Friday, August 25, 2017

Manual coffee grinder on a sailboat

There is no such thing on sale in the US as a rechargeable, battery-powered coffee-grinder. We have rechargeable battery-powered saws and angle-grinders but not coffee grinders. I don't know why but I suspect a patent troll.

Anyway so if you like freshly ground coffee as I do, on a boat, the options are limited to using an inverter to power an electric grinder -- and a coffee grinder doesn't really burn a lot of power -- or using a manual grinder.

The problem with the manual grinders are that they require two hands to operate, except for the wall-mounted ones which instead are usually very large and ornate pieces with glass bits that would never safely fit on my boat. On a boat, you need at least one hand to hold onto something, so you rarely have both hands available to make coffee.

However I was lucky to find this particular grinder on Amazon, and thus far I'm happy with it but for a single issue: the little bowl that receives the coffee below, attaches to the body of the grinder only with magnets. This means that the slightest bump of the finger and the receptacle and ground coffee it contains goes flying everywhere. I wish instead of magnets, the receptacle was screwed-in. Anyway that's my only problem with this grinder. The receptacle is perfectly sized for a single cup of coffee in  my shatter-proof coffee press. The aluminum body can take the humidity of the sea as can the ceramic blades. It grinds coffee pretty fast too, I haven't counted the turns but It doesn't seem to take much more time than using a regular coffee grinder.  

Cats on board

As indoor NYC pets, my cute kittens had turned into rotund walking fury cushions that just laid about doing nothing but shedding. They didn't know what to make of the boat. Pasha went out of the cabin to explore at nights, chasing the lightning bugs, but he never left the decktop. Sasha only went out to use the litter box. Two fans constantly blew cool air on them.

The weird thing was their reaction to being shaved.

First, yes, I bought a pet shaver from Walmart and shaved my cats to help them keep cool in Fla. No, it wasn't hard and didn't require restraining them, they seemed to enjoy it. I had already gotten them used to regular brushing, rough enough to remove what seemed like a woven sweater's worth of fur off of them every day, so the clipper didn't make much of an impact...for her. Sasha had no problem and was actually purring while I shaved her so I was able to do a pretty thorough job of it.

Pasha was a bigger problem, he'd sit still long enough for me to do a patch, then he'd pretend-claw and growl a bit, turn around and come back again. He only kinda like-hated it. So he was a little patchy in the end.

The problem was that after this, they seemed to no longer recognize each other. They started hissing and scratching. They went into hiding, each at one end of the boat, eyeing the other one suspiciously from under a bunch of stuff on from on top of a shelf.

I knew things were serious when they fought over the food bowl. Normally, he would stuff his face in the bowl first, gulping what he could. She would wait patiently for a chance to eat her bit, until he pushed her aside again. That was the order of things, it wasn't fair but it kept the peace. Now, they literally fought, hissed and scratched, sometimes both left the food bowl untouched and ran off to hide in their secret spots. Gradually, she came to have the upper-hand over the food bowl, actually.

Anyway, turns out this is a thing that cats do when they're shaved, bathed, taken to a vet, or otherwise separated for a while: they forget each other's scent. Cats are not known for their loyalty.
It took about a week before things were back to semi-normal.

Anyway, after a month, they were pretty much all done with all that. They took turns sitting on my lap on the long slow drive back up to NYC. The process of introducing the cats to the boat was going to go slow.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Conch salad recipe

Cleaned conch is found by many piers and in many outdoor markets in the Bahamas. Or, you can find and clean your own conch.

This is a recipe for Conch ceviche, best enjoyed with a Kalik (Bahamas beer)

  • 8 oz cleaned conch
  • 10 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 5 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 1 ripe tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 cucumber peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 cup bell peppers (any color), diced
  • 3 hot peppers (habaneros, local goat peppers or jalapeƱo peppers), minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Wash conch with a mixture of lemon, salt and water.
  • Clean the conch, cut into small cubes.
  • Place in mixing bowl with remaining ingredients.
  • Cover and let the conch and vegetables marinate in refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  • Mix and serve.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Whale sighting

Sighted a whale. Pure luck to have my cellphone camera functioning at the same time it breached. Didn't get a close-enough look to identify the species but it was at least as long as my boat. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017


There was a rapidly-growing spider living right over the settee in my boat, that would come out in the evenings, weave little tufts of silk and toss them down on me. Not sure what that was all about but she's gone now.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Back when I first got her, she was blue and named "Moonflower"(ick) my own mother says, "Which one is the shark?"
Hurricane Matthew survivor. 3 days of prep for about knee-high surges.
Blown gasket, thankfully close to shore

Courses at MPT

2-year-old photos from STCW, AEC and Tender Operator certification courses at Maritime Professional Training in Ft Lauderdale (Turn down volume before you click on video)

My marine fire-fighting course. It was 90 degrees with 90% humidity, and tis was heavy gear to wear

Fire Attack Group Alpha
MCA Approved Engine Course Certificate

Ocean survival course

So sexy in my exposure suit - They call it a Gumby suit.

Would NOT want to do this in real life

"So. this bit is extra?"

Exploring the mysteries of the marine alternator in class

Tender operator license course, with Sophia (technical dive instructor from Mexico)

Repairing the mast compression post base

mast compression post base had been sitting on top of a nasty, wet block of rotted wood and had literally disintegrated. I never found the two bolts that were supposed to keep it in place.

Yuk. 40 years of neglect.
The old rotten wood block under the mast compression post

Block of solid oak, courtesy of my friend Jeff at JamRacks

Much better

Choosing vinyl headliner material

I was picking vinyl headliner material but I really couldn't find quality stuff. The usual headliner material used in boats has an awful gray foam backing, and this foam inevitably dries up into dust that gets everywhere. But thanks to a fellow boater's recommendation, I found material from France which is top-notch, thick and durable, with felt backing: TOBAGO by Berengier. Highly recommended. Holds up well. I got 10 meters for 250 Euros plus postage

Siren (formerly Firefly)

I rescued a little Melody-class sailing pram. It won't fit on my boat deck but I tow it along for fun in bays and harbors. It was originally bright yellow but needed a paint job so I went with bright red (found a cheapo can of good paint).  She used to be called Firefly but now that she's bright red, she's Siren 

I used it to get "the hang" of painting fiberglass with 2-part paint before starting the paint job on my sailboat (not nearly as easy as painting a house)

It isn't a great paint job, you can see the lines if you know where to look... more like a learning experience.

Melody-class (see the musical note symbol on sail)

painting starts
Sanded, filed and primed

Bright red paint -- new name; Siren

Bahamas photos

Some more photos I found that survived The Great Dunking Incident

Even with her old blue paint, she's prettier than all the new boats

Saturday, June 10, 2017


Learning sailing knots

Around Key West I think. Don't really remember details of this

July 2015. Those old Barient winches are long gone.
My sailboat sewing machine, from 1910, rock solid and weighs like an anchor.

Draft Logo?


Sailboat Archeology

Found this note on the back of a drawer: "Glued 5/73"

Curse of the mummy!

About a year before. Mom's funky 70's hat.

Lets see now, in 1973 I was attending school in Gstaad or had just moved to be with my Dad at Michigan State U.  Weird to think what a long and complicated series of events brought me and my boat together now!

The  plywood has dried up a bit but glue is holding up well considering the heat and humidity. 

In the elder days of art
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part,
For the Gods are everywhere
 - Longfellow


Friday, June 9, 2017

Catching up wth old posts!

Guys I'm trying to catch-up with everything from 2 years ago so be patient! I have to find all the photos...many were lost when the someone dunked the laptop. If you have any send 'em over!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Are life rafts really a rational expense?

Every time you guys ask me how many people can fit on my sailboat, I reply: "Well, let me put it this way, I have a 4-person life raft."   I mean it as a joke but sometimes I can see you guys mentally calculating who will be first to cannibalize whom if 4 of us are stuck on a life raft together in the middle of the ocean.

So let me explain it:
I can fit 20+ people on-board if I have to, but 4 people is really the max for reasons of both comfort and safety. How many people fit in the life raft is pretty much irrelevant because there's virtual certainty it will never be used anyway. It is just there to make you feel better. There is no real danger involved, and the  dangers that do exist, won't be cured with a life raft.

Trying to right a life raft in STCW course. 
But why do people get nervous? For the same reason I have to smile whenever  someone tells me they're worried about the safety of sailing, or of being attacked by sharks at the beach, while they don't even think twice about the dangers of driving 80-mph to get to the beach.

People naturally have a well-documented tendency to under-estimate the bigger, more likely risks, and  over-estimate the smaller, less likely risks (or as my Dad, an engineer who wrote his PhD thesis on road safety, used to say: "People tend to worry most about things they least control.") For example, worrying about nuclear bombs, while also smoking cigarettes or having a poor diet.

Fact: according to data accumulated over many years by the US Coat Guard of accidents and injuries related to boating in the US, on average every year 4 people die on a boat the size of mine, and only 2 of those are from drownings. (Note also the greatest danger -- accounting for more than half of all deaths and injuries -- is consuming alcohol and being inattentive.)

In comparison, 2 people a day drown in a bathtub or hot-tub in the US.  

So why don't bathers have to get a large, heavy, expensive life raft for the bathroom!?

Just kidding. 

Of course there are many more people taking baths than going sailing. (Note also, in real life, getting into a life raft should be your absolute last option and is usually more dangerous than staying aboard a damaged vessel as long as it still floats. Many sailors deployed life rafts during the 1998 Sydney-Hobart race, but were never found while their abandoned boats were found still afloat.)

But still, is this a rational expenditure, considering the infinitesimally small chance of ever resorting to using a life raft for an actual emergency, and that the money/space/weight could be used for other safety gear that is far more likely to provide an incrementally greater improvement in security (like an automatic fire suppression system.)

Well, now we're talking about perceptions of danger rather than realities, and so psychology kicks in rather than just number-crunching. After all, how do you value a life for example, and judge when a risk to life is worth it? If we follow the "even if it can save just one life, you should take whatever precautions are possible" standard of care, then should we be sailing at all? I mean, if we were really to follow that standard then every bathroom should have its own life raft, in real  life, because it can potentially save two people every day. Of course we don't go to that extreme either. No, we judge risks and outcomes and then make what we hope are informed decisions, or at least good bets. But we never judge right because we're human.

For example we have the Fear Premium: the amount you're willing to pay beyond what is strictly justified by the actual risk itself,  to avoid a particular outcome which you consider so awful as to be intolerable and to be avoided no matter how unlikely, and even at much greater cost.

Fear is by definition an irrational response, driven primarily by emotions; arguing facts and statistics will not change that because it just isn't about rationality in the first place. And we all are very predictably subject to fear. There are entire industries built on irrational emotions and fear is the main one, followed by guilt. Look at any, say, baby magazine for expectant parents and just see show page after page, it evokes and appeals to fear and guilt: You're going to kill your baby and you're a bad mother for not buying this or that. Of course we all would like to think that we exclusively are somehow immune to such appeals because we are uniquely more intelligent than the next guy -- which is what the next guy also thinks... and which is itself also proof of our irrationality. 

So anyway after I argued the statistics, the raft salesman right away invoked the Fear Premium: "What if you have guests on board and you're sinking? Will you tell them there's no life raft ... as the sharks surround you?"

Oh you sob!, I thought, because we both knew the answer, statistics be damned. (Not sure which was supposed to kill me first in such a scenario btw, the sharks or the guilt of not having a raft for my friends.) So, I  got a raft: a 4-person Viking RescYou Pro offshore, self-righting one too. I plopped the valise into my lazarette locker;  a piece of expensive gear that in all likelihood will never be actually used.

Hope you lot feel better now.

All the while, I was thinking of Cass Sunstein's book, "The Laws of Fear; Beyond the Precautionary Principle" on how and when paying the Fear Premium may be justified.

So in short, Yes friends, you can relax: I do have a life raft on-board and know how to use it, in case we're ever sinking.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Random photos

Checking out the new Outremer catamarans at the Miami Boat Show last year

Laminating fiddles for the chart table

Box full of folding mast steps, to be installed.
Yet another pending project.

Another day in the yard

They call it a torture board for good reason

Cruisers are a different breed, working late on their boat