Monday, December 24, 2012

Wearing Santa Hats

What happens when you wear a Santa hat?  People smile, nod their heads, honk their horns, wave.

But what we love most, especially with Al, is the reaction of kids!  All it takes is the hat.  There's no grey beard, or red suit, but kids' eyes get big and round, and so do their mouths.  Some even gasp.  And a few whisper 'That looks like Santa Claus!'

Al says that maybe it's the build.  But, I even had a child in the grocery store  line step around me to look up into MY face.  Yes, the hair is getting more grey all the time, but the worst of it is still covered by the hat.  


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Equal Time

Granddaughter Madalyn's Kindergarten Sing-a-long was this afternoon.  She attends a new school that I had no idea where it was!  Turns out it was on a road I used to drive to work every day!

Madalyn will celebrate her 6th birthday while school is out for Christmas, so she got to wear a crown!

Mom and brothers enjoying the show

Milo, 2

Evan, 4

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Emrie's Program

One of our first 'events' in Portland was attending 3-year-old granddaughter Emrie's pre-school program.  It was a delightful evening!

Emrie's three  brothers we also in attendance, along with another set of grandparents!



 Emrie was very good at all the expressions and gestures of the songs:

This is Santa's belly.

These are Grandma's glasses.

I don't remember what this demonstrated...

Now that you've seen her up close, can you find her in the crowd?  (She's front and center.)

The Jingle Bells came at the END of the show!

Friday Harbor vs. Portland Traffic

We were driving over Sylvan Hill in the snow, and Al remarked that the traffic was 'like a Friday in Friday Harbor, in July'!

I had to agree and commented, 'there's even 'mandatory rafting, 3 deep'!

Friday Harbor Lights Up for the Holidays!

You gotta love small towns!

Friday Harbor closes off a block of street and traffic exiting the ferry is re-routed, so carolers can sing outside businesses, the big switch really works this year to light the trees -- not evergreens, but Dutch Elms -- and school children entertain.

The kids warm up by sharing shoulder rubs

Hey!  The lights lit this year!

The view from Viking Star back towards town

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Boat Life

On numerous different occasions recently, I have had to answer the question 'So, how do you like boat life?'  Even from fellow boaters!  And some even put that qualifying word in there -- 'Do you STILL like boat life?'

The other night, after the fact, I read aloud to Al the most recent answer I had sent to a friend in email, and he said 'That needs to be a blog post.'  So here it is....

The friend we are talking about had read the Liveaboard Simulator post, and sent these words:  'Also, reading your blog, The Liveaboard Simulator ... you are amazing, living in those conditions! You never complain, either, at least online. I can't imagine how you do it!'

And the reply I had read to Al: "Al found that years ago, I actually haven't read it yet to see if he said anything different or unexpected. And I really don't feel I have too much to complain about! It's a privilege to live this life, 'retired' at 50, surrounded by beauty. Yes, it can get a little uncomfortable at times, but the benefits outweigh that, most days. My standard answer to the question of how I like boat life is 'It's all been great except for 3 days.' Those three days ARE quite memorable, and though not at all fun at the time, have become part of 'the story'."

I sent THESE words to my cousin this week also:  'Most guys say it's hard to find a woman who is willing to live on a boat, and they cite 'space' as a big reason. But I say, I have a very cozy bed, and I have a place to sit in the main cabin. I have room for my books, and can get internet almost anytime. What more could I want? My view is ever changing, and we are close to nature, and sometimes it is breathtaking.'

And so, you get the idea that I pretty much -- still -- like it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Live Aboard Simulator

OK,  This is a classic that showed up in mailing lists  in the 90's (maybe the 80's?).  Attributed to "Larry W4CSC" and first located at:

It seems that link is gone, and I wanted to archive what I believe is the most accurate rendition of his original work.   So, for your reading pleasure:

The Liveaboard Simulator
By: Larry Butler W4CSC

So you think you want to liveaboard? Try the livaboard simulator first.

Just for fun, park your cars in the lot of the convenience store at least 2 blocks from your house. (Make believe the sidewalk is a floating dock between your car and the house.

Move yourself and your family (if applicable) into 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Measure the DECK space INSIDE your boat. Make sure the occupied house has no more space, or closet space, or drawer space.

Boats don't have room for beds, as such. Fold your Sealy Posturepedic up against a wall, it won't fit on a boat. Go to a hobby fabric store and buy a foam pad 5' 10" long and 4' wide AND NO MORE THAN 3" THICK. Cut it into a triangle so the little end is only 12" wide. This simulates the foam pad in the V-berth up in the pointy bow of the sailboat. Bring in the kitchen table from the kitchen you're not allowed to use. Put the pad UNDER the table, on the floor, so you can simulate the 3' of headroom over the pad.

Block off both long sides of the pad, and the pointy end so you have to climb aboard the V-berth from the wide end where your pillows will be. The hull blocks off the sides of a V-berth and you have to climb up over the end of it through a narrow opening (hatch to main cabin) on a boat. You'll climb over your mate's head to go to the potty in the night. No fun for either party. Test her mettle and resolve by getting up this way right after you go to bed at night. There are lots of things to do on a boat and you'll forget at least one of them, thinking about it laying in bed, like "Did I remember to tie off the dingy better?" or "Is that spring line (at the dock) or anchor line (anchored out) as tight as it should be?" Boaters who don't worry about things like this laying in bed are soon aground or on fire or the laughing stock of an anchorage. You need to find out how much climbing over her she will tolerate BEFORE you're stuck with a big boat and big marina bills and she refuses to sleep aboard it any more....

Bring a coleman stove into the bathroom and set it next to the bathroom sink. Your boat's sink is smaller, but we'll let you use the bathroom sink, anyways. Do all your cooking in the bathroom, WITHOUT using the bathroom power vent. If you have a boat vent, it'll be a useless 12v one that doesn't draw near the air your bathroom power vent draws to take away cooking odors. Leave the hall door open to simulate the open hatch. Take all the screens off your 2 bedroom windows. Leave the windows open to let in the bugs that will invade your boat at dusk, and the flies attracted to the cooking.

Borrow a 25 gallon drum mounted on a trailer. Flush your toilets into the drums. Trailer the drums to the convenience store to dump them when they get full. Turn off your sewer, you won't have one. This will simulate going to the pump out station every time the tiny drum is full. 25 gallons is actually LARGER than most holding tanks. They're more like 15 gallons on small sailboats under 40, because they were added to the boat after the law changed requiring them and there was no place to put it or a bigger one. They fill up really fast if you liveaboard!

Unless your boat is large enough to have a big head with full bath, make believe your showers/bathtubs don't work. Make a deal with someone next door to the convenience store to use THEIR bathroom for bathing at the OTHER end of the DOCK. (Marina rest room) If you use this rest room to potty, while you're there, make believe it has no paper towels or toilet paper. Bring your own. Bring your own soap and anything else you'd like to use there, too.

If your boat HAS a shower in its little head, we'll let you use the shower end of the bathtub, but only as much tub as the boat has FREE shower space for standing to shower. As the boat's shower drains into a little pan in the bilge, be sure to leave the soapy shower water in the bottom of the tub for a few days before draining it. Boat shower sumps always smell like spent soap growing exotic living organisms science hasn't actually discovered or named, yet. Make sure your simulated V-berth is less than 3' from this soapy water for sleeping. The shower sump is under the passageway to the V-berth next to your pillows.

Run you whole house through a 20 amp breaker to simulate available dock power at the marina. If you're thinking of anchoring out, turn off the main breaker and make do with a boat battery and flashlights. Don't forget you have to heat your house on this 20A supply and try to keep the water from freezing in winter.  Turn off the water main valve in front of your house. Run a hose from your neighbor's lawn spigot over to your lawn spigot and get all your water from there. Try to keep the hose from freezing all winter.

As your boat won't have a laundry, disconnect yours. Go to a boat supply place, like West Marine, and buy you a dock cart. Haul ALL your supplies, laundry, garbage, etc., between the car at the convenience store and house in this cart. Once a week, haul your outboard motor to the car, leave it a day then haul it back to the house, in the cart, to simulate boat problems that require boat parts to be removed/replaced on your dock. If ANYTHING ever comes out of that cart between the convenience store and the house, put it in your garage and forget about it. (This simulates losing it over the side of the dock, where it sank in 23' of water with a mud bottom or was dragged off by the current.)

Each morning, about 5AM, have someone you don't know run a weedeater back and forth under your bedroom windows to simulate the fishermen leaving the marina to go fishing. Have him slam trunk lids, doors, blow car horns and bang some heavy pans together from 4AM to 5AM before lighting off the weedeater. (Simulates loading boats with booze and fishing gear and gas cans.) Once a week, have him bang the running weedeater into your bedroom wall to simulate the idiot who drove his boat into the one you're sleeping in because he was half asleep leaving the dock. Put a rope over a big hook in the ceiling over your bed. Put a sheet of plywood under your pad with a place to hook a rope to one side or the other. Hook one end of the rope to the plywood hook and the other end out where he can pull on it. As soon as he shuts off the weedeater, have him pull hard 9 times on the rope to tilt your bed at least 30 degrees. (This simulates the wakes of the fishermen blasting off trying to beat each other to the fishing.) Anytime there is a storm in your area, have someone constantly pull on the rope. It's rough riding storms in the marina or anchored out! If your boat is a sailboat, install a big wire from the top of the tallest tree to your electrical ground in the house to simulate mast lightning strikes in the marina, or to give you the thought of potential lightning strikes.

Each time you go out, or think of going boating away from your marina, disconnect the neighbor's water hose, your electric wires, all the umbilicals your new boat will use to make life more bearable in the marina.  Use bottled drinking water for 2 days for everything. Get one of those 5 gallon jugs with the airpump on top from a bottled water company. This is your boat's at sea water system simulator. You'll learn to conserve water this way. Of course, not having the marina's AC power supply, you'll be lighting and all from a car battery, your only source of power. If you own or can borrow a generator, feel free to leave it running to provide AC power up to the limit of the generator. If you're thinking about a 30' sailboat, you won't have room for a generator so don't use it.

Any extra family members must be sleeping on the settees in the main cabin or in the quarter berth under the cockpit, unless you intend to get a boat over 40-something feet with an aft cabin. Smaller boats have quarter berths. Cut a pad out of the same pad material that is no more than 2' wide by 6' long. Get a cardboard box from an appliance store that a SMALL refridgerator came in. Put the pad in the box, cut to fit, and make sure only one end of the box is open. The box can be no more than 2 feet above the pad. Quarter berths are really tight. Make them sleep in there, with little or no air circulation. That's what sleeping in a quarterberth is all about.

Of course, to simulate sleeping anchored out for the weekend, no heat or air conditioning will be used and all windows will be open without screens so the bugs can get in.

In the mornings, everybody gets up and goes out on the patio to enjoy the sunrise. Then, one person at a time goes back inside to dress, shave, clean themselves in the tiny cabin unless you're a family of nudists who don't mind looking at each other in the buff. You can't get dressed in the stinky little head with the door closed on a sailboat. Hell, there's barely room to bend over so you can sit on the commode. So, everyone will dress in the main cabin, one at a time.

Boat tables are 2' x 4' and mounted next to the settee. There's no room for chairs in a boat. So, eat off a 2' x 4' space on that kitchen table you slept under while sitting on a couch (settee simulator). You can also go out with breakfast and sit on the patio (cockpit), if you like.

Ok, breakfast is over. Crank up the lawnmower under the window for 2 hours. It's time to recharge the batteries from last night's usage and to freeze the coldplate in the boat's icebox which runs off a compressor on the engine. Get everybody to clean up your little hovel. Don't forget to make the beds from ONE END ONLY. You can't get to the other 3 sides of a boat bed pad.

All hands go outside and washdown the first fiberglass UPS truck that passes by. That's about how big the deck is on your 35' sailboat that needs to have the ocean cleaned off it daily or it'll turn the white fiberglass all brown like the UPS truck. Now, doesn't the UPS truck look nice like your main deck?

Ok, we're going to need some food, do the laundry, buy some boat parts that failed because the manufacturer's bean counters got cheap and used plastics and the wife wants to eat out, I'm fed up with cooking on the Coleman stove today. Let's make believe we're not at home, but in some exotic port like Ft Lauderdale, today on our cruise to Key West Before going ashore, plan on buying all the food you'll want to eat that will:

  • Fit into the Coleman Cooler on the floor
  • You can cook on the Coleman stove without an oven or all those fancy kitchen tools you don't have on the boat
  • And will last you for 10 days, in case the wind drops and it takes more time than we planned at sea.

Plan meals carefully in a boat. We can't buy more than we can STORE, either!

You haven't washed clothes since you left home and everything is dirty. Even if it's not, pretend it is for the boater-away-from-home simulator. Put all the clothes in your simulated boat in a huge dufflebag so we can take it to the LAUNDRY! Manny's Marina HAS a laundromat, but the hot water heater is busted (for the last 8 months) and Manny has parts on order for it... saving Manny $$$$ on the electric bill! Don't forget to carry the big dufflebag with us on our excursion. God that bag stinks, doesn't it? ....PU!

Of course, we came here by BOAT, so we don't have a car. Some nice marinas have a shuttle bus, but they're not a taxi. The shuttle bus will only go to West Marine or the tourist traps, so we'll be either taking the city bus, if there is one or taxi cabs or shopping at the marina store which has almost nothing to buy at enormous prices.

Walk to the 7-11 store, where you have your car stored, but ignore the car. Make believe it isn't there. No one drove it to Ft Lauderdale for you. Use the payphone at the 7-11 and call a cab. Don't give the cab driver ANY instructions because in Ft Lauderdale you haven't the foggiest idea where West Marine is located or how to get there, unlike at home. We'll go to West Marine, first, because if we don't, the head back on the boat won't be working for a week because little Suzy broke a valve in it trying to flush some paper towels. This is your MOST important project, today... that valve in the toilet!! After the cab drivers drives around for an hour looking for West Marine and asking his dispatcher how to get there. Don't forget to UNLOAD your stuff from the cab, including the dirty clothes in the dufflebag then go into West Marine and give the clerk a $100 bill, simulating the cost of toilet parts. Lexus parts are cheaper than toilet parts at West Marine. See for yourself! The valve she broke, the seals that will have to be replaced on the way into the valve will come to $100 easy. Tell the clerk you're using my liveaboard simulator and to take his girlfriend out to dinner on your $100 greenback. If you DO buy the boat, this'll come in handy when you DO need boat parts because he'll remember you for the great time his girlfriend gave him on your $100 tip. Hard-to-find boat parts will arrive in DAYS, not months like the rest of us. It's just a good political move while in simulation mode.

Call another cab from West Marine's phone, saving 50 cents on payphone charges. Load the cab with all your stuff, toilet parts, DIRTY CLOTHES then tell the cabbie to take you to the laundromat so we can wash the stinky clothes in the trunk. The luxury marina's laundry in Ft Lauderdale has a broken hot water heater. They're working on it, the girl at the store counter, said, yesterday. Mentioning the $12/ft you paid to park the boat at their dock won't get the laundry working before we leave for Key West. Do your laundry in the laundromat the cabbie found for you. Just because nobody speaks English in this neighborhood, don't worry. You'll be fine this time of day near noon.

Call another cab to take us out of here to a supermarket. When you get there, resist the temptation to load up, because your boat has limited storage and very limited refridgeration space (remember? Coleman Cooler). Buy from the list we made early this morning. Another package of cookies is OK. Leave one of the kids guarding the pile of clean laundry just inside the supermarket's front door. We learned our lesson and DIDN'T forget and leave it in the cab, again!

Call another cab to take us back to the marina, loaded up with clean clothes and food and all-important boat parts. Isn't Ft Lauderdale beautiful from a cab? It's too late to go exploring, today. Maybe tomorrow. Don't forget to tell the cab to go to the 7-11 (marina parking lot) not your front door, since cabs don't float well.
Ok, haul all the stuff in the dock cart from the 7-11 store the two blocks to the boat bedroom. Wait 20 minutes before starting out for the house. This simulates waiting for someone to bring back a marina-owned dock cart from down the docks.... They always leave them outside their boats, until the marina crew get fed up with newbies like us asking why there aren't any carts and go down the docks to retrieve them.
Put all the stuff away, food and clothes, in the tiny drawer space provided. Have a beer on the patio (cockpit) and watch the sunset. THIS is living!

Now, disassemble the toilet in your bathroom, take out the wax ring under it and put it back. Reassemble the toilet. This completes the simulation of putting the new valve in the head on the boat. Uh, uh, NO POWERVENT! GET YOUR HAND OFF THAT SWITCH! The whole boat smells like the inside of the holding tank for hours after fixing the toilet in a real boat, too! Spray some Lysol if you got it.
After getting up, tomorrow morning, from your V-Berth, take the whole family out to breakfast by WALKING to the nearest restaurant, then take a cab to any local park or attraction you like. We're off today to see the sights of Ft Lauderdale before heading out to sea, again, to Key West. Take a cab back home after dinner out and go to bed, exhausted, on your little foam pad under the table....
Get up this morning and disconnect all hoses, electrical wires, etc. Get ready for sea. Crank up the lawn mower under the open bedroom window for 4 hours while we motor out to find some wind. ONE responsible adult MUST be sitting on the hot patio all day, in shifts, on watch looking out for other boats, ships, etc. If you have a riding lawn mower, let the person on watch. drive it around the yard all day to simulate driving the boat down the ICW in heavy traffic. About 2PM, turn off the engine and just have them sit on the mower steering it on the patio. We're under sail, now. Every hour or so, take everyone out in the yard with a big rope and have a tug-of-war to simulate the work involved with setting sail, changing sail, trimming sail. Make sure everyone gets all sweaty in the heat.

Sailors working on sailboats are always all sweaty or we're not going anywhere fast! Do this all day, today, all night, tonight, all day, tomorrow, all night tomorrow night and all day the following day until 5PM when you arrive at the next port you're going to. Make sure nobody in the family leaves the confines of the little bedroom or the patio during our trip. Make sure everyone conserves water, battery power, etc., things you'll want to conserve while being at sea on a trip somewhere. Everyone can go up to the 7-11 for an icecream as soon as we get the boat docked on day 3, the first time anyone has left the confines of the bedroom/patio in 3 days.

Question - Was anyone suicidal during our simulated voyage? Keep an eye out for anyone with a problem being cooped up with other family members. If anyone is attacked, any major fights break out, any threats to throw the captain to the fish.....forget all about boats and buy a motorhome, instead.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

You Might be a Cruiser if . . . .

. . . . Your boat gets all the Christmas presents!

New Head Pump Body

New Inverter

Spare Raw-water pump

Spare Transmission Cooler

Looking to Electrify Dinghy Lift

This one is just a 3-year  recertification, we already have the raft!

And truth be told -  if in some way you find yourself considering that Pump Head as much a present for your Wife as the boat, then you really know you are a cruiser!  (even if she does not totaly agree :-) )

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A peak inside the Xantrex ProSine 2.0. . .

In response to the question:  Can it be saved?  in  the answer is No.

Over this past week I have taken the ProSine 2.0 apart looking for any obvious signs of trauma and nothing jumped out at me.

Overall, this unit looked like a clean design and seemed well put together. Separated into a High Voltage side and Low Voltage Side the system consists of 4 major components   The bottom board handles the FETs and high current stuff,  two upright boards (HV and LV control board) each with a PIC micro controller and related logic to control things, and an AC relay contained inside the black box..

I would say the air flow though it is a bit hampered - all the exhaust had to squeeze under the black box on the right. Cardboard air flow control added to airflow resistance and as such I am not surprised  it overheated when trying to supply more then 80A of charging current.

 I did however notice that it used a lot of what I could consider questionable connector technology for a marine environment, ala:
Example of PCB connector 

The connects used appear to be tin-plated.  Going back to my history in PC manufacturing, we would NEVER have used non-gold plated connectors in such an application.  Seeing these I had hope that this was perhaps a major cause of the failure, and simply cleaning them and re-seating the boards (thereby doing a whipping action on the connectors) would bring it back.

Example of cables
And these insulation-displacement cables also caused me concern. Again, a technology less reliable then a proper crimped-on connector technology which gives good metal flow between the wire and the connector.

Hoping nothing overall was wrong and these connectors were a major weakness I disassembled the unit, cleaned everything and put it back together.  Alas there was no joy.

I noted in the diagnostic screens the system would display their firmware number, except for the High Voltage Board.  So I pulled it again, and re-seated the CPU in its socket.  Still no luck.

HV Board 
And looking at the PIC controller part number I noted that a Consumer temperate range part was used, as opposed to an Industrial range part.  Does save money (under a $ each), but given the high temp environmental I would have expected Industrial parts, not Consumer grade parts that are typical used for items inside a house or office.

At this point I am giving up.  Xantrex provides NO support for their products to the end consumer, nor their dealer network.  Parts are not available, and in short - if anything goes wrong the only choice is to round-file it.  (This started coming to light about a  year after I had purchased the unit.)  Even if I did dig more into it it would become a hobby for me.  So, to Ebay as Parts Only goes this unit, and a new Magnum MS-2000 had been order I also looked at Outback units.  Both of which have a good rep these days.   Not a chance I will ever purchase another Xantrex offering, based on their current support policies alone...

And of you want some interesting reading, here is one persons behind-the-scenes look at what happened over the years:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Raspberry PI Navigation Computer?

Today I got caught up looking over a bunch of Raspberry PI stuff and it got me thinking.  This might be a wonderful base for a low cost, high performance, open source Navigation computer / system.

Previously I talked about the Nav Computer used on Viking Star, a Windows based system using SeaClear:

and it continues to work well for us.

Pie anyone?

Raspberry PI?

But here is this new Raspberry PI environment that for $35 gives an incredible amount of power:

Launched over last summer, and to be honest just now getting on its feet,  this effort is along the lines of the Ardunio except that it focuses more on visual interfaces and hosts Linux.

Just thinking:

Could use the USB Hockey puck GPS receiver or the 4-port serial cable to connect to an existing GPS receiver.  (I likely would do the latter and download waypoints into the GPS in parallel with the chartplotter).

Add a Bluetooth Mouse if you did not want to be Touching the Screen all the time.

Add some power supply stuff and for $100 looks like you could have a VERY competent  navigation computer, with a complete touch-display system coming in under $300 - $400

Note:  Links just given for reference  likely can find better deals with some searching...

A very quick Google turned up a few folks that have started to play with this:

Seems there are still some issues, and you had best be well versed in tech (as with almost any Linux deployment).  And not sure if I would ever be happy with the rather sluggish response time of openCPN (See my 1st post linked above) while it updates the display.  But  IF I was starting our nav computer today this would be high on my look-at list.

UPDATE  August 2013 -

I did a quick google search, and found a few links of folks who seem to be making progress.  Here are a couple: