Aaron's blog

Overnight trip and long days to Cocoa, FL

By aaron.axvig, 30 November, 2019
Louise on a buoy

Overall the overnight trip was not an enjoyable experience.  As the sunset of that day faded and I slowly motored on, I experienced a profound sadness and strong desire to not be there (some tears even!).  I was too tired from not sleeping well the previous night, which I'm sure amplified those emotions.

I had probably 15-20 naps of 15-20 minutes each through the night.  My alarm would go off, I would throw on insulated pants, a jacket, and a lifejacket, go upstairs, attach the tether, and then spend a minute or two examining the surroundings and the chartplotter display.  Then back below for another 20 minutes of rest.  At the 5.5 knot pace I would progress almost 2 miles between each of these appearances.  Louise stayed below the whole night.  There were basically no waves which was nice.

There were many inlets along the way that had buoys marking them and I intentionally planned my route to pass a mile or so out to sea from these buoys.  They were maybe every 10-15 miles so I could usually see one in front and one behind me.  Every few times that I checked on things I would be able to celebrate the small progress of passing another inlet.  For the bigger inlets that could possibly have ship traffic I would stay awake and watching while I crossed the channel.  There were five cargo ships that went in/out of the Savannah inlet while I was within 5 miles but that was during daylight so not too bad.  It was a little embarrassing that one of the cargo ship captains felt it necessary to ask me to wait to cross the channel until they passed.  I would have passed at least a mile ahead of them (I was getting very good data on the electronics) but in hindsight they made the right call there.  At the ship's 15 knot speed that would only be 4 minutes to get out of the way in case of trouble.

I reached the St. Mary's inlet at first light as planned and the trip ended successfully at about 7:30am as I dropped anchor near Cumberland Island.  Then I slept for 3 hours and took Louise for a walk on the island.  We went to the beach and she chased the ball for a while.  Then we walked south on the beach and went inland to the Dungeness ruins, and then back to Sea Dock and back to the boat.

The next day was Thanksgiving.  I had sort of planned to check out the "Cruisers Thanksgiving" in St. Mary's where the town hosts a big potluck for boaters but decided not to.  So I motored 60 miles to St. Augustine.  The weather was beautiful with the powerful Florida sun doing its best to try to sunburn me.  St. Augustine was pretty busy with boats so I had to look for fifteen minutes before deciding on a sort of crappy spot close to a couple boats and some docks.  But I was able to drop the anchor right where I planned to so it was good enough for the night.  30 minutes later a dinghy came by with our friends from SV Walkabout who we met in the Great Dismal Swamp.  They were on the second closest boat to where I anchored.  They have their boat name prominently lettered on their transom but I just hadn't remembered that I know them.  That evening I did laundry and picked up a couple great books at the book exchange: The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov (been wanting to read it for a while) and a collection of limericks (the sauciest little poems).

The next morning I went through the 8:30 bridge opening (in St. Augustine right next to the anchorage) with Walkabout.  Then a mile or two down the way I was starting to pull away from them at my normal cruising speed, but also eavesdropped on their conversation (a great VHF radio tradition) with another boat named Fruit Bat.  They were slowing down to hoist their dinghy up instead of towing it.  I decided I would hang back with them and really enjoyed traveling with them that day.  We anchored together Daytona Beach and I went over to meet Fruit Bat after taking Louise for a little walk.  Louise really liked when they invited her onto their boat so she could walk all over.

Today we left at 7:45am and made it 55 miles, almost to Cocoa.  We anchored about 20 minutes after sunset.  A little after dark Nate from Walkabout texted to say that there was some pretty good bioluminescence.  So I splashed a stick around in the water and yes, it was very cool!  The next obvious move was to take the dinghy out--also very cool!  The propeller shoots an illuminated plume about 6 feet back under water at low speeds, and luminescence streams off of the tubes.  At higher speeds the entire wake about 8 feet wide and 30+ feet back lights up brightly.  Back on the boat a school of minnows was darting around leaving little strokes of light.  I probably should go swimming in it but it is a little cold (water temp has gotten up into the mid-70s now though!) and better to do not alone.

Tomorrow Walkabout and Fruit Bat plan to leave at 6:30am as they have 60+ miles to go to make it to Fort Pierce.  I'm planning to go about 50 miles to Vero Beach but will probably leave with them since the wind tomorrow may be good for sailing and it could be fun to sail with a couple other boats.  Also a little exciting to sail in the ICW channel but should be fine.  In Vero Beach on Monday they have a weekly Seven Seas Cruising Association meetup that I have often thought would be fun so I will check that out.

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Sailing solo

By aaron.axvig, 26 November, 2019

On Sunday Anna flew back to Minnesota to visit family and do wedding planning things. On the way back to the boat I stopped by to say hi to the catamaran Sobad which had left Wrightsville Beach at the same time as us. The wife actually graduated from Bismarck High School about 30 years before me! Small world.

That afternoon I motored about 20 miles down the ICW. I had planned to go about five miles farther but the current was against me and would be favorable in the morning. About 20 minutes after I anchored a power catamaran anchored nearby and I recognized it as someone we had met in Maine. So I took the dinghy and chatted with him for about 5 minutes.

The next day I went 42 miles to Beaufort, SC. There were a couple really shallow spots but I squeaked through. I anchored south of town about a mile and then took Louise for a walk. Then I dropped Louise off at the boat and went back for a couple beers and wings on special.

Today I tightened the steering cables before leaving. They were getting pretty loose and the autopilot would go back and forth, back and forth...very annoying. Then I rode the current for about 20 miles out through the inlet to the ocean. My destination is St. Mary's inlet on the FL/GA border, a trip of 120 miles. I plan to arrive at the inlet buoys just as the sky starts to brighten at 6:00am. That only requires an average speed of 5 knots and the water is calm with no wind or waves, so it is pretty relaxing out here. I have 80 miles to go as I write this.

I had planned to maybe just stay up as long as possible but I slept terribly last night so have already taken a couple 15 minute naps. I set a timer each time so that I can get up and check things out and then set the timer again.

By doing this long night I will travel 120 miles instead of winding 180 miles in the waterway. That would normally take four days of 45 miles each, 3 days if I pushed hard from sunrise to sunset. The Georgia ICW has big 8 foot tides, some shallow spots, lots of current, and right now low tides are in the middle of the afternoon. So I would be spending most of each day traveling near low tide, and that requires a lot of attention even with autopilot.

Hopefully this night will go well and that will all be past!

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Shady Turo experience--did I get scammed?

By aaron.axvig, 23 November, 2019

A week or two ago I read this article about AirBnB scammers and it was pretty interesting.  This week we used a Turo car for a day and I can't help but wonder if I was part of some scam.

  1. The listing was for a Fusion, but said in the description that it was actually a Fiesta and for some weird reason they weren't able to update the listing.  Probably they previously had a Fusion listing and wanted to keep the same reviews or something instead of creating a new car listing.  Anna used my phone to make the reservation so I hadn't read the description, so I was more frustrated by this vehicle change initially, then realized that it was partly my fault.  But still...the car model should be correct.
  2. The car still had dealer plates on it.  The dealer paperwork in the glovebox showed that the car was purchased four months prior, so they should definitely have the plates by now.  When I later read the reviews, one said they walked away from the car over this issue.
  3. The host asked that I text them a picture of my driver's license with the odometer.  I'm not sure why including this photo in the Turo app wouldn't be good enough.  Probably Turo has a policy saying that the host can't ask for that sort of personal info.  Anyways, I idiotically did text them the photo so now they have my phone number and DL info.  Not smart.

A few hours into the car rental I started to figure out how sketchy all of this was.  I submitted a support ticket with Turo but still haven't heard anything back two days later.  Hopefully I don't get my identity stolen and hopefully that host gets shut down!  I haven't been able to figure out exactly what the host would be gaining so maybe there is no scam.

Next time we will probably look into a regular car rental.  I don't think it is much more expensive.  And while car rental companies can sometimes be frustrating, at least you know it is almost certainly innocent incompetence and not malicious activity.  So there is a balance: more personal dealings (Turo, AirBnB, Couchsurfing, etc.) which may be cheaper, more convenient, and/or more personal, versus real businesses where you may pay more and get a bland experience that you know is going to be the same every time.

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Tiny Bubbles

By aaron.axvig, 22 November, 2019
Date completed

This is a puzzle game with a UI that is well-suited for a touchscreen.  I did pay for the DLC that removes ads (I almost always do this).

The puzzles are all very well designed.  There are several groups of levels that have some nice variations.  For example some types have new bubbles constantly being added so there is that element of randomness being added.  And others are very carefully designed to play a specific way, even requiring careful timing as the bubbles collapse on a few of them.  On a few of the levels I got impatient and used the hints.  In general, as I played the game I would become tired of it after 6-8 puzzles (30 minutes?).  I think that is fine, as this allowed me to kill time on many different occasions and I always enjoyed playing those 6-8 rounds until I tired of it.  Maybe it means that the game was mentally stimulating and tired me out.

There is one mechanism throughout the game where two bubbles of different colors combine to make a third color of bubbles.  In the normal color mode I believe it is pretty intuitive how they combine, for example yellow+blue=green.  Unfortunately I am color-blind and I had some challenges with the normal color mode.  Fortunately is a colorblind mode and those colors are easy for me to distinguish.  Unfortunately then the colors don't combine very intuitively, for example white+yellow=darker yellow.  After a while I just memorized the combinations, so it isn't a game-ruining issue.

I could maybe see myself replaying some levels in the future.  There is an Infinity mode where you get some moves every few hours.  I did a couple cycles of this but wasn't that interested.  This is probably a mechanic to drive you to purchasing micro-transactions.  I almost universally avoid those.

There are achievements; I don't have any desire to finish them out.

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Survived the storm

By aaron.axvig, 18 November, 2019
SpaceX ships including GO Ms. Tree

The wind blew hard for over two days but our anchor held well and we stayed in place.  It was a stressful weekend with howling winds, a rocking and spinning boat, constant worrying, and poor sleep.  Yesterday evening it finally started to get better.  On the plus side, we didn't have it quite as bad as two of our neighbors who kept swinging towards each other at anchor.  I think one of them had a full keel so was more affected by the currents in our anchorage.  At one point the guy from the one boat rowed his dinghy over to the other boat and three of them were up on the bow of that boat messing with the anchor for about an hour.  Not sure what they were doing as the situation was still similar afterwards.  But all of their rowing and standing around was taking place in 30 knot winds and pouring rain--not fun!

We have a few battle scars.  The bimini cloth was thrashing against one of the solar panel supports that is sort of rough aluminum and eventually it split itself on that edge.  The bimini top also lost the flap that covers the window for looking up at the sail; this window is covered by a solar panel now so the flap is no longer necessary anyways.  The port side long window cracked.  I'm not sure exactly what caused this, probably just temperature changes and flexing over the years.  There was evidently a lot of stress on the window as the crack immediately separated about 1/16".  That will be costly and tedious to replace ($550 and 20-30 days to manufacture and ship, plus a full day to remove, prep, and install).  A fender flew over the lifelines but was tied on so we didn't lose it.  Also the sail cover and dodger minorly extended some rips that they already had.

Today we left around 10:00am and went 25 miles to Swansboro, NC.  It was a pretty cold day and we planned the short day because of forecast scattered showers.  They started 5 minutes after we anchored...great timing!  On the way we drove past two ships with big booms sticking out of all four corners, and one of the ships had a net stuck between them.  Anna said maybe they were for catching stuff so it didn't fall on the boat...I basically told her that was ridiculous.  Then I looked up the name of one of them (GO Ms. Tree) and learned that it is for catching the fairings that are parts of rockets that SpaceX launches.  So I was simultaneous ashamed of myself and amazed at the coolness of them.

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Anchor watch in Beaufort, NC

By aaron.axvig, 16 November, 2019
Aqua Map Marine anchor screenshot

This is our "anchor watch" situation in an app called Aqua Map Marine. These tracks are since yesterday afternoon when the wind started blowing hard.

I positioned the anchor icon after anchoring so it is kind of a guess, but as we swing in arcs I can move it to the center of the arcs to be more accurate.

It goes off a couple times per night saying "BAD GPS ALERT, BAD GPS ALERT" which just means it has lost GPS signal. Usually it has figured it out by the time I wake up and pick up the phone, so that is annoying.  Out bedroom is under the cockpit so it doesn't have great exposure to the sky.  Fiberglass is pretty transparent to RF but there are some storage lockers with a lot of stuff in them and I bet the solar panels are good at blocking it.

The long straight lines are from when it gets an inaccurate reading, then a line is drawn back to our actual location as correct readings are put into what appears to be an averaging model.  There is a time delay on the out-of-bounds alarm so I think only once has it actually alarmed when it is doing this behavior.

It runs in the background using the GPS continuously which uses up maybe 50% of the phone battery (Pixel 3A) in 8 hours.

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Red, White, and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean

By aaron.axvig, 15 November, 2019
Date completed
1 year ago

This was an interesting read that significantly expanded my knowledge on wine.  Yet it wasn't a clinical, textbook sort of read.  For instance, there are a few chapters on specific wine making regions.  These were interesting but it probably would have been a dry (pun) read if the whole book was a chapter on each region.  But it mercifully moves on to the drama of wine critics and the finer points of hosting wine-tasting parties.  A couple of the characters are very interesting and entertaining (one vintner that spouts one-liners non-stop) and the others are competently described.

Overall well written, enjoyable, and educational.  I don't recall exactly what it was but something about the first chapter didn't enthuse me...I recommend that you keep reading.

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Oriental and Beaufort, NC, and a big blow coming

By aaron.axvig, 14 November, 2019

The new impeller worked well when I started up the engine in the morning so we motored a few hundred yards to the nearby fuel dock and filled up with 30 gallons of diesel.  Then we took off motoring down the ICW.  It was an easy day of me watching the autopilot do its thing while Anna and Louise stayed warm below, still trying to get over a cold too.  I put the jib out a couple times to get a small speed boost but most of the time the wind conveniently shifted to always be on the nose.

We arrived in Oriental, NC about an hour before sunset and found a spot at the free dock there.  It was nice to just hop off the boat and go for a little walk.  Anna got ice cream that night and the next morning I tried to get a replacement shower handle at the marine store.  They didn't have one but I got some fuel filters and oil.  We had a late departure around 11:00am as it was only 24 miles to Beaufort, NC.  This was a nice short trip, and even a little exciting when a very young deer swam across the channel just in front of the boat.  We found a nice spot to anchor near the dinghy dock.  There were some big winds coming the next day so it was nice to feel the anchor set really hard--a good yank.  Hopefully it is not actually stuck on an obstruction!

We survived the windy afternoon and night and have been bumming around for a couple days.  It has been cold!  We figured out that the generator alone can run the climate control system (I was getting too fancy trying to run it through the inverter, sometimes you just have to try the simple things) so now we have some relief when the temperatures get extreme.  One gallon of gas probably runs it for 4-5 hours so its pretty reasonable to run occasionally.  One night it got down to 33 degrees, and then it was a high of 45 degrees yesterday.  Now the weather appears to be stabilizing in the 50s which we have found to be pretty reasonable.

Today it really would have been good to sail "outside" (in the ocean versus in the ICW) to Wrightsville Beach as the weather was favorable, but I have a two-day cough and figured a long 12-hour day would not be good for my health.  Plus it was really cold in the morning.  So we stayed here and I went to town to get Louise's medication.  I also found a laundry place so went back to the boat to get all the blankets and towels and got that done.

The next three days will be solid rain so we will be hunkered down.  Good thing I got some good books at the book exchange in Belhaven!  The rain is part of a crazy storm system that is brewing in north Florida and will move up the coast through the weekend.  On Saturday the winds will build to 30 knots sustained and blow like that for about 24 hours where we are so that will be exciting.  There is a lot of chatter on the cruising Facebook groups as the storm is hitting such a long segment of the coast and there are many people working their way south down the ICW like us at this time of year.

Maybe on Monday we will be on the move!

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