Friday, December 23, 2011


"Watson come if convenient, if inconvenient come anyway. Foul things are afoot on Lord Miller's yacht. Meet me at the quay. I shall be making observations at the scene of the crime.", said Sherlock Holmes on the phone.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Installing the Garmin GSD 24 sounder module

This is the first opportunity I have had to see or install the shiny new GSD 24 Garmin sounder module. This model is replacing the venerable GSD 22 which has been around for a few years now. Before you buy the GSD 24 check first for compatibility if you are planning on using your boat's existing transducer.

Lets start off with what you get in the box. The first thing I noticed is the new GSD 24 is larger, and notably heavier than its predecessor. You get almost everything you need to install the unit, including update software which most will need, a marine network cable, and what I will just call the "Magic Box."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The big hurry

I'm sitting quietly on my client's boat reading some documents that will hopefully clarify why his MacBook Air doesn't see the USB GPS, and abstractly following what will be the very imminent departure of the boat next door. I can hear garbled snatches of the crew's conversation over the low rumbling of the diesels.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Catch 22

Yossarian: Is Orr crazy?
Doc: Of course he is. He has to be crazy to keep flying after all his close calls he's had.
Yossarian: Why can't you ground him?
Doc: I can, but he has to ask me.
Yossarian: That's all he's gottta do to be grounded?
Doc: That's all.
Yossarian: Then you can ground him?
Doc: No. Then I cannot ground him.
Yossarian: Aha!
Doc: There's a catch.
Yossarian: A catch?
Doc: Sure. Catch 22. Anyone who want's to get out of combat isn't really crazy. so I can't ground him.
Yossarian: Ok, let me see if I've got it straight. In order to be grounded, I've got to be crazy. And I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I'm not crazy anymore, and I have to keep flying.
Doc: You got it, that's Catch 22.
Yossarian: That's some catch, that Catch 22.
Doc: It's the best there is.

What's wrong with this picture?

It's not often I have allowed my visage to appear here. In fact it's only the second time. I'm not shy and retiring by any means, but nowadays when I stare in the mirror, I'm thinking "Well blow me down", I'm looking more, and more like Popeye every day. I'm also reminded of that Saturday Night Live skit, "Whose More Grizzled? I really liked, maybe a little too much, the show's grand prize of "Salted meats, and a bottle of Rebel Yell whiskey". How's that for being "more" grizzled. Getting old isn't for sissies you know. My client Jim Hoyt, thought the picture would be worthy, and he took it. Although it certainly doesn't enhance my sense of inherent infallibility, but at the time it was funny. So take a look at the two shiny new Garmin units, and tell me what's wrong with the picture.

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's the most wonderful, and dangerous time of the year

"The TV won't turn on", she said, "Could you please see what's going on." "Funny I thought, it worked last week." I know this because I had just installed a KVH satellite TV system on the boat, and had checked everything out. I said, "I'll stop by and look at it." 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Alien nuts

The comet had been captured eons ago by the the sun's gravity, and has been orbiting the sun ever since. On one orbit it passed near the earth, and a few spores locked in the ice of the comet's tail are captured by earths gravity and start to orbit the new planet. Millions of years pass as the spores are ever pulled deeper into the earth's gravity well, and eventually they start on a slow but steady decent to the surface. The spores alight in a field of exposed raw iron ore in what will eventually be northern Minnesota, and following their programming they move into the crystalline matrix of the iron, and start to multiply. They are alien evil incarnate, with endless patience. Eventually the planet's biped inhabitants take their giant earth movers and excavate the iron ore. Powerful  machines crush the ore into powder, magnets separate the iron and roll it into small balls. The balls are sent to a foundry, and are melted into billets, with one of them still carrying the inorganic alien spores. The billet is sold to a manufacturer who makes stainless steel nuts. The spores are now embedded in thousand of stainless steel nuts, and their long wait is almost over. Destruction of all life on planet earth is their goal, and it is now within their reach.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Installer's inside voice

Happy Tryptophan day. This is a decidedly odd piece of fancy, even by my standards. Boat safely this holiday if your boat isn't in it's winter wrapper yet. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

A tale of two trim tabs

It's right, it's wrong, or it's gray. In this case it was wrong, and it was grayish on the wrong side of the fence, which meant it worked only for a while. Installing trim tabs are not difficult because things can only go where they go, in theory. This boat has a pocket built into the hull that the trim tab retracts into. If I was installing it, I would have attached the tab to the boat, and then bolt the fully retracted ram to the tab. You lift the whole assembly up, and use a pencil, or marking device of your choice to mark the three ram screw holes. Drill the holes, and then use the template to mark and drill the hole for the hydraulic tube. This is not hard to do at all, I've done it many time with notable success. So looking at the picture below it worked perfectly, no matter how the plant worker went about it. But something went awry at the factory when the other trim tab was installed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Failure to communicate

The urgency was palpable in the service writers voice on the phone. "Could you please go and fix this guy's problem". "What's wrong." I said. "Well he needs a software upgrade on his C-120, he has a cut radar cable, and the boat has to leave tomorrow." "Alright" I said looking at my watch, I will see what I can do". It's nearly 3:00 on Friday afternoon. I pack up my stuff and head to the marina. The boat is a larger walk a round, and the owner meets me with the cut cable in his hand. "What's up with this?" I think. I start to look around, and I climb up onto the deck and survey the hardtop. I'm no rocket scientist, but my keen eyes observe that the radar isn't there, and I start to have the dawning epiphany there is more to this than I was told.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chalk it up to.... well chalk I guess

The two greyhounds girls are heaved into the back of the land trawler, (spelled Kate's Tracker) and off we go to meet some friends at the Sarasota Chalk Festival. We were lucky that a client had an office near the festival we could park at, and this was a good thing because about 200,000 people attended the seven day event. It proves that if something is fun to do, and it's free, people will come in droves, and they did. We all find each other, and I ask if anyone sees a boat related picture, call me and tell me where it is. Because of the crowds, and the size of the event it was difficult to see all of it in one day. There were more 250 artists participating in the event, and they used a lot of pavement. 

I won't say the 3D pavement art art was the highlight of the festival, but it was certainly the big attention getter. It was stunning to see the drawings literally exploding out of, or into the pavement. The 3D street painting technique is a form of anamorphosis, or "Slant Art" developed by artist/architect Kurt Wenner. The Terracotta Legoman painting above is nearly completed, and it took four artists headed by Peter Westerink 5 1/2 days to complete. One of the most interesting things about this form of street art is that it can only be properly seen from one specific vantage point. By clicking here you can see a series of photographs showing the construction of the Legoman piece, and note how unrecognizable the image is if you look at it from the other side. There is a lot of cool mathematical plane projection going on here. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

KVH M1 101

Marinas and yacht clubs are slowly learning that providing some sort of dockside cable television service to their customers is getting increasingly more difficult, and complex. The switch to digital cable systems more than ever before, now requires a digital receiver box to be installed in a home, or boat for each television. But short of tornadoes, landslides, or sink holes in Florida, your house doesn't typically travel, your boat does. The equipment cable providers give you is based on a home installation scenario. You know the type, you can get behind your TV and plug and play all of the cables, in air conditioning, without sweating or bleeding. On a boat this is much different.

A local yacht club is discovering how painful this is becoming. Their Comcast system now requires digital tuner boxes for each television to receive the channels. That's not quite the truth, the first 24 channels of very basic cable is still available for now, but for most cable TV suppliers a box of some sort is required. So here is the catch, if you install your local vendors box in your boat, and you travel to another marina with another cable TV vendor, your box won't work with their system. This problem is going to get worse, and never better. I do have a suggestion for marinas. With a good quality digital on air antenna, and an amplifier system you could provide in most urban areas 20, to 30 or more digital high quality free local channels to your boaters. The capital cost is low, and you can get rid of those costly cable TV bills.

A good option for boaters that cruise, and who want broad channel options is a satellite marine TV system such as the KVH M1 seen below.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Look back up at me in an old spicy way

Hello boaters, look down at your panel, and then back up to mine, now back to your panel, now back to mine. Sadly your panel isn't mine, but if you used acrylics, instead of those other poor choices, your panels could look like mine.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Five chart plotters installed in one day, a new world record

I know you're thinking this installer leads a glamorous life always attending store openings, conferences, hobnobbing with the rich and famous, and passing my Grey Poupon to the Bentley next to me. But in the real world most days are just spent grinding it out. Today I am upgrading a Garmin 5212, installing a couple of cable TV boxes, and finishing a KVH M1 satellite  system install (I'm writing a 101 piece on it). But every now and then I get something interesting, and different to do. This is the case with the systems you see mounted below. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Form ever follows function

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
Of all true manifestations of the head,
Of the heart, of the soul,
That the life is recognizable in its expression, 
That form ever follows function. This is the law.

The term Modernism generally applies more to architectural, and industrial design, but for this discussion, we will apply it to boats. So let's behold the hammer below. Despite its somewhat battered appearance, to my eye it is a graceful, and beautifully designed object, completely devoid of any ornamentation, and whose design has been refined over the ages. This versatile tools pounds nails, the curved shape allow nails to be pulled and planks levered up. It's mass gives the head substantial impact force. It is used by almost all tradesmen for varying needs, and can also be used as an effective weapon. This is a well designed, elegant machine whose every facet serves some purpose, and it also provides some heft to the phrase, "When reason fails, force prevails".   

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Signs of fall in Florida

For many years I lived on the north side of 43 degrees latitude, and you knew without a doubt that fall had arrived. The signs were crystalline, like scraping frost off the windshield in the morning, getting the boat put on its cradle and winterized, and seeing all of the plants up and die leaving a freezing bleak skeletal Cocytus like landscape that will soon be covered in frozen precipitation that lasts for months on end. That nostalgic postcard crap only lasts for about two weeks, then you have to get rid of all of the leaves, order firewood, hunker down, and watch your tan go away.  I still have some shoes with salt line stains on them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mourning field

Sunday, February 7th 2010 The "Longboat Key News"

"According to Longboat Key Police, there was a “Lights Out” boarding of all the boats anchored between Cortez and the south end of Longboat Key recently. Seventeen boats were boarded by the Longboat Police, Bradenton Beach Police, the Coast Guard as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection officers and Florida Fish and Wildlife officers, all checking for drugs, outstanding warrants, proper licenses, and proper handling of sewage." (Editors note: US Customs officers were also involved)

Apparently nothing of magnitude was found during the raid, at least that was noteworthy in police reports, or the press. How much fun would that have been for a transient cruiser passing through to have assorted armed law enforcement agencies rooting through your vessel in the middle of the night. Certainly this should give all of us food for thought, and it begs the point that many Florida communities are not boat friendly at all, and NIMBY rules the waves.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Waveblade, the barnacle eater

Wandering into the local West Marine store I noticed a beat up skiff loaded with barnacles parked near the front door, and a tall lanky Captain Nick Benge sporting a squid like looking machine that is effortlessly shearing barnacles off the boat, and it's motor's lower unit. I stop and gawk. I have fortunately had only the very occasional opportunity to scrape the extremely tenacious Mr. barnacle off hulls, and it was real work. I am now watching Nick blow them off of the hull using one hand, and talking to me at the same time using the the new destroyer of barnacles, the Waveblade

I have been in enough marinas to know the drill. The travel lift picks up the boat coming in for a bottom job, a pressure washer is used to clean the hull, and to remove most of the offending marine denizens, and then some poor guy has to scrape, blast, or sand the remaining barnacles, and their bases off. This is a hard, tedious, and mind numbing task. The scrapers often end up removing bottom paint, and scratching up the hull, and I have often seen barnacle bases buried under bottom paint. Watching someone do this with one hand, barely working, was an enlightening event. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Birthday II

The blog has turned two, which in boat years is about 99. The year started out with a bang, and a lesson. The first story of the second year was 120 Seconds, and it got a lot of attention on the forums. The lesson learned is that attempting to defend yourself in the wild west of Internet forum land is often like pouring gasoline on a fire. I now rarely comment, and my skin is much thicker.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The no wire pull zone

You are traveling through another bad dimension, a dimension of not only frustration and ire, but of mind. A journey into a horrific land whose boundaries are that of poor workmanship. That's a signpost ahead, your next stop, the "No Wire Pull Zone".

It's a hot day, and the air is as still as death. The wire fish slides effortlessly through the small hole and heads up the pipe, and then stops with a clink. The installer wipes the sweat from his brow, backs the fish off a bit, and tries again. Clink, and again clink. A flash of fear crosses the installers face as he nervously tries again and again to push the wire fish into the abyss. Clink, clink, clink, clink, clink. The installers sense of foreboding, builds to a peak and he screams in terror, for he now knows he has entered the "No Wire Pull Zone".

Monday, October 10, 2011

The 2011 NMEA conference

This was the first time I had been to a NMEA conference, and I was there because I had been given the honor of being one of the three judges that would decide what new marine electronics product would be awarded the 2011 NMEA Industry Technology Award. Below are fellow judges Tim Queeney, (front) editor of Ocean Navigator magazine, and Ben Ellison, (back) Bonnier's electronics editor most notably Yachting, and Cruising World magazines, and publisher of, Panbo, The Marine Electronics Weblog. This was most august company indeed for this humble installer to work with.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Hole in none

Once upon a time a good local electronics repairman could fix your marine gear. Manuals had pages of circuit diagrams in the back of them. Of course then, TV's were black and white, and you could take the tubes out of them and test them. The trade off was the gear was very large, and was full of antique transistors, capacitors, crystals and the ilk. There are still a few of these specialized technicians around, but nowadays most marine electronics are repaired by replacing the bad board, or more often warranty repairs are done by replacing the entire unit, lock stock and barrel. The huge hole you see below had a VHF radio in it that has now joined those who are dearly departed.

Monday, October 3, 2011

NEMA, oops I mean NMEA

Language is a wonderful and changeable thing.  Acronyms, and our attempts to pronounce them can bring about decidedly weird effects, so today we are discussing the National Marine Electronics Association, or in its acronym form NMEA. This is not to be confused with NEMA, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, the National Emergency Management Association, or even the New England Multihull Association.

Somehow over linguistic time, the acronym NMEA has ended up being universally pronounced, such as acronyms can ever be pronounced, as Nee ma. This verbal utterance has become so pervasive, that the marine populous, has actually changed the spelling of the acronym NMEA to NEMA to reflect how we actually say the acronym. If you search "NEMA 0183" -NMEA, Google finds over 24,000 references. I did some snipping off the web of examples, and noted that even the Installer himself has screwed this up at times, and boy I'm not alone. I have purposely not changed it as a personal reminder to myself. 

The rate of change from NMEA, to NEMA has been increasing rapidly over time. There are a few references in the eighties, even more in the nineties, and in this decade using NEMA in place of NMEA is almost common place.

So there are are three options available, do nothing, and continue to pronounce NMEA as Knee ma, change the name of the National Marine Electronics Association to the National  Electronics Marine Association, or change the way we pronounce it to "NA Me Ah.  My vote is to be diligent about spelling it correctly, and to continue to pronounce it Knee ma, or Knee maw if you live in the south. Tomato, tomahto, potato, potahto. Nmea, (it is a word, sort of) that is a cool electronics network on your boat bro.

By the way this was all triggered by attending the NMEA conference on Sanibel Island (almost). I am just about done with the piece. 

The photo above was taken by Canadian Phil Boisse.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Palm Beach Florida, a travel log.

Kate and I took a road trip this weekend to visit her brother Mathew, and his wife Robin who were vacationing in Palm Beach Florida. Mapquest routed us across the state on primarily picturesque, and rural two lane roads across old Florida crossing just above Lake Okeechobee.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ripped out, ripped off, and other meanderings

Yep it's gone. About the only thing you can say about this install is whoever did it apparently couldn't read, because the directions tell you not to use the sealants they did, and at least two types were used. The second layer was smeared on no doubt to stop the leaks found after the first layer was glopped on with a precision that could only have only been done by a drunk organ grinder's monkey, or maybe just a drunk organ grinder. And I don't even want to know what that disgusting black stuff was in the lower corner. Okay, I won't contest the fact that this is the only place on this boat for a in-hull transducer to be mounted, and that it is damnably difficult to access. So what makes this so irritating, is the previous owner ripped it out before he sold the boat, thus ripping off the new owner.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The excavation, it's all your fault

Yuck, it was disgusting, and time to get the rubber gloves out. A half eaten bag of chips, old rusty fishing hooks, a foil pack of Trojan eye glass wipes, mildewed papers, and a leaking bottle of suntan lotion giving everything a lubricious sheen. The sad reality of this eclectic collection of sea going goods, is they will end up on the deck when I drop the hatch fully down. Just to make it more visually interesting for me, it will start to ooze some suntan lotion mixed with assorted detritus onto the deck.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The "Yogattorney" and the Kerala houseboats of India.

Nancy, is a yogattorney. Yes it's spelled right, sort of, because she is both an attorney, and a Iyengar yoga instructer. The yogattorney makes frequent trips to India, and on her last trip, she had the opportunity to take a trip on one of the famous Kerala house boats from Cochin to Kovalam Beach in the Indian state of Kerala. So playing the game of "Where in the world is Nancy?", I have constructed a little map to show you where Kerala is.

The state of Kerala, is located on the very southwestern coast of India facing the Arabian sea. It's bounded to the east by the Western Ghats mountain range, and then transitions to low coastal plains, and the Kerala backwaters areas on the coast. The climate is tropical and it lies just north of the equator (8 to 12 degrees north latitude). Millions of tourists are drawn to Kerala for its lush tropical backwaters, biodiversity, and 370 miles of beaches.

The houseboat Nancy traveled on is in the local parlance a kettuvallam, an ancient form of watercraft that has been plying India's waters for centuries. The kettuvallam is historically a double ended cargo vessel used to transport goods such as rice, and spices up and down the coasts, and into the more remote backwaters. They are by design shallow draft, and can also be poled when needed.

With the advent of the modern world, the automobile, the backwater areas became crisscrossed with roads, and bridges that steadily reduced the areas the kettuvallams could access. This coupled with less expensive transport of goods by truck made shipping by kettuvallam less viable. Over time the numbers of larger kettuvallams, especially the sailing versions were dwindling away, and more importantly the pool of skilled artisans who knew how to build these vessels were diminishing with them.

What's so fascinating about these very graceful, and elegant watercraft is that they can be upwards of 100' long, and they are literally tied together, hull and all, using a rope made from coconut husks. These boats are completely made of local indigenous raw materials, using simple hand tools, and techniques that have been used to build them for over two thousand years.

In the late eighties Babu Varghese, an Indian entrepreneur and tour operator spearheaded an effort to take the traditional kettuvallam, and transform it into a houseboat suitable for ecotourism, and at the same time reviving the art of building them. The first "Kerala house boat" was launched in 1991, and ever since this specialized floating tour business has flourished, with hundreds of these vessels built, and directly, and indirectly employing thousands of workers.

Despite the simple tools, and lack of mechanized boat building technologies, the Kerala kettuvallam houseboats are beautifully executed, and finished. They have all of the amenities one would expect to find on a modern boat, but with a traditional, and hand crafted elegance, that comes through the clever, and skillful use of all natural materials. Unlike the original kettuvallams, most of these house boat versions are now engine powered, and still, in many cases often oar steered. In some locations in the backwaters, poling is required to maneuver in some areas.

The Kettuvallam's primary building materials, are all local, and sustainable consisting of white coir rope, and brown coir (both from coconut husks), bamboo, anjili wood for the hulls, palm leaf thatching, and a caustic water proofing oil derived from boiling cashew shells. With these few simple materials, a gorgeous boat is built.

Coir rope is made by soaking the husks from immature coconuts (white coir) for many months in a process called water retting uses micro-organisms to dissolve the plant matter around the fibers. The remaining husks are then beaten to loosen the fibers which are separated by hand. The fibers are spun into a yarn used make rope typically with the aid of a spinning wheel.

The mature coconut husks (brown coir) are treated in a similar way, but it does not require the very long retting periods of the white coir. Brown coir is used for floor mats mattress stuffing, and other utility purposes. Coir is relatively waterproof, and is one of the few natural fibers that is resistant to damage by salt water, making it ideal for boat building use.

The word "Kettuvallam" comes from the Malayalam word kettu, meaning to tie, and vallam, meaning boat, and hence the literal meaning "tied boat".

The unique aspect of kettuvallam construction is the hull planks are physically tied together. Planks are spiled, and shaped just like all wooden boat builders have done for centuries, but the difference here is the hull planks have holes drilled in them at the edges allowing them to be stiched together. Larger vessels have plank edges cut in a tongue and groove shape to provide additional interlocking strength to the joints.

White coir rope is used to lash the planks together encapsulating a bundle of brown coir that is being hammered to reduce its volume as the coir rope is being tightened. The brown coir acts as the hull plank crack filler, and serves the same role oakum does in traditional western boat building.

The stitched seams (kettu) are then coated with a paste of charcoal powder, lime, and fish oil for water proofing, and the hull is then over coated with cashew nut shell oil/resin, and charcoal powder. The charcoal powder gives the hull its distinctive black color, and the caustic cashew resin coating makes the hull resistant to wood boring molluscs. There are regional variations in the recipes of these natural coatings that vary somewhat from builder to builder.

The vessel you see being tied in the photo above is a smaller kettuvalam referred to locally as a "1/3 load" kettuvallam, that is used for mud collecting, sand mining and the ilk. (See the link to Dr. Ransley's project synopsis below to see how important this function is).

The end result of all of this activity is a hull that is fair, strong, and very durable. Kettuvallam house boats typically have substantial spine planks (keel), stems (fore and aft), and gunwales.

In the photograph, you can see the gunwales are made of scarfed planks that have been secured with large copper rivets, and or roves. The same system is being used to secure the primary framing structures to the inside of the hulls. We are looking at the sterns of both boats. I think I see a drive shaft hole on the left kettuvallam, and I can clearly see it on the right one.

The finished hull gets decked, and a curvaceous frame of split bamboo is tied together with coir rope to make the superstructure. Thatched/woven palm leaves are tied onto the frame, and additional split bamboo frames are again lashed over the structure.

Although the superstructure appears to be flimsy, you can see in the photo there are now three people now sitting on the partially finished work. When completed the structure will be very strong and waterproof. Interiors are finished with locally available natural materials, fabrics, and carpets. In the end, it's striking how such graceful, durable, and watertight vessels can be constructed out of such very basic materials, and with so little modern boat building technology being utilized. These vessels are truly testaments to the skills of their artisans and a time proven design.

I want to leave this little vignette with this photograph and a few thoughts that struck me about this smaller kettuvallam. The first is that if you rolled the clock back a thousand years, the ancestor of this boat would likely be very similar to this one.

Looking closely at the construction details as a boat builder myself, I recognize many of the construction elements and I believe much of today's modern wood boat building techniques owe their beginnings to this ageless craft, and the many generations of talented artisans who have crafted them. Although this boat building approach has been used in India for many centuries, we didn't get around to adopting it until 1964. We were a little slow out of the gate.

Valarey nanhi (Thank you)

Many thanks to Dr. Jesse Ransley, Archaeology, University of Southampton, UK for the use of her photos showing the tying of a kettuvallam hull as well as the one above and her cultural insights. You can find her project synopsis "The Back Water Boats of Kerala (2005-2009)" here.

The first kettuvallam photo is from Wikipedia, and was taken by user Ramesh NG.

The photo of coir yarn spinning is from Wikipedia, and was taken by user Bricaniwi.

The photos of the kettuvallam bamboo framing, and hull construction are from Wikipedia, and was taken by user Challiyan. 

The photos of the "stitch and sew" canoe is  from Wikipedia, and was taken by Kevin Saff.

All other photos courtesy of the Yogattorney. Her Iyengar yoga organization website is here.

The map is by the Installer.

This is a good video of a kettuvallam being repaired, and showing the hull "stitching" technique.

If you're interested in a Kerala houseboat trip, Tourindia is a good place to start. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Boating yin and yang

We're starting in the happy place today. June Cleaver is baking a fresh apple pie, the Beaver is doing his homework, little Opie Taylor is fishing down at the pond, and the sun is shinning. I have to re-install a VHF antenna, and an older Raystar 120 GPS antenna. Brand new T-top canvas has just been installed, and I had to untie a portion of it to see where the old equipment holes were located. Lo and behold, look at that hole, it's a beauty. Two inches in diameter, and someone took a moment to deburr the edges. How sweet it is, this is the way it's supposed to be done, and my hats off to the builder of this T-top.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

When hurricanes collide, the Apocalypse

The meteorologists at the Parmain secret labs have been studying the latest NOAA weather data, and using our advanced Commodore Pet computer have modeled the latest lasgana tracks for both Lee and Katia. Our expert opinion is that these two storms will collide together right over Washington DC. We understand that Congress, in a rare bipartisan move has agreed that any sighting of the Weather Channel's Jim "Dr. Doom" Cantore checking into any 5 star hotel in the area will be the signal to immediately get out of town. Funds have been allocated to charter private Gulfstream G550 corporate jets for this purpose. Congressional staffers will be given a $75.00 travel voucher, for bus fare to Topeka. Some scientists have theorized that when the two storms meet, that it is possible that a black hole could be formed, or the state of Maryland could wash out to sea.

What's that job?

"Welcome everyone! I'm your host Larry Hokem, and this is What's that job, the game show in which contestants try to guess what job is being done. We have selected the first three players that could correctly spell the word boat, and now let's meet them."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Steps, and second steering stations on smaller boats, nope, don't like them

All too often advances in technology or performance comes with a price, and a step hull is no exception. Step hulls are much different from the deep V hulls most are familiar with, and come with their own special jargon that contains words such as chine walking, snapping, rolling, hooking, step tripping, porpoising, turn blow outs, and many others, none of which have successful boating connotations. The point is that all boat hulls are compromises, and step hull vessels have more of them than most, particularly for the less than experienced boater.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Knocked up

This is a common sight in many marinas. The "Steel Forks" of the lift snatch your boat out of the water, and place it onto a storage rack, or the ilk. The forks always end up generally in the same place, sort of, and that is the outboard edges of the hull, give or take. Running these machines takes practice, hopefully not too much on your boat, and a lot of skill. There are always signs around dry storage marinas that say something to the tune of, "Make sure your antennas are lowered, and the trim tabs are all the way up." Loosely translated, this means it ain't our fault if you end up with broken, or bent stuff on your boat, or any of the other possible variants such as "Tell it to the judge", "We told you so", and my favorite, "What, you can't read? So given the fact that these huge metal hydraulically operated prongs are going to snatch your boat from its undersides, why would you mount your transducer where the forks can knock them up?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why didn't I think of that? Outboard lower unit salvation.

I have always wondered why, at some subliminal level, when you tip back a modern outboard motor, a little bit of the lower unit always remains in the water. Maybe the reason for this is to insure that one of the most vulnerable portions of the motor stays in contact with the salt water to insure galvanic corrosion will occur, and hence new parts will be needed. Or maybe there are unknown mechanical reasons why the motor can't be lifted that last six inches or so to clear the water. I mean we went to the moon didn't we? So I was most surprised when I encountered two boats next to each other, one with this nifty little box under the lower units, and one without the little box.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cooking with the "Splendid Galley"

The trick to good marine cooking is great ingredients, and lots of patience. Today's simple recipes feature a gorgeous roasted batteries au jus, with a tasty side dish of blackened air conditioning controller. You will find the spicy crunchiness of the blackened controller will harmonize beautifully with the savory acidic flavors of well cooked plump batteries. The mouth, and eye watering aroma while cooking is indescribably exquisite. I can hear your tummy growling in anticipation already. This recipe will feed a good sized crowd, so be sure to size the recipe proportions to fit your needs.


2 Plump 8D batteries (I like to squeeze the sides to make sure they're firm.)
1 Heavy duty battery charger.
1 Air conditioning system (the best ones are mounted high up on a bridge)
1 Undersized water hose to air conditioning system.
1 Galvanized iron pipe nipple
Salt and pepper to taste
Serve on a bed of lettuce for a little extra panache. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

String theory

In the beginning God created the heaven and earth. And the earth was without form, or void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. "Um Dad? can I ask you a question?" "Make it quick son, can't you see I'm busy?" "I know, but are you going to leave all of those quantum strings you're using just laying around for the inhabitants to find?" "Don't worry son, when they find them, and figure out how to use them, I will just get really far away. I don't need the tan." Now go back, and keep practicing on Pluto, it looks like a potato for gosh sakes. Let me be. I barely have a week to get the job done, and this photon stuff is very tricky, but if you're good, we can play Asteroids when I'm done." "Thanks dad."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The attorney's boat

Limited Liability Waiver
for travel on the M/V Sosueme

1. In consideration for receiving permission to travel on the M/V Sosueme, I hereby RELEASE, WAIVE, DISCHARGE, AND COVENANT NOT TO SUE the owner, his family, agents, marina staff, boat manufacturer, (hereinafter referred to as RELEASEES) from any and all liability, claims, demands, actions, and causes of action whatsoever arising out of or related to any loss, damage, or injury, including death or injury, or loss caused by drowning, electrocution, food poisoning, drunkenness, bad hair, heat stroke, shark bites, fire, jellyfish stings, sunburn, angry boaters, lighting strikes, sinking, carbon monoxide asphyxiation, collisions, Coast Guard citations, lost hats, sea sickness, allergic reactions, marital arguments, windburn, dehydration, pregnancy, blood loss, groundings, or any other life threatening, and or any other deleterious event that may be sustained by me, or to any property belonging to me, while participating in such activity, while in, on, upon or near the vessel, or even anywhere where the activities, related or not are being conducted, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER SUCH LOSS IS CAUSED BY THE NEGLIGENCE OF THE RELEASEES, or otherwise and regardless of whether such liability arises in tort, contract, strict liability, or otherwise, to the fullest extent allowed by law.

The pilot's boat

Walk around check list
Fuel fill secured..........CKD
Waste fill secured..........CKD
Water fill secured..........CKD
Anchor secured..........CKD
Bilge status..........CKD
Bilge pump test..........CKD
Visual check of engines..........CKD
Battery water levels..........CKD
Fuselage damage..........CKD
Communication antennas..........CKD 

External Power
Ground power available..........ON/CKD 
Voltage checked..........110VAC/220VAC
Pedestal buss breaker..........ON/CKD
Battery switch..........BOTH/CKD

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Aluminum animus

Bronze has been around, well at least since the start of the bronze age, about 3000 BCE. As a matter of fact, the first use of metals starts with gold around 6000 BCE, and by the time Jesus appears, there are only seven known metals in the world. Their appearance in history starts with gold, then copper, silver, lead, tin, iron, and mercury. Aluminum however was first made in a crude form in 1825, and really wasn't a viable commercial metal until the late 1800's. It's a marvelous material when used in the right place for the right reasons. But I would opine that dash panels are not a good long term use for this material, especially when exposed to the salt water environment. 

In the real world, or at least in my version of it, I know why it's used, and that's because you can make it pretty, much to the delight of the marketing departments. From this installers viewpoint, the stuff is a real pain in the ass to deal with.