The last eletter described our ‘normal’ life in Mobile -- obviously too normal for us, so it is time to move on. In the time before Thanksgiving we will have given up our jobs, our phone, our convenient internet connections, and our safe, secure little spot on the dock here in Mobile.
Our projected course will take Windigo briefly to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana; Galveston & Corpus Christi, Texas. On or about the first of February we will sail across the full expanse of the northern Gulf of Mexico from Corpus Christi to St. Petersburg/Tampa, Florida. I am very excited anticipating an offshore adventure of greater scope than I have previously experienced, Karin is less enthused, although very willing to make the 800 nautical mile voyage.
We have been working on boat projects busily for the last couple weeks. Karin has sewn new UV cloth on two of most-used foresails to protect them from the Caribbean sun. I have been working on the roof for our cockpit & helm enclosure. I’ve reproduced the double bow roller I designed and built in Door County before launching Windigo, this time out of aluminum. It is now mounted on the boat and holds the anchors nicely.
I am improving Windigo’s computer network and electronic navigational interface to increase stability and features. We will have wireless email at sea through our SSB radio. A new VHF radio system provides two full-featured units – one at the helm and one inside the cabin. The connection of the radio to the GPS and its new antenna system provides one-button automated distress capabilities. The instruments of the NEXUS system will display information from the computer network and vice-versa.
We have done “annual maintenance” on the wind generator and water system. I have been patiently waiting for some company to manufacture an HID lighting system based on the newly invented 12-volt DC ballasts. Sylvania finally did, and I am installing two metal-halide lights on the spreaders to illuminate the deck and the area* in front of the boat at night. HID light fixtures provide very efficient illumination of a “color” that simulates daylight. These lights will allow us to work on deck and see objects afloat in our path at night, but most importantly, they will illuminate Windigo completely to assist larger vessels to avoid collision in the dark of night. (“the area*” extends ½ mile ahead of Windigo!)
We really had to chuckle at the media, residents and general feelings here on the Gulf Coast during “hurricane season”. I had been through this before in the 70’s when I lived in Biloxi, Mississippi; but either forgot or did not fully appreciate the total wimpiness of a population that has really mundane weather 320 days a year. What it is, in a nutshell, is that they had a hurricane here in mobile 23 years ago that blew things around in a 30-mile wide path for a few hours. It wrecked homes built on a barrier island. A sand barrier island out in the Gulf of Mexico. Duh!
O.k., it knocked down dozens of trees at Spring Hill College, too. Although that’s well inland, it is the highest point in Mobile County. So anyway this storm happened three decades ago and now when a sub-tropical storm moves around out in the Gulf within 600 miles of here, everybody talks ONLY about the “hurricane” and all that it COULD do. The tides move a couple of feet higher or lower than normal; it rains for a couple of days, and then returns back to the normal repetitive weather pattern. We had a grand time touring the area marinas on Pedigo.
It is a good excuse to close schools (which they also do when it gets down to 30°F. because there might be ICE on the roads!!!) and we had a neighbor in our marina that last month used a storm in LOUISIANA [yes, that’s TWO states over] as the excuse for running his boat up on the rocks and sinking it at the entrance of Mobile Bay. I swear, if there were a good ol’ Milwaukee snowstorm here, with 12” to 18” falling at once, three to four thousand Alabamians would perish. [Very few could believe I actually rode my bike to work IN THE RAIN!!!]
The weather here in Mobile is becoming what it was last December when we arrived. We enjoyed the “storm season”, but now it will be chilly and breezy for a couple months. We are looking forward to the warmer waters further south in the Gulf. We have logged over 700 nautical miles on Mobile Bay since our arrival. We have had 28 passengers/crew aboard and dozens more dockside visitors. We participated in two parades and one race celebrating the TRIcentennial of Mobile (yes, 300 years old!). The last parade was organized at a meeting at Fort Conde in downtown Mobile. This is a French installation that has been here since the first days of the city. Besides the museum/fort setting, there was food of every variety catered in for the event. I thought Karin was going to eat herself sick on shrimp, her favorite food.
Speaking of Karin and sickness, she has discovered the ultimate method to avoid seasickness. Although she has never been seasick aboard Windigo, she has been close, and wishes to never experience the full effect of mal-de-mar. The new method incorporates the ancient principal of acupressure into a high-tech product that has FDA approval. It is non-invasive and uses no drugs. It also boasts of curing an episode of motion sickness once it has begun, something most drugs cannot do. It is called a ReliefBand and is worn as a wristwatch on the inside of the wrist. It is powered by a watch battery and applies a periodic pulse of electric current to a nerve in that area connected with the portion of the brain that deals with incongruities that cause nausea from sensitivity to motion. I’ll keep you updated to the efficacy of the device.
I had a good experience working at Silver Ships, welding aluminum boats, installing electrical systems, finishing up a couple of home projects, and I had a couple chances to go out on the water in a few of the finished craft. One trip was to test the righting capabilities of a SOLAS approved 4-meter rescue boat. When I inquired if I was chosen for my USCG rating and Captain’s License the answer was ‘no’. I then guessed it was because of my electrical knowledge and many years experience troubleshooting and repairing complicated systems in the field. Again the answer was ‘no’. So I finally surmised that it was that fact that I lived aboard and being on the water daily gave me an insight into things marine-like. When I was told ‘no’ this time I simply asked, “Why am I going down to the test?” “Because you are big and heavy and dumb enough to get in the water on an upside-down boat.”
I did get to pilot one of the three Jamaican Gunboats later, though. It was a treat to skim along the surface of the water at 40 knots in a 44’ boat that weighs as much as Windigo. These boats are powered by twin Caterpillar diesels connected to jet-drives, turning out over 1300 horsepower. The drives may be shifted from full-speed forward to reverse without throttling down. I did that with just the starboard engine and went from a straight-line at 40 knots, to a 360° circle within the length of the vessel, and back on plane again in as much time as it takes to drop the mainsail on Windigo. Oh, but the fuel bill!
Because of my association with Silver Ships, I was able to work a deal to purchase a demo welder to carry aboard Windigo. This isn’t any ordinary welder, though – it utilizes technology just a few months old. It is a Lincoln Electric TIG / stick machine capable of welding steel, stainless steel, aluminum, magnesium, titanium, copper, bronze and all manner of exotic metals. It can easily join ¼” plates, and thicker metals with greater preparation and several passes. It weighs 33 pounds and runs on Windigo’s inverter system so is able to weld “at sea”. One more tool for Windigo Skilled Services. Cool.
Being this close to New Orleans, it was an easy decision to make the trip there to see the spectacle of Halloween on Bourbon Street. Jim Kasdorf made the trip from Milwaukee to dress-up and see what makes New Orleans home of the wildest street parties in North America. The photos speak for themselves. (I Saw Elvis.) Costume contest entrants: Kevin; Karin; and a TOP TEN qualifier – JIMBO!
Upon meeting Joe Bru last March, he was a typical family man: owned the house he lived in with his wife Jeanne and their kids Megan & Dylan. He worked in a hospital, as did his wife. They spent weekends down at the Marina on their 34’ trawler, a beautiful Marine Trader. When he mentioned he would like to move onto the boat but his family probably wouldn’t go for it, I commenced to recite a list of advantages for the whole family and insisted he should do whatever he could to allow his family to share in his dream. Well, last month they untied the lines and are heading for the Bahamas! The children are being home[boat]-schooled, Joe & Jeanne sold their house, vehicles, ski boat, and left their jobs & cares behind! The American dream takes many forms.
I have included a photo of our HoopDeCar, as promised in the last letter. Karin drove it up to Columbia, South Carolina to see her son Nicholas graduate from Army Basic Training (good job Nick). We will be using it to drive to Arizona to visit my Mom & Dad next week, and then some lucky luxury car owner wannabe with $3000 will be driving it. It has served us well while in Mobile, and will always be remembered as our last car. . . .
One last note:
I have worked since 1997 designing and installing a simple yet complete electronic navigation and communication system aboard Windigo. I utilized all my years of electrical and computer experience to create a reliable and useful tool. The single most expensive item placed on Windigo during the extensive two-year refit was a weatherproof, helm-mounted LCD computer screen. I researched the purchase extensively (most of you know how cheap I am) and bought an Ocean PC brand 15” monitor from Jim McCreary Enterprises in Lockport, Illinois. Since I received the unit the first time and discover shipping damage, it has been nothing short of a disaster. While most everything else we fit onto Windigo either worked great from the start or required a minor bit of tweaking, this monitor has been shipped back FOUR times to the manufacturer, DigitalView in Morgan Hill, CA. Ocean PC has since gone out-of-business (no wonder when they sell crap) and Argonaut Computers have taken over the miss-management of the Ocean PC brand name.
Presently, the monitor is not sealed & allows water into its case. The membrane switch is so unreliable that turning the unit on and off is a gamble at best. A defect in the screen puts a green vertical line across the entire display. And even when it turns on, and is only ‘fogged-up’ and not ‘soaking wet’, the display is intermittent and usually unreadable. All totaled, I have had maybe a month of sporadic use of the monitor. It was not worth $165/day.
Mr. Jim McCreary, (to whom I wrote the FIVE THOUSAND DOLLAR check to purchase the unit), has up until recently arranged for the unit to be shipped back and forth, not getting repaired. He has not been able to refund any of the money for the defective unit, nor has he been able to comply with requests to exchange the unit for another more reliable one – even one of lesser value.
Mr. George Kioutus of Argonaut Computers declined a request from Mr. McCreary to make good on the defective unit. This did not surprise me, as in a past matter, Mr. Kioutus forced me to pay $90 to replace a floppy drive for a computer still under warranty. [A $3000 dollar computer which I could have purchased elsewhere for much less without Argonaut’s “armor” - which is $1.79 of rubber glued to the outside of the computer. What a rip.]
Mr. Neal Wood of DigitalView, although handling the defective unit FOUR times without repairing it, says there is nothing his company can do as the Samsung screen in the unit is no longer made, and besides, they are “not responsible, as we only built the unit according to Ocean PC specifications and they are out of business”.
Sorry for the diatribe, but unless somebody makes a stand in these matters and attempts to reveal the true nature of the customer diss-service, these companies will continue with the “it’s not our fault, you’re screwed” attitude until they are all out of business. I needed to blow off steam and will refer hundreds more of prospective customers to this URL as I travel the world.
Fare Thee Well, Mobile, our unexpected host for 2002. . .
Our permanent and EXACT address:
Capt. KL & Karin Hughes
S/V WindigoIII • PMB 365
88005 Overseas Hwy. #9
Islamorada, FL 36033-3087
NO Cell phone number!
And a soon to be activated HAM address for TEXT ONLY messages (received on our SSB radio):
Latest big shot article on internet:
and of course, the Windigo Travelogue Catalogue: