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Log for the week of April 7, 2002 New South Wales Australia by APW

The days now in Australia are starting to get shorter. It had been nice having the long days of summer- where the sun was still up at 8 p.m. Swimming pools around Sydney are sporting tarpaulin covers and all the clothing shops are now selling mittens and scarves. Our sun "DownUnder" is getting robbed by the Northern hemisphere, to thaw the ground for the first few blooms of daffodils and forsythia.

thanOur time with Nathaniel was far too short. Still, the 24 hours he spent in a flying aluminum box to arrive at the opposite side of the globe, in order to spend just one week with us, was more than just appreciated. After I went through customs, immigration, quarantine and the airport security where they tried to take away my hole puncher- (what was I going to do- perforate someone to death?) and seeing the drawbacks to jet lag- I have a new found appreciation for the backdoor entry we have into countries on board Iwalani. I had always complained that arriving onboard a boat was like coming through the service entrance. I will never complain again. Promise.

On April Fool's day we drove the seven hours up to Coff's Harbour where Nathaniel announced he would like to go surfing. After making some phone calls and finding out you can't rent surf boards, unless you are an experienced surfer, we decided to sign up for surfing lessons.

We arrived the following morning to Digger's beach parking area. After donning hardcore sunscreen a "rash shirt", and cool surfer dude shorts, we headed off to the beach, with our padded training boards tucked under our arms. Now I had always assumed that at birth an Australian came out attached to a surfboard instead of the umbilical cord- 'Not so' said our instructor, only three percent of Australians know how to surf. We started out on the sand practicing the paddling and correct method for attempting to stand on a moving fiberglass object without slipping off.

Our instructor, Danny, recited the steps while we went through the motions in the sand.

"Paddle! Paddle! Feel the whoosh- grab the board, hands unda yah ahmpeets, look to the right, right leeg forwahd, five toes down, knee up, bring yah leeft foot forwahd. That's eet!"

Handicapped surfboardWell it might sound easy, but I have to admit once in the water I got to the part where I sort of looked like an American Indian giving birth at the end of a bouncing diving board and that was about as far as I could get. But it really is heaps of fun, as they say, and they guarantee that after the third lesson I will be standing. Nathaniel, of course was whizzing in to shore like a pro after only a half hour. Phil, on the other hand, is only marginally ahead of me on the learning curve. But we have decided to continue on with the lessons without Nathaniel, as we have discovered the reason why surfers all look incredibly fit- it is wonderful exercise. Phil and I need to get ourselves back in shape before we set off across the Indian Ocean. Coffs Harbour has long stretches of white sandy beaches and some of the best surfing in the world, so it seems silly not to at least give it a try.

Mid-week saw the arrival of some fast looking racing boats with some equally fast drinking skippers. The peace and quiet on the end of pier three had been temporarily invaded, so we decided to pack up Neville and head into the bush for some camping. Phil looked at the map and picked out the Washpool National Park as a suitable spot. We drove up and over the Great Dividing Range, enjoying the incredible views and flora, deposited the requisite overnight camping fee of $21.00 into the envelope provided and followed the signs for the overnight camping areas. After making a loop and seeing caravans, camper vans and cars with pup tents all backed into tree lined slots, Marina style, with barbecues firing up and car doors slamming- I told Phil ‘no way. This isn't camping, this is torture. I would rather drive all the way back to the boat and go out to a restaurant for supper'.

We had passed a few dirt roads heading off into the bush before coming to the mountain range, which I have found are the best for finding camping areas. Drive down any dirt road, turn onto the next smaller dirt road, keep driving until finally you turn the corner and come to another rutted dirt road which leads to the prettiest little flat grassy spot along side a gently flowing river. There is usually a small circle of stones and some wood to get a fire started. No houses, no highway noise. Just the occasional far off mooing from a hereford or angus crossbreed, or the exotic sounds of a kookaburra, magpie and lyre bird. Stepping on cow-pies is more of a hazard than a redbellied black snake or funnel web spider.

view of the bushThis is the Australian bush. And to me, it has become one of the sacred spots on this earth. It is only a few miles inland from the coast. Its flora has changed from the original stand of she-oaks to eucalyptus and grasslands from the bush burning practices of generations of aborigines; long before the European settlers arrived. It is probably one of only a few places on Earth where man has made a change for the better in a landscape. The change to Eucalyptus and grasslands has provided the perfect habitat for koalas and kangaroos. If one travels inland further still one reaches the searing red hot center of the outback-which eons ago was under the sea. There are places in the outback not far from Adelaide, where underground chasms still connect to the sea. Aborigines would fish down these holes and end up with ocean fish- in the middle of the desert.

Phil and I had been prepared for a rude bush awakening by the tree top searing flight of an F-16 fighter jockey, but it never came- only the practice trumpeting of some teenage cygnets swimming around and around in the current-less parts of the river. They were trying out their full repertoire of tuneless belchings. Black swans are pretty to watch, gliding over a still body of water, but by morning's light the three of us wanted to wring each one of their gracefully arched cacophonous necks. Even the eagles nesting in a large tree just a few feet from our camp, would occasionally croak out a tired "shut up!" I guess it was better than being kept awake by fighter pilots, or partying sailors back at the marina.eagle nest

Before we headed back to the boat, we went for a short hot walk up a nearby hill and stumbled upon some dozing kangaroos. We had been giving Nathaniel the full marsupial tour, which included a jaunt to the local gunclub/radio controlled airplane field where we saw fifty-two kangaroos sleeping, suckling, and scratching on the well mown grass.

More than ever, I am fascinated by marsupials. Imagine being a female kangaroo. After about one month you give birth to a tiny joey, not much bigger than a gummy bear or newborn mouse. Giving birth is a bit of a misnomer as it involves no tearing out of the placenta, or "heavy dramas". The joey just sort of eases his way out and then inches his way up your belly climbs into the pouch, just like its out for an afternoon stroll. In the pouch its tiny little mouth finds one of four teats and begins sucking. It can remail pouch bound for up to eleven months. Some of the marsupials here don't even have nipples, just glands that secrete milky fluid into the pouch, which gets lapped up. After an average of ten months the joey says, "Boy, its getting kind of hot in here... " and boing! Pops his head out. What a fantastic system! No screaming, no bloodshed, no mess. During lean times the joey can stay stranded in the uterus, in a kind of suspended animation. When conditions improve it heads for the pouch. I think it is a serious design flaw that humans aren't marsupials. Of course it would be the end of elastic banded underwear.

"Hey! What's going on? Can't you see I'm trying to head North here?"

The Catholic church would have nothing to fret about. "Exuberant pouch cleaning" though, I'm sure, would become illegal. Some hoity-toity Victorian zoologist, who said that marsupial mammals, by nature, are less intelligent than placental mammals, probably invented the argument against marsupialization. Complete crap! They seem more placid and less jittery than their placental counterparts, but I think it is impossible to determine if they are more stupid. I think we placental's are more jittery because of our rude entry into the world. Wound up in our DNA is the remembrance and continuing deep-seated fear of getting torn from our venous mother lode. To marsupials, life is nothing but a big, happy, picnic- if only we could be so lucky.

Log for the week of April 14, 2002 Coffs Harbour by PS

Well, it's been a bit of a sad week, as Nathaniel has returned to the US. I miss him. It's a fact of life for long distance cruisers, that family and friends take a back seat to the "Big Adventure". A small consolation is the posting of the logs on the Internet and e-mail. The early circumnavigators weren't heard from for years at a time.

While taking Nathaniel to the local "Bush" to see some roos, Neville decided he needed some attention. Because the car makes such a racket, it wasn't until we shut him off that we heard a fainted hissing from under the hood. A fitting in the heater line was spraying a small stream of anti-freeze onto the ground. I remembered an old trick that got us home. By removing the radiator cap we were able to relieve the pressure on the system and slow the leak. Luckily, Australia seems to have an over abundance of water faucets. We were able to refill the radiator and drive back to the boat. At the time, I remember thinking that it was lucky we weren't in the Galapagos! Fresh water is hard to find there. We had to get Nathaniel to the airport the next day, so I made a quick repair using a hotel shampoo cap to plug off the hose. Never know when those shampoo bottles will come in handy.

We visited the Australia Museum in Sydney before taking Nathaniel to the airport. He spent a lot of time studying the insect collection. It was good to see him interested in more than just computer games. After seeing him off at the airport, we rushed to Newcastle to pick up Arnold (Amy's computer). They didn't fix his modem, but they did repair his left click problem. He is now connected to the Internet with a PCMCIA card modem that we have had to use since leaving the States.

Just when I thought our computers were under control, Danny (My computer) acted up. I hadn't used him since December. Bad idea. He couldn't detect the hard drive. He could detect the CD and floppy drive, so I knew the circuit board battery was OK. I changed hard drives to no avail. I opened him up and saw a bit of corrosion around one of the IC's. You may remember that he took a salt-water bath back in Fiji. I gently scraped it away and tried the old hard drive. He came back to life! Now I turn him on once a day and run the fax and GPS programs that we would be using on passage. "Use it or loose it!" as the saying goes. We also run our radar once a week. When I crewed on commercial fishing boats, the first thing the skipper would do, when he got aboard, was to turn on EVERY electronic device. I thought it was a waste of power, but not now.

We are planning to leave Coff's in a month, so our thoughts are now focused on getting back to Maine. While we are not quite half way by longitude, we are over half way on our three-year time line. We have set up a haul out date of May 8th at the local marine railway. We are trying to find the French Nautix bottom paint that has served us so well. The haul out yard is making some calls and I am checking with Ariel, at Raiatea Marine, to see if he can help us find some here in Australia. I also have the phone number in France, which I will try this coming week. I'm looking forward to using my pseudo French again.

We are also back to making lists. The dreaded list routine. It seems easier to add things then to get them crossed off. Here's a short sample; Dry the running rigging blocks and seize on the grommets, re-shackle the blocks and re-reeve the running rigging, prime the rust spots on the bow and stern rail, sand and varnish the mast, clear the deck gear so we can re-paint the deck and cabin top, sand and paint the topsides, check the anchor windless, put on new lanyards, patch the sail cover, check over main engine (check valve lash, change oil and anti-freeze), re-build spare raw water pump, check balance on wind generator blades, haul out and paint bottom, check though hulls and cutlass bearing, etc, etc. And then there is the provisioning and spare parts to re-supply...

To escape this overhanging cloud, we make time to visit the local beach and sunbathe. It's the first time since we arrived at Coffs Harbour, that we are taking advantage of the great beach weather. We have also been surfing the web for information about the next leg across the Indian Ocean. The news isn't good. Cruisers, over the past year or so, have had high winds and seas. This looks to be one of the roughest legs on this circumnavigation. This may be partly due to an El Nino effect in the Indian Ocean, which is just now being recognized. I can see that I'll be wishing for those boring days crossing the Pacific. What was I thinking when I complained about fair winds and gentle seas?

One of my frustrations approaching Australia was the lack of a satellite picture on the HF radio bands. Once we left the Pacific, there was no satellite imagery. It turns out that the US is the only country that broadcasts sat images. The Indian Ocean is not covered. While the hand drawn surface maps are OK, they don't always give good detail. Troughs and ridges are not defined as such on the Aussie charts. After months of looking at them, I can now take some guess as to where they are. But, there is nothing like seeing a satellite image to really tell you the position and intensity of a system.

To try and rectify this situation, I have begun to research direct satellite imagery. By using a 137 MHz receiver and Helix shaped antenna, you can receive the imagery directly from the satellite as is passes over head. I decided to try some contacts with the local Ham Radio community to see what could be done. After getting some phone numbers from the Internet and calling a few people, I finally contacted Brian "Buck" Rodgers. Brian is a retired TV technician and he offered to gather up some information and bring it down to the boat. He arrived on Sunday afternoon and we went over some ideas. Brian had set up a satellite receiving station at his house a few years ago and was a great source of first hand information. He invited Amy and I over the following morning to see his setup. I spent Sunday evening doing more research on the antenna design. It wasn't until the wee hours that I finally got to bed.

Our other alternative is Iridium. It seems that the company is back on its feet and offering a relatively fast, 10kbs, data connection. With this system we could download satellite images from Internet sites. We'll let you know what we find out about the hardware and the service providers.

Well, it's time to get this log posted. Now that Australia is on standard time and the US is on daylight savings time, I need to get this log posted 2 hours earlier. Feel free to write us an e-mail in the next few weeks, as our Internet abilities will be severely restricted once we leave the marina. Also, be sure to check out Stewart's log as he always has a cats eye veiw of what really happens around here! PS

Log for the week of April 21, 2002 Still in Coff's Harbour Australia by APW

A pretty quiet week. We had our first actual rainy day, which was very pleasant, trapped on board sipping tea. Phil surfed the internet and found an inexpensive way to download images directly from weather satellites- more on that later.

Stewart has been going steadily downhill. All of the tests we have run on him have come back with normal values. I was convinced I could palpate a small mass on his intestines but the ultrasound results only showed crystals in his bladder. I finally gave up and decided to try him on antibiotics. As we used to joke in Vet. School, from his positive response, it appears he had an antibiotic deficiency. He is acting much better, but is still very scruffy and weak. At least he's eating and not spending quite as much time sleeping in the engine room.

Sure beats varnishingWe've begun the process of clearing off the deck in preparation for paint. Off came the awning, revealing a future sewing project where the sail cover chafed through from the peak lace lines underneath. Iwalani had gotten to the point where she looked almost like a Pago Pago boat- at least we didn't have the vines growing out of the woodwork, or the refrigerator lashed to the cabin top. It was close though. This is the first time since launching in 2000 that we've pulled out the paint supplies. The True value polyurethane paint on the deck and cabin top, held up very well, for the low price. We used True value oil based house paint on the hull and that too, held up pretty well. Everyone that emails us complains about the maintenance involved in owning a wooden boat. To be quite honest Iwalani requires less work than my own fiberglass boat. Maybe things would be different if Iwalani was forty-two years old. My only hesitation about all this painting and scraping is that right now, Iwalani looks perfect for going around the world. People don't even seem to notice that we are here, hiding behind the rust streaks and bottom growth. That is exactly the image I wanted to project. A well worn, mascara dripping, tired old woman- especially when we start heading up into the Torres straight where the reputation for pirates is almost as bad as the western Caribbean. We don't want people to know its high tech satellite communicating stuff below decks. Although anyone sharp at identifying antennas might get a clue- although I have the Inmarsat egg-shaped antenna hidden under a tattered leg from a pair of blue jeans.

In preparation for crossing the Indian Ocean we have been researching our options for weather information. Dialing up and connecting to the internet is possible now for a small boat such as ourselves, through a satellite phone and the now raised-from-the-dead Iridium company. But by the time we buy all the stuff that is needed to get it functional- we will have spent about $2500 US. Each satellite weather image will cost about $8 or $10 dollars to download. We can't justify that expense for one more year of cruising. I also hate telephones. I wouldn't use it for anything other than connecting to the Internet and downloading satellite photos.

We have some pretty weird stuff on the stern of our boatSo, with Phil's persistence he found that by using a receiver that can work in the 137 megahz frequency, such as that found on a police scanner, and an antenna configured in a strange helical shape, made from copper tubing and PVC pipe, one can capture the continuous broadcasts of the US and Russian weather satellites as they pass overhead. The entire rig cost us about a hundred US dollars. The polar orbiting satellites are what we are after while at sea. These planetary space flies, are buzzing around the Earth's poles at 20-some thousand kilometers an hour- as a result, they are nearly sun synchronous, appearing at the same spot (local time) each day. These satellites are always "on" beaming down to the earth the picture they see 850 or so kilometers above. The only problem is that they are not always directly over head. They may be slightly to the west, or to the east, so the picture we receive, may not necessarily be relevant. With software we downloaded for free off the Internet, we can overlay a grid and get a rough idea where exactly the picture is being taken on the earth, and more importantly where it is in relation to where we are. With satellite imagery to the west we can see systems as they approach and know (hopefully) what weather to expect. We would not like to repeat the weather frustration we had when we first approached the Australian coast.

Not bad for some duct tape and copper pipeInterestingly enough the Russian satellites, have better imagery than the US ones. Some of our US Noah satellites were not configured properly from the start and have never been able to transmit image data. They are just orbiting around adding to the space junk. The US satellites do broadcast Infra-red data, which the Russians don't, and we are now trying to figure out how to work with the software program in interpreting the IR image.

This coupled with the free text EGC we get from the Inmarsat should help us to piece together weather for the Indian Ocean. Our HF radio will also broadcast weather images, when propagation is good . No other country besides the US broadcasts the satellite images. Since we are no longer in the US broadcast range we rely on line-drawing weather maps, which have been, sometimes, dangerously inaccurate.

We checked into the options with our present Inmarsat-C. One of the Brits on our radio schedule in the South Pacific got top world headlines along with his EGC's. Why didn't Comsat offer that? I found out after a few phone calls that we don't even belong to Comsat anymore. Comsat was bought out by Hughes, or Rockwell, or one of those guys and then sold to a company in Norway. As a result we can no longer email out from Iwalani directly- Since January 6, we've had an umbillical phone line going to the dock and we shut the Inmarsat down. We decided to test it a few days ago and much to our dismay can send mail to ourslves via the land line can't email out. This will have to be straightened out before we leave.

We've had bad luck trying to get the French brand Nautix bottom paint. It is not sold in Australia and we can't even import it from a French territory. We called France and even phoned our buddy Ariel, at Raiatea Marine, who graciously offered to send us what we would need. It is classified as a potent insecticide, and the Aussie's won't allow it in to the country. I found a fellow in the Australian sailboat racing circuit who heard about the "slipperiness" of Nautix and had filled out a three inch thick pile of paper work in order to get special permission to import it. He was going to conduct controlled studies comparing the Nautix to other brands. No amount of money would persuade him to part with even a few drops of it. He said it just took too long to get the paint into the country. Once the racing world finds out that it adds at least an extra knot of speed- we'll never be able to find it.

It's refreshing to know that the US hasn't cornered the market in service industry ineptitude. Our digital camera finally arrived after weeks of "I lost your address." I ended up getting my Australian Vet. License after being charged for it three times. Many calls to Australian customs and no one has any idea about two lost US packages. Our water maker parts, ordered in January are probably not going to be seen. We couldn't order them directly from Spectra in California, because they have reps here in Australia. We ordered the parts from a rep in Sydney who ordered them from another middleman in Perth. Spectra has been waiting for two months for payment from the middleman in Perth, and the middleman is telling the Sydney rep that the US is the problem. In fact we seem to be taking the rap for everyone's problems.

I mailed off a package to the US and asked the postal lady how long it would take to arrive on the other side of the planet.

"Oh well, I'm not sure how long it will take to go through our customs."

"Your customs?" I asked "Don't you mean US customs?"

"Oh no, Australian customs."

"Packages leaving Australia go through Australian customs too?" I asked in amazement.

"Oh sure" she replied "Ever since what's happened in your country"

Ok, so maybe we are to blame and maybe the problems I have with the service industry are from my tendency to mumble Americana.

"Hello, my name is Amy Wood and I am calling about the status of an order."

"Your name isn't any good and there is flatus at the border?"

"No, no no! I'm calling from our boat. Our package still hasn't arrived."

"You've fallen in a moat and your back is full of flies?"

Sometimes I wonder if that guy in Fiji wasn't actually right. The Earth is flat and we just sailed off the edge and landed on another planet entirely.

Worse yet is the Aussie automated telephone response lady. If I ever meet her I'll be sure to choke her with a phone cord...

"We're sorry but all our representatives are busy now. You've been placed in a queue. If you are trying to reach technical support, dial seven, double six, triple two, one, double five, zero"

Now I'm sorry, but for those of us with learning disabilities this mixing of words and numbers just does not compute. None of this double four, triple nine, quintuple ten stuff. Numbers are numbers and words are words and never the two should intermarry. It takes me about fourteen calls to try and decipher those phone numbers.

But if you tell an Australian your number is 766-222-1550, they look at you with a blank stare, until it suddenly dawns on them and they light up with a mother-like look of sympathy.

"Ah we're American I see."

"You bet honey and plenty proud of it!"

"You get money? Twenty pounds out of it?"

Sometimes it really doesn't pay to open your mouth.

Is this where you're supposed to mind your p's and q's?



Log for the week of April 28, 2002 Coffs' Harbour Marina by PS

After three weeks of sunny cool weather, it's time for pay back. Rain. Lots of it. Thanks to our new satellite imagery hardware, I predicted rain by Saturday. Voila! It's here.

Last week, Amy alluded to our Inmarsat-C problem of sending e-mail. Well, we have since discovered that it wasn't an accounting problem during the buying and selling of what was once Comsat. I called the Trimble support number in California and left a message about our problem. The next morning the phone rang at 3am. I hate getting those kinds of calls. I always worry that something serious has happened in the family. Not this time. It was Roger Roy, Trimbles tech support guy. In his enthusiasm of answering our phone message, he missed the part about us being in Australia. When I told him what time it was, he apologized profusely and offered to talk to me later in the day. I called him at 7am Aussie time (3pm California I think) and he spent 30 minutes trying to diagnose the problem. He finally decided it was a problem with the LES (land earth station) at Telenor (ex Comsat) and not his software or hardware. He wasn't overly optimistic about our getting support from Telenor, as his dealings with them were trying at best. At this point he had done all he could. It was up to us to deal with the LES.

Amy called several numbers and finally got through to Wayne Shaw. We spent literally hours on the phone with him and Mark to no avail. (Thank goodness we were in Australia, with a landline that only costs us $2.50/hour) They bent over backwards to try and solve this mystery. How was it that we could receive mail but not send it? This was a problem they had never come across before. I hate those kinds of problems. Kind of like the ceramic resistor in our transformer "Never seen one do that before." More on that later…

Plane Bored

We were once again on the phone to Roger Roy. He gave us a company in Australia to call. As luck would have it, this was the same company that was coming to check out our HF radio. Country Wide Communications was right in Coffs' Harbour! We set up an appointment for the following Monday and are keeping our fingers crossed. Amy says it's because we are in the marina and there is interference. I disagree. If we can receive messages, there isn't an interference problem. I think it's in the antenna. Inmarsat-C receives messages on 1.5 gigahertz and sends on 1.6. I think it has something to do with the sending part of the antenna. We'll see.

We spent our nights on the phone working on the Inmarsat problems and our days sanding and painting Iwalani from cabin top to the waterline. We managed to salvage some paint we had brought with us from the USA. Steel cans just don't travel well at sea. While we were hauled out in Raiatea, we put the paint (that hadn't leaked out of its rusty container) into plastic soda bottles. I only wish we had done that to all our paint before we left the States. We were still short of deck paint and discovered the only exterior polyurethane we could buy locally was for concrete. Sounded good to us. As long as it doesn't say MARINE!

The power went out at the marina and once again our transformer died. This time we called the company and had a new circuit board sent by mail. We were back to using a "cruising mode" of power consumption until we got the part on Friday.

Thursday was ANZAC Day for Australia. This is the most celebrated holiday of the year. It commemorates the battle at Gallipoli Beach, on the Turkish Coast, in 1915. Thousands of Australians go to a sunrise service to remember the lives lost in this battle. Click Here to learn more about this sacred day. We had dinner at friend's Garth and Sue's house and learned the technique of playing "Two Up". Anzac Day is the only day where betting on "Two Up" is legal. It was invented by soldiers to pass the time. To play, you take two pennies, place them on a spatula and toss them into the air. The bets are made on the outcome of the toss- not on whether they can be caught again with the spatula.

Saturday found me sanding the bulwark and topsides from the dock and the dinghy. Amy went off to town to get more deck paint. The clouds were looming and rain was in the offing. By noontime I had the hull ready to paint, with no sign of Amy. I thought she was involved in a car accident (I always think the worst). Just before I called the police, she arrived. It seems she had gotten herself into more than she bargained for. The paint store didn't have any one-liter cans of the cement paint, so she had to drive out of town to Bunnings. Once there, she discovered that they couldn't tint it the same as the store in town. She drove back to town to get it tinted. The lady doing the tinting didn't set up the computer properly and made it too dark. Realizing her mistake, she graciously offered to open a 4-liter can and sell Amy one-liter properly tinted. While browsing around the store, Amy heard a commotion near the tinting booth. The 4-liter can had spilled all over the counter! Whoa! Amy went back to Bunnings and returned once more to have a one-liter can tinted. The tinting was at no charge. Not to us anyway. The 4-liter can retailed for about $70 Aussie. Ouch! We'll be sure to give the store in town all the business we can.

Keeping busy on a rainy day

On top of all this, Amy had to deal with Neville's gear shift literally coming off in her hand. While rushing to the DVD store to return "Lantana" last Sunday, the same thing happened to me. Neville shifts from the floor, not the steering column. After removing the console, we were staring into the guts of the transmission. Not good. I had a fair idea of how the shifter should go in, but it took about 5 minutes to make the right combination of moves to regain the proper gear throw. It was then that we discovered, by the light of a torch (flashlight) that baling wire had been holding things in place. Someone had been here before! During Amy's paint run, she wasn't as lucky as I and ended up with reverse, first and third gears. Just enough to get home with.

With the passing clouds spitting rain, I rolled the hull paint on in record time. When the rain came in earnest, two hours later, the paint was dry enough to not be washed off. Try doing that with some fancy MARINE paint.

For those of you interested in our satellite receiving equipment, I'll go into it in a little more detail. First, even if you spent the big bucks for a ready-made system, you are at the mercy of the satellites. It turns out that they have lots of problems. Here's a short excerpt concerning the status of the latest US satellite.

NOAA-16 was declared the operational afternoon satellite 20 March 2001, replacing NOAA-14. Since becoming operational, there was a clock error of +1 second leading to pointing errors of AVHRR data of up to 12 km. (This was corrected in the NOAA 1b data by inserting a corresponding offset time of plus 1 second in addition to the clock correction appearing in the TBUS bulletin.) Due to a configuration error in ground equipment the TIP clock errors reported for NOAA-16, since becoming operational, were determined to be inaccurate by - 900 milliseconds, i.e. actual clock errors were 900 milliseconds greater than the values being reported. The NOAA-16 TIP clock was reading +100 milliseconds. The actual errors for NOAA-16 were +1000 milliseconds. To correct this error, on 7 August 2001, 1.0 seconds were subtracted from the NOAA-16 spacecraft clock at 23:59:00 UTC. This change is reflected in the TBUS bulletins after 7 August."

"HIRS pixels/FOVs are offset by one FOV in the transmitted data. FOV 1 is in position 2, FOV 2 is in position 3, etc."

"The APT transmission system has failed. The HRPT 1707 MHz transmitter had a significant loss of power on 28 September 2001. Effective on 9 October 2001, the HRPT transmitter was changed to the 1698 MHz frequency at full power."

You get the idea. No amount of money spent on receiving equipment will overcome satellite problems. What is really disappointing is that NOAA 16 APT (automated picture transmission) is dead. This is the transmission we need to get satellite imagery. Now NOAA 14 is back on line to cover the loss of the 16 APT. I won't even go into the status of the other four satellites the US has in orbit.

What it boils down to is that the 12 year old Russian satellite, Meteor 3-5, puts out the best visible pictures. They did beat us with Sputnik, remember?

Anyway, here's what you need:

Go to:

And download (wxtrack320) and (wxsat259e) Wxtrack predicts satellite paths and times you can receive transmissions. Wxsat decodes the audio from the scanner.

Go to:

Download (IJL15) and (lpng-px)

Go to:

and download (makeoverlay140)

Go to :

and download the latest predicted weather satellite positions

Be sure to put all the unzipped files in the same folder. I was lazy and just left them in the "unzipped" folder. What matters is that all the files and programs are in the same place.

Click HERE or HERE for the antenna construction details.

Print out the antenna construction details.

Buy a VHF scanner that will receive 137 megahertz. Specifically: 137.30 137.40 137.50 137.62 137.75 and 137.85 Get a portable/12 volt unit if you plan to use it on a boat! Don't worry about the fact that most scanners only have 18 hertz bandwidth.

You will also need an audio cable that will go from the audio out (headphone) on the scanner to the audio in (microphone) on your computer and enough coax cable to go from the scanner/computer to an outdoor location for the antenna, which needs a fairly clear view of the sky.

That should get you started. If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me or visit the Yahoo! Message board at: Don't get hung up on getting the antenna bent exactly to the millimeter. I bent mine over my knee, taped the elbows on with duct tape, just zip tied the coax ends to the tubing and got this infra red picture:The daylight visable imagers are even better! Click HERE to see the full 1024x768 screen shot

You can do this too!