Monday, August 30, 2010


Tampa Intn'l Airport
Headed to Washington DC

Hurricane Earl evolved while I was asleep at the blog.  I last checked in a week ago, when Danielle was but a Tropical Storm and Earl was a low pressure system just off the African coast.  Since then, Danielle went major, back to minor and Earl went straight up to a major category 3 hurricane, with 120 MPH winds, threatening my friends and colleagues in Puerto Rico.  Danielle is now a category 1 and ready to break apart as she continues lost in the cooler waters of the north Atlantic. 

I am headed to the Washington DC metro area this morning.  Earl has a chance to brush the Eastern US coastline from Carolina to New England.  Interests there should begin preparing for a major strike, just in case.  My daughter Stephanie is presently living on an Emerald Isle, NC, pictured below.  This is her first hurricane season and her first storm preparation.

I spend three days in California working my butt off, with 15 hour days for two of the three.  I then spent time in Arizona with my Dad, my son, my grandsons and my Mom.  I went to a 27th year mini reunion and took my Mom as my date, since she was a teacher at my high school for 32 years.  She was the life of the party.  Everyone was thrilled to see her.  I was amazed at how many of my classmates look like they just stepped off the pages of our yearbook.  It was a nice time for all, especially my Mom.  Here's a photo.

Stay tuned for hurricane updates all week  Until then, it"s boarding time.

Monday, August 23, 2010


click on pictures for full screen image

Tropical Storm Danielle looms in the middle of the Atlantic, far from any land.  Another tropical wave of low pressure is identified in yellow, just off the African shore.

Monday, 10AM at home with light rain
Leaving for California this afternoon

The fourth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season is alive.  Tropical Storm Danielle formed over the weekend and currently sustains winds of 60 MPH.  The 7 day forecast track of Danielle has her becoming this season's first hurricane on Tuesday.  Above is the cone of uncertainty.  The center of the storm could be anywhere within that wide cone or do something completely different.  Cones of uncertainty are based on past storms, in that area, at this time of year.  The more I learn about tropical cyclones, the more I believe that it is largely a guessing game.  Nonetheless, the "experts" do not believe this storm has any chance of a US landfall.  The island nation of Burmuda may be affected.  Danielle is moving north/northwest at 14 MPH.

Elsewhere in the world, Tropical Storm Frank is cruising the Mexico Pacific coastline with 60 MPH winds of his own (Pacific storms use a different name list from the Atlantic).  He is forecast to achieve hurricane status as early as tomorrow.  Pacific cyclones rarely impact the mainland because the prevailing westerly winds usually carry the storms further out to sea, away from North America.  However, Frank is just off shore of the Mexican peninsula and is a slow mover at only 4 MPH.  Mexican coastal communities could see anywhere from 3 to 10 inches of rainfall, with tropical storm force winds reaching up to 60 miles inland.

As I head out for work meetings in California, I don't expect to see any wind or rain from Frank because he is over a thousand miles away from Southern California.

Unrelated to either of these storms is a heavy downpour now hitting all of Southwest Florida, below.
This image was captured at 10:27 AM eastern time.  There's presently a pond forming in both my front and back yards.  My first thought?  It's good thing I finished aerating the lawn this morning.  It's just another day in paradise.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Click on picture for a full screen image

Home in Port Charlotte
High of 95, low of 79; brief shower

Today was car and yard day.  I took Kathy's car in for service and then to the car wash.  When I came home I mowed two lawns and trimmed some palms.  I took the debris to the dump station and then came home and showered.  Kathy and I went to the library, where I renewed my latest Travis McGee novel and picked up another one for the next couple of weeks.  I also picked up two more Jimmy Buffett CDs to enjoy; 2003's Meet Me In Margaritaville and 2006's Take The Weather With You.

After the library we went to Applebees for an early dinner.  We came home and watched a Netflix movie; Kill Shot.  It was just okay but the company and my new chair was nice.  I don't know if I blogged about the new chair but I've always wanted to have a theatre style reclining love seat and we got one recently.  It makes my time at home even nicer.

I recently acquired some chemicals to kill the undesirable weed grass in my yard but it will not kill my burmuda sod. Most of my yard is now browned out but it will be worth it, as the nuisance weedy grass (signal grass, crab grass and goose grass) was taking over my nice burmuda sod.  With the agressive weedy grass killed off, the burmuda can now spread and fill in.  After the movie I watered my sod.  Tomorrow I have to aerate, which is the process of punching holes in the grass so that water and nutrients can better reach the root zone.

Monday I fly out to Southern California for meetings at the mother ship.  Wednesday night I will fly into Phoenix for a few days of family time with kids, grandkids and parents.  Next Sunday I come back to SOFL, only to depart on Monday for an unexpected trip to Washington, DC for work.  If you are thinking you missed the part where I'm boating and haven't missed it because I haven't done it.  It's just a couple of days at home for me, which is a rare and cherished treat.

I recently got into back into contact with my oldest childhood friend, Mike T.  He and his wife Jacie are planning a visit to us in February.  I will take some time off to spend with them and do a few days in the Keys.  They've never been to Florida and Kathy & I haven't seen them since about 2005.

Above is a rainbow shot I captured last week while driving from the Atlantic to the Gulf side of Florida, on my way home from work.

I'm spending Saturday night at home continuing my latest Travis McGee novel and enjoying Barcardi Rum.
Tropical Depression 6 has formed in the very far east Atlantic.  It is forecast to become Danielle, possible a hurricane, as early as Monday.  It is also forecast to continue north into the Atlantic ocean and not make landfall anywhere at all, much less in South Florida.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Tuesday night
Hilton Garden Inn
Boston, MA
High of 93 but dry; overnight low off 64 expected

Click on pictures for full screen image

A quick trip to Boston was made more tolerable by spending a nice evening walking the Harbor Pier.  This is one of America's most history rich cities.  It's amazing to see signs commemorating towns founded in the 1600s when I know the US didn't declare its independance until 1776.  Seeing the amount of commuters who use the ferries after their workday was also interesting.  The weather here was not disappointing.  A high of 83 on Monday turned to 93 on Tuesday.  With low humidity it made it quite nice.

Last Saturday I intended to launch my boat and take 3 guys fishing off shore but once again I was fooled by a boat that didn't want to start.  The starter has been giving me fits lately but a quick rap with a hammer had previously solved the sticking points.  Saturday my rap came to an end when after over an hour of trying, I had to give up and cancel the trip.  No one was more disappointed than me.  Between battling the tides and the breakdowns, this boat sits more than it floats.

I knew it wasn't the batteries, as I checked them with a meter.  Starboard showed 12.6 volts and port 12.2.
I then tried to remove the starter, which couldn't possibly have been installed any lower in the bilge.  The first rusty bolt I turned broke off, leaving the threads in the hole.  Oh boy.  I have had it with this particular vessel.  I know many will say that all boats are money pits but our Sea Ray 330 never gave us fits like this one.  The Sea Ray motor bilge was big enough for 3 adult men to stand in.  This boat's bilge is a shoe box.  I can't get access to what I need to maintain it.  Now I see why smaller boats come with outboard motors; so you can work on them while standing.

Wednesday morning after breakfast in Baltimore I boarded the plane to Baltimore for a connecting flight home.  After a light lunch and an hour delay in Baltimore I got into Tampa at 2:15PM.  I arrived home at 4:30PM, had dinner with Kathy and then promptly departed again for a 3 hour drive across Florida to Stuart.  It's 9:18PM and I'm ready for bed.  I'll work two seperate branches tomorrow, Stuart in the morning and Fort Pierce in the afternoon before heading home for the weekend tomorrow night.  Next week I'm in California and then some down time in Phoenix.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


San Juan, Puerto Rico
sunny, with brief passing showers
high of 87, low of 79


After a week of work it was finally Friday and time to enjoy ourselves.  On Friday night David took us to the Caribbean shore of Ponce, PR.  We found a nice marina, boardwalk and pier.  There were dozens of little cafe bars.  One even had a book exchange for cruisers.  Now I really felt Caribbean.
On August 6, at 5:30 PM, I finally put my feet in Caribbean waters, near Ponce, PR. I had previously only touched the Atlantic waters of the island


On Saturday we travelled to the southwest corner of the island, to the village of La Parguera, population 1,200.  It's about 2 hours from San Juan, crossing the mountain ranges.

We rented a 15' skiff to explore the mangrove islands and swim in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean.

I must admit, I was a little apprehensive about taking this dinghy off shore but it turned out to be not only safe but very fun.

Expanding the view with the Captain and Crew

My friend, Jose, strategically places our anchor in the 5' deep water near the mangroves.

This area is very popular for boats large and small.

The clarity of the water here is unlike any I had previously seen.  We swam and drank beer.  We ate chicken we had bought at a roadside pollo cabon.  There were swimming channels through the mangrove trees where Jose showed us to dunk our heads and view thousands of minnow baitfish schools.  When we would extend our hand toward them, you realize how many there were as the entire see seemed to part around your hand.  Jose showed us a tree swing in the mangroves that had been there since he was a child.  We swam out to the edge of the bay, where the off shore reefs displayed beautiful waves crashing violently a few hundred feet away from us.  After gazing into the distance and dreaming of even more distant shores, I followed Jose's lead as we floated weightlessly and let the current carry us back through the mangrove channel where the boats were tied.

This trip deepened my desire to spend my retirement years exploring the Caribbean and the West Indies.

On Sunday, as my friend and host David travelled to a family reunion, I was picked up by my friend, Willie.  He took me to the mountains of Guavate, an area famous for pig roasting restaurants.  We found dozens of outdoor open air cafes and bars, known as Lechoneras.  Willie, a PR native with local knowledge, knew the best one to dine at.  We waited in a line for 45 minutes to order and it was worth the wait.  Roast pork, rice, sausage and roasted sweet potatoes filled our bellys, like the pigs themselves.

We had a beer and listened to some live music for a bit.  There were miles of these places on the mountains, along with street vendors peddling everything from shoes to housewares, bananas to bread fruit.

Upon returning to our home base in San Juan, some 5 hours had passed.

I spoke with my wife, Kathy, back in Port Charlotte.  She had been getting massive amounts of rain.  I checked the NWS radar and found a low pressure system was crossing the Florida peninsula, from the Atlantic to the Gulf.  Forecasters wrote if the system could stay together long enough to organize over the warm Gulf waters, it had potential to become a named storm.  Elsewhere, TS Colin reformed near Burmuda but remains no real threat with its 40 MPH winds.  Further east in the Atlantic, 1100 miles east of the Leeward Islands, a tropical wave of showers is organizing rapidly.  It has high potential to become a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours.  The next name on the list is Danielle.

Monday morning I fly back to the mainland and continue working the rest of the week in Miami Dade and Palm Beach Counties.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


San Juan, Puerto Rico
Low 79, High 86
daily periods of rain

I arrived here last night at 6PM.  We used to stay at the Marriott Isla Verde resort but since my colleague, David, is here so often he rented an apartment in San Juan.  For what he used to pay for a week in the Marriott, he rents a 3/2 furnished apartment for the whole month.  Whenever company folks visit from the mainland, they have the option of using the apartment and saving budget money.

There are currently 5 of us in the apartment.  David and his wife, Luz, an estimator named from Homestead, Mike, our sales guy, Willie, who lives on the west side of Puerto Rico about 2-3 hours from San Juan and I.  Willie took the couch so I had my own room.  It's no beach resort but it saves the company $200 a night and in this economy, the job I save may be my own.

Business here has exploded since my last trip here in April.  They have gone from 1 jobsite to 15.  Revenue has more than tripled since we opened the doors here last October.

Tropical Storm Colin fell apart late Tuesday night.  However it is now regaining some slight organization to where it may regain TS status later Thursday.  Either way, it is not a dangerous threat to the island.

I made the decison to improve my Spanish language skills so that I can teach all of my classes in Spanish, as well as English.  I am using the Rosetta Stone program and am quite impressed with the quality of the program.  I have been able to speak Spanish, so long as I control the conversation and the other person never asks me any questions.  Seriously, I speak more than I comprehend and even then, my grammer is poor.  I look forward to greatly improving my skills.

Monday, August 2, 2010

SPEND $1, SAVE $107

Home in Port Charlotte
short heavy downpour, 79*, 92% rh

If you haven't read yesterday's posting, read it before this one.

While posting the photograph of the hydro line I suddenly realized that it might not be the hose or line at all, but the lousy hose clamp.  I went to Napa Auto and bought a one dollar hose clamp that stopped the power steering leak.  I was able to cancel the order I had placed with Marine Parts Express, saving $107.  I'm sure the boat will find some other good use for that money.

The storm system I spoke of yesterday has been tagged as Tropical Depression #4.  It is presently 2800 miles away from my home port and forecast to gain to Tropical Storm strength as early as Tuesday.  The current sustained winds are 35 MPH.  The good news is that almost all computer track predictions have it going north in the Atlantic, well away from any US landfall.  It is a really fast moving storm, making its way across the sea at 23 MPH.  The organized center of the storm now is a fraction of the size of the original tropical wave that formed.

My boy Billy heads back to Phoenix tomorrow after a 3 week visit with Dad.  He starts his freshman year of high school in a few weeks.  This is my youngest and I can't help but silently chant....four more years....four more years.

We didn't do many activities together, during his visit, but we certainly enjoyed each others company.  All he really wanted to do was stay home and play his Xbox computer game.  I decided this was his summer vacation and if that's what he wanted to do, that's what I'd let him do.  We did enjoy a nice MLB game in Miami, when we were treated to second row seats behind the visitor's dugout.

I have really enjoyed spending 3 weeks without getting on an airplane. Wednesday I head back to the grind. I'm sure I will encounted wet weather in Puerto Rico as the outer bands of the storm pass by to the north of the island.  I will post updates here later in the week.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


6PM Update at bottom of page

Home Port
84*, 82% humidity
8am eastern
A large low pressure weather system is producing showers and thunderstorms southwest of the Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of Africa.  This is where many named storms are born.  The area depicted in red, in the above photograph is the system that has been slowly gaining in strength and organization.  There is a very good chance this will become the next named storm, Colin.  The area in yellow is a tropical wave that is less organized and producing mostly scattered storms over the southeastern Caribbean.  That system is moving toward Central America and is likely to break apart before full development can occur.  I will be watching the larger system closely since I am due to depart for Puerto Rico on Wednesday for a 5 day trip.

Closer to home we have been warm and humid all week with just isolated showers on occasion.  We haven't received any measurable rain at our house since Wednesday.  We have been in the mid 90's everyday and the humidity starts out at 100% each morning and stays above 50% throughout the day.  Our air handler, in the attic, started leaking through the ceiling.  I did the only thing I knew to do, use my shop vac to suck out the drain pipe, emptying the drip pan.  This didn't work so I went online.  I learned that when the temperature in your attic is 15* higher than the temperature in your house, this can create excessive condensation on the coil in the air handler and that moisture is not caught by the drip pan.  The solution is to create ventilation in the attic in order to cool it down.  Fortunately, this old house has an attic fan in the garage ceiling.  (I wonder why, duh?)  Our home, like many in Florida, has sliding screen doors on the garage front.  We closed the screens, left the garage door open about 1/4 and turned the attic fan on.  Not only did this solve the moisture drip problem, our whole house feels cooler.  At night, before we go to bed, we secure the garage and turn off the fan.  With nighttime temps in upper 70s to low 80s it doesn't seem to be a problem.

The boat saga continues.  During my last trip I found hydraulic fluid still leaking in the bilge.  I suspected maybe I hadn't tightened the hydraulic lines tight enough when I installed the new power steering ram.  After tightening them up I used my shop vac to suck 10 gallons of contaminated water out of the bilge and transfered it to homer buckets.  I took the contaminated water/fluid to the County waste station, where they took it for free.  I returned home to refill the hydraulic fluid resevoir with about 1/3 quart of fluid.  I had Billy assist me by starting the engine and turning the wheel as I stuck my head inside the bilge to look for leaks.  And leaks I found.  It wasn't coming from the lines where I had tightened them, it was coming from somewhere near the center of the engine.  After shutting down the engine I opened up my shop manuals.

I used the diagrams to trace the path of those hydraulic lines.  There's a supply line and a return line.  The supply line comes from the resevoir to the valve, or ram, and the return line brings it back, through an oil cooler or heat exchanger, to the power steering pump.  The pump has a purge valve that could activate in the event you over fill the system, resulting in excess fluid being sprayed out into the bilge.  I started my investigation there but didn't find any evidence of fluid anywhere around the pump.  The location of the oil cooler is more suspect of where I saw the drip coming from.

I crawled halfway into the bilge again, sticking my head waaaaay back and down behind the engine block.  (Man, our old Sea Ray in Arizona was a lot easier to get around.  It had an actual engine room where 3 adults could all stand together.)  I traced the return line to where it met a little pipe at the oil cooler.  As I touched the connection, corroded pieces of something came apart in my fingers.  I couldn't tell if it was paint flaking off, corroded metal or dried rubber hose.  With a flashlight I could see fluid had gathered beneath the connection.  I felt the return line connection again and came up with wet fingers, red like hydro fluid.  I think I've found it.

I brought Billy out to assist again.  This time, as he worked the wheel to full port and starboard, the shop towel I'd wrapped around the connection hemmoraged, blood red.  Shut her down, Billy, and schedule the old girl for vascular surgery.  I went to my local Volvo marine dealer and found the low pressure return line to be priced at $24.  The high pressure supply line, much longer in length, is $93.  The parts guy recommended changing both at the same time, although they didn't have either in stock.  He gave me the parts numbers and I went home to look online.  My online marine dealer, from Maine, has them for $22 and $81, with free shipping and no tax.  That's a savings of over $20, so I ordered them.

Below is a  photograph of the source of the leak.  It looks strangely like the photographs a doctor gave me of my appendix, while it was rupturing 6 years ago.  Boat-pendectomy anyone?

I just looked at the photos of the hydro hoses and I'm wondering if I haven't mis-diagnosed this problem.  I wonder if it could simply be a failed hose CLAMP, and not the hose itself.  Or it could be the actual oil cooler.  The picture I edited, pointing out parts, shows where the return line meets the oil cooler.  The little pipe that the hose clamps onto is very decayed and corroded.  The other photo shows a return line, where the fluid leaves the oil cooler and is returned to the pump .  Look how different the little pipe looks.  I'm going to try a new hose clamp first before it's too late to cancel the $107 order of new hoses tomorrow.  Stay tuned.  Any input is appreciated.

Above is the leak, where the fluid enters the oil cooler

Below is the other end of the oil cooler where the fluid goes back to the pump.

6PM update
A $1 hose clamp appears to have cured the leak.  I have cancelled the $107 new hose order.  I will keep an eye on it, moving forward.

The storm system described above continues to organize.  NOAA advises this system has an 80% chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours.  Colin's coming.