The past weekend we headed out for a sail through Galveston Bay and into Trinity Bay, and back again.  The winds were a solid 15 knots or more.  With full sails we were screaming around at 6 knots, topped out at 7 knots for brief periods.  Most of the time the boat was not terribly heeled over either.   And we saw dolphins again.  It has been a whiles since we spotted them.  This time, there may have just been the one, but he seemed interested in us, and surfaced near the boat several times.  We were all gawking at him, so no pictures.

Replaced the aging and rusted propane tank with another of the same type.  A 1 gallon (4.5lb) tank, that I didn’t pay much attention to when I pulled it out.  I had though I had read that the Pearson 303 used a 11 lb tank (2.5 gallons), but I couldn’t find the reference.  When I put the new tank in place, it was obvious it would fit a much taller tank.  Next time I am thinking of replacing it, will definately size back up.  I think the larger size will be a good thing if I split it off and run a gas grill also.   That is still on the list of wants though.

The new steps worked well.  They need some additional bracing, and then some paint.  Sold the old generator (house), so I was able to pick up a smaller, quieter, Westinghouse portable.  The up, its quiet, should serve decently as an emergency backup well.  The down, it’s just a little larger than I was expecting, and it doesn’t reliably run the boat AC.  I can get it to work eventually, but it takes a lot of stopping and restarting, connecting and reconnecting before the AC can start without overloading the gen.

A15 - 5lso picked up an Intex Mariner 4 raft.  It was not my first choice for a dinghy, but it was about 1/3 the cost of a the cheapest inflatable dinghy I could find.  Its a little larger than I expected also, but that size kinda disappears once you have it on the water with 4 people in it.  We did a test and was able to unpack and inflate it on the foredeck.  I then used a halyard to raise it up and deploy it into the water.  I was picking it up by one end.  I will be working on making a 3 point harness to make deploying and retrieving easier.  We rowed it around the marina and out to some markers to get a feel for it.  Rowing is ok, but I am seriously contemplating a trolling motor for it.  The girls took it out for a quick run before we all piled in for the full test.

The genoa is definitely needing a some TLC.  The sunbrella strip stitching is coming loose.  One of the plans for the coming weekend is to pull it down and restitch it.    But first Friday night fireworks.  And after, Skallywags for the B-day dinner.

Been a month since the last post, though in fairness, I was on vacation for two of those weeks on a none sailing trip through Arizona and Colorado.  Visited a number of places including the Grand Canyon.  Definitely am a flat lander/sailor, my slight fear of heights were a bit of a challenge on those cliffs, and driving through the mountains probably shaved a few years off my life.  But it was beautiful and we had a good time.

What did we do when we got back?  Went sailing of course.  Was home one day, then I went out on a solo sail on the 4th while the girls rode horses in a parade.   I practiced trimming my sails in tight which allowed me to get a good 10 degrees or more closer to the wind.  Sailed to Redfish Island, and sailed past as there was 15-20 boats anchored there.  I could have stopped, but I didn’t feel like dropping sails.  Instead I sailed back towards Cliffton Beach area, where I practiced doing a heave to, so I could make lunch.  Found out that my lighter was dead so I couldn’t light up the stove.  Note for the future, keep a spare or two on the boat.   Also practiced reefing the mainsail.  I accomplished it, but I think I could do better, and I think there may be an easier way, will have to figure it out.  Brought it back and docked solo.  Gotten real good and getting in and out of the dock.  Got a little sideways once in the dock when the wind pushed me around, but by then I was safely tied up.IMAG0300

That evening, we went out with a couple friends for a quick sail, then found a spot for the Kemah Boardwalk fireworks.   Tried to get close, but didn’t get near as close as last year.  They changed the location of the barge, and I was bad at estimated the distance.  There was a sweet spot that I felt was too close to other boats, so I didn’t try it, but a short time later that spot cleared…  Of course the reason why it cleared…a boat dragging anchor.  I was constantly checking to see if was me, but I found I was not changing my relation to several other boats, just that boat was changing.  Luckily, he drug past me without getting too close (though I was ready and at the helm, I even turned on the motor once just in case).  Eventually I think he gave up and left, but it was after he was well past me.   The fireworks kinda duded this year.  There where several gaps, and the finale didn’t happen due to a technical problem.

This past weekend I built some dock steps that my wife has been asking for.IMAG0303  She is short, has some knee problems, so stepping up and out to get on the boat is a problem for her.  These steps follow my usual mantra, “it may not be pretty, but it is functional”.    Will take them down this weekend for a real world test.  If they pass, then they will be sanded, painted, and some non-slip put on the steps.  Still won’t be pretty, but should do the job nicely.

Current plans, down at the boat for the next three weekends.  Day sailing Saturday.  The next weekend we are going to do Friday night fireworks, day sail on Saturday and maybe Sunday.  And dinner at Skallywags.  All for my birthday which is the 24th.  Then the following weekend, we are taking Friday off, and finally doing the Galveston run that we have been talking about.  Sail down Friday, spend Saturday at Moody Gardens, then sail home on Sunday.  Should be a grand little adventure.  A taste of things to come.  Looking forward to that trip.  We have spent too much time saying “we should sail to Galveston”  but never actually setting a day to do it.   Our Moody Gardens passes are about to expire (annual, we got them in anticipation of doing this run, thats how long we have been putting it off), and seeing that is what prompted me to set a date.   More on that as we make our plans.

I know currently I don’t have any readers of this site, but I really should be better about posting about the sailing and sailng related things I do get a chance to do.   So, to catch up, I will try to bullet point some things that have happened since my last post.

  • Repacked the stuffing box that had begun to leak at a steady stream.  Found just a sliver of flax left.  Repacked with two strands of 3/16″ flax, now dripping at spec.
  • Bought a Yeti Tundra 50 for the boat.  Currently sitting in my closet, half full of ice, as a ice retention test.  Will post more later.  Wife is working on a cover for it.
  • June 11th marked the 3 year anniversary of my discovering sailing.  A catamaran/snorkeling trip at South Padre Island  had me turn to my wife and say “I think I could enjoy this”, a month later I was taking my first lessons.
  • Estimated that I have about 40 sea days, only 320 more sea days before I can apply for a captains license…no problem. :)
  • Sailed a number of times over the last couple months, including a solo sail, and a sail with three 12 year olds…yeah, glutton for punishment I guess.
  • Have a done some digital art lately, most of a tropical theme.   Will be creating a gallery on the site to upload them at some point.  Below is most boat related.


Another weekend of no sailing.  Rain and colder temps kept me at dock this time.  Instead I just lazed about the cabin, watching TV and drinking beer.  k2-_3ef84381-9a80-4b8a-a330-29dd705ec6f0.v1 Found an antenna that I could pick up all the local stations without running it outside and up the flag halyard.  Might have to that if I travel farther south, but for now it works.  But most of my TV watching was streaming video, catching up on The 100 and The Walking Dead on Netflix.  If you read my last post, you should now be saying “But Michael, the marina wifi sucks, and you will blow through your mobile data”.  Well, the marina wifi still sucks, and I did go through 15gb of mobile data.  After doing to some research, I found that my carrier has an unlimited data plan with 5gb for tethering.  I also found a way to root my phone and install another tethering app so that it looks like all the data is coming from the phone, therefor falling under the unlimited data part.  It all seems to work great, so unlimited data for streaming video without blowing through my data cap.  Now, its not something I would do on a day to day basis, as my carrier would probably flag my account after a while, but for the occasional weekend, it will be fine.  And that was Netflix The 100the-walking-dead-season-3-poster-full-570x844me watching basically all day, my average actual usage will probably be less as I will be..oh, sailing.   Ok, if you haven’t figure it out by now, in addition to being a sailing geek, I am a tech geek too.

Had dinner on the boat again.  Pan cooked a nice steak, though my timing is a little off, it was more medium than medium rare like I prefer it.  Usually I do the pan sear and then into a hot oven to finish and do a much better job.   I was solo again, so found myself looking for a small side.  Wanted potatoes in a single serving size.  I could only find that in a microwavable container, but I have no microwave.  But I read the instructions, and it seems that all the microwave was for was to heat the potatoes.  So I did what you would do with standard potato flake products.  I boiled a cup of water, and poured into the microwave container and waited, then stirred.  Worked perfectly.    No mess, no waste.

Sunday morning I at least did some mind work.  I wanted to took some pictures and measurements for some projects I have in mind. So look for the a couple future projects, a cutting board for over the sink to extend prep area and give me a proper cutting board.  Also I a flip up table/counter extension on the other side of the stove.  Again to extend the prep area in my rather small galley.  I also opened up the battery areas and found the charger.  The remote panel on the charger was not giving me battery status.  Found that two leads from the battery to the charger have inline fuses, both of which are “popped”.  Didn’t have replacement fuses available at the time, so not positive, but I think this will fix my issue.  Will find out next time I am down.

So…the weather won.  Winds were strong Friday into Saturday, with 25+knots with gusts to around 35 along with periodic rain.   I was not ready to tackle that solo, so I stuck to the dock over the weekend.  I was a bit disappointed as I really wanted to get out and it was my last chance for February.  So no February sail.  :(    But I decided to get some things done on the boat to make it more enjoyable for those days I can’t venture out.   Your first thought might be, why go to the boat if you can’t sail?  I must say, I love being on the boat no matter what.  I enjoy having my little home away from home.  And excuse to get away for the weekend.  Relaxing in the saloon or cockpit, drinking a boat drink, talking with my dock neighbors, and even working on the boat.

So, I went down to the boat anyway, and stayed both Friday and Saturday night.  I had already come up with a meal plan, so I stuck with it and saved myself some money by not going out to each the whole weekend.  Cooked four meals on the boat.  Two breakfasts, and two dinners.  2015-02-21 18.13.32I skipped lunch as I was wasn’t hungry after a good sized breakfast.  :)  First night was just some canned chili with the fix’ins.  Forgot that I had no bowls at the boat, so ended up eating out of the pot.  Will need to remember to take some bowls down.  Dinner Saturday night was something I called Pork Monterey.  Basically chicken monterey, except with some pork chops we had sitting in the freezer that needed cooking.  Pork chops, add some bacon, BBQ sauce, and cheese, done.  They were not bad.    Breakfast Saturday morning was breakfast tacos of eggs, bacon, and cheese, with the eggs cooked in the bacon fat.  Those were some tasty eggs.   I tried to plan all my meals so I would have as little wastage as possible.  I ended up with some left over cheese and tortillas, but took those home and they should get used up no problem.

Boat projects for the weekend, since I wasn’t sailing, were both electronic in nature.  First up was an attempt at setting up a WiFi setup.  The idea was to use my windows tablet as a bridge between the marina’s wifi and my boat wifi.   I had an external wifi adapter that has two antenna ports.  One of the antenna ports I used a 8dbi long range outdoor antenna hoping to maximize the connection to the marina wifi.  Then the tablet shares that connection via an internal wifi to other devices on the boat.  I was hoping to basically have one point of connection for the devices so only the tablet needed to be connected to whatever internet source I had available (in this case, the marina wifi).  The good news, it works.  The bad news, the marina wifi totally sucks.  I mean its worthless.  Might be a case of too many people for too little bandwidth.  It was so slow it was worthless.   There where no other open connections within range either, so while it worked, the project was a bust for use in the marina.  Might be useful once out of marina if I happen to anchor near an open wifi that is not snail slow.  Till then, I am back to using my verizon hotspot and tethering off my phone.  That works great for email, facebook and general web surfing, but streaming video (netflix, youtube, hulu, whatever) is basically limited.  Not by the speed, as they are plenty fast enough, but by the data usage.   I could easily blow through my data limit for the month in a few hours of streaming.   Which leads me to my second project of the weekend.

I had watched videos on my various tablets, and on my laptop, and even had a tv tuner on my laptop.  But I found the laptop to be inelegant, and holding a tablet and trying to watch on a small screen ok, but not great.  I seemed to have wires everywhere.  Enter the desire to have a TV on the boat.  Some may see no reason to have a TV on a boat, and for the most part I would agree.  2015-02-21 14.56.02Worthless while sailing.  But see above.  I love to spend time on the boat even when I can’t sail.   I like to watch movies in the evenings, doing so on the boat just makes them better (ok, maybe not a good as the media room back at the house, lol).  After some research and a lot of internal debate, I decided on a small 19″ tv.  A DC tv might have been the way to go, but I wanted the functionality of a specific Samsung UN19F4000.  In addition to being a low power LED tv with all the usual stuff, it had the ability to play video off a usb stick (more on this later).  So I acquired the tv and a mount.  I already had a small inverter, but I did want a new DC receptacle near where the TV was to be mounted so I picked up a receptacle and wire from the local chandlery.

Let me say, I love my boat.  While its a mix of fiberglass, wood, and plastic, most of the interior has pieces that can be removed to access2015-02-21 14.55.49 areas that would be impossible to work in otherwise.  I was able to cleanly route wire behind the scenes from the electrical panel to the hanging locker.  One end was tied into a breaker for the TV and stereo, and the receptacle was mounted inside the hanging locker.  Near it I mounted the inverter and hung the excess power cable from the TV.

The TV was mounted to the outside of the hanging locker.  It hangs a little lower than I would like, but the mount point on the TV is high on the back.  No big deal, butts up against the seat cushion when folded in and might even be helpful to keep it from swinging around while underway.  The mount is a 10″ swing arm, so I can be positioned so that it can be viewed from anywhere in the saloon.  It folds up about 52015-02-21 14.55.21” from the locker.  Ignore the mess, but here is the finished project.

Right now I just have a small inside antenna which doesn’t get very good reception.  Will be looking for a smallish outdoor antenna with some outdoor coax.  Then when I need it, I will just lead the coax through the port and haul it up the flag halyard, then I should get all the local channels.   But of the few channels I did get, one was running a Doogie Howser marathon, I admit I did watch a half dozen or so episodes.  The USB function was a partial success.  The good, it played my video files.  The bad, I had to transfer them to a smaller 32gb usb drive as the TV didn’t recognize my 64gb drive.  The ugly, the audio was out of sync.  Started off fine, but as the movies went on it got worse.  By the end of both movies I watched, the audio was off by a full second or more, which is annoying.  I had also gotten a Amazon Fire Stick for my various streaming sources, but not sure it will get used much due to the wifi issues I mentioned above.  But I did find that I would use AllCast on the Fire Stick to stream from my tablet to the the TV without the audio issues.  So that corrects that problem, though now I didn’t need the samsung and could have gotten a DC tv,  or an even cheaper tv.  Well, it is what it is.

Let me say, with the cooking on the boat, and the addition of some mindless entertainment, the boat has gone a sailboat and decent place to hangout, to also a nice weekend home and even a bachelor pad if I ever find myself is that situation again  (not likely).  I actually decided I could actually live on this boat…if I were single.  Thats a big if.. :)     This weekend ended after foggy Sunday morning.  Loving my boat, my second home.  Love live Jester!2015-02-22 07.28.19

A sailing party was hopelessly lost on the ocean. The sun was going down and the waves were starting to build when one of the sailors growled, “I thought you said you were the best damn captain in California.”“Oh I am,” replied the captain firmly, “but I’m pretty sure we’re in Mexico by now”.

Not much in the way of boat stuff over then weekend.  Unless you include the failure to find a decent set of camping/nesting cookware for the boat.  Two of the three stores I hit didn’t have anything.  The third had something that seemed to fit the bill perfectly.  I get it home, unbox it, only to find all of it damaged.

Currently working on plans for this coming weekend.  I have to be in Deer Park on Friday which is 75% of the way to the boat from the house.  And I usually get done early when there, so I expect to be on the boat by 2 or 3pm.  Working on plan to cast off immediately upon arrival, and head out for a weekend on the boat.  Depending on wind direction and conditions, I will probably anchor off Clifton Beach or at Red Fish for the evening.  Then the next morning, again depending on conditions, I will sail towards Galveston or deeper into Trinity Bay.  Will have to decide on a Saturday night anchorage once I know what direction I am sailing.  Then back to dock on Sunday.

This means multiple means on the boat, hence my searching for adequate cookware.  I will be working on a float plan and meal plan as the week progresses.  Short of 30+ knot winds, or thunderstorms I think I will go out.  So far the forecast is for 10-20 knot winds, and potential for showers.  If that stays, I will work on reefing the sails at various points, heaving to for a lunch break, anchoring skills, and dealing with rain.   And with meal planning in a way to avoid wastage.  I could go easy with sandwiches and prepackaged stuff, but that would be much of a learning experience, and not much of a challenge.

   Today’s Boat Drink is a Captain’s Paradise, though it might be known under other names.   I wanted some pineapple rum to try messing with that mojito I mixed up last time.  Found myself on the boat with pineapple rum and orange juice.    This is a dead simple drink to mix up.

After having a couple on the boat, and a few more at home, I can say this, you don’t taste the rum.  The pineapple comes through, but it hides the rum well.  So it would be a good drink for someone who is not normally a rum drinker.  It also seems to be a little light on the kick.  I think I would have down one or two real fast to get a good buzz.


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Ok, so this is not about the usual solar power and batteries discussion that usually crops up around boats.  Our current boat is better suited coastal cruising, and even then, I doubt I will take a trip longer than a 2-4 days more than once a year.  Before I take one of those longer trips (week long max), I might put in some dedicated solar panels to keep the house and engine batteries topped of.  For now, I have opted for a way of keeping my assortment of handheld electronics charged for weekends away from the dock, in addition to camping trips and such where I spend time away from a AC power source.

Enter the X-Dragon 20W solar panel, along with a pair Anker Astro E4 13,000mAh batteries.  The idea is to charge the batteries during the day and use the batteries to charge the plethora of  20150212_120946handheld electronics I own at night.    I will need to test to see if the panels are up to the task to topping off these batteries each day.  One of the reasons I went with the 20w version over the 14w to to ensure it was outputting enough juice.  In theory, the panels can output a max 2.4A to each of the two usb ports.  Though its 20W of panels, the output is only 5W (usb max), so the extra wattage is presumably there to ensure the 5w @2.4A to both ports, probably even in cloudy conditions.  The batteries in turn, if supplied with 2A of power, should charge in 6-7 hours (per the manual).  So, again in theory, I should be able to deplete the batteries each night, and still fully charge them each day (short of rain or super cloudy conditions).    And at 13,000 mAh each, I am not very likely to deplete both batteries each day.

Couple of catches, with this setup I am limited to recharging things that can be recharged via usb (5v).  Luckily, the vast majority of my devices are just that.   My phone, tablet, windows tablet, mifi, and my GoPro are all usb charged.  The exceptions are my laptop and my handheld VHF. The laptop can avoid using since the Windows tablet is a full on windows machine.  The VHF will the only device I will charge (via DC plug) from the house batteries.  Leaving the house batteries for lights and water pressure.

I will be testing this the next time I go out, and then seriously testing it next month when I got a week long camping trip where I won’t have a power outlet.   I will report back with the results then.