Monday, December 21, 2015


I've been dreaming about a different boat.  Altair and I have gone many miles that she hasn't always wanted to go, and I have been frustrated by a number of things in my boat.  I've come up with a list (and checking it twice) of things I'd like to have in a dream boat.  Would you like to hear?
Ericson 27 drawing on
1) Space for toys.  Altair is small, and so there isn't much space for anything, but I have found that in pretty much every boat I've seen cruising around, the original designers put a bunch of space in for people, but not for toys.  Altair was designed to sleep 5 people!  I think there needs to be a reality check there.  In this picture you can see the different berths for people to sleep in, and I have changed the boat around a huge amount in order to make it more usable for cruising. I made the double berth in the front into a storage spot, the Setee berth on the port side (upper in the drawing) is all part of the galley, and the starboard settee is now a bigger berth for two.  In addition, I have a kayak hanging off the port side of the outside of the boat, and three surfboards hang off of the railing on the starboard side.  Then we have a dinghy that goes on the front deck.  So toys basically have taken over the whole boat from the outside view.  Ericson didn't include a place to put things (like a dinghy) in the original design.  OK, so I want more space for toys.

2) An Engine Room.  Altair has the engine crammed under the stairs and if there is a problem, the oil drains down into the bilge to smell up the whole boat, any exhaust leaks go into the cabin to asphyxiate any humans there, and it is really noisy.  I can imagine an engine room that has its own bilge, lots of noise reducing insulation and a separate air ducting that keeps any smell or carbon monoxide away from the living space.  A CO2 fire system could also be installed and if you set it off, it would flood the engine room with CO2 and put out a fire, but not make the entire boat un-livable.  So I want an Engine Room.

3) Easy to put things away and go sailing.  I like sailing, so I want to be able to do that, and quickly.  Right now on Altair I have to put the dinghy away (or leave it behind) and that is a pain in the butt.  Also, the surfboards on the side are not the most seaworthy, and it would be nice to have them safe from getting hit by big waves.  The solution is really the first goal: Space for toys, but easy to get in and out from.

4) A diesel Electric system.  I want to have an electric drive motor to push the boat because it is easy to maintain...  There isn't much to break on an electric motor.  The diesel generator can then be put in an engine room and into a box to keep it quiet, and out of the way.

Ok, so I have these goals, and I have been thinking about a design that would accommodate them.  First of all, a super wide transom has the benefit of having lots of room in the back to put a dinghy garage (a little compartment in the back that you can stuff all your goodies into)  Here is an example of a wide transom: (from
Also to note is that there are two rudders on this boat (an open 60 race boat) and so there is lots of room in between the two rudders for stowing stuff.  They aren't using that room at all on this open 60, but just keeping it open for walking around.  I would make the cockpit nice and high, and have a cave under the cockpit that would be completely watertight and have a nice big wave-proof door on the back and lots of fun watertoys inside.

Forward of the cockpit I would put the living space, in the shape of a rectangle, with a wall (bulkhead) that completely seals off the space in front and behind the living space.  So there would be three sections to the boat; the Aft compartment which includes the garage, the living space in the middle, and the forward section which would include the engine room, the head, a storage room, and then the chain locker (as you go forward).  The Engine room would be right over the keel, centrally located and well insulated from the living space, and also it would have one of those waterproof doors to go to and from the living space.  The head (bathroom) would be next to the engine room, and have a shower and also a waterproof door, so you could take a shower and not worry about steaming up the boat or filling the bilge in the main cabin.  I would hope the bilge in the main cabin would stay completely dry.

I'm working on this design and thus far I have a plan for building it out of aluminum, so it would be all chunky and lots of flat surfaces, but I can also imagine it being made of fiberglass.  Unfortunately, I don't want to build it myself, nor do I have the funds to do so.  I'd rather find a hull that is acceptable for my goals and modify it to work, but I don't know if that is possible, since this wide transom design with two rudders is a more modern idea.
Here's a screen shot of the basic shape, but there are no rudders, no keel, no deck, no cockpit deck, and not back garage door.  It wouldn't have a giant open cavity on the back, but that is just for showing how big I'd like the garage to be.

Fire twirling in Virginia

 I'm not in Mexico right now.  In fact, I'm not really that close to the ocean at all...   We flew up to Lindsay's hometown, in Richmond, Virginia, for Christmas.  It is packed full of food and family and last night.... Fire!  I got a few pictures and figured I could share them.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Yelapa and birds

 I've been told by an old Alaskan veteran naturalist that "to become a birder is inevitable."  If you spend enough time outside you will start to love the birds and get a pair of binoculars slung around your neck.  Any avid reader of this blog will know this happened for me years ago, but I went to Yelapa yesterday and sought out some of the birds that wade and flutter around the river over there.  The river was full of water and fishes.  And birds.  Here are a few photos.
Before going to Yelapa we sailed (and motored) out from Punta Mita, across bandaras Bay, to near Cabo Corrientes.  The water out there is super clear and we saw tons of fishes, with about 80 ft of visibility.  We also swam with dolphins on the way across, just jumped off the boat and swam for a while with them.  They were a new kind of dolphin for me, a "ragged toothed dolphin"
Now there is a hurricane coming and I am hanging out near La Cruz to be close to the marina in case we need it.
The birds:  Black Necked Stilt.  Then Magpie Jay, then Yellow Grosbeak.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Hanging around the bay

As you might be able to see from the picture, I am swinging from the mast like a monkey.
Bandaras Bay is quite warm, and after the scare from hurricane Patricia, I figured the season was winding down.  I am not quite sure, but looking at the forecasts for the area, it looks like there is another punch waiting.  And i don't know if we'll dodge it.  There is another storm brewing off the coast of El Salvador, that is predicted to come out, go past the headlands of mountains that protect the bay from the south, and then come sweeping in from the west.  Just like Hurricane Kenna did in 2002.  If this happens, I am not sure what I'll do.  Kenna destroyed a lot of Puerto Vallarta and the towns to the north.  The storm also took out the Marina La Cruz, the one that i will go into to hide.  They rebuilt it, and hopefully they did a better job of it, but nothing can really stand against a big storm.  So stay tuned to any hurricane forecasting site to see the epic battle between winds waves and fiberglass.  I will make sure that my person will be safe and sound, regardless of the state of my fiberglass.
That is all conjecture, but I am a bit worried about it.  You never know what the weather will hold.  In other news, the surfing is nice and the water feels great to be in, because it is so warm.  I am waiting for it to cool off, but El Nino is not going to let it happen that soon.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A swimming hawk

 We woke up today and watched the birds flying around.  There were pelicans plunging into the water after the little fishes, then the boobies diving in from the heights, and some little  Black Terns, and some Elegant Terns too.  Then we spotted a bird I didn't recognize...  It was floating really low in the water with a funny looking bill for a sea bird.  It was a hawk!  We got into the skiff and went over to it to help, and pulled it from the water with a net.  We set it on the deck to dry out, but after a bit it tried to fly away and didn't go far, back into the wet.  This time I got it and put a sock over its head to keep it calm.  We got it to shore and gave it a fresh water shower to get the salt out of the feathers and then the guards from the marina took it in and put it in a cage.  Later on they said it flew away, so I hope it is ok.  It was a "Grey Hawk" according to the bird book.  I am really impressed by the size of the eyes.  Also its feet were super strong and have great big knives on the ends of the toes and I got a bit cut up.  Not too bad though.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Return to Mexico, and a summary of the Fall

 I am back in Mexico again, and back on Altair.  My trusty sailboat was anxious to get out and moving, and I believe she was nervous about the big Hurricane that came nearby not long ago, but she was spared any damages from that by the Sierra Madre, the mountains that protect this area, much like the pantheon of Olympus would protect the underlings in Greece.  Hot, humid conditions, however, are taking their toll on the machinery, and I am doing my best to do battle to that.  Last wednesday, I took Altair out of the marina and out to go surfing, to my normal haunts and anchorages near this area.  A dark cloud sprung up from the south and the extremely warm water (which was 90 degrees F) fueled the convection frenzy.  The winds howled and I shivered with fear and the lee shore drew closer, but through the night the anchor held and we passed through the storm without too much trouble.   It was the biggest storm I've seen here, winds over 40 kts and waves near 8 ft.  It turned out that the Hurricane wasn't the big problem, but rather an unnamed storm that gave me the biggest scare.
Before Mexico, back up in Bellingham, I got a few pictures.  One of sunset at my brother's house, and one of his best man's daughter, in a bucket, the highlight of the wedding presents.
 And on the trip down, in which my friend Wes and I drove, we stopped in the middle of the desert in Arizona and I got a few shots of a cactus.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pre-Patricia (and post)

I haven't been down to Altair yet, but I am on my way.  I'm not sure what I will find, because Patricia hasn't really finished.  I know that storm is really big and huge, but Altair is in a marina and I hope she comes out all right.  I don't  know, much depends on the mountains and the storm.
I, however, am totally all right.  I am driving south with my friend Wes, to go to our boats, and we have just crossed the border into Mexico today, and are in Hermasillo.  I'll try to give an update when i know more, but I am OK.

Everything turned out all right.  Altair is getting her wings back on slowly and I have to do some things, but we'll get out sailing soon.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Lego Sailing

In between "sailing" in Alaska and sailing (with sails) in Mexico, I have been sailing a bit in Seattle.  My friend Danny and I were racing his boats around in a pond and I decided to make a short video about it.  I know it is cheesy, but I had a good time making this.  About 10 more days till I head down to Mexico.

And here's the video:

Monday, September 28, 2015

End of Season

I'm back in Seattle now, with another season behind me.  I made a video from this season as well.  Actually, two videos...  The first one was from the beginning of the season and the second is from the end.

Here's the second...

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Last Juneau

 I saw Sitka for the last time this past weekend, and all I could think about as I walked about the town and at the bridge was my friend Ty Jones.
Then, I got back aboard the Wilderness Discoverer and my mind was wiped clean by the torrent of all sorts of things going on at once.   We stopped again at Pavlof harbor and there were bears there.  Mama with her little cubs have gotten a lot bigger!  This other bear is what I would like to call "papa" but I don't know.  The days are blending together and I am getting more and more mindless.  I can't remember any names anymore and the sun rises quite late and sets early.  Alaska is settling down for the long dark days ahead.
Still, there is beauty in the world.  A beam of sunlight shone down on John's Hopkin's inlet and we passed through it and found the fall colors delightful.

  I did the hike up the side of Lamplugh Glacier this week and we went high on the hillside overlooking the ice, then clambered down to it to get a closer look.  Looking up at the blue ice is magnificent, and the rocks that might cloud the surface fall off, so the ice is relatively clear.  The tops of glaciers tend to have a lot of dirt on them, but the bottoms are drippy and clean.  And shine with a blue dream.

 Pam was driving one of the skiffs and I got this shot, one of my best this season, I think.  She might have been traveling at mach 2.
 Just as we got to the bottom, we looked over and the ice calved in front of us.  It was magical.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Airplane! Salmon!

 It is feeling like Fall up here now, but I got my first float-plane ride last saturday!  The salmon are running like mad everywhere and it is wonderful.  I don't have much time to write, but I m eager to put up more photos and to be back in the world again.  It is raining up here.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Top of the season

 This week rained almost the whole time, and though I love this time of year, the season is winding down towards winter.  All the early season sunshine is a distant memory, back in the foggy recesses of Misty Fjords.  We'll go to Misty Fjords this next week, on a trip to a huge number of places I haven't been to before.  Now is the age of Exploration!  I'll talk about that in a week though.   We went to McBride Glacier this week, and I love it there, because there is so much ice.  Tons and tons of ice, everywhere and we don't get to go there often.
Here's a picture of some things I saw on one special skiff tour this week.  A bear from close up, eating salmon....

A dipper that didn't want to fly away...
 And a swimming deer.
 This is a portrait of my boot, because I have a new lens that I was trying out.
 And the beach in front of Riggs Glacier
 And at last, my new kite set-up flying high above the world.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Icarus, etc.

I flew too high, too close to the sun.  I didn't have wax wings, but they were destroyed by the hubris of heights, the awesomeness of altitude.  Also they were betrayed by the malice of monofilament.  I broke my kitestring, while flying my faithful kite up in the air above Golden Gardens park in Seattle.  Sadly, the kite flew itself out into the water (the puget sound) and also the camera (and my beautiful new slider set-up before drowning in the picture) were dropped from on high down into the depths.  It was a pretty sight, and no doubt will make a good video, should it ever be recovered, but it came down like a meteorite.  Gravity is quite effective.  So I lost all my stuff.  The next day (yesterday) I went to Glazier's Camera shop in Seattle to buy a new GoPro, since I am out one.  I ended up spending almost 1000 bucks.  Oops.  Luckily, my companion in kiting, The sage that I learned my high flying camera work from, Danny, was near a kite store (in Ventura, CA) where it is possible to get the same kite I flung away, and so I have two coming my way.
 I still need to rebuild my slider rig.  It used the most cute little pulleys you could ever see, tiny little things that cost 15 bucks a piece, and then there was a piece of the fishing rod that I use for flying the kite.  And a nice gopro mount that I will miss.  I'll make another one.  I have two of the pulleys still, and I'll find some piece of lightweight rod to make it around, but I still think I can do better than this.
Ok, enough of that.  I'm mostly through with my break this time around, but I have a few more days.  In the past two weeks I've been out canoeing and hiking in the North Cascades, and I got to see some Cedar Waxwings.  (see picture) On that trip we also went up to see Nooksack Falls, a beautiful waterfall on the Nooksack River up from Bellingham.

 So when I went to the camera store yesterday, I got myself a new lens, a 35mm lens.  I've been believing that I need this kind of a lens for a while, so here I am trying it out.  This one is a video lens, and it has some cool features, it is made by Rokinon, and has these little gears for adding focusing externally.  It is a Manual focus Lens, and is also manual aperature.  Maybe I won't like this as much as I think, but I am happy with it for now.  Here is a picture of some technology juxtaposition for starters....  The captian of the Orion busy with navigation...

 This lens is F/1.5, so that means it is super wide in the pupil, and if you ever went to the eye doctor and came away with those funny sunglasses after because they gave you dilating eyedrops, you understand that you can't focus on things.  This is because you have a huge aperture, and lenses with huge apertures have really narrow depths of field, which means that only a tiny bit is in focus at a time.
 It is a neat effect, so I took some pictures on the docks...

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More about Kites

If you've been following my stuff for a while you will notice I have a fascination for kites.  I fly them a lot and they are useful for sending up a camera to see the lay of the land or video something cool from above.  I just put together a short and crappy video to show the different angles that I have found useful in sending a video camera up.
Here it is:

The first scene is where I am sending the camera up by letting out kite string.  The boat I am on is moving through the water (and the air) and causing a sort of "wind"  that I am using to fly the kite.  When I let the string out, the camera (which is on the string) goes out as well.

In the second scene, I have plucked the kitestring and the kite slider (with the camera on it) has begun to decent the kitestring, towards me.  Because it is sliding on the string, differences in tension in that string don't cause it to pitch forward or back, so it is smoother.

In the third case, I have it sliding, but I am also letting the kitestring out, so the tension on the string is low, and the camera can do a near "free fall" towards the water.  I stop letting the line out when the camera is close to the water, hence causing it to come sliding along towards me.

In the fourth case, a case I am still working on, I have rigged the kitestring to go out to the kite, then come back to me.  So if I let out 200 ft of kitestring, the kite will only be 100 ft away from me, because the string goes out and back.  It turns around a carabiner clipped to the kite, which serves as a pulley.  Then I connect the camera to the end of the kitestring (which I have), and have it slide up.  When I let the camera go, it is pulled by the kite, which goes from 100 ft out to 200 ft away, pulling the camera up with it.  Eventually the camera ends up 200 ft away.

Then photos that try to show the set-up I am using.
 The slider, showing the front and rear carabiners that I use as my sliding pulleys.  Not a very slick slide, but it works.  The important thing here is to make a stiff backbone so that the camera points down the direction of the kitestring, so that will keep it stable (sort of).
 Here is the rear carabiner holding on to a knot in the kitestring.  When I pluck the string (and hopefully not before) the carabiner hops over the knot, then the slider begins to slide down the string (the monofilament fishing line) and to me.
 My kite spool is a fishing reel, as this is great for storing lots of line and bringing it in or sending it out in an organized fashion.
 Here is the setup for when I send the camera up and out, where the kite pulls the camera up and out.  Note that the kitestring goes from fishing reel, to kite (via sliding clips on slider) then around the kite's pulley (the silver carabiner) and back to the camera.  The string does an "out and back" loop, and the tension from the kite pulling up brings the camera up the string.
 Closer look at the "pulley"

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mid Summer

 I'm on break now, but this is a post about my last week in Alaska (until three weeks from now).
It is High Summer right now, and the salmon have just started to run.  I love the salmon, I love how they jump out of the water and fight the current and go up the rivers.  I love how they taste too.
So do all the animals.  This mama brown bear caught two while we were watching.

 Also this past week, I saw my first Octopus!   It was being eaten by a Sea Otter though... Sad.  An Epic battle between Sea Otter and Krakken!  (see picture below)

 Of course I love puffins, wouldn't you?