Chess, The Boat and Southeast Alaska

The last months, Ti got to calling me “mister chess”, which replaced “mister com’on” as her main moniker for me. I earned mister com’on, by being ready to leave the house sooner than she and saying com’on, let’s go a bit too much. She learned to give me a 10-minute delay, “Don’t come down to leave until I tell you”, which solved that problem.

My Chess Game

For much of the winter, I would play chess on my phone against the app, in my spare time. I realized that while I have always really liked chess, playing it with friends and lovers ended up being a lose-lose for me. I don’t like being competitive with my significant other and even playing with her son Thien, who is a good beginning player, I didn’t want to beat him, so I would give myself a handicap and then be irritated when I lost, because even though I didn’t want to win, I am competitive and don’t like losing. A no-win situation or lose-lose.

Micah (my nephew and crew in 2016) and I played a board game called Empire Builder all the way from Ireland to Panama for that 10-month journey. It was a great game, because unlike chess, I felt I could experiment with different strategies that kept the game interesting for me. It wasn’t just about winning but coming up with new ways to win. While Micah was very competitive, and he beat me two thirds of the time and at times he accused me of not trying. But I was trying, just in my own way. Once I found a winning strategy, the fun for me was to change the strategy and see how else I could win. As I said, more often than not, it didn’t work, but I liked trying and didn’t mind losing to Micah as he is very smart, and he always made my brain work hard to succeed. A win-win.

But for me chess is different, and I realized I just don’t like playing against people, any real people, but against the computer is fine and enjoyable. Much like Empire Builder, I aim for about a 50% success rate, at which point I have the computer play at a higher skill level (basically it takes more time to go thru moves). Now I still got really irritated when I would lose stupidly, but I like the challenge.

My Stats so far

To a certain degree, being up for the challenge is why I love teaching and education. In the classroom or in a school there are always challenges. I like the fact that these challenges change from kid to kid, from day to day. I get true satisfaction helping others help themselves.

That’s also the connection I have to boating and Dauntless. If I can help someone else not do the stupid, costly or just plain not needed thing that I did, I feel valuable, same as helping a student see why we have seasons or where the copper in that penny in our pocket was made.

So, it was a bit of a shock the other day when I realized that I had not played chess since getting back on Dauntless weeks ago. I wondered why?

Teaching, whether to adults for children, exercised my mind, like running a marathon, without ever leaving the room.

Being back on Dauntless, now presented me with a number of challenging systems’ issues:

  • Rewiring my mast, moving instruments to collect better data and reduce cabling issues, so I’m not climbing up the mast in 15-foot seas because my wind instrument is not working and the higher the winds, the more I like seeing the numbers!
  • Moving my fresh water tank selector valve to a place that is more accessible
  • Moving the water maker test port and selector valve out of the engine room

These types of problems give my brain all the exercise it wants. I don’t need chess for now.

 

I also have some boring jobs:

  • Replacing the seals in my water maker
  • Taking my heat exchangers to be tested
  • Replacing anodes (zincs) in said heat exchangers.

    A little light project to see my fuel sight tubes and filters better

But when I finally get to those jobs, I will probably play chess again, because those jobs are just that, jobs. No challenges, I can’t make something better, all I need to do is make it the way it was.

Easy, but boring.

And that’s where Southeast Alaska comes in. Much like the Baltic cruise on 2015, I so looking forward to Southeast Alaska:

  • New cruising grounds,
  • new cultures to learn,
  • new people to meet,
  • new places to go
  • beautiful nature.

I can’t wait.

 

 

 

Teamwork

It’s 20:30 hours. I had a glorious day in all aspects. The weather could not have been better, 72°, light breeze. Dauntless is under the roof, no problems with sun or rain. Of the two projects I started out this morning to get done: one’s done and the other two are almost done.

this picture was taken just 5 hours before my departure. I was so enamored with the sunset that I really did not look at the situation.
Notice the solar panel array on the port side stern of the sail boat in front of me.

But this evening, I felt a disquiet. My project list is not even a quarter done and I’m leaving for the winter in 5 days.

Then I realized it’s not about progress on the projects, days left, or anything else. It’s that I’m alone.

But even that is not so simple. In fact, my happy meter is well above my “normal”. Boat wise, relationship wise, career wise, pretty much everything, I’m quite happy about.  So why the grumpy face and thoughts?

I’m not feeling lonely; but something is still missing.

Then it occurred to me. My entire life, from as early as I can remember, has been about teamwork. Working with others to a common purpose.

I can’t even begin to tell you the times I sacrificed personal accolades for the sake of the team.

All my successes in life can be attributed to building and nourishing successful teams.

Even when I started my teaching career, I did not become a successful classroom teacher until I realized that I needed to make the students in each class understand that they were a team and needed to help each other for their own learning, not for me.

As a high school principal, it was harder, because professionals in education have never been taught anything about teamwork, but the successes we had were all because the entire staff was working together for the good of our students. Sure, there were a few bad apples, but despite them, we got a lot of kids to college and success that would not have happened otherwise.

Then, I look at the other side. Even though I was quite successful selling cars, I hated it. The General Manager at a very successful dealership once made the comment to all in our sales meeting that, “Bost, probably tells everyone that he is a lawyer” I wondered how he knew, though I didn’t pick lawyer, I just never told anyone I sold cars.

While I was successful there, I was a duck out of the water.

With my project list for Dauntless, the list would feel less daunting if my teammate was here. Teammates don’t let you get overwhelmed with small stuff and they convince you the big stuff isn’t so big.

Even better, teammates give you that Cesar Milan nudge or click, that gets you off the obsession and back on track.

That’s what I miss. Otherwise it’s too easy to go around in circles or become obsessed about the unimportant.

In teaching, once I realized that I had to convince the students that they are a learning team. One time, I noticed one of my special colored pencils was missing from my grade book, that was open on the first row of desks. I used color codes for different types of work. I was irritated about it and started complaining to the class about my missing pencil.

In a New York minute, which in this case was probably 30 seconds, one of the students calls out, “OK, we get it Mr. Bost, now can we move on”

I snapped out of it. It was the nudge I needed.

(A couple of days later, in walking around a different class, I saw my pencil in front of one of my problematic students. Without a word and I just took it back.  Months later I finally got that student to start working and she passed with a 72 out of 100 on the NY State Regents.  She worked hard, finally. How we got there, is another story, I’ll save for the book).

And I wouldn’t have spent 3 hours on the Maretron power problem without checking the fuse from the very beginning.

Oh Richard, since you know the circuit had power until you shorted it, why don’t you check that fuse once again?

Oh yeah, that’s probably better than spending the next three hours on this connector!

 

Maretron or Not

For a little, non-electronic boat, I sure love my Maretron data. I have 9 modules:

  • two to communicate with everything else, (USB, IPG) and the N2K Viewer
  • two for the fresh water tanks, (TLM),
  • one solid state compass, (SSC),
  • one GPS, (GPS),
  • one depth sounder with paddle wheel and lastly, (DST),
  • the love of my life, my (WSO), the weather instrument.

The solid sate compass seems to work better with my ComNav autopilot. In addition, it gives me the roll and pitch data I often quote in my blog.

The weather instrument is also solid state with ultrasonic wind measurement.  Considering I installed the system myself over 4 years and 20,000 miles ago, I’ve had few problems.

A glorious day in Vallejo, under a roof, with the mast down, facing aft

Coming west across the Atlantic, the constant winds behind us and to the side, from 15 to 35 knots for 528 hours or 22 days (No, I didn’t stop to change the oil) took a toll on my connections on the mast. Everything still worked, but occasionally, if a line got caught it would put enough strain to disrupt the connection until I freed it.

So, one of my projects now is to redo all the connections in the system. I  also now slather everything in dielectric grease. So much so, that I almost put it on my pancakes the other morning.

One of the offending connectors

So, the day started out so very well. Sitting on deck, with the mast down, Dauntless under a roof, protecting us from the elements and sun, I thought about climbing up the mast in Cabo San Lucas, in hot, 95° sun, holding on the mast with one hand, while trying to tighten the 5 little wires inside the plug just under the WSO.

I was in hog heaven. I carefully tool the plug apart, unattached the 5 little wires, and recut them all and trimmed them. Now, I knew power was still on the system.  Before I started any of this, I wanted to make sure that it was only the WSO that was incommunicado.  So, just as I was thinking that I would have to be careful in cutting the positive power line, meaning not to cut it with the ground wire at the SAME time; I did exactly that. The little spark, showed me that I’d f..ed up.

Sure enough, when I go below to check, now the whole Maretron system has no data.

Had I shorted out something serious? Was there a fuse in the system? If so, where was it?? Who the hell installed this system?? Oh, it was me!

Let me check the computer cabinet. Open cabinet and what do I see, the fuse block that I put in 4 years ago and even nicely labeled at that.

It went downhill from there.

To check the fuses, I had to pull them, to do that I needed to power down the whole system. That done, I pulled each fuse and looked at it very carefully. Very carefully (for those of you who already know the answer, don’t spoil it for your dear ones who are also reading this).

They all looked good. I powered the system back up. That takes a few minutes because the modem and router have to be booted up before the computer otherwise everyone gets confused.

At this point, I noticed that the little light for the Maretron circuit was not lit on the router until I turned on the computer. I hadn’t noticed that before. (and in the future, I will explain that issue).

No change. I went back to the fly bridge. One of dozens of trips I would make over the next couple of hours. I figured I had screwed up the wiring of the plug. I took it all apart again. I convinced myself that possibly the ground shield covering was touching one of the data lines. I put it all back together again, rebooted the entire system and alas. No joy.

At this point, I’d spent an hour on this. I pulled the fuses again. They still looked good. I even held them up to the light. But finally, just to be sure, I changed the 5-amp fuse that powered the Maretron system. Surely now, it would work.

Still No Joy. Now, more than ever I was convinced it was the plug. The plug was the only thing I had worked on.

Back to the flybridge. Took plug apart again. Put it back together again. Rinse and repeat.

I got my electric meter out (finally you think), check the plug for the umpteenth time. No power.

I go online and check the Maretron site. It tells me I should see 60 and 120 ohms between certain lines. I see exactly that. But still no power. I must have shorted something else out. Where did I install the power tap?

Oh, I remembered where the power tap was because it’s in the port side pilot house wire race that is so full of wires I have trouble getting the teak panel back in place.

Other than no power, the continuity on the plug and lines tested correctly.

I’ve been working on this for three hours now. I return to the computer and fuse block.

I finally decide to test for power in the fuse block. Umm, the Maretron circuit has no power here.

I pull that fuse and check it. No circuit. I check the old fuse I had pulled out, no circuit.

I got fuse number three and checked it, a circuit.

I stick it in and low and behold, power.

Two hours earlier I had replaced a bad fuse with another bad fuse. Both fuses showed no sign that they were open. Both had very clear “Z” wire that wasn’t broken.

One of the offending fuses

 

Self-Reliance

People tell me how brave I am to cross oceans in a little boat like my 42-foot Kadey Krogen. That’s a sentiment that always makes my uncomfortable. I know I’m not brave and I hate fixing things because I suck at it.

A 14+ foot Wave goes on its way

But I’m prepared, and I pride myself on being self-reliant.

That self-reliance trumps everything else. It tells me I Can Do It; even when waves are towering over my head, as we bob in the middle of ocean until I solve the problem.

That self-reliance washes over me like a breaking wave, letting me sleep at night, enjoy the day and think, reason, all the time.

My mother and god-mother were always quick to relate the story to anyone who would listen of when I was very young, so young, that I have no recollection, of me crossing the street with my god-mother and my tricycle. Getting to the curb on the other side of the street, my god-mother went to help me lift it onto the curb and sidewalk, but I didn’t want any help and became adamant, yelling, “Self, Self”, evidently the only words I knew at the time.

24 Dec 2006 15:40 Soon to be stuck

That’s not bravery, I just didn’t want any help. My self-satisfaction comes from getting the job done myself. When I must ask for help, I feel a failure. I wasn’t prepared.

Like one Christmas eve before Dauntless came into my life, my wife and I were on one of our winter adventures, this time on the Gaspe Peninsula, well north of Novia Scotia and north of New Brunswick. We found ourselves stranded on a mountain trail. (Google maps depicted it as a road, but in fact it turned out to be a skimobile track, as I discovered trudging thru the heavy snow looking for a place marker) I had strayed off the snow-covered road and the right side of the Jeep was in a deep ditch. After spending hours doing everything I knew to get us out, I finally relented and called the Canadian Mounties. Another hour later, they showed up with a tow truck, who pulled me back onto the road and we were good to go again.

I was bummed that we’d had to call for help and further bummed that we were so close to getting over the mountain heading to the coast, and now, we would have to backtrack and take the long way around. As you know from my experiences in Cabo, I hate turning around.

24 Dec 20016 15:48 I think I got stuck now.

But only a couple hours later, ensconced in a warm, little restaurant, that was luckily open on Christmas Eve, another adventure that ended well and a lesson learned: when in Quebec, learn French.

While I no longer have that Jeep or that wife, I still find myself reflecting what I should have done differently. After years of thought, a little fortress type anchor with a come-a-long, would have gotten us out on my own. I think!

When I became the commander of a weather station in Alaska, while in the U.S. Air Force, I remember my commander making it clear to me that my job was to make sure he never heard from me. No news was good news.  That was simple, direct and effective.

The Cute place we found for dinner. All’s Well that Ends Well

Of all the organizations I have worked for and with, I found the USAF to be the best at teaching leadership and thus building consensus within units. For people who have never served in the military, the perception is that it is a top down organization. In fact, that’s not the case.

Our military is not like the German’s of WWII, in which the SS was tasked with executing German Army members found to be retreating or the Russians, who had political minders in every unit ready to shoot anyone who turned their back to the enemy.

Our military leaders, officers and non-commissioned officers (sergeants) are taught to build consensus through trust and respect. Nobody is going to charge that hill if they think, you, as their leader, don’t have their best interests in mind.

It’s why when push comes to shove, I think we do have the best military people in the world.

Taking the leadership skills, I learned in the Air Force suited me well in my education career. When I became the principal of a failing school in the Bronx, I did turn it around. To do so, I needed the support of the teachers, which I had, despite a couple of malcontents.

In fact, despite them, we were able to make significant changes to our programming, like adding block teaching classes and longer one-hour periods, that required the approval of the teachers and the teacher’s union representative. Every year these initiatives were approved because of consensus building. Our results reflected this success, with a more than doubling of passing scores on the years’ end tests and our graduation rate. Chancellor Klein said to put the kids first and I did. Simple.

Now a normal minded person would think that self-reliance is a good thing. I don’t take it to extremes, I’m still not stuck in the snow waiting for spring.

So, what’s the downside?

I never recognized that my immediate boss in the NYC Dept of Education, hated my self-reliance. It was my Achilles heel. I thought our data spoke for itself. Our school was doing much better than our peer schools. But New York is nothing if it’s not political and I’m not so political if you haven’t noticed.

When the regime changed, my focus on students and their success, no longer mattered. My supervisor didn’t want a self-reliant principal, she wanted a sycophant. I should have been calling her every week, asking for advice, letting her help me wipe my ass.

But then, had I done so, I wouldn’t be here now. I wouldn’t have Dauntless and most of all, you wouldn’t be reading this.

I like being self-reliant.

 

 

 

 

Who Can Say No to Hitchhiking Boobies?

Certainly not me.

The stop in Xtapa gave me a chance to reboot my mind. It was fitting that the trip ended at the same high stress level as just after leaving Huatulco. Having to enter a strange harbor and marina at night is always stressful. My depth perception is askew. Everything seems significantly closer than during the day. I have to force myself to trust the instruments.

We docked without incident, as usual. Got a good night’s sleep. And then my HP Envy laptop decided to give up the ghost. It was not to be replaced/repaired for another month, when I arrived in southern Calif, so no blogging for a while.

While this may appear to be a relief, in fact, it was the opposite. Writing about my adventures, my mishaps, my miscalculations, allows me to reflect on my practice.

As a high school principal, I quickly realized that during job interviews, when I was looking for additional teachers, the outcome of the interview really came down to three questions:

  1. Was the prospective teacher intelligent, did they know their content area?
  2. Did they like children?
  3. Where they reflective in their practice?

I didn’t care if they knew how to teach; I could teach them that. But there is no way to overcome the negatives of any of the above three questions. You can’t make a lazy or stupid person, smart and not lazy. You can’t make them like children. There are too many teachers who teach because it’s convenient. In moments of black humor, we, principals, would say, they are here for the parking (some schools have convenient parking, some don’t).

And lastly, we live in a culture of blame. If things don’t go as we as we would like, we look to blame others, never looking in the mirror. It’s my parents, government, spouse, boss, fill in the blank’s fault. But good teaching practices only happen when the educator is reflective. After every teaching period, every day, every week, every year:  what could I have done better? How can I connect with that student(s) better? Why didn’t they understand_____? or something as simple as, what worked, what didn’t?

Reflection allows our brain to better organize new data, recognize mistakes or things we could have done better or even just differently. In writing this post, I remembered in my 4th year of teaching, I had put up a mirror on the entry door with the caption, “Meet the person responsible for your learning today”. Much like reminding people to turn off cell phones in inappropriate places, it’s a little reminder that can go a long way.

As the boobies started to congregate on Dauntless, first resting on the paravane pole lines and at the end of the pole. Then, an intrepid fellow managed to land on the bow pulpit rail despite the pitching bows. Once other’s saw his success, we because a virtual bus ride north.

They did promise to clean up before they left, but I suspected they would forget that promise. But as I thought about their lives, I thought about how good we, Americans, have it so good. There was one fellow who parked himself on the rail right near the pilot house door. He was keeping watch with me. When I had to go out to pee, I didn’t want to disturb him/her, so I walked thru the boat to the stern deck, instead of my normal spot on the starboard side deck (where the high side rail offers more protection from falling overboard).

The numbers increased every day, until that last 24 hours when the pitching became untenable even for them.   I think their coloring indicated they were juvenile blue or brown footed boobies.

Xtapa was a nice, albeit unexpected respite. It was 30-minute bus ride to Zihuantanejo. We ate, drank and slept well for 3 days waiting for the winds to subside.

 

 

 

 

Forests & Oceans

Seattle

The University of Washington, the Columns Grove
The University of Washington, the Columns Grove

Not the first place I communed with nature (is that now illegal?), but a most special place.  The University of Washington had a grove that was surrounded by trees, where the original columns of the University were located.  Since this grove was not a shortcut to anyplace, it was secluded and on a campus of 30,000 daily students, that’s not so easily done.

The University of Washington, The Columns
The University of Washington, The Columns

But it provided a peaceful place to commune with nature, think of the wonders of the world and a few times, commiserate with a girl on the special path that once brought us together, but was now going in different directions.  A grove full of beauty, but also melancholy.

In those days, the ‘70’s, what really made Seattle special was the ability to go in virtually any direction and find solitude, big trees and at worst, the occasional logging truck.  Many a night was spent driving around Mt. Rainier.  In those days, the mountain passes were kept open, yet at the same time, there was virtually no traffic after 9 p.m. so it was a quick four hour trip. By the time I left the UW 4 years later, there were few roads not traveled.

The University of Washington, the Quad
The University of Washington, the Quad

But the first place I communed with nature was not in Washington State nor the University of Washington, but instead in Washington Square Park, in the middle of a little place called Greenwich Village.  I’d ride my bike to the park and read James Fenimore Cooper, propped up against a tree.  I couldn’t be in the Adirondacks, so for a City kid, this is as good as it got.  Somewhat of a loner in high school, high school was chore to get done.  One of the reasons I think I was a good high school teacher, I understood the angst that high school brings to most kids.

The University of Washington
The University of Washington

Then as a principal, everything I did was to put kids first; the push-back from some teachers was intense and virulent, in a personal way that I had never experienced before, that people outside the system would find shocking. But it was the right battle to have at the right time and I had a wonderful team of teachers who supported kids and their learning.

Though It did get me to Dauntless, sooner, rather than later.  Fate is like that, a sweet kiss on the cheek as it smacks you on the ass.

So now I commune with nature on the seven seas.  Trading the damp smell of earth, the multitudes of forest green: ferns and grass, needles and leaves for the rhythmic swell of the ocean, whispering of storms far away, while dolphins frolic in our bow wave.

 

The Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean