Thursday, November 23, 2017

T Mobile is Not a Good Data Service for Sailors and the Company treats Non Americans in Dreadful Fashion

Vero Beach

This year the Budget Committee approved the expense of a cellular data line while we were cruising down the Eastern Seaboard.  We were interested in using the internet to obtain weather information while underway

We chose T Mobile as the rates were good and, according to the office in New Bern NC, coverage was great.

Well ... coverage is not great.  If our boat was actually in a city we had some connection to the T Mobile network but  if we were only 4 miles offshore even of a large centre there was no connection at all.

Our experience is that T Mobile has effectively no coverage in coastal North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia and only spotty coverage in north Florida.  Now that we are in Vero Beach at the municipal marina we have service but only 2 bars.

This was not the phone.  We use two phones including an old Alcatel which has our Canadian service on it.  This second phone uses the AT&T network when we are in the USA.  The second phone almost always had service.  

So our recommendation is not to use T Mobile on the Eastern Seaboard.


This month the local T Mobile office suggested we upgrade to a two line system for old people.  They call it their "Over 55" plan.  We all know what they mean.

The problem was that the local office could not get my credit approved.  Non American ID is unacceptable.  Even my Nexus Card which is issued by the US Federal Government was unacceptable, I assume because they had figured out I was NOT AMERICAN.

At one point T Mobile staff asked if I had ever used any of a list of names instead of my given name.  I had not and have not and answered accordingly.

My credit approval was put in abeyance.  When I called  T Mobile Customer Service to find out why I was hung up on by the staff person.  Calling back and a trifle irritated at this point I was informed that my request had been refused because I had lied in answering the questions about my use of other names.  

So instead of upgrading our service with T Mobile we have switched service to Consumer Cellular.  So far the system is easy, I have four bars of service and I do not have to deal with people who either hate foreigners or are too stupid to know how.

Significant Improvements by US Customs and Border Protection

Vero Beach, FL

Recent experiences with the American Customs and Border Protection Agency leave both The Budget Committee and me impressed.

Staff the Morehead City NC office were helpful and caring in dealing with our needs and in offering advice.

Staff at the Ft Pierce Airport office, which cruisers must visit if they are in Ft Pierce or Vero Beach area, showed the same high degree of knowledge and of attention to getting done what was needed.

We left both offices encouraged and with positive attitudes towards American authorities.  Dealing with another country's rules and regs can be daunting.  Most of us want to follow the rules but the process can still be tension filled.  

Both the Beaufort NC and Ft Pierce FL offices made it easy for us to do what needed to be done.

Thanks guys.  

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sailors Do Two Things in Lake Worth: They Clear In and then They Clear Out

16 09 2016
Lake Worth (West Palm Beach) FL

I come not to bury Lake Worth but to Praise it.

At first glance you would be inclined to think Lake Worth was named on Opposite Day.  It does much to commend itself to that view.


As a sailor from a foreign land (foreign to the USA that is) we need, on entering that vast frightened country to clear customs and immigration.  We need to obtain clearance to operate our boats in their blessed waters.  Rules must be followed and obeisances observed.

Often immigration and customs officials are outright jerks.  Small minds filled with tiny bureaucratic authority can create nightmares for people who just need the paperwork done, who wish the USA no ill and who resent having to kiss the ring of some uniformed ego who never quite graduated from high school.  Yes I am a bit of an elitist.

Lake Worth is not like this.  If you have customs and immigration paperwork that needs doing we strongly RECOMMEND you do it here.  The immigration and customs office is easy to access from an anchorage, the staff have never been other than polite, knowledgeable and efficient.

For sailors it is important too that the inlet to Lake Worth is easy access.  We do not recommend you try it against the tide, not in your little 40 hp 40 foot cutter rig but if you are sensible and even sort of get Canute's meaning when he was demonstrating his inability to order back the tide then the entry and egress of this inlet is easy peasy.

This year our dinghy would not float.  It had two deflated and uninflatable tubes and a six inch rent where the bow fabric had separated.  So we could swim to Homeland Security or take a slip in a marina and walk.

Hence our only visit ever to Riviera Beach Marina. Now look.  This place is for credit card captains.  Or as the Budget Committee, who is both Dutch and sort of accountant like and therefore hates change, calls them Cheque Book Captains: those guys who have a cheque to write for every problem that ever beset them or their boat.

Located close to Homeland Security offices this place is grand.  Staff are plentiful and, God can testify they help you.  They catch lines; they insist on tying up your boat.  It would be really really annoying if the staff were not so damn nice about it.  Insistent even.

From the RBM you can catch a Number One bus on the local bus system.  Fare is $5 for an all day pass or $3.50 if you are a senior citizen.  The bus ride is a hoot.  The driver knows all the passengers and the passengers know each other.  There is joking and laughing and a great deal of camaraderie.

The number one bus takes you to the Publix where you can buy everything in air conditioned splendor.

However normally we cannot afford or justify the Riviera Beach Marina.  It cost $91 US which is a bloody fortune in Canadian money.

So for normal unbeset sailors our recommendation is simple:

Come to Lake Worth Inlet, anchor and dinghy to Riviera Beach Marina.  Pay the $15 landing fee and walk to customs.  Clear in.

That done just Clear Out.

But do not condemn that which you do not know (or like most of us, will not pay for).

The bus by the way is almost exclusively black and Mexican.  They let us on anyway and treated us like we belonged.  This is a great place. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Icefields Highway

2014 07 19
Victoria, BC

Let me tell you, in a brief thousand words, why you should pack up the car and drive four thousand kilometres across Canada to look at what could be described as a bunch of old rocks.  Here is why:

The icefields Highway runs from Jasper, Alberta south through the Rocky Mountains following for most of its length the Athabasca River.  It is one of those things you should do before you die.  If you are a Canadian well...where the heck have you been?

We did not take many photographs.  There was no need.  This trip will not be lightly forgotten and the photographs are such a tepid representation of what this is all about that they do nothing to rekindle the memory.

Here are the few we took:

The Icefields

Athabasca River in the Foreground, Glaciers to the Read

The Waterfalls Well A Very Few of Them Anyway

The Wildlife - We Stopped to Watchfully (for Momma Bear) Take a Quick Look

Baby Bear Just Fooling Around on the Side of the Road
You cannot imagine what we did not photograph and we could never impart what we felt.  Rock your boat.  Disturb the tranquility and come here.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to Make Your New Windows 8 Computer Bearable - Short of Loading Linux

2014 07 16
Victoria BC

Connie and I are in Victoria visiting with our daughter and lazing about in Canada's LaLaLand.  

Yesterday I purchased a new (to me) laptop.  Might not.  The computer came loaded with Windows 8.1.  AAAARGH.  Finally I had to face this plague and pestilence which has been visited on humanity by Steve Ballmer and the Microsoft demonology.

Immediately I started to "fix" the problems that, after only two program installations were driving me nuts.  Just as I had heard from others.  

There are ways to lessen the pain.  Here are two fast and easy fixes that will turn your computer back in time to the easy sensible days of Windows 7.  You still run Windows 8 but it works a lot more like Windows 7 which we all know and love.  

These tips are not original but are among the best and first "fixes" anyone new to Win 8 should consider.

First: Rid yourself of the need to "login" every time you start your computer

If you eliminate the annoying and seemingly mandatory login inflicted on you every time you reboot your computer you also do not have to create an account or register with Microsoft and you avoid having to create an email account with those NSA loving miscreants.  So doing you help, in a small way granted, thwart the data monsters from owning your thoughts.

1.  To get the stupid logon prompt from forcing you to sign up with Microsoft and logon every time you turn the laptop on do this:

Go to the "Search" Charm (really, the microsoft morons call it a "charm", I guess because they want you to think it is magic as opposed to, say, programming.  I half expect a leprechuan to jump up and prance around my screen for goodness sake.)

In the box provided type in "netplwiz" just like this:

Hit Enter.

A new menu will pop up.  Uncheck the box labelled  "users must enter a user name and password..." like this.

Click on OK.

A new window will open up and ask for your password.  (I know, I know.  This is what you want to banish but trust me this is the very last time you will have to do this).  Type your old existing password into the boxes in the window both times (insult to injury but Steve Balmar does not give up without drawing blood) like this:

Click on OK again and keep doing that until all the windows close.  

Congratulations.  You have now eliminated one of the most annoying interferences with your daily life.  And now to slay the next.

Second: Go Back to the Old Windows 7 Start Screen and Start Menu

It took but a day for me to realize that I was never going to get along with Win 8 and its "magic" approach to an operating system.  Magic and spells and charms belong in church with the rest of the voodoo hokem.  

Some bright and generous programmers have provided a program for Windows Operating System called Classic Shell.  The program is free and can be found here:

Download it, double click on the .exe file and wait a while.  It may seem like a long while.  Then, after a minute or two, move your cursor to the lower left corner of your screen and click the window pane there.  You will be given a choice of how you want your Windows 8 to be serviced up.  

Choose Classic Startup.  

That is it.  

With both fixes installed you can reboot your computer and it will automatically start with the windows desktop, just like win 7 - AND THERE WILL BE A CLASSIC START MENU.

Just like the old days when Windows still worked.

More Microsoft Perfidy - UEFI and Booting Live USBs

Actually by the time I had found and loaded the fixes I was several hours into my Win 8 ownership.  It was nonsense I sorted out.  This was when I decided to try a version of Linux I really like called "Bodhi".  It used to be easy to load Bodhi on a USB stick and boot your computer from the USB.  This allowed you to test the Linux software without having to partition your hard drive and install the new OS as a second boot option.  

Oh, but Microsoft has been losing a lot of customers to Linux.  Too many I guess because with Win 8 comes a new boot system that makes booting from a live USB just about impossible.  Sadly for poor Steve Balmar all this did was make me desire even more a complete wipe of the hard drive and elimination of frustrating impossible Windows 8, a program written by the company that lead the charge to selling out their customers to the NSA.

This blog was posted via Linux from my newly wiped laptop.  Not too shabby, eh?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Starting Over

10 07 2014
London, ON

The Blog is changing and will be unavailable for a bit. Actually it may be out of action for a few weeks.  We are concentrating on our daughter's wedding in London, Ontario and some other great family events. 

We intend, Insha'Allah, to sail a chunk of Newfoundland in the summer of 2015, and the blog will be up and running long before this.  If you are interested please contact us and we can do a flotilla.  Believe us when we tell you the St. Lawrence River is unparalled sailing.  The Gaspesie is home to fantastic sailing.

Connie spends her time wrestling some first rate recipes into "doable on a boat" form.  Here's hoping her efforts pay out.  So far even the failures have been spectacular in a good way.

Bob has discovered the Arduino and the Raspberry PI and has disappeared into his "Library" where he is prototyping a host of new devices to aid in running or monitoring the boat. At least that is how he explains the cloud of burning phenol board hovering around the door. 

Like the explosion of new life that presaged the human race Bob expects most of his creations to fall afoul of some subsection or other of Darwin's immutable law but if even one survives ...   (not coming from Texas we accept evolution as a valid theory of how some things are explained.  We figure that God might well have chosen the evolution system to achieve his goals.  Assuming God exists of course.  Which he doesn't.  But let's not confuse the fundamentalists.  They carry guns.)  

If anyone has questions on the old blog or wants information on any topic previously published please contact us, Bob and Connie at  We love to chat.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Eustatius to Samana, DR

2014 04 17
London, ON

It was a quiet day and night out of St Eustatius, us motoring in no wind.  There were no problems with the diesel nor have there been any since the Antiguan departure.

Dawn saw us coming up on the BVIs.  Our intention was to motor straight through this charter boat haven, hopefully managing to avoid contact with any errant credit card captains.  The country is a small one and an hour of concerted motoring saw us in and out of the closely grouped mountain tops that comprise this Caribbean nation.

Since leaving Antigua we had been augmenting our daily download of the grib weather files from sailmail by listening to Chris Parker who maintains a daily Monday to Saturday voice weather forecast. 

Our plan had been to sail from BVIs to Turks and Caicos and then run up the east side of the Bahamas before cutting west to find Florida.  The BVI gribs suggested this was a bad idea with strong adverse wind and huge waves due to hit Turks and Caicos just about the time we would.  Chris Parker's forecast supported our assessment as did the NAVTEX broadcast out of Puerto RIco.  

Reluctant to give up a very good plan we hedged our bets.  Leaving BVIs we sailed more west that we otherwise would have making distance along the north coast of Puerto Rico.  The forecast did not improve so it was obvious that our plan was dead.  Time for a new plan.

Already halfway across Puerto Rico we decided to commit to  the Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic.  We had to cross the Mona Passage, a reputedly hazardous body of water separating the islands of PR and DR and if all  went well we would be into safe waters of Samana the night before the strong northerly winds and waves would hit.

The Mona Passage was a non event.  Luck was with us and with no weather briefing at all we hit the perfect day for a crossing.  Sundown saw us motoring into the bay in front of the town of Samana.  Our hook was down and we were enjoying a cockpit cocktail before dark settled like a blanket around us.  

It would be three days before we stuck our nose out of the Bay.