Friday 25 July 2014

Stories from Behind the Beach: One Kickass Kid.

"I'll be swimming when you're all asleep, I'll be swimming when you're all awake..."

About two months ago, NextBoat was delivered from Erie, Pennsylvania, across Lake Erie to Port Dover.  As cruises go, it's no great feat- it's 75 miles, give or take, a couple of hours via SeaRay, a long day via sailboat.

But to swim it?

That's major.

That's happening right now.

Here's the story:

Anneleise Carr is the hardest working teen I know.

She swims.

A lot.

And she's damn good at it.

                                                                                                                         image courtesy myFM

At oh-dark-early this morning, 5:21 am, if you want the exact time, she slipped into the water at Presque Isle on the south shore of  Lake Erie, and struck out for Port Dover on the north shore.

In 2012, she became the  youngest person to swim across Lake Ontario, and her goal, by Saturday afternoon,  is to be the youngest person to swim across Lake Erie.

Oh yeah, and along the way she's raised a little money, for Camp Trillium, a camp for kids with cancer.

 Since 2012, her efforts have raised over $310 000.


One kid.

That is kickass.

Her Lake Ontario swim raised $200 000.  Her goal for the Lake Erie Crossing is to match that total.  As I peck out this post, the current total is just over $113 000.  Got a couple of bucks to spare to support a great cause?

Please donate and follow her progress here:

Go, Annaleise!!

Monday 21 July 2014

Canada Day

"I could see it was a rough cut Tuesday...."
                                       -  J Geils Band

Canada Day is a Big Event in Port Dover, and this year we decided to make a serious run at winning a decorating prize in the Boat Parade.

We didn't.

Our slip neighbours, Frank and Lorraine, on Knot Workin' did, finishing second!

It was a fun day, even with winds gusting to 40 knots until almost sunset. Alistair and Sam joined us, since their new old boat Wanderlust remains on the hard, and much fun ensued.  Sam put together a video documenting the day.  Enjoy.

Saturday 19 July 2014

The Changing of the Guard, and A Tour

   "Meet the new boss.  Same as the old boss."
                                            -The Who

   The tired cliche goes something like, as one chapter ends, another begins...

   This time, however, out here on the Dock, we were still editing the previous chapter while writing the next chapter.

   That chapter is, finally, complete.

      Selling Whiskeyjack  is a bittersweet experience.  When SWMBO and I became her stewards, we purchased her with the goal of learning how to sail together, to figure out what we knew and learn what we didn't know, and then next year move up to a bigger boat.

      That was in 2008.

      She suited us so well that it took 6 years of boat searching to find a boat that suited us any better.

      We wanted..  well, okay, we needed more space.

       Or one fewer dog.
        That was  the only improvement we desired over our doughty tank, Whiskeyjack.   Oh, and we had to stay on the Dock, so we couldn't go much longer than our Georgian 23's overall length.

        Damn hard to find a boat that fits that bill.

        We had to go to New Jersey to find one.

         Long story.
        To be told later.

        Whiskeyjack's  new owner, Phil, is the kind of skipper she needs.    He decided he wanted to sail, decided that going small, going simple and going now was the way to go, and he had his sights set on a Georgian 23, for all of the same reasons that drew SWMBO and I to the type:  Big enough to be comfortable, small enough to be manageable, cheap enough to be affordable.   He planned to sail on Lake Ontario, and wanted a boat that wouldn't cost a ton to move to a new home or to dock, and a boat that was cheap enough that, if he decided he didn't like this whole sailing thing, he wouldn't have a whole ton of cash invested.  He dropped by a couple of weeks ago to take a look, liked what he saw, made us an offer that was fair, left a deposit, and left, with the plan of action being to 1. Find dockage in Hamilton or Burlington or Oakville, and 2. Arrange transport, and then 3. We'd finalize the deal when he had all of his plates spinning.  He figured it might take until the end of the month.

      So, we waited, fingers crossed,  hoping that the deal wouldn't fall through.

        The  plates spun faster than expected.

       On Friday night money exchanged hands, papers were signed, and Whiskeyjack motored off to her new home....

         ...  Just down the Dock.

        Phil liked the marina so much when he came to look at Whiskeyjack that he decided  to keep her here for the rest of the season.


       So,  what is our new boat like?


       First impression:  She is worn, but not worn out.
       So am I, so I'm okay with that.

 She is in need of cosmetic improvement, her gelcoat is faded and shows some stress cracks, the woodwork is dull, but her bones are good.  With the exception of the Dock pictures, the images  that follow are pre-purchase photos- you get to see her as we first saw her.

       She is tall.  We joke that her freeboard is more like "Free Bird":  It just goes on and on and on...


     ...  note the stepstool on the Dock.

    The  center cockpit layout means that virtually every foot of length is utilized for accomodation.  It also means that no one is ever going to describe an S2 8.0C as a "classic beauty."

     She isn't.

    We're good with that.  We don't choose a boat based on how she looks, but on how she fits our needs.

    The design is clever, but the feel is very different, since you are sitting on top of the boat,  rather than IN the boat.  but the visibility is fantastic.  No need to stand up to see over the cabin, this boat is designed for seated sailing...

   .... which is good, because the boom is low.  Under sail, the boom is about four feet above the cockpit sole.


     Underway, that bigass freeboard also means that she feels more tender than Whiskeyjack.  When she heels, 15 degrees feels more like 25 degrees, because you are further out on the lever from the fulcrum.  The cockpit  is long but narrow, which is ideal for me and my stubby legs to brace against the aforementioned exaggerated heel.

   The layout pushes the cockpit forward, so the mast is RIGHT THERE.  No need to lead lines aft- the halyards and reefing lines are already at the cockpit.

  The four step companionway ladder is steep, so as not to take up any more room in the cabin than necessary.  Down below there is more than 6 feet of headroom in the center of the salon....

...  and a stripper pole.  Not really, but the compression post is in the very center of the salon.

     It is a little, okay, a lot, like sailing your parents' basement rec room from the 70s- fabric covered walls, small windows, a pole in the middle...  but, once you get past the dated aesthetics, the layout works well for us...

      ...and the Escheresque v-berth upholstery grows on you.

      The v-berth itself is generous in size, with four large storage lockers underneath and a handy deep shelf above.  The mirror is hinged, providing access to the anchor locker forward.

   Ventilation is great- four opening ports, and a large hatch overhead help keep the air moving.

      The galley runs down the port side of the salon,  has adequate counter space and storage space, and a large toploading icebox.

    As I mentioned, cosmetically she needs some help.

looking aft, on the port side is the "tunnel,"  the passage to the aft cabin:

    The tunnel is also the nav station, with a small bench on the port side, and electrical panel and chart desk on the starboard side...   and a pencil sharpener.

The electrical panel is simple, reflecting the simple systems on this boat.

Underneath the nav station lurks the drivetrain, a Yanmar single cylinder diesel.  Access to the workings is AMAZING. The entire nav station can be dismantled, allowing one to easily work on any part of the engine and transmission.

  The aft cabin has a full size berth for two running across the transom, hanign lockers on both sides, a nightstand, bookshelves, and two lockers under the mattress.  

      The unsightly glue and fuzz covered panle to the left of the picture is, apparently, where a TV was mounted.  We are debating how to finish this blemish.  For now, however, we simply live with it.

    Above the bed is another large tinted acrylic hatch, which opens onto the boat's aft deck, or "back porch"

There are also two opening ports on the transom.  Ventilation in the aft cabin is just as good as in the salon.

   To the right of thhe companionway ladder is the head.  One of our "wants" when we were looking for our next boat was a head that was separate from the v-berth.  We got it.

   As with the nav station, the head is tucked under the cockpit, so headroom when using the head is limited. But, head room improves to over 6 feet at the forward end of the head, so at least one can stand up to wash one's hands or brush one's teeth.

   8 metres of length and not a square inch wasted.

She is also 8 metres of new projects.  When she arrived on the Dock, she had no usable weather cannvas, so the first order of business, in the opinion of SWMBO, the ginger, was repairing NextBoat's  existing dodger and installing a bimini.  

 Done and done.  

   Next we needed to replace the depthfinder, install a chart plotter, build and install a table in the salon, a table in the cockpit,  install our grille on the stern rail, replace the galley stove, create some storage for propane canisters,  find a way to get more leg room in the head...

Stay tuned.  

Sunday 6 July 2014

Customer Service, and Why It Matters: You Have One Job...

"... now, I stand here waiting..."
                   -New Order

  A new boat means new gear.

   No matter how perfect the vessel, every new old boat needs something.

   NextBoat is  not quite a blank canvas, but she does need more than Bob Ross painting birds  to complete the picture.

   NextBoat (Karma?  Ereni?  Shambala?  NewName TBD), needs/wants a grip of gear to get to greatness.

   After she sailed into our slip, and after the delivery dust settled, SWMBO and I, and the mutts, stepped aboard figured out what we wanted, what we needed, what worked, what didn't work, and what didn't work...for us.

   We made a list, checked it twice, and then tiptoed through  the online mercantile tulips.

     Or, more accurately, I did.
      SWMBO and I have sorta organized our  family Accounts Receivable/Accounts Payable/Purchasing  into two divisions divided by initials: "L" for Louise for "Land Based Stuff"  and "B"  for Brian for "Boat Based Stuff"

   or "Baffling Bullshit Buys"-  SWMBO.

      .... er, be that as it may, we agreed that NextBoat needed some stuff.

     Like a chartplotter, depthfinder, stove, cockpit table...

      Some we can build, but some we have to buy.

     ... and this is where things get both interesting and frustrating.

     Let us move forward, and then I will back up.

     First things first-  we like to know where we are and what is ahead of us, so a chartplotter is a strong "want", bordering on "need".

    So, we, (I),  point and click to Radioworld  to peruse their chartplotter selection.  We pull the trigger on purchasing a Lowrance Elite 4M for under $260...  including the Navionics chart card.  Seriously good deal.
    Within seconds of placing the order online, I had an email confirming the order.  Three hours later, |I had an email confirming the order had been shipped. The next morning, 14 hours later, there was an email in my inbox  providing a tracking number and an ETA., you had one job-  and you exceeded the specs.

   Okay, 'plotter is in the system, now I need some place to mount it.   The steering pedestal doesn't even have a compass, so this is the ideal location, even if the teak cover plate is weather beaten ad raggedy....

    So, while I am at it, SWMBO suggests, why don't I build a new mounting plate, and tie a cockpit table into the mix?

  Okay, sure, why don't I?.  Tables, however, need hinges, and specialized hinges at that...  so, I point and click to Lee Valley Tools and order a buncha hinges and stuff.
  Again, I quickly get an order confirmation email, followed by a shipping deets email, with a tracking number, which I can use to track the shipment through the shipper's system, right up until it is left on my front porch.
   Which it was, three days later,

   (Off on a tangerine here, but let me tell you about Lee Valley's customer service.  Five years ago I was at a woodworking show. Lee Valley had a booth, and were offering discounts, and free shipping, on orders placed at the show.  I needed a couple of small knobs and a couple of miscellaneous bits of hardware, so I  talked to the show rep.
 "Free shipping?"  I ask.
"Yep."  He replies.
"Okay!"   I exclaim.
 The show rep took my order,  I paid for my $4.87 worth of stuff and wandered off.  Four days later, there was a parcel on our front porch.  I paid $4.87 for my order of hardware....   and it cost $6.78 to ship.

    Yep, they lost money on that transaction, and Lee Valley Tools did it without quibble.  That counts-  it's one reason why I keep handing them a sizable chunk of my income.)

Lee Valley Tools, you had one job- and you exceeded the specs.

   NextBoat came with  an alcohol stove in the galley, the original Kenyon Homestrand two-burner range.
    A  pressurized alcohol stove.  That italicized word matters.

     The beloved non-pressurized two burner range on our beloved Whiskeyjack is a great stove, dead simple to operate.  fill the burner canisters with alcohol once every couple of days, make sure the burner chimneys are capped when not in use, and when needed, uncap, turn the heat control knob to high, and light.  Easy, and safe.

     The Kenyon pressurized stove is, on the other hand, the Stove From Hell.  To light it, according to the instructions printed on the stove you need to pump a small plunger 15-20 times to pressurize the fuel tank, and once the flammable fuel is pressurized you need to release some into a "cup" surrounding the burner to be used, turn the burner off again, and light the fuel in the cup, which will warm the burner sufficiently so that you can turn the burner back on and light it again, once the fuel in the cup has burned off, and with a steady low roar the burner will produce an impressive amount of heat to cook your food, as required....
....  in theory.

    Yeah, pressurizing the fuel tank is a requirement every time you want to use the stove.  Ask  NASA about pressurizing the fuel in the tank before use.
     Then you have to light it twice.  Every time.

      Each burner has 6 threaded joints between the tank and the burner...and this stove is 35 years old.

     Six thirty-five year old joints carrying pressurized fuel to a thirty-five year old burner...

     After almost losing my eyebrows several times, and SWMBO refusing to use that infernal beast, we bit the bullet on buying a new stove.

      We found the replacement, a Cookmate 4200 drop-in range, at ,  a Halifax based chandler.  I called to find out if they had the stove in stock.  They did.  I ordered it online on Friday afternoon, and got an email telling me it would arrive at my home 5 days later.  I got an email an hour later informing that it had shipped, and it showed up three days later, 2 days ahead of schedule. you had one job- and you exceeded the specs.


      Even more phenomenal, in that all of the companies mentioned are small to midsized businesses,  with sales in the low-to-mid millions range.

      Surely  large national corporations which rely on retail consumers for the majority of their business will be just as good as these small companies when it comes to the online customer experience, right?

     Three weeks before any of the previously mentioned purchases, SWMBO and I ordered new cell phones through our large, national, sports-stadium- naming telecom.

     Three days ago SWMBO and I were forced to make an hour and a half round-trip drive to pick up the phones at a retail kiosk that this telecom, employing thousands, and earning billions, could not successfully deliver to us, for over four weeks.  Our order was lost twice, and cancelled once, and not one email.
  Almost five weeks,  not one email.  Except for the original "Thank you, the items you ordered are  in stock and will be fulfilled soon!"  email.  Turns out, the phones weren't in stock, and the order went unfilled.
  But no one let us know.  SWMBO spent a total of 5 hours over the ensuing period either on hold, or talking to customer service representatives  who were apparently entirely incapable of  providing service to a customer.

   The billing department though, promptly billed us for phones which we had not received.

   After two more phone calls to the 'customer service" department, where it required me doing my best irate, batshit crazy, foaming at the mouth, angry as hell and not going to take it anymore, displeased customer routine, we got credited for all the time and effort and frustration we had invested in ordering two "in-stock" phones.

    My wife had been pleasant and understanding for almost five weeks, and got nowhere.  It took batshit crazy to be treated well and to get the problem solved.  That is sad.

   Unnamed national telecom, you had one job.

    Guess who is shopping for a new cell phone provider now?

    Worst part is,  I get the feeling that unnamed telecom doesn't really care.

    I hope you do.  Do business with those who do business well.

     And remember to

     "Talk the Dock!"


New Boat, New Gear, New Reviews, Part One.

     "You got me coming up with answers...."
                                            -Duran Duran

A new (to us) boat means new projects and new, or new (to us), gear.
Refitting is a sailor’s excuse to go shopping…
….So, a-shopping we went.  
We needed to replace our no-longer-generating generator.  We had put off this purchase since halfway through Bottom Paint Season 2013, but the idea of sanding bottom paint by hand, on a deadline this year, thrilled neither SWMBO nor I. 
It was time.

Our old 3.5 kW Hyundai generator was  more than adequate, powerwise, but big, heavy and loud.   This time, we wanted a generator small enough, and portable enough, to make the occasional trip down the Dock to  put the power in power tools, and hang out on NextBoat’s* aft deck if we ever needed 110 power aboard when away from the Dock. The  Honda EU2000i was on our shortlist, and the Yamaha EF2000is was on our shorterlist, because it was slightly lighter and had all of the controls on the same face as the starting cord.
   The candidate tapped for a longterm test was neither of the above.  We opted to purchase a Champion 73531i 2kW generator.




Here’s why:

     Both the Honda and Yamaha generators were $1200 and change. The nearest dealers are at least 25 minutes from the Dock, if we need parts or service.  If we decide to cruise with a generator, the nearby-parts-service-availability drops precipitously-most of the ports on the north shore of Lake Erie do not have either Yamaha or Honda dealers.  So,  if parts are needed, we’re gonna be pointing and clicking through the interweb and waiting for a delivery…

…  just like we would with an off-brand genny sourced from a department store…

… which we bought for under $600.

Additionally, I liked the stackable cube design- on the aft deck of Nextboat,  that flat surface could come in handy as a support for a cutting board, beside the bbq.

Upon opening the box, I was pleased with the fit and finish, and the feel of the plastic panels.

Nothing felt inordinately “cheap.”

The bib around the gas tank cap is a nice detail...

       As is the  well-marked "on-off " cap vent.    A closable vent is a nice benefit if (like me) you drive a station wagon that (like me) you do not want to smell like gasoline on a hot day with a generator in the wayback.

      It came with a well written manual in both official languages (okay, it was well written in English, at least;  mon ne pas parlez francais well enough to know how bon it was in French, eh?) and an easy-to-follow "quick start" chart, along with the ubiquitous stamped steel/crimped tube spark plug wrench and a funnel.  A funnel?

   Before starting, as the manual made clear in 118 point boldface, YOU MUST FILL THE ENGINE WITH OIL...  or void the warranty.  So I filled it, with oil, (not included) with the help of the (included) funnel, a requirement due to the location of the crankcase filler:
Behind a cover...

and, appropriately enough, at the crankcase:

    Preliminary prep out of the way, I opened the vent on the gas cap, turned the fuel valve to "on", flipped the ignition switch to "on", set the choke to "start" and pulled the starting cord.

    It started.
     I pushed the choke in  and the generator continued to run.

     Also good.

     As promised, it was much quieter than our old generator.

     How quiet?

      That quiet.
     Carry-on-a-conversation quiet.
      SWMBO was impressed.

      That quiet.

      The next weekend we put our new box o' power to the test, and sanded Whiskeyjack's  bottom prior to rolling on a coat of antifouling paint.  SWMBO and I ran two palm sanders continuously for over 4 hours and used less than 3/4 of a gallon of fuel.  Further, our ears didn't ring, and we never had to yell at each other.
     Not yelling at each other is a real bonus, one not to be overlooked.

      I have no unrealistic expectations of longevity that rivals Champion's more expensive motorcycle manufacturer rivals, but...
       If it lasts more than 50% as long as the expected lifespan of the others, we will be money ahead.

      I will revisit this review next spring, and see how the Champion 73531i  has held up.

      Thanks for stopping by, and remember to

     "Talk the Dock!"

*NextBoat is currently named Take Time.  It is a nice name, but the experience of her acquisition begs for a name change.  More on that later.

Saturday 5 July 2014

28 Days... Plus

“She sees my good deeds and she kisses me windy….”
                                                     - Red Hot Chili Peppers

 Many years ago, I picked up an info-nugget that has stuck with me.   Here’s the backstory:  A speaker at a sales conference actually got my attention by NOT sounding like every other speaker at a sales conference I had ever heard.    He woke up the room by asking us all if we realized that we all really needed to go into rehab.
  Er…what do you know?…and first of all, “allegedly.”  Nobody can prove anything.

Rick went on to explain that any habit takes 28 days to develop, and 28 days to break….  Which is why most rehab programs are  no less than 28 days long.

Huh.  That makes sense.

 Looking back at my blogging habit over the past few months, I see a pattern-  I fell out of the pattern.
 So, I gotta spend the next 28 days getting back INTO it.

Brace yourselves- the blogstorm is coming.

In the meantime, here's a teaser:

Thanks for sticking around.

“Talk the Dock!”