Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The New Bulwer-Lytton Prize is awarded

I have edited this because my links to AP/First Coast News wouldn't link to the story, so I went to the Official Bulwer-Lytton site;

David McKenzie, 55, of Federal Way, Wash., won the grand prize in San Jose State University's annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest with this:

"Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the "Ellie May," a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests."

I would read that novel! It has everything; Ellie May (Who can't fondly remember her?), boats, rum and best of all a free thinking Captain.

There are probably some useful passages in this blog that might be Bulwer-Lytton worthy.

"...And there I was..."

Go read the story at the link.

I have ordered another scanner for the Barco Mac. Unlike the nice Canon MX 860, this one will scan Negatives. I have hundreds of pictures that I haven't seen in years, and I think it might be faster than scanning each photo. Plus, there will be some gems that have been unseen for up to twenty years. Or, it could be another sign of my lack of computer awareness.

Ninety seven bucks towards the salvage of our economy, right?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Here is the picture of the Plaque I mentioned earlier

Whenever I am searching for that one thing, I inevitably locate something else. Here is one of the photo's searched vainly for the other day.

Today, I was in the hunt for something else and wound up with this:

I think we had this little outdoor gathering at the home of the former Lord Mayor's home at St Katherines Dock. It was the first really nice day of 1997, probably late in March. Check out the Tower Bridge.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Waterspout Video From jax.com

Friday Evening

There was an eventful Friday planned; First, Someone had to go to Michigan for a wedding, and it wasn't this Unit. So I went to work and The Spousal Unit went home to her family, leaving me to my own devices.

Second, I had invited Mom to dinner, but I wasn't sure if I wanted to stay home or go to the Club. So I checkened out and took the path of least resistance.

We went to the Club!

AS we were driving over the Ortega Bridge, Mom says excitedly; "What the hell is that!!??

I was kind of annoyed, as I was driving to avoid being run into by the commuter rush. So I answered, "What?"


I looked to my eleven o'clock and spotted the biggest darn waterspout I have ever seen in these parts.

"Whoa.. that's a waterspout... And it is looking like it is over the Yacht Club!"

I sped down Roosevelt to Yacht Club Blvd and made a Left, and slowed down to get a picture.


The Yacht Club staff had better pictures, too. It sat off the Yacht Club for about ten minutes and then headed to down town Jax.

No damage, no runs, no hits and no errors.

So we had a couple of drinks and went to our table at the Formal Dining Room.

The normal happened, we ordered Filet's and a bottle of Chateauneuf De Pape. Of course, Mom and I had a grand old time which was capped off by Port and Cheese. We went into the Pirates Den for Piano Music played by Roger the Piano Player.

2230 came and we got a cab home for Mom, I had a beer to go and I retired to the Barco for a nightcap, some Bob Marley music and finally hit the hay at 2330 with Hyacinth in attendance.

SO I am now up and at'em at the crack of 0900 and preparing to do my normal running around uselessly, gathering parts and doing the chores.

Beautiful day in Jax and I hope everything goes well for all of ewe!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Frostbite Rally Feb 1997

The Marina, St Katherine's Dock, owned and managed by Taylor Woodrow, was actually quite the dynamic sailing community. Each year, they sponsored a "Frostbite Rally" (How true!) where sailboats from throughout the Thames community would come out, endure very cold weather for a chance to shake out the sails and race to Erith Yacht Club. And back.

You see, a person cannot just sail any old way they desire... You will comply with the tides. No other way to go east or west without the water pushing you. Unless you have a motor. Big motor.

Digression time: I have been reading Samuel Pepys' diary online, and I noticed that when ever the author had business at the Docklands (Pepys was based closer to Charing Cross) he would take a boat. 1. It was safer. A person could get hurt once he passed by the Tower and entered the very dangerous East End. 2. It was faster. If you go with the tide, you could really get up to 7 or 8 knots! So I noticed in his diary that he would inevitably wind up having a meal or staying all day at his business location. When the tide reversed he could get a boat and man to take him home. Oh, there was that little problem of Plagues and such...

Digression off.

So, in accordance with the tides, we had a start time of High tide starting to ebb. We could get to Erith in about an hour and a half, or so.

Naturally, I had absolutely no idea of the tides and wherever the heck Erith Yacht Club was or the distances involved. I got a local Pub Manager and my buddy Paul Ferris to crew for us. No doubt, it would be a great time!

Friday comes, and we waited in vain for Paul to show up. He showed up in a suit and tie, completely hammered at 0500 Saturday, Race day. I was not amused. All Paul could say was, "You should have been there, Tatty Bogle's was awesome, there were so many hot women, I have eveeedence..."

I put him to bed and got out and began preparing the boat for departure.

About 1100, we got underway to make progress to the lock and once out to loiter around the starting line. Paul was up and at'em at the crack of noon, seeming none the worse for his all nighter in So-Ho.

In fact, Paul asked for a cold one as he began to survey our sail situation. He started running up and down the boat, pulling this, adjusting that, while carrying a full beer, while nursing what had to be a full blown 'gover, I was impressed.

As we traversed the West dock's bridge and entered the lock, people were beginning to notice our bimini top and full plastic forward enclosure. In fact, the locals were laughing at what they called "The Bloomin' Greenhouse". There was much hilarity, indeed.

We made our way out and headed for the Tower Bridge, about a hundred yards away. The Start line was at the Royal Naval Reserve Dock. All the boats zigged and zagged, I tried to keep us to the West, near the bridge to avoid colliding with the aggressive racers.

Again, we were made fun of and mocked for having the "liveaboard boat" with a greenhouse. The British are very proud of their sailing skills and are fierce racing competitors. But I still felt a twinge of resentment for being mocked.

Finally the starting gun sounded and we had a flying start. I think we were last over the line, but no bother. There was a fine Westerly breeze, blowing maybe ten knots. Add in the water speed of five knots and we had a net speed of about five knots of wind.

We passed one, then two, three, twenty boats in fast procession. It turns out that our old, blown out main and 150 Genoa were baggy and round, making an excellent shape for down wind running. Paul and Nigel, our crew were flitting about adjusting trim while I steered us gently, trying not lose speed with excess rudder inputs.

Here, we are passing Greenwich and the Cutty Sark.

I was really surprised that we had passed all the boats, save one, a brand new 49 foot Swedish boat with new sails and a ringer crew. (read ringer as "Professional") I think if we had another five miles that we would have passed them, too!

Approaching the Erith Yacht Club, we heard the finish gun. It was quite confusing to me, since I didn't use a chart and had no idea where we were. Paul and Nigel were the only one's who knew what was going on.

They were cheering and yelling, hootin' and hollerin', the nearest competition behind us was over a mile back!

Ok. It was a second place finish, but hey; The tone was much more respectful that evening in the club bar. Plus, we barbecued four T-Bone steaks on our grill, while tied up in the mooring field. Many lustful glances were made as the meat bubbled and burned over the open grill.


At the bar, located on a beached disused ferry, we made merry in that great ferry bar and made friends with some of the other boats and crews. There was too many "Barley Pops", and I got the notion that our friends were keeping us up late. Maybe on purpose.

Reveille came at the crack of 0700. We shrugged off the cobwebs and faced a freshening breeze out of the West. We were second over the start line and began the tacking up the Thames routine.

I forgot to mention that the cats were onboard. They puked and cried from fear, especially with the slam and crack of each tack. One cat took refuge in our bed, burrowed under the blankets shivering in fear. The other one took to hiding in the wine bottle locker, each tack shoving full wine bottles back and forth.


Nevertheless, we had a mission on that windy and rainy day: Make it home! As we zig and zagged, we got progressively closer to the apartments and businesses (All built of brick!) and dodged large mooring balls. Paul would say, "Wait for it.... wait..."

I would say, "water is getting shallower, we're gonna hit bottom!"

Paul would continue cooing, "... miles of room, gallons of water--TACK!"

This exchange went back and forth, about thirty times. Finally, even Nigel was having enough of Paul's recklessness; "Dammit Ferris, this is their Home, for Gawd's sake!"

"Miles of room, gallons of water... look; we're gaining on them!"

View of the boats behind:

Finally, we arrived at the Tower bridge and I think we wound up third over all, before the PHRF times were adjusted. We locked through and enjoyed a great post race party. We were "Mentioned in Dispatches". Not too bad.

A couple days later, we received a note from the Taylor Woodrow organization, we were invited to Lunch with the Former Lord Mayor of London, Sir Robin Gillet (Lotsalaphabetafterhisname). I have pictures of that lunch, but haven't dug them up. They were nice enough to give us a Plaque in honor of our participation in the Frost Bite Rally of 1997:

Too much fun!

I was looking for some other pictures and found this

This picture was taken in January 1991. I was standing in the back of the Hangar watching a distinguished visitor give a speech. Pretty much so far back as to be able to beat a hasty escape once the talkin' was done. Not to be...

This person came off the podium and headed straight for me, passing two of Chicago's finest to grip skin with me.

I felt like an idiot and had no idea I was photographed, otherwise I would have combed my hair (I had hat head). I wanted to murmur something about leaving the "e" off of a root vegetable, but the C.O. would have kicked my butt until there was no butt left to kick. (That C.O. went on to make Vice Admiral)

The VP seemed like a nice fellow, too bad the Press savaged him relentlessly for a spelling faux pas.

My past brushes with Political types was being the crewman on an SH3D/H with James Webb (Assistant Sec of Navy) as our VIP Pax. I said "Hello" to Dianne Feinstein once, when she was Mayor of San Francisco at some Navy League Function when I was a Navy Recruiter. (Feinstein was thought of as being extremely friendly to the Navy).

I would offer that I am just cruising through and bump into interesting characters here and there.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Moving to a boat in a far off land

We were out of our flat by the end of the month, so that meant some rapid planning and execution. There was furniture to store and two closets worth of clothing. Fortunately for me, I had a little pickup truck to haul this gear.

There are no "pickup trucks" in the UK. Funny looking Japanese and Italian Bob-Tails, but no proper pickup trucks. A family might own an "estate car", which is similar to the old station wagons, only smaller.

My other challenge was to find a Storage Facility. In the land of the PX, these places are everywhere. Too much crap in your house? No problem, mon. Drop it off here for a hundred bucks a month and we will make your problem disappear!

Of course, these storage joints have 24 hour access.

Not in the UK. Open Monday through Friday, 0800 to 1800. Saturday from 0800-1300.

That's right, we close on Saturday at one o'clock. Because we would like time with our families, too.


The good thing about those insane hours? I had to be done by 1300 on Saturday, leaving me plenty of time to sit at a Pub (The Old Monk) and whine about the injustice, like a little girl.

Can't be helped!

SO, I get as much of our trash stowed as possible, packed half of our clothing onboard an unheated boat and commence to living aboard.

The Cats were the last to arrive, they whined, cried and growled as we dragged them on the boat.

They really took to the close quarters, never thinking of leaving, but I think they really dug people watching and sitting outside. And they really liked the close proximity to their favorite human, the "Bringer of Food".

They were also useful for warming, especially since the temperatures soon dropped to freezing. We finally got some power cords, I had to take a train to Lymington, which is on the western side of the Solent, near the Isle of Wight. We made a night of it and stayed in a hotel and partied up in one of the local pubs. We met a very interesting character there, who said he had a Pub/Inn that we should come back and visit. I don't have the name, although I know we made a log entry with his info. This person will return to my story in three years.

One thing about being a foreign boat owner; We really met many people who were interested in being friends and would give tips on how to overcome Shop-Owner caused obstacles. Plus, many of our new friends wanted to go sailing with us.

Our first problem was resolved with power cords. this meant we could put in a transformer (220 to 110) to run our battery charger and we could plug in a heater.

This is why we needed a heater. These photos show the ice in the water, I used to throw coins onto the ice and hear the "Ting Ting" of metal on hard ice.

To stay warm on weekends, we would visit "Fran", a 60 foot wooden boat owned by an Expatriate American. They had a coal stove onboard. Toasty! They were very good friends who enjoyed a cup of cheap wine and having guests.

The next challenge happened when the propane (for the stove) ran out. The local propane dealer refused to help us in any way. They wanted us to spend 400 pounds to redo our system to meet British standards. When I asked to buy parts to match they threw us out of the store, saying they can't help us unless we complied with the law!
"Please leave, we have regular customers to serve."

The Spousal Unit was near tears, and I was threatening the shop keeper with violent actions.

We were sick and tired of freezing, there was ice on the water and we wanted to be back in Florida in the worse way. Fortunately, there was a boat a couple of berths down called "Mad River".

These were proper cruisers who had some solutions for our cooking dilemma; Decant Propane from one tank to another!

You take a length of propane hose with two male ends and take a full tank, connect it with an empty tank. Turn the full one upside down, place the receiving tank on the ground or hold it lower than the full one. Open the receiver tank and then the full tank. The compressed gas liquid will flow to the empty one. The drawback is that you can't really get the receiving tank quite as full, no matter. You can rehook the tank and begin cooking, again.

Months later, I finally went to a camping shop in West Ruislip, a couple doors from the pub and train station. They were very helpful with my situation, sold me a couple tanks and I used teflon tape to connect them to my existing system.

Like I mentioned a couple days ago; There are shopkeepers in the UK who are happy to help anyone out. Don't count on it in London.

Next up: Our First Frostbite Rally!

Monday, June 22, 2009

After Mission Wrap Up

The "Mini-Cab" came and brought us out of the Docklands and returned us to our flat on Bishops Bridge Road. No small journey, this had us crossing through the City and into Westminster during the busiest time of day. It only cost us about a hundred bucks.

Can't be helped.
Here is the Map.

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This is why I took a cab. You literally cannot get from here to there. It takes a professional.

This is a view of our flat. We were in the Basement, and the round window was a favorite perch for the Jellicle Cat.

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We take our showers and prepared for the evening. Jacket and tie was required dress for the Little Ship Club, and one never knows who will be present on a Tuesday. One of the distinguished members of the time was a Former Prime Minister, I saw him once, but did not bother him. (But that person was not there that evening.)

We arrived at about 1830 and ran into the Club President, Robin Knox-Johnston. I was looking like quite the hero to our crew-person, Dave. We made the introduction and left those two chatting while we wandered the Club like real sailor-men, bragging about our brave trip from the Hamble River.

A quiet Moment by the Bar

Before we acquired Wildebeest III, we were treated like eccentric cousins who were probably in the Club on a lark and we were not true boaters. Most foreign members of the LSC tended to be Embassy types who liked boating but really liked drinking at a Private Club.

So we dashed all those stereotypes and went and bought a boat. We suddenly became interesting!

Our friend Paul Ferris (Truly, the most fun and craziest person, evah!) had been a very welcoming member who had been sailing on the Thames his entire life, came over to offer his help on moving the 'Beest to its home at St Katherines Dock. This is a good thing, since I have to be at work on Wednesday, and cannot hope to possibly get any more time away from my Naval Duties.

Paul Ferris

In the backsground is the Naval College at Greenwich.

Paul is a very funny, knowledgeable Jack of All Trades, known internationally for his pranks and for photographing what ever his exploits might be. Here is a typical Paul quote;
"Ohhh, you should have BEEN there, we had soooo much fun. "Here's the evEEEdence..."

(Digression; We were walking on the eastern side of Bequia, an island south of St Vincent. Some menacing islander youths came approaching Mother-in-Law, Spousal Unit and myself, and they were carrying machetes. At the final moment of approach, I was getting ready to be mugged and was preparing to defend/fight/run when one of these youths points to Mother-in-Law's camera and say in a fun tone, "EvEEEdence?" Truth!)

Digression OFF.

After staying up until 2330, drinking many beers and having closing drinks with The President, we stumbled on home via cab.

At 0700 I returned to the Navy, and Spousal Unit met Paul at the boat for further transit to St Katherines.

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The Tower of London is immediately to the West of St Katherines Dock.

The Lock at St Katherines, Wildebeest III making an entry.

I couldn't wait to get off work and see the 'Beest at her new home. I got over there about 1800 that evening and discovered that our new home was in a great spot. Right by the London Futures Exchange. CNN always shows St Katherines West Dock on their International Financial News, so we were near famous stuff!

The bad news was that there were no power cords available to get AC power to our boat. This situation would last a month.

More bad news; We needed to move on board in the next week, otherwise we would have to sign another year lease on the flat.


Friday, June 19, 2009

So. Where was I? (More T.I.N.S)

There I was...

It was now about 0430, and the boat was hauling along on the tidal current, doing about 7 knots and I was sticking to the navigational program, while desperately trying to keep awake. Dave was noticeably nervous too, and would poke his head up every few minutes to ensure that I hadn't nodded off.

Cold, damp, rocking back and forth while fighting nausea was not my idea of a good time.

We passed Ramsgate and soon entered the Thames Estuary and made the turn to the west. The winds calmed way down and the sun made its slow rise on our backs. Some coffee and some snackage made being awake a bit easier and we continued our mission to the St Katherine's Dock.

The Kentish coast was to our South, a mile or so away. Most people would think that our journey was getting easier, right?

It was.

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We were just past Margate and were steaming along quite happily, enjoying brekkies and coffee when the Customs Boat came flying up on our port side.

"Heave to, please", the Nice armed Customs man requested via loudspeaker.

I pulled back power and quickly, two men were onboard giving us all the look of "What are you doing..."

They began the 20 questions;

Who are you. Passports?

Where did you come from? Last Port?

Next Port? Where is your Original Importation Certificate?

"I gave it to the Customs Officer in Southampton", said I.

The Customs Guy; "Well, we need to have the Original, or we can seize your boat until you pay the 18% importation Fee."


Remember a few weeks ago, I mentioned that I made about 30 Original, signed copies?

Hah! I love it when my plan comes to fruition!!!

I gave the nice Man my "only original", and he made a note and of course, took it with him.

"What am I going to do if another Customs Boat comes along and needs my original Importation Certificate?"

"Oh, don't worry. They won't ask for one, since I have it." Said Leader Customs Dude.

After a few moments of regular chit chat, they gave us a "Cheerio, Welcome to the United Kingdom" noise and they were off.

Soon, we came upon some really ominous looking Forts on the water. I went to this website Maunsell Forts to let you see what we came upon on the misty waters.

They looked like "Imperial Walkers", or whatever George Lucas called them in the Star Wars series. Here is a advertisement for a Toy "Walker"

These were looking much more creepy in the foggy morning as we passed by slowly. Totally cool!

(Thanks to subterrain.org.uk for allowing non-profit use of these great Hywel Williams images!)

Apparently, these structures were finally abandoned in 1956 and squatters came in the mid-sixties and set up "pirate radio stations".

We zoomed along, not really cognizant that we happened to be on the right timing to have the tide push us into the River Thames, proper. We passed the Isle of Sheppey and the sunk Liberty Ship with warning signs all around. It seems that this vessel is still filled with thousands of 500 pound ordnance for the Army Air Corps and they government just didn't want to disturb the ship and its lethal cargo.

If a flea was to flatulate within 300 yards, we could all go up in a giant bang!

I tried to find the wreck on Google Maps, but mysteriously, it won't show.

Things that make you say, "Hmmmmm."

We finally got into the River, and things were really looking up. Dave went below to make lunch, which was Campbell's chicken soup with no water added. Pretty salty, but what the hey.

We were getting into the docklands and it was very industrialized. And that was when the fanbelt on the motor decided to let go.

Instantly, an alarm started squealing, letting me know that we were now overheating.

I immediately pulled to the right, heading to the nearest dock to effect repair. we tied up quickly and I went below looking for a fanbelt. I knew that there was at least four of them on board, so no problem.

While I was going through every locker in my hasty search, a Dock Official came up and said, "Uh, you need to leave, now".

I asked why, since we were trying to fix our boat?

"Look over there, mate. That ship is pulling up here and he will smash your boat because he needs to tie up now."

Start motor without fan belt, get underway in one minute and raise sails.

We were well and truly Clucked.

Now we began the most scary and exciting sail in my short career, tacking back and forth on the river trying to make way West, into a westerly wind. With no motor. There was only about another thirty miles to go, at a speed of five knots...

Tighten and set sail on port tack, go about two hundred yards, TACK!

Go on Starboard tack about two hundred yards, TACK!

Back and forth, trying to make way using all of our remaining strength to keep the boat intact and safe.

More later...

Ok. Back again.

So as we were bashing back and forth on a crowded and industrial river, I was down below tossing the boat looking for a fan belt.

"Didn't you make sure we had enough spares?" Asked my smarmy crew.

"Yes, I made sure there were spares, especially for the motor!"

I went through every locker, every drawer. No fan belts. I tried to find out any phone numbers to any marinas coming up. I got the number to Gallions Reach, called them, but the damned British Vodaphone cell phone was cutting out. All I got over the phone is that the marina was after the green crane.

Green Crane? WTF is the Green Crane??? I could see two green cranes. Neither of them hid the opening to a two hundred year old locked dock!

32 hours of underway time had really affected my temper and coherent, rational headwork. I was in a full blown panic because I was responsible and we were stuck, trying to tack against a wind and a now turning tide.


The Thames flows with the tide in excess of five knots. This is bad, since we can only go max - maybe seven knots.

Finally, I figures we were within VHF hailing distance and I tried calling. Turns out my radios only work one way, either outbound or inbound. We set on radio on International, and would call out while listening on the "U.S" set radio. (This was our cross to bear for the entire four year stay.)

Gallions Reach called back that they had us in sight!

We made about three more tacks and could just reach the marina, but when we turned in the tide would pull us back to the East! Maximum cursing and frustration!

I made a snap, command decision: I turned on the engine, ready to let it destroy itself in a last savage thrust to make it to safety.

There are no anchorage places in Downtown London. We would have to let the tide take us back to the Isle of Sheppey to find an anchorage.


I powered the boat while under sail/engine right up to the Lock that led to the quiet, closing-in-ten-minutes marina. I secured the engine as soon as the lines were in the dockmaster's hands!

We muscled the boat into the dock and over to a berth.

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The small red dot by the water is about the entrance to the marina. We scurried about and secured sails, put away gear and policed the boat to make sure it would be ready to move the next day. My crew needed rest and two of us needed a beer, yesterday.

It was now about 1700, and we had completed the most harrowing journey in my short sailing career, we had traveled about two hundred mile in varying conditions with a total lack of expertise and we felt very lucky to have had no real problems. We called up a mini-cab to take us home for some showers and clean clothes. It was Tuesday after all, and that meant Little Ship Club night!

There was a great sense of relief as we grabbed our bags. I went into the cabin one final time and grabbed the charts and opened up the Navigation Desk

I pulled the top up...


In the Navigation Desk. Not in a parts locker or tool box.


It goes to show; Whatever is lost will be found in the last place place you look.

Sail on, Wildebeest!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

T.I.N.S. Continued (Updated with a couple of pictures)

The Wildebeest III had a new stern and bottom paint job and the time for getting underway was upon us. We took a train to Portsmouth and a taxi to the Hamble Boatyard. Once there, we set about preparations to set sail the following morning. After setting up charts and making a good plan we decided to do a last meal at one of the pubs by the Royal Air Force Yacht Club.

Dinner consisted of pints of London Pride Bitters and plates of steaming Lamb Shoulder with mashed potatoes. I remember this because the price was so reasonable, about three British Pounds a plate! We limped back to the boat fully gorged and ready for sleep.

The next morning, pre departure jitters.

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Reveille was at 0500, and we started the mighty Perkins 4/108 and slipped our berth about ten minutes later. We headed Southwest down the Hamble and soon found ourselves in the Solent, which is the most popular sailing region of the UK. Once in the Solent, we kept in the center, passing the Isle of Wight to our starboard heading East while passing the Napoleonic Water Forts.

I have found some photos on another website, but I am waiting for permission to use them. Once again, I was not using a camera because I was quite nervous about our journey into the very busy English Channel!

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Update on the request; I sent a request for permission for a couple of photos of the Napoleonic Forts and received this;

With respect to your request we have around three approaches every week for our pictures

I'm sorry we have had to ask for a flat fee for one off reproduction 'publication' elsewhere

You'll notice our pictures have copyright notices

We are able to keep up with demand & do not want to dilute the relevance of our own site

Thanks for your interest

Oh well. I did indeed notice the copyright and though I don't know copyright laws with respect for international copyrights, I will respect theirs. There will not be any links to the great website with possible international buyers of the various products that this nice person has for sale. I wonder why I was not given a price list? I guess three whole requests per week is causing service fatigue.

But we note, they are keeping up.

The previous paragraphs show an example of the British Shopkeeper mindset; "Sorry, can't be helped..." The shopkeeper really never gives a rat's patootie about increasing sales or moving more products. They would just rather the stranger goes away. But there are some Shopkeepers in the UK who do really care about their clients and I remember them well, but I'm talking about ten, or so.

Oh well; I can return to the UK at anytime and stay at my Club on Bell Wharf Lane and I know at least thirty boatowners who will happily take me back to the Solent for a nice daysail with my own camera.

Thanks, UK Bob; for reminding me of my insignificance.

We passed Isle of Wight rapidly, since we happened to have the tides with us. This was the first time I had ever felt real tidal ranges and the effect on slow moving sailboats. We literally flushed like a toilet into the sea. I could see Beachy Head in the distance and thought that our journey would go smoothly and fast.

Ok everyone, say in loud unison; NOT!

After passing out of the Solent into the English Channel proper, I noticed that Beachy Head was staying the same size. It wasn't getting larger. We were beginning to rock side to side from the big Southerly breeze and the nice swells that came with those winds.

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I was getting a little seasick... Ok, I'm lying. It was serious seasick and the greenness of my gills was threatening to become a "technicolor yawn"! My insides had never felt that way on a boat, maybe a little bit of queesiness, but it always went away in a few hours.

This is the voice in my head talkin'; "Maybe it's because you have never actually sailed before!"

Oh yes, I was feeling it. And I was thinking about all the years of smack talking, talkin' loudly about sailing and cruising.

Heck, it was all I could do to keep from puking.

One good thing we discovered, the Spousal Unit has the insides of IRON! She could go below, despite all the bouncing around, mark a point on the chart, get sandwiches and generally hold the crew together.

The sun was beginning to set, got a quick picture of a seasick skipper;

Brighton. Zoom in on this, it is a great vacation spot and has a beach of pebbles, vice sand.

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After about six hours, the tide literally turned and we began flying towards the East. We soon passed by Brighton, which was the last Marina opportunity until Dover. Dover is a complete madhouse of movement, with a couple of ferry companies and a Hovercraft outfit leaving and entering the Dover terminal, shooting across the Channel to Calais, Dunkirk and LeHavre.

Biggify this Dover Picture and zoom in. Fascinating place to visit and a great way to go to France. Verrrry Busy!

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The sun was setting on us as Brighton was left in our wake. I went below to snooze for a while, hoping to feel a little better. Plus, I was hoping things would settle down and maybe even sleep and wake up in calmer waters.


As we approached Dover, all hands were summoned to keep a watch for fast ferries feverishly flying for French freedom.

That was seven words starting with "F". I win!

We began a slow turn to the Northeast. That was when I was given the helm and informed that I had to keep a course to the next waypoint. The Spousal unit and our nice Crew, "Dave K." went below to catch up on their naps while I gamely kept the 'Beest on her heading.

We were using a Garmin 45XL Hand held GPS, it was the most modern small unit at the time. Very accurate and very expensive. When you set a waypoint, a specific geographical place on the globe, the GPS will show a "highway" with the miles to go and direction indicated on the top of the screen. The picture literally looks like a road, with a right and left side with a line up the middle. The goal is to stay between the lines and don't drift too far to the right or left of your road.

I got the following picture of a Garmin 45XL from an auction site Please go there and buy this item. I still love the old Garmin 45XL!

Here is a good picture of the Highway:

So, anyway...

I was diddy-bopping along, heading Northeast and feeling very tired and not so seasick. I knew I was to the right of the path I needed to stay in, but the coast of France was about ten miles to the right and Kent was about eight miles to the left. What could possibly go wrong, right?

There was no chart in the cockpit. I couldn't know that we were on a collision course with the Goodwin Sands. Right in the center of the English Channel, an idiot collector of the highest magnitude!
(Not everyone who has wrecked at Goodwin is an idiot. Just me and a few others)

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The cluebat that hit me was watching the depth meter go from three hundred feet to 45feet in moments.

Oh, and the sound of big waves crashing on something. At first, I stayed quiet waiting to see what it was. Finally though, I played it safe and called all hands on deck.

"What's the matter", Dave asked quickly.

I gave a quick, "Depth just went from 300 to 45". We are clear of land.

"What's the Lat/Long?" Dave responded.

I gave the Latitude and Longitude.

After a moment of nervous quiet I get an agitated, "Turn to 280 degrees".

I didn't quite understand the call...

"Turn the boat LEFT, NOW!!!" Was Dave's yell.

So I did. Dave brought the chart up and showed how close we were to becoming the newest victim of the Goodwin Sands. Scared the H E double Toothpicks out of me, it did!

My resolution was that I was going to do what it took to get my navigation up to UK standards. I was rebuked for not paying enough attention to keeping the position inside the "Highway".

"But I was only a half mile to the right, what's wrong with that? Look at how far we are from France", I whined.

Meanwhile, we still had to get out of this mess and it was getting to be 0300...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hiding out in plain sight

Sorry for the lack of blogging; The J.O.B. is getting busy and everyone needs their insurance!

Over the weekend, we took Barco Sin Vela to the Navy Jax Yacht Club for the annual birthday celebration and barbecue.

I discovered that a fan belt had failed on the generator (a-hah!), so I went to Napa Auto parts (Sponsors of the 55 Michael Waltrip racing team) and found that they did not carry a 25 inch fan belt! It only took an hour and mucho hard work by the nice staff to find this out. Kohler Generators would prefer that I pay their prices for a hard to find belt.

So I get back to the Barco at 1315, and we prepared to get underway most rikky-tik. There was a huge storm cell approaching, but since thunderstorms travel from West to East, I thought we would skirt it and maybe get away as we headed South on the River.


This storm was hauling to the South, so I kept running the engines at 2200 RPM trying to avoid being beat up. We passed the Buckman bridge and began hearing the "Mayday" from a sailboat called "Liberty Call".

The Mayday described a small 17 foot Daysailer with three souls on board being capsized in the 50+ knot winds, just to the North of
View Larger Map">NAS Jax.

At that moment, we were being pelted with so much rain that the visibility dropped to twenty yards, I was driving by GPS and RADAR. Thunder was exploding around us and you could sorta see the lightning striking the water to our port.

I began a instrument guided turn to the North (We were already in the meanest part of the storm, may as well be useful) and increased speed to make it back to "Liberty Call". While doing this, I called on VHF 16 to Coast Guard Group Mayport and asked if I could assist in the rescue. Thankfully, they would not need us because Florida Yacht Club and Jax Fire and Rescue motorboats were inbound.

Barco would be a fine rescue platform, but I would prefer we had another crew person in addition to the Spousal Unit, especially if there is tough boat handling and maneuvering. But we were not rigged for rescue and we were having our own problems with the weather.

The Crew of the Barco is very happy that our past four boats are well fitted for 50+ knots of winds. We got caught in a similar storm in 1992 on a 23 foot sailboat and just about got wrecked.

Big winds make lowering sails difficult.

So we made it to NAS Jax and tied up. Then that storm turned 180 degrees and came right back! Pounded us into the dock, breaking a rub rail and ruined my good mood.

I really dislike the NAS Jax docks. I also hate that I couldn't have waited an hour before making our landfall, after all the storms left.

We enjoyed a very wet steak and lobster barbecue.

Sunday was a beautifully hot and sunny day! We took off after breakfast and headed South towards Doctor's Lake. The river had a nice Westerly breeze and we enjoyed sight seeing boats and nice houses. But it was hot and we made our way to the Yacht Club and secured from boating at 1500.

There are no pictures because I forgot about the camera on Sunday. On Saturday, different deal. I never seem to take pictures of hazardous moments on the water. Usually, I have my hands full of keeping us on the airy side of the ocean/river. Plus, I would hate to have rescuers find stupid photos of me and my crew in a perilous situation.

"What were you doing taking pictures instead of handling your boat safely?"

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Finally back to the Southampton T.I.N.S

The charts for our UK sailing have been found and I can start this tale back up. Buck has been talking about clutter and and such, but he has nothing on me. There is fifteen years of junk piled up in two back bedrooms with the bric-a-brack of three boats, charts, navigation tools and study materials never to be used again.

The charts were in two boxes, one in the cat bedroom and the other in a closet of the unused gym.

I tried out the new scanner, got the Southampton river scanned, but could not get the file to save where I want it. So that means I will try to get it up by evening.

Enter the Wayback machine...; October 1996, The Spousal Unit and myself were living in a ground floor flat on Bishops Bridge Road in West London. Our "Wildebeest III", a 1985 Morgan 43, had arrived in Southampton Dock for further transport to our new home at St Katharine's Dock, East London.

There is more than mileage separating East and West London. East London had five hundred years of a tough reputation; This is where the dock workers, construction types, and general tradesmen all live, eat, drink and sleep.

The West end tends to be more the Arts and good life people. Everything is really pricey and the people from the West End tend to be a little pretentious.

I really fit in there. Snicker and snort.

We spent about ten days making the two and a half hour drive, performing the maintenance required for a boat that would be required to make the arduous trip around the South East of England, and then rest in a harbor which would be our home for the next couple of years. We sanded the bottom, applied two coats of ablative cuprous oxide paint
to protect the hull from barnacles and algae, and generally re rig and update the boat for some hard use. Oh, and we changed the name of the vessel from the pansy name of "Wende" to the more manly "Wildebeest III", being the third vessel of that fine moniker.

You can see my 1994 Nissan Pickup, Left Hand Drive.

One snag we ran into was the lack of navigational charts being available for purchase of the South Coast of England. It seems that September and October are the months when sailing courses are taught throughout the coastal areas of the UK. So all the charts were gone and the merchants hadn't thought about reordering.

This was my first taste of the inefficiencies of living in England. They will not keep stock of anything on hand. There were no electrical cords or charts to be had. Anywhere.

London, at Adlard Coles Chandlery, by Liverpool station? No. How about the the big chandlery at Lymington, by the boatyard? No. None. Can't be helped.

I went to the CINCUSNAVEUR Command Center, where OS's and QM's were naturally gathered. Yes, they had some of the charts, but they weren't supposed to give any away. Digression time;

It reminded me of that M*A*S*H episode where the Doctor's are trying to get an incubator, but the Supply Sergeant has three on hand; Indeed, he is required to have three on hand and if he issues out one, why he would only have two left, wouldn't he? Digression off.

Quartermaster Chief; "We are supposed to have three charts, and if we give you one, we would not be compliant with our rules, sorry."

It just so happened that there would be a big formal party to celebrate the Navy's birth anniversary. Friday came and we dressed in our best formal wear and celebrated the Navy's birth day in style, while still trying to gather all the materials for the trip. It was a great Ball, held at the Park Place Hotel by Hyde Park in London. Our new N3, Captain Kirk L---- stopped by my table and asked how the boat saga was going.

I got my charts and an American Flag the next day. Funny how that works out...

Monday, June 8, 2009


The Saturday festivities started busily at 0700. Hurriedly, we made our way home from Barco to feed Meezers and gather up the Pettit Bateau, which was scheduled for a Coast Guard Auxiliary Safety Inspection.

I was due at the Club for a 0900 meetup, so I went outside to prep for tow at about 0815. You would think that I was giving myself plenty of time but you would be wrong. The over night rains put about 600 pounds of water into the boat, conveniently puddled in the center of the boat on the tarpaulin. So in with a small bucket I bailed.

The Bateau was finally placed on the tow hitch at about 0845, I made a beeline to the local fuel station to fill the empty tank. From there we sped to the yacht club parking lot where I found our Inspector waiting. It was 0900 on the dot. We failed the safety inspection because the adhesive registration letters/numbers on the bow were not spaced correctly.

Not spaced correctly.

Safety Inspection failure.

So we dragged the Inspector to the Barco, first things first, we brought out the documentation paper work and registration. Then we went through the boat. Our Documentation Number was located in the engine compartment. Then the sanitation system was verified for compliance with inshore dumping regulation. (The holding tank does not have a "Y" valve) and our inspector asked casually about life jackets.

Life jackets; We have a bag of eight type 3's under the steering wheel. Inside the lazarette under the helm is about another 12 jackets of various types. Setting out in the fly bridge, we have two type 1 open ocean jackets, and another four inflatable type 5's.

We don't have enough friends to fill all those life jackets.

What I didn't have: Up to date flares and the inland navigation handbook. I had purchased new flares when I acquired the Barco, so either I lost the new pyro technic's or they were liberated. As to that book, well, I had a copy on my last boat. So off to West Marine, where I purchased flares and that book.

I returned in time to pass the inspection, so Barco Sin Vela has a nice 2009 Coast Guard Auxiliary safety sticker that shows that for a moment in time, we are a safe boat.

The final question was if I had completed a safe boater (not online) course.

"Why, yes. "Royal Yacht Association Offshore and Open Ocean Yachtmaster. "Also, I was a U.S. Sailing Powerboat Instructor".

I showed my card. So the next question was whether I would consider joining the Auxiliary and help educate the public on boating safety?

Well, color me flattered! After failing my safety check for not having the proper numbers on my power boat.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron are doing a great job assisting the Coast Guard in water safety instruction, and we are a stronger nation for these great volunteers who do so much for the Department of Homeland Security protecting our waterways and generally keeping that extra eye out around this giant bit of infrastructure.

Personally, I would not mind helping out at the Coast Guard Group, manning a radio or watching a radar scope. But as for actually getting out there on weekends to do the thankless stuff?

Not sure. I would have to see if I could fit in. Kinda like being in the Sea Cadets, again. Only now my options for my time are so broad that I only have so much time for my own stuff.

I cringe when I see pictures of my Sea Cadet days. I certainly am not really keen on wearing uniforms anymore. Some folks want to wear a uniform to show off their ribbons and medals with whatever devices that go with the times of their service.

Perhaps we will visit the Auxiliary and whether we participate will be a definite "We'll see."

The rest of Saturday went bad, fast. We are in the middle of another monsoon, many inches of rain and no opportunity to go boating. The Trader Vic poker run was cancelled, so the Bateau sat in the rain. We discovered the bilge pump and its failure. I was bailing water in the rain, trying to keep her afloat.


The bright spot in a rainy gloom was watching the Red Wings remind the Penguins how a hockey game is played in Detroit. Gotta feel for those Penguin fans.

Sunday, we took Bateau out to run the tank dry. A half tank takes about an hour to run out. This has been established, out in the Ortega River. Swapped tanks and made our way back to the trailer.

When I pulled the boat out, I took the drain plugs out and watched rain water drain for about five minutes. No wonder the fuel consumption was high!

Repair plans: One: bilge pump will be removed and replaced. Two: Battery cables will be removed and replaced.

I can see a time when the Bateau will be used weekly, and she will be a breeze to operate and maintain. Ya just have to use these boats because inactivity is a killer.

Which reminds me; The Gym is calling...


My mind is making ashtrays in Akron, Ohio.

There is a little bit of news; I finally got a nice Canon Scanner/Printer which even has a "Gonkulator". Extra Credit to anyone who knows what a Gonkulator and the required Diagram which makes it work. There is a fresh 2009 iMac with a 24 inch screen to power the Gonkulator.

I have crossed over to the dark side. Next, I will probably want little bits of fruit to go in my beer and start watching the Lifetime Channel.


Seriously, I will be working at learning how to bookmark websites and generally operate this pricey computer gizmo.

I wonder if I will have to "rebuild the desktop" with each restart. Does Apple still have "Filemaker Pro"?

The cool thing about the new Mac, I had it out of the box and running on the net in two minutes. Plug the power in and plug the keyboard and mouse. The darn machine located five wireless networks almost immediately. Thankfully, my wireless net device is encrypted. But it is good to know that I might pile onto someone else's network.

I just need to relearn how to use this thing. Here is an example of the time that passed since using Gubmint Apple's: It has been a long ten years since I had to place a "brick" into the tower. Heh.

The HP photo system has really worn me out. Think about the H.A.L 9000 always trying to hinder your computer operation;

"Dave, you have a picture on your Yahoo! mail. Should I download?"

"Yes H.A.L., I double clicked it."

"Dave, I'm checking for virus's. There, no virus."

"Dammit, H.A.L, don't just show me a pop up saying there is no virus, just show me the fargin picture!!!"

"Dave, you shouldn't look at these pictures... there are laws."

"H.A.L.; open the picture."

"Dave, you know the protocol; You have to open the photo through HP Photo. Then, maybe I will let you see it. After you have looked in the thumbnail on the bottom tray, and you must hit "Edit" and resize, and save your edited picture in the appropriate folder."

"H.A.L., you are driving me nuts! There are SIX MORE PHOTO'S IN MY EMAIL, LET ME SEE THEM BEFORE I DECIDE TO EDIT!!!!!"

"Dave, No." "Besides, I'm not sure you should be getting photographs from Yahoo!."

It really takes me all afternoon to look at six pictures from Yahoo!. Firefox has to delay me, then AVG has to do the second anti virus search, all this from an email system that uses Norton to keep the baddies away.

They should change the "Norton" name to "Norton Buffalo". But that's just me.

Hewlett Packard; "I am already gone." Buh-bye.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cruising the 'Net

Today, I went searching on the web to see what was happening with the "Being Out There" couple, whose film I reviewed two or three months ago.

Mitch and Michelle are cruising their Downeast 32 from Cape Cod to the Chesapeake. They are actually cruising, while I am doing the j.o.b. and living on land. Go check out his well crafted blog and catch up on some really nice cruising. My favorite part was where Mitch discovered a little fire in the engine compartment.

Is my envy showing?

If it weren't for me having genuine fear of She Who Will Be Obeyed, I would run away from home and get out there and cruise the Barco. But She would be disappointed in me. That would be the worst punishment, ever. So I endure.

Ahh, just the smells of fresh air, and worrying whether the anchor is going to hold... I'm talkin' fun, now... Go check out Mitch's pictures.

Other than Buck and Ann, most of us don't really ever get a chance to make that big journey, just for the journey!

By the way, Ann has uploaded some great photo's from her ongoing trip to California.

On the Wildebeest front, we still have not acquired the scanner we will need to get copies of charts uploaded, sorry for the delays.

Have a great Navy Day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


Goodbye, to Roger and Janice of Beaujolais. They head back to the UK today, will return in early November when they will make a quick stop prior to heading South for Australia.

Sorry that I did not get copies of the photos from the weekend. My fail.

We will be returning to normal ship's routine as of tonight and it will be nice and quiet. No billiards, no keg beer and no fun.


Next boating sortie will be Saturday;
Saturday, June 6th
Cruise 2:00 pm, Dinner 6:00 pm, Band 8:30 pm

Our annual Trader Vic Party will feature live entertainment and the quest for the perfect Mai Tai recipe. Participants will ply the waters of the Ortega and St. Johns Rivers making stops along the way to pick up clues which will lead them on a great adventure. Dinner service begins at 6:00 pm, and the entertainment plays from 8:30 pm to 12:30 am with no cover charge! Make your reservations today.

I ripped this photo off from the Yacht Club Website:

The year of the picture is unknown, so are the characters and the Club would like anyone who does know any details to this "Trader Vic's" photo to contact the office.

Looks like a real good time, especially when they are still trying to locate culprits 45 years later. My kind of gig!

I have a choice of boats: La Pettit Bateau and the Barco. Barco will be more comfortable but the Bateau can haul donkey. It will depend on the weather and time available. Maybe the best choice will be to sit tight and not go at all.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

Have a fine, Navy Day.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday and still not finished

Hey there sports fans, busy weekend! Howabout those Red Wings? I feel for the Penguins' fans.

Friday night, I and the Spousal Unit hosted dinner at the Yacht Club. Again, they made us and our guests feel very special and it was a good time. Afterwards, home for an early taps since Saturday was going to be a very long one; as we intended to go to the Outback Crab Shack.


The temps were in the nineties as we slowly made our way South with nary a breath of breeze. I had the generator beating out it's monotone drone as our air conditioning system gamely tried to keep things cool. There was a difference, below decks and every so often we would make excuses to head below for something. After three hours we arrived at the dock expecting a full house, but found it bereft of big boats. Only the go-fast boats that make their own cool breeze were in attendance.

We checked in at the gator, and I prodded our small group to dine indoors. Out of the sun with a little of the cool air wafting refreshing zephyrs around us in the din.

The young lady with the green shirt was our kind server, she worked very hard to make sure that our guests had the best seafood that the St Johns river had to offer.

Naturally, Roger and Janice (Beaujolais) shared a low country boil for two, while I had ribs. The food order was in front of us in five minutes!

Happy Campers!

Like I mentioned earlier, it was hot. The Hyacinth Kitteh was not amused, since she still has her winter coat on.

She mostly stayed curled up around Janice's feet, taking a moment to stretch every so often;

We departed the Crab Shack at 1800, heading home. Our generator stopped running (I think we either clogged the water inlet with a foreign object or it is that impeller failure problem) either way, we were without A/C. It was a beautiful sunset cruise, here is a view of the West side of the river;

Soon, we passed NAS Jax and made the turn west towards the yatch (Sp. int!) club.

Roger handling lines in the dark;

Sunday, we went to the Jacksonville Landing to the Tall Ships Festival. I only went under threat from the Better Half, as I never do any function involving crowds. It was a good time, we saw several great ships and they all were underway to fight a sham Sea Battle with Schooner's against "Pirates". Complete with cannonades!

We watched from the comfort of a table at the "American Cafe", we had a corner table right upstairs from Hooters. We could enjoy the battle and the great view of the river. Pictures will follow!