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Archive for August, 2013

Sailing and laptops … do you got game?

Ok, the title may be a little bit of a stretch … but not much.

I want to use this blog post to see if others take their computer gaming to sea with them in sailboats.

Now, at the onset, I am prepared to deal with complaints from those who claim/assert that “they went down to the sea in ships” to get away from all the technology and the invasive ‘gagetization’ of society.

I note–by way of response–most modern-day cruisers have GPS, cell and satellite phones, chart plotters that rival computers in size and complexity, bottom-imaging sonars, radar with chart plot overlay, AIS transponders for easy vessel identification.  And of course, we use Kindles, I pads, I phones, DVD players, and flat screen plasma or LED TV’s on our humble ‘sailboats.’

If you are one of the last true sailors and are using paper charts, a compass, a very accurate hand wound chronometer, and a sextant, then feel free to let me know I do not understand the spirit of sailing.  I expect that criticism to arrive by either snail-mail or a small bottle with a cork in it.

I admit upfront that I am an inveterate online gamer and gamer in general.  I have been hooked, since my first game of Lunar Lander in a mall in Denver (at a quarter per play) in the mid 1970s.

I hand-built my last desktop before we went sailing.  It had quad SLI graphics, four hard drives (Raptors), 8 gig of memory, a quad-core processor and a power supply which required that I rewire the wall and circuit breakers for the house, because it could draw 1600 watts of power at peak graphical loads.

To put that in perspective, that is 32 (thirty-two) 50 watt light bulbs.  Enough to light a small village in the third world.  I am not actually bragging or defending this environmentally.  My life is now much different, as you can see from this blog.  I will assert my life choices in sailing away-from-it-all as my only defense.

Of course, it also would not fit physically into the boat.  That probably helped with my decision to sell it and use the proceeds to buy a laptop for the boat.

Now, with all of that as introduction, to my question.  My question is this:

On your boat … do you got game?

As we moved out of the house and onto the boat, my challenge was how to continue–in a marine environment–a hobby which I’ve enjoyed for years. The technical challenge was to match the performance of my desktop in a laptop that could be run on Spiritus.

I chose an ASUS G45 ROG 17 inch laptop for many reasons.

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Since moving to the boat, I have played the following games:  Skyrim (just loaded the latest down loadable content “Dragonborn” today).  Dishonored, Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3  (plus the new endings), and Deus Ex (in progress).

My setup is the ASUS laptop, a set of Logitech Wireless headphones for 5 speaker surround for gaming, a wireless Logitech game controller.

Today, after loading the latest DLC for Skyrim, I am writing this instead of playing, because the inside temperature on our boat is 90 F at 9:30 pm, even after the sun has set.  I am afraid of firing up the laptop because the ambient temperature in the cabin is so high.  The laptop actually puts out a heat signature from its rearward facing vents–not to mention the power block.

It may be that 4 months a year in La Paz, while (and if) we are at anchor or at the dock, it will be simply too hot to use the technology.

That being said, before Carolyn joined me here in February, there were many late nights of gaming in Spiritus at her slip in the marina.

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Art Imitates Life.  This is me (my Skyrim avatar, anyway) giving strong thought to  abandoning the heroic–but, admittedly poorly paid–profession of “Dragon Slaying,” and taking the 38 foot double-ender, named Spiritus away from the slip, and heading for warmer climes.  Maybe, La Paz, Mexico.

“Honey, I want to quit my day job and move onto the boat.  It just needs a few things to make it just like home.”

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The boat just needs a little work to be sea worthy.  Let’s see, new sails (tanbark), new standing rigging, charts for Mexico, a compass that points south, and maybe a monitor wind-steering system.  A couple of more dragons and I will have enough plunder to have the bottom painted.

And, I gotta get a new life raft!

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Like all sailors, I am looking for a wench, to help lift the anchor … and my spirits on those long nights at sea.

(Right now, there is laughter in the real-world boat ‘and comments about my “rich fantasy life.”  I wonder why???????????)

“Die, dragon, Die … daddy needs some new bottom paint!”

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Back to real life

Energy usage: The laptop’s energy demands can be easily met using the boat’s solar array when we are not at dock.

Connectivity:   I play mostly games that run thru the Steam system.  You can also play them offline–if you choose–which I do mostly because of connectivity issues when sailing or anchoring out.

Here at Marina La Paz, we have hard-line at the dock connections good enough for games that require an internet connection.  I do not believe they are up to interactive multi-player online games.  That is just my opinion.

Ditto for the “Banda ancha” Telcel modems.  They are fine for games that check-in with the net, but not for online multi-player simulations.  Too much data being exchanged.

Getting the games:  I use Amazon and Steam and purchase the games online with digital download.  I swore I would never do this, but a trip back to the states for a new game is out of the question.  And, the real justification, snail mail in Mexico, at least as far as I can tell from our experiences is … how to phrase this … time-consuming.  It can take six weeks for something to get to the marina or to the Club House mail boxes.

I have gamed as part of an online gaming group.  For several years before sailing, I played at UnitedOperations.net.  I played, led, and wrote missions for hundreds of players from a host of nations.  We played almost exclusively, in those days, Armed Assault II, which is an online military simulator in high-definition.  The group played the game in a very realistic mode.  It included real-time communications by simulated radio, briefings online before missions, and video post-game tactical reviews.

I have added two links below to videos of one my Hearts and Minds missions that were popular for a few months.  Hope you enjoy the ‘realism’ of the team worked online game play.

PART ONE

PART TWO

 

They have a website if you are interested.

http://forums.unitedoperations.net/index.php/page/index.html

It was a fun experience and a very interesting and diverse group from literally all over the world.

I have not tried that from La Paz because of the technical difficulties of setting up a proper connection and frankly because it requires way too much time and discipline to stay that involved while moving around the world.

I might change that after Armed Assault III comes out,  if we sit anywhere long enough.

So bottom line, if you want to have a gaming experience–while anchored or at a dock in a foreign country–it is not much more difficult than an email connection or internet connection to read news.

What is your experience?


Is it ‘cheating’ to sail another Ingrid ?

Considering that boats seem to be ‘she’, and considering that we put a lot of time into our relationships with these also significant others, I thought I would ask what you think.

Is it cheating on your boat to sail another?

I love Ingrid 38s.  I admit it.  Probably because, like many of you, I have spent so much time researching them, working on one, sailing them, reading about them and of course … dreaming about them.

I think what I have come to love most is that even though they are a sort of production boat with 150 hulls or so out there, they are also each absolutely unique.  Each finished boat is, in many subtle ways, entirely different from all of the others.

I recently had an opportunity to sail on another Ingrid out of La Paz, Mexico. The boat, an Ingrid 38 ketch called Raven’s Song is a beautiful sail.  She is formerly Allymar and is Hull # 6, I believe.  She was splashed around 1972.  Spiritus was launched around 1990.

She is very different from Spiritus which is Hull # 123.  She is also very much the same.

Her interior layout is classic Ingrid 38 and very similar to the Ingrid Princess which was the factory demo used to sell a lot of the other Ingrids.  Ingrid Princess is probably the best known of these boats based on her extensive sailing, the very interesting blog that her owner wrote, and the tons of Ingrid related stuff on his site.

Raven’s Song has wooden decks over plywood framing with 2×4 supports.  The decking of teak has been covered and weatherized with the white rubberized coating used on roofs in tropical climates.  This makes her cooler on deck (and below) and very resistant to water penetration while sailing with wet decks.

Her fuel tanks are very aft which makes her just a bit heavy on the stern end.

She is rigged in classic ketch fashion.  She has subtle differences compared to my boat.  Her mizzen boom is longer by 2-3 feet making for more sail area to the stern.  She also has no triatic stay, so the two masts are not linked structurally.  This makes her ever so slightly less rigid as she sails.

The Interior layout of Raven’s Song is entirely different from that of Spiritus.  She has a double wide bed in the forward berth rather than a v shaped berth.

The main cabin is amidships (on Spiritus, it is aft-ish).  It has a full size folding sea-table amidships for meals.

The navigation station(and communications)  is starboard by the stairs (ours is amidships port side).  The galley is port side under/ near the companionway.  On Spiritus, the galley is amidships starboard side.  Galley is approximately same size as Spiritus but has alcohol rather than LPG as stove fuel.  Raven’s Song has an ice box (real ice box without cold plate system) and a second 12 v cooler chest for vegetables and meats.

She has an engine room aft with a shiny,  new looking, only a few years old, 30 HP Yanmar and to its rear a classic packing gland around the shaft of the prop.  Spiritus has the original 3 cylinder 36 HP Volvo (marinized tractor engine complete with hand crank starting).  Raven’s Song’s engine is sooooooooooo quiet.

RavenSong1(Photo credit to Marion Ermers of s/v Luna Azul, Thursday, August 1, 2013 off Ceralvo Island, Baja California Sur, Mexico)

The two boats sail almost identically.  I am very familiar with the conditions we were sailing in and there were absolutely no surprises in how Raven’s Song handled.  Very good light air sailing, with a slight butt- wobble when running down wind ( which is characteristic of this double-ender).  With a genoa, main, and mizzen up, Raven’s Song is easy to balance so she almost sails herself.  With just the mizzen and genoa … she moves gracefully but is a touch more tender as the balance of the sails across the wind is less perfect.

I love how these boats move thru the water with almost no sound because of the canoe shaped hulls.

It was great to get away from the docks and just sail the boat.  It was fun to be on another’s boat.  It was great fun to have the opportunity to sail another Ingrid.

The sailing was so good.  The boat was so beautiful.  Why do I feel so guilty?

My wife says the guilty smile is a dead giveaway!


Fishers of Men and Fishermen …

I thought I would add a post on going to church in a city named “Peace”.

La Paz is a very catholic place in a very Catholic country.  The harbor was first visited in 1535 by Cortez who named it Holy Cross harbor.

The most imposing building in town, in my opinion, is the church called Santuario Nuestra Señora de la Paz.  Most people call it only the Santuario. It has been under construction for decades and shows no near-term end in sight.  It is a ‘work in progress’ in the finest sense of that phrase.

Built by the hands and hearts of ordinary people, it dominates La Paz when viewed from the waters of the bay.

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This picture says a lot about the relationship between the sea, the fishermen, the international boating community, and the spiritual community of La Paz.

There are actually two huge Roman Catholic churches in La Paz:   Santuario and  the Cathedral Nuestra Señora de la Paz, the older more historical edifice.

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These two curches meet the worship needs of a community of approximately 200,000.  Recently, a small synagogue opened (very small) and, to my best knowledge, there is also a small interdenominational Protestant, English speaking, interfaith congregation that also meets in a home.

Carolyn and I are Episcopalians (American Episcopalians).  If you are not familiar with that … hmmm … it is the American branch of the Church of England, which broke from the Roman Catholic Church, during the Reformation and the reign of England’s King Henry VIII (1509-1547).  While it kept many of the medieval Roman Catholic liturgical traditions and customs–such as Baptism and Holy Communion–the Episcopal Church of England adopted a basically Reformation Protestant theology.   Members of the Episcopal Church do not accept the Roman  Catholic doctrine of Papal infallibility.   (And my wife is gonna kill me for this next bit…..)  So, I feel that we are basically Catholics without a pope and, our priests can also be women, and our clergy can get married.

We attend services at Sanctuario because their liturgy of the Mass is basically identical to those we are familiar with.  Our Spanish is coming along and that is coupled with familiarity with a Roman Catholic Latin Mass which is very similar to the language and actual Spanish words of the local Mass.

We also use a bilingual Missal which has the Mass and services in both English and Spanish side-by-side.  I have posted it above the picture.  It is a PDF file, if you wish to look at it.  The link to the original is   http://www.misas.org/sta.tic/descarga/missa_es_en.pdf

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The other church or cathedral was started (as in cornerstone laid) in 1861 as we in the United Stated began the Civil War.

There is some special relationship that I cannot adequately describe between a community of fishermen like that of La Paz and the Church.

The ocean feeds, provides work, water, transport, and recreation.  The big things move in the deep and not so deep parts of the Sea of Cortez.  Whale Sharks bigger than our sailboats are not at all uncommon.

Jesus was a carpenter’s son who hung out with fishermen, Peter was cast in the role of a “fisher of men.”  Fish fed those who listened to the Sermon on the Mount; the loaves and fishes played an important and symbolic part of his lessons.

The symbol of the early Church is the outline of a fish.  The hills behind La Paz are marked by a huge outline in white stones of a fish.

Images of fish abound in La Paz.  Life and business revolve around them.

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Bread and fishes feed our bodies.  Faith feeds the soul.  And sometimes, you just need to say the words out loud.  This I believe!

An important part of the liturgy is the “Paz de Señor ” or “Peace of the Lord” in a city named “La Paz” or peace.

It is no accident that our boat is called “Spiritus.”  Probably, it is no accident that the nearest island to visit and sail to are “Espiritu Santos”.

We chose the name because in Latin, it had connotations of the breath of God moving on the water … sounded like wind on the waves to us.

The word Spiritus also echos of the human spirit, bravery, freedom, and the desire to be more than just flesh as a boat is more than just a hull.


Turning up the heat!

This entry details the techniques we are attempting to handle the mid-Summer heat in La Paz, Mexico.  It would probably apply to any climate around a sailboat between the Tropic of Cancer the Equator and the Tropic of Capricorn.

The one caveat I will add for those coming to Baja is that remember it is a desert, so humidity is not always a problem.  That being said, your boat sits in water, so humidity is sometimes a problem.

God, I hope the rest of this post is clearer

General principles that should require no big explanations (but that we sometimes forget as “Gringos” in a Mexican land).

The wind is your friend.  Sounds funny to tell that to sailors.  Breezes are cherished friends.  Coromuels, the more or less predictable winds from shore to water in the early evenings and late afternoons are your best friends.

Shade is your friend. 

Shade over the cockpit when sailing is not a luxury here, it is the difference between horrible sunburn and near heat stroke and moderate seagoing comfort.

Shade over the deck is very helpful in keeping the inside of the boat below 90 degrees for most of the day.

Small fans about the cabin are your friends.

Cold liquids are your friends.  

Water is the best but remember you also need to replace salts you lose sweating.  Remember I am a former paramedic so a hint.  Water or other fluids are not doing you any good in the bottle …. they work best inside you!  Stay hydrated.  If you stop sweating, that is not a good thing in a tropical climate.

Anchoring out is cooler than being tied up at a dock. 

The one exception here in La Paz is Marina Cortez which had a very different marina philosophy (read up on their docks) with a deck structure that is almost unique in the world.

Current weather conditions in La Paz, Mexico for this time of the year. 

Daily temperatures break 100 degrees at about three in the afternoon.  They drop back downward after dark at 8:00 pm.  We can easily have temperature at midnight of 90 F.  inside the boat.  Commonly we have 5-8 knot breezes in the daytime.  There are evening breezes.  They are typically 15-18 knots.  This will probably stop shortly as the Sea temperatures heat up.

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What we have done with Spiritus and how  it has worked. 

We have adopted a philosophy of not using an intervention unless it is needed.  Each step we have taken buys us a few degrees or an hour or two of cooler temperature on the boat.

When I arrived in La Paz, I had one small fan and a custom boom tent for the mizzen boom that came with the boat.  It was brand new even though it was made in the mid 1980’s.  When we deploy it Bedouins and their camels start appearing .

The last piece of canvas work we had done last year before the Baja-ha-ha was the addition of a bimini with wind/sun netting for actually sailing.  This was intended to keep us from baking in the sun of days at sea but also turns out to be almost an enclosure of the cockpit.  More about this one later.

We  have added three more fans and two more boom-tents.  Here is how it all works.

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Day and night.  All vents, dorades,  hatches, and portholes open.

We don’t do anything else until about 10:00 am or 85 degrees which ever comes earlier.  Then the fans start moving air.  These are small and can be run even at anchor off the boats inverter.

The bimini is kept up but all screens are folded on top to allow maximum ventilation and unobstructed air flow.  In the late afternoon, we drop the screens to filter some of the late day sun.

Boom tents.  The difference that the boom tents make at dock is approximately 10 degrees of coolness in the shade under them.  Where this matters most is the deck temperatures.  Currently, my thermometer can register a deck temperature of 116 degrees F in the mid day (on the deck in the sun).  Too hot to walk barefoot on.  With the boom tents up, that drops to about 90, and you can work all day under the shade without shoes on the deck.

More importantly, the cabinets and storage bins of the boat (and their contents) do not heat up and neither does the cabin.  The heat of the day now takes two more hours to get inside the boat.  So with the tents, we don’t reach 85 degrees till about noon to 1:00 pm.

Most Mexicans and any Americans who have been here more than a few months try to be out of the sun by 2-3 pm and somewhere shady till 7 in the evening as the sun starts to set.  So you have between 4-5 hours where heat management  becomes something you think about ( A LOT).

Simple ways to manage it are, first and foremost, reduce activity.  I cannot stress that this simple measure is one of the most helpful.  Check email, write, read, nap, lay on the couch.  Use the fans.

Wear light clothing.  Loose fitting shirts and blouses.  Shorts instead of long pants.  Hats if you go outside because they are a form of portable shade.  We even pay attention to which side of the street still has shade.  And, when sailing, which side of the boat is shaded by the sails.  A wet hat … a wet bandana on the back of your neck when sailing.

But back to the boat.  These techniques by themselves worked up thru June or until temperatures began to be above 90-95 for most of the mid day.

Till then, shade the deck, stay inside, use the fans, drink lots of fluids worked fine.

OH, footnote, we also use a solar oven for cooking A LOT because it keeps us from heating up the cabin.

Late June, we went out and anchored out in the Mogote (see the entry) and found that it “felt” much cooler and more comfortable there because of the constant breezes.

We returned to the docks at beginning of July.  Less wind and hotter.  We have now done two more things that are serving us well as we near the mid August summer heat.

R2D2 (the boats cooling technician)

When we came back in from the anchor out a boat, another boat was leaving La Paz and one morning on the morning radio net indicated that they wanted to get rid of a small portable air conditioner.  This is a 10,000 BTU unit as pictured.

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We talked it over and decided based on their very reasonable trade offer to take it.

We only use it once the inside temperature reaches 90 plus degrees and all other techniques are faltering.  The small unit is vented to a port hole.

We close up the entire boat.  We also isolate the forward cabin so we are only cooling the main cabin.   R2D2 can lower the inside temperatures by about 14-17 degrees.  So, we can hold the inside temperature at about 78-80 degrees for the 4-5 hours a day that the heat becomes intolerable outside.  We usually shut it down at 7:00 pm, open the entire boat back up and let the boat adjust to temps as the sun sets.

Tricks:  Two.  First, the exhaust hose also acts as a heat radiator as it goes to the window.  Wrap it in foam.  This cooled off the entire room (kitchen) where it was operating.  Second, cover the irregularities of where it blows hot air out of the boat … we draped a small towel to keep blow-back from the air hitting the porthole screen.  Probably bought us an additional 3-4 degrees of cooling.

Drawbacks.  Only one.  It has to have shore power to run or we would have to add a generator (not going to happen).  So, you need to be at a dock for this to work.

The cock pit “romper room”.

The second thing we have done recently is take the enclosure formed by the cockpit bimini and add a floor across the cockpit.

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We then drag the boats seating cushions out and sleep out on deck.  This is amazingly more comfortable than the v-berth with fans for ventilation.

Even as we speak, the cockpit has been measured and cushions are being made for it.  5 inch foam with sunbrella covers.  We are having this done so we won’t have to keep moving the inside cushions out and because after testing it for a week, it looks like we will be sleeping out on deck for the next several months. (Will add another pic when they are done next week).

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I will share, frankly, we are now officially out of tricks.  These modifications of the boat and our behaviors are what has let us remain more or less comfortable.  It looks like we are in the peak of the summer temps so hopes are that they are sufficient.  Will keep you posted.  Remember, most boaters go somewhere else in La Paz’s summer.  Right now, as I write this there are only a few boats in the Mogote, and even fewer residents on their boats.  Marina is very quiet most of the time except for the locals, workers and fishermen, and families playing on their smaller powerboats.

Another footnote:  Many boaters here just take a square window air-conditioner and mount it above or on an open hatch blowing down into the boat … seems to work fine.  We just liked R2D2 better.  The portables sell locally for about 450-600 US dollars new.  The window units are about 100 dollars cheaper and usually are 12,000 BTU (so called one-ton) units.