Photo albums are being fixed

This post is a maintenance post about the Tahina Expedition site, not about our travels.

Unfortunately, when Google “retired” their Picasa Web Album photo service a few years ago they did not provide a transition method for the millions of web sites that used their service to present slide shows. For a while, they kept photo albums working, but that too went away. They did host the photos (at no charge with some resolution limitations) on their new Google Photos service. But, shockingly, Google still has not provided a slideshow embed capability on Google Photos so you could easily translate your old blog posts to point to the photos. I thought surely by now they would have done this. This is important here because we devoted most of our technological activities during our trip to using Google’s products (since we had a partnership) and Picasa Web Albums was the most used technology on the site. There are over 300 photo albums to be found here.

So, the photo albums on Tahina Expedition have mostly remained broken for a while now as I waited hopefully for a fix. I did find a method here that lets you get a link to the Google-hosted photos and with a few clicks, and some cutting and pasting on your web site code, enable you to embed a slideshow. It’s a time consuming laborious process. And, the resulting slides do not show the photo titles, or links to the geo-referenced map locations I created for most of the photos on our blog. I’ve slowly been updating the many slideshows on the site to at least be functional as a slide show, and provide a link to the Google Photos hosted slideshows (which DO allow you to see the titles to the pictures I created, and shows the map locations for most of the photos). I’ve been working both from the first posts forward, and the last post backwards. There’s probably nearly 100 done now. I hope to complete the project in the coming weeks. Please feel free to point out in the comments if you like the photos, and if you have a request for a particular post whose slideshow you want to see, contact me or leave a comment on that post and I’ll prioritize it.

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Map Showing Route To Raggeds Last Week

Below is a map showing where we went last week down to the Ragged Isles for some sailing, snorkeling and fishing. Google’s maps show pretty nice views of the islands and waters along the route. You can see where we sailed offshore for several hours to do the fishing. If you zoom way in on the Blue Hole icon you can actually see the blue hole in the satellite imagery. This map only shows where Tahina went, not where we went snorkeling, with the dinghy, or hiking on shore. I added some icons to show the key places.

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Mid-winter Visit to Bahamas with Guests

As planned, we escaped some cold weather in Raleigh, and Karen and I flew down to Tahina early January. We had moved Tahina to the Bahamas for the winter back in November, with the intent to visit a few times if possible. My sister Teresa and her husband Norm live in Pennsylvania, and were even more anxious to escape to warmer climates, so they were joining us for over a week.

We arrived a couple of days early to clean up and do what I thought would be a minor repair on the dinghy motor. Turns out the problem was beyond just the impeller on the motor. Something was blocking water flow inside the engine. I ran wires from both ends, cleaned all the water cooling jets (no blockages found), and even shot air through the system with a scuba tank. All to no avail and many hours wasted. The last thing left is to remove the whole lower head – which involves a gasket for which I didn’t have a spare. So, we decided we would just have to do without the motor. We used the oars and paddled our way to shore when needed.

Meanwhile, Karen and I cleaned and tidied, and then while cleaning the guest toilet, the pump died. Fortunately, I had a spare, but I had a helluva time connecting one of the wires inside the bilge and a lot of cussing ensued before that was done. Also, the fridge didn’t wake up from being turned off while we were gone. Couldn’t get a repair guy out soon enough. So, we opted to use the big freezer as a fridge instead. That worked out fine. We made a run to the groceries and paid hand over fist for foods, but we got a good selection. We also got the linens washed at the local laundry.

Teresa and Norm arrived the next day and the taxi brought them to town and I got a water taxi to take us back to the boat with their luggage. They were thrilled to be in the beautiful sunny skies and 80 F temperature. Spent the rest of the day settling them in, and confirming Karen’s menu selection was happily accepted. We enjoyed relaxing on the boat and planning our travels to the Raggeds. I gave them the news that tides demanded an early departure the next day, and they were too excited to complain.

We left before dawn relying on our lights and radar to avoid the many other sailboats in the harbour. We even sailed for a bit while we headed out of George Town, but the wind angle forced us to motor the rest of the way to our first island. We continued through Hog Cay cut – the shallowest point – just past sunrise and high tide. By mid-morning we arrived to our first stop. The Blue Hole Karen and I had visited last year when we first came here. After anchoring close to the hole, Norm and Teresa got to try out their snorkel gear and were thrilled to see all the many fish and reefs around the hole. Underwater photos will come later.

Watching sunset

Watching sunset

We spent the next several days anchoring off several of the Ragged Isles. We even visited one new island, but it we found we liked Flamingo Cay the best. It has three nice beaches, good protection, and some nice snorkeling too. We also spent a day sailing off shore so we could troll for some game fish. Teresa caught a big barracuda on the way out, and later Norm caught a nice sized Mahi Mahi which we saved for dinner (two nights). We had some fun exploring a couple of islands on shore and Teresa and Norm liked our favorite beach as much as we did. We also had a great encounter with two dolphin who danced off our bows for 30+ minutes. I’ll have photos and a funny video from that experience later. We also saw some nice sunsets and sunrises and enjoyed some nice meals throughout the week. Picture to right of Norm, Teresa and Karen watching a sunset.

We had one windy/cloudy day with a couple of very light rain showers. But, otherwise our weather was remarkably nice. We had a breezy ride back up to George Town and sailed the whole way including through Hog Cay Cut. Sailing was great! We got back two days early so Teresa and Norm could arrange for a bone fishing guide. They invited me to go along and we spent a whole morning learning about bone fishing. We all hooked one – they are big fighters! But, Norm was the only one to bring one all the way in. Norm also got compliments from the guide on his fly-fishing. It was a great experience, and I will have to do that again sometime!

We also went for dinner at St. Francis resort one night and Norm and Teresa got to try some conch (they had already seen live conchs while snorkeling and the empty shells on the beaches). They really liked the conch.

Below is a collection of photos from the visit – mostly from my smartphone (Galaxy S6). It does not yet include photos from our guests’ cameras, and I need to process underwater photos and videos as well. I’ll probably do another post later and/or add to this slideshow.

All too soon, Norm and Teresa had to depart. They were nice enough to totally clean up their room and the head before leaving. We organized both a water taxi (Elvis water taxi – yep, he must have retired to the Bahamas!), and a car taxi to the airport for them. Unfortunately, they were greeted with below zero temperatures when they got home. Brrrr!

We had two other pump problems while we were out with our side of the boat. I’ve fixed one already, and will fix the other one when I order a new one and bring it back next time. It was frustrating how many things went wrong this time, but since we haven’t been using the boat regularly things like this happen.

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Happy Holidays 2015

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to all our cruising/sailing friends all over the world! Although we aren’t on our boat this year (Tahina is currently waiting patiently for us in the warm waters of the Bahamas), we are thinking of all the many friends we made in our journey around the world. May you all be blessed with a wonderful holiday season, and have a prosperous and happy new year in 2016!

Karen and I are currently visiting with family in San Francisco, but will be returning to our current land-home in Raleigh, North Carolina before the New Year. We have been slowly adapting to living back on land, but plan to escape for a couple of weeks to Tahina in January. One of my sisters and her husband will be joining us there.

I had meant to post back in November that my nephew Jason and I moved Tahina to the Bahamas (after the end of hurricane season). We had such a delightful time in the Bahamas on our last leg of the trip, that we decided it would be a good place to keep the boat during the winter.

Hope everyone who is still following the blog are doing well and enjoying life!

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Tahina Getting Ready For Warm Winter

It’s been a while since the last update here on the blog. There really hasn’t been much to report on the sailing side since we haven’t been sailing. Our focus has been trying to settle into land-lubbing mode again. The good news is that we have both been eating healthier and have made progress on processing our stored goods we had left behind 6 years ago when we sold our house before the big trip. We still have a lot left, it’s going to take at least a couple more months to get through most of it. Our plans for what we are going to do next are still undecided, but we are making progress on that as well. Nothing to report yet though.

Meanwhile, as mentioned before, we plan to take Tahina to the Bahamas for the winter. That way we can escape to warmth when we get too cold, and get some cruising in! We have a mooring in the Bahamas we can use for less money than we are paying for a marina slip in NC. With the money we save we can buy a few plane tickets down there, so it actually won’t cost us much.

As is usually the case, we have a few maintenance projects before leaving. Yesterday, we fixed an important issue: our B&G 4G Radar is now working again! We lost the radar on the very last leg of our trip just 1 day from arriving to North Carolina. Over the summer, I sent the equipment back to B&G and they said the units were working fine. So, that meant the problem must be the radar cable itself. I got a new cable and yesterday we confirmed that was the problem when we connected it up there. So, we next had to cut off the end of the old cable and attach the new and old and pull them through the mast and the cable runs to the instrument station. When we pulled the old one out, we found a spot just six inches inside the bottom of the mast, where the cable went in, that was worn right through. We put a protective sleeve on the new cable, and added extra cable. We have no idea what could have worn it there. I may try borrowing an electrician inspection camera to look in there. It was a tough job, but we got it all done and the radar works!

Our other big job is to fix the hydraulic steering again. We had an expensive repair done in Martinique that was a complete waste of money. They guy replaced the bad cylinder with a new one, and then decided to inspect the old one as well (which had been working fine). The day we were going to complete the install (and we had scheduled to leave), he revealed the second cylinder was bad as well and gave me a “fully refurbished” used one as a replacement at “half-cost”. Guess what happened? Yep, the replacement leaks! So, we spent all the money and time and were right back where we started. So, I’ve ordered a new cylinder and will be installing that soon. The hardest part is putting the oil back in that drains out when you change out a cylinder. It takes three people and two or three hours of time. Boring, messy, and tedious. Yuck. By the way, I’m not happy at all with the outfit in Martinique called Caraibe Marine, the only Caribbean distributor for Lecomble & Schmitt hydraulics. Contact me to get details.

End of hurricane season is October 31, so we will move Tahina sometime after the 1st of November when the weather is right.

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Tahina Gets to Sail on Holiday

Girls on deck

Girls on deck

We had Labor Day weekend, the “end of summmer” holiday in the US. This was the last big weekend for beach goers and traffic should drop greatly in the coming weeks. A friend of our daughters is getting married soon, and she organized a bachelorette weekend at the beach. Our daughter Trisha asked if we could take the girls out on Tahina for a sail one day. We were lucky and this Saturday the weather cooperated and we were able to go.

We had to go north to the Masonborough Inlet (10 miles away), and there were hundreds of holiday boaters out anchored along the ICW and cruising up and down. I was at the helm constantly to keep an eye out for traffic. The NE winds brought crystal clear blue waters into shore so we had some beautiful conditions. We had some nice sailing past Wrightsville Beach. I think the girls enjoyed the experience.

Girls in the shade

Girls in the shade

It was great to get Tahina out on the water again and do some sailing! We spent the rest of the weekend cleaning up, and getting more stuff packed to take back to Raleigh. I also worked to re-install parts of the radar unit which was returned last week. Unfortunately, they didn’t find anything wrong, so we may have an issue with our wiring. It will be a big job if I have to remove the wire from the mast because two other wires will also have to be removed to make room for the connector to fit.

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Apartment Move-in

Moving into apartment

Moving into apartment

Time flies as we continue to transition to living more on land. Karen went to Houston to visit one of her sisters for a couple of weeks. I spent part of the time she was gone doing some little projects on Tahina. Our B&G 4G radar unit stopped working on the very last passage of our circumnavigation. After diagnosing with the tech support, they recommended sending it back. So, I had to go up the mast (with help from folks at the marina) to get it down. We also had a problem with one of the electric winches and finally determined it was a safety thermal sensor that had gone bad.

I did get to spend a weekend going on a camping trip with my long-time friend Andy and his two grown-up kids. We were lucky and picked a relatively cool weekend.

As soon as Karen got back, she went for a scheduled doctor checkup and we left that same day to drive up to Pennsylvania for a family event. One of our nephews just finished a tour with the marines, and we were attending a welcome home party. After a delightful time seeing a lot of family, we had to drive straight back from there to Carolina Beach (about 11 hours). The next morning, we had an interview with the local paper for a forthcoming story in the paper about our circumnavigation. That was this Monday.

Shortly after the interview, we had to drive to Raleigh to begin the move in to our apartment. On Tuesday we took the stuff we had been accumulating at Andy’s house from the boat and bought some stuff at local stores to begin the initial move-in. We also went bed shopping and got a new mattress scheduled for delivery on Thursday. Our daughter Trisha had arranged a day off from work on Wednesday, so we rented a U-Haul truck and she and I began the big trips to our storage units. We filled the entire truck with furniture, and many boxes. It was a long day though because we had to sort through and try to pick the stuff most needed, then we had to get everything to our second-story apartment.

Move-in day 3 we returned the truck first thing, and the mattress delivery happened shortly afterwards. The process of setting up furniture and unpacking began in earnest. Plus we made a couple of trips to stores to buy necessary items we couldn’t find in storage. Another full day.

From here we will go through the dozens of boxes filled with stuff we saved from the house. Soon we will start back to the boat and remove the vast array of belongings we accumulated for the long-term living on board. I’m hoping we reduce the weight by a couple thousand pounds.

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Tahina Expedition Selected as Top 20 Sailing Blog

Tahina Top 20 Sailing Blog

Tahina Top 20 Sailing Blog

Our blog has been selected by the UK’s Boats and Outboards news site as one of their top 20 Sailing Blogs in the world. They wrote a nice little summary about our blog and chose a nice photo of Karen and I. A high honor indeed! And we are keeping good company with our friends on s/v Totem who were also selected.

This is a nice tribute after just recently completing our epic journey beginning with the purchase of Tahina in August of 2008, and officially ending with the return of Tahina to our home base in North Carolina in June 2015. We have had hundreds of comments and E-mails from readers around the world, many of whom followed us from beginning to end. I especially am thankful to those who read it all the way through, because I know I can be a bit verbose at times. If you met me in person, you know I can be equally verbose when I start telling stories!

To those wondering about continuing plans for the blog, I do have several posts planned to provide post-trip thoughts and analysis. As part of this, I’m planning to provide a summary of the entire trip with links to the posts I think were most important/interesting. I also have a lot of work to do processing video from the trip that mostly did not get processed or shared to date. So, don’t delete us from your RSS feeder yet!

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Family Reunited and Health Insurance Craziness

Family Together

Family Together

This weekend our daughter Ren arrived from San Francisco for a weekend attending a bridal shower. This gave us an opportunity finally to have us together with both our daughters. The first time we were all together since November 2013. Both girls visited us at the start of the year, but on two different schedules, in South Africa. We were invited to a “luau” at a bar called Rum Runners in Raleigh on Friday night, so we got this picture of us. It was a good time with some entertaining music and comedy.

Our daughter Ren is also starting to plan a wedding for next summer, to her long time love Patrick. She went to try on wedding dresses and bridal veils with her mother and sister, and they had a fun time of it apparently. She actually found a dress she loves and we put money down on it. Oh boy. They also spent lots of time doing other planning. Still, I managed to spend a little quality father/daughter time with her before she had to return to California. She’ll be back in September for her friend’s wedding.

When we last left the blog, we were looking at health insurance. My friends, who were here while we were gone, assured me that the insurance premiums had gone through the roof before Affordable Care Act. I was still rather shocked at the premiums for two people of our age, with ridiculous >$10K deductables, and not a lot of cost protection from the out of control health prices in this country. So much so, that I considered finding out what it would take to keep our travel health insurance going, for which we had paid through the end of August.

That’s when I found out that our travel insurance didn’t cover us for as long in the US for a visit back as I expected. It turned out we weren’t covered! We briefly considered leaving the country that very night to get our coverage back in action (even called our friends in Toronto who invited us to visit them). You can imagine how this idea stressed us, with Ren not yet here and the possibility of our leaving the country. Karen said that no matter what she was going to be here for the wedding dress shopping. But, fortunately, the next morning my friend Andy put me in touch with someone who got us some short-term gap coverage for ONLY a few hundred dollars.

Meanwhile, we signed up right away for the health insurance plan that will go in effect on the 15th of July and paid our premium (that costs half as much per MONTH as our ANNUAL travel health insurance). Ugh.

My advice to anyone returning home after their journey, is to make sure you check with the travel health insurer to make sure they will cover you until you can get new health insurance. Ours had specific rules I was unaware of relating to returning that were different from just temporarily visiting our home country. Can’t say I blame any insurer for not wanting to cover anyone in the US without major money. While the US healthcare may be superior in some respects (debatable), the cost for medical care (and thus insurance) is just insane compared to the rest of the world. If practical, I would just fly out of the country to have healthcare done rather than put up with it.

We have good mobility with Karen’s new car, and have found an apartment. Move in date isn’t until mid-August, so we will continue living on the boat with trips to Raleigh and other places in between.

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Land Lubber Progress

We have been preparing ourselves mentally for our transition back to land. So, we aren’t exactly kicking and screaming as we start this process. However, that’s not to say our start has been barrels of fun.

We spent almost two weeks in the Raleigh area before July 4th (big thanks to our friends Andy and Aliza who let us use their house again – this time while they were gone on vacation). Our time was occupied by a number of “settling in” activities.

The biggest was searching, looking at, and ultimately finding an apartment with a six month lease so we can have a temporary home to sort through all of our things and decide what we are going to do next with our life. The apartment move in date isn’t until mid-August, so we’ll still be spending a lot of our time on the boat. Our friends Patti and Gerard are also going to be gone on vacation during part of July, so we have another house we can stay at in the Raleigh area as well. Big Kudos to Karen who started the apartment hunting process weeks before we got back to the US.

We also looked at a number of cars and found and bought one that will be primarily Karen’s. She got a SUV crossover which will provide some outdoor utility and hauling capacity if we need it for moving things. For myself, I’m struggling to decide what car interests me. And there isn’t a rush to get another car yet.

Meanwhile, we have slowly started reconnecting with friends and family, but it will take many weeks or months before we reach out and manage to meet up with even most of them. Especially with the other projects we have to do. And, once we finish with our family and old friends, we have quite a few new sailing friends, who have also moved back on land, we would like to visit with in many corners of he world.

Lastly, during the last couple of weeks, we started looking at American health insurance, and our initial investigations were as horrifying as we feared (ridiculously expensive). But, friends have suggested that the online marketplace we were using is not the best way to find good pricing, so we hope contacting insurers will result in better results. We think part of our problem is that we’re just joining in half-way through the year, and the new policies aren’t really designed for that.

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