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Why can't things stop breaking?

Posted on Friday Oct 23, 2009

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So I was reading this dramatic story on the internet about how a scientist has found a way to literally turn "life" on and off. Seriously. He found a way to prevent cellular damage caused by rapidly dropping oxygen levels (i.e. irrecoverable death). Basically he uses a poison to stop the damage from lack of oxygen. Then the organism "dies" without any cellular damage, only to be "restarted" again later, sometimes several hours later. He is working on ways to extend this technique to larger and larger animals, like us humans. So you could clinically be dead while they operate on you (or your dead body at least), then when the time is right...BAM! Re-animation! IT LIVES!

I was thinking that if scientists can switch life on and off, why can't I stop things from breaking on the boat? At least for a while. It seems that fixing them doesn't really help as things break faster than I can fix them. Maybe there is a way to stop this entropy for a while so the boat stays suspended. I can fix everything then have a beer to celebrate being done, before I turn entropy back on and something breaks.

Well, so much for fantasy and procrastination...back to work.

We are a sailboat again

Posted on Sunday Oct 11, 2009

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Our "side project" of painting the mast turned out to be a HUGE amount of work. But after hours and hours of sanding and layering paint on the oxidized spots, it took only an hour with the sprayer to put 3 final coats on the mast. The results look really good. Here's a photo of the mast after we moved it from under the roofed building and we're getting ready to hoist it. I'm at the end hooking up the antenna and windex and Robert, Kelita, Dana and Steven look at our sparkly paint job.

We managed to wrestle it back onto the boat without breaking anything or even scratch the new paint. And what a relief! The new compression supports are nice and solid. We pulled a chain plate and the bolts just to inspect them and they all looked good. Now I'm in the process of re-tuning the mast as things have changed slightly after the compression post work and it all sitting in the yard for a while. I installed a LED tricolor/anchor light and rigged our steaming/bow light so that for the first time EVER we will have a working deck light.

The great part is we are almost finished with our 3 month bonding period with Costa Rica Customs, so we will be able to get another 3 month cruising permit and be free.

A big thanks to all those who helped us get the mast back on:
Robert & Kelita -- S/V FREEDOM
Steven & Darusha -- S/V SCREAM

Tsunami takes a friend

Posted on Saturday Oct 3, 2009

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I was back in the US helping out my family and visiting when I received an email detailing how tragedy strikes instantly. The tsunami in the Samoas wiped out villages, boats and a friend of ours. Dan and his wife Joan gave us some great touring advice for northern Peru when we were anchored in Ecuador together. Dan was swept from the boat and drowned. It is so sad.

Another boat we know was swept though the town and all torn up. The owner was forced to grab what he could and abandon it to looters who were harrassing him.

It reminds me that sometimes even if things seem bad, they could be a lot worse and it could happen in an instant. Be happy for right now.

Our Mast Rocks

Posted on Sunday Sep 20, 2009

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With the mast down we have been slaving on the boat. Weeks of work and the compression post is finally finished! There was a subtle problem with how the boat was orginally built and over the past 32 years things started to compress. The mast applies a downward force on the deck that is blanced by a compression post below (shown in brown). Unfortunately our compression post (strong teak) was mounted on top of a plywood sub-floor and ceiling (shown in light blue). The plywood compressed slightly over time and shifting the post.
I no likey. Here's how it was built with the orignal on top and new-improved construction on the bottom:

Step 6,039 was to pull off the compression post, table, wiring, molding, and just about everything that looked nice.

Anyway, step 10,104 was to cut out the compressed ceiling and fiberglass it. I should mention I no likey fiberglassing overhead. This foto shows the area that needs to be cut out and glassed.

This photo shows the sub-floor that needs to be replaced with something stronger. Purple heart was the wood I used as it is hard as concrete.

Our compression post isn't right under the mast, which is a bit odd. Due to the inside structures we couldn't move the post to the center, so I distributed the force using a 1/4" thick peice of stainless steel...very heavy duty.
In this photo, step 12,600, you can see the new (purple) sub-floor under the compression post. I haven't cleaned up the area yet, but things are coming together.

After building some new molding that fit flush to everything and reinstalling most of it. Step 14,212 was to take a photo of the almost finished work.

Now we just need about 50 teak plugs and our table back to finish this project. We decided to cut our table to a more narrow size and rip off the tacky formica. We have an artist working on a cool painting for our table top! It's going to look so fantastic!

Tea Parties

Posted on Monday Sep 14, 2009

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While doing all this sanding and manual labor my thoughts have wandered to strange happenings. Like these Tea Party people. WTF? Where have these people been living? Oh, let's see where have we seen rapid government expansion?

  • Government buying bank shares [Bush started Government Bailouts with Banks]
  • Huge perscription drug plan with NO funding [can you say deficit?] while cutting taxes.
  • Spending went from 1.5 Trillion 2001 to 3.1 Trillion 2008+ [2009 Budget Summary via Government Printing Office, reported all as part of Bush's Budget Plans]
  • Iraq War cost $711 billion and climbing
  • Home Land Security -- Largest Fed. expansion in 50 years
  • Patriot Act 1 & 2 -- we need to know what books you are checking out of the library
  • No Child Left Behind -- massive federalization of schools [that socialist!]

"We have now presided over the largest increase in the size of government since the Great Society," said Sen. John McCain, the Republican candidate vying to replace Mr. Bush 2004.

So now they are pissed that there is going to be health insurance reform? Things seem to be getting pretty crazy. They've degraded to the point where people don't think Obama is an American? Why didn't these crackers ask to see the birth certificate from Bush, Clinton, Other Bush, Reagan, etc.? It sounds like some of these people just can't handle a minority president and refuse to see logic or reason. Nevermind each presidental canidate is required to be US-born by law.... Check out these people.

How can you argue with that logic? I personally didn't get a certified copy of his certificate, did you? Maybe he should include one in each tax refund.

The Old Street Cat

Posted on Sunday Sep 6, 2009

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Along came a cat.

We've been watching this older black and white street cat for over a month now. It was hit by a car and hasn't been able to heal. Someone tried to treat it with some iodine, but this cat needs to be kept isolated and heavily treated. We sadly watched it get worse as a bad staff infection set in. The kitty doesn't have any owners and often hangs out by the fishermen. Somone has been feeding it scraps, but we can't really find anyone who claims the old guy.

The other day I was making some cuts on a table saw and I spotted him under a parked car. He was looking really weak. Another friend of ours, Tari, has also been watching his plight and encouraged us to trap him and see if he could be treated or put down.

So we put our wild cat capturing skills back into action and brought him up to Tari's. His injuries were a lot worse than we expected and he was suffering. It tore us apart, but we called the vet to put the old guy down. I went out and dug a hole for him and Tari picked some flowers. When the vet examined him he said the cat had a poor chance at living and the treatment would be very painful. He thought it was right thing to put him down too.

I miss seeing the old guy hanging out in the shade in random places, but he isn't suffering anymore.

And now for something completely different

Posted on Saturday Sep 5, 2009

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Latin music doesn't really do much for me or Sherrell. But there is one band from Puerto Rico which I really like. Here's one of their latest songs that is fun to sing along to. I like the way Spanish rhymes so well.

No hay nadie como tu (There is no one like you)

I first heard of this band when I heard what has become my all time favorite Spanish language song: Atr??©vete-te-te! (Dare to to to...) It's about daring girls to be more sexual and real. It's trite, but I like the rhyme....

They have a lot of different sounds and are usually controversial.

Stepping the mast in Golfito

Posted on Saturday Aug 29, 2009

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We have been delaying the inevitable. Our mast sits on the deck, and beneath the deck is a post that supports the deck. All fine and good. However over time and a lot of sailing the post started to compress into the floor and ceiling. Hmmm. A few years ago in El Salvador, we loosened all the stays, carefully jacked up the support and inserted two stainless plates on the top and bottom to both shim it up and distribute the force. We also built a new support around the plates.

Well like the exhaust, I knew this problem needed to be addressed in a more serious fashion, meaning taking the mast out, then the post and rebuilding everything. Prior to doing any long off shore passages like crossing the Pacific this had to be fixed. So I started searching Mexico for places where I could take the mast off and do the work with the boat in the water (saving money by not being in the boat yard).

The prices in Mexico have steadily crept up since we left. I was a bit disappointed, but then I found a guy with a crane here and a basin where we could get our boat in during high tide. The price was good, so we decided to try it.

How to pull out the mast? Get a bunch of volunteers to help, one crane and keep your fingers crossed.

At high tide we entered the basin with just about every thing ready. Once the crane hooked up to the lifting rope I set up we began to disconnect the rigging.

(Rosemary and Richard helping me hunched down at the base)

The crane operator and Tim (from Land Sea) look on at our frantic de-rigging.

We then lifted it from the boat while trying to guide it and stabilize it while the crane operator drives around. A bit chaotic, but no damage! They even put it under the roof so it will be out of the sun and rain!
(Richard, David and I wrestling the mast)

With the mast gone, our boat looks a little silly. Here we are parked against the wall before heading back to Fish Hook.

Now the hard work of fixing the supports, working on the mast and checking the chain plates/bolts begins. A big thanks to all the people who helped:

Tim (Land Sea)
Richard (s/v Mandi)
David (s/v Sidewinder)
Rosemary (s/v Ni??±a)

Four Years Cancer Free

Posted on Saturday Aug 29, 2009

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We finished another annual round of testing in David, Panama a couple of weeks ago and got the good news. She still has about another 1.5 years of adjuvant hormone treatment left before we have to consider what is next. We?¢â??¬â??¢re going to see the original surgeon in Mexico for the 5 year check-up and plan out the next stage.

It?¢â??¬â??¢s been a long road with a lot of ups and downs, scares and disappointments, tears and anger but we are hanging in there. Sherrell?¢â??¬â??¢s been getting healthier and we both can?¢â??¬â??¢t wait until she is off the hormone medicine as it affects your brain and body in weird ways.

In the same vain, I just read a review of a book, ?¢â??¬???Manning Up in Alaska?¢â??¬. Despite the title, it sounds interesting. It probably hits too close to home for either of us to read, but the author had terrible throat cancer, stage 3. After a 9 hour operation he was left unable to swallow properly and endured 4 months of chemo treatment. He started a foundation to take people going through treatment out sailing to help relieve them from the stress. He also went cruising and had some of the crazy cruising mishaps we've experienced. Here's a link to the book http://tiny.cc/IiCQS if you're interested.


US Health Care Ranks Below Costa Rica?

Posted on Monday Aug 24, 2009

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(Warning:  Eric rants!)


I don’t normally pay much attention to the latest in US news.  But for us who know 3rd world health care very personally I can’t stand not saying something.  So I thought I would post it here where no one really reads it.


The WHO ranked Costa Rica’s health care above that of the US and many people in the US were shocked and upset.  Well, I can tell you the health care here is better, faster and cheaper.  In the capital, San Jose, they have all of the latest high tech equipment from MRI and 3d TAC to bone scan machines.  You can walk in without an appointment get a scan, pay $20-$150 and walk out with your results usually inside 2-3 hours.


So I was a bit offended by the people who were offended that even Costa Rica ranked higher.  Well, I would definitely rank Mexico higher than the US too and I found Mexico was way down on the list at #61 (http://www.photius.com/rankings/healthranks.html).  But I looked closer at the requirements and I think if you look at the health performance rankings by country it provides a better picture (http://www.photius.com/rankings/world_health_performance_ranks.html) with Costa Rica #25, Mexico #63 and US #72. 


My real problem is with all these people on TV screaming about health care.  (Keep in mind I can only see Internet news and for TV it’s Fox News and CNN International and CNN International isn’t at all interested in the subject).  Please, the system is broken and the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and lawyers broke it.  Let’s not try to defend the current system.  I see it has gotten to the point where some people show up with guns to the political rallies.  What the hell?!  People are not getting proper medical treatment or going bankrupt trying (about 50% of bankruptcies are as a result of medical expenses) should be the focus of anger.


It is crazy.  Medicare and Medicaid are social programs.  So are the police and fire services, big deal.  The bulk of the non-war related deficit is in Medicare/Medicaid so there is a lot of room for “social” improvement.  Why are so many people afraid of trying to fix some that is broken for most Americans?  And I say “most” Americans because after experiencing health care of other countries I didn’t realize how bad I had it.


I can empathize with people who have steady jobs, employer covered insurance with reasonable co-pays not being interested in change.  However having had major health care issues in Mexico and Nicaragua and smaller but non-trivial check-up type exams in Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador, even that insured service isn’t great in the US.  (Sherrell would be denied insurance coverage in the US because of pre-existing conditions, making coverage unattainable in the US for us).


As an uninsured foreigner, for example, I can walk into a clinic, see a doctor ($4.18 in Ecuador to $50 in Mexico), discuss my problems (no time limit), and get recommendations for tests.  I can then walk into a testing facility, either independent or associated with a hospital and get my testing done that day (assuming I don’t need to fast or something unique for that specific test).  I pay less than $200 (even for complex tests) and walk out with my results in my hands.  I can then choose to go back to the previous doctor (the follow up is often free), or take my results to other doctors and shop around for opinions.


If I need hospitalization the costs run between $15 (Ecuador) and $200 /night (Mexico), with $100 (Nicaragua) being more common.  These prices are all inclusive of care and medication at high-end modern facilities designed to US standards and there are cheaper options of course.  They are fully staffed and are often certified by American Quality Assurance companies for safety, cleanliness and training.  The same goes for the medical labs with certifications for both equipment and training from international organizations (usually US).


I don’t claim to know all the ins and outs of the finances behind each country’s system.  However looking at the WHO rankings I see these countries are no where near the high US costs and yet doctors are still paid well which I think is very important.  For people who need special high cost operations and have to go through the fully covered insurance of a socialized program, progress can be frustrating and slow, but at least they can get help.


While I don’t trust politicians, I do think a new approach is needed to health care and trying just about anything is worth the risk.  The worst that could happen is we could increase the deficit and the same people don’t get health care.  It’s not like we are going to war where people will die and trillions of dollars will be lost.  I really don’t think the hostility shown against the new plan is warranted at all.


In Costa Rica employers pay 9.25% and workers pay 5.5% to the health care system.  The overall amount is much less than is spent in the US and yet not everyone is even close to being covered in the US.  People like Sherrell are SOL for coverage in the US and the costs are so high forget paying it out of pocket.


Health Care is like dealing with cancer, there is no good solution.  No one is going to be jumping for joy but I think the US can do a lot better if they suck it up and try something new rather than complaining.


The history of Costa Rica’s system which is 68 years old and has both public and private option for full coverage.  The system is very interesting and mirrors the US debate, only in 1941 when it started, not 2009.  Looking at the history shows me why there are a lot of dollars being spent to lobby congress as the public option helped keep the private sector from reaping billions in profits.  http://www.ticotimes.net/topstoryarchive/2009_08/082109.htm  However it is a system similar to Canada, which the US is not going to adopt, but many of the arguments in 1940’s were the same as today in the US and were proven to be invalid.


Unfortunately I feel the US health care plan will probably be whittled down by big money and be too little too late.  And people like Sherrell will still be un-insurable.