This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Tragedy in Afghanistan

So, I am again frustrated by the tragedy unfoldingn in another country which America spent billions of dollars and thousands of American lives in an attempt to make over tht country in our image, that is a democratic republic with a free people. Finally, our country decided that our job was done there and it is time to bring our military home letting the Afgan people run the country and defend themselves. It doesn't appear to be working as the "militant/terrorist" group known as the Taliban is retaking the country one region after another with what appears to be little effort. So much for the Afgan military. I guess all that training and state of the art equipment and the billions spent proping up the government has been for nougt. Now who will be the next wealthy and well armed country be who will come in and prop up the next government? Will the Russians return or did the learn their lesson? Perhaps. We spent billions arming the "other side" to help defeat the Russians. I wonder who was arming the Taliban that continued to be the thorn in our country's side for so many years and finally sent us off licking our wounds? Will the Chinese now step in with similar promises to rebuild and modernize their country or, will the world finally just leave them alone and let them live out their wretched lives. Can the countries of the world stop selling arms to them or arming them with the caveat of allowing some sort of political infuence? Not likely but who knows.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Pandemic Panic

What am I supposed to do? I mean, under the current circumstances, I dare not venture out the front door to the mall or out to a restaurant or grocery shopping. Certainly not without the possible consequences. Yes, I take precautions when I do go out. 1. I wear a mask when anywhere near others. 2. I shop only to buy groceries during the posted times for seniors and those at highest risk for the virus. 3. I do not go to any food establishment that does not offer me take out, pick up, curbside pick up or drive through and even then it is only an occasional treat. 4. I shop for almost all other needs online. That means going through Amazon. It excludes going into hardware stores, notorious for, yes, having COVID protocols to "keep customers safe", but have you ever ventured into these "men's clubs"? Guys are noted, and it has been shown that they are the worst at wearing their masks and or wearing them properly. Give them an opportunity and they'll wear them under their noses, or chin and with little concern for others around them to keep an appropriate distance. My experience in Lowes has been that I spend my time being wary of guys who sidle up next to me looking for a similar item and with their masks worn inappropriately. It's their right you know. All we can do is ask them to do the right thing but if they believe the right thing for them is not to follow the rules, then to hell with you. A few months back, early in the pandemic I was in the local hardware store, Hardware Sales. I needed a few nuts and bolts for a boat project. I wandered into the nuts and bolts aisle which is low ceilinged and with ultra narrow aisles and it was crammed with guys shoulder to shoulder doing the same thing I was there to do. I escaped without incident, as I remained well weeks after the incident. But I just can't bring myself to go back in there. I want to shop local. I want to support our struggling restaurants. My wife and I love nothing better than to go out for breakfast in one of our many favorite local breakfast shops. But how can we? The best we have come up with is the local Home Skillet restaurant where we can call ahead to order our favorite Big Green Mess or their Pork Tater Tot Hash. Oh man. Incredible but not to die for. Thankfully, the folks there have taken dramatic steps to make the experience safe. Sadly, in order to keep their establishment open, the have had to take drastic steps where their employees are concerned. So, my solution of choice has been to order groceries to be delivered. When they arrive we have a bottle of diluted bleach in a spray bottle at the ready and we wipe down everything before we bring it into the house. Then we wash our hands well and put the delivered items away. For other needed items, we have spent a lot of money ordering through Amazon. Packages are delivered to our front door and, once wiped down, they too can be opened and enjoyed. My pharmacy is online so all my meds come to my mailbox. Again, the package is wiped down and then opened. Thanksfully, Amazon is great about returns and, though we have seldom done it, we have found it easy to return items at our local Kohl's store. We go in on Wednesday morning when they first open for seniors and drop off the item. Never anyone there and we only come in contact with the person who accepts our package. Both the clerk and I are wearing masks and the transaction is momentary and I head right back out the door to my car. I haven't been in any other stores at our mall for probably a year. I didn't much care for the mall before the pandemic. I don't know what shops may even still exist. I imagine there are probably more empty store fronts than there was the last time I did venture through the mall doors. Personally, I don't much care. I know these shops employee a lot people who are now either unemployed or had to find new jobs, but not much can be done about that situation until the pandemic is ended. Since businesses and our current government have seen fit to put business before the health of our citizens, well, we are just going to be stuck in a never ending spiral of death and an economy that continues to limp along. Of course, a vaccine could help end the situation but can't work until enough people see the benefits of taking the vaccine. If millions don't see the benefit or are convinced that it will somehow endanger their lives. . .well, then, the virus will continue to infect, cause misery to many and kill thousands of others. As for me, I'm ready to roll up my arm just as I have for all the other vaccines I have been given during my lifetime. Vaccines that kept me from getting so many killer diseases that, before the vaccine was created, killed or maimed so many around the world and continue to in many poor nations. So, what do we do? Millions of Americans are at risk of being evicted from their homes, they have lost their livelyhood and simply can't afford to live. Meanwhile, the current government plays their violins while the country burns to the ground. I believe our way of life is at risk. More and more homeless out on the streets can only build to a boiling point. People with nothing left to loose at some point won't care if they break laws. If it puts food in their family's mouths or gives them shelter, then, they will do it. I don't know where that tippng point lies but it is out there. And don't we have enough folks out on the street now that we mostly ignore? Are we going to ask our law enforcement to continue evicting families at a rate way above the normal numbers? Are we going to ask them to arrest or confront the growing homeless numbers with possible dire consequences? I believe we need to look at how our economy operates. As it current operates, it doesn't see a need to reach out to those who are being evicted, nor does it address the needs of those who own the property from which those folks are being evicted. The landlords can't afford to loose rent from tenants or they risk losing their property and income. It is a domino effect. This is true of so many other situations in our economy, which indicates to me that our economy is not responsive to the current needs of our citizens. I'm fine. At least for now. I'm retired, have an excellent retirement income that will take care of me for the rest of my life. Investments, Social Security and pensions will all make me comfortable the rest of my life. So, the economy works for me, so far. But, of course, there is always the possibilty of some event down the road that causes the economy to collapse (I know, let's try to be positive). And, of course, if that happened it would mean the whole country would be in trouble. I am not at all an economist and have no clue what would happen if any of my suggestions were used, but, if we don't start looking down the road soon, it will be full of even more pot holes. Let's pass a bill to offer higher unemployment salaries to folks who are unemployeed through no fault of their own...but, let's put those folks to work. Remember the WPA and programs like back in the 1930's. Don't just give folks money and let them sit on their butts. Give them a task to earn it. I heard from friends who were angry after the last bailout that they couldn't get people to come to work for them because they made more being unemployeed. Bad idea. Put 'em to work. Homelessness? Let's have some of those unemployed folks go to work building basic housing for those who are homeless. Sort along the lines of the Habitat for Humanity program. Or, perhaps go the route of the Tiny House movement. We long ago started building homes WAY to large for the needs of the average American. I grew up in a lower middle class neighborhood and a home that was a 3 bedroom, one bath home. No family room. It was plenty of room for our family of 6. The boys shared a bedroom and the girls did too. It all worked out and, though we knew people who lived in what we thought of as "mansions" it never occured to us that we were missing out on anything. Landlords and business owners who are also struggling. Here I must say I am not sure how to address their specific issues. Perhaps the goverment could offer money to keep these businesses going. How that might look, I am sure small business owners would probably have some great suggestions. Anyhow, for me, the near future will continue to be to support local business as I can knowing that my front porch is going to be a stop for FedEx and UPS for some time.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Election 2020 Venting!

November 3, 2020 has come and gone and, as projected, we still don't know who our next president will be. It is as they say "too close to call" in several so called 'battleground states'--Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona and others depending on how you look at it. The tally in several of those states is within a few thousand of vote and some votes, due to how ballots are counted, could swing the decision wildly in one direction or the other. Either way, it is obvious from the way things are going that our country is deeply, deeply divided. Half the country thinks the way our country has been led the past four years is just fine and the other half wants, even demands a change. What is odd to me is that generally speaking every other person in this country believes Trump is on the right track OR that Biden would be too evil to vote for OR, well, for any number of other reasons they can't vote for him. On the other side of the ledger, Biden's fans feel the same way, roughly speaking, about Trump. So, where does that leave us (our country), our position in the world, with our allies and our enemies? Trump has 'governed' the last four years without concern for whether he is making any attempt to pull the country together. He 'rules' using an antiquated style of running a company. It's my way or the highway, or using his Apprentice line--"your fired" if he doesn't like what he hears coming out of those he has hired to work for him. He just dumps them and gets someone else who will agree with him. The idea of working to build a consensus (the modern accepted business model, which allows everyone to feel they have a voice and are heard regardless of the fact that the president has to make the final decision alone never enters his head. He doesn't bother with that. I guess it takes too much time. Consequently, he pisses off half the country and goes through employees like Carter has pills. And what about the lengthy list of his appointees that have wound up getting jail time for illegal activities on behalf of their boss, who protects himself by pretending to be astonished that that could happen while happily throwing them under the bus. Plausible deniability! For me, I can understand he is a fiscal conservative and that attracts a lot of voters who are in business. I get that. What astounds me is that these people are willing to sell their souls to defend their business interests. Its okay that Trump is creepy, that he tacitly gives support to extremist groups that hate people of color or non-Christians or the LGBTQ community by never coming out and condeming them. He treats women like toys, has no use for the LGBTQ community, and while he claims to be a Christian, he in no way reflects the true Christian spirit (unless you count the old testament). I could go on but of course, you've heard all the complaints a million times over the years and none of it seems to make any difference to half the poulation of the country. Then there is the matter of how he treats our traditional allies in the world. How he has buddied up to tyrants around the globe. He has ignored climate change advocates, crippled environmental laws that undermine our water and air qualiites. Recently he even opened up mining in a pristine area of Alaska that had been protected for many years and opened an area of old growth forest for use. I have never been more ashamed of being an American in all my 67 years. I thought I'd seen some teerrible presidents along the way--Tricky Dick Nixon, Bill Clinton, George W., but trump takes the cake. As for me, I will continue to vote in every election as I have since i was first eligible. I still have that right. But other than that, I hearby resign as a citizen of this once great country. Until people wake up from whatever delusion they are so enjoying and move back into the column of nations trying to make the word a better place, I am going to just hide out in my little progressive bubble here in Bellingham and enjoy whatever positives life has in store for me for however many more years I have to enjoy them. I wish you all well. Good night and good luck.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

COVID Kept Us At Home

So, the Covid virus that has plagued us since March 2020 continues to do so. We have been pretty much house bound since mid-March going out initially only to buy needed groceries. We didn't even do that for a couple of months until there was a bit more solid knowledge as to how to behave when out in public. Wear a mask, don't wear a mask? How far to stand away from anyone? Best hand washing techniques? And on and on...When recommendations finally began to get settled we felt better about going out--a little. Plus, by then stores began to have better methods of keeping us apart and to have times of the day specifically for older shoppers. So, we ventured out wearily and very cautiously. One problem initially was also that there were shortages of certain products. Hand sanitizer was almost none existant on store shelves. Toilet paper was hard to come by. We were fortunate in that we had made purchases of extra non-perishables, bottled water, toilet paper, etc. for emergencies such as earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. before this ever happened. Never thought we'd need to use those items but suddently they came in very handy at an uncertain time. Our emergency supplies kept us from needing to go shopping for almost 2 months and even then it was only for milk and fresh vegetables. So this pandemic has proven our preparations are a good idea and when this finally calms down and life can return to some sort of normal, we will get our supply storage back up again in preparation for the next time it is needed. We've also begun to set up the boat as a secondary location should we need to evacuate from our home. Forest fires have become a bigger deal and so many people have lost homes, even entire communities have burned to the ground. So our boat water supply if topped off, the fuel tanks are full and we have a full pantry that would take care of our needs for several days. We have an evacuation plan from our house should we need to head for the boat, taking cetain key items including more food, emergency gallons of fresh water, clothing, etc. so we caould extend our stay abord should it be necessary. As of right now, we are still mostly at home but we have had some work done at the house. In fact we have tree guys here today who have cut down several trees that we've needed to have done for quite some time, some of which were even threatening the house should they fall in a storm. We bought new beds which we have needed for some time. These required us to be cautious while around those who did the work. We required masks of all who worked on our property or entered our house and when we needed to, we left the house for a few hours while work was done. The boat has been handy on alternate Wednesdays when our housekeeper cleans our home. We go to the boat and stay there overnight returning home the next day. Our biggest problem with all this has been not being able to see our family in Seattle--Daughter, Kate, Son-in-Laww, Nick and grand daughter, Evie. We'd always been able to see them on average every couple of weeks. Suddenly they were cut off from us. Thankfully, a modern solution came about when we started using ZOOM, an online meeting platform. While Evie was stuck at home and not able to be in school we were on ZOOM with her every couple of days. We'd spend hours talking and playing with her--usually until her parent's phone ran out of battery life. Now that she is in school (she started Kindergarten online) and she spends afternoons at her old pre-school with a select group of kids who all know each other and whose parents are all quarantining as our kids are, so the chances of COVID infection are very low. But she is so tired at the end of the school day that she really doesn't feel much like visiting with us. But we still manage a good visit on the weekend. And when she gets extended periods of time off (10 days or so) we can then arrange to meet them for a face to face visit. We just have to be very careful. We are both in the senior citizen catgory which makes us more suseptible to the virus and its effects. My chronic issues make it all the more important. We are, nevertheless, bearing up well under the circumstances and count our blessings--hey, we have a warm home with a roof over our head, plenty of food and fresh water and, most important, we have each other. Stay safe out there.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

So, project wrap up! It has been a long summer of pricey projects, some of which were unexpected. What did we get accomplished? Here is the list— 1. New Achilles dinghy with Honda 20 hp power start and tilt outboard, two person seat and St. Criox Euro helm. 2. SeaWise davit system installed 3. SCAD waste/fresh water tank monitor installed. 4. Victron Bluetooth battery monitor installed. 5. New house and start batteries installed. 6. New Maxwell HRC 10-8 windlass installed. 7. New below deck anchor locker created. 8. New anchor rode of 150’ of 5/16 chain and 100’ of 5/8 8 plait line installed in the anchor locker. 9. New raw water wash down system installed. Included pressure sensitive pump and 10’ of water hose and sprayer in old anchor locker. 10. We will shortly purchase a trailer for the dinghy to haul it to and from the marina. It will winter over at home. This will offer security and keep it out of the salt air. Not a bad list! Much more than we ever intended but nothing we shouldn’t have expected considering it is a boat! Next year the big expense (hopefully) will be to repaint the bottom and reseat any through hulls that need attention.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Windlass Issues

 It seems like one thing or another has kept us near our home port this summer. Our big expense, aside from the usual annual maintenance--fluid and filter changes, etc. was to be our new dinghy which I have already written about in an earlier post. And it has turned out to be a nice purchase.

Then, we noticed the batteries were starting to not a hold a charge so those had to be replaced. At about $80-90 a piece (times 5) that too was a financial hit. I saved some money by purchasing them myself, hauling them to the boat and hauling the old ones in for the core rebate. Hauling those suckers about killed me but it saved us a couple hundred dollars. 

Then, on the shakedown cruise to see how the new batteries were doing (they are great), the windlass went belly up. I wound up pulling 200' of line and 36' of chain and anchor up by hand. Yikes! That too about killed me. 

So, instead of heading off to another spot to anchor for a few more days, we headed back to port and I started looking at new windlasses. I contacted Pacific Marine Yacht Services, my go to electricians, and got in line to have them do the work. A couple of weeks later they called to say they weren't willing to do the job. Back to square one. I got in line for the guy that does most of the work on our boat and he was willing to take it on. So, I started looking for a windlass that would work on our boat. That turned out to be a bigger job that I thought as there were no windlasses out there that would work the way the old one had. 

I spoke with a boat buddy who owns an identical boat and asked him to walk me through what he'd done when he replaced his windlass. I recalled he had modified a bow locker into an anchor locker by himself so he knew what he was talking about. After chatting with Steve I was pretty sure of the windlass I wanted.

It is a Maxwell HRC 10-8. Its a beauty! After my windlass arrived from Fisheries Supply in Seattle, my go to chandlery, my technician arrived and we began the project. 

First the old windlass and the pedestal it was mounted to were removed. Then a new Starboard pedestal was built up and the new windlass mounted to it. A hole had to be drilled through the deck so the howse pipe the anchor rode went through could be fitted.  With that complete we went below deck to prepare the new space for the rode.

At the very bow of our boat is a little teak door about a foot tall and nearly the same in width. Opening that door you gain access to an unused empty space. This was to be the new anchor locker, replacing the one on deck adjacent to the windlass. 

New heavier duty wiring was run to the locker as well as the wiring for the new foot switches (up and down). With the wiring in place and windlass powered up we next needed to seal up the locker and ensure it was waterproof. My buddy had inserted a 1/4" panel of plexiglass which he both bolted and sealed in place with silicone. My guy opted for 5200 instead. 

Lastly he cut a hole in the plexiglass and fitted a 5" deck plate giving access to the locker if needed. He attached the bitter end of the anchor rode to the backside of the tow eye by bolting a metal strip to the backside of the tow eye and cinching it down. 

Finally we were ready to start feeding the rode into the locker. Sadly, the windlass didn't want to easily take in the rode. The 2-strand 1/2" line kept jamming and had to be forced down the pipe. By the time we got to the 36' of chain there wasn't enough space left in the locker for it to fit and it too fought back. 

Something had to give which became obvious when we took the Key of Sea out for a shakedown. The windlass didn't like paying out or retreiving the rode so, once again, I was forced to pull it up by hand. 

I just piled it all into the old anchor locker and we headed home. Much more research needed doing.

I contacted my buddy Steve who came over to our boat and looked over what we had done so far. His conclusions were:

1) We should have put in a 4" deck plate as he suggested originally instead of in the face of the plexiglass. The one in the plexiglass won't hurt but it really needed to be cut into the deck. This would allow the person on deck to reach down and move the rode to one side or the other so more can fit in.

2) We need to get new rode. He recommended 150' of 5/16' G4 chain and 100' of 5/8" 8 plait anchor line. 8 plait because it lays down more like chain rather than spreading out all over the locker as the current line was doing. The two elements of the rode will be spliced together with an appropriate anchor splice.

After calling the Maxwell dealer rep in Seattle, exchanging several emails and phone calls, he agreed with my buddy Steve's thoughts.

So, new rode was ordered today from Fisheries Supply. 

The old anchor rode will go into the old locker as a back up and or secondary anchor if needed. Along with that a new raw water wash down system is being installed there to hose the mud and debris off as the rode is brought aboard. And the 4' deck plate will be installed at the same time. 

I am beginning to see light at the end of this very long tunnel. It has been both a fascinating and frustrating experience. Hopefully it will be the final project for the season. We'll see.

Old Atlas Windlass

Inside the new anchor locker loooking up to the pipe

Attachment point of the rode bitter end.

Old rode line piled into new locker seen through the plexiglass.

Foot switches--I picked black

New Maxwell HRC 10-8 windlass. Beauitful and very capable.


Life Issues

Its been a while since my last post but everything has been going along smoothly snf it just didn't seem all that important. Then a couple of major life issues came alog,he igst, of course, being the Corona Virus COVID pandemic which is still marching through the world. Currently some 900 Americans a day are dying from this scourge. In my humble and non-scientific opinion it has much to do with the poor way our country prepared itself for it and has since handled it. olitics and the I believe we have been hit hard because we didn't handle it properly from the start and because politics and the economy have driven the decisions to reopen the country and our schools rather than our helth experts. Believe me, I get it. Businesses were hurting and parents , stuck at home, can't take care of their kids and go to work, if they even have a job. So what to do? Open our schools so parents have a babysitter. Open our businesses so they don't go under and so folks have a job to go to. The result? The rate of COVID infections and the death rate have increased or remained the same. Add to that the folks in our land who believe they are somehow immune to the virus , don't believe it is as bad as they've been told by health experts, or who just don't think anyone has the right to tell them what to do, and you have a perfect storm for this virus to continue to sicken and kill people. Especially the old, infirm, those with less than perfect immune systems, the first responders, the teachers, the children going back into classrooms unprepared for protecting them from the virus. You get the picture. 

So, I am staying pretty much at home. Have been since March of this year with only rare exceptions and only then when I am well protected--wearing a mask, staying well away from others who I am unsure about how they have protected themselves, and going to stores or the barbershop only at times when places are least crowded and have taken the best possible measures to protect their customers and washing my hands until they are raw.

Locally, I have always shopped at Fred Meyer for much of my grocery shopping. But of the local grocery stores they have by far done the worst job to protect customers. So we pay a bit more and go to the Haggen store nearer us that has done an outstanding job of setting up protections. 

My barber has let me come in by myself for an early morning appointment (only been twice) when no one else is in the shop. She takes extra precautions to keep her shop sanitized, wears a mask, insists I do too the entire time she is cutting my hair and we each sanitize our hands before and after the haircut.

I don't know when or if this is ever going to come to an end. Perhaps only when a medication is developed that can end it or at least bring it under control. But I do hope it is soon as I am sure everyone else does. I don't like the way it has isolated people. I am saddened by so many folks that rather than keeping in better touch through email or Facetime or ZOOM, instead seem to have circled their wagons and isolated themselves. When this virus first started up we made an effort to contact people by the methods above. We must have contacted 25-30 people we know including some we hadn't been in touch with for many years except by Christmas card.  To date we have been contacted back by only a couple of people. What we call reciprocals. Many people we have thought were close friends we simply haven't heard from at all in less we have made the effort to recontact them. Now I understand, folks are quite possibly feeling depressed or isolated or just frozen, not knowing what to do or willing to do anything to reach out to others. But, am I wrong? Isn't this the best of times to do just that? 

Our summertime activities usually center around boating and usually with boating friends. But what with social distancing requirements and staying out of other marinas where social distancing is difficult at best, much of those activities have been taken away from us. It hasn't helped that we have had boat problems (see next post) that have even kept us from anchoring out somewhere. And with Canada closed to American boaters this summer (the place love most to go), the most popular local boating anchorages are much more crowded than usual.

No, I know my problems don't amount to a hill of beans compared to folks who have lost their jobs, are worried they could lose their homes, that have jobs that expose them daily to stress and to this deadly virus. I get it! Buck up, Michael! Quit your whining and get on with it! And I will. I'm made of pretty tough stuff. Just thought I'd vent a little.   

What is the answer? I just don't know but it is very depressing to see that people you thought you could depend on, at the very least keep in touch, seem to have forgotten to do just that. Ah, well, this too as they say, shall pass.