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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Why I prefer Hillary Clinton

Today there was another news article about Hillary's weakness and health. She became "overheated" while attending a 9/11 ceremony in NYC. Actually, I believe she came near to fainting, realized it, tried to leave, and had to be helped to the car. Of course the right wing bloggers and radio jocks will make a lot out of this. Huge. One comment I read says, "finally we need to realize that she should not become president because, among other things, her poor health". Maybe she does have poor health, and look, I've got worries about her health, not much, but some; she is an old lady, right? And maybe not an especially strong one. And other than that I am really irritated at her poor judgment in the email/server case. Where was her head at? Will she be similarly clueless in the white house? Most of all, her demeanor when speaking does not give people much reason to trust her, she just seems evasive and slippery. All told, not my ideal candidate.

However, with Trump we'd get a thin-skinned, narcissistic, bullying, ignorant, blowhard, (along with several other abhorrent character traits). His ideas are astonishing. For example Trump thinks we should've "Taken the oil" when we left Iraq? Jeez, how stupid and impractical is that? The number of other stupid, impractical, and useless, and incorrect assertions he's made boggle the mind. We don't have the room or time to even list them all. Hillary could make a thousand campaign ads showing stupid and contradictory Trump comments. They can't possibly cover all of them; there are too many. What would this loose canon be like in the White House? The same I am afraid. And would he possibly surround himself with strong associates? Would his cabinet selections be great? Based on his selection of Ailes and Bannon and others in his campaign I don't have confidence of that. He'd be an embarrassing disaster, I'm sure of it.

Beyond all of that, of Trump himself, he's still running as a Republican, and I don't agree with Republican policies, hardly any of them. Not on taxation, spending, environment, health, military, foreign policy...none of them.

So regardless of Hilary's lack of appeal, I'm still voting for her and I hope to God Trump does not get


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Only Trump Could Get Me To Appreciate Fox News

Trump's tiff with Megan Kelly, and Fox News' response to it, makes me appreciate, for once, Fox News, because they have taken a correct position against Trump's boorish rudeness.

Megan is professional, Trump is not. He, obviously, is not presidential material.

How so?

  • He responds peevishly at perceived mistreatment. We want a guy who is peevish?

  • He holds a grudge. We want a guy who holds grudges?

  • His assessment of Megan is based on how she , in his view, treats him rather than any objective measure. Further, it is not clear that Trump has any sense of objectivity anyhow, so this is typical of him.
All of his is in addition to his cheap shot (to say nothing of wrong) insults towards McCain and Bush and his idiotic policy proposals, such as his immigration proposal.

Fox's Roger Ailes called him out. It's time other republicans and conservatives did as well.

But actually, If he stays in the race long enough I'd be about as happy as I was when the Republicans chose Palin as McCain's running mate. It makes the race quite a bit easier for the Democrats.

Where have our navigation skills gone?

I was astonished reading a letter in 48 North from a cruiser in the San Juans who was happy that taking five minutes to confirm his position was fast enough, that he wasn’t expected to have to do it in 3 seconds. Rich's rule was for his kids, when they came up from below, not the captain driving his boat around the San Juans. And I was shocked that driving around with his family on board he didn't know if the pass he was lined up for was Peavine Pass or Obstruction Pass! When he said he was so pleased that a check on his iPhone cleared it up for him I just shook my head.

Do we actually think this is acceptable?

OK, I get it, we shouldn’t set too high a standard for navigation competence; it might discourage boaters and Lord knows we need to do everything we can to get more people to buy boats and get out on the water. But honestly, going out to sea, even in the San Juans, is playing for keeps. It’s not a carefree lark.

If you are driving a boat you should know your position at all times. Before we had chart plotters I used to steer with a folded chart on my knees and I kept my fingertip on my assumed position. I taught my kids how to do this, and my Explorer Scout students. We took bearings and plotted lines on paper. We followed a compass course. We knew dead reckoning. We could set out from Point Wilson and hit Cattle Pass in the fog. We could navigate through the Canadian Gulf Islands at night without GPS or Loran. If 15 year old boys and girls could do this can’t anyone?

Now we have GPS. That’s good. We have chart plotters. That’s also good. It is much easier now. But you have to use these tools and you have to take navigation seriously. Using a phone with Navionics on it is not serious navigation; it’s hardly better than just driving around navigating by eyeball and simply trying not to run into any land you see sticking up. It’s like using a toy as a navigation source and you are just assuming that everything will turn out all right, that nothing will go wrong or could go wrong. That is not necessarily true; it is dangerous and certainly, in a Coast Guard inquiry, if it ever came to that, it could be viewed as reckless. As journalists and editors in the sailing media we should not approve of this carefree approach.

What is wrong with using a phone or even a small tablet as your main navigation source? The screens are too small, they are barely visible in daylight, and the charts are often poor quality and incomplete. It is too easy to miss a rock which might just be one small asterisk on a 2x5 screen. For reasons of battery conservation people don’t maintain even that limited view. They are driving along, the phone is off or down below and the application is not up and it takes a while to get it going and get a position update and then figure out what they are looking at. Meanwhile they are unclear about their position or the nearby dangers.

We’ve seen it happen too often: a boater drives his sailboat onto a reef which is clearly marked, but when zoomed out, on his small screen, he didn’t notice it (and that’s when he was paying attention). Often they are not paying attention. For example an Alaska marine pilot, driving his own 43’ Westsail in Mexico, crashed directly into a rock doing massive damage to his boat. How was he navigating? He was quoted as saying the rocks did not show up on Navionics. Presumably he was using a tablet or ipad or maybe a Navionics chart plotter. However, there are excellent charts in the Mexico guide books which clearly show not only the rock he hit but several others in the area and we have to assume he didn’t have one of those charts in front of him. Further it is probable that the Navionics chart did not give him much reason to think that he was in a dangerous shallow area where rocks might be present. From an “eyeball navigation” perspective it must have looked OK; the land was a long way off. Obviously, since he is a professional pilot, he had the skills and competence to do better than that. What is left is carelessness and poor choice of tools.

We all need to be good navigators, and with the tools available now days it should be easy, if only we took a modicum of care. 48 North should encourage that.

Fred Roswold, SV Wings, La Cruz Mexico

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Navionics is a Joke

We've been hearing that Navionics, on a tablet computer, is everyone's favorite choice for navigation. People simply rave about it. So we thought we'd try it, mainly to solve a problem we'd been having in the local Wednesday night races where we were having a hard time getting exactly to a lon/lat point. Having Judy go down to the chart table and give us headings and distances just wasn't working. We needed an on-deck solution.

Unfortunately. the new Navionics we just downloaded to our Nexus tablet is mostly useless for our purposes. In fact I say it is a child's toy, not a navigation tool. For example:You want to enter waypoints at specific lon/lat postions, then navigate to them? You can't. Waypoints can only be created while creating route, and then you "tap" the screen. You cannot specify the lon/lat, and you can't even tell what lon/lat you tapped on. Useless. For example: You have a route and you want to insert a waypoint to bypass a rock or a point of land? You can't. Just cant be done. For example, you want to delete a waypoint in a route? You can't. Oh, you can start deleting waypoints from the end back to where you want to make a change, then start forward again, what a joke! For example: You search for a lon/lat position then save it as a "favorite" then want to navigate to it? You can't. Or even display the name you just gave to that spot? You can't.

Navionics seems to have done a good job integrating twitter and facebook, and they have gotten a lot of fluffy gushing reviews, but not from sailors or navigators. The navionics software for android is not a serious tool. It makes me wonder about the people who love it so much. If anyone has solutions to these issues, I'd love to hear them

Monday, November 17, 2014

Finding and Keeping Crew

The following was written in response to a scuttlebutt contribution which gave reasons for owners not being able to get or keep crew.

The contributor said, in part, "Short course racing sucks. It leaves no time to socialize. It leaves no time to get to know one another on the boat. It leaves no time to tell jokes, or network in life, or in business... From a recreational sport perspective, camaraderie is what it should be about. It should be about laughter, goofing around, making tight knit friendships and business relations."

Frankly, I don’t think that providing more opportunity for your crew to network with each other and socialize during races addresses the needs of either finding or keeping crew, which are, in fact, two different propositions and which need slightly different approaches, neither of which involves much social networking.

Most people agree to come onboard your boat to crew for you either as new sailors who are excited about doing something they haven’t done before and which seems like it would be fun to them, or as experienced sailors who think you will have a fun, and successful, racing program which they’d like to be a part of.

The new sailors are sometimes easier to find than the experienced hands, and it takes a while to build the team with them to the point when you can win races, but it’s worth it. If treated right, and if they have fun, they will be loyal. The experienced hands, and you need a few of them if you want to win, are tougher to get. But for both groups, you need to work first on getting them, and second, on keeping them.

We’ve done this virtually around the globe and we’ve never had a problem getting or keeping crew, we’ve always had fun and became great friends with the people who have sailed with us, and along the way, we’ve won a few races. It takes time however, and creativity, to find the people and build them into a team. Unless you have such a hot boat that all the rock stars want to get on it, and few of us have that to offer, (and anyhow, it isn’t always a lot of fun), you have to work at getting people and keeping them.

To find people you have to look everywhere. Ask around the dock. Ask at work. Ask friends and relatives. Ask the local sailing school; the instructors will know who is a good candidate. Check out the youth programs. Use social networks and the local radio net, if there is one. Post notes on the yacht club bulletin boards, physical and electronic. Keep an open mind about people who express an interest; sometimes that person who seems totally wrong for sailing will turn out to be a jewel. The most important thing in a new crew member is interest and willingness to commit. If they have that, give them a try.

When you are making your offer of a crew position you need to tell the newbies that it will be fun, exciting, and maybe a little challenging but that you’ll make it easy for them to learn and do well, that nobody will yell at them, and maybe you can talk about the after race parties and tell them how they don’t need to bring anything to go sailing but a windbreaker, etc, just show up. You can tell them how great it is to be on the water in the wind and sun and get them excited about the prospect. To get those valuable experienced sailors to join you need to show that you are reasonably competent, that you have a well organized and moderately funded program, the boat will be well maintained, the crew will be good, or will become good in time, the sailing will fun, (no yelling, etc), and they will have a chance to be on a winning team. In both cases you have to be a bit of a salesperson. A smile and a handshake and a friendly personality will also go a long way.

But how do you keep them once they come out for a race or two?

We’ve found that winning isn’t everything but having fun is. Sailboat racing is a team sport. Working well together as a team is really a lot of fun and it gives people a good feeling and that is why people do team sports. When you finish that race, even if you didn’t win, if you all know that you nailed every maneuver, sailed fast, the right way, and just clicked as a team, everyone will feel good about it. If each person has their job, knows it is important, and knows that they have done it well, and that their teammates also know they have done it well, they will feel good about themselves. Helping people feel good about themselves is what makes them come back.

On the other hand, if your race was full of mistakes, or people yelled and made others feel bad, even if somehow you won the race, people won’t feel good about it. It won’t be remembered as a fun experience.

The skipper’s attitude is important. As a skipper you have to be positive, be patient, be a teacher, and you have to be forgiving of mistakes (up to a point). I don’t mean that you shouldn’t have high expectations of people; you should. People will only live up to your expectations, high or low, so set them high. Give people a job which they are up to, tell them what you expect and that you know they can do it, and that when they do they will become the best team out there. Then show people how to achieve that. They will.

For the experienced hands, give them some responsibility, let them know what you expect, and let them know that you trust them. They will live up to the expectation too, or, if not, and you have to make a change, either in personnel or in roles, don’t be afraid of that. It’s like any management role, and the other good sailors will not want you to tolerate for long a crew member who isn’t cutting it.

After the race it is really important to tell each person how well they did, even if you have to stretch the point a little to find that one good move they made, shake their hand, and tell them how glad you are to have them on the boat, and how much you are counting on them to come back (and tell them when that is.)

The social aspect will come naturally. We’ve found that mixed crews work well. Husbands and wives, single men and women, whatever, but with mixed crews some of them will organize other activities for the crew, such as potluck meals on the beach or dinner parties at someone’s house. This adds to the teambuilding. You will find that the team takes over, they form friendships which outlast the racing program you have formed. And the students will often overtake the teacher. All of this is good, and it all helps build and keep a crew.

As far as socializing on the boat, during the race? Yes, the chatter on the rail is inevitable, but sometimes it gets in the way of the concentration on the race, and sometimes you have to ask for quiet, but if the rest of the program is in place, they won’t mind.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

AIS Alarm Issues

We have an AIS system which shows us on the chart plotter the position, speed, and course of other vessels, on Wings and it is generally a great navigational and safety aid. Probably the second most important improvement to cruising since GPS. However, we have some problems. Read this if you are interested in AIS and our experience.

Here is a recap of our AIS adventures:


We installed a West Marine AIS1000 in 2010. It was inexpensive and easily available. West Marine programmed it as required by law in the US. The unit is a bit clunky but is weather sealed and rugged (not essential for our installation) but it installed easily and worked right out of the box with little zero further set-up. We really did not want to install a second VHF antenna or the cabling of one so we tried a West Marine VHF signal splitter, which has worked perfectly. Our AIS and VHF share a single cable and mast head antenna. Our cabling to the mast head is RG9U and our losses seem acceptable. We've done limited operational testing but when we have, both class A and Class B equipped vessels have seen us on their displays at reasonable distances. So the installation works.

We've routed the outputs to both the nav station PC for use on OpenCPN and to a Standard Horizon Matrix GX2000 VHF radio which has a AIS display. This permits us to monitor AIS without continuously running the Dell PC we use in the Nav station. (This is a power saving decision). The GX2000 also requires a separate GPS signal and we route our Lowrance GPS output to that (and to the Dell, for redundancy).

The biggest benefit we see from the AIS system is a watch-standing function. Using CPA and TCPA alarms we get over the horizon warnings about commercial traffic, very, very helpful and comforting during passages. In bad weather or when the watch stander is drowsy, the AIS lets us know somebody is coming. Of course during transits of the Straits of Malacca, offshore of East Africa, and near the coasts of Brazil and Venezuela, all very high traffic areas, the visual display on the chart plotter has made a world of difference. Commercial traffic is no longer a significant worry although we will be happier when all fishing vessels and small craft also carry it.


The OpenCPN handling of targets and alarm setting is much better than the GX2000, which has been a bit of a disappointment. In fact if there is one issue we have with our installation it is in the alarm handling of the GX2000. In the first place it cannot logically combine CPA settings with TCPA. So with a CPA setting to give an CPA alarm for any vessel which will come within 2 miles, and a TCPA setting to give an alarm for any vessel whose closest point will be in the next 30 minutes, for example, the GX2000 gives in alarms for all vessels which will either get within 2 miles, no matter how much time will pass before that happens, and all vessels whose closest point will occur in the next 30 minutes, even if their closest point is 15 miles! It is a logical "OR" instead of a logical "AND". There is no prioritization as there is with the Vesper Marine AIS Watchmate. Open CPN works better in this regard.

Re-occurring nuisance alarms

The next issue, which is really aggravating, happens on both units, but it is much more serious on the GX2000. This relates to the instantaneous CPA and TCPA calculations which are dramatically affected by our vessel's yawing and surging in sea states common on an ocean passage. Even when our course is such that we will pass well clear of an oncoming (or overtaking) vessel, when a wave makes us yaw towards the target both our OpenCPN and the GX2000 wake up and give alarms. However, in the next second when we yaw back onto our course the calculation changes and the alarm clears. Why this is such an issue is that the alarms are loud enough to wake the dead (set so intentionally) and having a loud alarm go off every few seconds soon becomes a safety issue itself: how do you operate the vessel (let alone talk on the radio) when you have a loud alarm gonging away in the nav station. You only choice is to turn off the CPA and TCPA alarms, which then exposes you to other possible situations which are not then being monitored. Here is an example: An overtaking vessel is 30 minutes away from a CPA of three miles, but the wave actions cause you to swerve towards that vessel's path every few seconds. The CPA or TCPA alarms sounds, the clears itself, then sounds, then clears itself. You can't stop it with either system other than by turning off the alarms entirely. So that is what you do to get some peace and you manually monitor the overtaking vessel. Meanwhile a second vessel comes over the horizon and sneaks up on you, no alarms! With the GX2000 it is even more serious. With this unit it takes a few seconds to turn off the alarms, due to the number of keystrokes required, however, whenever a new alarm sounds (which happens on every wave, with every yaw or surge of our own vessel) the radio's display and controls switch back to AIS alarm mode even if you are in the middle of disabling the alarm, and you have to start over with the keystroke sequence. Often it is impossible to complete the keystroke sequence to turn off the alarms once they commence. Right when you might need to be on deck watching a commercial vessel, or trying to talk to him, you are instead engaged trying to kill the alarm. We've found that when the GX2000 starts sounding the alarms we have to turn off the GPS so the radio stops calculating CPA and TCPA. Not a good solution. I've spoken at length with Standard Horizon technical people about this but they don't offer any solution, and actually seem skeptical that the situation even occurs. I guess in a laboratory setting, or even on inshore waters where waves don't cause a vessel to swerve or surf, the problem does not occur. On OpenCPN I have suggested a solution, where "Acknowledge" commands, which turn off an alarm for a specific vessel, be retained even after the calculations remove the target from the CPA or TCPA limits. Currently the "Acknowledge" command goes away when the CPA or TCPA calculation says the target is no longer a threat. However, if it comes back, it is a new threat and the alarms sounds again. I'd like the target list screen to show which targets have recently caused an alarm to sound, and allow me to "ignore" these by ticking a box, for a specified period or time, or until an further risk threshold is reached.

Perhaps this all sounds a bit esoteric, but when it happens, believe me, it's aggravating to the point of being dangerous, and imagine trying to explain this to a newbie watch stander who might be non-technical and possibly a bit seasick. In the end it is the captain who gets up and deals with it, which is OK, I don't mind, but it is confidence shattering to the person on watch. I will be interested in hearing about the experience of others regarding this problem, and particularly if Watch Mate handles it better.

SSB interference

One other issue we've run against is the tendency, in some atmospheric conditions, for the SSB radio to kill the GPS computation of the West Marine AIS unit. Not every time, but sometimes, when we transmit on the SSB, like when we connect to Sailmail, the AIS loses its GPS almanac and therefore its position solution, which kills the transponder. We can still receive AIS information but we don't send ours without positional information. The unit recovers itself in about 45 minutes. It took us a while to figure out what was happening, in the meantime West Marine sent us three GPS antennas thinking that the antenna itself was the problem. Now we have some spares, and we understand the recovery cycle.

It seems like these are software issues which were not easily anticipated, and are quite complex to solve, and so we understand why they have not been, so far. But until they do, we're dissatisfied.

Fred Roswold, SV Wings, Cartagena


Sunday, September 02, 2012

Deep or Shallow Draft


Hi Fred,

I have read quite a lot from your sailing blog and have enjoyed it very much. I am an Aussie, although I spent quite a few years working in the U.S. and Thailand. I am looking at an 8' draft Alan Warwick designed boat here and so many people say the draft is too deep for many places.. I will take the boat up to Yacht Haven in Phuket, or maybe the new Boat Lagoon marina at Krabi.

I would be interested to hear your comments and if you have encountered many restrictions due to draft.

Take care and fair winds.

Best wishes,


Hi Harry,

Obviously 8' draft will restrict you more than 6' draft and six will be more restrictive than four. Some marinas are shallow, not too many however, certainly not Yacht Haven, (I don't know about Krabi, but it IS up a river). Of course Phang Nga Bay is full of shallow areas, many are less than even 4', and in some anchorages you will have to anchor farther out than a boat with shallower draft. We don't feel however, that our draft has unduly affected us; we go where most everyone else can go, just more carefully and anyhow everyone has to pay attention to the depth, even people with boats with much less draft than 8'. In boatyards you see as many 6' draft boats with keel damage as 8' draft boats.

But the main thing I would like to say is that a deep draft keel makes a much better sailboat. If you like to sail, seek out that deep draft boat. If you have a shallow draft it will be to your benefit once in a while, but the lack of sailing ability will be a millstone on your neck every minute you are sailing for all of the years you have the boat. Why accept weak performance 360 days a year to have a convenience once a year? There is a reason why modern boats have deeper, or even retractable, keels: it really makes a difference sailing.

Finally, if Alan Warwick put an 8' keel on that boat then it was because he was interested in designing a good sailing boat. He probably carried that intent thru-out the boat so this will be a good boat, in my opinion, to look at.

In the end, evaluate your priorities: if it is on sailing rather than parking in shallow places, you will accept the limitations of the deep draft because you don't want to accept the poor performance otherwise.

Fred Roswold, SV Wings, Trinidad


Hi Fred,

Thanks so much for your thoughts. I do appreciate the time taken to respond. You have confirmed my thinking and I look very seriously at the Warwick here in Australia. I know Alan Warwick has designed some superb sailboats and I have already contacted his office in N.Z. about some upgraded I would do on this particular boat.

Thanks again and best wishes,

Monday, August 01, 2011

Politians and politcal parties fail us

The recent debt ceiling agreement shows how low our politicians and political parties have sunk. The compromise reached between the right, the far right, the left, and Obama, raised the debt ceiling but it failed entirely in almost every other aspect, a view shared by Bloomberg:

Congress's agreement on debt ceiling is an alarming bipartisan mess

Not only did it fail to solve any of the nation's long term problems of budget deficits, wealth inequality, and tax inifficiency, let alone begin to address future needs such as education and infrastructure, it made the short term problems worse by harming the economy.

These elected officals have failed us, and failed our nation. Shame on them all.