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Thursday, September 26, 2013

September 26, 2013-Rhythm of life in Cartgena

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Watching the America's Cup

There is a certain rhythm to our life here in Cartagena; one which is not too dissimilar to the rhythm of life we've experienced in other ports where we've tied our dock lines for various indefinite periods of time.

Morning exercise: a brisk walk along the waterfront in our neighborhood, then breakfast, and after that, some boat chores outside if we can take the heat. Lunch, a siesta when the heat of the day drives us under the air conditioner, and later, maybe a trip to town for shopping, laundry, or errands.

Evening? A cocktail and a movie onboard. Or perhaps we'll go out with friends we've met here.

And we let time pass.

This morning the Culo de Pollo, the sudden Cartagena squall called "ass of the chicken", visited at 07:45 AM, just as Judy was getting ready to go shopping with a friend. She didn't go. You never know when the Culo will come. When it does you deal with it. That's why we don't want to leave the boat here and travel anywhere in Colombia; we're afraid of the Culo de Pollo. Today we were OK, it wasn't too bad. But we watched the bumper cars happen among the boats in the anchorage as several dragged anchor into others.

Culo de Pollo is part of life in Cartagena, part of the rhythm.

We live through it.

One activity which had taken up our afternoons for a couple of weeks has been watching the America's Cup. They were tearing up the waters of San Francisco Bay this month and we could pick it up live on YouTube so we'd go to a cafe or bar nearby or to a friend's apartment where the Internet was good. Watching Oracle Team USA fight it out with Emirates Team New Zealand was compelling. I wasn't originally in favor of the new format, made for TV, with short races along the city front in San Francisco in monster winged catamarans, but it was spectacular.

Absolutely great racing, and seeing those 12-story high, 72 foot cats, flying eight feet over the water at 45 knots, held us spellbound. At first it looked like the Kiwis would run away with the match as they surged ahead 8 to 2, but USA got its act together, and then some, and won eight straight races to defend the cup.

We were sad to see NZ lose, and they, and their whole country, are certainly feeling worse than that, but that's racing. We doubt if we'll see teams like this sailing these spectacular, and spectacularly expensive, boats again so we are glad to have seen it.

There are some other diversions. Completing the boat projects are always at the top of our daily agenda. We get a lot of satisfaction from fixing something or making an improvement on Wings.

This week we got our anchor and chain back from the shop where new zinc galvanizing was applied. We're hoping this will extend the life of our old ground tackle for a few more years. We've had this chain since Seattle in 1994. It was re-galvanized in New Zealand in 1999, and since then we've just reversed it a few times. By the time we sent it in this time was very rusty and made a royal mess of our deck and anchor locker but when it was delivered to the wharf near the marina, after sandblasting and getting a nice new zinc coating, it looked pretty good. We paid the shop bill and then labored in the unmercifully hot sun for an hour to put new depth markings on it and load it back into the boat. That was heavy work and we were drenched with sweat when we finished, but it's done.

We also have been working on the Dingy this week which has been leaking for a while, but from where we could not determine. Moving the chain in it last week made the leak worse and then we could see the problem: the floor was coming loose from the transom and water came in freely. We put the dingy on Wings' foredeck and re-glued the loose seams. That was another hot job but perhaps a bit easier than packing anchor chain around. We hope that our fix will work.

Now we are planning a short cruise to some islands south of Cartagena and we hope to get some sailing in. Later, in November, we'll haul and do the bottom and repaint the deck after our last deck paint job failed to adhere properly.

After that? Probably Panama. We don't know for sure when we'll leave, but probably before the year is out, or maybe we won't.

We'll keep you updated.

Click here for more Cartagena photos

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Cartagena


Thursday, September 05, 2013

September 5, 2013-Making Charts

wingssail images-judy jensen
Making Charts

We love charts; charts are the navigator's treasure. The navigator hungers for the newest chart and he pours over each latest cartographic acquisition to see if there are details which his old charts lack, and to see if there are depths given for the tiny inlet he intends to traverse. The navigator loves his charts.

For years we collected paper charts. We had charts of all kinds, from NOAA, British Admiralty and chart copies, which were of dubious quality but which we could more readily afford. At one time we had several hundred paper charts, a stack over a foot high, and those charts provided coverage for most of the world. There was always a paper chart spread out on our chart table, often coffee stained and damp, with pencil marks and position fixes drawn all over it.

Then came electronic charts. We bought a set of CMAP CM93 charts from a book store in Port Vila, though they were certainly pirated, back in the year 2000. They turned out to be copies of a CMAP demo which had somehow gotten into the wild where it spread rapidly. During the years that followed most cruisers acquired and used CM93 charts and the CMAP program. They became a standard. Cruisers traded them with each other and still do.

We quickly adopted electronic charting but we held onto our treasured paper versions for years because who could trust the electronics aboard a vessel? Finally we decided we could trust the electronics, (as long as we had plenty of back-ups) and we sold the paper charts. We moved on.

Now we use OpenCPN, a program developed by some technically savvy boaters and distributed for free. It is very good. But the charts are still what make it useful and we now have updated versions of the CMAP CM93 charts. We have twenty eight thousand CM93 charts to be exact and we collect them as assiduously as we did our paper versions years ago. They cover virtually the entire world and the detail for most areas is astonishing. However, in some places, unfortunately many of the places we wish to visit, the detail and accuracy is lacking in CM93. This is because they were made for and are primarily used by commercial shipping. If the big ships go there CM93 has a great chart for it but for that small cove where we might like to anchor, well, sometimes CM93 isn't the best.

Many countries however still create paper charts and they are often far superior to the CM93 charts for those countries. Colombia is one of these places which makes charts and we have a good set of Colombian paper charts with much better accuracy and detail than our CM93 charts for Colombia. The Colombian Navy also has excellent electronic charts but these don't seem to be available for private use.

So what do you do when you can't get an electronic version of the best chart? You make one. I've long known it was possible to convert paper charts into electronic ones but it has always seemed too difficult. Now, though, to get these fine Colombian charts we have into our OpenCPN system I decided to learn the process and I've succeeded. With a scanner, Adobe Photoshop, a small conversion program called imgkap, a binary file editor, and some software I wrote in excel, I have worked out and perfected the process to convert paper charts into electronic charts. I have now converted a number of these excellent Colombian paper charts into electronic versions which are fully integrated into our OpenCPN system with our existing CM93 portfolio. They look as great on the computer as their paper versions do on the chart table. What is better is that I can repeat the process in the future with any good chart we find. This has been a fun project and a great success.


Now we just have to get out of the slip and use them.

Day on the water with friends

Click here for more photos.

Fred & Judy, S/V Wings, Cartagena


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