Friday, November 30, 2012

My LED Trick
By Michael

Three identical lights sharing
a power source. From left to
right: no tape, three layers of
tape, one layer of tape.
When I first wrote about our lighting debacle, I got a lot of good advice. I’ve since looked at a million lights online, emailed a million folks for more info, bought and returned a couple lights, and replaced a bunch of wiring aboard Del Viento. But except for two new reading lights, we are still at the same place we started with respect to lighting, albeit more informed.
We want LED lights to replace our amp-hogging 22-watt circular fluorescents throughout the cabin. LED lights are recently available that offer a warm white light, nearly the same color as incandescents. This color is measured in degrees Kelvin and this measurement should be available from the LED light manufacturer. I want something in the 2700 range. This is hard to find and with LED lights, you tend to get what you pay for. Five years from now, this won’t be a problem, but we want pleasing, efficient light now.

So I’ve been playing around with LED lights and I discovered something. I don’t know how useful it is, or whether it will diminish the life of the bulb, or cause a fire, but that is all beside the point.
If you wrap an LED light with Teflon tape—just regular white Teflon tape—it seems to warm the color of the light and doesn’t seem to dramatically diminish output. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Bare bulb
Three wraps of tape

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sort Of The Same, But Slower
By Michael

This is what schlepping groceries often
looks like when cruising, Mexico,
Canada, or the U.S.
In Mexico, it was easy to enrich our kids’ lives. The place was so different than what they were used to, that just being there caused new synapses to erupt all over their brains. Riding the bus, ordering tacos, or watching people on the plaza was sufficient stimulus. Even after half-a-year, the rewards of spending our time this way didn’t diminish.
Now, back on more familiar ground, enrichment happens in different ways. British Columbia doesn’t offer taco stands and a disparate culture, but it’s bursting with organized activities for kids.

It is still an evolving schedule, but our weeks are filling up. On Monday nights, Eleanor and I go to kids’ chess club. Tuesday afternoon, both girls jump and cartwheel through gymnastics lessons. Thursday mornings, Eleanor meets with her French tutor for 90 minutes or more. Saturdays, the girls go to swim lessons. In between they meet and hang out with other homeschooled kids and do ad hoc things like go on a mushroom walk or attend the fall festival or see the salmon run.
In other words, our family life as cruisers holed up in Victoria is not much different than our family life as working professionals in D.C.—except that it is totally different. Because even as we fill our weeks with a schedule familiar to any harried two-income family back home, it isn’t leaving us harried. Though we still must grocery shop, deal with the pile of dirty clothes, and chip away at a never-ending string of boat projects—and despite my spending the bulk of most days writing—having given up the career, the commute, and the house and the car that went with it, our lives are much simpler than they were.

Mornings are never a mad scramble, the days are never a pressure cooker, and the evenings we spend cooking labor-intensive meals, playing games, watching movies, and baking bread in our small living space. In June 2011, we set out on this radical journey to gain more togetherness, and we got it. We’ve a lot to be thankful for.

Here Eleanor at chess club plays her friend Liam,
our neighbor aboard Riki Tiki Tavi.
This is Del Viento's new covered wagon look, at least while
at anchor or at the dock. It keeps the cockpit dry in the rain
and will keep the boat cool in the Mexican sun. It is a
Shade Tree awning passed down to us from our friends
aboard Dreamweaver, who got it from our friends
aboard Principia. It gusted 40 knots in the
marina a couple days after we set it up
and it did remarkably well.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ambassador Me
By Michael

I will say that like the U.S., Canada has
learned to maximize the Christmas shopping
season. This mid-November lighted
holiday parade passed right in front of our
docks. The girls loved it.
I didn’t just fall off the proverbial turnip truck. I’ve traveled, I’m fairly well read, and I just turned 44-years-old this month. Yet, I have to come clean on a misguided prejudice I’ve held: I thought Canada was the 51st state. No, not literally. But I did think living here would be nearly indistinguishable from life in the United States.
It ain’t so.

For example, I knew Canada had a French thing going on, that folks in one of their states provinces back east were pretty much French. But I had no idea French and English share ‘official language’ status throughout the country. Every food label in the grocery stores here in British Columbia is printed in both English and French. Credit card terminals and ATMs automatically simultaneously display in both languages. Folks at the post office are ready to address me either way. (When I especially want to feel cosmopolitan, I prep something to be mailed, take it to the post office, and greet the clerk with my best, “Bonjour!” before switching back to English. Wink, wink.)
And the flip side of the French thing is the English thing. Canadian English is more English than American. Accordingly, nothing is spelled correctly and British influence is everywhere. Royal this and royal that. Queen Elizabeth is Canada’s head of state, really (and of Pakistan too, who knew?).

And that’s not all. Can you believe Canada is still stuck in the metric system? Thanks to our time in Mexico, I’ve finally got a good feel for the gallon-liter relationship—and miles-kilometers, kilograms -pounds are sort of 1:2—but the gram is tough. There are 28.35 of them in an ounce. Why on earth wouldn’t they choose a round number of them for an ounce? Not too big a deal until you’re in the grocery store, trying to get a feel for the price of stuff in the bulk section.

Fortunately, Canadian money trades roughly 1:1 with the dollar. Unfortunately, they don’t use dollar bills here. And despite all of the failed attempts at broad acceptance of a dollar coin in the U.S., the folks in Canada love them. Their $1 coin has an imprint of a loon on it so they call it a loonie. (Their $2 coin…anyone? Yep, a toonie.) Cute, but Canadians use loonies like we use quarters. In a U.S. laundromat, we deposit three quarters and get our fleece cleaned. In Canada, we deposit three loonies and feel fleeced.
But it could be an island thing; everything here in Victoria is expensive. The regular people’s grocery store (Thrifty Foods, a misnomer) has prices that would make any shopper at a U.S. Whole Foods store feel like they got a screaming bargain. Eating out is out of the question. On top of the high cost of the meal, folks in Canada pay a sales tax that would eliminate the U.S. national debt in six months: 12%.

And some differences defy explanation. Like where you go if you have to go. They don’t have restrooms in Canada—not a one. All they have here are washrooms. Universally, it seems that is the only term that’s used. Surely U.S. media bleeds through, wouldn’t our term catch on? Who knows. But if I continue asking waiters and clerks where the restrooms are, maybe it will rub off. After all, that’s why we travel, to do our part to help the world become just a bit more American, right?  

Windy and I aboard Del Viento, under sail in the Strait
of Juan de Fuca, stradling the border between the U.S.
and Canada.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

By Michael

Here condensation drips from the
intersection of the deck underside and
ceilings inside a locker inside the head.
All of that black stuff? Mold that
wasn't there two months ago.
That is, the insulation that isn't built into Del Viento. Our decks and cabin top are foam cored, but otherwise we are solid glass through-and-through. Until now, I never fully appreciated the ramifications of this: condensation and all it means to life aboard a boat.
The entire Del Viento crew now fully appreciates the ramifications of incomplete insulation.  

Do you ever wake up to water dripping on your face, your own breath condensing on the inside of the cold cabin top above you? I do. When you change your sheets, do they come off the bed cold and wet where they were tucked under the mattress, evidence of the moisture trapped beneath? Mine do. When you’re cooking dinner on the stove, does condensation drip into your pots from above? It happens here. 
Our saving grace are the ceilings along the insides of the hull. (Aboard a boat, ceilings are not above your head, they are slats affixed longitudinally on the 'walls,' to cover hull framing.) I always thought they were a decorative nod to the interior of a wood boat—now I know better, they shield us from condensation. But the ceilings are in the cabin and lockers, not in the lower stowage spaces, such as under the settees and v-berth. And ceilings aren't on the vertical sides of the coach roof (where the portlights are). Condensation is happening aboard Del Viento.

So, we are experimenting with lower heater settings at night and increased ventilation. We're clearing out crammed lockers and going through a lot of vinegar. We try and keep as much moisture out of the boat as possible, but it drizzles a lot in Victoria and with four wet bodies going in and out... We may buy some Golden Rods or a dehumidifier (or both, please leave a comment if you have experience with these). There are more extensive insulation-related steps we could take to mitigate the problem, but our time in these northern lats is relatively short. But we’ll see, we've only dipped our toes into the winter ahead.
In Mexico, it always seemed to Windy and I that we met a disproportionate number of cruisers from the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. and Canada, given the number of boats and marinas up and down the California coast. I think I now know why.

Drip, drip, drip…

Frances prefers the newspaper not be only black and white.
Life goes on in the main cabin despite condensation issues.
Affected mostly are the lockers and sleeping areas.

One day, this brand new aluminum cat showed up on the
transient dock next to us. It is a pilot boat built across the
way in Port Angeles by Armstrong Marine for the country
of Guatemala. It is headed for Puerto Quetzal, where Windy
and I anchored the first Del Viento back in 1997.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Getting Around
By Michael

On foot along Victoria's downtown streets.
I grew up in the Southern California car culture. As a kid I worshiped cars. I couldn’t wait to own my own one day. All I wanted for my 16th birthday was an appointment at the DMV.

I noticed buses on the road only because they blocked my view of cars. I rode a yellow one to school in the mornings. In my high school years, I learned the school bus carried a stigma; it was to be ridden only by the desperate kids who had neither cars nor friends with cars. I’m embarrassed to write that as I grew older, I accepted the idea that public transportation was for the desperate, and certainly not preferable to moving about in your own shiny ride. And it was an idea easy to accept, given that Southern California suburban infrastructure puts public transportation someplace between impractical and impossible.

One of the unexpected benefits of our move to D.C. was learning how awesome public transportation can be. It was magic to realize that a 45-minute commute by bus or light rail could make more sense than the same 20-minute commute via car. That the 45-minute span included a pleasant 10 minute walk and 35 minutes of productive time spent reading, emailing, calling, writing, working, or meditating. The car commute was 20 non-productive minutes spent cajoling a 35-hundred-pound vehicle through a city. Even ignoring the issues of cost and pollution, I was hooked.
Though we did own, drive, and maintain a car during our 12-year span in D.C., it was a single econobox that served our family of four, often sitting idle in the garage. When we transitioned to our cruising lifestyle, we got rid of it. Since then we’ve borrowed the cars of friends and family, rented on occasion, but mostly we simply find a way to get around using the public transportation of the place we are.

Now immersed Victoria city life, but with no car and no car to borrow, we are reaffirming our pleasure of being unencumbered by an automobile. Sure we miss an occasional remote and appealing event, but there is a freedom in arriving someplace without a car. We step out of the bus in front of the grocer, Walmart, or Home Depot and as it drives away, there we are, untethered, free to walk about without finding a place for and securing our four-wheeled companion.
We consolidate trips to save on bus fare (unlike in Mexico where bus fares are so cheap, we’ll ride for the sake of exploring) and never give a whit about filling a gas tank or changing the oil or paying for insurance.

It took going cruising to make us car-less, but it didn't have to. We could have gotten along without a car in D.C. or any other big public transportation-friendly city. But being rooted as we were, I imagine our busy lives would have made the convenience of a car irresistible (getting to work is one thing, getting ten bags of mulch is another). Today it seems we traded the convenience of a car for the freedom of a home that can be where ever we want it to be. And as cruising kids, Frances and Eleanor are growing up familiar with life without an automobile, every bit as comfortable aboard a bus or light rail as I was once uncomfortable.

For my 44th birthday, Windy and the girls surprised me with
this remote controlled helicopter. I pressed my luck flying
it down below, but the weather wasn't cooperating for an
outdoor flight. Fortunately, nothing (and nobody) was damaged.

For the past several weeks, the girls have been enjoying their
gymnastics class. It is a good physical outlet for them and
both seem to enjoy it, boasting to me in the evening about
whatever contortion or stunt they'd learned.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...