May 30, 2014

Countdown to Departure

Our beautiful home--for one more month

It’s official, our time in Brisbane is coming to an end. In four short weeks we’ll be untying the lines for the last time and motoring our way down the Brisbane River into Moreton Bay. Or plan is to sail north to the Whitsundays and skirt along inside the reef to Cairns and then on to Darwin. If all goes as planned we’ll make it to Darwin before August 23 and join the Darwin to Ambon, Indonesia rally. If not we’ll get to Ambon on our own time.

Sail maintenance--and Charlie doing his bit
Getting ready has gradually become more real. We’ve been to the travel clinic to update our typhoid shots and to get jabs for rabies. We’ve bought Permethrin for treating our mossie screens and updated our safety equipment and medical kit. Evan’s to-do list is down to its final few items and his job is wrapping up in two weeks. Meanwhile Maia is in her last term of circus and school; she’s got new shoes (to grow into) and a stack of new school text books. I’ve been downloading podcasts, comparison shopping for maple syrup, buying tinned butter and trying to decide how much kitty litter we’ll need.

And that’s the easy part.

Taking a couple of Maia's friends for a weekend sail
The tough part is saying goodbye. Over the past 2.5 years we’ve fallen in love with our little city and it’s sad to think our time here is coming to an end. We’ve made friends we hope to keep—even when we’re far away. We’ve added Aussie lingo to our speech and Aussie memories to our ‘best moments’. We watched Maia and her friends grow from young girls to young teens.

Saying goodbye is the hardest part of cruising. It’s more difficult than all the bad weather and bad moments put together. In the weeks to come we’ll start to look forward and dream about what’s next. But for a while longer we’ll soak up the things we love about this place we landed by chance: the little school that made us feel at home, the circus that fed Maia’s dreams, our river community where there’s always a friendly smile, our neighbourhood park which is filled with wondrous creatures.

We’ve been lucky to call many places home and many people friends. And as we break our hearts a little with this goodbye, I have to recall that taking the time to ‘get to know and be part of’ was the whole point of our slow journey around the globe.

May 25, 2014

New computer

We've got a new computer.  And so does Maia.  Maia's 6 year old netbook suffered a motherboard fatality.  For a computer that cost $400 some 6 years ago it wasn't worth saving.  So we got a used big clunky laptop for hers.

Our desktop computer is a real workhorse.  From processing photos in Lightroom, drafting with Autocad and Rhinoceros (3D modelling) for me, and Diane sitting on it for 8 hours a day reading Facebook  furthering her writing career, it gets a ton of use.

Our old computer was a desktop I built, with a low power mobile CPU motherboard.  It uses a dedicated 12V power supply.  Even though it was as good as I could build 5 years ago, it was somewhat out of date.  It used about 25 watts at idle (When the USB ports kept dropping out, and a complete reinstall of the operating system didn't cure a number of ailments, we figured it was time to drop some cash on a new one.) We're too dependent on it for income.  This is the computer I bought:

Intel D54250WYKH - what a horrible name.  It's a very small form factor computer; about 4" x 4" x 2" high. It has room inside for a mSATA SSD disk and an additional 2.5" laptop size drive.It uses a very low power Core i5 CPU but is plenty fast.  It runs on 12V even though the input jack says 19V (you have to delve into Intel's specs to find out it's happy to run on 12V).  It has a cousin without the H suffix that doesn't fit a 2.5" drive; your only option is a mSATA SSD.  Ours has an internal SSD for the operating system and applications, and a external 2 TB 2.5" drive for data. The data disk is backed up to another 2 TB disk regularly.

A note about backups for cruisers:  we have sometimes taken the trouble to send a hard disk of photos and documents back to my sister-in-law's house, where her garage stores 5 or 6 cardboard boxes of our really important junk.  This way if we lose the boat, we don't lose all our photos.

Here's a review of this type of computer:,3697-6.html

The power consumption is amazing:  idle at 8.4 W, watching videos about 12 W.  Even pushing it on benchmarks the power consumption is only about 20W.

To the computer you need to add memory, a monitor, keyboard, mouse and a hard drive, so it's not the cheapest option out there.  Our monitor is a Samsung 21" LED illuminated monitor that draws about 1A @ 12V as well.  So when watching a video for 2 hours, our total power draw is maybe 4 Amp.hours.  For cruisers on a strict power budget this really helps. So far I am quite impressed with it.  And it's small enough you can throw it into our Faraday cage quickly if a lightning storm threatens.


May 14, 2014

Adventure vs Danger

When kids are involved we choose safety over danger--but I wonder if we lose the adventure? (Newborn Hector's Dolphin btw)

With the recent hubbub over how dangerous it is to take kids blue water sailing I’ve been reflecting on how SAFE sailing is these days. Absolutely sailors run into trouble out there now and again. But I think it’s the relative safety of it; the fact that most of us only lose the odd rudder, blow the occasional sail, lose a mast now and again, and rarely run into unanticipated storms, that highlights how different it used to be.

Technology has made it really easy for new sailors to become seasoned sailors without ever going through anything challenging. We’ve had friends sail around the entire world without hitting bad weather. The entire world. Which, by the way, is how I’m hoping to do it…
Maia dreams of having adventures like Cook did but worries they've all been used up

Contrast that to sailors who did the same trip 20+ years ago (pre technology such as GPS chartplotters, satphones, AIS, EPIRBs etc). Back then it was pretty rare not to have something go wrong and usually it was a whole lot of things. And as I was listening to a fabulous interview on ABC in Australia, by former boat kid Glenn MacFadyen about his childhood trip that included nearly starving, two shipwrecks and imprisonment in Africa (he characterized it all as exciting…) I realized we’ve become so risk adverse that we even want our adventures to be safe.

My heroes have always been adventures. And a large part of their appeal was how they coped with adversity. I love hearing tales about people who have gone through the toughest of moments and emerged triumphant after patching together damaged boats and dampened spirits. I love the fearlessness of it all—the idea that when the wind howls you roar back.
How safe should life be?
I think the whole Huck Finn aspect of cruising is what first drew me to it and made me want to share it with Maia. And as we add yet another piece of safety equipment (this time an uber cool MOB radio that allows us to zero in on someone who’s fallen overboard) I question just how safe we can make living before we’ve squeezed the life out of it.