Thursday, July 6, 2017

Alive and Well - Life is What Happens

Sunrise in le Marin Martinique

July 6th 2017
No, we are not dead.  Yes, we are still cruising.  Well....not at this exact moment but in general.  Why hasn't the blog been updated?  Lazy?  Yes.  Writers block?  Yes.  Life?  Yes.  What is the worn out phrase...."Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans."?  While that is not our normal mode of operation, we did get caught a bit in that this season.  But more later on that.

I personally blame social media.  When we closed up land life in May 2013, I caved and joined social media in the form of Facebook - ugh!  I very much have a love / hate relationship with it.  It has allowed me to stay connected with cruising friends carried around the globe on the winds of adventure and exploration, as well as re-discovering friends from years and years ago.  It also let's me check in with land peeps and even chat over coffee.  All good....for the most part.  *I personally find it weird how everyone is a "Friend" now but in reality we don't truly know many.  And whatever happened to the term "acquaintance"?  I like that term.  But I digress......The down side of social media for me is distraction and the nearly complete zapping of clear and often creative thoughts.  At least for me.  I do much of my initial writing on the blog early morning or even in the middle of the night.  However, no matter the time, someone I know is ALWAYS on Facebook, or has posted fun pics of the days adventures, or there is some interesting posts in various groups I follow, or funny jokes, or political (fake or not) topics.  SO much.... info/stuff/nonsense/crap that catches and distracts my attention.  I try to focus on writing but I get side tracked with a quick question to a cruising friend about anchoring where they are (and we are headed) or a hike later that morning or whatever, then BOOM....time has past by and all thoughts for a blogging are gone.

We are currently stateside for a visit.  While that usually means crazy, hectic and COLD (every retailer or public indoor space in the USA is 60 degrees which is Arctic cold to our Caribbean thinned blood!), I plan to re-focus, buckle down and get you all caught up on our adventures.  I miss blogging aka communicating (one sided) with you.

SO....please tune back in and always, thanks for following along.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Dinghy Seat Cover and Storage Solution

Oddjob does not have a forward storage compartment.  Nick Nack did.  Many dinghies don't.
Inside OddJob - bow

Instead, they have seat covers with built-in storage.  A good, alternative idea.
Big pocket in front

I have been keeping my eye out at all the dinghy docks for design ideas so I could make one for OddJob.
I took pics of designs I liked and then hit the web.  There is a Facebook Group called Sewing On Boats - SOB.  Seriously, that is the nickname.  Ha!  I searched there for good ideas.  Sure enough, my fellow SOB's had designed and sewn some of their own.  I found one I really liked.  Jan had done a terrific job on hers.  I commented and asked a few questions.
Smaller pocket, long, skinny pocket and two drink holders

Soon we were chatting on FB Messenger - me in Martinique and she in The Bahamas.  She answered all my questions, sent more detailed pics and guidance and gave me encouragement.  "Keep me posted on how it goes."
Design, layout and cutting phase

I wanted to use up some of the leftover fabric pieces I have.  However, I wanted it to look nice as well - not too hodgepodge.  I THOUGHT I had enough fabric.  It turned out I really didn't for my type of sewing...."D-oh!  Damn it!  I cut it too small.  Argh Sabrina!" 
Not much leftover

However, I pieced and patched, using the same two fabric colors - grey and black as well as good amount of webbing and was just able to pull it off.
Expansion when needed

Velcro'd when extra space is not needed

I had some old, used zippers from our old dodger/bimini but I decided not to use them.  I didn't think they would hold up in the harsh environment that the dinghy has to take.  Additionally, I simply didn't have ANY spare fabric to make zipper covers and such.  Plus.....honest truth is....zipper are not my forte.  They intimidate me.  Instead, I decided to go with Velcro.  I love Velcro.  I am the princess of Velcro.  
What is in here?  

As with ALL canvas boat projects, the size is weird, odd shaped and not symmetrical.  But that is standard by now....that all canvas projects will not be standard.  Does that make sense?  Anyway, I used a plastic drop cloth to design the pattern and check it before I started cutting on canvas.  This doesn't mean I still didn't do some swearing when I cut the fabric wrong/too short.  But, I was developing it as I went, working with the spare fabric I had.  Really quite tough doing it that way.
Drink holder

Additionally, I was doing all this on the water.  Oddjob is in the water working as our dinghy.  I could have hauled him to the beach but it wasn't really necessary for just the seat.  However, it still wasn't easy.  I sometimes feel bad when I see all the beautiful, perfect canvas projects that fellow SOB's create.  Why can't mine have more of a finished looked?  Then I noticed in the pics from fellow SOB that whatever they are sewing it is sitting in someone's garage/basement/dinning room aka they created it on land....where stuff doesn't move....where there is room to spread out yards of fabric absolutely FLAT.....where the wind doesn't blow your pattern/material around as you try to fit it!  Mind you not all, but many, many are created on solid land.
Long, skinny pocket for say.....a bamboo outboard handle.  Note the drain hole

Anyway, I used our bed, the cabin sole and our main table in the salon to design, pattern, cut and sew my dinghy seat cover.  It turned out pretty good.  Anyway, good enough for us as I always say.
One last look - webbing with quick release clips under the seat keep it all place


Digital Selective Calling - DSC

It is time again to talk about DSC.  Yes, we have discussed this before DSC.  However, it seems we need to discuss again as not enough cruisers are taking advantage of DSC.  In fact, only a small percentage seem to know what it is and a smaller percentage don't know how to use it, leaving the tiny population using it.  How do I know this?  Because we have been in place name removed to protect the guilty for six weeks now.  We keep our VHF on 68 when we are on the boat.  This is the hailing channel.  The same group of boats keep hailing each other multiple times each day without using DSC.  One particular guy is driving us nuts!  If he is on his boat, he is hailing 10-15 times a day!  It is not just us.  He is driving everyone in the anchorage nuts.  And I know I really shouldn't be sharing this with all of you but it's just between us, right?   

By the way, if you are around me personally, you may hear me call it DCS in error.  You will just have to "know what I mean and not what I say" as my mother says.

As a reminder for us all - what is DSC?  In simple terms, it is a method for calling one ship to another directly vs hailing over an open channel for everyone to hear.  All modern radios for the past 10 years and probably 12-15 yrs have DSC capability.  You must have a MMSI number.  You get the MMSI number from FCC or equivalent authority (in non-USA countries).  The MMSI comes on your ship's radio license.  It must be programmed into the radio.  You only get two tries.  After that, the radio must be sent back to the factory to be cleared or a professional marine radio tech has to be brought in.  Stupid I know, but that is just how it is.  Note - our particular brand of vhf requires you enter the MMSI number two times thus sucking up BOTH chances.  What does this mean?  It means if we ever sell our boat, the next person will have to send the VHF back to the factory to get their MMSI in there.  Stupid, I know.  BTW - why can't someone figure out a hack for this two time MMSI thing?!  Russian hackers......get on it!

This brings me to some of reasons people don't use DSC.  1). They bought their boat from someone and never filed for their own ships radio license. 2). They never programmed in the DSC into their VHF radio. 3). They don't use their main VHF radio but instead a handheld (no MMSI #).  4). They don't know another boat's MMSI.  Btw - easy fix.....ask or if they have AIS and you receive AIS, get it off your chartplotter.  5). They don't know how to use it AND have never learned.  The last one is where I suspect most cruisers fall.  At least that has been our experience.  

Next let us refresh the WHY you need to use DSC.  1). Safety and security.  I give you a common scenario - average Caribbean anchorage, hailing channel 68 that every cruisers and many locals monitor..... "Tango, Tango, Tango, Honey Ryder here."  "Tango here."  "Shall we go to channel 72?"  "Switching channel 72."  Of course anyone listening and interested can switch to 72 and listen along.  Continued on channel 72....  "Good morning.  How are you two?"  "We are fine.  How are you?"  "We are good.  Are you ready for our grand adventure today?"  "Oh yes."  "Ok.  Let's take one dinghy into the dinghy dock because it is so crowded.  We will drive since you are on our way.  We went ahead and got the rental car for two days.  It is a big island and I think it will take two full days.  Which reminds me, I am going to take the dinghy lights because we will no doubt be out very late each night but can you bring a torch as well?"  Do you see the safety and security concern here?  You have just announced to anyone listening that there will be two boats with no one aboard.  I know you might think this is not a big deal during the day time, only a worry at night.   No - in an anchorage in broad daylight, no one is going to say a word if someone gets on your boat.  They might think it is odd but they won't say anything because you just don't know.  It might be a friend or workman or even the owner or new crew, you just don't know so no one says anything if they even notice at all.  

Second safety reason to use DSC. - ships, bigass ships.  When we have crossing situations with big ships, we usually hail them to be sure that they know we are out there with them.  These huge ships have such small crews and we are a tiny boat in a big ocean.  Often times when we hail them on vhf we don't get a response on the first or second attempt.  They respond better if I hail them - something about hearing a woman's voice in the middle of the ocean prompts them to answer quickly.  With DCS, we can call them directly.  This call is logged on both sides (unless erased) just in case.  Additionally, these big behemoths often have odd or complicated names.  Hailing them directly, eliminates butchering a ship's name so badly that they don't answer.  The crews can also be multi nationality with limited English so if you don't say the ship name correctly when hailing, they may not answer.  But DSC eliminates all that hassle because it "rings" them directly.

Finally and most important reason to use DSC - because the constant hailing throughout the day is driving everyone in the peaceful anchorage up the wall!!