Chinese Martial Arts Tournament 2008

Memorial Day Weekend – My son Daniel has been participating in Kung Fu for the past two years with the Chinese Martial Arts Academy in Dunedin, Florida with Master Scrima.
In June of 2006 he competed in the 2006 International Chinese Martial Arts Tournament at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Florida with a single form, Gong Li Guan. He had no idea what it was all about or what he was in store for. In mid form he lost focus and wasn’t as solid as he could have been.
In fall of 2006 he competed in some smaller tournaments and it motivated him as he medaled against a variety of competitors.
In 2007 he was training at forms and at San Shou, Kung Fu’s name for full contact fighting. Just two weeks before the competition he broke his foot sparring. He was devastated, but he still went to observe the event.
In the fall of 2007 he increased his training from two times a week to five times a week. When the Chinese Martial Arts Tournament came up Memorial Day weekend of 2008 he was prepared for six different events.
Below are his gold medal performances Liuhe Bafa, Ba Gua, and Xing Yi Saber.




Anclote Key Sailing 30 May 2008

Surprisingly my first mate always seems to prefer the title “wench”. Although considered demeaning, I guess she likes it’s bawdy, rough, risqué and romantic undertones. So, through the remainder of this post, she will be hereafter referred to as the “wench”.
A week prior to 30 May the wench dropped a little bug in my ear about playing hooky for a day. The idea was anything away from work

Surprisingly my first mate always seems to prefer the title “wench”. Although considered demeaning, I guess she likes it’s bawdy, rough, risqué and romantic undertones. So, through the remainder of this post, she will be hereafter referred to as the “wench”.
A week prior to 30 May the wench dropped a little bug in my ear about playing hooky for a day. The idea was anything away from work that wasn’t stressful.
Of course, sailing is the first thing that popped into my mind as a possibility. The Florida weather was turning iffy at best. The heat was on the rise hitting low nineties daily mid-day and the winds were especially light with few to no gusts at ten miles an hour or less. But as the weekend wore on, the wench’s optimism and mine were rewarded with a marine forecast warning of winds light in the morning picking up to fifteen miles an hour after noon.
With that in mind we planned what I consider a late launch from Anclote River Park with a sail on the east side of Anclote Key at around 1030. With my West Wight Potter 19 “Fashas Dream” in tow the wench and I hit the road for new waters. It was our first experience with Anclote River Park and we were surprised in many ways. The boat ramp parking is pretty large but for the 945 time on a weekday when we arrived it was incredibly busy and nearly half full.
As we were rigging, we had power boats constantly launching around us. We had visions of insane fishing crazed psychos fighting us on the launch. Thank goodness there was nothing like that. Maybe it’s because we were the only sailboat and they all watched curiously from afar shaking their heads with the why would anyone thought. It helps to have the wench’s extra hands and growing knowledge assist in the rigging.
We launched easily enough. The outboard sang like a champ now that I understood what I had been screwing up on the choke (i.e. reduce the choke immediately after the engine fires up). Of course, as we’re motoring out of the channel at our typical five knots (guesstimated) large power boaters of all sizes were flying by at full throttle with no consideration of the disturbing wake to boats in either direction.
With the weighted dagger board fully down we still rocked a good seven degrees and I reassured my wench all was fine while learning how to time the wakes with “Fashas Dream” fore or aft sections to mitigate the affect. Only two or three outbound affected us to that point. Inside of 25 minutes of departing we were passing the #3 channel marker and headed north with the depth at around 8 feet.
We turned into the wind and hoisted the main and unfurled the jib and….. waited. The deep red sails cut a great profile on the horizon, except they were limp. Then the sails filled and we propelled. I hoisted the outboard up and …. The sails went slack again. They lay there like laundry, limp. We took the time to lather ourselves in suntan lotion, kick on the Jimmy Buffet tunes, bask in the aimless drift factor and enjoyed the reality that we weren’t at work. The sky was a wonderful blue and some people pay huge amounts of money to enjoy languishing in a tropical setting like this. Being adrift on our own personal space in good company with cold drinks and food at the ready there was no way we could be upset about the lack of wind.
This level of bliss lasted about thirty minutes. We took pictures of Anclote Key from afar and squeezed in a small attempt at video with my camera. Then the sails filled. Then the sails sagged again. Then they filled again. The sag and fill cycle lasted about 20 minutes and we made a little progress, but in no particular direction.
Then miraculously the forecast delivered. It actually came through as predicted. In no time we were bearing NNE with full sails winds from the NNW over our port bow. Which brings up another lesson I learned regarding the rigging. I never felt like I was able to point in the wind like I felt Fashas Dream could achieve until today. This time I rigged the lines to the genoa to the track pulley directly connected on the cockpit closer inboard, then forward to a deck pulley further outboard and then back to the cam cleat.

It felt good to know we were able to point at least another five degrees closer to the wind. I kicked on a brand new handheld GPS and began watching our heading and progress. It was fantastic. The GPS was clocking us as high as 5.5 miles per hour. The wind remained steady and the auto pilot was fantastic. As we got to the northern end of Anclote Key the autopilot began to hunt as the angle of the wind got tighter so I assumed the tiller.
We ate a wonderful salad compliments of the first mate, I mean wench. It was crispy with crunchy nutty things and a couple choices of that spritzing salad stuff. Really a fantastic meal. The spritzers were an excellent idea for any boating. No loose tops, no gloppy spills, and it appears that it would last a while. [Yes, I enjoy nice things but I’m still a guy like the Brad Paisley song]. With the prevailing winds it was a bit of a juggle. Occasionally a bit of lettuce or nut would blow down wind into the cockpit. Kudos go to the wench.

Eventually we turned south westerly intending to pass closer to Anclote for a better look only to realize that the depth went to 4 feet and shallower. We reversed course back in the direction we came. My charts didn’t show enough detail in that area to be helpful. I played conservative and headed back in the course direction we already cleared. I would never have been able to trace my steps back the way I came without this little gps.
About this time we realized the day was getting long, put the wind on our stern and headed south. We made fantastic progress moving as fast as the theoretical hull speed would allow. My handy dandy multi-tool of info, the gps was clocking as high as 5.7 mph or 5 knots. Fantastic. Theoretical hull speed for my West Wight Potter 19 is 5.5 knots.
The trip back to the channel was enjoyable, uneventful and quick. In no time I turned into the wind, we furled the genoa, dropped and tied the main, dropped the outboard and we were motoring into the channel near #3 marker.
The channel trip was a repeat of the outbound experience. Dozens of power boats blazed by throwing up large wakes and I was compensating constantly to keep it comfortable for the crew. I would have thought overtaking vessels would at least power down a little to smaller and slower vessels.
Fortunately the vessel traffic wasn’t heading to the park ramps. We were able to pull in with no lines or waiting. The wench made the transition easy enough to the dock so the forward line was in place. However, I had forgotten to have the aft line prepped on the correct side and I had to scramble to push us off a sea wall of the ramp areas. Thankfully others were around on the docks and won big karma points by helping.
Overall a wonderful sail. The marine weather broadcast was aces on. However I didn’t plan ahead enough before pulling in.

Replacing an Archos 404 Battery

My son bought an Archos 404 two years ago. Within a few months the player swelled without explanation. Unfortunately he didn’t really tell me about it for several months. When I looked at it,

I discovered that battery swelling was common, but we were under the impression the company wouldn’t do anything because it was out of warranty.

I was wrong. They would have replaced the battery, but I had already installed a replacement.

The good side, shipping charges would have cost as much as the replacement. I ordered from www.newmp3technology.com . After only a month the Li-PL battery was unable to hold more than 5 minutes of charge. But I couldn’t be sure whether it was because my son insisted that it didn’t need a full charge before the first use or over discharged the battery or the battery was inferior.

I then ordered a new one from www.megacapacity.com . It arrived in a week or so. It was rated with a few more milliamps capacity than the original. I was insisting on maintaining control of the Archos until full charge was reached. It’s been about a month and its doing well with charging. Check the web for tips for how to prevent over discharge.

Short Tutorial to replace the battery: [1] Unscrew the two screws on the control button end of the Archos 404. [2] Gently lift the panel from that end. The other end has locking tabs. Be careful not to bend them.

[3] In the back you’ll see two things filling up the space. One is the hard drive identifiable by it’s squarish shape, the copper and ribbon connector and the circular core of the hard drive. The battery is the other and is rectangular with a plastic covering. You may or may not see clear markings with amperage and voltage. [4] Gently lift the battery. It may be adhered in place with a double sided tape. Pry slowly and carefully. When the battery lifts up, be careful to keep the battery leads intact that lead to a tiny connector under the hard drive.

[5] Carefully lift the end of the hard drive over the connector. Gently use some needle nose pliers to pull the connector off.

[6] To install a new battery, basically reverse the process. Take care with the battery leads to ensure they don’t take up space inside the case.and make sure the lid seats well. [7] Very Important! Follow the directions for recharging and charge for the FULL minimum time period. However I have one recommendation. Use a powered USB hub instead of your PC ports. Powered USB hubs generally put out more amperage than a typical PC port which means faster and more complete charging. This also means the Archos doesn’t have to be connected to your PC to recharge.

Popeil Pocket Fisherman Review

I’ve been watching Ron Popeil’s infomercials since I was a kid. His “Pocket Fisherman has always interested me. For its compact size and opportunity it seemed very cool.
So when I saw them for sale in a Walgreen’s near home, I snagged it. With Fasha’s Dream and Tippy around compact size is important. Space is limited in both of them.

I immediately unpacked her and gave it a try at
John Chesnut Park. Let me say first, I have no illusions. I paid $20 and the small ‘rod’ obviously won’t provide the whipping affect for extensive range. I’ve bought compact poles that are retractable and they would fall apart after a few casts. Would Ronco do me right?
The “Fisherman” unfolds so simply and locks in the open position The casting mechanism is a simple reel mechanism. Hold the button down and release with the cast. It cast as well as other lightweight poles or maybe a bit shorter. There were moments when the line would snag before the lure reached the end of its projected arc. I was able to achieve distances of 10 yards or more at times with very little weight. I was switching between lightly weighted bait and a spinner lure.
As for the reel, it worked well. It has a sprocket inside of the hand crank that easily allows someone to set line tension.
Even with a direct line of site on some very respectably sized catfish, I couldn’t get a nibble so I can not comment on how the rod plays with a live fish hooked.
Overall: It’s compact and more durable than the telescoping rods I’ve dealt with. If you want compact and inexpensive, then it’s worth considering. Only time will tell if it holds up to the long term rigors.

Kick Butt Buffalo Style Dip


I had someone tell me about this dressing at a party recently. The original recipe ingredients as told to me were: Marie’s Premium Super Chunky Blue Cheese dressing, Franks Original Red Hot Sauce, and tiny little chicken chunks.

I decided to get the ingredients minus the chicken and give it a shot myself. I was also interested in mimicking it with less expensive ingredients. And today is the day.

In order to take advantage I have cold cooked shrimp, a peeled carrot and nacho chips to try it on.

My alternate ingredients were Ken’s Steakhouse Chunky Blue Cheese in a squeezable container and Louisiana Hot Sauce.

The dressing is the base. Dump it to a portion size that will suit your purpose maybe enough for a single meal or a whole party. Then season to taste with your hot sauce.

First thing to compare is texture. Marie’s is definitely loaded with more chunks of Blue Cheese than Ken’s. Marie’s is definitely thicker forming a lump while Ken’s ran a little.

Second thing to compare is taste. Seasoning to taste between the two hot sauces resulted in nearly identical flavors with a mildly hotter after burn with the Louisiana hot sauce.

With ingredients: Carrots were so sweet the ‘buffalo’ flavor was lost. The shrimp were good in both dips but the texture of Marie’s definitely allowed more dip per dipping to be carried to one’s pie hole. With nacho chips the results are similar although less worrisome since the dry surface retained a lot of both dips.

I’m sure this could be thickened with other elements like extra blue cheese chunks and chicken chunks or something else imaginative.

Final summary: Experiment with your blue cheese and hot sauce of your own choosing. Although you may be less likely to imitate the texture with less expensive dressings, flavor is certainly one that can be copied. I love this recipe for its sheer simplicity and ease, especially since I always have these ingredients on hand.

Happy munching.

*** Update: To thicken it up, soften a chunk of cream cheese in the microwave and pour everything on top and use a fork to blend.

MagicJack Review

I ordered a MagicJack after my niece recommended it. Hers is registered as a US phone number local to family to allow her to make calls with no long distance charges while connected via a broadband connection in Korea. And her cost was approximately $40 initially for her MagicJack and a year of long distance service.

Before I bought mine I did a little homework checking reviews on line. I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable user. I wanted to get a clear idea of what issues might be real versus those that were simply non-technical users or impatient users.

One key element everyone must understand, you can’t make phone calls unless your device is plugged into a PC operating on a broadband ISP.

I ordered mine on a Friday and it was delivered by Tuesday. The device itself is incredibly simple. It’s like an oversized memory stick about double the standard size. The top side has a clear top so you can see the printed circuit board and a blue power led. The sides are silver chrome colored. The back is a simple sticker pointing to the USB plug and the phone jack. Included was a usb extension for those with small access areas to the port.

The device came packaged in foam about the size of a large greeting card sandwiched between heavy gauge paper and fits in standard mail boxes. It was well packaged and unlikely to suffer in shipment.

The instructions are straight forward. Plug it in and wait for it to install. I have a laptop with Windows Vista Home Premium.

That’s what I did. I plugged it in. I followed the instructions, plugged it in and let it go. I closed all my other windows so I could see any prompts that pop up. Magicjack caused Vista to prompt for installs and I watched the graphics. I followed the prompts and everything installed easily.

Now that the install is done, you go through some interactive screens and are assigned a phone number.

This is supposed to be followed up by a registration prompt for your Userid and password. In my case, the prompt never came. I went to the web site and discovered Vista requires and update. And then there is an upgrade required to be installed.

I was still unable to receive the registration prompt. The Java interface seemed to be bogged by server problems along with the registration servers. I went through the FAQ’s, and nothing addressed the prompts I received. FAQ’s are incredibly sparse.

So, I tried clicking on the prompts to reach someone live. Those clicks were an infinite loop. It didn’t go to any interactive interface, irc chat or anything. I tried with both IE and Firefox with the same result. Is this a design flaw? I think so. I would have expected an error screen or something to indicate a broken flow or something. There is no contact number to call directly for support. I did find a contact e-mail buried in internet forums. Dan@magicjack.com is reportedly the inventor and is available for issues, but that’s it. The forums all show a lack of quality customer support.

Being the patient type, I unplugged and retried several times. I used the menu prompt under advanced users where there is a restart function. Eventually, I was able to click on the center of the MagicJack console and the registration prompt appeared correctly.

I had difficulty registering but it was my own fault because I messed up my password. Fortunately the site has a method for sending your e-mail address your password. However, I found no method on the site for changing the password. It may exist through adding the same e-mail address a second time and deleting the original entry. I’ve had to use the same password I initially set. Not a comforting thought if you’re security conscious.

Once that was done, I made a few calls to my existing lines to see how it worked. One of the MagicJack software console options allows you to use a pc microphone and speakers instead of an analog phone plugged into the MagicJack device.

For those that don’t leave their PC’s on at all times, their calls can be forwarded to another line like a mobile phone. I can picture using this from any free wifi location using a headset and microphone.

Call forwarding and voicemail with forwarding to e-mail work well. There is an option for an “Outlook Add-in” that should allow for a software prompt to dial directly from your Outlook contacts entries. One unusual item is there is no shutdown or exit function. I’ve been simply plugging mine in and out several times while the PC is on and it doesn’t seem to suffer detrimental effects. Granted, I’ve only been using mine for a single day. Feature set and use-ability are good.

The next point of testing for me: would it work through my corporate VPN? MagicJack was unable to register to the proxy server. No luck for me.

Pros – Simplicity and cost.

Cons – Live customer support missing/flawed, password change function.

Overall Review: Bang for the buck it’s a good buy. Compared to standard land line costs the annual savings is a minimum of $600 not counting long distance charges and the lack of features like voice mail. Compared to other VOIP solutions the savings are around $300 with similar feature sets. I can see this used by any number of users considering how inexpensive it is. Just be patient if you need help.

Follow Up: I e-mailed Dan@magicjack.com regarding the password change problems. I like to have control of my Passwords. After e-mailing back and forth with informing him I’ve tried all his suggestions the final response was ”

What is the new password you want and we will see if we can add it manually from this side.
Sincerely,
Richard
magicJack Tech Support Manager”.
Truly substandard and unimpressive.

27 April 2008 Wonderful Sailing

It was the Saturday afternoon before when I decided to get underway. The forecast was just the ticket with mild seas and winds. We gathered a few small things and rose reasonably early (around sunrise) to pull my West Wight Potter 19 S/V Fashas Dream from storage.

We made it to Phillipe Park boat ramp early enough to be the second boat in the parking lot. After about 45 minutes I had her rigged and was backing her down. My first mate held the lines dockside while I parked the suv. When I joined her at the dock she was being chatted up by a nice guy who recognized my boat was a West Wight Potter, lamenting he had owned a 35 footer once, but it was too big.

I fired up the Nissan outboard while we talked. It seemed to take quite a while to get completely warmed up and when I finally started to reduce the choke, she oversped due to excessive gas. I have to figure out whether I’m not doing something right or something is wrong with the engine. She shouldn’t race like crazy when reducing the choke. My method for overcoming this was killing the engine and immediately restarting which alleviated the racing.

Anyway, we cut short the sailing talk and the kindly gentleman with his greyhound helped shove us from the docks pointed out to the bay while I engaged the outboard and we were off. We kept a tight watch on the depth since charts indicate a narrow channel from Phillipe Park ramp to an area below some power lines. We were motoring south nearly dead into the wind.

Winds were light at 5 to 15 knots from the south. Putting up sail went smoothly, but I’m not 100% sure of some of the details with rigging between boom and mast. There is a track stop which I’m not sure belongs above the boom to keep it from sliding up the track and off the mast or if it belongs below the boom stopping it from going too low with the downhaul and another line keeping it downward. I believe the latter is correct. [I’ve since downloaded a 2003 Owners Manual with close up picture that makes it clear. The track stop fits above the mast opening after the mansail is in the track slot to keep it from sliding back thru the track gap. The boom is kept downward with the down haul and another line.]

Pointing into the wind was difficult, but again somehow I felt the rigging wasn’t quite right with the jib halyards, but couldn’t quite figure out the geometry. Fashas Dream has a pulley outboard near the gunwales and a track inboard on the outside wall of the cockpit with a winch nearby. [That night I checked the back of the ancient owner’s manual from International Marine and realized that the jib halyard is intended to lead back to the track pulley (which is further inboard) and then back out to the gunwale to the second pulley and then thru the cam cleat. This would allow a closer haul of the genoa.

The sky was crystal blue with accents of white puffs. We tacked back and forth as I sought more southerly purchase. Running parallel to the western shore brought us further south. We tacked and jibed enjoying the peace and quiet as my mind began to run through the list of things I needed to learn.

In a eureka moment I realized the auto pilot was just the ticket. One of many great features the previous owner included. In less than a minute we had power and human hands were removed from the tiller.

This was extremely fortuitous since my first mate hasn’t gained confidence with the tiller yet. I guess the whole tiller has to be pushed opposite the direction you wish to go throws her off.

After doing my ‘auto has the helm’ victory dance I hooked up my inverter, powered up my speakers and Jimmy Buffett echoed across the bay. A small but delicious sandwich and a few cold drinks (non-alc) followed. Oh, living in luxury. The wind does the heavy lifting, auto does the steering and we just took it all in. I was surprised that Upper Tampa Bay was actually quite nice to look at from the water with heavily tree laden parks and neighborhoods. I took a little time to tie up, organize the lines out of the cockpit.

I also examined closely the lay of the main to better understand the reefing system. Although I understand in principle, I believe I’ll investigate further to make sure I’m not mistaken.

The wind dropped to a whisper and we continued to tack back and forth without making any more southerly progress. It didn’t matter. We were already where we wanted to be and it was a piece of paradise all my own.

My first mate took a closer look at the accommodations and asked that I learn more about the porta potti before we commit to an overnighter where the need may arise. She seemed to like the interior spaces comparing them to a small camper.

As the clock ticked we realized life beyond the water was calling us out. With the wind at our backs I set the whisker pole and we made excellent progress wing on wing in incredibly light breezes between the main and the genoa.

Jockeying around the personal watercraft tied up and unattended blocking all the cleats was probably my biggest annoyance.

All in all a wonderful day, just a bit light in the breezes the second half. That made tearing down a little warm.

With the first mates help tear down went quickly. My only delay was assisting another sailor raise their mast over their very large catamaran. I can’t leave a sailor hanging. They needed help keeping their stays from hanging up while raising the mast.

It didn’t take long to get Fashas Dream back in her spot, covered and settled. What a wonderful day.

27 April 2008 Wonderful Sailing

It was the Saturday afternoon before when I decided to get underway. The forecast was just the ticket with mild seas and winds. We gathered a few small things and rose reasonably early (around sunrise) to pull my West Wight Potter 19 S/V Fashas Dream from storage.

We made it to Phillipe Park boat ramp early enough to be the second boat in the parking lot. After about 45 minutes I had her rigged and was backing her down. My first mate held the lines dockside while I parked the suv. When I joined her at the dock she was being chatted up by a nice guy who recognized my boat was a West Wight Potter, lamenting he had owned a 35 footer once, but it was too big.

I fired up the Nissan outboard while we talked. It seemed to take quite a while to get completely warmed up and when I finally started to reduce the choke, she oversped due to excessive gas. I have to figure out whether I’m not doing something right or something is wrong with the engine. She shouldn’t race like crazy when reducing the choke. My method for overcoming this was killing the engine and immediately restarting which alleviated the racing.

Anyway, we cut short the sailing talk and the kindly gentleman with his greyhound helped shove us from the docks pointed out to the bay while I engaged the outboard and we were off. We kept a tight watch on the depth since charts indicate a narrow channel from Phillipe Park ramp to an area below some power lines. We were motoring south nearly dead into the wind.

Winds were light at 5 to 15 knots from the south. Putting up sail went smoothly, but I’m not 100% sure of some of the details with rigging between boom and mast. There is a track stop which I’m not sure belongs above the boom to keep it from sliding up the track and off the mast or if it belongs below the boom stopping it from going too low with the downhaul and another line keeping it downward. I believe the latter is correct. [I’ve since downloaded a 2003 Owners Manual with close up picture that makes it clear. The track stop fits above the mast opening after the mansail is in the track slot to keep it from sliding back thru the track gap. The boom is kept downward with the down haul and another line.]

Pointing into the wind was difficult, but again somehow I felt the rigging wasn’t quite right with the jib halyards, but couldn’t quite figure out the geometry. Fashas Dream has a pulley outboard near the gunwales and a track inboard on the outside wall of the cockpit with a winch nearby. [That night I checked the back of the ancient owner’s manual from International Marine and realized that the jib halyard is intended to lead back to the track pulley (which is further inboard) and then back out to the gunwale to the second pulley and then thru the cam cleat. This would allow a closer haul of the genoa.

The sky was crystal blue with accents of white puffs. We tacked back and forth as I sought more southerly purchase. Running parallel to the western shore brought us further south. We tacked and jibed enjoying the peace and quiet as my mind began to run through the list of things I needed to learn.

In a eureka moment I realized the auto pilot was just the ticket. One of many great features the previous owner included. In less than a minute we had power and human hands were removed from the tiller.

This was extremely fortuitous since my first mate hasn’t gained confidence with the tiller yet. I guess the whole tiller has to be pushed opposite the direction you wish to go throws her off.

After doing my ‘auto has the helm’ victory dance I hooked up my inverter, powered up my speakers and Jimmy Buffett echoed across the bay. A small but delicious sandwich and a few cold drinks (non-alc) followed. Oh, living in luxury. The wind does the heavy lifting, auto does the steering and we just took it all in. I was surprised that Upper Tampa Bay was actually quite nice to look at from the water with heavily tree laden parks and neighborhoods. I took a little time to tie up, organize the lines out of the cockpit.

I also examined closely the lay of the main to better understand the reefing system. Although I understand in principle, I believe I’ll investigate further to make sure I’m not mistaken.

The wind dropped to a whisper and we continued to tack back and forth without making any more southerly progress. It didn’t matter. We were already where we wanted to be and it was a piece of paradise all my own.

My first mate took a closer look at the accommodations and asked that I learn more about the porta potti before we commit to an overnighter where the need may arise. She seemed to like the interior spaces comparing them to a small camper.

As the clock ticked we realized life beyond the water was calling us out. With the wind at our backs I set the whisker pole and we made excellent progress wing on wing in incredibly light breezes between the main and the genoa.

Jockeying around the personal watercraft tied up and unattended blocking all the cleats was probably my biggest annoyance.

All in all a wonderful day, just a bit light in the breezes the second half. That made tearing down a little warm.

With the first mates help tear down went quickly. My only delay was assisting another sailor raise their mast over their very large catamaran. I can’t leave a sailor hanging. They needed help keeping their stays from hanging up while raising the mast.

It didn’t take long to get Fashas Dream back in her spot, covered and settled. What a wonderful day.

27 April 2008 Wonderful Sailing

It was the Saturday afternoon before when I decided to get underway. The forecast was just the ticket with mild seas and winds. We gathered a few small things and rose reasonably early (around sunrise) to pull my West Wight Potter 19 S/V Fashas Dream from storage.

We made it to Phillipe Park boat ramp early enough to be the second boat in the parking lot. After about 45 minutes I had her rigged and was backing her down. My first mate held the lines dockside while I parked the suv. When I joined her at the dock she was being chatted up by a nice guy who recognized my boat was a West Wight Potter, lamenting he had owned a 35 footer once, but it was too big.

I fired up the Nissan outboard while we talked. It seemed to take quite a while to get completely warmed up and when I finally started to reduce the choke, she oversped due to excessive gas. I have to figure out whether I’m not doing something right or something is wrong with the engine. She shouldn’t race like crazy when reducing the choke. My method for overcoming this was killing the engine and immediately restarting which alleviated the racing.

Anyway, we cut short the sailing talk and the kindly gentleman with his greyhound helped shove us from the docks pointed out to the bay while I engaged the outboard and we were off. We kept a tight watch on the depth since charts indicate a narrow channel from Phillipe Park ramp to an area below some power lines. We were motoring south nearly dead into the wind.

Winds were light at 5 to 15 knots from the south. Putting up sail went smoothly, but I’m not 100% sure of some of the details with rigging between boom and mast. There is a track stop which I’m not sure belongs above the boom to keep it from sliding up the track and off the mast or if it belongs below the boom stopping it from going too low with the downhaul and another line keeping it downward. I believe the latter is correct. [I’ve since downloaded a 2003 Owners Manual with close up picture that makes it clear. The track stop fits above the mast opening after the mansail is in the track slot to keep it from sliding back thru the track gap. The boom is kept downward with the down haul and another line.]

Pointing into the wind was difficult, but again somehow I felt the rigging wasn’t quite right with the jib halyards, but couldn’t quite figure out the geometry. Fashas Dream has a pulley outboard near the gunwales and a track inboard on the outside wall of the cockpit with a winch nearby. [That night I checked the back of the ancient owner’s manual from International Marine and realized that the jib halyard is intended to lead back to the track pulley (which is further inboard) and then back out to the gunwale to the second pulley and then thru the cam cleat. This would allow a closer haul of the genoa.

The sky was crystal blue with accents of white puffs. We tacked back and forth as I sought more southerly purchase. Running parallel to the western shore brought us further south. We tacked and jibed enjoying the peace and quiet as my mind began to run through the list of things I needed to learn.

In a eureka moment I realized the auto pilot was just the ticket. One of many great features the previous owner included. In less than a minute we had power and human hands were removed from the tiller.

This was extremely fortuitous since my first mate hasn’t gained confidence with the tiller yet. I guess the whole tiller has to be pushed opposite the direction you wish to go throws her off.

After doing my ‘auto has the helm’ victory dance I hooked up my inverter, powered up my speakers and Jimmy Buffett echoed across the bay. A small but delicious sandwich and a few cold drinks (non-alc) followed. Oh, living in luxury. The wind does the heavy lifting, auto does the steering and we just took it all in. I was surprised that Upper Tampa Bay was actually quite nice to look at from the water with heavily tree laden parks and neighborhoods. I took a little time to tie up, organize the lines out of the cockpit.

I also examined closely the lay of the main to better understand the reefing system. Although I understand in principle, I believe I’ll investigate further to make sure I’m not mistaken.

The wind dropped to a whisper and we continued to tack back and forth without making any more southerly progress. It didn’t matter. We were already where we wanted to be and it was a piece of paradise all my own.

My first mate took a closer look at the accommodations and asked that I learn more about the porta potti before we commit to an overnighter where the need may arise. She seemed to like the interior spaces comparing them to a small camper.

As the clock ticked we realized life beyond the water was calling us out. With the wind at our backs I set the whisker pole and we made excellent progress wing on wing in incredibly light breezes between the main and the genoa.

Jockeying around the personal watercraft tied up and unattended blocking all the cleats was probably my biggest annoyance.

All in all a wonderful day, just a bit light in the breezes the second half. That made tearing down a little warm.

With the first mates help tear down went quickly. My only delay was assisting another sailor raise their mast over their very large catamaran. I can’t leave a sailor hanging. They needed help keeping their stays from hanging up while raising the mast.

It didn’t take long to get Fashas Dream back in her spot, covered and settled. What a wonderful day.

Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon Review

Ubuntu 7.10 “Gutsy Gibbon” Review

First a rundown on the system. It’s a 1.0 Ghz AMD Duron with a 32 meg Nvidia video card. It’s the same as system #2 from my Ubuntu 6 review. During the load she was connected to my lan, but has a Broadcom based wifi card installed.

I did not attempt to load over a previous version of Ubuntu as in my earlier review.

Following the GUI, loading was smooth and straight forward. I reformatted the entire hard drive for the Linux OS, went through the typical prompts with really no significant differences from Ubuntu 6.

Again the install went smoothly with a status bar ticking off progress. All the same prompts occurred with little change from previous versions. It’s nice to see they aren’t messing with this success.

Of course, you’re prompted to define a userid and password like every other linux build I’ve tried.

Log in and there you have it. The dulcet tones of the system start up with the earth toned backdrop.

No differences yet.

Whoa! What’s this? There is a new tool that pop’s up prompting ‘proprietary’ drivers needed. Fantastic! It spots both my Nvidia video card and my Broadcom based Wifi card. With my active lan connection the drivers were automatically downloaded and installed.

The video card driver allowed different resolutions but the defaults were fine.

The wifi driver loaded with no problems and showed as an option with the network connections. Wifi manager was already a part of my Ubuntu install under network connections. These few features made a huge difference in my install experience. Big kudos to Ubuntu developers on this.

Past: I would have found and downloaded WiFi Manager and the Broadcom drivers manually or via Synaptic.

Of course, I strongly recommend you update your entire configuration with Update Manager before disconnecting from the Lan. Since I was late in the 7.10 cycle (8 was to be announced within a week of this load) the updates were very long.

After completing all the updates, I configured the wifi and disco’d the lan. Everything “Just worked”, which is a far cry from recent Vista experiences.

The WiFi signal indicators never seemed to indicate more than 60% when other devices [Blackberry phone and Vista laptop] indicated minimum 80%. Signal throughput does seem to be slower with equivalent page refreshes between comparable systems using different OS. Whether it’s the nature of Wifi Manager on Linux or added overhead with the proprietary driver or some other bandwidth hog I can’t say.

Pros: Ubuntu is sticking with what works and contnues to refine things for improvement. It’s a perfectly viable alternative to MS. Huge improvement with the proprietary driver detection and downloads and integrated Wifi Manager into the network connections.

Cons: The same con as for all Linux OS. 1) A Quicken financial management program equivalent. Something that will allow for daily downloads of financials (banking, trading, etc.). Taxation software would also be nice, but I understand they are moving to web portals that may be OS independent. 2) Other platform game compatibility whether Apple or PC. Available in limited fashion and not 100%. 3) Wifi manager seems to be slower than equivalent MS wifi configurations.

Final Word: Ubuntu is a definite contender and in my mind the strongest Linux contender to date. I love Ubuntu. But for the cons, it would be my primary platform.

My First Sail on “Fasha’s Dream”

5 Apr 2008


The weekend had been set aside to allow me all the possible time I could handle underway.

Agenda items:

Raise sails as much as I felt comfortable with. Genoa or main.

Gain more familiarity with everything aboard.

As much time as possible underway.

Forecasts predicted a strong front with high winds and rain rolling in on Saturday afternoon and escalating to thunderstorms through Sunday.

That meant any underway time I wanted would have to be first thing on Saturday. So there was the plan. Get underway as early as possible on Lake Tarpon, put up sails, get comfortable and head back in before the front rolls in. Expected arrival for the front was noon to 5 pm.

I was able to enlist the support of an intrepid soul as a first mate. I was completely forthcoming about my lack of experience. She was eager for new experiences so she agreed to meet me early Saturday at John Chestnut Park boat ramp.

I kept my eye on the forecast in hopes it would suddenly be all sunshine and bluebirds, but no such luck. I reviewed the West Wight Potter 19 rigging information and ran through the mental preparation checklists. Then Saturday morning arrived.

By around 8 am I retrieved her from storage and rigged her mostly solo, with minor hiccups here and there from lack of experience. The biggest challenge was ensuring the stays and lines were cleared while raising the mast. A simple twist in a stay or line gets in the way of pinning the forestay (also the roller furling rig). The boom and main went in easily enough.

I bemoaned the dirt lot where my boat is stored. After all rigging was done, she was totally tracked up with footprints from my deck shoes.

Winds were from the South at 10-15 kts with little chop. Skies were overcast, but no threat of rain, yet. With my trusty crew aboard, we departed through the calm channel and in no time passed the bass fishers in the shallows and had the genoa unfurled.

After a minute or two of fudging around I was able to raise the motor. I have to remember to push down first then pull up on the black knobs. Another lesson to remember.

We were moving at a really nice clip under only the Genoa. It was an incredibly relaxing experience idling along, no noise, snacking as we went, basking in the shade of the bimini. My crew treated me to hand fed fruit slices and sweet beverages (non-alcoholic of course). For a couple of single parents with stressful jobs that are flanked by children whose biggest thrill is marathon WOW’ing out on a PC indoors, this was an incredibly welcomed break away.

Eventually we reached the northern end of our trek and began heading south, attempting to close haul under the genoa. We went back and forth a number of times. Yes, we were making headway, only it was arduously slow. We joked that progress was probably 100 feet for every complete circuit of tack. That would put us back at the ramp around Thursday.

So, I had the inspiration to switch to the main. After all, I had gained a lot of confidence under the genoa. Why not? It’s all an adventure anyway, right?

Furling the genoa, I scrambled through the tiny openings of the bimini to reach the mast and send the main up. My poor crew was left on the tiller attempting to keep us luffed long enough for me to finish hoisting. [Yes, I am looking up sailing terms as I write this.] This was a little more challenging than I anticipated. Note to self: skip the bimini while learning.

A little finagling and the main is raised and in no time we’re making progress. During it’s flopping around on the way up I lost a stay.

Up to this point we had been heeling a maximum of 3 degrees or so. We could see the chop increase when under sail. What was a lake filled with dimples earlier was becoming ever covered with white caps.

On our second leg with the main while maintaining a steady heading the wind seemed to gust from a totally different perspective, the boat abruptly heeled another five degrees and the sharp change in attitude startled mes. I did a quick check to confirm the solid steel dagger board/ballast was all the way down (comfort from capsizing) and let loose the tiller and released the main some. We fell off into a much more conservative position but were making no headway.

Realizing this was likely the leading edge of the impending front, I called on a more conservative posture. I dropped and started the outboard and put it in gear. Again my poor crew was abandoned on the tiller to keep us in irons while I scrambled to the mast through the small opening of the bimini to pull in the main. Making that squeeze required the skill and size of a spider monkey which I outweigh by at least 170 pounds. Lacking one of those I made the scramble awkwardly.

Once the main was secured, I dropped back in the cockpit and we headed directly into the wind and chop. No matter what speed we went, it was a wet ride. I attempted adjusting our position relative to the chop so my stalwart crew would suffer less shower time, but alas she couldn’t hide the onslaught of spray.

We couldn’t help but laugh at the adventure. By the time we reached the channel we were both soaked. In fact, I only remember one instance the entire time that we weren’t smiling and basking in the experience. But knowing things won’t always be perfect is half of the thrill.

After reading challenges with West Wight Potter 19’s and the Pacific Baja trailers, I was especially careful to ensure “Fasha’s Dream” was centered between the trailer wheel wells. No way did I want my bottom paint to be scored by the inside edges of the tires.

Dropping rigging was a breeze made even easier by my eager crews desire to witness and experience it all.

All in all, it was a successful sail. I actually sailed with no major issues, albeit under only one sail at a time. I rigged her for the most part alone. No challenges motoring.

For the future:
1 – Learn and master the reefing of the main, especially underway.
2 – Sail with the main primarily. The genoa is so easy with the roller furling I got lazy.
3 – Master maneuvering around the bimini or don’t use it.
4 – Think ahead to prevent tracking up the decks. Use a welcome mat or change shoes.

Underway but not sailing 20 March 2008

I had the boat for almost a week and decided the day before Good Friday was going to be underway.

Oh yeh, my vessel is currently nameless. I’m debating different names and probably thinking about it too much.

My adventurous daughter was visiting for her spring break and was looking for some time in the Florida sun.

Untarping took little time at all with rolling it up. After doing a once over to ensure everything was secure, we headed out quickly.

I pulled into John Chestnut Park’s boat ramp on Lake Tarpon. Excellent space and ramp facilities. It’s convenient location was perfect for my first time, plus with wind conditions 15 to 25 knots, I felt it would be a safe bet for a preliminary session.

What was my goal? Basic launch, preliminary rigging, motoring for a while and no sails. I know that my skill with a brand new boat will take time to develop and the winds were high and the lake choppy.

Rigging was slow, but expected for the first time. Mast raising uses a second winch with nylon strap strung thru a roller at the top of a long 2×4 inserted in the upright opening on the tongue of the trailer. The free end has a hook attached to the mast sheet. I was hesitant on this with concerns for a twist. It did cause a mild pull to offcenter, but concerns for a mast twist were unfounded.

It took around an hour and I had mast, boom, rudder, roller furling and outboard in proper position and was ready to back into launch. Another 15 minutes and the boat was in the water, tied to a dock with my suv parked.

Once the outboard was started (with the choke on) it took longer to warm up than I expected. I confirmed forward and reverse worked and then let her loose. Unfortunately I misjudged and the lines were let loose before I had things under control. Wind up the channel began to force me into the ramp, so I accelerated into reverse and I began to twist sideways. The chaos continued for another two to three panicked minutes, with my accelerating forward or backward wildly trying to get my bearings with the tiller, avoiding the docks, attempting to head into the wind under throttle until finally I was making forward progress head into the wind.

From that point progress was incremental. I gradually lowered the dagger board not knowing it’s depth. It definitely improved tracking. At one point with the dagger board lowered only a foot and a half motoring direct into the wind we got some splash up the daggerboard trunk. Lowering it took care of that.

It was obvious once we cleared the channel that the winds were too high for my skill. So we motored north enjoying the wind and waves and occasional splash over the focs’l. The return leg had the wind at our backs and we made the channel in excellent condition. With my daughter on the forward line and myself on the stern line we pulled dockside in excellent position with no bangs, scares or panic.

All in all, I met my goals, modest as they were. Hopefully in the near future the winds will be cooperative and I can get underway again for more progress with more modest breezes. I don’t know if my daughter met her goals since the winds were up, the temperatures were down and it wasn’t very tropical.

Pull out was so much easier. Familiarity was obviously a big part of it.

I did have minor hitches.

A combination lock on the outboard screw mounts had become incredibly wedged against the lowering mechanism. I fudged with it for nearly a half hour when I finally agreed to let my intrepid daughter give it a shot. Embarrassingly enough she had it loose in less than five minutes. Grumbling something about big fingers, I was able to raise the outboard for towing in no time.

The return tow to storage, tarp covering and departure went smoothly.

Lessons learned:

1 – Don’t use a lock on the outboard mounting screws. Previous owner had a rope tied through them to prevent them from working loose. Gotta remount the rope.

2 – When lowering the mast, the companionway hatch has to be in the fully closed position. One of the lower fittings on the mast grinds into the hatch if its all the way forward.

3 – Pay close attention to the wind conditions. Even with no sails the winds can be a problem.

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