Saturday, February 25, 2006

Philosophy and So Forth

This has been an interesting week. One of my clients owns a well know book review service and very often after a book has been reviewed, they allow employees to take the pre-release books to read. One such book I found this week is "Monty Python and Philosophy" - one of a series of philosophy books (such as "The Simpsons and Philosophy").

I've been fond of saying, "Original thought is far more rare than you might think. Most any thought you or I have had in our life has been or will be thought by someone else." I don't ask you to dwell on that. Perhaps it's better if you don't.

Anyway, it turns out I'm an existentialist. To be exact an atheist existentialist. Jean-Paul Sartre is the main man for that one. The long of the short of it is that it is the closest philosophy to humanism there is, maybe even the same, close enough.

So now we all know what I am. Can I justify this position? Sure. Will I? No problem. Just not here. Or now. Maybe later. I mean, really, I have to keep something in reserve.

Ok, you're wondering what's going on in the sailing world. I called Sound Salvage in City Island to order a new mooring system for Inertia at the yacht club. They have standards, and although my boat would probably be ok with a 400 lb. mushroom, I ordered a 500 lb. one.

Sound Salvage has been doing this for a long time, and they take care of most of the moorings on the west side of City Island. They also, for an annual fee, inspect and maintain the pennants (the part that goes from the mooring chain to the boat), and once every other year they haul the mooring and inspect and repair it (an additional fee). But to keep your boat afloat and attached, that's the kind of dedication you really want.

I'll be getting the scoop on my new mooring set up and get some pictures, too.

My friend Bobbie (and Warren) has given me a link to an interesting site, and if you're doing coastal sailing, especially in the northeast US, you might like this, too. It's interesting even if you're not sailing around here, but there is a lot of area specific info. So here it is:

I have been promised by Renee (of narrowboat fame) that there are pictures and notes about her redoing the inside of Coriander (Corry). Apparently she (Corry) is in a bit of a state. Well, maybe Renee, too, but I can't speak to that. Anyway, now that I've promised it, she'll have to come through.

Laura, Herb and I spent today checking out their boats in Norwalk, Connecticut. We made plans for the summer cruising and racing - For instance, my friend Laura will be doing the Newport-Bermuda race, and I'll help her get the boat back. Also, we'll do the Around Long
Island Race ( Then dump her boat off to get it cleaned and repaired after the race, get to my boat and meet up with Herb and Gina, Bob and Carol.

Great plans. Easily lead astray. We'll see how that goes. I want to go through the Cape Cod Canal, see Cuttyhunk, and Tarpaulin Cove. Once again, we'll see.

The days are getting noticably longer now, and it's usually in the 40's during the day, 20's at night. Spring is right around the corner!

I've gathered all the info I need about my electrical upgrades to the boat. The new starting battery is going to be a deep cycle group 24 which is more than enough to do the job. It will be its own bank, and the current group 27's will be wired as a house bank. The solar panels will be attached to a charging bus with the current battery charger and the alternator. A new sensor panel will maintain all this crap. See my last post with it's picture.

This year is going to be a terrific season, I just know it!

I'll see you on the water!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Big News! I Belong To A New Yacht Club

This weekend has been something! Cold as a witch's mammary in a copper-tin alloy bra. And really windy. Good time to go see about a yacht club. So that's what I did Saturday - went to City Island to check out Harlem Yacht Club and City Island Yacht Club.

Well, to make a long story short, I joined City Island Yacht Club. There were members there working up a storm on the building, rebuilding the ladies lounge, moving a big doorway, and so forth. Now I have to deal with a mooring. Monday I'll be getting a quote for a 500 pound mushroom from Sound Salvage - I'll let you all know how that goes.

In the meanwhile, I've received my solar panels - I ordered them from Sundance Solar. They have charging systems for RV's and vacation homes and so forth, but they don't have a set with a charge controller and the two panels I wanted - they fit on the seahood and the others don't or are too small. I bought the two 22 watt panels that provide 1.2 amps each (maybe a little more).

Ok, the point here is not how much power ( I've already discussed how much power I need for the refrigerator) but that Sundance Solar was kind enough to give me a deal - The panels were $245 each and the other kit's controller was $119 - but they gave me the two panels and the controller for $550, and they threw in shipping besides. If you're going for solar panels, they have good prices and they are very nice to deal with.

Now that I've got them it's time to figure out all the other power issues, the first being separating the house batteries from the engine starting battery. So the first project is, you guessed it, add a starting battery. Towards that goal Herb and I went down to the boat today (Sunday) to see where the engine starting battery can go. It turns out I can put it under the aft cabin berth behind the shaftlog. I'll get some before before, during and after pictures.

Also, to do all this, I'll need some stuff from Jack Rabbit Marine . To show you what the generalized electrical diagram will look like, check the diagram below.
general electrical diagram, Jack Rabbit Marine (

The key item here is the device labeled "Echo Charge" which monitors battery temps and charge to make sure the batteries don't get overcharged. So now you know the plan. I'll take pictures and so forth to keep you informed and hopefully interested.

See you on the water!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Well, This is A Wine Fueled Blog Post

This evening I decided (well this morning when I bought the stuff) to make a big ol' pot o' chili. When I got home, I thought I'd have a glass of wine, too. As I have a big bag o' wine in a box, it turned out that I had more than a glass. Well, more than even two glasses.

What does this mean? Well first of all, it means I made some truly spectacular chili. It also means that I am willing, under the influence of Bacchus, to share this particular recipe for the aforementioned chili.

For those of you who exist in a vacuum (and why does 'vacuum' have two 'u's?) or have not heard of the value of personal chili recipes, this is an extraordinary offer, indeed. It is on the order of the Patriot Act secrecy, it is on the order of the secrets of dark matter, black holes, and quantum mechanics. It is the holy grail, the gustatorial equivalent of the unification theory of everything!

Yet now I offer this to you; I offer a chili recipe that will excite the palate, will enrage the tongue, will cause the wailing of women, the gnashing of teeth, and full grown men to fall weeping to their knees; yea - the shaking of the very foundations of philosophy that binds our race together!

A bit much?

I think not.

Here we go:

First, you will need these things:

A can of black beans
A can of red kidney beans
A can of pinto beans

A can of Ro-tel - diced chilies and tomatoes - there are other manufacturers, too

A big can of tomato sauce

A big can of tomato puree

A pound or so of lean ground beef

A half pound or so of hot Italian sausage

A half cup or so of chili powder
A quarter cup or so of cayenne pepper powder

2 heaping tablespoons of chopped garlic

2 pretty big onions chopped fine if you like or not so much if you don't

Now, I have a big stainless steel pot, but you might not. It's a stew pot, so you might want to get one. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Good - now in this pot brown the sausage (remove the skin and break up) and the ground beef - sprinkle liberally with the chili pepper. Add some of the cayenne pepper. Add the garlic and onions.

If you must, drain some of the oil.

Add the tomato sauce, the tomato puree, all the cans of beans (after draining the goop they're packed in - it's evil, anyway). Also - add the Ro-Tel diced tomato and chile peppers.

Add the remainder of the chili powder and cayenne powder to taste. Add 2 or so cups of water. This is important because you're going to cook the water down once.

Now put all this stuff on a LOW light and cover - let it really cook. Stir every so often so it doesn't burn on the bottom of the pot. After an hour or so, move the top so it will cook down.

When it gets to the right consistancy, go ahead and make some rice. This will depend mostly on how many people are eating this stuff. I made 1 cup of basmati white rice, so that's good for me. You might want more. Once again, it's up to you.

Finally, put a few tablespoons of cooked rice on a plate, put some scoops of chili on top of that, and sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.

Mmmm. Eat it!

If you can't follow this recipe, it really helps if you've had several glasses of wine first.

Look, you really can't screw up chili. Well, maybe you can, but it takes more effort than to just make it.

That's that, and you know what?

I'll see you on the water!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Social Events and What to do About Power

Darth Vader's Summer HomeRight.

Sunday Feb. 5th was the annual Hudson Cove Yacht Club brunch. It was held in the Sheraton Crossroads in Mahwah, NJ - which I jokingly refer to as Darth Vader's summer home. The picture doesn't really capture the lurking blackness of the building properly. But the brunch was really good -the spread was HUGE! If you couldn't find something to eat there, you were in deep trouble.

Most of the usual group of suspects were rounded up for the do, except for Bobbie and Warren who had gone away. Needless to say, I ate myself nearly sick. It was wonderful!

I've decided to leave Harbor House Marina in Stamford, CT because they raised their price to $100/ft. with a 40 ft. minimum. That means an additional $600 for nothing. Not that there was a lot there to begin with. I won't go into it any further but it's so very clear that the owners are not boaters. Oddly enough, the marina manager is. But let me stop here before I rant. Who knows, I may hit the lottery and want to go back there.

So, I figure I'll go back to City Island. It's a very nice place, and I know people there. For years I kept my boat at Barron's Boat Yard - John Barron is a good guy and very easygoing. We've sailed together, partied together and so forth.

The yard has moorings and a single work dock. He can haul and do any work including topside painting. Currently he and his son, Jason, are working the yard (with help of course). He's very meticulous about maintaining his moorings and regularly checks his customers boats.

The yard is on the east side of City Island just north of the ferry landing to Hart Island. So it's well protected in all but strong nor'easters. The disadvantage is that it's a working yard. Launch service hours are basically normal working hours and weekend traffic in power and party boats to New Rochelle is horrible.

The advantages are that the yard is inexpensive and friendly. Also: if you come back late, you can leave your boat on the dock and John's crew will put it back on the mooring the next morning.

City Island Yacht ClubOn the other hand, there are some very nice yacht clubs on City Island, such as the Harlem Yacht Club and the City Island Yacht Club. I've decided to join City Island Yacht Club because they seem more in line with my less than formal attitudes. Harlem seems too formal, too old. I could be wrong. But there you have it.

Anyway, last year I bought an Engle portable refrigerator/freezer which I love - it's efficient (.7 amp draw as a refrigerator, 2.3 as a freezer), quite nicely built, quiet, and not too heavy. It's a fair sized 35 qt. It holds enough packed properly for my usual 2 week summer cruise. But it does draw power.

Last summer, I experimented with it and found I could run the thing overnight and the stereo and my lighting and still start the engine with the same battery the next morning. I carry two group 31 deep cycle flooded batteries, so with one in reserve, all's good. But it takes an hour of motoring to fully charge the battery afterwards. Normally, this isn't a problem since every afternoon the wind dies and if I'm going somewhere, I have to motor.

But at a mooring, I'd like to be able to leave the boat with the refrig on for extended periods without draining the battery - the reefer has a low voltage cut-off, but if there's food in it, that's the end of that. And I hate touching rotted whatever! Also, there is a great feeling in being energy independent - even if the motor doesn't, can't or won't run, I'll still have power for instruments, refer, and autopilot.

Towards this goal, my first idea was to go solar - I have a space on the seahood that will hold two 22 watt solar panels from Sundance Solar in Warner, NH. I've searched the web pretty thouroughly and they've had the best overall pricing. In fact, my friend Dale who is now living on the side of a mountain in Maui, Hawaii, is using a similar setup that I recommended.

Anyway, they have the panels and since each will put out 1.5 amps at optimal sunlight, I figured to run the refer and keep the batteries charged, they'd average about 1/3 - or .5 amp each. Two gives me 1 amp, which powers the refer and leaves .3 amp for charging. Since the nights are short in the summer and the sun brighter, I'd expect this set up to work for several weeks at a time before the low voltage cut-off kicked in. The price for this setup including the two panels and the charge controller is about $550. You absolutely need the controller.

My friend Herb (of Herb and Gina fame) also has a rebuilt Balmar alternator that I think is 100 amp - significantly larger than my current 35 amp one - that he's willing to give me. This would be great, because it could reduce the engine run time to charge the batteries.

But we all know that as soon as you put one piece of gear on a boat, you want another and that changes the energy balance, and so on and so on. I thought about this for a bit and decided to call Jack Rabbit Marine (who you'll see in the left column now as a marine electrical system supplier). I spoke at length with Steven Ivers, a certified ABYC Marine Electrical person.

What he recommended was changing my electrical system to provide for separation of the starting battery and the house bank. In addition he recommended an Echo Charger to manage the batterys properly. He also provided a simplified diagram for how this could be accomplished. If you are thinking of upgrading your electrical system on your boat, these people (Jack Rabbit Marine) are your go-to guys. I heartily recommend them.

They also have a terrific wind generator package if you're doing costal sailing. It's the new Air-x 400 with mounting pole for less than $1000. Very nice.

Anyway, I've ordered the two solar panels and we'll see where that leads... Next week will be interesting, and I hope warm enough to either sail or to check the mounting/fitting of the panels.

See you on the water!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Some People Are Living the Dream

I've been threating to write about my friend, Renee's, narrowboat in England. Here, now, I make good on that threat!

First, you'll need to know more about narrowboats. I mean, other than they're boats and they're narrow. They are barges designed for traveling the English canal system.

In the late 1700's during the very beginning of the Industrial Revolution, entrepreneurs realized the importance and convienience of using waterways to move raw material and goods between factories, markets, and suppliers. To this end they created a huge network of canals and other waterways for transport.

Northgate Lock
The total length of the water system is over 4000 miles, including canals, lakes and rivers. It includes some spectacular engineering - for instance, the Falkirk Wheel, which is a rotating boat lift. There are also elevated canals where you can float along an aerie, a hundred feet above the valley floor!

The UK has recently started programs for refurbishing and restoring the canal systems. It's been a major undertaking, but well worth it! The Falkirk Wheel site has a lot of history and information on the system. The IWA ( Inland Waterways Association ) also has a tremendous amount of information on the waterway and their restoration.

This all said, a narrowboat is barge, essentially, built for moving goods along the English canals. When they were originally built with manual labor it was decided that a good minimum width was somewhere around eight feet, apparently. Let's face it, if you've got to dig with shovel and pick, you'd rather dig something narrow than something like the Panama Canal. I know I would, anyway.Working the Northgate Lock

Corry finished with drydock
A number of people live on these boats, refurbishing them to quite luxurious homes. They are self powered, and at a around 7 feet wide by 55 feet long, provide a fairly large living space. Renee's is steel hulled. She's graciously provided some pictures of Coriander in drydock.

Every few years, like any other boat, Corry (short, she indicates, for 'Coriander') requires serious maintenance. Zinc replacement and other underwater inspection and painting are done. Clearly, it's a big job and Renee, like myself, does it herself (except welding and that sort of thing). I suspect that she'd do that, too, if she owned the equipment!

Please enjoy these pictures! Renee is refurbishing the interior that I have heard can be luxurious, and has promised pictures! So more on these lovely, useful, and comfortable boats later, I hope.

Well, see you on the water!