compass rose

 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

Last minute preparations: buying boat toys
This journal is a log of all the messages from Susie & Lance. For pictures, please see the Gallery.
December 7, 2002, Marina Bay, Richmond California
    Greeting from the crew of Mostly Harmless. We are under orders from Emma to disappear for the evening so we have come down to Marina Bay, Richmond, CA to hide out. Mostly Harmless is the name of our shared Newport 41 in San Francisco Bay. I have a few repairs I would like to do before leaving: secure the spare CNG tank, install the GFI plug and do a few touch ups on the wood work where there was some rope burn. Emma is throwing a "Winter Party" with her friends. Her "Red Party" of September was a big success and she and her friends are getting quite good at putting on parties. I suspect she will find our house will be quite popular while we are gone. On Wednesday we met the third room mate who is known to McKenzie. His name is Jason and they all seem quite excited by the adventure. Emma is relieved to have a full set of house mates lined up who can be flexible when they move in. She is taking on responsibility of paying bills and collecting rent on the house. Our deal is house rent is 1500/mo and we pay one fourth of the utilities and reserve our room for when we come back. This has spawned a very vigorous cutting back of the high house expenses. We are getting rid of extended basic cable, extra phone lines, and canceling all possible subscriptions. Debate rages as to whether or not heating the hot tub is worth it.

Last night we had some sleepless hours while we contemplated what we have done. I find spending money extremely stressful and had spent the day getting all the pieces for the email system we are bringing with to the BVI for installation into the new boat. I want to set the whole system up here, on land and with good internet connections so that we can get it working with many known elements already in place and help at hand. The system consists of an ICOM 706MKGII tranceiver and a SCSProII radio modem. The whole shebang ended up costing $2500 dollars taking all afternoon to buy and burned the credit card which is no longer being accepted. It is apparently suspicious to run around buying electronic toys at a high rate of speed. I know it leaves the inner me in a state of shock and anxiety.

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This adventure is something we had always planned for (although perhaps it came a little quicker than we planned) but the reality of spending through the savings on stuff for fun sits uneasily on my Puritan soul. Regular hugs and the positive reactions of others seems to mitigate the anxiety.

For this combo to really work well, the high stability crystal option must be installed (a digital signal is very sensitive to frequency drift). Don Melchor at H. F. Radio on Board of Alameda sold me the modem and volunteered to do the installation for $85 which is basically 1 hour of tech time. I then ran over to HRO on the Oakland side of the Estuary (next to West Marine) and examined antenna's and thought about what might be portable and practical while someone came in to buy a ICOM 706MKGII! He claimed Texas Towers was selling them for 749.00 and Mack (the manager) called Texas Towers (on his cell phone, so they wouldn't know the call was coming from a competitor). Sure enough, that was the price and they had them in stock. He then called his manager to get permission to sell for this price and soon the deal was done. I just walked up and said "I'll have one just like that one" and saved a good deal of trouble. I decided to get a couple of single band whips - one for 20Meters and one for 40Meter. The alternative is to get an antenna tuner (AH4) which will automagically tune an antenna consisting of a wire over 23 feet in length. The best installation is to make that wire an insulated (from the mast and the hull) section of backstay. The antenna tuner is then installed in an aft compartment. The disadvantages: it is a third box to carry on the airplane, the wire from the tuner to the antenna proper is live and is a kind of spark plug wire. It is very convenient as you can happily broadcast on any frequency and the tuner compensates for the length of the wire and causes it to resonate at the frequency you are tuned to. The whole thing: modem radio and tuner can be controlled from the PC and voila: email at sea. Eaux Vives has a split backstay and I do not want to replace perfectly good rigging and so will not put in backstay insulators. Likewise, I do not want to cut holes in the bottom of my new boat and will not be putting in the big brass grounding shoe many people use.

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Hauling a wire up the mast before broadcasting is an alternative but seems to me like as much trouble as the whips. The whip itself must be hand tuned. This consists of broadcasting a tone at low power and sliding the movable portion of the whip in and out. Once we find the correct lengths, we can mark them and use them regularly. Since our main desire is email, this seems adequate. The reception will cover us for weather fax, international news and local weather and gossip. We need to tune the whip for reception so this seems like a suitable compromise. The whips break down into two four foot lengths and are quite light. I'm planning on a simple installation, placing the whips on the aft rail and dumping a short length of copper foil off into the sea to act as ground and counterpoise. The whips present a 1/4 wave length to the transmitter and the sea acts as the other half of a dipole. I'll let you know how it works.

Tomorrow I hope to start setting the whole system up and signing up for winlink email and programming the radio with all the frequencies I currently know of that might be of interest to us. Should be a fun break from endless rounds of sorting books, papers stuff and junk. Last night we replaced the timer switch which shuts off the bathroom fan after a delay while the fan clears the bathroom of steam. So far we have replaced broken trim on several cabinets, cleaned, decluttered, trimmed the trees, fixed the watering system, reconfigured the rooms for use by others and collected a pile of stuff for the upcoming garage sale. Susie made a binder with the instructions for all the household appliances. Each object has enough memories to make parting with it difficult. Without Emma's constant wheedling pleading and cajoling, progress would be glacial. The pain of separation from the beloved detrius of life causes some bad moments, but the job is getting done.

Thursday we faxed formal offer to purchase the boat and started organizing the haul out and inspection. Bill Bailey is to be the surveyor and we have his emailed assurances that he climbs the mast, performs a sea trial and doesn't mind having anxious new owners taking notes on his every utterance. Haulout and survey is set for December 18th. We'll be there.

Dinner is ready: raviolii and garlic bread with caesar salad.

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