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Monday, August 21, 2017

Security Concerns

Never underestimate the cost of security. In pre-911 days we felt pretty secure. Once those planes fell from the sky and buildings came down, it was a different world. There were the obvious changes. Airport security got a lot more attention. Travel became more of a hassle and not just on airlines. Even the security on inter-city buses increased. Not only was it a hassle, someone has to pay for all that extra invasive security.

There were a lot of hidden costs. Public information on utilities became secret. While that may keep some vulnerabilities secret from terrorists, it also hides potential problems from people who should know. Everybody from fire departments to city planners now lack critical information. It affects everything from hidden chemical hazards during a fire to where it's safe to dig a trench. There are work arounds for some of these things, but everything takes longer, is more cumbersome, and incomplete.

Now imagine if every time you went out to do something body guards had to come along. In many parts of the world that's the reality. Everything that's done has a “security tax” added to it. Many things become too security expensive to bother with.

Let's bring things down to the level of a household. You might be pretty self-reliant. Let's say you have a big garden, a wood lot for firewood, and a stream for an emergency water supply. You are currently living in a pretty secure world. Your main concern about the garden is if deer are going to get into it. You can fire up your chainsaw and cut up firewood to keep warm. Should you need emergency water you just take a water jug to the stream.

Now imagine an insecure world. That garden has to be guarded not from deer, but from hungry people. Using a chainsaw is a security risk. It's loud. People can tell from miles around that you've got: a chainsaw, gas, firewood, and probably have a homestead nearby. If you burn the wood the smoke could give your position away. Going down to the stream? Better take a guard with you.

People have the mistaken idea that we are protected by the police and the law. There are never enough police to make everyone follow the law. Laws are only good if most people voluntarily go along with them. Police are there to deal with the few who don't. We are not protected by the government, but by a civil society. When we become less civil towards each other, the more security is needed. The more security, the higher the “security tax.” At some point it all breaks down. Being able to get along isn't just nice, it's essential for civilization.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Boat destruction

A few years ago I built a small 12 foot scow called an Ooze Goose. We hauled it all over the place, Florida, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky, and back to New England. It was loads of fun. The boat rowed well and moved right along with an electric trolling motor. I had plans to put sails on it but never got around to it.

Well, last fall I got sick and didn't get a chance to properly cover it for the winter. Water got into the boat and did a number on it. I knew it had some damage, but Saturday I really got into it and discovered how bad the damage actually was. It was bad. Everything built with the heavier 3/8” plywood was in good shape. The 1/4” panels all suffered delamination.

I could have replaced all the 1/4” plywood, but instead decided to disassemble most of the boat. The cabin, and the sides were the worse. The bottom, bow and stern pieces were of heavier plywood and are fine. If I threw on some new side panels and some seats, it would make a pretty good rowboat. That's been moved to the back burner.

All the hardware and gear was salvaged off the boat. The current plan it to build a slightly bigger boat next year The 12 foot boat was a great learning experience. My lovely wife and I figured out what worked and what could be improved. We are seriously looking at Dave Zeiger's 16 x 4 Triloboat.

One of the problems with the Ooze Goose was with the cabin. It was physically big enough for two people to get in. However, it made the boat very bow heavy. The stern popped quite a ways out of the water. The Triloboat's cabin is in the middle of the boat, so the balance is better.

The boat is designed to maximize standard lumber and is supposed to be a quick build. Dave claims 3 days to a week for two people. That does not include the sail. I should be able to knock one out in 2 or 3 weeks easily. Barge type boats have a lot of carrying capacity and the flat bottom makes it a perfect beach cruiser.

While it hurt a bit to take the Goose apart, I now have an opening for a new project boat. That project can wait until the spring.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Trailer and solar boat

I'm glad I've decided to change out the bearings on the boat trailer. They aren't in bad shape, but the inner seals are gone. I've compensated by keeping everything well greased. The downside of that is that grease leaks out and splatters all over the wheel.

As it turns out the local auto parts place has to order the new seals all the way from Ohio. I'm glad I'm not stuck on the side of the road while waiting for parts to come in. Even though the bearings look good, I'm going to change them anyway. Might as well since everything is all apart. The old bearings look good enough to save for emergency spares.

Some years ago I built a wooden box to act as a sort of lazarette on the sailboat. It held a 6 gallon marine gas tank. The gas motor is long gone and I've been using an electric trolling motor to move the boat. I'm thinking of mounting a second battery in the box along with a charge controller. My 50 watt panel would just about fit on top of that.

The boat currently has just a 30 watt panel. That's been sufficient to run the boat's electronics and the trolling motor. If I use the motor a lot it may take a few days for the battery to charge up. That's not a problem here on the lake. It might be on the ocean.

That's why I'm putting in a second completely separate solar electric system. Both the trolling motor and the boat's electronics are connected to the battery with jumper cables. It would be easy to switch them from one battery to another.

The trolling motor moves the boat at about half the speed of the gas. That's sufficient for moving in and out of anchorages and marinas. In a pinch, it will move the boat for quite a few miles. While not as fast as gas, it's a whole lot more convenient. The motor is quiet and I'm not hauling gas around. Plus, the batteries are charging from the sun.

The best part of this project is that I do it without spending any more money. No, the best part is that it will actually do the job. The money thing is bonus.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

I keep getting tempted

Every time I think I have a plan for the winter and things sorted out, something comes along to tempt me.

Not that long ago I let a good deal go on an Oday 27. The boat was the guy's pride and joy. He did a lot of upgrades to the boat. Age caught up to him, his wife passed, and the boat had to go. At the last minute I decided not to go look at it.

Other people were interested. Then the boat disappeared from Craigslist. It was so far below market value that I was not surprised. Then out of nowhere I see the boat's been listed again. A recent photo shows that the boat's been cleaned up. The minor repairs have been done and the price is still low. The boat has to move before the end of the New England sailing season.

Okay, but there were serious considerations for not getting a bigger boat this year. One of them was that we'd have to leave early to get south in time to beat the cold weather. Another was that I wanted to go back to places where shallow draft is necessary. Then I look at the crap in the news and think it might be nice to take a boat and leave the country for a while. It's getting ugly.

Just to make things interesting, the same day I was informed about a sailboat for sale just down the road from me. This one is bigger than mine and is on a good trailer. My van could easily tow it. If the price sounds like it's in my budget, I'm very tempted to look at it. After all, it's just down the road.

Boats are an addiction. Maybe I should take up heavy drinking instead.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trailer work

Not much going on so I'm catching up on projects. Just picked up a new tire for the boat trailer. I bought one last year to keep as a spare. Didn't have to use it. Now that I have two I'll change them both out and keep the old tires as spares.

It's been about seven years since the wheel bearings have been changed. That's pretty good considering how many miles we've hauled the trailer. Going in and out of salt water all the time is petty hard on bearings too. I kept the bearing buddies greased up with good quality marine grease. Looks like that paid off. To be on safe side I'm changing the bearings. Much easier to do in my driveway than on the side of the road somewhere. Last time I blew a trailer bearing it was on the Tamiami Trail, US rt 41, crossing the Everglades. Not fun.

Usually by the time I get around to changing wheel bearings there's snow on the ground. That's what I did on my utility trailer. This year I'm actually doing the job in the summer. Almost feels weird to do the job without frozen fingers.

Overall the trailer looks to be in pretty good shape. The lights were upgraded to submersible LEDs a couple years ago and that saved me a world of grief. The old style lights were always burning out. Last year the cable winch was changed to a strap type and I'm happy with the change.

It won't be long before the trailer and the boat are ready for travel. My lovely wife and I hope to do some sailing on the big wilderness lakes here in northern New England. For now it's good enough to have the boat anchored at our beach. We can go for an afternoon sail anytime we want. It's also a lot easier to work on the trailer without the boat on it.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sea Eagle Kayak Update

You may live in an area where bugging out by water may make a lot of sense. When the bridges were closed after the 911 attacks, some people left Manhattan by kayak. You may not live on an island, but bugging out by water may be easier than by land. Many people live in apartments and don't have storage room for a full sized kayak or canoe. However, a good inflatable kayak can be stored in a closet or even the trunk of your car. Even if you never bug out in one, they can provide loads of fun right now.

I've owned my Seal Eagle 420 inflatable kayak for about eight years now. My lovely wife wasn't too keen when I bought it. For one thing it cost about $1,100 dollars. They made similar kayaks out of a cheaper material for a whole lot less. It didn't help that there were similar sized cheapo inflatables at a local store for under $100.

All was forgiven years later when we used the kayak to abandon ship in the dark. After navigating shark infest shoals we made a successful landing through the surf onto a beach. To be fair, she'd already warmed up to the boat well before then. It's large, stable, and durable. It survived landing on oyster beds and being ground against barnacles. The boat still does not leak.

In general, we are very happy with it. There are a few things that gave me problems. The first is that it didn't come with a pressure gauge. The standard kit did not include one. That had to be ordered separately. Another issue was with the foot pump used to inflate it. By the second year it had broken in half under normal use. We also found the “deluxe” seats were too low. The tiniest bit of water in the boat would get your butt wet. Cheap marine seat cushions give enough lift to solve the problem.

Later I bought a nice 12volt air pump. That was great but did not survive getting submerged in the shipwreck. Fortunately, the manual foot pump had been replaced with an inflatable hand pump with built in pressure gauge. It cost about $40. The gauge was full of salt and sand after the shipwreck, but I was able to take it apart and clean it. Works fine now. It only takes 5 or 10 minutes to pump up the boat by hand, and that's for an old fat guy like myself.

The last annoying thing is that the swivel clips that hold the seats are prone to corrosion. They might have survived in a fresh water environment, but salt water ate them up. Just replaced all eight of them for about $23.

All in all I've been very happy with the boat and the company. I'm not being paid by Sea Eagle, I'm just a satisfied customer. The boat has stood up to years of use and abuse. If your life ever depends on an inflatable boat, best to get a decent one.


Monday, August 14, 2017

A nomad's financial life

Some people have asked me how I take care of finances while on the road. It's easier than it used to be, but there are some hidden problems.

Back when my lovely wife and I were first on the road, the only Internet was dial-up and there were still payphones everywhere. My monthly check was deposited automatically in the bank. I'd use prepaid phone cards to call the bank to check up on my finances. A number of my bills were paid over the phone. I actually memorized all those phone numbers and access codes. One of main things is that I'd seriously simplified my finances back then. There were just not a lot of bills that had to be paid. Since my mail was going to one of my daughter's, she was kind enough to let me know when bills I had not planned for came in. I'd write and mail her a check then she'd pay the bill.

Now everyone has a cell phone, free wifi is common, and most businesses have on-line payment options. I take care of on-line business about twice a month. In the beginning of the month most bills are paid. There are a few that don't become due until later in the month, so I get to those about the second or third week of the month. Easy enough.

Before leaving I used to have my mail forwarded to my dad's place in Florida. He'd just toss it all into a box. When we'd be in his part of Florida, we'd stop in for a visit and would also catch up with our snail mail. Even in the days of on-line payment, there are a few odd bills that I write paper checks for. They tend to be things like small quarterly payments to my lovely wife's life insurance. Now that dad has passed, I'll have to figure out another way to deal with those odd bills. Maybe by now they've added on-line payments?

So we have Internet access, plus debit and credit cards for traveling money. In general, I'm a big believer in dealing with small local banks. That's great -until you have a problem with your debit card. I've discovered that the post office will not forward debit cards. If your card expires when on the road, you are out of luck.

There are a couple of ways around that. My lovely wife's debit cards have different expiration dates than mine. We might have to stick together when shopping but at least one of our cards usually works. Another way is to have an account at a nation wide bank. While my local bank would not ship a new card to me, the big name International banks have no problems doing so.

Of course, having some cash is pretty handy too. There are few problems with carrying big wads of cash. Okay, first you have to get a big wad of cash. Your cash could be stolen. It might get stolen by the police. In some areas they routinely confiscate cash as evidence of wrong doing. Also it's nearly impossible to rent a car just using cash.

I've had some other issues come up on the road. Back when I had medical insurance, they did not cover me out of their service area, which only included New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Not much good in Florida. That's one of the reasons I dropped it. No sense paying for insurance I could only use half the time.

Some people have asked me what I'd do if the Internet went down for a long period of time and I could not pay my bills. Well, if that happened, paying off a credit card while on the road would be the least of my worries.