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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Another Navy Ship Collision



We have another Navy ship collision. This time it's U.S.S. John McCain colliding with a commercial tanker. Something is definitely wrong. The international rules of the sea are very clear. Even in busy shipping lanes, these accidents should not happen. A whole series of bad decisions had to have been made.

This is in peace time with fully functional ships. We have the best navigational aids that have ever existed. That leaves human error. Training is probably part of the problem. Computer simulators aren't the same as being out on the water. I wonder if maybe people have become so reliant on electronics that a proper watch with human eyeballs aren't happening? That's just a guess.

Here's something to think about. The navy vessel collided with another large ship. I wonder how many small boats are just run over? Small boats are lost at sea without a trace all the time. The navy ship would hardly feel the bump.

The recent US Navy accidents have been with large commercial ships. Now imagine if they collision had been with a Chinese Navy ship in contested waters? That could cause serious diplomatic issues. Basic seamanship is important. I hope the Navy gets to the bottom of its issues soon. One can't but help wonder what other training they are falling down on.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

See You in 2024



A good friend of mine in western Kentucky offered to put my lovely wife and I up for the eclipse. They happened to be very close to the totality zone. Unfortunately, we were unable to make it. The final nail in the coffin: my lovely wife broke a tooth and had a dentist appointment.

We had to make due with a partial eclipse. It was still pretty cool. I make a simple pin hole projector out of some heavy paper. I drove over to the dentist's office in the oddly dimmed light. It wasn't like the dimness of a cloudy day, but something else. Kinda weird.

Someone at the dentist's office had a pair of proper viewing glasses. They were shared around. Then the dentist tried to look at the sun without the glasses on. I pointed out to my lovely wife that the half blind guy was about to mess around in her mouth with drills. She was not amused.

While the partial eclipse was nice, in 2024 northern New Hampshire will be in the path of a total eclipse. While it's close in distance, it's seven years away in time. I plan on making it.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears

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.

-Sixbears

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Potassium Iodide



Potassium iodide is flying off the shelves. Nothing like the threat of nuclear war to help sales along. A lot of people are buying it because they know it's supposed to protect against radiation. It doesn't, exactly. What it does is flood your thyroid gland not allowing it to uptake radioactive iodine isotopes. Since your thyroid gland is “full” there's no room for the radioactive bits to get in.

Thyroid protection is good, but that's all it does. Not only that, there are potential side effects, nausea, diarrhea, headache, depression and potential allergic reactions. You should research the full range of possible problems.

Potassium iodide does not protect against other radioactive particles. Is it worth getting? That's up to you. As for myself I've keep some in my home and vehicles for years. At the time I was more concerned about malfunctioning nuclear power plants. After all, we've had Chernobyl and Fukushima. I don't consider it unreasonable to protect against a type of disaster that's happened twice.

Unfortunately, you'll probably pay top dollar for the pills now. It's up to you to decide if they are worth having or not. I bought some because there are so few ways to mitigate radiation poisoning that any little bit helps.

Wikipedia has a pretty good introduction to Potassium Iodide. Unlike many sources of information, they aren't trying to see you any pills, so they are worth checking out.

-Sixbears

Saturday, August 12, 2017

How do you go back to the real world?



Do you ever wonder what happens to people when the adventure ends? What does a person do after they've hiked the Appalachian Trail, lived on a boat, or traveled the country in a van? What is the rest of their story like?

Most of them have a really hard time adjusting to “real” life. Take the hikers for example. Some find ways to keep hiking. They may work six months of the year, then hike the next six months. Often the next hike they want to do is the Pacific Coast Trail. A few try to do a balance of work/hiking. They end up moving to an area where they can do a lot of day and overnight hikes. I have known a few who got stuck in the 9 to 5 world, but they were depressed alcoholics.

In the boating world, when someone moves off a boat back onto land it's called, “swallowing the anchor.” Boaters have such colorful terms for everything. Some go back to living in the real world, but darn few look happy about it. Often they look for other adventures. Some go traveling in an RV, have motorcycle adventures in Europe, or find some other adventure. One guy I knew went from being captain of a classic schooner to being a full time wilderness canoe guide. He felt canoes were a lot less work and responsibility.

As for myself, I haven't had a real job since 1993. The idea of going to an office and wearing a tie appalls me. Working full time for someone else is a horror thought. I'm willing to do a lot of creative things to avoid a normal regular life. As I see it, modern normal life isn't normal. Okay, maybe it is for some people, but not for me. Even my last “real” job, firefighter, wasn't normal. Running into burning buildings that the rats are trying to leave isn't normal.

If you've got the adventure gene it's tough to fit in. Maybe if you've never done any long term adventure, the gene can remain dormant. Once it's woken up, there's no hope for it. Just accept that you've got to do something different. Eventually age or illness catches up with all of us and we have to dial things back. However, some people die before they've ever really lived.

-Sixbears

Friday, August 11, 2017

Flooding



Miami and New Orleans were both recently flooded by heavy rains. Miami is barely above sea level, the limestone it's built on is porous, and parts of the city flood every time there's a high tide. New Orleans could be flooded just by turning the pumps off. If I had a job that required I live in either of those cities, I'd live on a boat.

You don't have to live in a coastal city to have flooding issues. Our cities are built to handle normal weather. A “100 year flood,” is one of those things they don't build for. The only problem is that those “100 year floods,” seem to come around every three or four years.

My state of NH did a study where they discovered that our rain events were becoming more intense. Storms drop a lot more water in a shorter period of time. They've quietly been making improvements like digging drainage ditches deeper and replacing small culverts with much larger ones.

I live 1000 feet above sea level. If I'm ever flooded out, it would have to be a civilization ending event of Biblical proportions. That doesn't mean I'm not affected by flooding. Some years it's been impossible to get into town because all the roads were washed out.

The last thing you want to do is to drive through a flooded area. It might look like there's only six inches of water on the road. However, that water may be hiding the fact a 6 foot culvert is completely washed out. People also tend to underestimate the power of flowing water. Water is heavy and can easily push cars and even large trucks around.

You also want to avoid wading in flood water if you can. There's the threat of being injured on submerged debris, but that's just the start of your worries. Sewage treatment plants, septic systems, chemical storage areas, gas stations, and other places with hazardous chemicals get flooded. Flood waters are a mix of infectious toxic sludge.

There are some problems with flooding that many people don't think about. One of major problems is that while there is water everywhere, none if it is fit to drink. Most people rely on water treatment plants for the their water. When those get flooded you are out of luck. Have a decent backup supply. Water filters are good, but they may not be able to handle the bacteria, virus, and chemical loads in the flood water.

Another issue is fire. Seems counter intuitive, I know. Think about it, flood water can short out electrical systems causing fires. People who lose power may set their house on fire by using candles and camp stoves. Due to the flooding, small fires become large ones because the fire department cannot respond.

Make sure you have water and food. Practice fire safety. Don't be in a hurry to get anywhere. Even Noah's flood eventually drained away. Of course, Noah wasn't in New Orleans.

-Sixbears

Thursday, August 10, 2017

North Korea Endgame



I try not to panic when North Korea does a bit of saber rattling. The difference right now is that they may actually have a saber to rattle. The intelligence briefings don't come across my desk, but it appears they could have missile ready nukes. About twenty years ago under the Bush administration it looked like we could have had a diplomatic solution, but that never came to pass. Now we are stuck with the fallout from that failure. Maybe real fallout.

US options are pretty limited right now. Economic sanctions have not worked. It's not like North Korea was ever tightly connected to the world's economy in the first place. Apparently Kim has even managed to somewhat improve the economy since he came into power.

So what does the US do? We sail a few aircraft carriers off the coast. Some bombers fly around a bit. Sometimes troops and equipment in South Korea get shuffled about, like chess pieces that never threaten the king. After decades of this the North can't take the threat all that seriously, can they? While all this was going on, the North Koreans were testing atomic weapons and mastering missile technology.

It doesn't look like a diplomatic solution is likely. In fact, the Trump administration has cut funding in that area. Trump himself has upped the rhetoric and seems to be cribbing Kim's “Death to all” vocabulary. So that's a change from the past. Where will it lead? Will Kim assume that Trump is just blowing smoke and ignore him? That would make the President look weak.

One option is for Kim to launch an attack on US assets. He's threatened US cities and the US base at Guam. I'm not sure about the North being able to hit US cities, but an attack on Guam is definitely within their capabilities. What happens after that is anyone's guess. However, I don't think it will end with the US taking its lumps and backing off.

That would be just the excuse Trump and the military needs to attack North Korea. The United States could decide that Kim's nukes have to go and attack the nuclear facilities. One handy thing about attacking nuclear weapon production areas, the US could even use tactical nukes and claim the radiation is from the North's nuclear program. Don't tell me they haven't thought of that.

Don't think the US would never attack first. We do it all time. If Trump feels threatened by a possible impeachment, a good little war would be the perfect distraction. One cannot rule out the possibility.

So how does this end? It will be a quick little war and everyone would be home before Christmas. Wait, no, that was WWI. That didn't turn out so well either. China and Russia would not be happy with a nasty little war right on their doorstep. Last time that happened a zillion Chinese “volunteers” swarmed across the border.

South Korea would suffer greatly. Their capital is within heavy artillery range of the North. It doesn't even take high tech weapons to devastate the country. Their military, while smaller than that of the North, is better equipped and trained. Then there is the little issue of US troops on the ground. Our men and women would be involved from day one.

Japan would probably get involved. North Korea threatens them all the time too. They are pretty close geographically, so there would be plenty of opportunity for conflict. In recent years Japan has been strengthening their military and quietly flexing their muscles. The official pacifism of the post WWII years has steadily eroded.

If I had to bet, my guess would be that any sort of military action would quickly or eventually spiral out of control into a greater conflict. Millions would die.

If you are prepper, your very last get out of Dodge moment will be when military action starts. If you are lucky you'll have enough time to leave the cities. However, if the first attack is on a major US city, then forget about it. Transportation out of all major cities would soon gridlock. If you are lucky your warning will be either something like a North Korean attack on Guam, or a US surgical strike on Kim's nukes. That might give you enough of a head start.

One thing for sure is that situation is not going to remain static. Something is going to happen. Cooler heads and diplomacy? Yeah, that would be nice.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Technology Creep



I tend to be a late adopter of most technologies. There are exceptions to that, but they are special cases.

First of all, to be clear, I'm old enough to predate GPS, cell phones, the Internet, and satellite communications in general. When hiking through the woods, the height of technology was a map and compass. When I went out in the woods,it was assumed that I would be out of contact for the duration.
Back then we carried a copy of AMC's Guidebook to the White Mountains. It covered a much larger area than just the Whites. There were detailed descriptions of hiking trails with estimates of hiking times. The back of the book had sleeves containing an assortment of very good topographical maps.

I happened to love the isolation. Some people would bring a transistor radio hiking not to lose track of what was going on in the world. For me, it wasn't worth the weight. The world could go on just fine without me. The first time I saw a cell phone out in the woods, my impulse was to rip it from the guy's hand and toss it over the cliff. I held back from doing it but I knew the glorious isolation was gone.

I just watched a YouTube video of someone who's about to take their boat through the Everglades. That's the land beyond cell phone service. When I went through there in 2015 on my sailboat, I didn't get cell service until we had crossed Florida Bay and were hitting the Keys. We had a short range VHS radio that also provided weather broadcasts. Navigation was with a simple handheld GPS, compass, and paper charts.

The boaters in the video were pretty freaked out about being out of cell phone range. Their solution was to purchase a Garmin inReach Explorer+ Satellite Communication device. It provides tracking, electronic charts, and two way text capabilities. They will never be out of contact.

There are gains in safety, but the world is just a little smaller and a bit less exciting. Except for me, as my pockets aren't deep enough for such a device. I have to watch my budget to run a new coax cable up the mast for my base VHS radio. 99% of the time the little handheld radio is sufficient, but the larger in-boat unit with an antenna on top of the mast gives more range.

Will I ever get a satellite communication device? Not in the short term, but prices are dropping all the time. At some point I might have one on board just for the extra bit of safety. Although most of the time I'm not even using the electronics I do have. I turn on the GPS, get a compass bearing, then turn the unit off until the next way point. No need to wear out the batteries.

Personally, I really respect those Polynesians who could navigate the sea just by observing the world around them. The sky and sea told them everything they needed to know.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Dirty Boat Launch



My lovely wife and I gave up on trying to get the boat clean before launch. We weren't making a lot of progress. The boat was parked in a cramped area under trees. Every time it rained the boat got dirty all over again. Since the mast was down we had a lot of standing rigging laying around in the cockpit. That was a pain to work around.

A few days ago we discovered a problem that needed fixing before launch. The scupper drain was dumping right in the bilge instead of out of the boat. My 10 year old granddaughter was able to reach the offending part with her tiny hands. Then it was a simple matter of putting everything back in place.

Even though the boat was pretty dirty, it felt good to get out on the water. The sailor dog really enjoyed it too.


Most of the crud from trees washed off with water and rags. A little bleach should take care of the trouble spots. Fortunately, the cabin was in good shape. A simple wipe down should be all it needs.

Both my wife and I are still recovering from leg injuries so launching took longer than normal. The rigging needed to be untangled, and hardware had gone walkabout. It was pretty annoying to be unable to find the original parts. I rigged a substitute from the spares, only to discover the original bits once out on the water.

It feels good to have the boat on the lake and in working order. We did a lot more sailing around than cleaning, so it was a fine day.

-Sixbears

Monday, August 7, 2017

Places to go, things to do




We have a friend who posts on Facebook all the events she says she's going to. Maybe she'd like to go to them, but it's physically impossible to be two places at once. The poor girl overbooks like crazy. My lovely wife and I have a saying: we can't be at all the places doing all the things. There are only so many hours in the day, and only so many resources at our disposal. You have to pick and choose.

For years I've been looking to sail the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) from mile marker 1 all the way to southern Florida. I even had a nice ICW guidebook for the trip. That was lost in our shipwreck before we even got a chance to use it. Oh well, such is life.

We came very close to doing it this fall, but then I woke up one morning and decided it wasn't the year to buy a bigger boat. While it's possible to do it in an Oday 19, it would not be very comfortable for us. We decided to do one more year of shallow water sailing. The little Oday is well suited for the shallow waters of Florida's Gulf Coast, Florida Bay and the Keys. There are some pretty cool places that you can't get into with a greater than 3 foot draft. We figure the ambulance/camper van has at least one more long road in it. After that, who knows? For now it's a pretty good tow vehicle for the sailboat.

Here it is August and we are making winter plans, but it's not too early. There are places we want to go that will require reservations well in advance. Fortunately, there are also plenty of places where we can probably get into by just showing up. We have back up plans in case those places are not available. In a pinch we can always dry camp for the night as the van is pretty self contained.

One of the things I'd like to get before the trip is a decent waterproof camera. Camera phones have come a long way, but having a stand alone camera would be nice. My poor phone is already doing heavy duty as everything from a chart plotter to the heart of a music system.

Yesterday my lovely wife and I made a list of all things we have to do before we go. It's a long list. Some things are more critical than others so it's good to have it written down. Of course, if you know anything about lists, they tend to never get much shorter as new things are added. Eventually enough of the critical stuff is done and it's time to go.

My lovely wife and I are looking forward to doing some more traveling. There's a lot of things to do here in New England and Canada before the snow flies. Let's not even start on the house projects yet to do.

-Sixbears

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Snorkel Gear



I just ordered some new snorkel gear. It's good exercise and I do live on a lake. Swim fins that fit are not easy to find. My feet take something around a size 14/15. Most shops do not have those in stock, but Amazon does. The selection of diving gear is pretty limited here in the mountains. The only gear readily available is pretty cheaply made. The best option is to order equipment on-line. Decent equipment doesn't cost all that much and makes all the difference in the world.

One of the things I'd like to check out is how the swing keel on the sailboat functions. It will be easier to check it out in the water that to try and jack the boat up on land. Also, this winter we've been planing a lot of sailing off the coast of Florida. It doesn't take long for marine growth to get out of hand on a boat's bottom. Being able to clean it off might come in handy.

One of the things I'd like to do is to snorkel some of the coral reefs in the Florida Keys, before they are all gone. My lovely wife and I have been doing some planning for our winter excursion. An extended trip through Florida Bay and the Keys makes a lot of sense. Having the right gear to truly explore the marine environment will make the trip that much better.

-Sixbears

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Short Arm of the Law



We've all heard about the “long arm of the law.” Well, out here in the country we have “the short arm of the law.”

Just like Starbucks, pizza delivery, and EMS service, “the law” does not have much of a service area out in the hinterland. Oh, they'll eventually make their way to the sticks, but they'll show up like your pizza would: too late to satisfy.

There's a saying out in the country, we don't have 911 we have guns. That's true enough. Sure, just about everyone has 911 -if they have some sort of phone. Might be a landline since cell service is spotty. We don't call 911 when someone is trying to break into our house. We call 911 so they can send someone around to pick up the body.

Okay, that makes the country sound kinda grim. Yes, we tend to be well armed. Mostly that's because a lot of us grew up hunting. Wild game on the table is no surprise. Country people know they might have to shoot a fox in the hen house or discourage a bear. Target shooting is loads of fun and many of us have ranges in our backyards.

Just as important as firearms is having neighbors you can trust. We don't even have to particularly like each other or agree politically. If one of us has a car stuck in the snow, you get out and help push. Maybe you'll be the one who needs something next time. Your neighbors are a lot closer than the police are. Best to be on civil terms with them.

-Sixbears

Friday, August 4, 2017

Your Garden Won't Feed You



Don't count on your garden feeding you in a collapse situation. I don't care if you are a really good gardener and are currently growing a lot of your food now. In a collapse situation that food might go to someone else.

Gardens are easy to raid. I bet you have a good idea about who has a garden in your neighborhood and who doesn't. If you have a garden, people know. If food is in short supply everyone will be thinking a lot about your garden. Unless it's fenced in and under 24/7 guard it will become a target.

Right now in “normal” times, I know people who have problems with their gardens being raided. A friend has neighbors who are all upper middle class to outright rich. He isn't and depends on the food he grows. His neighbors think nothing of walking off with veggies. Imagine how it will be when times get bad.

When times are truly tight, people won't even wait for the food to grow. They will come in the night and dig up your seed potatoes right out of the ground. Weeks later you will wonder why your potato crop never came up. It's happened in the past. It will happen in the future.

So what can you do? Store a lot of stored food and write off the garden, at least for the first year. If you are in a rural off the the beaten path place, your garden might stand a chance -if guarded. Having hidden garden patches can work. The trick is that they have to be plant them and forget them crops, like sunchokes. If you have to hike out to your secret plots every couple of days it won't work. Every time you leave your homestead, you are in a higher danger situation. You could be followed to those plots. Going there all the time will make trails for others to follow. Remember to bring a guard to watch your back as your work.

Hungry people are desperate people. Your garden does not stand a chance against the human locusts.

-Sixbears

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Glues and screws



Sometimes it's is the small things that matter. Lots and lots of small things. If you are going to do your own repairs, you are going to need a lot of glues and screws. (and nails and zip ties and wires and duct tape and what not)

One thing about living out in the country, the hardware store is not around the corner. You've got to have a good selection of fastening hardware. Often a few screws and a bit of glue at the right time saves you major work later.

Having the proper bits and bobs can make all the difference. Screwing down loose flashing can save your roof from blowing away. When disaster does hit it's critical to have hardware on hand to effect repairs. After a disaster the lines at the hardware store can be just as big as the lines as the gas stations.

Ever since I started living out in the country I've made a point to keep a good selection of hardware on hand. As a practical matter, it's a pain to drive into town when all you need is a half dozen wood screws. Over the years my piles of odds and ends has gotten pretty big. When you buy stuff by the pound, the left overs add up.

Really organized people keep everything stored in various labeled jars and cans. Too bad I'm not one of those people. I do have a pretty good idea where everything is located -unless my lovely wife gets into my stuff and cleans and organizes. Then all bets are off. Oh well. That's why I keep my junk it several places. Yes, even my junk has backup.

Remember the proverb: for want of a nail the kingdom was lost.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Sudden Changes of Plans



My lovely wife and I have been known to change plans at the drop of a hat. One time we were heading from mid Florida to our registered camping sites in the Everglades. While heading south we got the idea that it would be nicer in the Ocala National Forest the next few days. I turned the car around. She got on the phone, canceled our previous reservations and made new ones on the fly.

Well, Monday we were going to head down to the coast to look at some boats. The idea was that we'd pick up a boat on the coast, sort it out, then head south by October. Any later than that and the odds of getting caught in a snowstorm go way up.

Monday morning comes along it occurs to me that I really don't want to miss October in the North Country. It's a beautiful time of year. My lovely wife and I had a little discussion. While she was willing to head out early, she's just as happy to leave later. Instead of buying a larger boat, we will do one more winter with our trailer sailor. There are a lot of special spots along the coast of Florida that can only be accessed with a shallow draft boat. The Oday 19's 4' 4” draft drops to just one foot with the swing keel lifted.

While a larger shallow draft sailboat would be nice, I'm not going to go out of my way to find one. The one we have can do the job just fine. Getting a larger sailboat for long term living aboard can wait. There will be boat deals again next year. I got on the phone and told the boat broker that we would not be viewing the boat and he can show it to the other potential buyers.

Rather than stretch the budget on boats, I'm going to do some much delayed work on the house. Leaving later also gives us more time to get back into condition after our injuries.

Of course, being who we are, our plans could change again. We are having a blast figuring it all out.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Racing the bank



One of my banks decided to a complete shutdown of their on-line banking on the last day of the month. That's when a lot of people get paid. I know I do. There was a narrow window between when my money was deposited and when they were shutting down the service. I quickly logged on and transferred my funds to where they needed to go.

Now I could have driven into town and walked into the bank and gotten a wad of bills. Then I'd drive all over town doing my business, just like in the days of the pioneers. Okay, that's doable, but a royal pain.

I happened to be local, so at least I could have done it. The problem is that I just as easily could have been two thousand miles away from the nearest branch of my bank. Having my funds locked up while away is no fun at all. It's happened before when my debit card was deemed to be fraudulent, for no known reason whatsoever. No matter how had I tried and how often the bank assured me the problem was fixed, it wasn't fixed.. Fortunately, my lovely wife's debit card, on the very same account, worked fine.

The obvious solution is to travel with a significant amount of cash. The problem with that is you stand a good chance of getting robbed, by the police. In many jurisdictions they confiscate cash as evidence of illegal activity. Good luck on ever getting it back.

Okay, these may seem like minor inconveniences to some people. For me they are red flags. When a country's financial system is falling apart, one of the things they do is currency controls. They make it much harder to move money around. They make it especially hard to move money out of the country.

Do I think this is the start of currency collapse? Probably not. However, it's one of those things you look for. On a practical level, I've the annoying problem of how I'm going to keep my bills paid when traveling.

-Sixbears

Monday, July 31, 2017

Making it happen



Slowly moving forward. There is so much to catch up on. Sunday my buddy came over and did that minor roof repair that's been bugging me. My leg is still weak from the long recovery after my injury. Now is definitely not the time to stress it by working on a tall ladder. Glad to have the help.

While he was here we changed the oil in my van. Normally I don't bother changing my own oil. It's so inexpensive to have the car's oil changed that it's not worth getting my hands dirty. The van, on the other hand, costs in the neighborhood of $110 – 120 to have a garage do it. The 7.3 turbo diesel takes a lot of oil and has an oil filter the size of a small trash can. Doing the work at home cuts the price in half.

In other news my lovely wife have definitely decided to look over a couple larger sailboats. Right now I'm waiting to hear back from one boat owner and plan to contact a boat yard today. With luck we should be able to check out a number of boats in the same trip.

Old sailboats can be bargains or they can be money pits. I don't mind so much the things that take labor and a few materials: minor fiberglass repair, paint, carpentry, cleaning, some stitching on cushions and sail covers. That sort of thing is no big deal.

It's stuff like bad rigging, broken winches, engine trouble, extensive wood rot, bad sails, keel and other hull problems -some things add up quickly. Older bargain boats are usually not worth paying for a professional survey. While I'm no expert, I can spot most of the trouble areas.

There are real deals to be had where the cosmetics look bad, but all the stuff that matters is sound. One thing where sellers sometimes try to make their money is by selling you the dinghy too. We are perfectly happy using our big Sea Eagle inflatable kayak as a tender. No need to buy a dinghy.

We are in a position where we don't “need” a new boat. That certainly takes the pressure off. Another advantage is that most people are no longer happy with 27 – 30 foot boats. These days people are told you must have at least a 40 foot boat. We were happy living for four months on our 23 foot Ranger. A few decades back, it was common for 30 foot sailboats to be seen all over the world's anchorages. Now, not so much. In a lot of cruising areas, the number of visiting boats is way down. Perhaps the idea that you must have a huge boat is keeping people away?

It's still possible to get out there for the cost of decent used car. Guess what, the sunset from a small boat is just as pretty as from a large one. The very few people who look down at you for being on a small boat are not worth hanging out with anyway. We found that plenty of people actually admired us for sailing on a 19 foot boat. Old salts would come up to us and say, “that's real sailing.” Then they'd say how they regretted ever selling their small boat and getting a bigger one.

Of course, much depends on your sailing partner. If your partner needs a condo that sails, you are in trouble. Even a 40 foot boat has funny toilets, cramped showers, poor laundry options, plus power and water restrictions. It's too far to the opera house and everything is damp. (dump the partner and get a small boat, you'll be far ahead of the game.)

To sum up, I'm getting better, some projects are getting done, and we are sailboat shopping again. Life is looking up.

-Sixbears

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Gate Keepers for the Digital Nomads



Youtube is in a lot of turmoil. Sites have been banned or demonetized. There have been problems with vloggers getting their videos ripped off. It's turned into a mess. For a lot of people, making videos is not a hobby, but the way they earn their daily bread. Some have managed to move their work to other video platforms, but it's hard.

Youtube is just one example. If you want to self-publish a book, Amazon is the way to go. There are only so many blogging platforms. Digital outlets have a few big players that dominate everything.

In one way that's good, especially for the consumer. It's terribly convenient if you want to find a particular type of content. With dominate players, searching for what you want is pretty quick and easy.

The problem is that those handful of big players can pretty much set the rates everyone gets paid. Their owners become exceedingly wealthy. The poor slobs who actually provide the content have very little leverage when it comes to getting paid. The big boys can make or break them.

For those of us who like to travel, being a digital nomad seemed like the way to go. As long as you could get a decent Internet connection, you could work. While it's easier than ever to work on-line, getting paid well hasn't gotten easier.

I'm not sure how this will all shake out. Maybe digital freelancers will form associations to protect their common interests? Perhaps real competition between platforms will provide more opportunities? All I know is that the business of the Internet is in flux.

Fortunately, most of my income is from other sources than on-line. Good thing. While the occasional deposit in my account is nice, it wouldn't keep me in rice in beans. Of course, we are all just one massive solar flare from everyone going non electronic. Wouldn't that be interesting?

-Sixbears

Friday, July 28, 2017

Acupuncture follow up



Last week, out of frustration with the slow rate of healing in my leg, I went to an acupuncturist. I was so happy with the results that I just had my second appointment. Also scheduled a third, but we will see how it goes after that. While the leg is far from all better, it is quite a bit better. There is less pain and swelling.

I'm finally able to stay on my feet more, walk further, and get more done. There have been a couple of unpleasant discoveries. One is that after months of being laid up, I'm out of condition. No surprise there. The only thing to do is to work and sweat until it comes back. It actually feels good to work up a sweat doing things.

The second thing that has to happen is learning to walk all over again. Sure, I've been walking, but with a constant limp. Getting my normal gait back requires being aware of how I walk. My balance still isn't 100%, but that too is coming.

My lovely wife, knowing my balance isn't quite right, talked me into hiring a friend to do a minor roof repair. As a pig headed independent cuss that wasn't easy to do. She is right, as the last thing I need is to get re-injured and have to start all over again.

-Sixbears

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Behemoths in the night



Self driving cars are in the news a lot. Some people are more than a little uneasy sharing the road with a computer driven two ton vehicle.

One big game changer is going to be self driving trucks. Sharing the road with computer driven cars make you nervous? Imagine how it's going to be when the big rigs are automated. Truck driver is one of the few decent blue collar jobs out there. There's big incentive to automate those jobs away.

What makes me really nervous is the push to automate shipping. Imagine huge container ships plying the world's oceans. As a boater the very idea freaks me out. It's bad enough that ships already have tiny crews due to automation.

There are tales of people on life rafts watching container ship after container ship sail right by them. The skeleton crews on those ships don't always keep a good watch. If they do stop to help a small boat in trouble, they are ill equipped to do a rescue. At least they can call it in so that rescue services or other boats can help.

I'm guessing those self driving boats won't be programmed to perform rescues.

So what's going to happen in the future? Well, big businesses have the money to buy politicians. Rather than make sure self driving vehicles can operate safely in the human driven world, they'll just ban humans. Maybe it will start with a few roads or lanes being designated self-driving vehicles only. Certain sea routs could ban human piloted ships.

The trend is for humans to change their behavior to makes things easier for computers. If you've had to deal with an automated phone system you know how that goes. Now picture that same kind of thinking planning our transportation networks.

Welcome to your new dystopian future.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Plans subject to change, again



My lovely wife and I recently “finalized” our fall and winter plans. The idea was to tow our Oday 19 behind the ambulance/camper van. That way we could do a mixture of camping and short sailing trips.

Well . . .

There we were watching a Youtube video of someone doing a refit of an old sailboat. They got it for nothing, but it needed a lot of work. My lovely wife was curious how much that model of old boat went for in good condition. Next thing you know we are on Craigslist checking out old boats. Her question was soon answered, but one thing leads to another.

Next thing you know we are checking out a lot of different boats. A new listing had popped up that showed a decent boat in the 30 foot range. It's currently in a paid up slip on the coast. The price was really good and the boat ticks off most of our boxes.

It certainly isn't a trailer sailor so we'd have to leave by October to sail it south. If we spent most of our time at anchor instead of in a marina, our costs would be quite low. That's easier to do on a boat with working plumbing, solar electric, and a full galley. It would be a very inexpensive way to spend the winter.

We could sail the boat back north and keep it on the coast of New England for the summer. Another option would be to sell the boat in the spring. We could afford to let it go for small money for quick sale. Even if we let it go for 1/3 of what we would pay for it, we would still have had a cheap winter home.

I love it when my lovely wife and I brainstorm these ideas. There is no telling where it will all end up.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Avoiding the echo chamber



It's real easy to only get your news from those who think like you. That's a huge mistake that will cause you to be ill prepared when reality proves to be very different than your prejudices.

Many liberals were blindsided when Trump won. They never saw it coming. Reporters interviewed people who thought like them. Very few liberal media people ever made it to the dying mill towns and rural areas that went so heavily for Trump. Liberals were shocked when Trump was able to squeak out a victory in the Electoral College.

Conservative media is currently making a similar mistake to the one the liberals made. They are in an echo chamber of their own. There's a narrative of Trump being unfairly attacked and any evidence against him is fake news.

The reality is that Trump is in trouble. His problems are serious. There may actually be something to the whole Russia thing after all. Time will tell if it is serious or not. Trump's behavior does not instill confidence. Why does he continue to fear his tax records becoming public? Every other modern presidential candidate made theirs public. His questioning of lawyers on if he can pardon himself and family members is unsettling. Why would an innocent man need a pardon?

If it comes out that Trump is or has been involved in criminal activities, a lot of conservatives are going to be caught off guard. That's an entirely possible outcome. On the other hand, liberals believe in their hearts that something criminal is going on. However, it could just be that Trump is hiding things that are personally embarrassing, but not criminal. The man is certainly vain enough to fight hard to prevent something like that from coming out. Personally, I'm going to wait, with as much patience as possible, for the Mueller report to come out.

Sifting through the news can be tough. Listening to people you don't agree with takes patience, an open mind, and plenty of work. It's not fun at all. It's much more comfortable to surround yourself with only those who think like you do. Unfortunately, that's a good way to get surprised by events. You don't have to believe in the bus to get run over by it.

It helps if you separate facts from commentary. I'm getting to the point now where I will believe only the things that can plainly be seen. If you ask me what color a house is, I'm going to say something like, well, it looks to be a yellow house -on the two sides that I can see. I won't assume the whole house is yellow.

-Sixbears

Monday, July 24, 2017

Another charge controller failure



Last year I set up a small solar electric system for the shed at my beach. It was pretty simple: a 50 watt panel, charge controller, 12V deep discharge battery, and a 400 watt inverter. It was big enough to run lights, a radio, and could charge electronic devices like cell phones. It worked fine all summer and fall.

Sometime during the winter, the system failed. Due to my injured leg I haven't been making the trip to the beach much. Finally I felt good enough to haul some tools to the shed. It didn't take me too long to isolate the problem to the charge controller.

This was the second charge controller failure of the winter.

The one I had on my boat died, but that was no fault of the device. The fact that it spent the winter in solid block of ice was all on me. The failure of the one in the shed was a real mystery. It was on a high dry shelf all winter. Maybe the low winter temperatures were a factor, but that's the only thing I can think of that might have been an issue.

Before replacing it, I went on Amazon and gave the failed charger a two star review. Amazon asks you soon after you bought something what you think of it. Rarely do I give out reviews right away. I'd have given the charger a five star review then. It only avoided a one star because it worked for a few months and cold may have been a factor.

Since I'd already used my backup controller on the boat, a replacement had to be ordered. In a real grid down situation, there would be no replacement on its way from Amazon.

By the way, we just missed a major kill shot from the sun. A huge X flare shot out, but fortunately it headed toward Mars rather than Earth. It would have been strong enough to take down power grids and satellites.

-Sixbears

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The summer crowd



Went to a great summer party Friday night. The weather finally gave us a break and we were not rained out for once. Perfect weather, good food, excellent people -what's not to love?

One of the nice things is meeting new and interesting people. One young woman moved up to this area for the easy access to hiking trails. The AT, the Appalachian Trail that goes from Georgia to Maine, is nearby. Besides the AT, there are a multitude of other stunning hiking destinations.

One of my daughters rents out a house on Airbnb. This time of the year most of her bookings are from hikers. After a long day hike it's nice to be able to have a warm shower and a place to put your feet up. They've access to a full kitchen, grill, and nearby restaurants. Beats the heck out of eating cold beef jerky in a damp tent.

Growing up the area used to be known by its stinky mill town. The mill is long gone, with about half the population. The jobs were dirty, but the pay was good. Of those who remain, many make their living off of those who come to enjoy the outdoors. Our one big remaining asset is our closeness to nature.

I think the population has pretty much bottomed out and is on the upswing. When the mills closed and people moved away, housing prices dropped a lot. For some people that's been an opportunity to buy a house in a beautiful area. The catch is that they've got to be able to make some sort of income. Many expenses are lower, but you still need money coming in. Some have found work in the growing tourist industry; others are self-employed. Many are digital nomads who could work anywhere there's a decent Internet connection.

There's nothing like a good summer get together around a fire to get to know people. Well, that and social media. It's a lot easier to find people with similar interests than it used to be.

-Sixbears

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Careful who you fire



Trump is known for the catchphrase, you're fired! He turned firing people into an art form.

Of course, now that he's President, he doesn't have to always actually fire someone. They are often given the opportunity to fall on their swords. Sean Spicer just took his turn at political seppuku, so he's gone. With Spicer out, Melissa McCarthy will have to find something else to do on SNL. So it goes.

Rumors are circulating that Bannon may be the next to fall. However, things happen so fast in the Trump administration that it's hard to stay ahead of events. He could be gone by the time this posts. The turnover might seem a bit excessive compared to other administrations. However, as an outsider having never held political office before, some personnel churn is to be expected.

It's well within Trump's rights to fire people he feels are no longer a good fit. There are rumors that he's thinking of firing special counsel Mueller. That would be a mistake. It would look too much like when Richard Nixon fired independent special prosecutor Archebald Cox. That led to a series of resignations called the Saturday Night Massacre. Two weeks later Nixon resigned in disgrace.

It would be wise for Trump to avoid looking like Nixon at his worse moment. Trump claims there is nothing for the special counsel to discover, so he should just let the investigation run its course. If there are a few embarrassing facts brought to light, it would be better to endure them and move on.

On the other hand, if there really is something serious going on behind the scenes, the American people have a right to know.

-Sixbears

Friday, July 21, 2017

Alternative Medicine



The doctors have done what they could for my leg and foot. The infection is long gone, but my leg still swells up as the day goes on. I have to stop and elevate my foot above my heart until the swelling decreases. No idea how long it will be until that's under control.

Not being satisfied to just wait, I've employed the services of a licensed acupuncturist. My first treatment went well. I'm scheduled a second one for next week. Will it help? I hope so, but it can't hurt.

When my lungs were badly injured by smoke inhalation, the doctors mess around with me for months. Finally they basically threw their hands in the air and wrote me off. After that I had two years of intensive training with a martial arts master. He taught me exercises to strengthen my lungs and taught me how to breath again. Only then did I really start to get better.

I'm not against regular western medicine. For example, it's hard to argue with the effectiveness of modern antibiotics. However, once western medicine reaches the end of the line, I'm willing to try alternatives.

Even when using “normal” medicine, I tend to go with the least invasive practices. When I had a bad back injury I was told I had two alternatives. They could operate and I'd probably feel better in three weeks, but there would probably be more surgeries in my future. The other option was six months of intensive and painful physical therapy. The therapist did not sugar coat how painful it would be.

I took the physical therapy route. It was painful. My therapist would say: does that hurt? I'd say yes. He'd say: good, and then he'd smile. He acquired the nickname, the Prince of Pain. The guy seemed to like that. As painful as the therapy was, he did not lie. My back has been 100% ever since.

At least acupuncture isn't painful, so that's good.

It's all covered under my normal health plan: pay for everything myself out of pocket. One advantage is that I don't have to argue with insurance companies.

-Sixbears

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Repeal and replace or fix?



So after 7 years of grandstanding the Republicans could not get their act together on a replacement for Obama Care.

Now that bit of political theater is over, maybe they can get down to governing? Well, they've got a few choices. They can ignore the whole thing and wait for it to fail. I'm sure everyone from the insured, to the uninsured to the insurance companies won't be very happy with that option. Make no mistake, the Republicans own health care now. With the control of all three branches of government, they have no excuse.

To be fair, the Republicans have some deep divisions among themselves. It does not look like that is going to change anytime soon.

So what's left to do? The adult thing is for everyone to set aside the winner-take-all mentality. Republicans and Democrats should make compromises and work together for the good of the nation. That's what a mature republic would do.

It's not like there are no models out there in the world. Countries like Canada and France are looked to because they provide universal healthcare at about half the cost Americans pay. We could look to Singapore. Their insurance costs a quarter of what Americans pay. Small health problems are paid out of pocket. Major issues are almost fully covered. If you are too poor to cover even small issues, the government puts money in a fund for you.

If the goal is to provide good health care for all Americans at a reasonable price, there are a number of ways to get there. That does not appear to be the Republican goal. Judging from their actions it's all about undoing anything Obama did and giving tax breaks to the wealthy. I would like to think they are better than that.

There are a few who have strong ideological objections to any government role in healthcare. That's not reasonable as government is heavily involved, like it or not. Even those who claim to be totally against government involvement have not come out against huge government payments and tax breaks for pharmaceutical companies. Must be just a coincidence those companies are heavy political donors.

If the Republicans don't get their act together and come up with something the whole country can live with, there will be repercussions. In less than four years the Democrats could be in charge again and they'll ram something in.

Now is a unique opportunity for politicians to grow up and do their job. Set aside ideology and focus on practicality.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Gunfire and Strangers



I wish I knew where I first came across this observation so I could give credit where it's due.

Here's the difference between the country and the city.

In the country nobody gets excited about the sound of gunfire, but if you see a stranger you want to know what's going on.

In the city thousands of strangers pass by every day and no one is concerned. However, the sound of gunfire gets people's attention.

That is so true. I hear gunfire all the time. I'm far enough out in the country that people have rifle ranges in their backyards. It's normal. Most of us in the country even have a fair idea what caliber people are shooting. Yesterday, it was someone shooting a .22 rifle. The shots were fairly evenly spaced so he was doing some target shooting. In the fall it's the sound of shotguns for bird and rabbit hunters or the large caliber rifle fire of deer, moose, and bear hunters.

One November we were visiting my sister-in-law in Manhattan. Back home I'd been waking up to the sound of deer rifles in the morning. At first the sound of gunfire did not concern me too much when it woke me from my sleep. I was puzzled a bit because it sounded like a .45 semiautomatic handgun instead of a deer rifle. Then I fully woke up and realized that no one was deer hunting in Manhattan.

At that point I became more than a little concerned. I understood why city people freak at the sound of gunfire; someone is getting shot. That's a big difference from target shooting or hunting. While everyone around here has guns, we don't go around shooting at each other. That's just nuts.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Have you checked your first aid kit?



You've got a first aid kit, right? Good for you. Have you checked it lately?

You're first surprise may be that it's not where you thought it was. Things get moved. The person moving it may have not told the rest of the household the new location. It's possible that nobody knows where the kit is now located, including the person who moved it.

Is is fully stocked? Over time, even small withdrawals can deplete your kit. The next thing you know you are out of large band aids and the triple antibiotic is gone. When you are cut and bleeding is not the time to make that discovery.

Have your medications expired? Many medications are still good after their expiration date, but why take a chance? Check the dates and change them. I like to cycle out the meds from the van to the house where they'll get used and restock fresh in the van.

Maybe your medication needs have changed? For example, if you find someone in your household has developed a need for an epipen, keep at least one in your kit. I keep a whole separate c-pap kit in case something happens to mine.

Is your med kit up for the job? Those all-in-one kits you can get at the store are better than nothing. You would probably benefit from a kit put together especially for your needs. I use a plastic fishing tackle box. There's plenty of room for all kinds of goodies. They are also easy to arrange so that everything is easy to get to. You don't want to be struggling with an unfamiliar kit in an emergency. Seconds count.

So, just a heads up about something that's easy to forget about.

-Sixbears

Monday, July 17, 2017

Successful People



It's a fact that most successful people underestimate the roles luck, opportunity and connections make in their success. They overestimate the role of their skills and talents.

With that in mind I'm not a big fan of biographies as guides to success. If George W. Bush had been born into a family of bricklayers, does anything think he would have risen to be President of the United States?

When I first went to college it took me only one semester to realize that there would not be a good job for me in my chosen field. Most of my classmates had those good jobs locked up already. They had connections. All they had to do was to pass the course. If I'd been top of my class I might have gotten a job. My odds of advancing very far in a business dominated by family members were not good. I did not stay for a second semester.

There are plenty of tales of people who start from humble beginnings and beat the odds. However, there may be hundreds of people who did almost exactly what they did and failed miserably. For example, take two musicians of equal talent. One happens to have “the look” the record company is searching for that year and gets a contract. The second one, just as talented, spends his career playing for tips and drinks.

They say don't be afraid of failure. Those who say it often aren't going to miss any meals. When you are living on the edge, the risk of failure is huge. One false move and the rent doesn't get paid and the kids go hungry. Heck, now people aren't taking risks just because they can't afford to lose health insurance. That hurts upward mobility as much as anything.

There was a book by Marsha Sinetar, Do What you Love, the Money will Follow. What a lot of crap that turned out to be. I've been doing what I love for years. My “love” pays less than burger flipping.

One the plus side, I'm doing what I love, so that's got to be some measure of success.

-Sixbears

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Are you gonna live forever?



Financial advisers drive me nuts. They know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

I was just reading a post on a sailing forum. The guy is 59 and seriously looking at retirement at 62. He definitely does not want to work longer. He wants to live on a boat. The guy makes that clear from the beginning.

The financial advisers on the forum all want the guy to work longer. Now the advice of maybe getting a smaller, simpler, and easier to maintain boat makes sense. Telling a guy he can't live his dream until he's ancient does not. How often have we heard the tales of people who work hard their entire life and then die right after they retire?

There was one retired man who started a sailing blog. He looked in great shape. His dream was to sail his own boat down to Key West. The guy traveled down the east coast. He and his beautiful wife then crossed the state on the canal. He got as far as Ft. Myers, where he suddenly had a massive heart attack and died. His wife made the last post on the blog. Dang.

It's those tales that push me to follow my dreams. You never know your allotted days. Sure, financial advisers can figure out the average life spans, but they can't predict what an individual life will look like. The guy who wants to go sailing also made it clear that his family is not, in general, particularly long lived.

So what are the options? You could keep working and die with money in the bank. Then again, hospitals and retirement homes would probably get it all anyway. Let's say the guy goes sailing and runs through all his money. At the end of his life, when he can't sail anymore, he's reduced to living in poverty. So what? He kids don't get a nice inheritance. That's their problem. At least the old guy has some great stories to tell.

-Sixbears

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cool and Wet



We don't always have rain showers. Sometimes we have thunderstorms. It's been a cool and wet spring and summer. The only exception was the first week of July. As it turned out, that's the week my extended group of family and friends went camping. If we had to have just one dry and warm week this summer, that was the one.

I hope it's not the only one. I spent all last winter up here in the frozen north and found it bleak. Summer on the lake is what I live for. Between my leg injury and bad weather, I've hardly been down to the beach. That's just sad.

Before we know it the brief summer will be over. I'm hoping for a nice August, or at least a mild fall. I am cheered up by the thought that my lovely wife and I plan on heading south this winter. It's like giving summer a second chance. The current plan is to stay around for Thanksgiving and then head to Texas to see the in-laws. After that we'll eventually work our way to Florida.

I was talking to a friend who's got a place in Cape Coral Florida. He wants us to visit this winter. That would be great. He also has a good piece of land right near a boat ramp. It would be an excellent place to leave the van and boat trailer. I'm going to float the idea past him and see what he thinks. It's funny, we live in the same town in New Hampshire, but end up spending more time together when we are both in Florida.

-Sixbears

Friday, July 14, 2017

New Neighbors?



I see the place across the road from me has been listed with a real estate agent. The same agent placed little American flags with her business card attached all over my property. I didn't appreciate that as I'm not in the market to sell. I happened to be out of town for a few days those flags just sat out there in all kinds of weather. That's wrong on a couple of levels. It disrespected the flag and showed I wasn't home to pick them up.

At any rate, the neighbors stopped trying to sell the place themselves and listed it with a broker. The people who were living there bailed partway through the winter. The house has only a little of the new siding on and the new deck isn't finished. The land was also used as a gravel pit. The owner's father is building a new place down the road. He took at least 80 dump truck loads of gravel out of the property, by his own admission. That's a lot of material for a one acre property.

I'm told the interior improvements to the house were extensive, but I haven't seen it. The outside looks terrible. There is a little strip of land along the road that was left alone -really left alone. They had to hack the weeds back to be able to put a for sale sign where it would be visible.

In spite of the place's obvious downsides, there was someone who came to see it. I know because my dog, not used to people being there, went over and barked at them. Nothing like making a good impression on potential neighbors. My lovely wife was able to call the dog back home.

The real estate market in my area really took a nosedive during the 2008 crash. Apparently, the local market is heating up again. If even sketchy places like my neighbor's is getting traffic, there must be some demand. That's probably why the real estate agent made an effort to give me her real estate card. After all, my property is the one with water frontage.

I can't help but be curious to see how things will sort out with the place next door.

-Sixbears



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Back from Boston



What's the best thing that can be said about Boston? It's not New York? No offense to New Yorkers. Besides, you guys “know” you live in the best city in the world so my opinion doesn't mean anything. I'm just saying that Boston is a much smaller city so should be easier to get around in.

Emphasis on the should be. The only problem is that the streets were laid out by wandering cows way back in Colonial days. Logan airport is one of my least favorite places to go. Although, Tampa's airport is starting to be a close second.

At any rate, I had to drive into Logan to pick up my lovely wife at the airport. Good thing my oldest daughter was with me as a local guide. Her and her husband drive to the airport all the time. We made it in and out just fine, thanks to her.

Just to up the difficulty level, my lovely wife sprained her leg while she was visiting relatives in California. You know how United Airlines has a reputation for treating its customers badly? I'm glad she was flying on Delta instead. She was treated quite well.

We are finally back home. While I'm not fully recovered from my leg injury, I'm doing well enough to be able to take care of her. The injuries have to stop now, as we've run out of spouses to pick up he slack.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My two best collapse options



I was having a coffee with a buddy of mine the other day. He asked me where I'd rather be should collapse happen. He lives in a small apartment in the city so has plans for bugging out.

Since I live out in the country and have supplies and a good source of water, being at home is my first choice. That's a no brainer. What did surprise him was my second choice. That would be living on a well stocked sailboat.

That surprises some people and he was no exception. One thing that people don't realize is that the oceans are big, really big. One of the biggest challenges to sailing is actually being found out there if you need help. Once you disappear over the horizon, all bets are off.

There are sailors who's zombie apocalypse plan is sail offshore for a few weeks and see how things settle out. Even sailing just fifty miles off-shore puts you beyond the reach of most powerboats. There are fishing boats equipped for much longer distances, but the ocean is big.

The sailors would monitor their radios to see how things were going. Maybe if too much chaos existed back home, they'd sail to a different country.

Even small shallow draft sailboats can be pretty good options. It's surprising how many uninhabited islands exist in the United States. There are also marshes along the coast that cannot be gotten to by land, yet make handy hiding places for boats.

The United States Coast Guard can't stop all boat traffic. Smugglers get in all the time. Even Haitian refugees come in on small primitive sailboats.

Sailboats have some disadvantages, the first being their relatively slow speeds. Those big white sails are pretty visible for some distance too. Other factors depend on the boat. Is is complicated and need constant work to keep it seaworthy? Does it need to burn fuel to keep everything running?

Rugged simple sailboats, with solar power and rain catchment, can go a long time without support. There is also a long tradition of sailors helping each out. That is so basic to water folk that it will probably still hold for most people in a crisis.

Is the sailboat strategy guaranteed? Of course not, but it's a chance. Sometimes in life that's the best you can hope for.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

With a grain of salt



The Internet is a vast resource. There's an awful lot of information out there. The downside is that there are lot of people who claim to know things but are full of hot air.

It's one thing if their opinion is about something like a movie, where it doesn't really matter what people think. It's something else when it concerns serious things.

We've all run into armchair warriors. They know everything about how battles should be fought and how people should prepare for danger. Many of them have never had a shot fired at them in anger or even been punched on the nose as a school child. Trusting their “knowledge”could be deadly.

Recently I was trying to find some knowledge opinions about a boat I'm looking at. The boat was much larger than my Oday 19, yet people on a sailing forum wouldn't take such a boat out in four foot seas. That seemed weird to me. The boat in question had a reputation for being well built. My lovely wife and I have no problem sailing our 19 foot boat in four to six foot seas. Only when the seas get above eight feet does the ride get too uncomfortable for my liking.

The best that I could figure out is that the people on the forum were not actually rating the seaworthiness of the boat. They were confessing their comfort level. There's a big difference. I happen to enjoy a “lively” ride with a little spray flying around. Apparently they did not. It's actually quite hard to find out what the boat, rather than the sailor, can handle.

For just about every subject out there is someone saying how hard it is or how expensive. It can take a lot of digging to find out the real story. If I'd have listened to every naysayer I'd have never gotten anything done.

Don't be discouraged if at first you find people telling you something can't be done. If you find a large number of trusted sources have cautionary tales, that's a different story. Even then, your personal situation may be just different enough to tip something into the can-do category.

-Sixbears

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lifting Regulations



Getting rid of government regulations is popular. Should it be? What do we mean by regulations? If it's stupid regulations against having solar panels on your roof, chickens in your yard, or collecting rain water, I'm all for getting rid of those. Maybe that's the sort of thing that people think about when they hear about “excessive government regulations.”

Too often it's stuff like getting rid of regulations that are actually protections. Why should we be in favor of getting ride of regulations that provide us with clean air and water? Who benefits from that? The handful of rich factory owners who pollute do. They get rich, our kids get sick.

How about labor regulations? If you are a small businessman they can be tough to comply with. If you are a working Joe trying to make a living wage, your opinion may differ. Then again, it may not. I'm surprised at the number of workers who would really gain from forming a union yet are proud not to have one. Well good for you, it's much easier for your corporate owners to exploit you. Maybe you are one of the few who benefit from the current system because you are willing to stab your coworkers in the back?

Then there are the regulations that are near and dear to my heart: fire codes. Those codes were written in blood. For example, crash bars on exit doors were mandated because firefighters had to remove all the dead bodies piled up in front of doors that would not open. Most of the fire code is written because people died. I would not be so quick to throw them out.

Are regulations perfect? Heck no. That doesn't mean they should be thrown out willy nilly. Some solid research on why we have them would be in order first. Maybe what we need is better regulations, not none at all.

-Sixbears

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Storm warnings



The radio keeps cutting in with emergency broadcasts from the Weather Service. There are a lot of thunderstorm and flood warnings. Looks like the worse of the storms will be to the south of me. Good thing, as I've just had a new windshield installed in the van and hail could really mess that up.

I never used to pay too much attention to them, but storms appear more powerful in recent years. We are also getting actual real tornadoes. Growing up I was told we didn't get tornadoes in New England. I guess we did, but they were few and weak. Maine just had 5 tornadoes in a single day. Some of them did major damage to property. Fortunately nobody got hurt.

When I became a sailor I became a lot more aware of the weather. Wind direction, strength, and potential storms are critical to life on a sailboat. Wind direction alone can make sailing dangerous. For example, a north wind blowing against the Gulf Stream generates some nasty waves. Wind can blow the water out of Florida Bay, influencing water level more than the local tides.

Just south of me is Mt. Washington, home to the worse weather in the world. It can be shorts and T-shirt weather at the trailhead, but near winter conditions above tree line. People have died because they were not prepared for the harsh conditions.

I keep foul weather gear in my vehicles year round. You never know when the weather can turn nasty.

-Sixbears

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Rethinking Crypto Currencies



In the past I wasn't much of a fan of crypto currencies like Bitcoin. They just didn't seem real to me. Actually, they still seem a bit sketchy to me. They don't appear to be a good investment. Sure, they've risen in value quite a bit over the years, but their volatility concerns me.

While they are nominally independent of government control, governments have indirect influence over them. The easiest thing for governments to do is to make them illegal. Then it would be pretty difficult to convert them into the coin of the realm. While you would still own them, you could not use them on the open market.

Then you have the weird situation where some governments have significant numbers of Bitcoins. China has some influence that way. In the United States the FBI acquired a large number of them from arrested drug dealers. They have enough to influence the markets if they wanted to.

In spite of those issues, there are times when it might be a good idea to have some Bitcoins. The main one, in my opinion, is the fact that they exist electronically. There is nothing for an inquisitive border guard to confiscate. Someone could leave their country with little physical money, yet have enough in a crypto currency account to start a new life in a new country. That's no small thing when you life is on the line.

In some places crypto currencies are very popular. Australia is concerned by the number of their citizens that are heavily invested in them. There are warnings that Australia is on the verge of a financial meltdown. Those in the know have taken precautions and parked some of their money where governments can't easily reach it.

As for myself, I'm not in the market. My “investments” are more along the lines of buying a twenty pound bag of rice.

-Sixbears

Friday, July 7, 2017

Week on the coast



I just got back from a week camping on the coast of Maine. At one time there were 23 family and friends camping at the same campground with us. Good times.

I'm pretty beat after the drive home. The rest of the unpacking can wait until tomorrow.

There was one weird thing that happened to me. There was a very large and angry wasp in the van. I was driving down twisty Maine roads with lots of traffic. That nasty bug was all over my windshield. In a panic I took at quick punch at it when it landed right in front of me. The wasp escaped the attack, but my knuckle connected with the windshield and broke it. There's about an 18 inch star pattern in the glass. What I can't figure out is how I was able to do so much damage and not injure my hand.

The funny thing is that the wasp flew out an open side window right after I did the damage.

Outside of the bug incident, it was a really great vacation. Now all I have to do is to connect with the guy at the local glass shop.

-Sixbears

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Astana and other weird places



I'd never even heard of Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. At least I've head of Kazakhstan. So apparently there's this amazing city full of futuristic architecture out in the middle of nowhere. Actually looks like it might be an interesting place to visit.

It's a big world. We like to think of places like New York, London, and Paris as the pinnacle of city living. While they are all great cities, the world is a big place full of interesting cities. We just got used to Dubai springing out of the desert from almost nothing. They aren't afraid to do bold things. Not only will they soon have a flying passenger drone company, they will have two competing companies. Yes, Dubai will be the first place with actual flying cars, the dream of futurists.

Asia is full of cities with millions of people that most westerners don't even know the names of. They aren't on the normal tourist trails. The world does not stand still. High technology and bold design can show up anywhere on the planet.

We like to think of our major cities as eternal, but they may eventually fade into insignificance. In the 12th century the largest city in the world was Merv. Ever hear of it? It wasn't in my History books when I was in school. The city was located in Central Asia on major trade routes. Now it's not even a memory for most people.

Cities rise and fall. Those on top can disappear in a relatively short period of time. Who knows what wonders the sands of time have buried? It's amazing how much the world can change in the short span of a single human life.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Tour of the Back country



GPS is such a handy thing, until it isn't. I've an old GPS car unit that hasn't been updated in over 11 years. A lot of new construction is not in its data base. While it's useful, I just don't trust it 100%. Heck, even if it was brand new I would not trust it 100%, but I'd trust it more than my old unit.

So my buddy and I are in separate vehicles going to a third friend's house. It's in rural Maine with a lot of small crisscrossing back roads that all look the same. We were also traveling at night, so that didn't help.

I came to a crossroads. My GPS unit said to go straight, but a right hand turn would have brought me to a town from where I knew how to get to my friend's house. It took me a few moments to decide what to do, but I decided to trust the GPS as it would probably shave a minute or two off the trip.

As soon as I went through the intersection the friend following me pulled me over. He was sure I was going the wrong way. My thought was that his GPS is much newer than mine so it's likely there is a new and better way. No problem.

So I'm following him and the route sorta makes sense. For the first 10 or 15 minutes or so his route seemed plausible to me. As time went on it slowly dawned on me that something was wrong. Finally he pulled over and said his GPS told him we were there, but we obviously were not.

As it turned out he had the right name of the street, but the wrong town. It's a really weird street name too. We went back to following mine and eventually made it to our destination. It took about 20 minutes longer than it should have.

Had I not hesitated at the intersection he never would have questioned my route. Had I newer GPS I would not have hesitated. It also didn't help that it had been a long day for both of us. Only later did we figure out that we didn't even have to take two vehicles. In fact, a couple days later we made the trip together in my van.

In the end we only lost 20 minutes, not the end of the world. I did get to see a great horned owl with a massive wingspan fly out over the road, so that was worth the trip for me.

I think I'm going to have to retire the old GPS. Maybe paper maps are the way to go. Or I could just bring my lovely wife. She's always willing to tell me where to go.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Solar or wood fired clothes dryer



The propane ran out for our dryer. It's not a big deal. We used to have several propane appliances, but the dryer is the only one left. We did away with the automatic propane service and the 500 lb tank. Now I use 20 lb tanks like you'd use on a grill. The dryer is used so little that I haven't gotten around to having the tank filled.

During the winter we hang the clothes near the woodstove. That works out pretty well. Wood heat tends to dry the air out, so the added humidity from the laundry is a good thing.

We also have a clothesline. Low tech, but does the job. In fact, sunshine is very good for sanitizing laundry. That's an added bonus. The only problem is that we've had a lot of rain recently. I keep a close eye on the forecast and satellite data. Often there is enough of a break between storms to use the clothesline. In a pinch, we can always resort to hanging it inside. Without the woodstove going, it takes longer to dry, but it does dry.

In a real pinch, I suppose I could run down to the village store and get the propane tank filled. We will make sure it's full and the dryer ready to go when we have company. It's especially handy when the grand kids come to visit as they have a unique ability to generate laundry.

The dryer is getting on in years. I've already torn it apart and replaced parts three times. Limiting its use stretches out its life. It's funny how we got it in the first place. One of my wife's friends stayed with us for a while. She was appalled that we didn't own a dryer. She could not imagine living with towels that had not been tumbled with fabric softener sheets. This is a woman who was living with us because she could not afford rent at the time. She talked her father into buying a dryer for us. Go figure.

As for my lovely wife and I, we are perfectly happy living without a dryer.

-Sixbears

Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy Independence Day!



I'm taking the day off and enjoying myself. Hope everyone has a good holiday and be careful. It's a holiday that traditionally combines alcohol and explosives, so what could go wrong?

-Sixbears