By the numbers

Our little Mazda road warrior at a gas stop in beautiful British Columbia.

Our little Mazda road warrior at a gas stop in beautiful British Columbia.

by Christine Kling

I want to get a blog posted today, but I am feeling overwhelmed by the numbers in my life lately. I pride myself on loving the nomadic existence, but I have been living out of luggage since I left my boat and flew to Fiji on December 17, 2013, and I am starting to feel it.

3 weeks at sea

2000 miles

1 broken rudder

4 islands visited

6 flights to get to Florida

60th birthday

 

1 week in St. Maartin

44-foot catamaran

8 people

3 islands

 

2 trips to Florida

1 car sold

1 boat sold

9 boxes mailed to Majuro

28 bags to Goodwill

 

2 months in Europe

8 countries

24-day Eurail Pass

12 museums

3,000+ digital photos

669 steps up the Eiffel Tower

3 Greek ferries

4 families visited

1 business meeting

 

But it is the past few weeks that have just about worn me out.

 

36 days

1 car/2 people/2 dogs

95% travel with dogs on lap

3,591 miles driven

1 day 800 miles

3 car ferries

8 books brought in research box

0 books read

1 round-trip flight to Denver

15 friend and family visits

10 pounds gained

12 nights in hotels

1 night sleeping in car

 

Now

1 book to write

and

1 exhausted author.

 

Fair winds!

Christine

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Power Hogs

By Mike Jastrzebski

When it comes to cruising I guess you could say that Mary and I are power hogs. Since we prefer to be on the hook or when necessary a mooring ball, this can be a problem. On the hook in the summer we have four fans running 24/7. We also have refrigeration, but what makes us power hogs are the extras. We have an inverter on board with three computers plus an iPad, an iPod, two Kindles, a 32 inch TV, a radio, a phone, a chart plotter, radar, a VHF radio with AIS, a Ham radio, and finally our watermaker. All of these electronics, both the toys and the necessities, require a lot of power, usually 150 plus amps a day.

So how do we handle it? One of the first things we bought when we were just beginning to cruise was a Honda 2000 generator. We didn’t have anywhere near the toys or boat electronics that we have now, but we found that when we were at anchor we needed to run the generator 3-4 hours a day to keep our four golf cart batteries topped off.

Last year we added three 140 Watt solar panels and two additional golf cart batteries. If we had sunny skies and ran the engine occasionally as we moved the boat this allowed us to go many days, even weeks without starting the generator.

Now that we’ve added the watermaker we have once again become more dependent on the generator. We have a CruiseRO 110 volt watermaker. It puts out 20 gallons per hour and runs on the generator. We only have two water tanks on Rough Draft. One is 20 gallons and the other is 25 gallons. We go through a tank of water every 2-3 days which means we have to run the generator and watermaker every 2-3 days to keep the tanks full. This is not a bad thing since the watermaker has to be run every 3-5 days to keep the membrane clean and healthy. This also means that we get a couple of hours a week of battery charging from the generator.

I’d love to hear from any cruisers out there who would like to share how many amp hours you use a day while at anchor.

For anyone interested my historical thriller, The Storm Killer, is on sale for only .99 this week.

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Klinging to the coattails of a futurist

 

View from the hotel in Denver

View from the hotel in Denver

by Christine Kling

For many years when I was a teacher and then a college professor, I loved to go to technology conferences. I admit that I am more than a little geeky, and I used to love to go to the presentations by the “futurists” most of all. I remember how astonished I was when I first learned about Moore’s Law back in about 1999.  This law was postulated by Gordon E. Moore, the founder of Intel and it states that the number of microprocessor transmitters in computers doubles about every two years. It was nearly impossible to believe that we would have computers with one terabyte of memory or that operated at the sort of speeds we see today. And the idea that we would all be carrying powerful computers around in our pockets (smart phones that could also do global positioning) just sounded crazy – but exciting crazy. It made my head hurt in a wonderful way to think about the future back then, and it still does. So this was certainly part of the allure when I first met Wayne. He worked for the California software company Autodesk for more than 20 years, and his title was “strategic futurist.” His job was to travel all over the world and speak at conferences. Today, I got to see why.

bannerSo, yes, the whirlwind world travel tour continues and this time our travels have taken us to Denver, CO so Wayne could present the keynote address at the CAD-1 company’s 25th anniversary customer appreciation day. We flew in the day before, Wayne kicked off the event this morning, and we are on our flight back to Kelowna, BC tonight where our two dogs are enjoying life on a beautiful farm in the Okanagan Valley.

One of the many things I found so fascinating about watching Wayne both at the dinner last night and especially this morning, was the way I kept interpreting what he was talking about and applying the new ideas to my field of publishing. We writers often use the “building a house” metaphor to describe what we do when we write books so listening to his talk (to a room full of architects and contractors) about change increasing at an exponential rate really hit home for me.

Let’s think for a bit about the history of writing as we know it. For thousands of years, people painted on cave walls, carved hieroglyphics on stone, and wrote using sticks and clay tablets. Then, mankind advanced to papyrus and parchment made of animal skins and many more manuscripts could be created because they were easier to make. But duplicating writing really took off when wood pulp paper was created and all those religious guys were put to work in the Middle Ages copying manuscripts. Then along came Gutenberg in1450 with his moveable type printing press and by 1500 Europeans had printed more than 20 million volumes (according to Wikipedia). In the years since we’ve seen lithography, off-set printing, Xerography, laser printing, et al, and the numbers of books produced by all this technology has increased — yes, exponentially.

Today, we no longer need to print our books: we have digital books. We’ve gone from carving in stone to light dancing across a screen and this new technology is being adopted faster any previous method for distributing writing. The number of titles published worldwide (not individual volumes) is now in the millions according to this Worldometers website.

One of the stories that broke this week with headlines I saw on several sites insisted that the growth of ebooks had now flatlined. According to this story at Digital Book World, “The BookStats report, from the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group, confirmed earlier reports from the AAP and anecdotal evidence. Ebook revenue in 2012 was about $3 billion as well, up from $2.1 billion in 2011.” So there had been huge growth from 2011 to 2012 and they are taking the stalled growth the following year to mean that this new technology has maxed out the audience. However, the article goes on to say, “Trade publishing revenues overall in the U.S. were also basically flat in 2013 at $14.6 billion, down slightly from nearly $15 billion in 2012.” In other words, the headline that I would have written was that ebooks held their own while sales of print books declined. There are sometimes lulls in the exponential growth (we are in such a lull right now in the growth of computer speeds) but it doesn’t mean that the curve is going to flatten out – only that it will average out soon.

The clear message I got from Wayne’s talk this morning was that businesses need to figure out what it is that they do. He calls this their “value proposition.” So ever since this morning, I’ve been turning that over in my head. What is it I do as a business? That should be an easy one. As an author, I’m in the business of selling books, right? Actually, I don’t think so.

After some thought, I’ve concluded that what writers really do is we communicate ideas. That’s what we’ve been doing whether we were painting on walls, poking sticks into clay or clicking away at the keyboard of a computer. It just so happens that as a novelist, I craft my ideas into story, but non-fiction writers are also in the business of selling ideas, and theirs might take on a different structure. Today, some writers are telling their stories through plays, films and video games, and I think we need to understand that the medium – papyrus, paper or electrons – is not the point. If we allow ourselves to get too bogged down in thinking we’re selling books, we’re likely to follow the trails of Kodak or Blockbuster Video. Perhaps, ten years from now, we will be adding Barnes & Noble and some of the less nimble big publishers to that list.

 Fair winds!

Christine

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Insanity Row and rise of the Living Dead…

phone may 2014 519

Roll in your extension cords and put on your waders! The view of Zombie Lake from the shed. No, the tide never gets that high, not even in hurricanes. But the concrete lot and shed often flood after heavy rains, at least giving me a brief glimpse from my helm of sun glinting off  an expanse of water.

C.E. Grundler

You can’t see them from the main office or the docks. You can’t see them from the pool, or from the food truck that currently fills the void created when Sandy destroyed the small restaurant, built on the remains of an old river barge. But they’re there, nestled in the far far corner of the boatyard, a stone’s throw from the twin rail lines where passing freight trains drown out even compressors and power tools as they rumble past several times an hour. It’s the northwest corner of the yard, and it’s where they put ‘certain’ special boats, and the people who go with them. In some institutions, they separate the mentally questionable from the ‘death row’ inmates. But not in my little corner of the river. No. The hurricane came through, shaking up the dynamics of the boatyard, and a new type of customer has emerged, and a unique variety of boats.

Boating was already taking a hit long before the storm shook things up. Many boat owners, faced with harder economical times and rising fuel prices, couldn’t afford to operate their boats anymore. Pre-2012, more people wanted to sell and get out than there were buyers. Some boats sat on the hard, their owners still paying for storage until something changed, and others became stationary floating summer retreats. But other boats, once well-maintained and enjoyed, were simply abandoned. Owners stopped stopping by, stopped paying storage, stopped answering calls. Eventually the boats became yard property, but brought in no revenue in an already hurting industry.

Then Sandy hit, and everything changed. Some, trying for years to unload unsellable boats received the news that their boats had been totaled. Insurance companies compensated the yards for storage and labor, and owners for their loss. Boats were transformed from burdens to checks in the bank, in many cases for more than they’d be able to sell in an ideal market. Many got out of boating temporarily, others for good. The word on the water is that most yards lost roughly 30% of their customer base. Some boaters found their treasured boats totaled, and promptly used their settlement checks to buy a replacement, or else buy their original boats back at pennies on the dollar and repair them, either themselves or through the now booming fiberglass repair business that sprang up. Yards brought in fiberglass teams from other regions of the country, even housing them as they fixed the fixable. Some boaters had no insurance or had let their policies lapse at season’s end, and abandoned their boats on yard property. And a handful of new boaters appeared, lured by an abundance of now affordable vessels to pick from and fix in whatever degree and manner they deemed suitable. Which brings me back to Insanity Row.

Way long ago, back B.S. (before Sandy) it was known as Death Row. It’s usually the furthest corner where boatyards put those sad vessels so far gone that it’s unlikely they’ll ever see water again, unless it comes to them, which in some cases it does. (See above photo.) But a few, blocked on the highest elevation, right outside the shed, survived. And in the last year, others have arrived at ‘Concrete Beach’— boats that Sandy chewed up and spit out, and now someone is trying to resuscitate. Extension cords and hoses criss-cross the lot, radios battle with sanders and passing locomotives, and gradually work progresses as the boats written off as dead return to life — sort of. Zombie Boats, once shrouded in shredded blue tarps and peeling shrinkwrap, shedding scabs of peeling paint and rotted wood, and each time one is revived and launched it’s a victory… and a new spot for the next arrival. People help each other out, share admiration, commiseration, and cold drinks as we each regard our fellow inmates as just a bit crazier than us. Sanity is a relative thing, especially when it comes to old and/or damaged boats. Some are starting to truly shine, and you can see the pride their owners take in their work. Others — uhm….no, you don’t back a fiberglass repair by stuffing wadded newspaper into the hole so the patch won’t fall through. You don’t put twin 454s into an ancient Chris Craft with a hull so rotten and hogged it’s heartbreaking. At least, I wouldn’t. But no matter the approach or philosophy, there’s one thing everyone in that corner has in common…we’re all mad here. We have to be. And judging by the company I’m in, I’m starting to believe the yard is putting us all back there, where no one can see us, for a reason.

You weren’t actually expecting I’d say the decks are glassed? Honestly? That’s okay, I wasn’t either. Had EVERYTHING gone perfectly, had all the stars aligned, then perhaps, just maybe. It’s nice to be optimistic. But in the real world, the shed Annabel Lee occupies is also used by the yard for their own repairs. And when the owner’s boat (technically a Sandy-wounded replacement of his totaled boat is brought in for a full gelcoat respray,) and they ask that we refrain from any grinding for a few days, that sort of threw the whole schedule off. With boats, you learn to roll with these things, or you’ll just go mad. As for me, it’s already too late.

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The 38th Voyage

Under Sail

The Charles W. Morgan sails again, her 38th voyage. A remarkable feat for a 173-year old wooden boat, even more so given that she is the sole surviving vessel of the American whaling industry’s 2,700 ship fleet.

As I write this post, the Morgan sits in Vineyard Haven, following a trip that started in Mystic, Connecticut with a stop in Newport, Rhode Island. When she leaves the Vineyard she will sail to New Bedford, her home port where she was built and commissioned in 1841, and then beyond to Provincetown and Boston.

Morgan 38th outlineMAP

Somehow, the Morgan lived on while other whaling ships were wrecked or destroyed for scrap. Her survival is credited to the good luck that Edward H.R. Green took an interest in her. Green, who was known as Colonel Green, was wealthy and eccentric and he had a link to the ship, being the grandson of Edward “Black Hawk” Robinson who co-owned the Morgan in the mid-1800s. Green’s mother, Hetty, was famously frugal and enormously rich. Unlike Hetty, Colonel Green didn’t mind spending a few dollars. He built an enormous estate on Buzzards Bay, constructed an airplane strip and provided free fuel to any plane that stopped by, and he looked after the Charles W. Morgan.

Colonel Green's Mansion
(Colonel Green’s Mansion at Round Hill, along the northern shore of Buzzards Bay)

Edward Green
(Green, an amateur scientist who used this small car to get around his estate, had a childhood leg ailment said to be the result of neglect stemming from his mother’s unwillingness to pay a medical bill)

Morgan 1925

(A newspaper account of the Morgan at Round Hill in 1925)

Ultimately, the Charles W. Morgan was towed to Mystic, Connecticut and it has been a centerpiece of the Mystic Seaport ever since. But it’s one thing to tie-up an old vessel to a dock, another to rebuild a craft of this size and age. Yet, that’s exactly what happened.

Resoration
(The Morgan in July of 2013, about to be launched following her rebuild)

Several books, including The Charles W. Morgan: The Last Wooden Whaleship by Edouard A. Stackpole and The Charles W. Morgan by John F. Leavitt, have been written about this fine old vessel that once sailed multi-year voyages to far away destinations such as South Africa, Hawaii, and Japan. And if you are looking for some excellent reporting on the ship and the 38th Voyage, you might want to look at the following stories in the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette.  http://mvgazette.com/charles-w-morgan

We owe gratitude to the shipwrights who kept the Morgan going a hundred years ago, the ones who just rebuilt her, and all in between. The same for the preservationists who came through on the financial side of the endeavor. I think of Melville, too, and others who encouraged us all through their writing about the era of sail.

Vineyard Haven
(The Charles W. Morgan in Vineyard Haven, courtesy of the Vineyard Gazette)

I remember the first time I saw the Morgan. I was a young boy and my family drove to Mystic to see a former neighbor. While there, we visited Mystic Seaport. That day, my sister and I returned home with a glass jar full of salt water. I smile when I think of that long-ago excursion. Seeing photos of the renewed Charles W. Morgan underway, her various flags flying, brings nothing short of full-hearted joy.

The commerce undertaken by the Charles W. Morgan is rejected today. The harsh working conditions and questionable financial settlements with crew are other unflattering aspects of the whaling era. But that’s the point – this ship isn’t a Disney fairy tale, it’s certified history.

by John Urban

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Countdown to full time cruising.

By Mike Jastrzebski

We sold our car yesterday–the first time I’ve been without a car in 48 years. It’s the final step in a twenty year journey that has included living aboard for eleven years and will hopefully lead to a truly nomadic life aboard our sailboat, Rough Draft.

Rough DraftAfter spending four months living on the hard we’re counting down the days with a tentative Titusville departure date of Wednesday the 25th. It’s weather dependent of course, and as any boater knows anything can happen in three days, but that’s the plan. From here we plan to make a shakedown motoring trip to St. Augustine and after a few days of exploring the town we’re heading into the Atlantic for a sailing shakedown.

We have signed up for the Salty Dawg Rally leaving Hampton, VA in November and sailing to the British Virgin Islands. This is approximately a 1500 mile trip and will be our first long distance blue water trip. We have sailed back and forth to the Bahamas twice but our longest sail was only 36 hours as opposed to being on the open water for a couple of weeks.

And wouldn’t you know it, it’s all Mary’s fault. It was her idea to buy a boat. She taught me how to sail. She suggested we take the boat from Minnesota south so that we could live aboard full time. It was even her idea to get married on the boat, and by the way, on June 14th we celebrated our 18th anniversary–you guessed it–right here on the boat.

Here’s our wedding picture. If you look closely you can see the Mackinac bridge in the background.

Wedding Picture

Our journey began when we took our boat from the Chicago area to Duluth, MN. We had four crew with us on that trip, one of whom was the minister who married us. We sailed for three years on Lake Superior then had the boat trucked to the St. Paul area where we spent five years getting her ready to cruise.

We moved aboard the 2nd of September in 2003 after having the boat trucked to Lake Pepin on the Mississippi. From there it was down the Mississippi to the Ohio, over to the Tenn-Tom waterway and on down to Mobile. We spent two years in Mobile until Hurricane Katrina blew away our jobs and put Rough Draft into someone’s backyard on the Dog River.

After repairing Katrina’s damage we sailed to Key West, spent three months there and then moved on to Ft. Lauderdale for seven years while Mary worked as a massage therapist and I wrote and published four books.

The past two years we’ve been sailing between the Bahamas and Cape Canaveral and now I say, “Let the real journey begin.”

And while I’m writing about countdowns and books, my first Wes Darling mystery, Key Lime Blues (Wes Darling) is on sale at Amazon for only .99 cents. This is an Amazon countdown deal and the price goes back to $3.99 Saturday the 28th. Wes lives on a sailboat and here’s the blurb:

For some people working in the family business means suits, power lunches, and afternoon meetings.

For Wes Darling it was guns, lies, and dead bodies.

The Darling Detective Agency was founded in 1876 by Aaron ‘Dusty’ Darling. Now Wes’s chain smoking, stressed out mother is grooming Wes to take over. How does he handle his mother’s demands? He heads to Key West, moves onto a sailboat, and takes a job tending bar at a little joint called Dirty Alvin’s.

Life is carefree until his mother’s lover, a man who mentored Wes for years, is murdered on a Key West Beach. Reluctantly, Wes is drawn into a spinning web of murder, sex and deceit.

First there are his mother’s pleas for help. Throw in a six-foot-tall red-headed stripper, a retired mobster who acts like it’s the 1940s, a pair of dim-witted hit men, a phobic psychic named Elvis, a small fortune in stolen diamonds, and what do you have? Mayhem in Key West.

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What was I thinking?

BrentwoodBay

by Christine Kling

So often, the topic here on this blog of boating writers has been some version of, “How can I maintain my boat and get my books written at the same time?” That, I am happy to say, is no longer my problem. I sold my boat a few weeks ago, and I will now be living on a boat that comes with a full-time, very knowledgeable guy who does a great job of maintaining her. Great, right? I am so fortunate and absolutely thrilled with my new situation.

As we were traveling through Europe, often people would ask me about my methods for doing research and asking when I would start the actual writing of the book. We were booked on a flight to return on May 12th. I kept saying I really needed to start the writing on May 13th.

It’s not like what came next was a surprise. I knew we were returning to a boat that needed to be cleaned out and sold and that we were planning a trip up Pacific Coast Highway from California to British Columbia but I had a plan. All the books I’d bought that need to be read and studied, I packed into a little box. I had visions of turning the backseat of the car into my writing office.

What was I thinking?

islandHave you seen the scenery up here? To read or write while driving requires super human concentration and the ability to ignore spectacular beauty. Top that off with the fact that I have this local BC boy as my tour guide – a guy so eager to share his love of his homeland – and it means that even looking at my computer is practically hopeless. Today, I am trying. Really. It is already Friday noon and I need to get a blog written. I didn’t even post a blog at all last week. We are driving from Victoria up Vancouver Island to visit Wayne’s sister in the north. Right now Wayne is pointing across my laptop toward a spectacular local stream that he says in season is totally filled with Chinook salmon. The road is hung over with pines, cedar, oak and maple and as we swing in and out of the sunshine, I can peer into the woods on our right. On our left is a granite cliff face oozing with fresh water springs and mottled with green and red lichen. If we come across a Hobbit around the next bend I will not be the least bit surprised.

Okay, I figured, I’ll just write when we stop driving at night. Yeah, right. We’ve been staying with Wayne’s friends and family and they’ve been driving us around, taking us out, cooking spectacular meals. The folks we stayed with in Vancouver owned a cabin on Gambier Island. Wayne’s friend took us over in his small speed boat and we hiked and picked fresh mussels, then our host cooked them up. We ate the fresh steamed mussels sitting out on the porch drinking red wine and enjoying the spectacular scenery.

Because there is this writing revolution going on with ebooks, and many writers are suddenly putting out multiple books per year, I feel this intense pressure to get to work. Dragon’s Triangle was just released on June 1, and it is doing really well. The sales of that book is increasing the sales of all my backlist. This is the hottest my career has ever been. I need to “strike again while the iron is hot,” as they say. The wise career move would be to get the next book written as fast as I possibly can.

musselsBut right now I keep hearing Frank singing, “I’ll do it my way.” I’m never going to be one of those writers who is chained to a desk grinding out several novels a year. I’ve written six novels and somehow, I will get this seventh one written. I need to trust myself in that. The day may come when I’ll write about this place – or it might not. But one thing I know for sure. I write about adventure and thrills, and I need to know what THAT feels like. I’m never going to write about a character who would turn down a boat ride through a fjord and fresh steamed mussels just so she could stay behind and write.

 

In order to write with passion, I have to live with passion.

 

Fair winds!

Christine

p.s. I am also involved with a fabulous new bundle called The Killer Femmes. You can get FIVE irresistible crime novels by FIVE different writers for the incredible price of only 99¢. You can’t pass up this deal. Check it out here.

 

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What I did on my summer vacation…

Okay, it’s not officially summer yet, but I am on vacation. Technically, my other half is, though my muses don’t take break, so while I’m spending my day adorned in a Tyvek suit, gloves, eye and lung protection, my phone and Evernote app are always close at hand.  And just as I predicted some time back, the weather patterns would shift to make the task of finishing the Great Deck Nightmare as unpleasant as possible. I’d say 90 degree days with high humidity qualifies. And I’m posting this a bit early, because I’ll be back up a more than a bit early to get a head start before the thermometer starts its daily rise. But as I was cleaning up from today’s work I paused to consider each of the weapons of destruction I consider indispensable. Let’s take a look.

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The cockpit at day’s end. Yikes. But there’s a method to this madness. First off, dust control.   After assassinating four shop vacs over the years, another crazy trawler-restoring soul showed me the amazing Dust Deputy you see below. Essentially, it sends all your debris into a vortex, and 99% of what would fill the vacuum instead falls into a bucket.  This has become one of my favorite tools, worth every penny of the $99 it set me back. Had I bought this years ago, my prior shop vacs wouldn’t have died early deaths. They didn’t die in vain, though. Their hoses live on, and 40′ of vacuum hose on a 32′ boat comes in real handy.

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The sum of a day’s itchy work.

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Want to cut through very tenacious layers of glass? (Really? Reconsider.)  But if you must, take one angle grinder, attach one cutting wheel, and let the destruction begin.

 

IMG_20140618_164628244

 

Next, heat guns and chisels. Need some bare glass but don’t feel like grinding it off? I don’t blame you. But heat guns don’t just remove paint and varnish — they’ll strip gel coat straight off — there’s a picture that shows the results coming up.

IMG_20140618_164646985

 

Sanders. What would a job like this be without sanders? Far less itchy, but far more lumpy in the end.  Not in the picture, the dreaded, dreadful belt sander, version Four. My theory is the boat was traumatized by belt sanders in her earlier years, and has vowed to kill as many as possible in retaliation.

IMG_20140618_164654622_HDR

 

Jigsaw and Sawzall, for all the things you want to saw. But Baby Powder??? Yes, baby powder. Liberally coat yourself with this wondrous stuff before working, and the nasty itchy dust to follow stands less chance of finding its way into your pores.

IMG_20140618_164809002

 

The corner of the cockpit with a mix of new and old coring, all level and ready to be sealed off. When complete, a final layer of cloth then mat will wrap from inside the cockpit to over the rail.  The inner edge shows just how effectively a heat gun and chisel can remove your gel coat.

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A settee full of fiberglass. Yards and yards of mat, cloth, and biaxial. This is what a deck looks like before it becomes a deck.

 

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And what’s in the cooler? Let’s see. Soda, Sam Addams, and ICE. Lovely lovely ice.

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So tomorrow as you read this I’ll finishing the prep and cutting the first yards of glass. Wooo Hooo!

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The Manatees Playground

By Mike Jastrzebski

It sounds like a book title, doesn’t it? The Manatees Playground that is. But it’s not. I’m actually talking about the marina basin here in Titusville.

We’ve lived on our boat in Florida now for nearly nine years, only five months of that here at Westland Marina in Titusville, but on several occasions we’ve seen more manatees here in one day than the rest of the time we’ve been in Florida. One day we counted at least ten floating in the sun.

Here’s a small herd of them.

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And here’s one basking in the sun.

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Sometimes it makes my day just sitting on the boat and watching as these behemoths (they can grow to 13 feet long and weigh as much as 1300 pounds) wander between and around the boats looking for a source of running fresh water. If they can’t find someone washing off their boat they’ll gather under a dripping faucet or the water outlet of a water cooled air conditioner.

Unfortunately many of these gentle beasts get struck by boats, so if you’re down this way watch out for them, go slow so you don’t hit them, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to watch for the dolphins in the river. They can be entertaining too.

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So I’ve been looking for a truck…

C.E. Grundler

…but not just any truck. No, when you write murder and mayhem, you sometimes find yourself in the need of an extra special truck. I’m not concerned about mileage, warranties, amenities, or any of the other considerations usually associated with choosing a vehicle. First off, the truck I need must have certain specific features — the ability to drive through storm surge flooded roads, clear or push clear debris and obstructions, be tall enough, heavy enough, and strong enough to get through the worst.  While some quarry trucks may be downright awe-inspiring, for the story, it needed to be something I might borrow from a construction site of the sort found along the Jersey shore.  I’ve been considering a cement truck, but today I took a wrong turn, drove past a construction site of the sort I’d envisioned, and found myself gazing at the truck of my dreams!

dream truck

What you can’t tell by these pics is just how HUGE this thing is. The tires were taller than me.

dreamtruck2  The bottom is covered in steel plates. No working parts exposed and vulnerable. dreamtruck3

I’ve found the specs on this lovely beast, and I’d say it’s just the ticket. And while an 11 foot beam puts it beyond legal road size, I’d imagine once the area’s been evacuated and the roads submerged, the legality of what you’re driving becomes less of an issue. Fill this baby with some gravel (ballast) and I’d say we’re ready to roll!

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