Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Have you seen our new Google itinerary window?

On the left hand side of the web page you can now see a new map window. This is a Google map very similar to the one you are used to by clicking on “Where we are” at the top of the page. There are two important differences though. The first one is that the new map can be updated only when we have access to the Internet so it may not necessarily be up-to-date. The “Where we are” map, on the other hand, can be updated through our satellite phone or the HF radio when we don’t have access to Internet hence is always up-to-date. The second difference is that the new Google map has all the previous point while the “Where we are” map has only the points posted in the last three months.
So in summary, for all our past positions use the new Google map but to be sure to see our latest position use the “Where we are” map.

Leaving Melbourne with new equipments.

After a month and half at the Waterline Marina in Melbourne, FL we finally scrapped our way out to hit the water again. I say “scrapped” because somehow the water level was so low that in order to reach the main channel from our dock we had to plow our way through the muddy bottom. Thanks to a local boater, who showed us the right path to follow, we didn’t get stuck firm. Our goal is now to reach Miami from where we plan to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. We stayed that long in Melbourne primarily to go back home during Christmas but also we took the time to finalize all the repairs on the boat and to install new equipments. We had to do this before leaving the USA to take advantage to the parts availability that will virtually disappear once we cross to the islands.
Many people asked us what kind of work we were doing on the boat as I was frequently talking about my LONG list of things to do. So here is a description of the major new equipments we installed and things we’ve done during the 20 something days we spent at the marina in Melbourne. We did a few other things but they are not really interesting to talk about.

A new VHF Radio in the cockpit. Our main VHF radio is located inside the cabin while we really need it when we are at the wheel. There was a radio installed in the cockpit already but it wasn’t working anymore so we had to change it. It may not be obvious at first but what took the most time was to actually run the wires from the radio to their connecting points inside the boat and to make the connections!


Left: Changed switches for the electrical winch. Because we are lazy we have an electrical winch, which allow us to pull on the lines with virtually no efforts. The winch in question is controlled by two switches; fast and slow speed. These are heavy duty, full waterproof switches and they needed to be changed as the rubbers covering the buttons were literally crumbling after many years of loyal service under the weather.
Center: Changed cockpit speakers. We had two speakers in the cockpit connected to the radio but one was dead and the other ready to commit suicide at the first occasion. The salt environment and the sun are so harsh that the plastic casing was crumbling when we scratched it with our nails. These two new Bose speakers are just great. Of course, like anything on a boat, we had to dismantle them in order to drill the casing and to install new screws to fix them on the roof.
Right: We bought a few fishing gears like this new rode as well as a diving spear. This was no work but try to figure out how to bring a 7 feet long rode or a 6 feet spear on a folding bike!


Left: New lines for the sails. We changed all the main lines used to hoist and control the sails. We had to learn how to splice, which is a pretty tricky process that allow us to make a durable loop at the end of the lines to attach them to the sails. Installing the lines was easy as you just attach them to the old ones and pull. Splicing was a bit long though.
Center: New sail covers. We had new covers made during Christmas as the old ones were really worn out. How do you like the new color?
Right: Getting the interior in order. Storage space being endemically limited the top behind the main seat was a mess. Danielle bought a bunch of baskets and put everything in order. We now have the same stuff on the top but now it is an orderly mess. Of course now I can’t find anything!


Left: New flat TV. We bought a new flat TV to replace the old one, which was still working but was heavy but mostly was using a lot of precious storage space. We installed the new TV on a moving arm that allow us to turn the screen conveniently but also gives us access to the rear end of the locker where we can now store many of our electronic items.
Center: Plexiglas door for the TV. We had to make a door to hold the new TV in place. We bought a sheet of Plexiglas, cut it, grinded it, drilled it and installed it. The TV screen is held in place by three pieces of wood behind and strips of furniture pads glued to the door.
Right: New door for the sink counter. We put a door to hide the hole left when we removed the useless icemaker we had when we bought the boat. We made that door ourselves before we left home as it is hard to find anything that would match the style in the boat, but didn’t have the chance to install it. When I look at it I miss all the tools we had at home. It will take quite a while before I can make another piece of woodworking like this one.


Left: Serial port outlet. We installed this data port outlet so we can connect the computer to the satellite phone without removing the drawers to get to the phone controller, which is located under the drawers in our bedroom.
Center: New pressure regulator for the shower. The old regulator was loosing up when the generator was working hence creating a water drip in the shower. With our small water tank we just couldn’t afford to lose our water like that. Also, this new regulator is of much better quality and is easier to control the temperature, which is critical when we need to use as less water as possible.
Right: New block for the dinghy line. We installed that new block to make the hosting of the dinghy (inflatable boat) easier.


Left: Changed the dinghy lines. All the lines holding the dinghy were all dried up so we changed them.
Center: Named our dinghy. We decided to put the name of our boat on the dinghy, and we did it. However, later Danielle brought the idea that we should maybe give the dinghy a name of its own and call it Chocobino. I like the idea and will change it whenever we got a chance.
Right: Changed holding pins for the trampoline. The little white pins holding the line of the trampoline dried and were snapping one after the other. We changed some of them already and will change all the others soon.


Left: WiFi Bridge. We didn’t install that equipment in Melbourne but I wanted to show it to you. This is the WiFi Bridge we installed and use to connect to the internet wherever we go. The long antenna allow us to connect close to a kilometer from the source station or even further when this is a public and much stronger network. The signal is then brought inside to a WiFi router that allow us to connect all the computers on board (and some of the neighbor boats as well) through the bridge connection.
Center: Installed a Chocobo plate. This plate hides a whole we made to access the wires from the mast. Thanks to Danielle’s mom, Claudette, who got us the Chocobo drawing on it.
Right: Fixed the blinds and screens. We had to change many of these little pins that old the blinds down as well as many of the screens that were broken. Now we can have an intimate and mosquito free environment.


Left: Installed foams on the swim ladder. These foams prevent the ladder to bang on the fiberglass steps.
Center: Riveted and sealed the catwalk. This steel plate is on top of the cockpit roof and allows us to walk on the otherwise soft roof that we changed shortly after we left. We had to put rivets to hold it in place and seal it to make sure no water gets underneath or through the rivet holes. Of course, to do that we had to find and buy a riveter as well as stainless steel rivets.
Right: Installed a dinghy fender. This fender is meant to protect the boat when the outboard motor of the dinghy bangs on the steps by the action of the waves or when we get in it. Actually I should really film us when we get in the dinghy by holding ourselves by the poles and ropes and trying to keep some semblance of balance. I don’t know exactly how to describe it but let’s say that it looks like as complex as the tricks of the Cirque du Soleil but without the grace!

Left: New USA courtesy flag. We stayed too long in the USA and the courtesy flag we had was now all shredded. So now we have a new strong flag that can freely hit the shrouds loudly when we try to sleep!
Center: Clean and "polyglowed" the top deck. Danielle literally spent days washing the top deck almost with a tooth brush in order to get its white back. Until now it was useless to try to keep it clean as the bugs and water smudge in the north would just bring it back dirty in no time. Once all clean, she applied a liquid polymer call PolyGlow, which does the same thing than wax but takes a third of the time to apply. Now Chocobo is all shiny again. Once in the Bahamas we will be able to do the sides also.
Right: At least every other day we would take our bicycles and go to either Wal-Mart or to the hardware store or to the supermarket to get food, parts or any other expensive stuff. We almost jammed the Internet with our online ordering of boat spare parts. But now we have non-perishable food for the next three months and parts to maintain the boat for the next three years. Look at this picture and try to imagine the fun of getting a can of green beans from the pantry! Things are not sorted out by category but really by their size and how they fit on the shelf or on top of the other things. Unless we are lucky and need the items sitting on the edge of the shelf we usually need to take out 3 to 5 items to get to the one we need and this if we can see it!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Back to Florida with the sun

After a long 3 week winter we thought it would be a good idea to come back to summer with the sun! This picture is not a sunset but really a moon rise! We just couldn’t pass on posting it. Click on the picture to see it in full size it is just awesome.
We are back in Melbourne, Florida where we take a few days to complete the installation of new equipments such as a VHF Radio in the cockpit, an electrical horn, new switches for the winch, new sail covers etc… Today we had a breakthrough as we managed to get our Pactor modem working for the first time. The Pactor is an electronic device allowing us to send and receive short text emails using our HF Radio, which has a pretty long range. This will be very useful to post our position when we have no Internet. So far, we’ve been using the satellite phone but at $1.50/min we prefer the free radio. Danielle is actively working on supplying the boat while we are in Florida because once we cross to the Bahamas the price of food will increase by at least 30%. So as usual, she’s the one spending all the money while I do the hard work! Ouch! This was Danielle slapping me behind the head. :-)

On our way back we were a bit worried of how the boat would be after three weeks unattended under the sun with all windows shut. To our surprise everything was OK and there was no smell in the boat and this even if we actually forgot a couple of apples in a basket on the counter with onions and garlic. This could have turned into an organic disaster but all we had was two liquefied apples and about 200-300 fruit flies. No smell, believe it or not! However, we had to find a way to get rid of the flies. You see, fruit flies are no big travelers. Even if you try to whoosh them away all you’ll manage to do is to move them by two feet. So we had to use the big guns. The best way we found was to use the vacuum cleaner and suck them in. Again, a fruit fly having an IQ of 1.5 and the speed of a flying snail it wasn’t too hard to get most of them. It was a successful extreme hutting of the drosophilae specie. There is definitively no limit to where we ready to go in that adventure of ours! The trick though was to empty the thing as they don’t all die in the filter you know! I just went outside and empty them in the garbage bag and that was it.

Since our arrival, a few days ago, the weather has just been astonishing. During the day temperature climbs somewhere between 20°C and 25°C while during the night it is just cool enough to sleep well but not too much so we are not cold. Clear sky and sunny every day. While we work on the boat, the dolphins and pelicans in the marina are actively fishing; the former by swimming so fast that the wakes they generate actually roll the boat while the latter just fly up in the air to dive quickly beak first toward its prey. So you can imagine how much we miss our office work environment with our 8 foot cubicle and recycled air! Hey don’t laugh; most people don’t even have an 8 foot cubicle! Florida is very nice but we are really looking forward to cross the gulf stream and get to the Bahamas with the crystal clear water you can clearly see the bottom 20 feet below. But for this we still have to wait a week or two.