Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wind Power

A few days ago we visited my sister in Indiana (State motto: corn!). We decided to take the scenic route back to Chicago and just took our time driving north on old route 41. When we got into Benton county we discovered a huge wind farm. (Check out the link to Benton County for cool construction pics). There are 87 huge wind turbines. It makes the otherwise boring landscape of northern Indiana look like something from a science fiction movie. But, what a great old idea! Using the free power of the wind to generate electricity.

I say it is an old idea since farms typically had a "wind mill" not for milling actually but for charging batteries (much like we do on the boat) in the years before the nation's electrical grid reached into farm country.

Of course wind energy grabs the attention of any cruising sailor. We get OUR energy from the wind two ways. It makes us go (when we are going) and we also have a wind generator for our electrical needs. The principles involved are exactly the same for these giant 1.5 mega watt monsters as our KISS generator. When ever you are using the power of the wind, for sailing or generating, the power you receive goes with the CUBE of the wind speed.

P = \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{2}\end{matrix}\alpha\rho\pi r^2 v^3

That means if you double the speed of the wind you get 8x the power. Not unlike a sail the vanes of the generators are actually air foils to redirect the wind and provide lift for making them spin. The vanes can be turned to provide optimum attack angle to the wind.

We noticed that there seemed to be no pattern to how the towers were laid out. Later I discovered by reading (yes!) that they have to stagger them because the turbulence off the back end of one would disturb the next one if they were placed in line. That sound familiar to any of you racers out there?

The towers are quite tall (~130 feet) for obvious reasons. One to allow for huge vanes which are 65 - 130 feet long but also, as sailors know, the wind speed increases with height. The power from the wind also goes with the square of the radius so long vanes are good.

It would be nice if we could line the country with these things from North Dakota to Texas. It's free energy and it's clean. Unfortunately energy farms cannot account for much more than 20 -25% of our current energy needs. Still everything added to the grid that doesn't harm the environment and reduces emissions is a good thing. In 1999 total US power consumption was about 100 Tw. That's 100,000,000,000,000 watts (10^14). Let's say each wind generator can produce 1 mega watt (1,000,000 watts) Then it would take one hundred MILLION such generators to completey replace all our current power plants. Ain't going to happen. So, I'm for wind generators but people shouldn't think that we can live on that alone.

Disadvantages: Control. Can't MAKE the wind blow harder when you need more electricity. Dead Bats. They are finding a disturbing number of bat carcasses littered around these things. It's not clear why bats, who are known to be good at not running into things, are dying. Some think that the disturbed air around the vanes causes huge pressure differences that can disrupt the bat's lungs and capillaries. Asthetics - Do we really want to make such places as Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire look like this? It's one thing to dot the corn fields of Indiana with huge generators and another to put them in beautiful wilderness places.

Farms like this are popping up all over the world. Germany's farms contribute 5-6% to their total energy needs. England is proposing building wind farms out on the ocean where prevailing winds are stronger and more predictable. They have a plan for 7000 wind generators which would provide HALF the energy needs for England allowing tea twice a day perhaps! A plan has been approved to install 40 turbines 3 miles off of Jones Beach Long Island.

Of course the other side of the power consumption coin is to not USE as much. Building homes and office buildings to be more energy efficient. New fluorescent and LED lighting devices. Opening windows instead of air conditioning. Remember, the earth is a closed system. Except for solar (which keeps on streaming in) we have all the energy we're ever going to have. All we do is convert it from one form (typically chemical) to another (electrical). We won't ever run out of solar or wind (actually a form of solar since it is the unequal heating of the planet that causes the wind to blow) but we WILL run out of oil, gas, coal. Not soon but someday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Volvo Around the World Race

The Volvo Ocean Race is on right now. For those of us cruisers who get excited at hitting 7 knots or making a 50+ mile day this brand of sailing is certainly off of our charts. For example, the record for distance in a 24 hour time period in this race is 563 nautical miles! That's average 23 knots! The boats themselves are fascinating. They are identical designs with canting keels. These are swung up to 40 degrees to windward while beating.

The boats are not built for comfort. No fresh food. One change of clothes. Looks like a pretty wet ride too. Some of the legs of the race are over 30 days. Stinky.

They are on the first leg of the trip now from Spain to Cape Town with about, 3500 miles left to do. Take a look at this race tracker and you'll see that they sail all the way to South America before tacking to South Africa. Crazy. The entire Volvo Ocean Race website is pretty good. Lots of pictures, videos, stories, and frequent updates. There is supposed to be a 3D tour of the boats but it keeps jamming for me when I try it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Angle of the Sun

I've been having a wonderful time just walking around my favorite city - Chicago! The weather has been perfect for doing so. Nice crisp fall days around 50 degrees. Good jacket weather. I had not brought a hat with me though and I notice I am often holding my hand in front of my eyes. Jesus, the sun is bright. I know I often wear a hat but not always and this seems extreme. Am I that sensitive to the sun all of sudden? Then it hit me. NO, dumb bell, you just moved 30 degrees north putting the sun 30 degrees lower in the sky! Now as I look around I realize that the very look of things is slightly different. Shadows are longer. Light is more subdued. In Grenada the sun is almost always high in the sky and nearly straight overhead mid day.

One of those things that you KNOW because teacher told you (or this teacher remembers telling) but never realized how it changed the look of things.

Neat. Here's a clever little applet that shows what I'm talking about. If you want to see exactly what I'm talking about, put 12 degrees in the left box and about 42 in the right hand box to compare Grenada to Chicago. Note that sometimes when I go to this site I just see a white square. Click in the square and the applet will appear. Enjoy!

Another treat during my walk yesterday was the parade of sailboats heading up the Chicago river for their winter quarters. While I do miss sailing in fresh water sometimes I never miss winterizing my boat for the long Chicago winters.

These bridge days are scheduled and you have to hit one of them to move your boat. No, Chicago won't open a bridge, unscheduled for a single sailboat.

I've never made this trip myself but I'm guessing you must go through a dozen or more bridges on this trip. Looks like fun!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Just One More Thing on Warming

I don't really want this blog to become a forum for discussing global warming but here's a quick link to some FAQs from NOAA. It's very readable so enjoy!

For example, these graphs show the increase in diurnal temperatures (day and night) since 1950 (a GREAT year).

Sailing FAST!

CNN reports that the French trimiran ________ (imagine a bunch of vowels and accents in that space) has sailed at a speed of 53 knots, about 60 miles per hour, in training runs before going for the record. The official test is over a 500 meter course. Current record is about 48 knots and held by kite or wind surfer. This site shows some video of this crazy boat underway.

The crew was happy enough after the test run but pretty down about the fact that they can't possibly light their cigarettes at this speed. Se la vie!

Interesting is the fact that the perfect winds for breaking the record are between 20 and 25 knots. That's about half their speed over the water which is a dramatic example of the fact that sailboats are not simply being blown across the water but are cleverly designed wings to redirect the airflow and get 'lifted' (sideways) across the water. Certainly the faster the wind the more force can be generated but boat speed is not equal to wind speed typically.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Are Things Warming Up?

I think it is easy for all of us to maybe hope in the back of our minds that the planet is not really warming up due to our own industrialization but that it is just the natural warming up followed by a natural cooling off. I think this graph shows that we probably have to drop that hope and get with solving the problem. Notice that the spike in temperature at the far right edge of the graph and CO2 gases correlates with the onset of the industrial revolution. Not surprising.

More direct to our current lifestyle is that the warming is killing the coral reefs around the world. This article from National Geographic explains this connection very well.

So if it ever comes up where someone wants to pretend that the planet isn't really heating up you might show them or describe to them the above graph. You can get active too! There's tons of organizations to join or just support by reading their literature and maybe the occasional letter to the editor or your congressman. Remeber the grandkids have to live here too!

However, it is definitely NOT warming up in Chicago today! Brrrrrr....

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Just a note to all our friends in the Spanish, US and British Virgin Islands and St. Maartin. Hope you are all safe and your boats survived Omar.

We hear that when Lenny went through on a similar track all the islands in the Caribbean chain suffered from huge western swells that destroyed some beaches. We are tucked into a bay that is open to the south and we are near that bay's western shore so I'm hoping that not too severe swell sneaks in here to Prikley Bay, Grenada.

Anyway, we're leaving tomorrow for Chicago! Our friends Wendy and Jim on Merengue are keeping an eye on Enee while we're away for a couple of weeks. We promised to bring them lots of Cub World Series parafinalia which I'm thinking ought to be pretty cheap. And, ok, go Phillies. Their organization is almost as miserable as ours.

We VOTED yesterday! Yes. We faxed in our absentee ballot and that means that right now Senator Obama has a 2-0 lead in Florida! How's that for early returns?

Next report from the windy city or from an airport.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Thanks so much to all the commenters! I knew you were out there and it was so fun for us to hear from you. Also nice to hear that many have bought and read my book. My publisher thanks you too!

I feel a little bad in that many people are reading each day to get a taste of the sailing adventure. Now we are in place for awhile and, gulp, working! Well, when we left we knew this was going to be some kind of an adventure. We knew that it would be totally different from our life ashore whatever that lead to. With the stockmarket in the dumpster and Enee Marie wanting a new windlass, autohelm and jib, employment seemed to be the right move at this time. We too look forward to getting back on the cruise in the near future. As you have all figured out reading this blog there is way more to the cruising life than simply sailing your boat. That IS the best part though!

Thinking ahead a little, Grenada is one of those 'Lands End' places. Key West is like that too. You make it all the way south from NYC and really do come to the end of the land in Key West and wonder, Now what? Same here. The chain of Caribbean islands ends here in Grenada. Now what? One choice is to do what many of our friends are doing and head back north through the islands. You never see everything in one pass or even two so you can go back to favorite spots and pick up some that you missed. Part of the draw here is how hard we worked to get so far east. Now we get to make nice long reaches up and down the chain. It's hard to give that up. Another common choice is to continue south to Trinidad and/or Venezuela. Many of our friends kept their boats in Trinidad for hurricane season with mixed reviews. One boat yard worker said to a cruiser, "We wish we could figure out how to get your money without actually having you here". I guess a lot of cruisers are not exactly feeling the love in Trinidad. Venezuela is run by a complete idiot which always makes you think twice before going. Pirating is common off the north-east coast of Venezuela and cruisers have to stick together and know where and where not to go. To me, the world is a big place and I would like to think I could find places to go where I was a little more welcome. You can stay pretty far north of the coast of Venezuela and hit the little islands of LosTostigos, Blanquilla, Ochita and some others and make your way to the bigger islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao. This could be nice as it is all downwind sailing! Hundreds of miles , plenty of islands and no beating to weather. Of course now you've given up all your easting and you either continue west to Columbia, Panama, etc or you can make a long reach north back to Puerto Rico and start over!

So, one thing a long stop like our Grenada stop can do for us is to give us the time to plan, read and talk with other cruisers. Planning and dreaming is half the fun!

Thanks again for reading.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Who's Out There?

Hi to all who stumble upon this blog. I know there's not too much right now about sailing but still we are living aboard and enjoying being in Grenada. I also notice that we receive about 300+ hits a week on this site. . . and yet, about zero comments. I'm curious who is stopping by and not saying hello?

So we'll do an experiment. For the next several days if you come here PLEASE leave a comment. There is no link back to you if you are worried about getting e-mail or spam. Just click on the work comments at the bottom of this post. Write something like you're name and where you live. You'll submit it as annonymous which just means you are not a fellow blogger. Then you'll have to type some word in a box to prevent us getting spammed. Easy. Let's all do this just for fun, OK?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

I want my money back!

Not from the stock market. Forget about that money! I'm talking about the beautiful Caribbean weather. . . it's been raining off and on for about a week! Haven't seen the sun (or the stars which are suns themselves but really far away) in days. Getting a little depressing! Also it has been dead calm. Creepy. Today more rain but it came with some wind so we have our KISS wind generator pumping up the house batteries.

We've finished laying up the veneer in the big boat and it looks great. Great work by (left to right) Ronel and Johnny who did all the detailed fitting of the jigsaw pieces I cut out. Hope owner likes the work!

Yes, girls these guys are single!

Thursday, October 09, 2008


What's with cats? Now that Mismo is nearing one year old she is falling into some routines. IN the morning when I get up is time for me to chase her around the boat. Now I don't, OK? What I do is have a cup of coffee and walk around on deck while Mismo runs around, jumps on the bimini, up on the sail bag like her butt is on fire. (As usual, click on the pics for extra cute-overload)

In the late aftenoon is her time to be on lookout on the anchor roller. Looks comfy doesn't it? From behind it looks like she is pooping about a meter of rusty anchor chain. Nice.

Our friend Wendy swam over today for a visit and then towed Sue around in our dingy for the pics. Wendy is working on her synchornized swimming moves!

Work is going well. All the veeneer is up in the boat and ready for varnish. Looks great. Ronel and Johnny did most of the detail work. I've finished re-doing two engine room doors and am working on two table bases. Getting to be a pretty good veneer guy now that this part is about done!

Next Friday we head to Chicago for a visit. Supposed to be to watch the Cubs in the World Series. Looks like I missed it by a century! Mismo is going to stay with a vet student from St. Georges University here. Hope she doesn't try an experiments on her! I mean the student on Mismo not the other way around.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Working for a Living

Well, there you go. One week of work done. I'm sore and tired and having a pretty good time working at Spice Island Marine. One of the best features is to dinghy back to Enee all hot, sweaty at the end of a day's work, covered in sawdust and jump right in the ocean. Takes away the grit and some of the pain.

There is this 74 foot, one-of, Italian sloop that sank during Ivan. We're talking a 2 million dollar boat. Beam must be about 20 feet with a 10 foot draft. The mast, which is off now, is 98 feet off the deck. Decks are teak with two cockpits. One for crew and and separate one aft for the helmsman. The wheel is about 7 feet in diameter. The boat was underwater for about a month. The owner of the marina is re-commissioning her. What a job! All the electrical, hydrolics, and plumbing have been re-done.

All the doors and drawers are out of the boat. My main job is re-doing, rebuilding or re-veneering all that wood work below. First main job was to remove some water ruined bulkhead material in the companionway to the aft cabin. Then we built that back up with plywood to be one veneer thickness below the remaining teak. We have now cut about 6 jigsaw pieces of veneer to carefully bond into place. Last step will be to re-varnish to match the existing teak. Picture at the left shows a strip of teak removed and ready (we hope) for the veneer.

I say 'we' because I'm working with two great young Grenadians - Johnny and Ronel. They are funny and energetic and anxious to learn. One of my jobs is to teach them whatever woodworking skills I can pass on. Since I alread mis-identified which side of the veneer was the teak side I think my status as teacher has gone down a couple of notches! But I'm good with fractions. They seemed impressed that I knew without hesitating that half of 14-3/16 was 7-3/32. So I got that going for me!

I have a very nice shop to work in with quality power tools and a view of the ocean. I can see Enee from my shop! I typically have to scrounge for hand tools or borrow from Shirley, the nice lady next door to my shop who is in charge of all the sanders, drills, etc.

So, after 3+ years of being out of work I'm back on the job. The yard is about a 2 minute dinghy ride from where we are anchored. I work 8 - 4 every day (with an hour lunch back on Enee) and 4 hours by myself of Saurdays. That's the best. I'm the only one in the yard and I can work with no distractions. It's a little strange to be on a schedule and to wear a watch again! It gets very hot in the shop as you can imagine and I make about a hundred trips up and down the ladder to the boat (rail is about 15+ feet off the ground). You know how it goes. Looking forward to lunch at noon and I look at my watch. It's 11:00. Ok. I do a few things, sand a little, measure something. . .now what time is it? 11:03. Arggg! The watch is a curse!

There should be enough work just on this one boat to keep me employed to the end of the year. After that, we'll see what transpires.

More pics. . . On the left is the main saloon or do you say salon. I've had smaller apartments! And, look at all that wood! Yikes. On the right is looking forward from the main saloon. Yeah, it's far to the bow and along the way are 3 staterooms with bunkbeds for crew and 3 heads. Captain's quarters are aft with a queen size and single bed, writing table and another head.

Oh and don't expect to see any Cubs references on this blog right now. . . .

Friday, October 03, 2008

Fish Boil Birthdays

How about a 'fish boil' to celebrate the October family birthdays? This morning we woke up to thousands of little, tiny, bitty fish swimming around our boat followed by needle nosed snake like fish and 2 other kinds of fish (one maybe an angel fish) who would chase and eat the little bitty fish. The result = a fish boil. The waters would bubble up like crazy as the little guys tried to get away and the bigger guys got their tummies full.

Bubble - Bubble - the Small Fry are in Trouble!

These are the needle-nose snake like fish. The one on the far left has a small fry fish in it's mouth.

There are some pretty good sized fish down there.
If you look real close you can see the small fry.

And of course Mismo is going bug-eyed over all this commotion. When the little gulls started diving for fish she just about peed a drop or two.

The October Birthday Celebrations Go To:

Josh H. on the 7th

Jeff B. on the 25th

Donna T. on the 19th and

Ken T. on the.....26th?