Site Meter Getting out of the Rat Race

Getting out of the Rat Race

I have decided that I have had enough. Follow me as I sell my home, my possessions and move aboard a sailboat and sail away. If you wish to start with my first post go to Begining of the end. By The way it is a Dutch Bowline on the left (Not a Noose)
You Are 68% Evil
You are very evil. And you're too evil to care. Those who love you probably also fear you. A lot.
How Evil Are You?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I Tinker

Wow!

The letter I sent to Good old Boat magazine was published. It is on page 84 of the July/Aug 2006 issue. In it I mention my friends Chris’s blog http://www.westerlynomad.blogspot.com/

I am a tinkerer. Lately I have been playing around with making alcohol camp stoves. Years ago I had a little Simon stove, that worked really well and was very durable. Someplace along the way I lost it and I miss it, although it did have some shortcomings.
If it wasn’t $34.00 plus $10.00 shipping I might just buy one again. I originally paid $8.00 plus $3.00 shipping from the sportsman guide but they no longer carry it.

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/gcw_outback_australia_simon_stove_gg.html is the only place I can find it now.

Since I am making one anyway I am also going to be experimenting with ways to control the temperature. I was inspired by the penny stove http://www.csun.edu/~mjurey/penny.html If it works at all I will post some pics.
Because most of my free time right now is spent helping my buddy Chris with BeBop, I haven’t felt the need to update my Blog when his covers every thing we have done each week. Sorry folks.
Rich, 11:36 AM | link | 5 comments |

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Security vs Freedom

I recently paid my property tax for the year. I my case my mortgager doesn’t hold it for me in an escrow account. In some ways I am glad that I am responsible for paying it each year when it comes due. It reminds me that I can never really own my property. In fact, the Notice of Ad Valorem states under the heading, Delinquent Taxes, “Tax sales Certificates will be sold on all unpaid real estate and non-ad Valorem assessments items on or before June 1st.” Does this really mean that no matter how long I have lived here and no matter how much I have paid, if I am six months late paying my taxes that the County can evict me and sell my house?

A few weeks ago I also mentioned that I had traded my living-room-set for an old Honda Civic. Well because I have been saving the last few hundred dollars I needed to pay my taxes I haven’t had the cash on hand to insure and register the car. I has been sitting it the driveway. I start it every few days and wash it each week. Two days ago I was given warning by the city that I would be fined if I didn’t get rid of it or register it in ten days. Tomorrow I will make room for it in the garage, but this level of personal invasion really bothers me.

I make it a point to park in my driveway, not the street or grass and to keep it clean. But because I haven’t given the Tax collector the annual fee they require I can’t keep it on my property.

I have plenty of security right now. I work for one of the biggest computer companies in the world, I own my own home and I own two cars. I have the big screen TV with over five hundred channels. I do not have the level of freedom I believe we all deserve! I must always have an income to pay for those things and the annual taxes on top of that. I must abide by the community standards. If I choose not to cut my grass the city will do it for me and fine me for it. If I don’t pay the fine I will loose my home. I am gladly trading security for freedom.

I will have the freedom to raise anchor anytime I choose and go where the wind will take me. I choose the freedom to have an income so low that I don’t even have to pay income tax. I choose the freedom to live and die by my choosing.
Rich, 9:41 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, February 27, 2006

Eat better than a king for less than $4.00 a day!

In 1532 the Spanish conquistadors first encountered the potato in Peru. It was bought back to Spain in 1570 and cultivated for use as animal feed stock. As its’ cultivation spread throughout Europe, potatoes were regarded with suspicion, distaste and fear. Generally considered to be unfit for human consumption, they were used only as animal fodder and sustenance for the starving poor.

Because many of the varieties of foods we take for granted weren’t available to Europeans prior to about 1600, to eat like a king of the renaissance period we will need to eliminate potatoes, tropical fruits, corn, peppers, tomatoes and coffee. Doesn’t sound as appealing any more does it?

Even by 1774 food variety was still severely limited to what was locally produced
Lets take a look at a typical day of eating for Louis XVI, his breakfast might have consisted of curly endive over a salmon-filled with buckwheat wrapped in crepe topped with a perfectly poached pheasant egg and a slice of cheese and wine. Lunch would have been fresh mutton stuffed with apples and walnuts with wine or beer and bread with hard cheese and a dab of mustard. Dinner would be mussel soup, salted pork shredded over rice and beets and wine or beer.

Fruits and vegetables where limited to what was seasonally grown. While the royals could enjoy a large variety of foods from all over Europe, freshness was not guaranteed and even milk was limited to four months per year, from about March or April through to September, because they had not yet got the trick of getting cows pregnant year round.

So just by having dairy products available year round one could say they “eat better than a king”. But how can one enjoy three meals a day for less than $4.00 a day?

The answer is bulk dry goods.

In preparing for my changing my lifestyle to that of a cruiser, I began looking for sources of canned butter. This led me to discover http://www.internet-grocer.net/ they offer prepackaged kits for family preparedness. This gave me the idea of using one of their packages as a foundation to add inexpensive seasonally available produce and meat, one could eat well very inexpensively and have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have enough food on hand to get your family through most emergencies.
Here in Florida we deal with tropical storms and hurricanes each year. When I lived up north we had blizzards. Either way power outages occasionally do happen. I have only been fired from one employer and was lucky to only be without work for two days and after quitting a job I once went without work for a week. I have been steadily employed basically since I was fifteen years old. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have the responsibility to feed house and clothe a family in today’s work environment.
Rich, 12:13 PM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, February 25, 2006

One step at a time

Well I just took the first large step toward my goal of reducing my inventory of personal possessions and moving aboard. I traded my living room set for a 1992 Honda Civic plus $500.00. Now I can get serious about selling my 2003 Xterra. A week or two before I am ready to cast off for the big voyage I expect to be able sell the Honda for another $500.00 or so.

I just learned of an alarming trend, our oceans have peeked in protein output. The year 2000 marked a decisive turning point when the global wild fish catch, which grew 500 percent between 1950 and 1997, peaked at 96 million tons despite better technologies and intensified efforts by fishers. It has since fallen by 3% per year. http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2006/03/the_fate_of_the_ocean.html
This is something I have suspected for three or four years now, but having scientific evidence that exceeds my personal suspicions is still scary.

There is another website that I have been casually exploring recently. The author, Ran Prieur, advises that we each seek to find our tribe. I am beginning to think that my returning desire to go to sea is partially motivated by a need to seek out a new tribe. I have been very happy with my peasant tribe for the past eight years, but I no longer feel that my currant tribe is prepared to benefit me in the near future.

This is not anything that is unusual for me. I mentioned in an earlier post that I served in the armed forces for a time and for that time the Army was my tribe, then I worked in the medical field for nine years and for a time I had a different tribe. Right now my tribe consists primarily of geeks. After all I have been in the I.T. field for the past eight years.

I have always been generous with my resources, such as they may be, to anyone I felt it was in my power to help. My fear right now is if events transpire that I suspect are imminent. I will only be able to offer sanctuary to one other person. Unfortunately I won’t be able to protect everyone I would like to.

“The first thing they teach lifeguards is how to break holds.”

So I mentioned Ran Prieur, the link to his web site follows but be warned many of you will think he is a bit extreme at the minimum or maybe a total nutcase.

http://ranprieur.com/essays/saveearth.html

Rich, 12:19 AM | link | 0 comments |

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Solar Start-up (SunCube)

There is so little I am able to do right now until I sell the house and get the boat I haven’t had much to write about. I have spent much of my free time helping my friend Chris with his plans to move aboard his boat.

Part of my preparing to go is educating myself about the various systems I may choose to use. Among the things I have been looking at lately have been solar and wind energy systems. If a steady wind is available, that is definitely the way to go. The catch is they just don’t work well with less than a 12 mph wind or so, and stop all together below 7 mph.

So I started looking at the possibility of cooking aboard using a solar oven. I am very encouraged by what I found and hope to experiment with it some soon. This research led to a small start-up company in Australia that claims to be developing a photovoltaic system that converts >30% of incoming light to energy. This is amazing because the best available panels from companies like Sharp, BP and Mitsubishi Electric only convert 10-12% of incoming light.

This is important because space is always at a premium aboard a boat. If I can get twice the energy from the same footprint then it is worth more than twice the cost. But amazingly the prices announced for the “SunBall and SunCube are actually less than for panels of similarly sized output from major retailers. The big question now for me is, “Can they withstand exposure to the marine environment?”

The other issue I have is the company’s web site is; it is a bit hokey. They provide a lot of specifications for the SunCube but no photos yet. They have lots of pics of the SunBall but that doesn’t seem to be the product they plan to bring to market. The SunCube does make more sense to me. It seems like it would be easier to fit through the companionway should I need to stow it in bad weather. The crude drawing at least, shows a provision for a lock. And if its’ hail sensor is triggered it can self-invert protecting the fragile lenses.

Out of curiosity I looked up my household energy usage. Very disturbing!
I’m sure most of it is cooling with a big chunk going to making hot water and cooking. Most of the light in my house is florescent and I rarely watch television. Unfortunately these numbers also include power tool usage. When I compare this past year to the year prior I notice a sharp increase in usage beginning in November, which is normally a low cooling month. I’m sure it is related to the heavy usage of power sanders during this time.

So here are the numbers; 21,013,000 watts & $2,312.18 for the year or 2,400 watts per hour on average. I apparently pay $0.11 per KW. (Pretty low all things considered)
Rich, 4:43 PM | link | 0 comments |

Monday, January 16, 2006

I'm Still Here

I’m sorry I haven’t entered an update in awhile. Mostly I have been helping my buddy Chris restore his classic plastic, Bebop. He has been chronicling the refit here; http://westerlynomad.blogspot.com//
I am amazed at how much work we have done. It is like having two full time jobs right now. With it being winter here in the northern hemisphere, the weather is very unpredictable. This past Saturday it was vary cold and windy. It was supposed to be the same on Sunday but by noon it was actually very nice. But because bad weather was on the schedual, Chris worked on the dinghy he is building from scratch. It is the secondary project that gets worked on when it is just too rough to work on Beebop.

I was very glad for the break. It has been extra busy at work lately too partly because we no longer have contractors to help pick up the slack. Between working on laptops 8 hours every day and then going home and using the PC at home for 3-5 hours every night I have managed to get a touch of tendonitis in my right elbow. So I am typing this strictly left handed, slow going here. I also purchased a support that helps mitigate the pain most of the time.

Occasionally Chris will receive a gift card to Walmart from his employer for exceptional performance. Now neither he nor I shop at Walmart very often so whenever he get one of these cards we are often at a loss as to what to get. This time he thought to use it to buy a small electric motor for the dinghy and I think it was a great choice. He really wanted to buy a set of oars but they seem to be increasingly difficult to find. Ten years ago I bought a set for my sister at Sears but they no longer carry them. Nor does Walmart, Target, Sports Authority, Bill Jackson’s, or Tackle Shack. West Marine and Boat US do but both stores where sold out of five and a half foot oars and are surprisingly expensive. For the cost of 2 oars, the oarlocks and needed miscellaneous extra hardware one can buy a fairly decent 30 lbs thrust motor.

As far as why I don’t shop at Walmart, it basically breaks down to a half dozen things that make it nearly unbearable. 1 parking, because of the popularity and shear size of the place parking is always at a premium. Where as, if I buy the same item at say, Ace hardware I am sure to get a spot no further than 6 spaces deep. 2 parking space size, in order to pack as many shoppers as possible in as small a space as possible the size of the parking spaces nearly guarantee your car is going to get a ding. 3 Quality of shoppers, it may just be the locations Walmart has chosen to build at in my area, but the hordes of shoppers that fill every aisle seem to be from the lowest strata of society. I truly feel like my I.Q. drops by several points just pulling into the parking lot. 4 Aisle size and layout, I know that as a retailer Walmart feels it is to there advantage if I have to walk to the very back of the store to get to the item I came in for, thus insuring that I will look at several hundred items twice, that I did not come in to buy. This is not a good marketing plan though, if it keeps me from coming in at all. 5. I don’t like the harsh lighting. I understand it helps them catch shoplifters (see item 2) but how is it that other retailers are able to create more inviting environments? 6 quality of employee, while I do feel it is good for one to find gainful employment if one chooses to. I was very surprised to learn that Walmart will hire convicted felons. I know this to be true because a former employee where I work was convicted for embezzling several thousand dollars and is now working at Walmart.

Now just so you know all of the above is just my opinion. I do not intend for anyone who reads this to alter his or her shopping habits. My only motive in quantifying my personal shopping habits is perhaps the foolish belief that someday some executive in the retail industry may read this and change a policy or two to better serve me.

One last thing, because my friend just got an electric motor and because I will be using a battery bank in whatever boat I end up in, I have been researching batteries a lot lately. I would like to alert consumers to a horrible marketing trend. It used to be that batteries marked “Deep Cycle” where fundamentally constructed differently than “starting” batteries. Some retailers are now marking starting batteries as deep cycle in order to sell batteries to uneducated consumers that heard “deep cycle batteries are better”. They aren’t necessarily better. They just serve a different purpose. Deep cycle batteries are not very good at starting internal combustion engines. But starting batteries are. Deep cycle batteries are good for receiving multiple charge discharge cycles.

How can I, the consumer tell them apart?

Generally, if it is marked with “Cold cranking amps” it is a starting battery or a “Hybrid”.If it is marked in amp hours it is likely to be a deep cycle battery. If you know how the battery is going to be used and buy the right one you are much less likely to be disappointed.
Rich, 12:36 PM | link | 0 comments |

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Sextant . . . Sex What?

Earlier this week I ordered a sextant. I mentioned to a few people at work that I had ordered it and am starting to get impatient waiting for it’s’ arrival. No one I spoke with knew what a sextant was, that blows my mind. I don’t have any idea how old I was when I first learned what a sextant was. I’m sure it was before I took high school geometry and learned the theory of triangulation and thus the principles of how a sextant works.

I’m not going to go into a detailed discussion on how to use the instrument here because there are plenty of resources on the internet for that. The basic idea is, if a celestial object, like the sun or moon is directly overhead and you know the time and date, by looking up in a table where that object is on that date and time you know where you are. But if the object is at any other angle you could calculate exactly how far you are from the position that it is directly above.

So I decided not to buy a “certified” sextant. The main reason is cost. I just couldn’t bring myself to spend more than $300.00 for an instrument that I hope never to need to rely on. I plan to shoot noon sites regularly but I will be using the GPS for all of my navigation. The only reason I plan to practice with the sextant regularly, is because all electric devices eventually fail. It might be just something as simple as dead batteries or as unrepairable as the US government turning off civilian use of the GPS system.

So what exactly is a certified sextant? The last step before a sextant sold for navigation leaves the factory is to have a master navigator certifies its accuracy. This is done by placing the instrument in a stand and shooting sites at marking on a wall at a predetermined distance and adjusting the tiny screws that hold the mirrors in position. After all adjustments are made the index error is noted for all angles observed and a correction table is printed and included with the sextant.

I just couldn’t bring myself to spend $200.00 or more on a plastic sextant that I could make myself. http://www.celestaire.com/catalog/Marine_Sextants/Davis/
http://www.tecepe.com.br/nav/XTantProject.htm

Plastic just isn’t as thermally stable as metal and there is just something about holding a precision instrument that is machined from metal. The least expensive option for a metal certified unit is the Chinese Astra IIIB http://www.celestaire.com/catalog/Marine_Sextants/Astra_IIIB/

Now I have nothing but admiration for how China has turned its economy around and have become the manufacturing giant it is today. But if I am going to buy Chinese I want to see a significant cost savings. Another choice might have been a C-Plath made in Germany but they stopped making sextants in 2002 and now sell their competition’s model that is made in Japan.
http://www.weems-plath.com/cgi-bin/showCategory.cgi?categoryKey=26

So like so many other things in my life I have decided to become my own expert. I will adjust the non-certified unit myself, create my own correction table and self certify. Commercial sea going vessels still require one and often two sextants be onboard and the officers must be competent in its use, I can’t locate any survey data on the number of private sailing vessels that carry one and know how it is used.

Just like I think having a photocopied chart is better than no chart and an uncalibrated compass is better than no compass. I think an uncertified sextant is better than guessing.

But if price is truly you bottom line, then you can’t get much cheaper than this kit. http://www.celestaire.com/catalog/Marine_Sextants/Cheap_Sextant/

This is the one I chose by the way, but I think I will order the kit above just for fun.

Rich, 8:35 PM | link | 1 comments |