool" was how we got there. No car means we can't
drive there. It also means that it's difficult to get to the airport
or pretty much anywhere else unless we walk. Now, the bus depot is
walking distance from the boat so that's nice. And, through various
transfers it can get us all the way to Santa Cruz where we would be
staying with Scott & Sandy. Nice. No one has to drive very far to
pick us up. And, although not as cheap as it should be, bus travel
was cheap enough to let us rent a room at the hotel where the reunion
was being held and still come in a little under what airline travel
would have cost. But those were pretty much the extent of the
advantages of bus travel.

To start, there are 2 buses a day leaving Newport. One is at 5:45 AM
and one is at 3:45 PM. To minimize layovers, we opted for the morning
one. I suppose we could have arranged for a taxi to come get us at
the marina but we're made of heartier stock than that. No, we arose
about 4:30 AM, had a little juice, locked up the boat and, with
backpacks and duffels firmly strapped on to our persons, headed to the
bus depot. The trip requires that we walk over the Yaquina Bay bridge
which we have done dozens of times. But at "O-dark-thirty" in the
morning, that sucker is DARK! The only time you ca see the sidewalk
is when cars approach and there aren't that many of them out and about
at that time of day on a Wednesday. No huge problem except that the
sidewalk over most of the bridge is quite narrow and there is no
barrier on the traffic side. So, being unable to see one's feet, it
would be very easy to step off the edge which is about twice as tall
as a standard curb on a street. So, one tends to want to hug the
outboard railing which would work pretty well except that our duffels
tended to push us away from the railing and back towards the traffic
edge. Just the way one wants to start the day: terrified of falling.

Nevertheless, we managed to get to the other side unscathed and, as is
our wont, arrived at the depot about 30 minutes early. Now this isn't
a Greyhound Depot but rather a little affiliate bus line depot. Which
means it was closed. So we sat outside with a couple other hearty
folks and waited. Fortunately, it wasn't raining. Eventually the bus
driver arrived (He's a whole other story. One about a guy with
serious power and control issues) and we all piled in for the ride to
Corvallis, our first transfer point.

Now before I continue, I need to say that I had been pumping myself up
for the trip with stories in my head about how cool bus travel could
be if you just let it. Granted, I hadn't ridden the big grey dog
since the early 70s and thoroughly hated it then, but I'm older, more
mature and experienced now. I don't just automatically take the
negative view anymore. This could be fun, right? Well, let me tell
you. If you thought bus travel was bad back then, you're going to
really hate it today. The only thing that was a little better was the
fact that the bus generally tended to be less crowded than in the old
days. Other than that, it was all worse. For one thing, bus depots
always used to have snack bars if not out and out restaurants.
Remember the Post House restaurants that were in all of the larger bus
depots? No more. Remember the cool little seaside diners that the
buses stopped at in movies like "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (the
original one, not the remake)? They don't exist anymore, if indeed
they ever did. We were traveling from one coastal town to another
coastal town. We should have been driving along the coast the whole
way with stops at rustic little gas station/diners where we'd meet
colorful people. And everything would be in black and white. Yeah,

The first depot, in Corvallis, wasn't actually all that bad. The
chairs were those uncomfortable plastic ones that used to be in bus
depots everywhere. They had lockers where we could leave our stuff
while we walked to Burger King for breakfast and an internet
connection. At this point I was still thinking that this might not be
too bad after all. In a little while, the Greyhound rolled in and we
boarded. The buses are pretty much the same as they've always been:
stinky bathroom, none too clean, some of the seats lean back like
they're supposed to and some are broken, etc. But the seats were
reasonably comfortable and the bus was pretty sparsely loaded so we
found a couple seats and settled in for the ride. Except for a few
brief loading/unloading stops we wouldn't really have a chance to
disembark until out lunch stop at Medford. Tried to sleep a little
but you have to be really tired to be able to sleep on a Greyhound
unless you bring along a pillow which, since we had to schlep our
stuff across the bridge, we chose not to do. The lunch stop in
Medford was at a Pilot Travel Center: gas station, convenience store,
Taco Bell, and Subway all under one roof. I suppose it's the modern
day equivalent of the cool little gas station/diners in the old movies
but it definitely lacks their charm. Of course, they may have not
seemed all that charming to bus travelers of that era either.

Back on the road and headed for the first place we'd actually have to
transfer buses and have a layover: Sacramento. The worst thing about
the trip so far was that we both had really sore butts. There's very
few ways to change your position to relieve the pressure on various
butt parts. Consequently, the part of the butt I refer to as "the
hinge" gets really sore. The hinge, on me anyway, is a line that runs
perpendicular to your butt crack and crosses the crack just below the
top. When you slouch down, it seems to be the spot that takes the
majority of the abuse. And we abused our hinges mightily.

We pulled in to Sacramento about 8:45 PM. This is where we get our
first glimpse of the kind of torture that Greyhound has developed over
the years. We were facing a 3-hour layover. In Sacramento, the depot
no longer has the little plastic chairs. Instead they have these
horrible things made out of heavy wire. They are very rigid and
godawful uncomfortable. They have permanent armrests between the
seats so that, even if you could find the room, there is no way you
could lay down on them and take a snooze. The general consensus is
that they're uncomfortable on purpose so that bums won't come in and
sleep on them. But that argument is completely bogus. Every big city
bus depot we saw had security guards. And the homeless people we saw
sleeping directly on the sidewalk would probably consider the floor at
the Greyhound a step up if the guards would let them in to sleep. So,
if the argument about why the benches are so uncomfortable was ever
true, it no longer is. If Greyhound really wants to increase
ridership they should go to an airport surplus sale or something. Get
some freakin' padded chairs for gawdsakes!

The restaurant at the Sacramento depot was closed. Might be out of
business for all I know. In its place were vending machines. You
could get your choice of 16 oz. soda or water for $2.25 or a small bag
of chips for about the same price. Whoo-hoo! After suffering with
the chairs for an hour or so, we decided to put our bags in a locker
and take a stroll to pass the time. Fortunately, the Sacto depot is
downtown near the capitol in an area that wasn't too scary to walk
in. We strolled many many blocks. Saw lots of little chi-chi shops
that we couldn't imagine anyone buying anything in, tiny little mini-
marts, a few nightspots, hotels, and lots of restaurants and such that
looked oh so cosmopolitan. Pretty much everything was closed. The
logical thing to do would have been to find a bar and have a couple
beers to pass the time. But Greyhound has this very strict no-
tolerance policy. Not only can't you bring alcohol aboard, but you're
not supposed to be drinking between buses either. "So what?" you
say. "Screw the Man!" you say. Well, the bus driver is within his
rights to kick you off the bus or just not let you back on if he
decides he smells alcohol on you. And since our tickets were non-
refundable, I didn't relish the idea of being stranded in Sacramento
in the middle of the night with no bus ticket to anywhere just because
it's easier to pass the time on a comfortable bar stool with a cold
brew in hand. So we passed. But the night was balmy and the stroll
managed to eat up the remaining 2 hours pretty well. Of course, when
we returned, we found out that our bus had been delayed another hour
due to a flat tire near Reno. Crappage! On the plus side, since our
next layover was to be 4 hours in San Francisco, this just meant the
layover would be an hour shorter.

Finally the bus did arrive (12:45 AM) and we piled on for the trip to

Now the SF bus Depot makes the Sacramento depot look like Grand
Central Station or something. The SF depot waiting room was tiny and
had a guard at the door. You couldn't get in without a bus ticket.
But who would want to. It consisted of a big screen TV tuned to CNN
with the volume safety-wired in the LOUD position, more of the
ubiquitous wire torture chairs, some vending machines that were $0.25
cheaper than the ones in Sacramento, and bathrooms that were so
disgustingly dirty that this one woman we met who was seriously motion
sick didn't even want to puke in the toilets, they were so filthy. Now
THAT'S dirty. By this time I was so tired all I could do was try to
find some kind of way to get comfortable enough to sleep. I finally
found that if I sat on the bench with my duffel on my knees, I could
lean forward enough so the duffel was sort of like a pillow. In this
position I managed to sleep (sort of) enough to pass the time until
6:45 AM or whenever it was that we finally were able to board the last
bus for our final leg to Santa Cruz via San Jose. This part of the
trip is largely a blur as I managed to sleep off and on through the

When we arrived at Scott and Sandy's our only request was to let us
take showers and then hit the hay for a few hours, which we did.

Since this little narrative isn't really about the reunion, I'll skip
over it except to say that it all went very well. It was good to see
lots of people I hadn't seen in 40 years and it was also somewhat
surprising to realize how many people were in my class that I never
did know. Of course with a graduating class of over 600 people, that
shouldn't have been surprising.

The return trip on the bus was better, partly because it was 3 hours
shorter due to shorter layovers (YAY!). But it was still plenty
long. It started at the depot in Santa Cruz. The bus was about 35
minutes late to begin with but that really didn't matter much to us.
But we were joining a bus that was on its way north from LA. When we
climbed aboard, it was pretty evident that there were not going to be
2 seats side-by-side anywhere on the bus. There were lots of places
where one person was taking up 2 seats. In these, the person seated
either pretended to be asleep (yeah, right, like anyone could sleep
through the bus driver's amplified announcements) or gave off a surly
vibe to discourage anyone from asking to share the seat. So, playing
right in to their game, we look for the least threatening people and
sit with them. When we got to San Jose, enough people got off that we
could sit together.

By now we were pretty well-versed in reading on the bus and so the
time passed fairly quickly until our first layover (2 hours) in
Oakland. Again with the security guards (which I'm actually just fine
with), again with the vending machines, and again with those hideous
torture chairs. Oh yeah, and again with the blaring TV, but this time
ESPN replaced CNN. We were entertained off and on by this woman who
had been on our bus from San Jose. She could definitely be defined as
'colorful' but I think 'whacko' is actually closer. I don't even know
what all she did to earn that description, but I do know she was a
whack job. The time passed agonizingly slowly but it did pass.
Eventually we were on the road to Sacramento, site of our next (2 hour
or so) layover. Veterans of Sacto layovers that we were, we promptly
lockered our stuff and went for a walk. This made the layover much
less agonizing and pretty soon we were back on the bus where we would
stay until our breakfast stop in Medford. The return trip wasn't
nearly as bad as the trip down. However, by the time we got home we
had seriously sore butts.

It was so good to see our little floating home and to have a normal
evening again. Lulu made pizza and we watched "Arrested Development",
"What About Brian", and "Nip/Tuck". We also lucked out and didn't get
rained on during out return trip across the bridge.

You know what the worst thing was about the bus trip? I got on line
and found that we could have taken the train for about the same
price. Maybe a little less. Oh well.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The view from aloft

I tried to upload some photos via e-mail. It sort of worked and sort
of didn't. But I thought you might be interested to see what Siempre
Sabado looks like from aloft. If you click on the photo you'll get to
see a larger image where you can pick out more detail. Let me know if
you have any questions about what you're looking at.