sailing the NorSea


WEEK 39 2011

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First Post, 17 March 2002
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Three Years Ago, This Week, 2008
Two Years Ago, This Week, 2009
One Year Ago, This Week, 2010

Saturday 1 October 2011
Saturday - this would have been my mother's 87th. Happy Birthday Mom!

mom and the van

After my father retired for the first (second?) time, he and Mom traveled about. At first it was in their car, then they traded that for a van that they really enjoyed. Eventually they traded up to a smaller motor home, which was too much. The van was just right for them it seemed, and they traveled up and down the west coast, from San Diego to Washington State.

Friday 30 September 2011
Friday - I should have been working on the spreadsheet but some sort of eyestrain kept me from reading, or even going onto the internet much. Bah.

I'd put a cat picture up, but haven't the heart.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Thursday - my friend Tim sent me some spreadsheets to look at, so I spent the afternoon reading up on a certain project. It's almost poetic, some of the terms that are used in this dry industrial specification: Fugitive dust, Braunton's Milkvetch, Palmers Rabbitbush.

Every once in a while you see an image that captures your imagination, and try to track it down. Only to realize that there are still (and this is 2011!) web sites that are not in English. Remarkable.

So, tracking this picture:

"Hey, you kids - don't make me come over there!"

led me to, all in French. French being a romance language I can guess at the meaning of the text:

Il pouvait emporter 135 kg, pilote compris, sur une distance de 240 kilomètres, et il pouvait atteindre une vitesse maximale de 105 km/h. Il fallait certainement plus de courage que d’habileté au pilote pour se tenir debout au-dessus des deux immenses hélices contrarotatives de 4,60 mètres de diamètre. It could carry 135kg (280 lbs) including the pilot, up to 240 kilometers (144 miles) at speeds up to105km/hr (60 mph). It certainly required courage to pilot this standing above the huge 4.6m (15ft) spinning blades.

This is a man's machine, not some wussy Segway. Fall or slip off that little stand and you'd be hamburger.

I think it's the jacket & tie that makes it such a dramatic picture. If it were a uniform or a pilot's suit it wouldn't be nearly as dramatic.


Wednesday 28 August 2011

Wednesday  - Not much to say. A bit of work about the house, lunch with some friends at Famous Daves. Barbecue....yum.

The new Amazon Kindle Fire is out, this being a tablet similar in form (backlit 7" touchscreen)  to the Nook. There are also a whole slew of other Kindle "touch" devices, at very low price points. The Fire isn't as big or powerful as the Ipad, but it certainly raises the bar for other ereaders - $199 for this high end model and $79 for the 6" wifi-only model will be hard to beat.

I haven't any great urge to rush out and buy it myself - my K3/3G suits me just fine, light, ambidextrous and a battery miser - but I imagine it'll be a big item for Christmas. Just a week or two ago Amazon announced that the Kindle now supports checking out books from the library - it works, I tried it - and that negates a big advantage that the Nook had over the Kindle. B&N and Apple marketing will be burning the midnight oil all this week, and the rest of the fall.

Because, you know, I was in Home Depot yesterday and they were already unpacking the Christmas stuff.

Tuesday 27 August 2011

Tuesday - Book #112, P2 was Kon-Tiki, by Thor Heyerdahl. In 1947 Heyerdahl and five crewmates sailed a raft they christened Kon-Tiki from Peru to Polynesia, proving the possibility of west-to-east movement of peoples. It's a wonderful yarn, five Norwegians and a Swede floating for a hundred days across the Pacific.

ONCE IN A WHILE YOU FIND YOURSELF IN AN ODD situation. You get into it by degrees and in the most natural way but, when you are right in the  midst of it it, you are suddenly astounded as ask yourself how in the world it all came about. If, for example, you put to see with a parrot and five companions, it is inevitable that sooner or later you will wake up on morning out at sea, perhaps a little bit better rested than ordinarily, and begin to think about it. One such morning I sat writing in a dew-drenched notebook --- May 17, Norwegian Independence Day. Heavy sea. Fair Wind. I am cook today and found seven flying fish on deck, one squid on the cabin roof, and one unknown fish in Torstein's sleeping bag.

The raft was made of large Balsa Wood logs, tied together with line. For control of leeway keel boards were set between the logs. Midway through the voyage they discovered that placing the keels at the appropriate distance from the mast allowed trimming of the vessel and mitigated the efforts required by the steersman. Interestingly the gaps between the logs also meant that when a sea came aboard it quickly dissipated, putting little load on the vessels tie lines and rarely penetrating as far forward as the cabin ( the seas were almost always from aft as Kon-Tiki always sailed downwind, the Norwegians' being gentlemen).

kon-tiki in polynesia
Kon-Tiki. Somewhere in French Polynesia, by the French tricolor at the masthead.

Interesting as well was the fact that the growth of seaweed on the rafts bottom caused her to attract all sorts of sea life - small fish, medium fish, large fish (Dorado and Tunny), which in turn apparently attracted all sorts of sharks, from Whale Sharks on down. Whether is was this, or just her unusual presence, she also attracted porpoises and all sorts of whales, who would come miles out of their way to visit. Tim Severin mentions the curiously exhibited by whales as well, when sailing Brendan through the North Atlantic - apparently they avoid motor yachts and (mostly) small sailing vessels.

  We were visited by whales many times. Most often they were small porpoises and toothed whales which gamboled about us in large schools on the surface of the water, but now and then there were big cachalots, too, and other great whales which appeared singly or in small schools. Sometimes they passed like ships on the horizon, now and again sending a cascade of water into the air, but sometimes they steered straight for us. We were prepared for a dangerous collision the first time a big whale altered course and came straight toward the raft in a purposeful manner. As it gradually grew nearer, we could hear its blowing and puffing, heavy and long drawn, each time it rolled its head out of the water. It was an enormous, thick-skinned, ungainly land animal that came toiling through the water, as unlike a fish as a bad is unlike a bird. It came straight toward our port side, where we stood gathered at the edge of the raft, while one man sat at the masthead and shouted that he could see seven or eight more making their way towards us.

  The big shining black forehead of the first whale was not more than two yards from us when it sank beneath the surface of the water, and then we saw the enormous blue-black bulk glide quietly under the raft beneath our feet. It lay there for a time, dark and motionless, and we held our breath as we looked down on the gigantic curved back of a mammal a good deal longer than the whole raft. Then it sank slowly through the bluish water and disappeared from sight.

The sea life surrounding Kon-Tiki meant that fishing was ridiculously easy and that they never wanted for meat (despite leaving the whales alone).

Something similar is mentioned by Steve Callahan in Adrift, when he floated in a small emergency raft across the Atlantic to the West Indies after his boat foundered off the Azores. The growth on the bottom of his raft encouraged various fish to hang around (and he hints at a mystic belief that they were deliberately offering themselves up to him). He too mentioned that fish meat and eyeballs (ugh!) contain enough fresh water to sustain human life. Heyerdahl mentions that every day a fine plankton mesh could easily collect enough plankton to keep a man alive (once the jellyfish had been removed from the mix).

Monday 26 August 2011

Monday - I was standing, buttering my morning bagel, when I heard an odd trickling sound. At first I thought it was the coffee maker, then perhaps a slow running drain from the shower upstairs. No such luck. In true Monday fashion it was one of the brand new feed lines to the brand new water heater, leaking and making a mess in the garage. After shutting off the water (the tank valve inline valve wasn't working) I finished breakfast, then bought another line and replaced the bad piece. I also replaced a couple of leaky washers in the house exterior faucets, as long as the water was off.

In the evening I watched Season 2 Disk 1 of The Mentalist. I had seen some of them on reruns, but it was nice to see them uncut and in order.

Sunday 25 August 2011

Sunday - I went over to some friends for pizza and DVD viewing last night. My friend S is a master of pizza making, it now far surpasses anything you can get in a pizza place. The DVD was several episodes of Dexter. I haven't seen much of the show since a couple of first episodes in the first season, and this is from the third or fourth season, so it was entertaining.

The interesting thing about this week's POTW was, to me, the crudity of the setup. The controls for the watertight doors are hydraulic, as you'd expect of a vessel built pre-WWII, but the unit is set off to one side of the rear of the bridge bulkhead. It has a simple wood panel, and a couple of buttons (missing - might have been levers). There is no attempt to make it part of a whole, it's just off in it's own little corner. Given that the British designed for submarine warfare, (WWI was a big wakeup call for them) and the seriousness of the WWII submarine threat, one might expect a little more prominence.

I've read a lot of books over the last couple of weeks, as I said, just hanging out with Phoebe. One set of books was The Parasol Protectorate series, set in an alternate "steampunk" universe. Light but entertaining.

Book #108 is, therefore, Soulless, by Gail Carriger. Book #109 is Changeless, and Book #110 was Blameless, and Book #111 was Heartless. These are the adventures of one Alexia Maccon, who lives in an alternate steampunk universe, where Queen Victoria rules over her empire, which includes both Vampires and Werewolves as subjects - and Alexia herself, who has the power to rob both of their powers, due to her lack of a 'soul'. This lack of a soul makes her preternaturally (heh) calm and deliberate, an excellent detective...

Picture of the Week
Queen Mary Watertight Doors Control
Photo Notes: Controls and Indicators for Queen Mary, San Diego, Ca.

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