Less than “Super”

It might be the rantings of a curmudgeon, but the world of journalism has decayed dramatically in recent years. (I’d have said “old curmudgeon” but that would be redundant.)

Once upon a time, most people bought a newspaper without knowing its contents beyond the Page One headlines. They expected to be informed and entertained with stories chosen by the editors. Once you got “below the fold” on the first page headlines really had very little to do with the economics of the newspaper, and more to do with informing the reader about how they should spend their time reading.

With the internet, almost nobody reads a single news source from cover to cover anymore. News stories are picked at whim from a Google news page, or a Facebook feed, or Reddit list. People click on those stories that attract their attention, and those clicks are how the news suppliers make money. Headlines, even for trivial and unimportant things are trumpeted and inflated.

Super? or Meh?

My pet peeve, which shows up like clock work, is making “news” out of the full moon. Really??? The moon is full EVERY MONTH, without fail. But if your advertiser is paying you $0.005 per click, you need to drive those clicks. I am guessing that in what passes for the press room these days, the assignment to write about the full moon every month is close to the lowest job on the ladder. Down where the obit writers used to live.

If you printed the above image the size of the typical business card and held it about arm’s length, it would be a good representation of the size of the full moon in the sky. I know the moon seems bigger than that, but a 1/4 inch circle, 2.5 feet away, is about right. For those of you more mathematically inclined, that is about 1/2 of a degree of arc. If you find that hard to believe, hold your hand up at arm’s length next to the full moon. The moon will cover an area about the size of your smallest fingernail.

Now look at this one. Isn’t that SUPER? I mean really, amazingly, awesomely, SUPER-DUPER? Maybe? …Not. The first image is the SMALLEST the full moon ever looks. When the sunlight side of the moon faces the earth, and the moon is as far away from the earth as it ever gets. The second image is the same, except now the moon is as close to the earth as it ever gets. If you didn’t put them next to each other could you even tell which was bigger?

Now… imagine you are some poor cub reporter, and you have been given the job of hyping the “SUPER MOON!” and if you don’t generate at least 200,000 clicks, you’re fired! And now you have to do this every month, over and over… Kind of like the movie “Groundhog Day.”

In other news, we continue to be hunkered down on the boat in Fort Lauderdale. While this is a convenient place to be, it is also expensive, and we need to have a plan to get at least a little bit north before June 1, the start of hurricane season according to the Weather Service and, more importantly, according to our insurance company. Not sure yet where or when we’ll be targeting that. When we are comfortable leaving, and finding a place that will take us, we’ll be making those decisions.

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It’s a bit of a cliche that everything grows in Florida, but it is kind of true. Being a warm, usually damp, semi-tropical climate with lots of bugs, there are a lot of critters that eat bugs, including a wide selection of native and exotic lizards.

In a suburban environment, lizards are a lot easier to spot than they are in the wild. This is especially true in the late afternoon as they gather what warmth they can from sun-heated concrete walls and sidewalks.

Here are a set of photos from one afternoon’s hour long walk, featuring just a few of the many kinds of lizards we see around here. Identifying these is a challenge. I doubt there are any resources that are really comprehensive since new species are introduced all the time. Then add to that the ability of many of these guys to change color and color pattern, and an ID from a photo is really tough for us non-herpetologists.

Haven’t figured out a name for this one…
Maybe a Cuban Brown Anole?
As distinctive as this one is, we still haven’t come up with an ID we trust…
Another mystery lizard
One of the native guys, a Green Anole
This guy ready to dart back into his electric box home, looks like a Large-Headed Anole (non-native)
Maybe a northern curly tail?
Maybe another color form of the Brown Anole?
No good guesses here…
This well camouflaged guy might be a Bark Anole, non-native.
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Flying the Q-Flag

In the traditional sailor’s flag code a plain yellow flag represents the letter “Q” and is flow by a ship entering harbor to show that they are “healthy” and wish to be cleared in to enter the country. We fly ours every time we enter a new country until we have been cleared in by customs.

Interesting how a few weeks change perspective. It wasn’t that long ago we were sitting right here fussing and fretting over how long we had been stuck in port. We wanted to go SOMEWHERE. Now… we are really happy we stayed put!

We have a number of sailing friends who are in various stages of being stuck somewhere. The worst difficulties are faced by people who left one port, heading for another; then at the end of the trip, are told they can’t enter the country–go away.

Right now, we are comfortable and reasonably isolated here in Fort Lauderdale. We have been keeping busy by working on other boats, some recently sold, others being prepped for market. Ironically, this situation has turned into a minor financial surplus for us, while a disaster for most others.

We have a boat full of food, and in a place we can comfortably stay for the foreseeable future. We are good.

As bad as this first wave might be, I worry that the damage to the economy around the world, like the second wave of an ocean tsunami, will prove a bigger, and more dangerous problem in the long run. But time will tell…

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Things are busy!

I have finally completed the written description of the window replacement project on Harmonie. Hopefully, the details with help someone else with the same effort! Read all about it here: Harmonie‘s new windows.

We have been working with new owners of an Amel 54 getting their boat ready to sail. A fun project, working with great people, that is helping put at least a little bit of green back into the cruising kitty after several months of serious drawing down.

We are also working on having some custom parts made locally for Amel owners who, like us, need to replace rubber inserts on our rub rails. They are available from the Amel factory, but the shipping costs from Europe increase the cost by 300%. We have found a local outfit who can custom manufacture these for us at reasonable cost.

Last, but not least, we have the potential for a couple of deliveries: bringing other people’s boats from where they are to where they need to be. A chance to sail other boats, in other places!

Almost like work!

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Quite the frustrating ride we have with insurance. I suspect a lot of the issues come from the basic assumptions of the insurance business. It is about spreading risk between a large pool of more or less similar customers. Some customers are percieved to present a bit higher risk, and they pay more, and lower risk customers pay a bit less. In theory, the (Cost per unit of Risk) is as close to a constant as the actuaries can calculate it.

Then along comes a boat like Harmonie. They ask us some questions, and they don’t quite know what to do with our answers.

  • “What is your Home Port? Where do you keep your boat?” No one place, we travel all the time.
  • “What will you do if you are in the path of a large storm?” That greatly depends on where we are.
  • “Where do you live?” On the boat.

It’s not that NOBODY does these things, but very few people do, and the data set that is available calculating risk is actually quite small.

We have gotten a lot of advice from many people. Some of it very helpful, some… not. Frequently the advice consists of “my policy is really cheap, you should check it out.” So far, we have yet to find a “really cheap” policy that meets even our basic needs, but if one does happen to turn up, we’ll be all over it!

Several companies we talked to were based in the UK or Down Under, and had no interest in an American flagged vessel in American home waters.

Several companies had policy language that was unacceptable to us, especially around “latent defect,” and “inherent vice” losses. Some did not handle depreciation issues around repairs in a fashion we thought was reasonable.

Of the few that survived this far down the weeding out process, it became clear that the “home port” issues were going to be a big stumbling block. Basically, you tell the insurance company that in the event of a “named storm” your boat will be located at your home port, and secured exactly as you described in your storm plan. They use that information to develop the risk and cost of the policy.

If you are NOT in your home port and suffer damage during a named storm, your policy is not valid–so sorry! The way around this is to tell the insurance company every time you are in the path of a storm where you are, and your detailed storm plan, and hope that is acceptable to them, maybe with a rate modification. This is a very different consideration than the allowed “cruising range” in the policy.

We also found that most were “coastal” policies with coverage limited to less than 200 miles offshore.

In the end, working down the check lists for what we wanted, there was ONE policy still in the running. The Jackline Policy from the Gowrie Group. The coverage wording was mostly what we were looking for. It has true world-wide coverage. With a few reasonable limitations, we can go anywhere. There is no home port issue to fret over. They also offered the kind of general liability coverage that most people get through a homeowner’s policy, which is very hard to come by from other venders. This insurance program has been around for many years, catering to the few boats who do exactly what we do.

On the downside, it is expensive. We went from 2.5% of hull value for a limited cruising area to over 4% for worldwide. You get what you pay for.

Of course the REAL measure of any insurance company is how they handle claims. We hope we never find out…

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Hey! What’s he doing up there?

Another one of our major projects is complete: New rigging for our Harmonie. In the original plan this project was going to be next year when the parts all had their 15th birthday, but needing to shift to a new insurance company, we had to pull this forward. The local firm Nance and Underwood has a lot of experience with Amels and they are set up to make some of the bespoke parts that need to be replaced. All of the rig was replaced, Wires, turnbuckles, pins, everything between the chainplates and the mast.

The crew did a great job, getting everything installed, tuned, and ready to go in a bit less than 3 days of work on the boat.

The stainless steel wires that support our mast don’t change much in appearance as they age, but that doesn’t mean they don’t change. Small areas of corrosion build up, and repeated cycles of loading cause the metal to work-harden and lose strength. They have a finite life, and get risky as they get older.

Oooooh! Shiny!

Now all of our rig is new and ready to go for at least another decade of ocean sailing. We also had some minor sail repairs completed.

We did complete our insurance paper chase, and we’ll post an update on that soon. We did find a policy we were happy with, although it is expensive.

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Washing Day.

I guess this comes under the category of “First World Problems,” but yesterday our laundry machine came to a clanking halt. Checking carefully, we found the drum would turn a few times, then jam. This machine is 25 years old, and although it has been well cared for by people who knew how these things worked, everything dies eventually. We started looking for a replacement.

There were two problems. Our main electrical system on the boat is 220 Volts, so being currently in the USA we are at a disadvantage, but there are some suppliers of 220 Volt appliances. The second problem was bigger: The size. It is tiny. And the space available requires a very small unit. We were not able to find anything that could fit. The good people on the Amel Forum steered us to a modern unit that would fit, but wasn’t available in the USA, and cost about US$1000–before shipping from Europe. Ouch. So… it might be time to try to breathe life into the old girl one more time.

The good news is that this model is a good, old fashioned, electro-mechanical machine. No software. No silicon chips. No mother boards. Just relays, switches, timers, cams, gears, and pushrods. Once you get it apart, the way everything works is right there to see and understand. So we hauled her up into the cockpit, and attacked with screwdriver and wrench.

When you first open one of these up, it is a bit intimidating. Wires running all over. Mysterious widgets. But with a bit of study, you start to see the logic. A pulls on B, and X turns, and before long it makes sense.

A Happy Washer Repair Man.

After a full disassembly and cleaning all the parts went back together–and it WORKS.

We know that this machine, made 25 years ago in Austria, has a finite amount of life left. Parts are no longer available–as far as I can find. But, we have postponed the day of reckoning out into the future once again, and nothing looks ready to break. We can avoid doing laundry in a bucket for at least a bit longer!

In another piece of good news, in taking everything apart, we found that the water hose feeding the washer had chafed, almost all the way through! We could have had a great flood dumping all our fresh water into the bilge. Another example of why taking things apart on a boat is a good thing.

It was entertaining to open the machine up and find notes inside in the pervious owner’s handwriting about how to reconnect the wires. Yes, Don, I do know your handwriting!

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