Friday, January 30, 2015

Desperate for entertainment

Last night we were the featured attraction at Sidney North Saanich’s Speaker’s Night.  The speaker’s night is one of the staples in our yacht club’s winter social activities for members.  We volunteered to do it over a year ago now and its finally behind us. 

It’s hard to tell how those things go.  There were over 70 people in the room.  60+ reserved for supper and more arrived to hear the goofs from the prairies that like to winter cruise.  The dining room is more than maxed out at 60.  Very few of them came up afterward to say anything so probably that was a bad sign.  Our topic was “Winter Cruising to Alaska – What were we thinking?”  The guy who introduced us changed that slightly to “What the hell were they thinking?”

We untied at Cow Bay around 10:00 yesterday morning and had an uneventful trip over to the yacht club reciprocal dock.  Uneventful is the goal on all our trips but particularly so when the boat has been sitting for as long as it has this time.  All the electronics fired up (which always surprises me) and the engines seemed to be keeping their vital fluids inside them for the most part.  We haven’t really exercised the generator yet – we’re on 15 amp power here at the reciprocal dock which isn’t quite enough but is enough that it doesn’t seem worthwhile starting the noisemaker.



We’re not sure where we’re going from here.  Marilyn has an important phone call this afternoon so we want to stay on good cellular and internet coverage until she is finished.  Our next door neighbour from Buchanan is wintering just north of us in Nanaimo so we’ll likely go more or less directly from here up to Nanaimo to visit him.  We’ve also got some Mexican friends north of that in Comox so we’ll probably also stop there as we work our way north.  I’d like to get back up into the Broughton Islands and maybe even into Seymoure/Belize Inlets but right now we don’t have anything even close to an agenda. 


Wikipedia can be a notoriously poor resource but there’s no political reason to file false information in this case.  Wikipedia claims that Nakwakto Rapids, which lie in Slingsby Channel at the entrance to Seymour & Belize Inlets, holds the strongest current in the world.  Even if its number 2 or 3 its likely to be pretty impressive but more importantly, the cruising ground behind that kind of protection is going to be more or less undiscovered.  Until very recently (within the last 10 years) that area was effectively uncharted because the cartography for the region dated to the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.  Several people whose advice we trust have told us that its a very special spot so we’re excited to explore it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Many years ago, in a Grade 7 or 8 Social Studies class, Paul Kardash spoke some words which have stuck with me ever since.  Their longevity has more to do with their incongruity than their insight.  “One day Buddha was sittin’ under a tree when enlightenment come to ‘im”  Words that only a barely literate Ukrainian history teacher could ever formulate but a memorable quote nonetheless.  Well, yesterday Bob was sittin’ on his boat when enlightenment come to him too.  Twice.

We left the boat unplugged this summer so the first thing we did when we got back onboard was to plug it in and then turn on the breakers.  We have a kind of flaky “system” for our air horn which involves a pancake air compressor running off AC.  It works reasonably well and gives us a very loud horn but its a kludge.  When I turned the breakers on of course the compressor started up.  It sits on the flybridge under the forehead so its pretty loud in the cabin because it runs directly over our heads.  It used to really bother the damncat.  When we arrived on Sunday it ran and ran and ran and ran so eventually I went up top and unplugged it.  Yesterday I resolved that problem which turned out to be simply that I had left a garden hose attached to the compressor.  We used the garden hose to blow the lines before we left the boat.  No big deal – smallish enlightenment.

The other problem was more serious.  We have a 48 volt bow thruster.  Its a pretty good thruster – hydraulic would be better but high voltage is good.  The 12 volt thrusters are pretty well crap – they simply can’t draw enough amps for long enough to do anything useful.  I’ve seen lots of 24 volt units and they have a decent reputation.  Ours is the only 48 volt system I have ever encountered.  The advantage of a hydraulic system would be that you could lean on the control and leave it on all afternoon without it ever letting up.  We can thrust for maybe a minute at a time before it starts to run the batteries down. 

I’m getting close to ready to fire the engines so I was trying the rest of the systems yesterday.  When I tried the thruster I got nothing.  No little light, no thruster noise and when I checked the batteries, no voltage.  Seriously not good in other words.  The way the system works is that we have 4 x 12 volt batteries wired in series to run the thruster.  They are charged by a great big heavy 48 volt transformer that runs off 110 service.  Underway the transformer gets its power from the inverter.  The transformer is only 2 years old but when I tested its output I got nothing.  That kind of pissed me off because I just replaced the damn thing 2 years ago.  As it turns out I likely didn’t need to do that but its too late now.

When I was about 8 years old I tore apart a windup clock to see how it worked.  I couldn’t put it back together and went to bed in tears but by the next morning father had put it back together.  As a result of father’s kindness (and no doubt some serious late night frustration) I never really learned anything from the experience.  I’ve never been shy about tearing things apart since – lacking father’s assistance to restore them to working order overnight I sometimes regret my enthusiasm for disassembly but I continue undeterred. 

I don’t really know jack shit about electronics but I figured the transformer wasn’t working anyway so what did I have to lose?  When I got the covers off it was a lot more complicated than I was expecting but I was able to recognize the output windings and when I measured the voltage across them it was around 93 or 94 volts AC.  That seemed to me to be about what it should be.  I recall reading somewhere that AC output will be slightly less than twice what the resulting DC voltage will be after it is rectified.  48 times 2 would be 96 so 93/94 volts seemed reasonable.

The rectifier circuit board looked OK too – no burn marks, no exploded capacitors or corroded connections.  It has 2 medium sized transistors with big heat sinks that clearly do the rectifying but it also has a bunch of other smaller wires coming off the board and leading back to the input circuit board.  That’s when enlightenment come to me.  For some reason it occurred to me that perhaps the output circuitry was watching for voltage on whatever it was supposed to be charging in order to turn itself on.  Clearly the transformer was putting out power – I could measure it, I could hear it humming and it was slightly warm to the touch.  That power just wasn’t making it through rectification to the output wires.


So I ended up kludging everything back together in the engine room with a couple of leads hanging out connected to the output side of the transformer.  Then I jump started those leads to the 12 volt engine system.  There was a great big spark when I did that, likely because the depleted batteries would look like a dead short.  However when I tested the voltage on the dead batteries after the spark, sure enough they were reading just over 5 volts.  More usefully that 5 volts slowly climbed to over 6 volts and then declined to under 3 volts.  I left it alone for a few hours and the next time I checked it had climbed to 54 volts.  I haven’t checked it again this morning but I expect it has stabilized somewhere over 50 volts. The little green LED on the transformer also came on and stayed on.  The lesson learned is that likely the transformer I threw out 2 years ago had nothing at all wrong with it.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Re-adjusting to life afloat

This morning I launched the anchor again.  I like to pull it before we leave the boat because it hangs way out over the dock and I’m afraid someone will bang their head on it.  When I pulled it in July it was so I could take the bow roller back to the prairies to rebuild it.  Over the past couple of days I got all that new stainless mounted with some very expensive SS bolts.  Over 5 bucks apiece for the 6” bolts and over 4 bucks for the rest of them. 



After we got the anchor lowered overboard I pushed the button on the windlass and it came back aboard just as easy as can be.  That’s a huge improvement over the old method where I had to perch out on the bow pulpit to help the anchor over the hump with a boat hook. 

Next step is to fire up the old Lehmans and the antique Onan.  If all that goes well I think we’ll take the boat over to the club on Wednesday afternoon.  We’re the featured attraction at the speaker’s seminar Thursday evening.  Our topic is “Cruising Offseason to Alaska – What Were we Thinking?”

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The view from the left coast


2014 was either the warmest year in the past 100 years or among the 3 coldest years in the last 10,000.  Take your pick.

I’ve been having a lot of trouble with that “warmest in the last 100 years” claim which has led me to a variety of websites.  The problem with the warmest claim is twofold:

  1. Its presented as confirmation of anthropogenic global warming – warming caused by man’s emissions of CO2 in other words.  But even if it actually is a warmer year, it doesn’t by itself confirm anything.  And as I am about to argue, its not actually the warmest year in the last 100.  More importantly the current measured temperatures continue to stubbornly diverge from the alarmist  predictions of the warmists.  In actual fact the so-called warming trend has been in a 20 year pause now.  GlowBullPause
  2. Independent of any AGW causation, the measurement itself is suspect.  Whenever you do a measurement you have to consider the margin of error.  If you measure something by pacing it off with your feet you wouldn’t subsequently claim that the distance was exactly 6.37283013 feet.  (or maybe you would in which case everyone who saw you take the measurement would immediately assume you were a fool)  In the case of the “warmest in 100 years” claim, the margin of error is reported as 1/10th of a degree but the margin of warmest is reported as only .02 of a degree.  In other words the margin of error is 5X as large as the difference reported.  The claim is every bit as bogus as you reporting an 8 decimal point distance by stomping it off against your shoe.

This information is not immediately popular in our current locale.  Try to imagine my dismay.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Red Radio

We must be back in BC. They've already apologized for Islam and trash talked the 1%. All that remains is the (mandatory) daily queer segment. Apparently if we distributed wealth evenly that would be better because everyone could (more likely WOULD) then spend their wealth. They didn't elaborate on exactly where those newly affluent consumers were going to do their consuming in the absence of capital accumulation.

Oh well. At least it's not 90 below zero with a wind blowing.  It is raining mind you.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Torturing the language

……… in the name of political correctness.

So this morning a couple of thugs have taken some hostages somewhere in France.  The media has jumped all over that because France is the topic du jour.  Two weeks ago a hostage taking in Montreal wouldn’t have made the national news, let alone one in far away France.  The big debate on the TV this morning is whether this latest hostage taking is “terrorism” or just a regular garden variety kidnapping.  I expect it is terrifying enough for the victims, no matter whether their captors worship Allah or God or pink lizards.

CrescentStarWhat’s bugging me this morning is the phraseology we use to describe these incidents.  What we’re talking about of course is Islamic extremism or Muslim terrorists.  Everybody knows that.  “Terrorism” has become code for Islamic extremism.  Despite that we could never admit that there may be a fundamental problem with Islam, that would be xenophobic or racist.  I heard an argument the other day where one person opined that the violent incidents we are seeing are caused by a few bad apples to which his opponent responded that, given the number of bad apples we are seeing, perhaps there is something rotten in the orchard.

We don’t have to live in fear.  We REALLY don’t have to live in fear out here in Buchanan but as a global society we don’t have to live in fear either.  We do have to name the threat and so far I see absolutely no willingness to do that. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015


The trunk of the car is mostly full – there’s more room left than I expected but I’m sure there’s more left to put in it than I think too.  All of a sudden today a snow storm appeared in the forecast for Revelstoke.  I’m dunno where the hell that came from – the weather has been uniformly good from the coast all the way to Calgary for close to a week now.  But all of a sudden this morning they started showing heavy snow for Revelstoke on Sunday morning which is exactly when I expect we will be passing through Revelstoke.  Fortunately it is not a problem. 

Thanks to the geniuses in Victoria WE ARE INVINCIBLE.

I haven’t been able to get the Black Knight sketch out of my mind ever since we started into this winter tire bullshit.  We may however hole up in Golden for a little longer than we otherwise would have.  Or the weather forecast may be wrong.  Hard to imagine I know but I hear that it occasionally does happen.  Or maybe these new tires really will make us invincible although, as SWMBO just pointed out, every other idiot on the BC highways will now also think that he is invincible.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Well …. that was complicated

…….. way more complicated than it needed to be.

As I wrote about here, the nanny state assholes in Victoria have decided that drivers in BC are too stupid to make intelligent decisions about winter travel.  By the time I wrote that post I had called the tire shop in Preeceville and ordered 4 tires mounted on 4 new rims.  No problem – he’d call me as soon as they were ready – likely about 10 days. 


Its almost exactly a month since that first call and I only got those tires mounted today because I have been hounding the tire guy since last Monday.  His attitude completely baffles me.  When I finally got inside his shop today he was as friendly and efficient as he always is – I was in and out the door in under 45 minutes.  The only thing that took any time at all was persuading the Lincoln to air up the bags enough to lift the car off his jack when I was ready to leave. 

For the period in between the phone call and this afternoon however it was as if he really didn’t give a damn whether he had my business or not.  He simply never phoned me back, no matter what commitments he made to do so.  Every time I phoned him he’d put me off for a week with some story and a promise to call me.  Then about 10 days later when I realized that he still hadn’t called the whole cycle would start over.   I last talked to him Thursday afternoon when he assured me that the rims were coming on the bus that evening and he’d have them ready on Friday.  He didn’t call Friday or Saturday so I called again this morning.  At that point he said it would be another couple of days because “he had to make a trip to get the tires”.  I didn’t completely lose it but I was pretty firm when I pointed out that on Thursday the story had been that the rims were arriving that night and he had claimed all along that he had the tires on the shelf.  That got me a commitment to get the tires mounted and balanced this morning but I was sceptical so I called again at 11:30 to confirm and in between I phoned every tire shop within 60 miles to see what other options I might have. 

Strange. Very strange.  Meanwhile the tires work like any other tire I have ever owned – they go around.  I don’t buy into the government bullshit which assumes that because I have winter tires I am somehow immune to winter driving conditions.  Our departure and travel times will still be governed 100% by prevailing weather conditions.  So far it looks good for a Saturday departure but 5 day weather forecasts are almost as full of bullshit as BC tire legislation.

Friday, January 9, 2015

I fought the web ………

………… and I won.  With apologies to Sonny Curtis and The Clash, tonight for your listening pleasure I bring you a classic from my university years.

Last night I decided it was time to pull the plug on Homestead email.  I went to bed confident that I had managed to move my email from Homestead (AKA Worst ISP in the Universe) to GoDaddy.  At the same time I uploaded all the files for my new and improved personal website but I left the DNS pointing to the Homestead server. 

This morning I woke up full of piss and vinegar so I elected to pull the plug on Homestead’s web server as well.  I’m not sure whether my email was working and I broke it or whether it never really worked.  Either way, I spent the rest of the day getting it working.  I could always receive email which I why I’m not 100% certain that it wasn’t broken last night.  I may just not have noticed that I wasn’t sending anything.

Whatever the exact situation, by early afternoon I was desperate enough to actually phone support.  That was pretty much a waste of time although I think they did have to be involved.  There was some server re-sync that they did which I think helped but it certainly wasn’t the whole solution.  We actually discovered a bigger disconnect while I was on support and then the support droid kept trying to steer me back to what I had initially phoned about.  We had a bizarre situation where I could log into their webmail if I went through their links from their homepage but if I tried to open a browser directly to their email I would get diverted to some unknown Open Exchange server.  That behaviour went away after he did his re-sync thing.

By mid afternoon I had no ability to send email at all – nothing from my Android, nothing from Outlook and their web interface wouldn’t send either.  It still won’t send from IE but it will work from FireFox.  Late in the afternoon I finally blew up my email account on their server, created a couple of dummy accounts and then recreated the exact account that I had blown up.  That seemed to get the constipation in their servers moving along and its mostly working now.  I still haven’t tackled the Android – I suppose that will be my blood pressure stimulant for the evening. 

Somewhere in the middle of all that I thought I’d take a break and change the cam position sensor on the Lincoln.  That went well until I tried to put the connector back on.  The old plastic must have been too brittle in this miserable cold.  The little tab that is supposed to hold the connector on fell off as I was trying to reattach the connector.  I bodged that with two zip ties and a short piece of plumbing strap.  Time will tell how well that works but I think it will be OK.  I supposed I should try to find a new connector but that seems like it could quickly turn into an ordeal.

It was just one of those days.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Oh Shit


That’s a generic quick change tool post image I shamelessly stole off the interweb.  The way it works is you stick a cutting tool in one of those little bits with the wedge shaped slot in the back, slide the slot onto the matching wedge on the tool post and turn the lever to lock it all in place.  It turns out they’re pretty important for lathe use and not so much because of the quick change part, although that’s a nice benefit too.

The reason they are so important is because you need to get the cutting edge of whatever tool you are using EXACTLY on the centre line of the lathe.  And I don’t mean within 25 thou of the centre line – I mean EXACTLY on the centre line.  With a conventional tool holder that involves a lot of buggering around with shims and adjusting setscrews.  With a quick change tool post you simply turn the thumbwheel on the top of the tool holder until the tool is on centre and then snub it down with the locking nut.  Q E D as father used to say.  (He’d have really enjoyed the lathe – too bad I didn’t get it 10 years ago)

So I bought one of these gizmos a few weeks ago from some dude in Regina as well as the last two extra tool holders he had with it.  Then I spent a couple of nights adapting it to fit my compound slide.  As an aside, I think selling machine tools is the right racket to be involved with.  I bought the tool post and it didn’t fit on my compound but I never really expected that it would be a simple bolt on item.  So I took everything apart, did some web research and ended up machining a special combination metric/SAE bolt with a very carefully sized knurled head that I used to join everything together.  That’s a good sales program – sell something you know damn well won’t fit on your customer’s machine and the customer just goes ahead and makes it fit with no questions asked. But I digress …..

So – having mounted my tool post and having immediately fallen in love with it, I of course needed more tool holders.  Its really remarkable how quickly they got used up – 1 for my wobbler, 1 for the parting tool, another for a boring bar, left, right and centre cutting tools – and there goes 6 holders just getting started.  No problem – I found a set on eBay and ordered them from Ontario.  I’ve discovered that I can set the eBay search to just find stuff in Canada which allows me to avoid the UPS brokerage scam. 

Today my 5 shiny new tool holders arrived & I almost immediately discovered I had ordered the wrong size.  I was under the obviously mistaken impression that my tool holder was a “B” size but it turns out it is in fact an “A” sized unit.  Oh well, the Chinese guy on the phone was happy to send out a set of A sized holders & I shipped my B sized units back.  I had previously carefully taken all their little boxes apart and flattened them for the recycling pile so I had to first reassemble all the little boxes and then reassemble the shipping box but its all good now.

The other big item for my week was learning to use some open source web editing software called Open Element.  It must have been written by a bunch of frogs because there’s a lot of froggie language inside it but its largely English.  I’m not smart enough to use more than about 5% of what its capable of but it is a huge improvement over the crap that I have been using.  That particular festering turd being Homestead’s “Sitebuilder”. 

I can’t remember how long ago it was that I first started creating a website for Gates Fertilizers but its likely over 12 years now – maybe even over 15.  At the time AOL and Homestead were about the only games in town.  Its too bad I didn’t start out with AOL because they couldn’t have been worse than Homestead and they are now long gone so I’d have had to move somewhere else by now.  Homestead sucks and you don’t have to take my word for it.  This guy says it has the worst customer service in the history of the internet but I think that is unduly generous.  The problem is that – once engaged with the bastards – it is difficult and even frightening to contemplate a divorce.  Every year my renewal would come up and I’d think “Gawd I hate these bastards”.  Then I’d pay the invoice and move on.  Until this year.

Somewhere in the ether there is something called ICANN which stands for something.  They register names on the internet.  They’re the guys that keep Reginald or Romeo McDonald from setting up their own website called McDonalds.  Apparently ICANN periodically “verifies” the email address they have on file.  They do this by sending an email to the address on file.  If somebody receives that email and responds then ICANN knows that the address is still good and life goes on.  On the other hand, if the address is --- oh, something like ---- and is ---- oh, maybe 10 years out of date --- then the email just goes to somewhere west of the planet Pluto.  Then maybe a month or so later, when ICANN realizes that nobody has responded, they turn off your internet address.  Just like that.  Boom.  One Sunday morning you realize that you haven’t received any email for the past 30 hours and then a while later you discover that your e-address has disappeared. 

If you find yourself in that desperate situation and you are unfortunate enough to have your website “hosted” by Homestead you can’t actually contact them to find out what has happened because they are WAY too efficient to allow human to human contact.  So very many hours later you may finally Google your way to a solution and along the way you will no doubt find many other disgruntled former Homestead clients.  That’s exactly what happened here about the middle of September at which time I vowed to turn myself into a former Homestead client by the time my summer renewal rolls around again. 

Just by way of explanation, I don’t have any problem with the concept that ICANN needs to verify e-addresses and I understand that ICANN is not Homestead.  My fury at Homestead is because they claim to be a premium supplier and they certainly charge premium prices.  As I pointed out to the bastards it would cost them exactly nothing to implement a script on their own database that would routinely send out emails the same way ICANN does.  The difference would be that they have other means of contacting clients and that, in the event they found a dead address, they would not have any responsibility to turn the associated website off.  In other words, they could provide some of that “premium” service by ensuring that clients like me didn’t suffer the frustration that I eventually did.

Yesterday I turned the switch on at GoDaddy and, if I have to say so myself, I think it turned out OK.  Its not high tech by any stretch but its too high tech to be called low tech.  BobDigs was previously hosted at Homestead but the domain was registered at GoDaddy.  I spent the balance of yesterday and most of today – when I wasn’t rebuilding little cardboard boxes – getting ready to move but its a little more complex.  For one thing I already had the BobDigs domain hosted at GoDaddy so it was relatively simple to just turn it on.  In the case of the domain & the website are hosted at Homestead but that is about to change.  ICANN is so efficient that it only takes them 7 days to transfer a domain.  The 7 days will be up this Thursday.  At that point I’ll be able to setup the directory structure to house the files and shortly after that I should be able to say goodbye forever to Homestead.  It won’t be a minute too soon.