Thursday, November 27, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

From the Archives - Meaning of the Song: American Pie

Russian Billionaire Adds to Fleet

Russian billionaire and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich plans on building an armor-plated, bulletproof-glass-installed super yacht complete with anti-missile radar systems, a private submarine, and two helicopters for more than 200 million euros, or almost $300 million.

With his personal fortune of 16 billion dollars, the tycoon plans on constructing an impenetrable floating fortress with a full defense system against sea pirates. Pirates are becoming more common in the waters around Africa; should Abramovich decide to sail to the 2010 World Cup in Africa, he will be ready to defend. Over 269 vessels were attacked and 300 hostages taken last year by pirates according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Under maritime law, non military ships are forbidden from carrying lethal weapons and firearms. Yacht owners are more commonly equipping their vessels with high powered water cannons, ear-splitting klaxons, and lubricant foam to deter walking.

It’s no wonder that Abramovich’s new ship, called the Eclipse, will include a radar system to warn the crew of 70 former SAS members of incoming rockets. Armored plating and bulletproof glass make the ship hardened against gun fire. There are also two helipads and equipment to deter bugging.

Should intruders make it on board the ship, Abramovich can escape with his 26 year old girlfriend Daria Zhukova in a yellow submarine which can dive to 160 feet.

The Eclipse — overshadowing all other boats at sea – stretches 550 feet and is being secretly built in Germany at the same shipyard that produced the World War II battleship the Bismarck. Abramovich will be adding this new boat to his existing collection of the 377 feet Pelorus, 282 feet Ecstasea, and 160 feet Sussurro.

The mega yacht will also have cabins for 24 guests as well as a movie theater, aquariam, disco, and hospital. Let's go cruising!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Boxee/Hulu and Apple TV

If you have an AppleTV this is a must have "hack". The ATV is great for watching movies from iTunes or listening to your music collection. You can even watch Youtube on your flat panel TV. Recently some very clever folks have built a little hack that gives you access to thousands of shows and movies both old and new that are free and legal online. The hack is pretty simple (if I can do it, anybody can!) and once you load it, it is simply amazing. I flipped through some of the offerings the other night and you too can check them out at I watched an episode of "It Takes a Thief" from the the late 60's with Robert Wagner which was hilarious. Other old shows include Flipper, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bewitched, and all the new shows as well. Even if you don't have an ATV, you should go to hulu and start looking around for some of your favorite programs and movies to watch on your laptop. All free!

Boxee is an open source media center, with social networking features, currently in an invite-only alpha stage. It is a fork of XBMC, a media center initially designed for the Xbox, but then ported to run on all major platforms. Boxee runs on Linux, Mac, and now Windows. You can put it on your AppleTV with a grandma-simple “hack“, with no adverse effects. It also includes access to CBS, Comedy Central, movie trailers, and many more. Musically, you can listen to thousands of stations on Shoutcast, Last.FM and Jamendo. This is just the beginning and development is moving quickly. If you want to rid yourself of those nasty cable bills, this is a cheap, safe and fun option. If you are interested in learning more visit youtube and search for boxee or go to the source at and get a free invite. Free your TV!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Spirit of Mystery

Pete Goss, that ocean hero with a quarter of a million miles under his belt and who earned the admiration of the watching world with the incredible feat of turning his downwind racer into a storm in the Southern Ocean, retracking his path, and locating and saving the life of fellow competitor Raphael Dinelli in 1996, has a bit of a problem with some storms off the coast of Africa.

Pete has built his boat Spirit of Mystery to shine a light on the bravery of the seven Cornishmen who made the heroic journey to Melbourne in 1854to escape poverty, follow the gold rush – gold had been discovered in 1851 and the gold-fever had spread around the world - and seek out a new life in Australia. Sail-World Cruising has been following the journey, which will end in Australia's southerly port of Melbourne sometime in 2009.

Like the original crew, who were all related by either blood or marriage, it it is a family affair with the crew comprising: Pete Goss; his younger brother Andy; Pete's youngest son Eliot, 14; and Pete's brother in law Andy Maidment.

So with such a complete crew, you'd think a few doldrum (or ITCZ if you're acronym crazy) storms wouldn't worry him. However, while he reports that they are all 'happy', the latest blog from the Spirit of Mystery as they sail towards the equator off the coast of Africa doesn't sound like the same sailor. Not only that, the boat, manufactured with care over many months back in the U.K., is apparently leaking.

"This is going to be a very short blog as I need some kip. The last 24hrs have been non-stop with huge storm clouds every six hours or so, and when I say huge they are something to both behold and experience. In a sense they are potential hurricanes in the making, for if the conditions are right these are the sort of things that go on to grow into a self generating force of destruction. You can watch them grow, sometimes very quickly as a number of clouds merge as if under the hand of some hidden conductor. Then they grow vertically as if reaching for the sky and you just know that there's trouble on the way. They don't necessarily follow the prevailing winds so a 360 degree watch is important.

They are so big that they appear stationary until quite close and then it happens very quickly with a burst of cold air preceding, anything up to a thirty to forty knot wind line that is so distinct that you can watch it tearing up the water as it bears down. 'All hands on deck', 'all hands on deck' and we tumble up with the sole aim of getting the big lug down and secure as fast as possible. Just throw off the halyard and let it run for if it's not down by the time the screeching wind and heavy rain arrives the other end of the boat can start to get obscured, damage will be done.

In most cases we have then had to rush aft and drop the mizzen and run off under the jib alone as we marvel at the power of the thing. They are completely unpredictable in that we had one blow for four hours and another lost its puff in half an hour, and yet made up for it by dumping such heavy rain for a couple of hours that it flattened the sea. The problem is that once they have past there is just this great void of energy, they just hoover it up. We are then left to wallow in a confused sea to await the return of a gradient wind. Up go the sails and off we go again, the next squall cloud already in site and so we go through the routine all over again.

Rest is impossible as she wallows, sometimes scupper to scupper as the crew on deck secure the mast to save it being torn out of her. Everything is wet above and below decks so it's a case of snoozing, working and eating. Funny thing is we are all as happy as ever as we work for every mile that we can - there's nothing else we can do!"

For more info, visit his blog.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Here are some actual maintenance complaints submitted by UPS ‘ pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded (marked with an S) by maintenance engineers.

By the way, UPS is the only major airline that has never, ever, had an accident.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.
P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Probably because auto-land is not installed on this aircraft.
P: Something loose in cockpit
S: Something tightened in cockpit
P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.
P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode has a 200 ft. per min. descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.
P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.
P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.
P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That’s what friction locks are for.
P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF IS inoperative in OFF mode.
P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you’re right.
P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.
PS: Aircraft acting funny
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.
P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.
P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.
And the best one for last
P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget.

First Undersea Restaurant

This is the first ever all-glass undersea restaurant in the world opens its doors for business at the Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa. It will sit five meters below the waves of the Indian Ocean, surrounded by a vibrant coral reef and encased in clear acrylic offering diners 270-degrees of panoramic underwater views.

“We have used aquarium technology to put diners face-to-face with the stunning underwater environment of the Maldives”, says Carsten Schieck, General Manager of Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa. “Our guests always comment on being blown away by the colour, clarity, and beauty of the underwater world in the Maldives, so it seemed the perfect idea to build a restaurant where diners can experience fine cuisine and take time to enjoy the views - without ever getting their feet wet.”

Created by MJ Murphy Ltd, a design consultancy based in New Zealand, Ithaa’s distinctive feature is the use of curved transparent acrylic walls and roof, similar to those used in aquarium attractions. “The fact that the entire restaurant except for the floor is made of clear acrylic makes this unique in the world,” continues Schieck, “We are currently planting a coral garden on the reef to add to the spectacular views of the rays, sharks and many colorful fish that live around the area.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Summer is Afoot!

It's mid November and it looks like we are headed for a heat wave in the SF Bay Area. This weekend promises to be in the low 80's with bright sunshine and warm nights. Not good news for sailing on the bay as the winds will come from the hills instead of from the ocean. Hopefully our readers in the bay area will be out basking in this last bit of summer. We are so politically correct out here, instead of an Indian Summer as it used to be called, they now call it, Indigenous People's Summer!

Deep Thoughts from a Cruising Skipper

I have been trying to find a Baja Ha Ha blog and finally found one with a blow by blow account of the trip down the coast of Baja Sur. Found one!

People have this image of what living on a sailboat and cruising is: endless beer, endless iced drinks, lounging day in and day out in the cockpit while the wind gently cools the afternoon sun, and so much time with so little to do. Well let me expunge that bogus image from your head right now! It is work my friends and at times hot, dirty, and hard work. It's the side of cruising that cruisers often don't share outside the cruising circles because in doing so, it would make people question the sanity of cruisers even more than they already do. Every boat we know that came down with the Baja ha-ha has a huge list of boat systems in need of repair. This phenomenon isn't limited to old boats, new alike have their lists and there wasn't a captain in the group that hasn't spent some quality time in the last few days folded into some small recess of their boat. I didn't spend the day lounging in the dingy under the shadow of the famous Cabo San Lucas rock with a Coconut drink in my hand, no, I spent the morning in my port sail locker working on boat systems. I was covered in sweat, so much so that it carried the sunscreen into my eyes with a burn. In the afternoon I visited the Port Captain followed by the Bank to pay the $18 check in fee and then back to the Port Captain's office to finalize the process. The Port Captain's office and bank were of course on opposite sides of town and being a cheap cruiser, I wasn't about to blow precious cruising funds on a cab ride, so Jason and I walked. Lori and Amy spend the day finishing up the provisioning process and ended up waiting about two hours at the dingy for us to return form our Government office death march through the streets of Cabo. When I returned to the boat, I discovered that our solar charger was dead so out it came and off I went to ship the unit back to the manufacture for repairs. The work continued as we prepared THIRD DAY for our early morning departure from Cabo. Fuel tanks topped off, equipment stowed and secured, boat organized for sea and the next thing I know the sun is down, dinner is on the table and another day of cruising is over.

So now the natural question is why? Why in the heck are we out here when from this blog report and others you see so much WORK? It's hard to explain but today and days like this are a total blast because it's think on your feet, make it work or else time and I love that. That's the aspect I loved about my first job out of collage at Aeros Environmental traveling around from site to site and dealing with things that would make some people go crazy all day long and then on the way back to the office after a 14 hour day getting a call that would send the test team out to another location with even more challenges and dragons to slay. There's also the aspect of family time and priceless kid education opportunities. Through all of today's challenges Amy and Jason were there to see it and were evolved in getting around the obstacles. Sure it was hot and tiring walking all over town but the kids see on a daily basis that if something is broke or needs to be done, it must be handled and that often the best way to resolve a situation is to do it yourself or at least take responsibility to see that the task gets completed correctly. If you leave the boat water running, then our tanks go dry and we are out of water. If we run out of diesel fuel, we can't motor. If we drop something overboard in deep water, no matter how much we cry, the item we dropped is gone. Cruising is a classroom where the bell never rings allowing you to put off that hard task until after recess. If you have an oil leak, you have to deal with it now or evaluate what the consequences are for putting the repair off. There multiple decision/consequence tests every day on a sailboat and some of them don't just result in a C- or D grade, that the teacher will allow you to take home and redo to save you from a mortal self esteem blow. Getting some of these decision/consequence test wrong can cause you to literally sink.

A great example of the kind of responsibility cruising teaches kids came from a kids-boat potluck just last night. There were 7 kids from 4 boats all playing on the bow and in and out of the boat while the parents sat in the cockpit. The kids ranged in age from 7 to 13 years old and not one of them was wearing a life jacket. child protective services immediately many in our society would scream, but all of these kids understand the consequences of falling overboard form a sailboat at night and they all used the understanding of that consequence to make good decisions about how they moved around on deck. Sure we were watching them, but not hovering over them to ensure that we were taking out all risk from their lives. I don't think I even owned a bike helmet when I was a kid, but perhaps that's what's wrong with me now?

In the last few days the kids have learned first hand how the Mexican system of government and civil service works and that isn't something they can get form a school book. Heck, now that I think about it, if the situation the kids experienced first hand was even discussed in a public school these days the teacher could lose their job for making racially and/or culturally insensitive remarks! The kids watched their dad get rolled for an extra $80 at the immigration office and spend a total of 8 hours processing paperwork from office to office that in any sane system would take no more than 30 minutes, so maybe when they get old enough to make their first trip to the DMV, it will appear a model of efficiency by comparison!

We will be up with the sun tomorrow morning as we leave Cabo and start working our way to La Paz. We will stop for a few days each at two anchorages to break the trip up into easy 40 to 50 mile legs and the kids watches will start right after breakfast. Responsibility 101 will begin with the course syllabus being the Sea of Cortez.

Read the Third Day blog here.

Friday, November 07, 2008

From the Archives: What is a Sailor?

By Paul Watson

A delightful young lady once asked me a very simple question while I was being interviewed by her as a prospective date. "So, what is it that makes you claim that you are a sailor?" she asked.

It seemed the easiest definition at the time was to tell her simply that I liked sailing and anyone who enjoyed just "being there" was, at the very least, a sailor.

On the drive home that evening I began to probe the answer I had given her and began a tally of the reasons that could be applied to completely define 'a sailor'. In the more than a year since the probe began I find myself still unable to totally make a clear definition. In some ways it left almost as many questions as it did, answers.

I would be hard pressed to deny that anyone who gazes across a body of water and feels a drawn fascination to the graceful, silent movement of a sailboat beneath its towering pyramid of sail certainly fits that first, offhand description that I had offered that young lady.

Any absolute neophyte who steps aboard a sailboat at the invitation of the owner and comes away with a sense of fulfillment is also a sailor.

The choice to 'book' one's first sailing vacation aboard a charter yacht or a tall-ship adventure must be driven by some thirsty fantasy. The romance of the sea may have danced vicariously for some time. This person is a sailor.

Is the professional sailor one who performs the more mundane duties and chores aboard a ship any less a sailor?

Just how much experience within the limitless horizons of simply enjoying sailing is required to define someone as a sailor?

Sailing, in my observation, is likely the most archaic mode of transportation left in the world today.

No one will ever know the exact moment that the first human found that they could be propelled across a body of water solely by the force of wind. Perhaps it was an early man who clung to a log with a leafy bough protruding into a gentle breeze and was carried across a small body of water. We may never know but we all know that they did it again.

The sailor of today still finds the challenge of moving the boat through the water by using the timeless energy of the wind equally fascinating.

Throughout centuries of history the exploration of the world could not have been accomplished without those iron men who led the way for all of us. They have left us all a legacy that we continue to slowly refine. As sophisticated as we are today, we sailors enjoy the same narcotic response enjoyed by that first intrepid sailor.

Even the tools of modern sailing technology have done little to change the basic implements of the sailor. His boat is still equipped with a hull, some sails and sheets, if even today the additions of more modern trappings accompany them, life rings, jack lines, jibe preventers, lifelines and Man Overboard markers. Today's sailor uses the same basic items that would be so easily identified by sailors of centuries ago. Even though today most modern and technologically amazing equipment enhances many of the once mysterious rituals of the great navigators but yet we still cannot apply friction to the water with the application of a lever or brake pedal.

Cruising sailors travel countless miles in every weather condition known, most often at a placid average of merely five or six knots. The dedicated club racer urges the optimum performance from his yacht most often at not nearly double that average. Recent global yacht races find sailors marveling at circling the earth in sixty days in light weight, spindly and dangerous sailing craft, while a commercial jetliner is capable of the same feat in less than sixty hours. The more recent technology finds some sailors eager to break speed records for short, measured courses that may soon exceed a mere 40 knots while the automotive buff has recently seen the sound barrier broken in a wheeled vehicle.

The sailor needs no degree in Physical Engineering to glance at the shape of their sails to innately understand the lesson of their efficiency and inherently knows the basics of not only the endless beauty of the shape but the power they can extract from the swelling, snowy fabric above.

Regardless of the type of endeavor, the racer, the cruiser, the professional delivery crew, weekender and day-sailor have all chosen, to learn the skills of seamanship and continually add to them. They navigate, hand sails, row, cook, anchor and make repairs without seeing any of these things as more than what it takes to be a sailor.

It's not unusual to find their land-based homes decorated with nautical art, souvenirs and endless publications to remind them just how close to the art of sailing they truly are.

Not one sailor of any level has not, at some time, envisioned himself or herself voyaging afar and vicariously visiting far-flung anchorages in exotic places. Those who sail the simplest routes and achieve but the nearest destinations each anxiously await the experience of the voyage as much as they do the relaxation and solace of the cockpit while swinging gently at the anchor just as fervently as the cruiser who crosses an ocean for the same pleasure.

Even within organized or simply casual competition no sailor is ever without the appreciation of calculated tactics and the almost perfect trim of their competitor's sails.

Sailors just seem to bring out the best in each other. A casual cruise is often turned into a friendly competition when another yacht of similar size or design draws near. The casual glance at one's own trim and the always-subtle re-adjustment often brings the crews to a more alert status. A close aboard hailing might determine the destinations of each, and if similar, becomes a competitive and joint effort to sail in company while extolling the best performance from their yacht as well as her crew.

There seems no apparent or serious division of sailors either. In any port they gather, almost magnetically, and in any language they communicate with fluid perception. A glance through any anchorage frequently includes a varied blend of sailing yachts from the classic mono-hulled designs comfortably mixed into the more modern offerings.

Wood, fiberglass, cement and metal construction are only the choices of the owners and often based on a particular or combinations of reasons for their structural choice but rather than divide them, the differences provides them the endless and intense conversations of the experiences with each of their unique as well as similar selections.

Accepting the rare occasion, the sailor is more often a teacher who is inexplicably compelled to pass along their experience to another with hands-on and patient training. These teachers cross no age or gender barriers with complete acceptance. During this hands-on education they pass along the secret language and the ancient words that only sailors know.

The sailors are bonded so universally with traits of artistry, honesty, creativity and almost all are blessed with a common language that so eloquently seasons their narratives that the sailor is uniquely set apart. They so easily disclose their methods and share their resources to unanimously improve sailing and their fellow sailors.

More than any other word that carries the weight of my responsibility for description is "passion". In my observation, the sailor, even the appreciative one who simply gazes in wonder from afar or the world girdling single-handed competitor, the common appreciation of the elements has drawn out cleaner and deeper thirst to apply a universally robust zeal to everything in their lives.

Reflecting upon my own fifty years of sailing and the people who've sailed with me, I'm so aware that each touch of the experience enriches me, challenges me and rewards me. I am never left to feel that there is nothing left to learn or accomplish. The three sailors that comprise my perfect crew have all become friends with life-long bonds to literally everything else in our individual environments.

Sailors should be credited with so many virtues beyond my borderless perception that to simply be one of them is to be honored in a very special way by a community of possibly the most incredible humans on Earth.

The young lady was not short-changed at all. It perfectly describes a sailor to say that they all 'like sailing'.

But her proactive response to my question might take the rest of our lives to complete our voyage while adding more answers to the original question.

Old Man and the Inland Sea

He is an amazing story from Lake Superior where the rescuer needs to be rescued. I have never read a story as cold and miserable as this one. It just won the Boating Writers award for 2008! Here it is:

Lake Superior’s chill waters were an ominous slate gray and the lake was steaming with fog banks 40-feet high as Carl Hammer slipped into his 17-foot wooden fishing skiff and started his outboard engine. It was 7 a.m., November 26, 1958 -- the day before Thanksgiving.

The 26-year old North Shore fisherman figured he’d get to his offshore fishing nets before a storm came up, pick his catch, and get back quickly – just as he’d done hundreds of times before. He’d have to hurry.

At 8:30 a.m., his fishing partner, Helmer Aakvik – also known as the “Old Man”-- peered out the window of his cabin on the bluffs overlooking Superior and made his decision: he would not go out to the nets this morning. The 62-year-old Aakvik settled down to enjoy a second cup of coffee when his cabin door opened with a blast of wind and his neighbor, Elmer Jackson, charged in. “The young fellow is still out on his boat,” Jackson said, worried.

Aakvik looked up, troubled. A storm was coming on – one of the worst kinds – an offshore wind from the north-northwest. His fishing partner, Carl Hammer, was still out on treacherous Superior. He abruptly put down his coffee cup. “Call the Coast Guard,” he said.
As he turned to leave, Jackson looked at him carefully. “Just don’t you go out,” he warned.

* * *

Grabbing a jacket and pulling his cap down tightly, the Old Man walked down the winding path to the bluff’s edge. There was a steady wind out of the northwest, and, even in the protection of the rocky ridge behind him, the temperature was dropping. This was late November in the North Country and soon there’d be ice and snow.

On a near-vertical rock ledge jutting above the lake, he came to the ramshackle wooden fish house that he and Hammer shared. In the open end of the shed, he could see that Hammer’s boat was gone. Spruce trees swayed ominously below in the onshore breeze.

He ducked back inside the wood shack and checked around. Sure enough, the young fisherman had helped himself to Aakvik’s gas supply. The borrowing was OK – they shared supplies all the time in this close-knit Norwegian community. The problem was that Hammer had a new outboard engine that used a different ratio of oil to gas in the fuel than Aakvik’s. The Old Man had an old Lockport and an elderly Johnson, but Hammer used a newer Johnson, which needed about a half a quart of oil mixed in five gallons of gas. Aakvik’s old two-cycles required twice that amount of oil, and a too heavy oil-gas ratio would gum up his friend’s carburetor and foul his spark plugs – stalling his engine.

He peered into the can, then swirled it around. He could see the drops of water on the surface. His gas was old and had accumulated water condensation. The old man’s normal routine was to filter the water out of the gas so that it didn’t freeze in the lines and kill the engine. Hammer hadn’t filtered his gas.

Read the full story here.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

iTunes 8

Here is a sample list. Click the pic for a better view.

If you are a music fan like me, you have downloaded iTunes 8. It has a neat new feature called Genius. You play a song and hit the Genius button and it creates a playlist based on your selection. You can create small playlists of 25 songs or big ones of 100. I have a huge library of music and Genius pulls out music that I haven't heard or have forgotten about. If you wish, it will also suggest music from the store. It's a great new feature and one you should have in you bag of tricks. Go to for the free download.

Nor Cal Winter Weather Prediction

Sunday, November 2, 2008 (SF Chronicle) Lore says it'll pour - early, that is Tom Stienstra, Chronicle Outdoors Writer (11-01) 18:46 PDT -- There's a saying in nature, "Birds never lie." There's another that goes: Onion skins very thin, mild winter coming in; Onion skins thick and tough, coming winter cold and rough." And those fuzzy caterpillars: I've seen a half dozen with thick, full coats in the past two weeks on mountain trails in Northern California. There's more: A phenomenon in the ocean has formed called the Madden-Julian Oscillation. There's also a linked interface between ocean temperatures and coastal land temperatures in Humboldt County that can predict weather. And to time the arrival of storms, pay close attention to moon cycles. I've received a lot of requests for my annual long-range weather forecast/guess for winter, and this is it: Nature's signs mean a wet late fall and early winter, with significant storms arriving around the new moon of late November (Thanksgiving Day), and just prior to the full moon in early December (Dec. 8-10 looks promising). After a dry period in the early New Year, January and February will bring about average precipitation. I don't expect a terribly wet spring in March and April. The final result for winter will be about average rainfall, wetter in the beginning, a bit drier at the end, This is why: -- Birds never lie: The annual migration of sandhill cranes to the Woodbridge Ecological Reserve near Lodi and snow geese to Sacramento Wildlife Refuge near Willows is right on schedule. The timing of these migrations is often a reliable weather predictor. -- Onion skins: The thickness of skins from onions grown in the San Joaquin Valley looks pretty average. -- Caterpillars: Those furry coats indicate early, heavy precipitation is on the way. -- Ocean/land temperatures: A reliable theory I've developed is that when ocean temps and coast land temps are the same, the storms wheel right in. That's the case right now in Humboldt County, so look for wet weather. When the ocean is colder and the land is warmer, it often acts like a blockade and pushes the storms into Oregon, which creates periods of drought, like this past spring. In the mountains, the effect of global climate change probably will have snow lines higher than normal for many storms - about 4,000 feet elevation in the north state and about 4,500 feet in the Sierra Nevada. There is one piece of real science that supports this forecast: Weather experts have identified the formation of the Madden-Julian Oscillation offshore in the Pacific, which typically lasts about 50 days. This forms very wet storms propelled to the Pacific Coast. So wherever the jet stream delivers the storm highway this late fall and early winter, those storms could be very wet. Last year's forecast, published on Oct. 28, hit the bulls-eye: "The Bay Area and Northern California will get a lot of rain through December and early January, then lighten considerably, with an early, warm spring, especially in the San Joaquin Valley. Southern California will face continuing drought."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

From a Sailor Named Cameron

"You get a lot of time to think when you are alone at sea on a small boat, with few distractions but the water rushing by, and the stars at night, standing on deck alone and insignificant on the wide ocean, naked, peeing into the full moon... The downhill run to Papeete is a classic one, sailing right into the southern cross, It took 8 days to sail from the Marquesas to Tahiti, and in that time I experienced every emotion in the rainbow, from sheer terror, to sadness, to un-controllable mirth. I purged every dark corner of my mind, with nowhere to run from the truth, and came away cleansed, lighter, and much much stronger.

I realise now that I have shed almost all my fears. I am not afraid of dying, and I am not afraid of being alone. Actually, my life is wonderfully streamlined when I am left to my own devises. I am not afraid of being judged. I am not afraid of what I do or don't have. My idea of success is not based on money, but rather on the ability to wake up and say "yes, let's go to the waterfall today". The idea that freedom IS the end goal, and that money is just a means to that end, and that if you are not careful to make the distinction, the chasing of money can actually take away from that freedom--the means becomes the end. By that measure, my life so far has been a smashing success, and the only thing that scares me anymore is letting this crazy, beautiful life pass me by. No matter how hard I try, I will only have a fraction of the adventures I would like to. I will only see so many sunsets, I will only hold so many beautiful women in my arms.

Saying yes becomes more urgent as we get older, yet harder and harder to say. Life thunders by, and dreams are crushed beneath the wheels of time. I find that not being afraid is a tremendous freedom in itself. I will remember to say yes, more than just 'whenever possible', for it is at these times when I am most alive.

Who said, 'our greatest fear is not that we are weak, but that we are powerful beyond measure?' That hits the nail on the head. I don't know where this crazy, stormy, leaky boat of a life is headed, but I sure know that its beautiful out here under these stars..."

Motion Gallery

Check this cool video from the BBC based on Flash technology.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

60 Mins. Interview with Tom Perkins on the Maltese Falcon

Pic of the Week

Be sure to click on the pic.

Free Movies on Netflix

If you have a Netflix account, you can watch free movies instantly online (PC's have been able to for a while and now Macs are in public beta). Last night I watched "Billabong Odyssey". What a great surf film! They start a year long trip hitting the biggest waves on the planet. Todos Santos, Cortes Bank, Mavericks, Jaws and then around the world to places that blow the mind. The climax is the first ever tow in world cup at Jaws on Maui. The waves are in the 40-60 foot range and on several of the biggest ones there are some bad wipeouts. The last wave you may have already seen the footage. It's been on the internet for some time and on the small screen almost looks like a computer generated wave. The wave Mike Parsons is riding is almost too big and too perfect. See below. Hope you will check it out if you are a Netflix subscriber. There are also some sailing videos available. Cowabunga!

Monday, November 03, 2008

San Diego Sailor Rescued After Rudder Shaft Fails

Ronnie Simpson has been to hell and back. Blown up in the Iraq war, he recovered and decided to sail the world. He ran into some very bad weather on the way to the islands and after the loss of his rudder, he activated his EPRIB and was rescued by a passing ship, which on the first attempt, ran down his boat. He rode the ship to China and is now hoping to continue his voyage around the world on a bike. Two things strike me as out of wack on this story. First, he was a very novice sailor to attempt such a crossing and secondly the weather window to Hawaii is in the summer, not the fall during cyclone season as well as early storms marching down from Alaska. As a matter of fact, I was at the beach the weekend before his rescue and a storm came thru and the waves were huge due to a cyclone passing off the coast. Maybe the same storm that hit him! Here is an excerpt from his log:

"As I write this, the ocean is slamming me with huge waves, and winds are at 25-30, even gusting to 35. Nothing I ever read about sailing to Hawaii mentioned winds gusting to 35. This can't be normal. I have put both reefs in the main, furled the jib way in, strapped everything down, etc, and am down below, attempting to ride this out. If it gets any worse, I will probably heave to, and ride it out. I absolutely can not believe the power that the ocean possesses. This is insane. It's not a storm, though. Just really strong wind.

The sun has mostly come out and it's not raining. It's even fairly warm out. Just windy! The longer it continues to blow, the bigger the seas continue to get. I am doing my best to maintain a positive attitude, as I realize I must, or else i'll go crazy. Luckily, this is a big, heavy boat with a big, heavy keel, and it appears to be handling everything pretty well. I am still in shock at how powerful the sea can become. For the first time of this trip, I am genuinely becoming very afraid, though. I am not letting this fear over ride me, but it is definitely keeping me on my toes. I just want a break though! I just want the wind to die down a bit! I am regretting my decision to go solo right now".

Read about his decision to pull the plug and more on his life on his blog.

Baja Haha

I didn't get to go this year due to another commitment (my 15th wedding aniv.) but have my sights set on next year! Here is an onboard update from one of the boats. Winds have been light as in 8-10 knots but sounds like they are having fun!

This is our second night passage on the way to Turtle Bay. John is at the helm; I'm about to start a shift at 2 a.m. If we maintain our present speed we will arrive at 9 a.m.

The total length of this leg is 390 nautical miles. Winds are light, 8 knots coming from behind gives us a very low apparent wind speed so we are motorsailing.

We had a very nice afternoon under sail yesterday. The air and sea temperatures are noticeably getting warmer.

We fixed the radar mount yesterday. John held the assembly at the right angle with Vise Grips and Francois adjusted the height of the assembly using the topping lift, while I extracted the broken bolt and replaced it with a new one.

We had a problem with the furling line yesterday. The interior core of the line inexplicably bulged out of the line like a big hernia. This made it impossible to pass the line through a fairlead and impossible to furl the sail. Thank goodness this didn't happen to us in a blow! I removed the furling line and replaced it with a thinner line. Ironically this thinner line is the original line that Harken supplied with the new roller furler.

I also discovered an imminent problem at the furler. The tack of the jib is fastened to the furler with a short pennant made of something like Vectran. This pennant is suffering from chafe and won't last much longer. While we're in Turtle Bay I'll have to improvise something better. A steel cable pennant would be the way to go here. Maybe someone in the Haha fleet has steel cable and crimps that I can use.

I need to add steel cable and crimps to my list of required spares to carry.
Read their blog here.