Sunday, April 21, 2013

Coast Guard Safety Check

Passed first time! Pasting this year's sticker over last year's, at the base of the mast.
We do this every spring, the voluntary Coast Guard safety check.  Some of the things they look at seem more administrative than practical for a boat our size - checking our paperwork and current registration, of course, although the placards reminding us not to dump trash or oil at sea seem superfluous on a boat for two.  They checked our nav lights (all working properly, though they couldn't verify the anchor light at the top of the mast because it has a photosensor that turns it off in daylight hours), life jackets, air horn, emergency flares, fire extinguishers.   Every year we seem to learn at least one new fact from the visit, whether its because rules change, or because each examiner has a slightly different take on what's important.

It was easy and somewhat chit-chat; we know the drill and had all the paperwork ready.  It was also a bit of fun because the examiner herself was in training and being guided by another examiner, so we had the clear sense of knowing the basics as well as she did.  We learned about some new regulations being considered, and got an update on the latest developments in marine radio technology.

That's the thing about safety, though - you can never get complacent.  Coming back from a library presentation that evening, Dan went to check on the dinghy.  He stood up, pulling on its painter (the line tied to the bow of the dinghy, that we use to secure it to the dock), and in a moment of inattention, just kept going, toppling over backward for an unscheduled sea-bath.

= = = =
Side note: There's a rumor among boaters that having one of these stickers makes you less of a target for safety inspections at sea, and at least once we proved it true.

The Coast Guard can also board boats underway at will for these random safety inspections, and there's a whole debate on the Fourth Amendment implications of that practice, which I will not get into; I respect the C.G. and the work they do a lot.  But scheduling an inspection at the dock is a lot easier than having them do it while you're underway.  We had one at-sea boarding, while we were underway in the Waccamaw River in South Carolina on a calm, sunny Saturday morning.  Pleasant, no big deal, we spent as much time chatting with the guys over their choice of careers as they spent examining the boat.

Alternatively, last spring we were in a line of boats, 4 little ducklings in a row following the marks up Currituck Sound headed to the North Carolina/Virginia border, as the Coast Guard hailed the boats one at a time to do inspections underway, perhaps also to give themselves some bad-weather boarding practice.  They hailed the first boat in line a big sportfisher, "Have you ever been boarded at sea for a safety inspection?" "Yes, here last year." And the C.G. said, "We'd like to do one again."  About 15 minutes later, they left that boat and hailed the next in line, an older sailboat.  "Have you ever been boarded at sea for a safety inspection."  "No."  They explained that they'd like to come aboard, and asked the boat to slow to idle.  Fifteen minutes later, they finished that one and left.  And I'm thinking, we're obviously next and the wind is stinky and we don't handle well in these conditions and what would they do if we asked them to wait until we got to the shelter of those trees about an hour ahead?  They hailed us, "Sailing vessel Cinderella, sailing vessel Cinderella, have you ever been boarded at sea for a safety inspection?" "Yes, a couple of years ago in South Carolina, and we had the dockside safety check a few weeks ago before we left Florida."  Silence.  Then, "Thank you for taking the time to do that, have a good trip."  Whew!  Then the fourth boat in line, "Have you ever been boarded at sea for a safety check?"  Four boats, three inspections, one not ... yes, I'll take that sticker ... and it's free!

The Coast Guard crew posed for me for this photo after they completed our inspection in South Carolina in 2010.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Image from here

They are referring to it as "senseless violence."
As if there could ever be any other kind of violence;
Have you ever heard of "logical violence?"

And several of my boating friends are saying
"See? This is why I want to sail away,
And live on some deserted tropical island
Away from all the madness."

I like to think I'd be one of the ones running in,
To try and help.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

In Limbo (it's complicated)

image from here
About that sadly silent newspaper blog of mine ... it's in limbo.  I'm not writing for the Capital-Gazette at the moment; and I'm not not-writing for them either.  It's not because I don't want to, or have run out of things to say.  (Who, me?  HA!)  But. There have been a bunch of changes, some neutral and some negative.

The Cap-Gaz went to a new web format last year.  More modern, flexible, and interactive; except the blogs portion had some limitations.  I couldn't use links, for example, which meant if I wanted to comment on an article in the main paper, I had to give a long ugly url to let people read it.  And I could only include one photo per article, and that by a funky work-around devised by the online editor.  Most frustratingly, I couldn't preview items before they posted, and for the last few months, there have been no paragraphs in the finished post at all, even if they were there in the submissions.  Disheartening.

Then, the senior editor retired and the online editor who was directly responsible for my stuff left abruptly under very ugly circumstances.  Ugly as in, I-read-the-very-graphic-police-report ugly.  And it's not clear who my new point of contact is, and a few emails/voicemails to them have gone unanswered.  Maybe everyone who was even remotely associated with the old online editor was tarred with the same brush, maybe they're just busy with bigger fish to fry, maybe there are emails from them in my inbox buried in a mass of Facebook notifications and automatic sales pitches from my favorite bar, who knows?

It became one of those things that I never realized the value of, until it was (maybe) gone.  I'd been writing Life Afloat since 2008, and love (loved?) the opportunity to make a little contribution to the understanding of what living aboard a sailboat was really like, and the opportunity to articulate my own thoughts to myself.  And while I am never in it for the money, there were some pretty cool perks.  Most of all, the people I've met through writing, that I wouldn't have met any other way, really broadened my outlook and enriched my life in so many ways.  Hopefully, we'll get the kinks ironed out and I'll be back there, but until then, and always, writing right here!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Before retiring, I wondered how I'd define myself, when I could no longer define myself as "Senior Environmental Scientist" for the U.S. Government.  And all those people who said that after being retired for a while, instead of being bored, they wondered how they ever had time for work ... they were right.  I certainly don't seem to lack for things to do.

This month I'm scheduled to give 3 presentations I've never done before: 16th Century Navigation; Pirates in History (with Dan); and Blogging for Cruisers.  The research for all of them has been a lot of fun, and I have never had any fear of public speaking at all.  I do stress, however, about doing a good job and getting the details right and making the presentations both fun and informative.  So I knew I'd be plenty busy in April, and wondered why I'd voluntarily agreed to do anything that had a (*gasp*) deadline attached to it, even a somewhat fun one.

Two days before the first presentation, I dreamed that I was on stage, totally flustered as I tried to explain how the pirates in the 16th century accessed the internet with their laptops while at sea.  Yeah.  I don't remember my dreams often, but when I do, they are usually disjointed fragments.  No dream interpretation needed here - it's obvious that my subconscious was processing my huge to-do list!

Pirates playing with plundered modern technology - text messaging
PS: The navigation and pirates presentations were first given for a school coop in West Virginia and were well-received.  The school has a blog where they summarized our classes, and there are more photos along with some funny captions on their Facebook page.  The pirate presentation will be given again at the Eastport library on April 18, and the blogging one at the Cruiser's University in conjunction with the Annapolis Spring Sailboat show.  Sorry, but if you attend that one, I will not be telling you how the 16th century navigators accessed the internet!

Not Another One!

If you are getting tired of reading blog posts about water system issues in my life, yeah, well, I'm getting tired of writing about them.  I'm getting tired of having them!  But we've had another one, this time in our rental condo.  Our property management company sent a plumber out right away, only to find out the leak was in a common line that served the building, rather than our unit.  And the building manager wasn't being as responsive as she should have been (*ahem*, understatement of the year - our property manager's repeated phone calls were not returned while the building manager said our property manager was difficult to work with; the building manager said the tenant was hard to get in touch with while the tenant said the building manager never left messages; I had to resort to calling the building manager's boss to get any response) while the tenant was in a situation that she described like this:
photo from National Weather Service

as water continued to flow from a leaky pipe for TWO WEEKS. Granted that living on a boat, I have a rather exaggerated response to leaks:  if you delay fixing a leaky roof in a house, some furniture might get wet, but if you delay fixing a leak on a boat, your home might sink.  But TWO WEEKS?!!  To get a plumber while a pipe sprays water from a pinhole leak?  Crazy!

Enter Judy, my insurance agent's magical fix-it person.  She calms me down and cheers me up and generally fits the square pegs of my life afloat into the round holes that are expected by the computer system used to categorize risk in the insurance world.  It can be challenging explaining that I own my home without owning a house or having a fixed address, but somehow she makes it work.  And just a few hours after I talked with her and relayed her wording to the building manager's voicemail, we had a plumber helping the understandably frustrated tenant.