The Poster at the Memorial Service

I am aware that most of you were not at the memorial service, but would like to have been. And I know that many of you had your own little formal memorial service wherever you were, scattered around the globe. And we all do, and a sense every time you think about how lucky we are to have known Janet and to have spent 10 minutes, or a year, or 40 years with her. I replay that thought countless times every day. How the heck did I get to be so lucky? (I think that is much better than spending any time thinking about how the present situation sucks big time.)

But, the main reason for me writing this right at the moment, is that I would guess that not even everyone at the memorial service had time to go and really read from top to bottom the very nice poster that David Roberts and Nancy Sosnoff brought and had in the back of the room. They first saw that poster during their bicycle trip in the Czech Republic last Fall and as I remember the story David was frozen in his tracks when he saw it. He said something like that is my life’s mantra! I have never seen it written down before.

Well, Janet and I did our best to live by the rules on that poster even though we had never seen it written down either, until David showed it to us.

When I first wrote this I had several misunderstandings. I have rewritten this paragraph and think that I have it right this time. But, we will see. The poster originated at

And they will be happy to sell you some. They also have other products that may interest you. Mostly I am curious as to where they are located. 10 minutes of searching their website yielded not a clue. David Roberts says USA. But, apparently at a Secret Location. (Later I found it. New York, NY.) See the 2nd comment below for the full address if you care.)

I don’t think any of us are saying that the message on the poster is perfect, or the only thing you need to remember about life. In my case, I just say that it is incredibly well done. Just one of the many incredibly well done and incalculably valuable things that I have learned during this nightmare of the last three years.

So, I respectfully suggest that you go read it slowly from top to bottom. Pay attention to the punctuation as it is not always immediately obvious what word follows what word unless you do.

And on the subject of Dave and the chaos aboard Alegria, I will say that I thought I was all done with the mast boot on Thursday evening. That is the flexible diaphragm where the mast comes through the cabin top that we had last rebuilt in 2008, and was beginning to leak just before I got back to the boat. Bless you Ian for creating a water shield inside the boat to protect the sensitive bits below the leak.

I actually had it all put back together and had put away almost all of the many tools when I realize that there was a slight flaw in my latest design. So I had to take much of it apart again early the next morning and put some super duper Marine sealant around the area that I thought might give us trouble someday. What I forgot, since I’ve not use that sealant for for five years, was that it takes forever to become tack free. As I worked in the area I was constantly touching it with the back of my hand, or tool, or some part of my clothing, or the power cord for the electric drill. It is black and very sticky and it makes a magic marker look positively tame.

Thank goodness I had plenty of paper towels, and a large supply of lacquer thinner, and am not easily prone to bursting into shouting and cursing. I’m sure that you have all been there. When you step in something or start transferring something with incredible marking power, you absolutely must nip it in the bud or there will be 807 little black nose prints all over everything in God’s creation.

I had to keep that darned stuff nipped in the bud over and over and over again. It also meant that I could not put the protective cover back down on the top of the whole thing for probably a week. Because it will press on the fresh sealant and it takes 10 days to cure to a depth of 1/8 of an inch.

I don’t know if all of you have seen the Walt Disney film, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” But that is how I felt most of Friday. There were long periods where the more I tried to fix things, the worse things got. Big time!

But, I like to think I know quite a bit about the situation, and it certainly seems like it is not only waterproof, but because Steve Gross generously gave me a large piece of a special rubberlike sheet called EPDM that is extremely sunlight resistant and I used that to cover our previous successful but not terribly long-lived diaphragms using wetsuit material. Both of those materials should be waterproof. The EPDM should keep every ray of sunlight off of the wetsuit material. So the two together, will hopefully last a long, long, long time.

I assume that it is due to being near the time of the equinox that we are getting beautiful sunny days frequently punctuated with fairly substantial, brief rain showers. So far, there is no sign of any leaking whatsoever.

Another project that I have been working on is organizing the files and paperwork that are necessary in today’s world. We have built some small file cabinets aboard Alegria and I was trying to find some more manila file folders, in town just now but I had not a clue. When I returned empty-handed, the Marina manager suggested several likely shops and pointed them out on the map that I printed out. So I will try them on Monday.

In the final days before I left America, I tried to organize the very large file drawer of papers that we had accumulated during our nearly 3 years. I distilled it down to about a three or 4 inch thick stack of papers that I brought back with me. But obviously they need to be filed in some sort of manner that one has a chance of finding them when you need them. I have already gone through quite a few of the papers on the boat and gotten rid of perhaps a six-inch thick stack since I returned. So there should be a net benefit and there is a another large file drawer that I need to go through. IMHO one cannot just grab a handful of paperwork and throw it in the trash. Some of these papers are important financial documents, or receipts for equipment that is still under warranty and will be needed if there is a warranty problem. Many of them are instruction manuals for things. I’m quite aware that I may be the only person in the world that ever reads an instruction manual. They don’t seem to come with many things anymore, because I assume they realize everyone threw them away immediately. But, they routinely saved my bacon.

With almost 3 years of disuse, our gas cook stove was not burning cleanly because the little holes that the gas/air mixture comes out through were corroded and smaller and rougher than they were designed to be. But I knew to go get the manual for the stove, where, when the burner was brand-new we measured what size drill they had used to make the holes, and many times since buying the stove in about 1995, I have cleaned out the holes to their original diameter. A few of the holes have gotten too large and there is a way that that can be fixed also. But we found replacement bronze burner parts in Portugal that were far better than the original cast iron parts that came with the Force 10 stove, so someday, but not very soon, I will take the sample parts and walk around town and see if I can find replacements. Otherwise I may have to go back to Lisbon to that little shop. I think I still have their GPS coordinates.

It is very common in the Mediterranean cities that we have visited for the streets in large parts of town to be extremely complicated and illogical. The streets just go every which way. I wondered for a time if the rectilinear grid that is so popular in America is a modern invention. But apparently it existed at least 2000 years ago it just didn’t really catch on until the last couple of hundred years. This seeming randomness of streets combined with very imaginative or nonexistent numbering systems and street naming systems, got us started using the GPS to at least get as close to the desired spot. Someone said that the European equivalent of GPS was going to be out in a few years. I’ve been hearing that for quite a few years. And they said that it was going to be very accurate. Well, the existing GPS system is quite accurate if you buy the fancy surveyors quality GPS. 12 years ago I saw someone surveying water valves and small fittings in the sidewalk and street of a large city in the Southeast US with a GPS that fit in a backpack and you had a staff sort of like a wizard might carry. They would hold the staff on the valve in question for perhaps 30 seconds and then walked to the next one and repeat. When I asked the operator, she said that it gets you within about 6 inches of the right place. I know that back in the 1980s that land surveyors had devices that would get you within about a centimeter of the right place, but they had to sit in that place for several hours or maybe days. And there had to be extra GPS transmitters located within a few miles on a known benchmark to help correct for the errors that are caused as the radio waves come through the atmosphere.

The units that we have are generally within about 20 feet or so of where you think they are. Which is useful for many things. Even though the maps and charts are sometimes off hundreds of feet. While waiting for the office manager to return today, I read that there are places, in this case in the Red Sea, that are off 15 miles! Since they were trying to navigate through coral reefs that have very narrow channels, you really had to keep your eyeballs peeled and it was suicide to travel when the sun was not high enough in the sky and the water smooth enough for you to see down to the coral in your immediate vicinity. We have done a bit of that kind of navigation and while at times it can be ridiculously easy, it also can be frighteningly dangerous and difficult. The GPS has been an incredible improvement over celestial navigation. Which is what we used for many years. If you are within 5 miles of where you thought you were, you are very pleased. But, I think it’s safe to say that no technology in the next 50 years will completely replace a good pair of eyeballs standing in a high place near the bow of your boat.

Speaking of modern uses for the GPS. In the Azores there is a volcano called Pico that you can Google and read interesting things about. It is quite a perfect cone and is the tallest mountain in Portuguese territory. Many of our friends climbed to the top of it. How I talked Janet out of that climb is a story for another time. But, several landlubbers and a single-handed sailor friend of ours decided to climb it one day and the landlubbers made fun of the sailor when they notice that he was carrying his GPS. It seemed to them that it was a beautiful day. You could hardly get lost. If you want to go to the top of the mountain walk up. If you want to go down the mountain, you walked down.

But, the joke was on them, when near the top of the mountain the clouds came in. The mountain is much taller than the common clouds in that area. When you’re inside of a cloud it gives a pretty good imitation of thick fog. While the mountain looks like a perfect cone from a distance, there are relatively small areas of cliff here and there that would do quite a nice job of killing or maiming you if you stepped off of one. Because it is normally so easy to navigate the mountain, there is not a clearly defined trail. You just walk up or down on a gigantic tilted pastureland. There are some very tall fence-post-like sticks every quarter mile or so. Easy to see in nice weather. Impossible to see from inside a cloud.

So the landlubbers quickly stopped laughing and were very interested in having Roger demonstrate how his GPS worked to follow back down the bread crumbs that the GPS had created electronically on their way up. So, one never knows when is going to be very nice to know a sailor.



3 thoughts on “The Poster at the Memorial Service

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