A Sacrifice to the Sun god – replacing the Sunbrella on our jib

Since I have been exiled to life indoors while my face heals up, I’ve decided to put the time to good use and work on finishing our Sunbrella transformation.  So far we’ve replaced the sail cover, the bimini, and all of the small canvas items on the boat with new marine blue Sunbrella.   Only the jib Sunbrella and the dodger remain a moldy pacific blue.

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Sailrite has an excellent video describing the step-by-step process of adding sunbrella to your jib, but I wanted to add some little tricks I found along the way as well.

The first thing we did was spend several DAYS, not hours, removing the old sunbrella.   After breaking my seam ripper I got frustrated and googled “best seam ripper ever.”  This is when I learned that for ripping seams on heavy canvas an X-Acto knife works wonders.  This really sped up the process for us.

Once I had removed all the old Sunbrella, I started to cut the new panels of Sunbrella with a hot knife to prevent fraying.  I didn’t want to spend the extra money on the Sailrite hot knife, but I found this one at Hobby Lobby that worked very well. It also doubles as a wood and leather burner, and it has all kinds of stamp type attachments.  Pretty cool.  After using my coupon, it was only $13.

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If you’re installing panels onto a new sail, see the Sailrite video for exact measurements of panels, but if you’re re-covering a sail, it’s easier to use the old panels as a pattern.

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We set my sewing machine on the floor to keep the sail flat. This is really important when it comes to connecting the panels together.  There were a couple areas along the foot, where towards the end of the project I got tired and sloppy.  Just a small mistake can make for some very obvious bunching when the sail is up.  Next weekend I will be taking it all back down, seem ripping those seems and flattening it out.

If I was to do it again I would have done a lot more pinning.

All in all the finished product is not too bad.  It needs a bit of adjusting, like all of my projects so far, but at least it matches the rest of the canvas.

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Just for reference, the estimated cost for this project from one of our local sail lofts was $650. Although we did have to spend every evening for a week ripping stitches, our total out-of-pocket cost for the project was under $200.

Wandering Paris

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Léa Seydoux, Midnight in Paris (2011)


I dashed across Avenue de la Grande Armée and ducked under the awning of Café de la Terrasse just as the rain re-commenced Friday evening. If Paris really is most beautiful in the rain, I’d already experienced a full week of beauty.

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The waiter presented me with a menu featuring specials for “happy beers” and “happy wines.” Perhaps it was just a poor translation by the copywriter, but I liked the idea that the drinks were as happy as the hour.

We’d spent the past three days exploring strategies and innovations meant to cut costs and streamline workflow in a declining industry, and we weren’t just happy to be having a drink, we needed one. Despite the intensive brainstorming sessions and extended dialogue, one important question had remained unanswered — was I or was I not supposed to eat the flower?

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Cigarette smoke wafted over the sidewalk tables as my colleagues from France, Scotland, Italy, India and Malaysia took turns asking me questions about Donald Trump and whether or not I owned a gun. Yes, Trump and guns, this is the cultural impact the US has upon the rest of the world.

As we all said goodnight and headed back to our respective hotels, I was left alone in Paris. I had no big plans this time, just a day to kill. I usually travel the city via Metro, but as the rain had finally stopped, I decided to walk. I passed the Peugeot headquarters and this curvy, winged car called out to me, but unfortunately the museum wasn’t open.

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I made my way to Trocadero where a quartet of troubadors were strolling café to café around the circle hoping for tips. They were mostly just having their pictures taken by tourists (myself included).

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For the first time all week the sky cleared, and the Eiffel Tower came into view in sync with the golden hour. I stopped to snap a photo since my previous attempts at a nice tower photo came with brown smoggy skies.

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I made my way down to the bridge watching both the tourists and the dozens of peddlers with their wares spread out on blankets. They still had models of the Eiffel Tower in many different sizes, but this year they were also hawking small robotic dogs that bark and walk, which I haven’t seen in the US since the 1990s, and of course, selfie sticks.

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The smell of crepes fills the air around the tower. I’ve never actually tried one, but I do enjoy the aroma and plenty of people were lining up for both crepes and ice cream.

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Since I had no plans, I decided to stick around and do some people watching. I guess I looked trustworthy enough that I wouldn’t run away with a camera as three different couples asked me to snap their photo in front of the tower.

I’d already done the Seine tour dinner cruise on a previous trip, but I always enjoy checking out the various boats — big, small and stationary.

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At 9:30 p.m. the tower finally lit up, which was the photo I really wanted to capture. I snapped a few shots and then walked through the night back to my hotel.

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Never underestimate how lost you can get even when there should be a large river to block you from going too far in the wrong direction.

Saturday morning was gray and dreary. I set out down the same road towards the Catacombs, but I must have taken the wrong exit at one of the roundabouts.

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However, as I wandered through the streets I got a nice insight into a Parisian Saturday. I passed soccer fields full of kids running and laughing while parents looked miserable on the sidelines. I watched people walking their dogs, trying to keep them from peeing on the motorcycles parked along the street. I saw young people carrying home bags of groceries while older people pushed their groceries home in strollers. I even discovered how new refrigerators are lifted into those tiny apartments.

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When I finally made it to the Seine I was two bridges down from where I was supposed to be, but I did get a nice view of the Statue of Liberty. The French version is a bit smaller than the one they sent to America.

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I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the catacombs — aside from a long line. Only 200 people are allowed in the tunnels at a time, so there gets to be quite a queue. My plan to get there early had been self-sabotaged by wandering the streets for an extra two hours.

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I think I was hoping for a spooky experience, but I didn’t feel that at all. The first section is an exhibit regarding the geological history of Paris and the formation of the limestone with a few fossil casts. Then several boards detailed the excavation and history of the catacombs. Then you finally reach the bones.

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I don’t even know how to explain how many bones are in these tunnels. If every man, woman and child I’ve ever known were entombed together, it wouldn’t come close to matching this number of bones. In some places the stacks are 10′ high and go 20′ back. And those were just in the tunnels open to visitors. There were more tunnels shut off to the public. There’s an estimated six million skeletons in the catacombs.

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In case you’re wondering, Louis-Étienne Héricart de Thury, is the man who can be thanked for the creative stacking of femurs and skulls. I thought this skull heart was a nice touch.

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Once I finally returned to the surface, I started the walk back to the hotel and stumbled across this interesting army surplus store.

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But just as I was about to go in, I got distracted by this table of people cycling by while drinking beer. I’m not sure what kind of tour that is, but I think that’s the one I want to take next time I visit.

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Our visit to Doug Jackson and SV Seeker in Tulsa, Oklahoma

The boat the Internet built — that’s the slogan emblazoned atop the website we’ve visited the past few months watching Doug Jackson’s progress as he continues to build SV Seeker, a 74-foot steel origami hull, junk rigged, cargo, motorsailer in his front yard.

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Doug has come to the conclusion that the best way to realize his dream is to share it with everyone around the world. Readers from across the globe comment with their ideas and expertise, and Doug is willing to house and feed anyone who wants to make the trek to Tulsa, Oklahoma to work on Seeker.

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As we made our way back to Houston on a cold, rainy Sunday after spending a week visiting family, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a small detour to meet Doug and actually see SV Seeker for ourselves.

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When we arrived we met Dave Fickle from Arizona who had spent the week of Thanksgiving helping Doug with wiring the ROV and welding the propeller shroud. He began welding cable guides onto the rudder quadrant while Doug took a break to give Mary and myself the grand tour.

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After a very busy summer the pilot house and hull are mostly constructed and some of the hatches are in place.

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The cabin is also beginning to take shape as Doug continues to leak-test his keels and tanks.

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The pile of portals is growing. If you look back at the hull photos, you can see that Doug has drawn in their future locations.

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The water-tight doors to be installed in Seeker’s cabin are also a sight to behold.

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We even got to check out Doug’s dinghy design, complete with seasonal elf captain.

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The tour was great, but no trip to visit SV Seeker would be complete without doing some work. Mary took an interest in the welding.

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Doug was kind enough to explain to her how the welder worked and gave her a quick lesson.

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And suddenly, Mary, who had never welded before, was attaching a cable guide to the rudder quadrant.

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And it turns out, her welding isn’t too bad!

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Doug said he estimates at least two more years of work before Seeker is ready to hit the water, and you’re probably wondering, how will Seeker get to the water.

Tulsa is actually an inland port city, and just 15 miles away from where Seeker sits is a shipyard on the Arkansas River where she’ll eventually be launched. Then it’s just a matter of making her way through the Oklahoma lock and dam system until eventually she’ll hit the Mississippi River and then the Gulf of Mexico.

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We could have stayed all day, but with dogs sitting in the car and another eight hours of driving to do, we had to say goodbye and get back on the road.

Special thanks to Doug for his incredible hospitality. We hope to see you again on the water.

Make sure to visit Doug’s site at www.svseeker.com. There’s also an SV Seeker Facebook Group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/svseeker/?fref=ts

 

Tom Sawyer Days in Hannibal, Missouri

Small towns take their 4th of July celebrations very seriously. Keokuk, Iowa actually upgraded the electrical system in their park to be able to run the rides in the traveling carnival that was in town. And while the deathtrap rides and the 2 p.m. Zumba demonstration at the pavilion sounded intriguing, we decided to make the drive to Hannibal, Missouri, birthplace of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, for the annual Tom Sawyer Days celebration.

We arrived just in time for the fence-painting contest. Boys dressed in their best Tom Sawyer costumes whitewashed small sections of picket fences as fast as they could while girls in bonnets judged the results. Anyone can participate — there’s even an over 30 class later in the day. Just watch out for the fire hose they use to wash down the whole area between rounds.

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After that we wandered over to the Mississippi Mud Volleyball Tournament where very dedicated athletes sloshed around in knee-deep mud pits competing for the title.

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Of course, as we strolled Main Street Hannibal a handwritten sign that read “Craft  beer tasting, 12 samples for $10,” caught my eye. We each plucked down a Hamilton and got our official tasting cup and tickets.

Two larger breweries, Abita and Sierra Nevada were there, but there were also a dozen other local breweries featuring a menagerie of different types of beers.

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My only critique of the beer tasting was that the booths were run by local volunteers, not anyone from the actual breweries. Aside from a few laminated cards touting each beers flavor notes, there were no answers to critical questions like, “Why does your brewery make four different IPAs and what’s the big difference between them?”

Even with our questions unanswered we had a very nice time chatting with all of the beer tasting volunteers and due to some very generous pours, we weren’t able to get anywhere close to using all of our tickets.

No holiday is complete without some boating, so at 6 p.m. we wandered down to the Mark Twain Riverboat for the dinner cruise.

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Dinner was a bit pricey at $40 per person, and we paid the additional $25 to stay on the boat for fireworks after dinner, but how often do you get the chance to have dinner on a riverboat while taking in the scenery described in both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn?

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Dinner was a one-trip buffet with a small desert served at the table. Beer, wine and mixed drinks in souvenir cups were available at a cash bar.

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Paying the extra to stay and watch the fireworks was definitely worth the price of admission. Chairs were set out for us on the top deck, and the captain held position right in front of Lover’s Leap, the lookout point where the fireworks were based.

Fireworks are best captured with a long exposure, which is next to impossible on a moving boat, but I snapped one shot just to prove we were there before settling in to enjoy the show.

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Hannibal was really hopping when we got back to shore with bands playing on several patios and on the roof of the Mark Twain Brewing Company. However, we had a two-hour drive back to Illinois, so we called it a night and headed home.

Incidentally, I had to brake for two different raccoons, a deer, and an owl before we made it back to Warsaw — making our small town 4th of July complete.

Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park

Have you ever heard of Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park? Maybe not, but you’ve probably seen it in one of the many movies filmed there, including the original 1954 Creature from the Black Lagoon.

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However, we were looking for another creature when we visited the park, which is a haven for manatees.

As one of the largest freshwater springs in the United States, the park is open 8 a.m. to sunset every day with nine miles of hiking trails along with swimming and river boat nature tours.

We arrived in the rain, so we stopped and had lunch in the historic lodge, which has a few guest rooms and both a full-service restaurant and a soda fountain along with a gift shop.

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Due to the rain we didn’t have time to check out any of the hiking trails, but the weather did clear enough for us to take a guided boat tour.

Spoiler alert, we did not see a single manatee. However, there was no shortage of other wildlife.

There were flocks of coots puttering around.

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There were also quite a few white ibis.

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There were also plenty of cormorants diving for fish.

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The spring is also a haven for Anhingas.

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But we saw more than birds. The water is clear enough to see the fish swimming by, and of course, there were these guys.

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No swamp is complete without a few gators.

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This was my first time to shoot wildlife with the Leica Vario-Elmar-R f4.5 75-200mm zoom adapted to the Sony NEX-6. This was a lens designed by Minolta and rebranded for Leica in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The Leica version still sells for around $300, but you can pick up the Minolta f4.5 75-200mm, which is the exact same lens with a different mount, for $25 or less!

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I found it to be a little lacking in fine detail with kind of scary, ziggety bokeh. (Yes, ziggety just became a word.) Would I recommend it? Well, I definitely would not recommend paying for the Leica version, but if you need a zoom to adapt to your mirrorless camera, you can’t beat $25 for the Minolta version.

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Although the river through Wakulla Springs State Park runs all the way to the coast, Edward Ball, being the millionaire industrialist that he was, managed to have access blocked, so don’t plan to anchor out and then take your dinghy up the river, which wouldn’t be good for the manatees anyway.

If we ever make it back to Tallahassee in the summer, we’ll definitely make another trip for a chance to hike the trails and swim in the “black lagoon.”

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