2 Wheels To Adventure

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Alaska/Canada Trip--2006
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Ride boldly, Lad,  fear not the spills! (From "The Man From Snowy River," by Banjo Paterson) 
I'm not the man I used to think I was. (RBW)
"Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!"
(William Butler Yeats)

For a looong discussion on motorcyling in general and Adventure riding in particular, see the archives (or scroll down) for the first post on September 28, 2006.
It gives some opinions and ideas, along with a bit of philosophy; one (old) man's view of the world of 2 wheels.

New Scooter---2014 R1200RT
Cap'n Ron in the Straits of Georgia
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Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Birthday Bash

His birthday is not until Monday, but today is the day of the party. There will be around 200 people there to help my Uncle Pete celebrate 90 years here on this great planet Earth. As I have related before, he is quite a speciman. He rides, he pitches hay, he works around the corral, taking care of 5 horses, and he is still sharp as the tack we use as guide to mental cognizance. He is a fixture around these parts.

I went into the local Boot Barn yesterday, in the outlet mall just across the street from where I am staying here in Anderson, CA. Now Pete and his wife Paula live about four or five miles away in Cottonwood, but Anderson and Redding are the areas where they come for shopping and so on.

I told the perky young clerk I wanted a gift certificate. That in the mill, she asked me what else I might like, and I replied, "Nothing. I don't really know what he wants, hence the gift certificate. It is for my 90 year old uncle's birthday." She asked what name to put on the gift certificate, and I told her, let's put on his full name: Sterling Preston Lambert. Done. I then went on, telling her that he was throwing a big party down at the Redding Rodeo Association grounds Saturday night.

"Oh!" She said,  I know who that is. That's Pete! He comes in here all the time. Is he really 90?"

"Well, not until Monday, he's not."

"He comes in here, and he is so nice!" She turned to her fellow worker, "This is Pete's nephew! You know, Pete, who comes in here all the time. He is turning 90, and having a birthday party."

The other young woman gushed that she too did not believe Pete could be ninety. "That gives me hope," she said, and I agreed. They wished him a happy birthday, and asked me to pass it along to him.

But, that shows how a small community, even in this helter-skelter age, operates, and how my old Unk is pretty well known around the area. He has lived here for a lifetime, and knows just about every old-timer within 50 miles. We go out to dinner, and it is a rare night when he doesn't run into someone he knows, and stops to chat them up.

I am lucky to have him. He is my last very close relative, the others all having passed into that great beyond we all wonder and worry about. He had a profound effect on my life, and I owe him a lot. It is an honor to be here.


6:10 pm mdt          Comments

Friday, July 30, 2010

Driving Observations

As I have been doing a lot of driving lately, I have had time to muse and let the mind wander, but occasionally I come back to what is going on around me, and I have noticed a couple of things about driving in the United States these days. First, most drivers are pretty good. This is especially true out on the freeways and turnpikes away from the urban areas. People are pretty good about signalling lane changes, keeping the speed reasonable, and seem in general to be paying attention to the road.They are good about moving to the inside lane to let on ramp traffic merge smoothly onto the outer lane, and show some courtesies on the road.

In urban areas it is different. There are a lot more people tooling along in the fast lane at something less than the speed limit, blocking those who want to move on down the road at a higher rate. There seems to be more distracted drivers, racing down the freeway from on ramp to exit ramp, doing things entirely inappropriate for 70 MPH, and clearly risking life and limb.

Of course, in California, especially Southern Cal, the drivers are excellent! I guess they have to be to survive. They always signal lane changes---although they will lane change at 75 MPH if there is one car length plus a couple of feet---they will give the blinkers a couple of clicks, and then, here they come! They stay out of the fast lane unless they are actually passing cars on the inside, they yield to on ramp traffic (if the lane to their left isn't bumper-to-bumper), and they are pretty darned good about letting you in if you are signalling, for instance when you are on the inside lane on an 8 lane highway, and are trying to get over to that outside lane to make the next exit.

The really great thing about California freeways is that on a motorcycle you can lane split. Some call it "white-lining," but it means that bikes can go between lanes of traffic and get away with it. It is not strictly legal, I understand, but bikers are not cited for doing it. It is a common practice, and California freeway regulars do not seem to resent that, when trapped in a two mile long parking lot say on the 405, bikes can without fear of citation or suddenly opened doors, slip through between the lines of immobile cars. It works very well, although it is pretty much understood that if some jerk does open a door on an approaching bike, or other metal-to-metal contact is made, it is going to be the MC that is liable. I know of no other state or municipality that allows white-lining. Too bad.

And in Latin America, it is almost de rigeur to ride between lanes. I was once stuck in line at Agua Prieta, in a huge four lane que, waiting to creep through US Customs. A Mexican in the pickup just to my left rolled down his window and shouted, "Go Between! Go between!" He waved enthusiastically toward the front of the line. "Go between! That's what you have a motorcycle for!" In Central and South America they ride much smaller bikes most places, and those riders are NO FEAR! guys. They split lanes that you would not think a unicycle could negotiate, and they do it fast, ten, twenty KPH faster than the rest of the traffic. It is a definite skill that has developed. I lane split down there, but with greater care, and considerable trepidation. I clicked saddle bags with a passenger vehicle one time in Colombia, and as I looked back, the driver just waved a wave of geniality. When you pass oncoming autos on the highways throughout Mexico, Central, and South America, many cars blink their light at you or give you the "V" sign and wave as they flash by. They are genuinely happy to encounter motocyclistas, and are fascinated by the big road bikes we ride.

The other thing I have noticed is the huge numbers of tractor-trailer rigs on the road. They are everywhere, and they are no longer what I consider the best drivers on the road. They pull into the fast lane to pass slower rigs ahead, and then creep by, holding up fast lane traffic behind in long strings. They tailgate, they pile up in long queues, blocking the rest of us from getting where we want to get. Besides this, they are largely the ones responsible for the terrible condition of many restricted access highways. I know they pay road taxes and all that, but their footprints are causing broken concrete and rutted macadam on highways all over the country. Many places you see areas where trucks are instructed to stay on the inside lane, because the outside lane has been so damaged by their pounding and their poundage that it cannot stand any more.

The inefficiency of truck transportation of so many of our goods is really shocking. These things carry around sixty to 100,000 pounds of cargo, and, if long distance, require two drivers. They get only a few miles to the gallon, and are a menace to traffic, as noted above. We used to have a rail system in the country that was efficient. It has been allowed to fall into general disrepair, while the highways (and airports) are the benificents of large amounts of government assistance. Some of the subsidized highway and runway construction is paid for by user taxes, but a large portion is tax money that comes out of our collective pockets. It appears to me that rail transportation of goods, and come to think of it, people is a far better way to move things and folks around the country. I do not know how much it costs to move a pound of produce by rail, but I wager it is a lot cheaper than by Kenworth, Volvo, or Peterbilt. We need a rejuvenated rail system here in America. The Europeans, the Japanese, and now the Chinese are developing high speed rail travel, and it is making a difference, whereas we are trundling along on rubber tires, propelled by gasoline and diesel that is cosing us way too much in terms of dollars spent and in damage to the environment.

But, I could be wrong...

12:07 am mdt          Comments

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Taking a Break---Back on Terra Firma

I put her to bed at 0300 this morning, shutting all the ports, dogging the hatches, cinching things down, and headed up to Duke Point to catch the 0515 Ferry to Vancouver. This break was scheduled mainly to get down to Redding, CA to help my last (and favorite) uncle celebrate his birthday---his 90th! He called to make a special invitation to me. He is telling all the invited, "I sure hope you all can make it to my 90th birthday, because some of you won't be around for my 95th!" I just love that kind of optimism! That, and his demonstrated longevity give me great hope---hope that my own future has a future. This uncle will turn 90 on August Second, and he still rides his horses regularly, doing calf and horse cutting, and not just sitting in the saddle in the middle of a corral.

I had three uncles, brothers of my Mom, who were pilots, and who had great influence in my becoming a life-long aviator. Well, two out of three, and that ain't bad. The eldest started flying in the thirties. He was an optometrist, and did pretty well, so had some bucks. He also married woman whose father was a rancher in the San Joaquin Valley, and owned a lot of land and bunches of cattle. This uncle was apparently one of those pilots who failed to recognize his limitations, and one evening in 1938, on the way back from a weekend in Reno, got himself AFUed, and flew into a Cumulus Granite in the High Sierras, killing himself, his wife, and his mother-in-law. I think he was flying a Howard, or a big Cessna. It had a radial engine, high wing, fixed gear, etc.. I have seen pictures, but have not IDed it. I will have to ask uncle what it was. He was 17 or so at the time, and went with the packers when they rode into the crash site---a lasting impression, I am sure. So that uncle left a daughter, age 3, who was subsequently raised by her aunt and uncle (sister of the deceased flyer).

Well, he and his other brother went into WWII. The elder got into the Civilian Pilot Training Program in Tulare or Fresno in '39, and joined the RAF as an Eagle Squadron pilot in '40 or early '41. He flew Hurricanes a bit, but mostly Spitfires. He missed the Battle of Britain by about 9 months.

Pete, the Birthday Boy, went into Aviation Cadets in '42, and wound up in the left seat of a B-17 on 40 or 50 missions with the Eighth Air Force in Europe. The elder brother died in '93, complications from cancer, brought on by too many bottles of Three Feathers and trainloads of unfiltered smokes.

So, they were my heroes growing up. Any wonder I fell into aviation? Another lucky break---an accident of birth. And, aviation has been very, very good to me.

I almost forgot my cousin, Bob. He was the son of another uncle, also from my mom's side. Bob was in WWII. He flew "Jugs," which is the P-47 Thunderbolt, to the uninitiated. He left the Air Corps after the war, but was recalled in the Korean Conflict, and decided to stay for a career. Bob checked out in the F-105 for the Vietnam era, and was shot down bombing the famous bridge at Than Hua, in 1967, I think. He once told me that he was hit, by AAA, I think he said, as he pulled off the target, and got an engine fire light. He said, "I ain't bailing out in this area," and stayed with it until he got over the Gulf of Tonkin. By then, things were getting pretty warm, and fire was apparent. It was clearly not a false fire warning light. When things became too dire, he decided it was time to punch out, but the ejection seat did not work, and he was forced to go over the side, a very risky way to egress an airplane making a couple of hundred knots airspeed. But, luck was with him, and he avoided striking airplane parts on the way out, got a good chute, and wound up floating in the Gulf until a "Duckbutt" HU16 could get out and pick him up.

Bob was a good guy, and another influence in my becoming a pilot. Bob passed on to whatever it is that awaits us several years ago, another victim of cancer.

 There are other issues that require me to hie on down to Phoenix, about which I may scribble at a later time.

That's about it for tonight. I am in a motel in Roseburg, Oregon, and damne glad to be here---damned glad to be anywhere!

Oh yeah. RJ tells me that M_____ and the A_____ are on the way to Panama, with a new skipper, hired deck hand, and a hostess. Glad he finally got her under way. Best wishes, M_____!


10:16 pm mdt          Comments

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sailing South (NOT!)

Around about the 20th of May, I got the call from RJ. "We're shoving off on the 24th, ready or not. I'm tired of all this delay. Come on down a day or two ahead to look over the boat, and we'll be on our way by Monday (24th)."

I jumped on an airplane on Saturday (OK, OK, I do fly now and then, but, although this flight was perfect: on time, courteous agents and flight attendants, bags not lost), I hated it. Come to think of it, the flight out of PHX was delayed 3 hours, a happenstance that probably got me on the flight. It was full of revenue passengers, and many of them were re-routed, so when the flight did depart, there were seats for us non-Revenue Pax.

RJ met me at the airport, and we repaired to a very nice hotel. They had a room reserved for me, and after checking in, we hit a local Latino restaurant for a very nice seafood (with a Venezuelan touch) dinner, all on the tab of the owner, M_____. He was not yet on site, but was due in on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday morning we headed to the A_____, which was tied up at the personal dock of the owner of the boat yard doing all the work (boat yard #2). A_____ was HUGE! Fifty one feet over all, it had a beam of 28 feet. The port hull was for crew: it had two heads (electric), a double bunk aft, and ahead of the second head, a passageway with a work bench and storage, and, forward, three bunks.

The starboard hull was the owner facility. It had a huge shower aft, then a head, a passageway with storage and a refrigerator/freezer (stacked vertically, with doors rather than chest type, a big plus), then forward, a large stateroom with big bed (innerspring and mattress rather than foam pad).

The salon, that is the large space between the hulls was furnished with a large table, around which six or so could sit comfortably, a galley, complete with double oven stove (propane), trash compactor, dishwasher, microwave, double sink, ample storage for dishes, silverware, pots and pans, foodstuffs, just like a real kitchen.

The Navigation table was a bit crowded, as M_____ was really into electronics, and there was a large flat computer screen (probably at least thirty inch), keyboards, WiFi modems, and other gadgets. On an aft wall, portside was another refrigerator, along with the thermostat for the A/C. Double doors led to the "cockpit" if it can be called that. There was the helm, another table, and behind all that the after deck and access to the rest of her, topside.  The square footage of the salon had to be 150', and the cockpit area just about as large.

She was sloop-rigged, with a separate forestay for cutter-rig (for a storm jib). Forward of the cabin, topside, were storage bins everywhere. And M_____ had plenty of need for storage. He had all kinds of toys; kayaks, play toys, snorkel gear, more stuff than a MacDonald's kiddie park.

Of course all the winches were two-speed power winches. Not all lines fed back into the cockpit. She had a conventional mainsail, and you had to go to the mast for raising, reefing, and dousing, but in a Cat, being much more stable than a monohull, moving about the deck in bad weather is much less perilous than the latter. The main had Lazy Jacks, which is a series of monofilament lines that allow the sail to be "flaked" automatically as the sail is lowered. In old style set-ups, the sail has to be folded back and forth by hand as it is lowered, so it can be tied to the boom in a nice package. The LJs force the sail into a back and forth "flake" as it comes down. Sweet!

We went aboard, and I checked things out, gaping all the while at the immensity of this barge. It was powered with two diesels, about ninety HP each, one in each hull, and she would make a good ten knots under power if one bent the throttles a bit. In short, a nice boat. Big, big, big, but nice. An apartment on the water.

Sunday afternoon, RJ, chief of the boat yard, and I took her out for a short sea trial. We were located in a finger just off the Intracoastal Waterway, and there were four draw bridges between us and the open ocean. There is so much auto traffic on the bridges that they do not raise them on demand from passing vessels. They open the bridges on a schedule, twice each hour, and they are staggered in opening times so that a vessel going out can make the opening of each bridge in its turn by timing its progress down the channel.

We got her out into the open ocean, raised the sails, and sailed a bit, although the wind was light. She maneuvered nicely, and everything seemed Jake. We headed back to the tie-up, and got there just a bit too late to get to the airport to meet M_____ when he arrived from San Diego. He was already at the hotel when we got back, and we were introduced. He is a very nice man, and was most cordial to me in all things. He treated me as a new friend and equal, and was in no way patronizing or condescending. He was the owner, but comported himself as just one of the guys. His main interest was in the electronics, as I said, and he was engrossing himself in getting the stereo system set up correctly, as well as the video features. There was another flat screen TV for movies, what television could be picked up, and so on.

Monday came---and went---there were still some projects to be finished. The arch on the aft held the dinghy, a RIB. That is a Rigid Inflatable Boat. It has a rigid bottom and keel, but the rest of it is like one of those Zodiacs  you saw on "Sea Hunt" and other maritime sagas. A rather large dink, it was hoisted aft, between the overhanging hulls on either side. The outboard was left mounted on the transom, and the whole rig weighed several hundred pounds I imagine. They had contracted for a stainless steel contraption to make raising and lowering the dink easier, but it had not yet arrived, and RJ deferred to M_____'s hope that the guy would get there and get it installed. There were a couple more items outstanding, and we hemmed and hawed through Tuesday---and then Wednesday. It was now the 26th---no---the 26th was fading into evening.

Thursday came, and still no stainless steel guy. RJ was getting restive, and M_____ could see that if we were going to make the VI by June 4th, we had better get cracking, so we shoved off around 1830 that evening.

Now the distance between bridges two and three in our escape from the waterway was such that one had to hustle after passing #2 in order to make the opening at #3, else we would have to wait another half hour for #3 to open again. With this in mind, RJ pushed the throttles up to 3000 RPM, then 3500, as we did not want to miss our chance. We were making around 8 knots, moving smartly down the channel when the port engine overheat warning came on: a nice big red light. The coolant temp indicated too hot as well. RJ cut that engine back to idle, and shortly the light went out as the temp dropped back into normal range. Hmmm. What to do? We made that bridge opening, and RJ eased the throttle back up to 2000 RPM, a reasonable setting for motoring. The engines operating at that speed would give us reasonable cruising speed and range should we have to rely on engines rather than sails for propulsion. We had figured that the motoring range was about 500 miles or so to empty, but one never runs a diesel out of fuel, as it messes up the injectors and results in lots of problems. We had 20 gallons of extra fuel in jerry cans stowed in one of the lockers, giving a total fuel load of 220 gallons, so even with the extra, we did not have sufficient range motoring to make it to the VI, a projected distance of around 1100 nautical miles, based on the route we were taking.

As to that route, RJ favored the route called I-15 (I may have this wrong. Memory serves, but not always well.). One went almost due east out of Lauderdale, crossing the Gulf Stream, usually heading into Easterly winds, until crossing 15 degrees West Longitude, picked up northeasterly trade winds, and then sailed on a broad reach for 500 or so miles to the Virgin Islands. If the winds did not cooperate, we were going to have to stop for fuel somewhere short of the VI, and deal with all that entails; customs, immigration, inspections, etc., etc.. More delay on a schedule that was tightening.

So, Skipper RJ reasoned that if the port engine stayed in the green at 2000 to 2500 RPM, we should continue. M_____ was ecstatic! After all the delays, the damage, the inadequate survey and subsequent refitting not originally planned on, and incidentally probably around another hundred grand $$ outlay, we were finally on our way, and it looked like the "plan" was going to work. I could almost see the visions in his head of white sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, palm trees, and a family captivated by the romance and joys of sailing the beautiful Caribbean.

RJ let M_____ have the helm, and went below to see to something or other. M_____ plunked himself down at the wheel, got the autopilot engaged, and we proceeded more or less on course. It was pitch dark by now, the waxing moon obscured by an overcast, and the distant horizon was somewhat indistinct. Looking over his shoulder, I saw that we were turning to starboard. "Hey, M_____, watch you heading! We're turning!" He looked up from the chart plotter. "What the...What the Hell is happening?"

The autopilot gave it up and disengaged. The turn sharpened. Looking over his left shoulder at the plotter, I could see that the rudder indicator showed full left rudder. We were turning starboard. Not good. We pulled the throttles back and wrenched her back to port and desired heading. Letting to of the helm, she pulled back rather sharply to starboard.

RJ was called, and the short of it is that the voyage ended right there, about 5 miles from Lauderdale. We turned her around---actually, she turned herself around, and around and around---and headed back. We could maintain heading by studious attention, wrestling the helm back to port whenever she veered to starboard.

We got to the first bridge about 0100. We pulled into the Hyatt Regency dock, and tied up for the night. Any port in an emergency. Next day, M_____, not the happiest boat owner in town, arranged to stay at this moorage, and RJ called the boat folks with our problem. It was now well into Friday, the day before Memorial Day weekend. They sent out 1) their diesel mechanic to address the overheat, and 2) a hydraulic/rudder expert to evaluate the steering problem. The former dived into the port engine bay, and there was a lot of wrenching and mechanicking going on there. The rudder man arrived. It seems this system was entirely hydraulic. The ship's two rudders were tied together not by a mechanical tie rod, but by hydraulic line. This means that to separate the two rudders, one had to disconnect hydraulics, allowing air into the system and all that entails. Since we needed to get this show on the "road," he bled the system, hoping that somehow there was air in the lines, allowing the rudders to mis-align. The rudder position indicator on the chart plotter comes from the starboard rudder, hence the full port indication.

The diesel Meck put in a new thermostat and cleaned the engine baffles. Sometimes that can cause the overheat, but he opined that these engines had some time on them, and perhaps were just working hard caused that red light. Right.

We launched again, around 1930. I forgot to mention that in the time between Sunday morning and our first departure on Thursday, I spent a good deal of time with M____, rocketing around Ft. L, between Costco, Walmart, dive shops, Westmarine, and sundry other retailers, buying just about everything in sight. I estimate in three days he poured out about eight grand $$ in stuff; groceries, diving gear (about $1500 alone), more playtoys, this and that, and then some. This in addition to the several Thou RJ spent on Sunday at Westmarine on needed equipment---all on M_____'s tab, of course.

Off we went, through the one bridge, and escaped into the Atlantic. The wind picked up---from the west! There were broken clouds, but a new moon appeared and disappeared, then reappeared. We got the main and the Genoa out, and put her on a starboard tack. Auto pilot on, we were on our way! M____ beamed! It was grand! We were sailing, making about 5 knots, moving along, close to our desired course, a course that would take us, in about 90 miles past Nassau and the Bahamas. M_____ was going to take a late watch, so he went below for a nap. RJ and I went on deck and lay on the foredeck under a now unblocked moon. The temperature was around 75, the apparent wind about 6 knots, and it was lovely. This was really living! This was what it was all about!

Off to the port in the mid distance, a squall loitered. In my inexperience, I would have reefed in anticipation of a blast of strong wind, but RJ let her go. The squall moved closer. No sweat. We were just fine. RJ put me at the helm, and went into the salon for something. The squall moved over us, not much, but we did experience a wind shift, and RJ came back into the cockpit, then went forward to get the Genoa across the bow, as we had shifted from starboard to port tack. He came back into the helm area just as I was noticing a tendency of the helm to pull to starboard. I looked at the rudder indication. About 15 to 20 degrees of left rudder. "Hey RJ! Check this out! Hmmm. The wind had died. We furled the sails, while the A_____ made a lazy 360 degree turn to starboard.

We were by this time, about 20 miles due east of Ft L.. We were well out of sight of land (a Biggie for me!) although the lights of Miami an Lauderdale glowed just beyond the horizon to the west. We wrestled her back on course---westerly back the way from which we had come. We were about four or five hours from the tie-up, so I suggested RJ go below for some rest so he would not be exhausted by the time to maneuver her to the moorage. I then spent the next several hours struggling to keep us on some semblance of a course to "home" and some sleep. Every time I let my attention lag, she fell off to starboard, necessitating a wrestling with the helm to get her back to port and course. It was a full-time job, and by the time we were entering the approach to the Intracoastal, my shoulders were crying for a rest.

About two hours after turning back, M_____came into the cockpit. "How's it going?" He beamed. I briefly considered not telling him. Then, "Ah, M_____, I've got bad news." Pause. "Same problem with the rudder. We are on our way back to Lauderdale."

Poor M_____! He took it pretty well, muttered a couple of epithets, turned on his heel, and went back below and hit the sack.

We got to the tieup at about 0400. It was now Saturday, Memorial Day Weekend. Not going to get techs or mechanics until Tuesday. But, we just might be able to make it to the VI by the 5th or 6th. M_____'s family would surely love staying in a nice Four or Five Star while we drifted along.

M_____decided to take a break over the weekend and fly back to SD. He suggested that RJ have his wife come out and spend a couple of days. He booked her on a flight arriving on Tuesday. HIs plans included sueing the bejeesus out of the boat yard that had done the rudder work. Vindictiveness was not his norm I think, but he had a case, and he is a man not to be trifled with when angered. I think him fully capable of pursuing a case like this even if it cost him dollars in the long run, just as a matter of principle.

As for me, M_____ said if I wanted to bail out, he understood. I told him I was there for the duration, and if it looked like it was a go, I was still on board. If the whole excursion was bust, I would pack it in and head home. So, RJ and I lolly-gagged around the boat over the three-day weekend. We discovered the A/C was a problem. We could not get it to run right. It was either on full cold, freezing out butts, or off, and we were in peril of drowning in our own sweat. The reefer/freezers were not working properly. Not enough cold in the freezer, and too much in the reefer. The oven in the galley was not working. It had an electronic temperature control, but the notes from the original owner said that when on shore power, it did not always work. True. We tried it on the Genset. It worked, but worked only if the Genset was running. It did not have to be connected, only running. Hmmm.

The boat, custom built in Belgium, had a 220 volt AC electrical system. There were a couple of 110 volt outlets, but essentially 220 was primo. That meant one needed 220V appliances, like the vacuum cleaner that needed replacment. Tried buying a 220V vacuum in the US lately? They surely are available, but not at the neighborhood Target.

Tuesday. The Rudder guru appeared, about 1330, right on time for his 0900 appointment. He putzed about, familiarizing himself with the hydraulics. He said that it could be air in the lines. RJ, not exactly ignorant of these things, asked just how long one might expect before all air would be purged. Expert said, oh, maybe a few days (Bleeding whenever problems showed), or a couple of weeks, maybe a month. He offered to show RJ how to bleed the lines.

RJ, normally a reasonably patient man, allowed as to how he did not see himself 500 miles out in ten foot seas, bleeding a GD hydraulic system, without steerage meanwhile.

The guru suggested they separate the rudders, and see how free that starboard rudder was. It could not be determined until the hydraulics were disconnected. Should it be jammed, it meant a haul out and new bearings installed, this time properly. He could come back within a day or two to make the call. 

By now it was mid afternoon. RJ's wife was due in at 2200. RJ set about tidying up ship. Evening arrived, and I repaired to the galley to rustle up some grub. RJ was on the after deck, bare footed, washing down the greasy footprints the guru had tracked around. He, by the way, had arrived on scene, about 4 hours late, without any tools, no equipment, not so much as a pencil and paper, which he had to borrow to sketch the system out to give RJ a lesson in steering hydraulics---a lesson that was not fully appreciated by the latter. He was not receptive to instruction at that point, and was less than impressed with the guru and his bearing.

Another BTW here. Early in my experience aboard, I had been on deck, helping take the sail cover off, when RJ cautioned me against being on deck bare footed. With these gel-coat decks it is very slippery when wet, and it is a good way to get hurt, traipsing around bare foot. Duly noted, and appreciated.

So there I was, in the galley, at the sink doing some kind of scullery. Whump! Thump! Thumpety Bump! What the Hell? My first thought was "Shit! He fell overboard!" But, "No! That couldn't be! Impossible!"

I turned and ran back into the cockpit. No RJ readily in sight aboard. Yes, there he was, in the water, just off the starboard stern. He was swimming, apparently OK, and he clambered back aboard via the sugar scoop steps on the starboard hull. Whew! That was something! He was limping badly. He explained that his foot slipped, he dislocated his left knee, something that happened all too often to him, and went down, sliding down the sugar scoop, banging his head and reducing his knee back to normal all in one slithery slide into the water. Now RJ is a big guy, like Leroy Brown; about six foot two and around 240 on the scales. That was a lot of beef to go thumping down the ways, and he was lucky he didn't cold-cock himself on the way into the bay.

We got him dried off, and back into the salon.  He sat there, retelling the incident.

"I was standing there, on the deck, in soapy water, and I slipped, started down, felt my knee dislocate, and down I went, banging my head on the way into the water." He had a knot on his head as big as a hen's egg.

Almost immediately after saying the above, he said, "I was standing there, on the deck, in soapy water, and I slipped, started down, felt my knee dislocate, and down I went, banging my head on the way into the water." Whoops! Repeating himself in run-on sentences...Hmm. He wondered if he had a concussion. What do I know? I thought you had to be knocked unconscious to have a concussion.

It was about time to head to the airport. I let him drive, thinking I was not covered by the rental car insurance. On the way there was some confusion. He asked me several times what flight she was on. He repeated several times how the incident had occured. Finally, at his suggestion, I drove, as we circled the airport arrival area. His cell phone had been in his pocket, and was now dead, so I called her number and told her to call me as she got off the plane. We parked in a No Parking, Loading and Unloading Only spot, and when she called, he went in to meet her at baggage claim. When they came out, I went out to help with the bags, greeted her (we knew each other from earlier times in SD), and said, "I think we had better go to the Emergency Room." BTW (yet another), This was because in a brief call to my spouse describing the incident, she said, "He has a concussion. You had better get him to a hospital." Duh! I was not thinking well. So, at my suggestion RJ's wife, a nursing student in her last semester was ahead of me. She said by all means, and we packed her bags and him into the car and stopped at the nearest hospital ER.

They were most kind and efficient. They put him into observation, did a scan, and determined that there was no bleeding. He did suffer a mild concussion. They wrapped his now badly swollen knee, gave him some pain medication, and released him. Taking him in was clearly the prudent course.

Next day, he said that it looked like the trip was off for the foreseeable future. He had just about had it with this boat. He had signed on after the sale was done, to help M_____through the post-purchase process---outfitting, refitting, getting her ready---and he was just about ready to bag it, although there was a moral imperative to see things through. I said that he had a valid reason to sign off. He had an injury, and as he said, he was not sure he could do the job in sailing her 1100 miles on a gimpy knee. Besides, he was beginning to hate the boat. In addition, it was hard on the First of June, beginning of Hurricane Season, and this is predicted to be an especially active one.

I decided that my presence was not much use, and booked a flight back to PHX. "Call me if things change."

She was hauled a few days later. With the rudders disconnected from each other, the port rudder was free. The starboard one sent a torque wrench off the scale it was so jammed. Boat yard #1 had apparently forced a bearing into a bearing seat that had been elongated by the grounding, and of course, it bound up when pressure was applied.

End of trip. RJ returned to SD, quit as skipper of A_____, and is wearing his knee brace(s) every day. He is a happier man.

I hung around PHX for a couple of weeks, then loaded the pickup and motored back toward the Great Pacific Northwest and my dream-boat, OH MISS. Lord, how I LOVE THIS BOAT!

12:13 pm mdt          Comments

Monday, July 26, 2010

Excuses, Excuses...And Thanks, Ray Dahl!

I have been asking myself why I let this blog lie dormant for so long, and have come up with a couple of reasons: 1) I was running out of things to say. With a somewhat limited intellect, further restricted by lack of formal education (I was flunking out of the U of Washington in Winter Quarter 1953 when I escaped the college grind for the Great Adventure: USAF and airplanes. I never looked back), my list of personal philosophies is short. 2) As a result of 1), I was drifting more and more into political commentary, and that surely is off-putting to many. The old precaution of keeping clear of politics and religion has faded somewhat, but still is good counsel. 3) The sailing bug was pushing the bike bug into the background, and the "2 Wheels" of the blog had pretty much stopped spinning, so incentive faded along with actual output. 4) The routine around the house, without the bike (it was in the shop for a prolonged period), no boat, and the only activity a morning walk to the local coffee house for some rousing political and social discussions, although not exactly boring, lends itself to a certain stultifying effect. I find myself facing that ancient countenance in the mirror, toothbrush, comb, or razor (about twice a week) in hand, wondering, "didn't I just do this? It seems like my days are numbered by combing, brushing, or shaving. Not much else happening..." So, there are no topics that seem likely to be of interest, either to me years later rereading this, or to family who might want to know more about what makes (or made, after my demise) the old man tick. Better to just let her lie fallow for awhile. And that is a fair rationalization as to why this blog lay a-mouldering for a year-and-a-half. 

But, to paraphrase Arnold, "I'm back!" I will strive to make it interesting, perhaps informative, and mercifully as brief as practical.

What I have, until now, failed to mention is what really brought me back to the blog. I spent several paragraphs telling how it (might have) slid into inactivity, but not what brought it back:

Many years ago, and not-so-far away, in the long, nearly forgotten past, I flew the Navajo on routes from Boise to Portland, with stops in Ontario, Baker (now Baker City) and Pendleton. At first these flights were single pilot. West Coast Airlines was experimenting with what they called "Mini-liners." ALPA, the pilots union, thankfully, finally pressured the company to put another pilot into the cockpit, in the name of professionalism, safety, and job security, not necessarily in that order.

One of the right seat pilots, all of whom were recent hires, was one Raymond Dahl. Ray had been a station agent in Oregon, and had been resourceful enough to see a better future in the pointy end of airplanes, so he went out and worked his behind off to get his ratings. The Miniliner program was his ticket to ride. 30 or so years later, he retired as a Boeing 747 Captain.

Ray and I flew together for some time. We often had layovers in PDX, sometimes over-nighters, and as we were into conditioning in those days, and all that goes with it, we often brought along our tennis duds and rackets. I had been playing some tennis, and never considered myself good, but Ray was pretty much a beginner, and was a pushover---I thought. Well, not so push, I found. He beat me regularly, much to my deep consternation. I never could figure out how he could do it, but it was a fact, a fact I might add, that he rarely lets me forget.

So, it is with great thanks and gratitude that I bow again to Captain Raymond Dahl, and thank him for jogging me, a couple of days ago to get with it and start blogging again. Whether anyone reads it I know not, but should someone do so, I hope they derive some entertainment, and maybe a laugh or two out of it. It is true (mostly), and told to the best of my faulty memory... 

I got a late start on OH MISS this season. I was invited on a catamaran trip from Fort Lauderdale to the Virgin Islands by my sailing mentor, RJ. He was captaining a 51 foot Cat, a boat recently purchased by a gentleman in San Diego (RJ's home and base of operations). As RJ is a certified captain, sailing instructor, and holds a broker's license, he helped the owner with the boat. It was not RJ's first choice for the buyer, but it became clear that rule #1 in buying had been broken: Rule #1: Do not fall in love with whatever it is you are looking at. He clearly wanted this boat, so RJ did what he could to make it happen.

The deal was made: several hundred thou $$ changed hands, and the A_____ had a new owner. It was clear that M_____  was not going to be able to handle the boat alone, and his funds were, if not unlimited, at least not in short supply, so he hired RJ as skipper on a part-time basis. RJ was not interested in full-time employment, but agreed to help with the refitting, and to captain the vessel on a minimum crew positioning trip from Ft. L. to the V.I.. M____'s family would fly down, and RJ and his wife would captain and cook the vessel, owner, and family on a trip into the Caribbean for a couple of weeks, planning on ending in Trinidad, where she could be hauled and re-painted (the entire hull and cabin structure, as opposed to a bottom job). 

RJ cautioned M_____ that a crossing to Trinidad would be a minimum of 400 miles (three to four days in a cat), and he did not recommend that for a non-sailing wife, 20 year-old daughter, and daughter's school chum. He allowed as to how it would be A) Boring; B) Possibly rough seas, and; C) Sailing that time of the year would be hot, hot, hot, humid, humid, humid, and also hurricane, hurricane, hurricane. The best course with non-sailors, he said, is to "leave them begging for more." Boredom, heat, and/or rough seas can leave them begging to get off, vowing never to return. He suggested going north, up the Intra-Coastal, to Chesapeake, Maine, wherever it might be windy and cool.

It was not to be. M_____ had his heart set on a Caribbean vacation for the family. It was set for them to fly to the VI on June 4, for the first two week leg. So, she had to be moved from Ft. L. by then.

There were issues on the boat. RJ had suggested an excellent surveyor, one with world-wide reputation, who is frequently flown across oceans to survey boats for prospective buyers. This surveyor had a schedule, however, that did not work with the planned re-positioning and vacation, so M_____ engaged a local Lauderdale surveyor. That done, the deal was closed, as I said earlier, and the boat was to be moved from the marina where it was moored to a boat yard four miles away. RJ took a break, and flew back to San Diego, as did the owner. The boat yard hired to do the haul out, bottom paint, and sundry, hired a local captain to move the boat.

The hired captain ran her aground enroute to the boat yard, driving the starboard rudder through the hull, and doing some expensive damage. Hearing this, RJ flew back to Ft. L and eyeballed the scene . Acting as the owner's agent, he instructed the boat yard company to desist any more work on the boat. He hired another contractor to do the work, including the damages that were the responsibility of the boat yard---it turned out that the captain hired to move the boat had no insurance, so boat yard #1 was on the hook for that, but RJ wanted them out of any repairs, as he thought it a good possibility they might stint on repairs to mitigate their costs and liabiiity. He then flew back to SD.

A couple of days later, boat yard #2 called and said, "Hey, boat yard #1 guys are here working on that starboard rudder, re-aligning it, and putting in new bearings." By the time RJ got back to Ft. L, the rudder was repaired. What was done was done.

More work was done (by boat yard #2, to be sure), and needed to be done. The survey was apparently not all-inclusive, to put it kindly, and "things had been missed." Along about then, the middle of April, I had been asked if I would like to come along as 3rd crew for the re-positioning to the VI. I jumped at the chance, and said, "Would I, would I!" So, I was on hold, waiting a (fairly) firm sailing date. I had to get back to Sidney, where OH MISS lay, first to retrieve my foul weather gear, and second, I had given up my slip as of the end of May, and had to get her moved to the new berth, about 30 miles north before May was gone.I had things to take to the boat as well as some to bring back to PHX, so I drove up (the first time) in my pickup. It was too early to move the boat, by then late April or early May, so I drove back to be in place to fly to Lauderdale when RJ thought things would be ready, about the second week of the month.

Time dragged on. The 15th of May came, then the 21st. If we sailed right then, I could make it back in time to get OH MISS moved as planned. The VI trip would take 4 to 6 days if the weather held, and maybe 10 days if not. I could always fly from Lauderdale to Vancouver in time to get to Sidney and move her. M_____ was no piker, and had offered to pay air fare, plus all expenses for the trip. I had airline passes, so that part was at no cost to either of us. I waited.

Now it was too late to go on the Cat trip and get back to move the boat, so I went back to BC (drove again), moved her to her new slip at Ladysmith, BC, then caught a bus back to Sidney and Canoe Cove where I had left the pickup, and drove back to PHX. Should all this driving seem idiotic in view of airline passes, I hasten to add that I had some family issues in Boise, where my son and his family reside, and it was a chance to stop there coming and going and get a handle on how their crisis was going. Besides, driving, I get totally relaxed, and do a lot of thinking, planning, day dreaming, musing, and farting around (literally). I traveled all too many years in the back of airplanes, deadheading and commuting, to enjoy sitting strapped in a long silver tube with 150 or so complete strangers, usually in a center seat between either two fattys or a pimply, nose-picking teenager and a drooling granny clicking her false teeth for three miserable hours, while someone's six-year-old kicks my seat back for 1100 miles, and the guy in the other seat behind me grabs the seat back every time he gets up to go to the can, snapping my neck like one of those bobble-head dolls on a pickup dashboard tearing down a country road. Then when you land, it is every man, woman, and child for himself to crowd the aisles and then stand there until the line starts to move before reclaiming their 50 pound carry-on from the overhead, cracking me on the dome in the process. They clamor, apparently in quest for the "First One Off The Plane Prize." I have never made it, so I have no idea what the prize is, but it must be gold-plated... Thanks, but I will drive unless there are large bodies of water involved.

That is about 30 for today. Mo Lattah.


3:49 pm mdt          Comments

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Site Name Change?

Since the romance with the new mistress (i.e., sailing and OH MISS), I have sadly neglected the bike. I am torn, because I have as yet been unable to combine both motorcycle and sailboat. Each has its own demands, and, as in so many of these romances and liasons, they pull in different directions.

So, the name of this site, "2 Wheels To Adventure," begins to fit awkwardly into a venture completely without wheels, and with a vertical wing as a method of movement. '2 Wings To Adventure" fits as badly, or perhaps better said, not at all. "Two Wings To Adventure" could be twisted around to fit, if each "wing" were looked at as a method to the end adventure: a wing with two wheels, i.e., the bike; a wing, literally, in the sail, which is another method of moving down the course to a life of encounters and experiences. I do not use the term "adventure" here specifically because the very word conjures up images of excitement and perhaps harrowing events. "Adventure" as used in the title means experience, encounters, acquaintances,  and the like, and does not hope for blood-curdling, life threatening, scares and close calls. I have had sufficient of that in this lifetime, and do not seek out terror or other delights. The simple things now beckon; friendships, new and old, scenery never seen or perhaps previously ignored, small pleasures such as a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee, savored on a sunny morning or watching a rosy sun sliding over the tree line off there in the distance. It is the wonder of watching a gull tirelessly flapping around a tree-lined cove with boats bobbing in the rippled water. No car crashes, police chases, booming cannon or fiery explosions, thank you. Quiet, soothing quiet, marred only by the ringing in my ears brought on by too many years of jet engines, shotgun blasts, and yes, the thundering of a motorcycle engine and the pounding wind on the sides of a helmet.

Perhaps that is the appeal, or at least a major part of the appeal of sailing. After years immersed in the high technology of jet airplanes and internal combustion engines, it is eminently soothing to sit in a cockpit at the helm of a vessel, the mode of transportation of which people have availed themselves for thousands of years. It is ancient, it is slow, it is uncertain, but it works, and it is a simple pleasure to behold in this age of the internet, television, ubiquitous cameras and computers, a technique, for lack of a better description, that transcends modernity and hearkens one back to basics. The wind has always been there, and it can take us many places independ of petroleum or modernity.

That is why I opted for a monohull over a catamaran. The Romantic (Capital "C") in me thrills to the feeling of sailing heeled over, racing along at perhaps 6 or 8 knots, the wind screaming, and the feeling of flying almost overwhelming. After flying airplanes at speeds occasionally exceeding the speed of sound this perhaps is difficult to comprehend, but there it is. It is an exhilaration, a thrill, and an experience I would hate to have missed.

The other day, sailing down from Cortes Island toward Comox, I was flying along with a quartering tailwind, making about 6 knots, with 20 to 25 knots on the stern. It was wonderful, and I moved forward to the foredeck while "Otto," my trusty autopilot kept her on a steady 161 degrees magnetic, and I stood there, shouting out for no one to hear, "i LOVE THIS FREAKING BOAT! I JUST LOVE THIS BOAT!" Talk about your "high"! It was a natural high, an exhilaration beyond explanation. If you don't get it, you just don't get it, and you cannot be helped. Nor, I might add, can I.

Well, back to the name of this rambling and often cognitively dissonant Blog;  "2 Wings To Adventure" just might work: motorcycling and sailing: two "wings" to living life fully, for I have not forsaken motorcycling. I will still ride, at least for a few more years.  Sure, these two "wings" are not the only ways, not the best ways, not your ways perhaps, but they are two ways, methods, devices if you will, and they are right for me at the moment, and I do hope into the foreseeable future. For I do believe in the future, much as I try to live life for the present. The present is the only thing that exists. We recall the past poorly if at all, and the future is non-existent until it is briefly the present, and then disappears into the past all too quickly. So, I live for today, but with an eye toward tomorrow, hoping ever optimistically, that there will be a tomorrow. And there shall be one, right up to the moment there is none. That day, that moment surely will come, so I do savor the now. It is all one really has, and to let "now" slip away without the appreciation it deserves is to miss out on living. Life does have meaning; it has the meaning each and every one of us gives it. To some it is joy, to some misery. It is up to you and to me to make the most of it. There may or may not be something after that final tomorrow comes and goes, but all any of us know for sure is that life is here and now. We had better make the most of it before it has slipped away into the vast chasm of nothingness...

12:02 pm mdt          Comments

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tempis Fugit, but really!

My God, how the time flies! Has it really been 18 months since I made an entry on this poor, neglected site? Well, a lot of water has gone under the bridge, literally, if you consider the cockpit of a sailboat as the "bridge." I have badly neglected motorcycling, as I have a new mistress, mentioned in several of those long in the past entries.

It all began on the motorcycle trip to South America. Anyone who was not bored beyond belief by all my verbiage, that I transported the bike from Panama to Colombia via a sailboat. It was the "Melody," a 45 foot steel hulled Roberts, as I recall, captained and owned by one Mark Matson. I had had the sailboat bug years earlier, but that trip renewed the bite. John Hilman accompanied me on that trip (part way), and John was a former sailor. He had owned a C &C 37 (as I remember), and he knew a lot about sailboats. We looked at a boat on a moorage float when we stopped over a couple of days in the San Blas islands, and I got the bug real bad.

So, I was hooked. As related earlier, I took lessons, and found a "mentor," one Rod Jones. He is a life long sailor, instructor, and licensed captain. He also has a broker's license, and he "loves to look at sailboats," as he put it. He helped me find the right boat, contingent on what I wanted to do with it. I told him I wanted to at least do coastal cruising, and maybe strike out into the Big Blue Pacific at some point, if I didn't run out of time. After all, I am a geezer, and at the time was 74, a bit late to be taking up something as complex and potentially risky as ocean sailing.

But, hearing of my MC experiences, Rod said, (I'm parphrasing here) "You are not the typical sailboat dreamer. Lots of people talk about what they want to do, but never get around to it. You are the kind of person who does things. That is apparent from your motorcycle adventures. I think you want a boat that will carry you anywhere without fear of its capability." He also said that the particular boats I was looking at; production boats built for popular appeal, were perhaps not the kind of vessel that would make me comfortable in the Big Blue Waters. They are fine boats for what they represent, he said, but, (paraphrasing again) "When you are out there in heavy seas, with 40 knots of wind and waves 20 feet tall, you might look at whomever you are with and say, "I wish I had bought a stouter boat." 

I am finding that whomever I meet among knowledeable and experienced sailors, they all preface just about any comment on this Swedish vessel, "Oh, a Hallberg-Rassy! That boat will take you anywhere."

So, after some looking, and a sea trial that we rejected, we found the boat that I now own. It was called the "BELTANE' by the original owner. He, by the way, moved up to a HR46. Since my Dear Wife had been a flight attendant (when she started, they were "stewardesses) for fifty (50!) and a half years, she became someone other than Ruth Jordan when on duty. It was, "Oh Miss" this, and "Oh Miss" that all the time. She began to call herself "Oh Miss," it had been so long since she had been called Ruth, or Ms Jordan. So, naturally, the name OH MISS seemed like a good one for the boat. It is feminine, easily remembered or pronounced (often confused with Ole Miss, referring to the University of Mississippi at Oxford, Mississippi). Boats are generally refered to as feminine entities, so we went with that name. 

I am not superstitious, so eschewed the arcane and (to me, silly) rituals "required" to rename a boat. Some say it is bad luck to rename a boat. Well, I reject that. I am of a mind that a lot of things superstitious stay with us in modern life (religious belief comes to mind), and I am not buying any of it. So, I took the old name and port of call off, and had new made." OH MISS, Scottsdale, AZ" now graces her hull.

After that first winter in Seattle, and some bitter winter it was, I moved her to Anacortes, WA, in June, 2009, to be closer to the San Juan Islands. I sailed there all through the summer of '09, usually single handing, but often with guests, day guests as well as sailing stay aboards. Guests included my daughter and her husband, (Heidi and Byron Stutzman, of Buhl, Idaho), their daughter, and my granddaughter, Eva Stutzman (then 20), Wally Glass, an old Air Guard pilot friend, Gordon Hubka, my oldest friend. Gord and I have been friends since we were about 14, Gordon's son, Stuart, 39 or so (I have forgotten. They all seem like kids to me), Mike Chaisin, an MD acquaintance from Scottsdale, Larry Kehre, an old friend of Gordo's, Rod Jones, my Dear Wife, Ruth,and others.

I (we) sailed throughout the San Juans and part of the Canada Gulf Islands that summer. I met a very nice and helpful sailor in Anacortes who helped me a great deal, and to whom I will be ever grateful for his advice and counsel. Mike McCunn, and his wife Pam own an Island Packet 37, and they took me sailing up into the Gulf Islands with them (their boat and my boat), showing me how to anchor, how to approach marinas, some navigation, and good friendship. I hated to say goodbye when I had to move her out of Washington. I was on a cruising permit, that allowed me to sail Washington waters for one (1) year, after which I had to leave and stay out orf state for two (2) years. That one year was up on October 31, 2009, and I moved her to Sidney, BC for work. She was hauled there and had bottom paint applied. I will leave it there for now, and pick up this thread later---I hope sooner than 18 months.

11:07 pm mdt          Comments

Archive Newer | Older

For future use

Our New Best Friend, TRES

My Hero, Uncle Pete, two days short of his 90th birthday.

Meet Mort--- Mortem "mors me cum equitat"
The view from 50 feet up the mast
The Old Guy At The Helm Of "OH MISS"
Adventure Bound
The Old Guy, Back Home Unscathed
2005 BMW K1200LT, long gone to bike heaven
"Der Klunkenschiffter" at age 4, 102,000 miles