Sunday, November 11, 2018

A review of Mossad 101

Ann and I are always looking for new shows to watch on Netflix or Prime as we've mostly watched all the well known ones and are excited when we find something new that we like. For example, we loved both seasons of Fauda. I felt the last season of Breaking Bad might have been the most entertaining TV ever, and we recently binged on the new season of Ozarks.

So, we learned about a show called Mossad 101 on Netflix a couple of weeks ago. The show, like Fauda, is in Hebrew with subtitles. Here is my review.


Season 1 took some time to grow on us. My all time favorite Israeli singer, Yehoram Gaon, who was very popular around the time I was born, and who stars in Israel's version of West Side Story called Kazablan, is in the show, and I was excited to see him. However, I was disappointed to realize that he is a much better singer than actor. He is clearly the weak link in the show.

If you've ever seen the below average show Quantico, based on a group of FBI trainees, you'll appreciate that Mossad 101 season 1 is very similar. A group of elite Mossad up and comers undergoes a series of exercises and in-field test that challenge them on every level. Those who fail get eliminated. The plot is slightly less hoaky than Quantico's, and the acting is better, but initially, we were not sure that we were watching a winner. In fact, some of the early episodes are slmost painful to watch in their absurdity. That changed towards the end of the season. Some major plot elements came together in a very exciting and surprising way, and the last episode was phenomenal.

Season two is where Mossad 101 really started blowing us away.  The show had a completely different feel to it as though they hired a new team of incredible writers. We watched the last five episodes in one sitting. I don't want to give anything away, but the biggest shock of all was the two star rating on Netflix for a show whose second season was in the league with the last season of Breaking Bad, and just as gripping, interesting and exciting as Fauda. Yehoram Gaon was smartly left out of season 2, and the acting was world class. It was fun to see that one of the major characters in Fauda has a starring role in Mossad 101 season 2.

If you can sit through the first half of season one, you will be treated to an amazingly good show that seems to have gone under everyone's radar. I had not heard of it until I saw a list of Netflix shows in Hebrew and thought we would try it out. All I can say is five stars for season 2 - one of the most entertaining and exciting shows I've ever seen.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A change of venue

I arrived in San Francisco last night for the RSA conference, tired from a long 6 hour flight and having just barely gotten over the flu. After a nice dinner with my cousins who live in the area, getting to bed quickly became the priority, as I was fading fast.

Last year, I came to this conference at stayed at the W hotel, very convenient, right next to the conference venue, but unreasonably priced. I took a lot of flack from Hopkins for the $700+ per night room. So, this year, I opted for a budget option recommended by JHU's automated online travel site. Yes, it's about a 1.2 mile walk to the conference, but exercise is good, and how bad could it be for $250/night?

My cousin Shaina drove me from the restaurant to the hotel, and as we pulled up, she exclaimed, "Are you really staying here?" I saw her point. Neighborhood was really seedy, and the facade was uninviting. I shrugged because it was too late now - San Francisco has been sold out for months. RSA is huge!

Checking in at the front desk, I asked if I could get a quiet room, and was assured I would be on the 6th floor, the highest for this hotel. The elevator was rickety and small, and for someone as claustrophobic as me, not a fun time. The ride was slow and squeaky, but I would be able to lie down soon, and I took consolation in that. As I approached room #603, I couldn't help notice that it was very loud. Someone nearby was watching TV. I might have to ask for another room because it was too early West Coats time to complain, but it was approaching midnight for me, still on Eastern time.

I put the key in the lock and opened the door. Oh, it was my TV that was on. I guess they make you feel welcome that way. I walked in, pulling my suitcase behind me. With a strange chill up my spine, I noticed a large pair of men's shoes in the middle of the floor. As if in slow motion, I panned the room and saw clothes everywhere. Someone was living here! And then I saw a change in the shadow of the light from the bathroom from under the closed door, and heard a sound. The bathroom was occupied! I grabbed my stuff and bolted out the door. Breathing heavily, I practically fell back into the elevator and made my way down to the lobby, slowly, very slowly, and squeaky.

When I got down to the front desk, a line had formed, and the single person working there was attending to others. I walked to the front of the line, to the looks of consternation from the other customers, and the hotel clerk asked if everything was okay with my room. I replied that everything seemed fine, except that someone was living there. He gave me a puzzled look and said he would look into that as soon as he finished with the other customers. It took about 10 minutes for him to check them in, and he came back to me and said, sorry about that, here is the key to room #605. I asked if he was sure that nobody was in that room, and he said he was.

I had to wait for the slow, squeaky elevator to come back down, and then I took it up for my 3rd ride of the evening. I got into the room, and was pleased to see that the room was completely empty. I started unpacking and felt really cold, so I called down to the front desk and asked where the thermostat could be found. He informed me that there is no heat in the rooms except a small radiator that is manually controlled, by the window.

As I leaned over the bed to check out the radiator, I heard a rustling from behind the bed. What the hell was that?!? I looked to the side of the bed by the window and was stared back at by what looked like a cross between a large rat and a guinea pig. It had a lot of fur and a big tail. It ran back behind the bed, and then came out again as if to check if I was still there.

I was surprised at how calm I remained. I grabbed my phone and my keys and left everything in its place and jolted out of the room. For someone who was sick from travel and tired and just over the flu, who knew I could move that quickly? As the elevator descended for ride #4, with all my stuff still in the room, I had a sinking feeling that this evening would never end. I had been at the hotel for 45 minutes already, and no closer to getting to sleep than I was when I arrived.

The guy at the front desk got a real kick out of my report. "Shall I go up and kill it?" he asked? I must have had quite the expression on my face because he quickly reassured me that he was kidding, and that I could have another room. I indicated that I was not going back into the room with "that thing". So, he came up with me, and I stood in the hall while he packed up my stuff and handed it all to me. We went down to the 4th floor, to probably the loudest room in the hotel.  Below the window was a crowd of homeless people in an endless battle. They literally were yelling at each other all night. As emergency vehicles pulled up to my window, their sirens blaring, and as large trucks with their backup horns were working through the night, I lay in bed in my vermin-infested hotel wondering if it was really worth getting a budget hotel for RSA this year.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

FIrmware Upload Contest

I'm working on a new security research project. We need to collect firmware files from IoT devices. To crowdsource the collection, I am running a contest through my company with great prizes, including an iPad mini 4, Nintendo Switch, Apple HomePod, Apple Watch, Chromebook, PS4, and more.

See https://harborlabs.com/contest for details.

Finding and entering proper Firmware is a great project for high schoolers in the STEM field. The prizes are potentially life changing for a 16 year old!

Please spread the word. The contest runs until April 15.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

HOME!!!

We woke up today as excited to head home as we were to leave Baltimore at the start of the vacation. Cape May is nice, but three days, especially when we planned on one night, was more than enough.

As we pulled out of our slip in Cape May at 8:30 a.m., we felt completely physically and mentally exhausted. We drove our boat through the peaceful Cape May Canal at an easy 10 knots, and then we hit the open Bay, just on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The wind was pounding at around 15 knots, and the waves were 3-4 in my estimation. Nothing too scary, but also not exactly comfortable. Even up on the flybridge, we got splashed quite a bit, and so Ann decided to take cover inside and left me alone up top. I could have driven form inside, but this was my last day on the boat for a while, and I just love being up there, so I remained cold and wet and happy.

As we moved further North, the wind died down, and the waves came down to 1-2 feet, which was hardly noticeable. We reached the tranquil C&D Canal in 2 hours, and Ann rejoined me on the bridge. After we arrived at the no wake zone in the canal, we made lunch as we putt putted at an easy 6 knots. Then, we opened her up, caught a nice current, and did 25-26 knots into the Chesapeake.

We were so eager to get home, that I skipped the shipping channel (longer route, but no pots), and decided to cut across the Bay and deal with the crab pots. Dodging them from the flybridge is pretty easy, and we shaved 15 minutes off our trip.
The last leg, from Cape May to Baltimore - finally!
Just before 2:30 pm, we arrived in Harbor East Marina. We decided not to call for dock help, and I easily backed into our slip, while Ann and Benny adeptly tied us up. We are pros now! Before this trip, I hesitated to go stern in, and had only docked bow in, and even then I was nervous. After this 3 week trip, traveling most days and docking in all kinds of situations, our home slip seems like a piece of cake. Nothing better than first hand experience to build confidence. I'm ready for my 75' boat now! (just kidding, Ann!!)
Home sweet home - our permanent slip at Harbor East Marina
We spent the next couple of hours packing up our things, washing down the boat, putting on all the covers, and closing down everything. Unfortunately for Ann, during her car's three week stay in the Legg Mason Garage, somebody swiped the rear and side and left a nasty scrape without putting a note. While she was dealing with that, I ran into my friend Eric Yospa with his daughter. He had just texted me to ask if we were back from our trip, and here we were, packing up the car in front of the Four Seasons hotel. Nice to be back in Smalltimore, where you always run into someone you know!

I thought it might be interesting to reflect on our trip and some lessons learned about cruising. These are in no particular order. I will revisit these before our next big trip.

  1. Always have a backup plan, and a backup for that backup plan. In boating, it is impossible to predict the challenges that will come up. One day your anchor will get stuck. Another day, the generator will stop working, or one of the engines won't start. The most common delays will be due to weather. It is a good idea to study the marinas along the routes you will take and to know where you will seek shelter if weather hits. It's a lot easier to deal with an emergency situation if you already have a backup plan than to try to figure out what to do in the heat of the moment. As our trip progressed, we got better and better at writing down our backup plans, and even calling ahead to ask marinas if they could take our boat, and if they were willing to hold a spot for us in case we needed it. Many marinas were surprisingly cooperative and understanding as well as accommodating.
  2. Keep at least 2 days worth of food and water on the boat at all times. You cannot possibly predict when you will be stranded somewhere. If you have to take cover from weather, you may very well end up at anchor somewhere, and you do not want to run out of food or water. We were good on food, but we had a close call with water. Keep those tanks full and bring bottled water. A super idea Ann had was the 2 gallon cooler that we filled with fresh water from the hose each time we pulled into a new marina. Also, we got sick of eating out all the time, so we were glad we had purchased some cookware specifically for the boat and always had food that we could make. Don't let yourself run out of food. Whenever you are near a store with provisions, restock everything. Be proactive.
  3. If you can pump out the waste, do so. Don't delay just because you think you will be fine. It is not the most pleasant task, but you get used to it. This follows the same logic as food and water. If you get stuck somewhere, you do not want your waste tanks to be full. At a couple of points on our trip, we started rationing our flushes, and that's probably enough detail for my readers.
  4. Plan activities ahead of time. Traveling can be exhausting, and the last thing you will feel like doing after you arrive in a new port and get settled in, fuel up, pump out, fill water and wash the boat down, will be to then figure out what there is to do here. Ann was great about researching all of the interesting activities ahead of time. She even booked us some tours and had reservations in restaurants. This definitely enhanced the amount of fun we had and gave us something to look forward to on some of the longer and harder travel days. Of course, we were prepared to ditch our plans if the weather had other ideas, but it's great to have a default.
  5. Bring stuff to do on the boat. There is a lot of down time. Most days we only traveled 3-4 hours on the water. After cleaning the boat and other details, that left over 16 waking hours. Some places were very busy because we had water sports such as the dinghy or the paddle boards, and on shore activities. But, other times, especially when we were stranded, we had to keep ourselves busy. Even though it's a really big boat, it can feel cramped when 4 people are confined to the boat all day. We had Benny's video games, Netflix in most marinas, books, and my work from Hopkins and Harbor Labs, so we were able to keep busy. Make sure to bring laptops, iPads, etc. It's tempting to say that this is a nature vacation, and that you should enjoy the outdoors, but trust me, you will have plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors, and sometimes you will need to keep yourself from going crazy.
  6. Stay calm in crisis. That is easier said than done, but it's important to try to remember that. We had several situations on this trip that were quite serious. Whether it was deciding to leave NYC early because of weather (good decision), or to leave Boston in questionable weather (bad decision), we had lots of important decisions to make. Ann and I are a great team, and we were able to make these decisions together amicably and take the consequences together. It's important that all parties in a big decision that involves safety and whether the goals of the trip are met have ownership of the decision. No important decisions should be unilateral. Utilize whatever skills each one brings to the table. At one point, we were in the  midst of a storm, in an unknown cove, having just broken off our mooring, and we had to figure out whether to dock at the private yacht club and how to deal with the remainder of the storm. I think the best thing that we did that night was remain calm. Ann and I were in crisis mode, but we did not yell or freak out or lose our composure. We considered our options deliberately, and then mutually agreed on what to do. Then we executed to the best of our ability. If you can stay calm, you can accomplish much more than if you let the situation get the best of you.
  7. Don't forget that the whole point is to have a good time. A boat trip is much more taxing than I realized. We are physically bruised all over. My back gave out early in the trip, and now I have an issue with my leg and can barely sit down. It is exhausting and physically draining. The good news is that being so active feels good at the end of the day. I found it important to remind myself that I was living the dream, and even if one or two days were not fun or enjoyable, the opportunity take a trip like this makes me the luckiest guy in the world. I pushed myself to take the dinghy out even when I did not feel like unstrapping it and performing the 10 or so steps required to get it up and running, not to mention putting it away which is even more work. Don't shy away from the work on a trip like this. Getting the paddleboard down from the flybridge and then putting it back up seems like a huge chore and a pain, but I resolved to always use it whenever we wanted to, and the memories will be of paddleboarding on peaceful rivers and beautiful open waters and not of putting the board away and tying it up afterwards.
Anyway, many of my friends and family sent me fantastic feedback about the blog. It was a huge part of the trip for me and occupied most of my evenings. I'm sure it will be a living memory of the trip for years to come, and for those of you who actually read what I wrote, thanks for taking the time, and I hope you found it interesting.

THE END

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Day 21: Still in Cape May...

Our trip was supposed to end in Baltimore yesterday, but we are getting ready for our third night on the boat in Cape May. Amazing how the weather for the first two weeks of our trip was just about perfect, and we only had to make one minor adjustment, leaving NYC a day early and spending that extra day in Mystic - a tradeoff where we came out ahead. Similarly, the past week was a weather fiasco.

On Thursday, as we were nearing Cape May, we seriously considered continuing on to Baltimore, but the waves got pretty nasty, and the skies darkened, and we realized that was a foolish idea. I forgot to mention in my last blog entry that as we neared the area just North of Atlantic City, we saw a huge whale. Right by the boat. Amazing - truly breathtaking. We also saw lots of dolphins.

Yesterday morning, we came within about 30 seconds of casting off. The generator was running, we were off shore power, and I had the engines going. I asked Ann to come release the dock lines, and wondered if we should wake up Benny, when Ann expressed that she would not be happy if we hit unpleasant waves, and asked me how sure I was that it would be smooth sailing. There was a reasonable risk of bad weather, although I felt we could handle it in our boat. But that did it. I do not want to risk upsetting my crew, especially since I hope to convince them to take boat trips with me again in the future.

So, we stayed in Cape May, where it rained pretty hard all day. Before the rain started, Benny and I hit the pool where we swam and tossed the football around for about an hour, while Ann did laundry in the marina. We have a washer/dryer on the boat, but Ann decided that our machine is okay for towels and linen, but not her choice for clothing.

Later, we cooked dinner on board - Ann made falafel with fresh baked pitas that we had purchased uncooked at a vegan place in Boston, and which were frozen until now. Pretty, pretty tasty. Then, we got a ride from the marina staff to a movie theatre where we saw Spiderman. We all 3 loved it. Uber back home, and it was time for bed. The wind and the rain were intense, and I got up during the night to check on everything. The lines were holding, and the fenders doing their jobs. Love being in a marina in a storm as opposed to at anchor!

We woke up this morning again thinking about going home, but a quick look at the weather forecast, and a discussion with the marina manager on duty changed our mind. He said there were "monsters" out there, referring to the waves, and even the 60-75 foot fishing boats next to us stayed home. Waves offshore were purportedly as high as 12 feet, and although the Delaware Bay was surely not as rough, we did not even consider messing around.

Keeping ourselves busy today was a little harder than yesterday. It was too cold and rainy for the pool (which did not open today), and I think we had had just about enough of being in this boat in one spot for 3 days, not to mention living on it for 3 weeks. I spent most of the day working on one of my consulting projects, while Benny played video games, watched shows in his iPad and read his book. Ann mostly read her book. We started preparing some things for our return - packing up and putting things away. Benny and I deflated the paddleboards and stowed them in the crew quarters durning a break in the rain. At times the winds were unbelievably strong, and I had to move one of our fenders to protect our stern.

As I write this, our plan is to take our raincoats and umbrellas into town, walk around a bit, and then hit this restaurant for dinner that Ann found, which of course has great vegan and vegetarian options. Fortunately, looks like they have some regular food as well. After this trip, I feel I am owed a major steak dinner, and I will definitely arrange something with some friends. Big, thick, juicy steak, dry-aged to perfection. That's what I need.

The forecast for tomorrow could not look better. Good thing, because we really do need to get back home. I love my boat, and I love boat trips, but even good things must come to an end.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Day 19: Brooklyn to Cape May

The night in Brooklyn was rough on Ann. The water was choppy, and Sababa was rocking back and forth, at times almost jumping out of the water. Our marina was on the East River, close to where it meets the Hudson, and the large commercial boat traffic had no speed restrictions. Some of those ferries literally fly. (Okay, that's actually the use of "literally" that I hate because they did not actually fly in the air, but they went very fast, over 30 knots.)

The rocking and bouncing do not bother me, and in fact, I find them soothing, but they made Ann's nausea from the day before even worse. She did not sleep all night, and in the morning felt like she needed to be on land. We walked to a Rite Aid pharmacy that was 0.8 miles from our marina, and we picked up some dramamine and ginger ale. She took the medication, and we waited about 40 minutes before she came back on the boat, so that the anti-nausea would kick in. In fact, it worked really well, and she felt a lot better.

Note to self: don't ever go on a boat trip without dramamine or bonine on the boat. The drugs are not useful if you take them once you're under way, but if you know that the day will be choppy, they can be taken on land, and then apparently, they are quite effective.

Pulling the lines off in that marina was very tricky, so we woke up Benny so he could help. The boat was bouncing all around, and I regretted not calling the office for a dockhand or two to help us. I ended up hitting the dock ever so slightly in the back, enough to make me very unhappy.

The trip to Cape May was slated to be our longest run of the entire vacation, but it was surpassed by yesterday's long run from Falmouth to Brooklyn. Still, it was a good 6 hours. As we pulled out of the marina, I took one last glance at the Brooklyn marina, where I vowed never to stay again. We'll find something more sheltered next time.
Brooklyn Marina looks peaceful enough, but it is not
While we did not like the marina one bit, the views could not be beat. As I pulled out and headed to the left of Governor's Island, I took a quick shot of the Statue of Liberty, and then turned and photographed the Manhattan skyline again.

The view of lady liberty as we were leaving our marina
Our view of Manhattan before heading South for home
Today's run was one of our easiest. A straight shot along the coast with my waypoints set about 60 miles apart. I turned on the radar, set tracking to the waypoints, and I had very little to do. The seas were relatively calm, but towards the end of our trip, they grew to the point of discomfort, probably around 4-5 feet for the last 10 miles. We got out just in time. To our amazement we saw all kinds of small fishing and other recreational boats heading out the inlet as we came in. I don't see how those guys could survive in those waves. Good for them. (or not)
Very easy navigation day
Since I did not have to focus on navigating, I spent the day looking at the weather forecast for the next two days. Our itinerary called for leaving Cape May for Baltimore tomorrow. However, the forecast at Cape May, halfway in between at Chesapeake City, MD, and in Baltimore all looked horrible. In fact, thunderstorms were listed as possibly severe, and there was a gale force wind watch in Cape May with waves potentially 6-10 feet scheduled for tomorrow. It did not look possible to get to Baltimore on time. I called the marina that I had reserved in Cape May and asked if we would be able to stay a day or two extra to ride out the storm, and they agreed.

Then, we had the idea of pressing all the way to Baltimore today. We did not have nearly enough fuel, so the plan we considered was stopping at the marina in Cape May, taking one last look at the weather, fueling up, and heading home - an 11 hour boating day. Crazy. But we would be home.

At one point, we decided that this was the plan. However, I kept tracking the forecast, and the best we could do would be a 40% chance of getting caught in a thunderstorm. Benny really wanted to go for it, despite being the one who gets the most seasick. I think Ann could have been persuaded either way. I suggested to her that there was a 60% chance we would get home okay, and a 40% chance that we would have to improvise and find cover, which might involve dropping the anchor in some cove somewhere. Given the forecast for the next 2 days, that could include being on the hook for 2 days with no access to water, food, pump out or any amenities. That did the trick, and we decided to stay in Cape May for the evening.
Tied up in Cape May, might have to bunker down for 3 nights here
We have been looking at the weather forecast every 10 minutes. Would absolutely love to go home tomorrow, but I cannot see that happening. The forecast would have to change drastically, and that rarely happens in your favor. Unfortunately, Saturday doesn't look great either. I'd say Saturday is 50-50. Sunday looks good. I have to be at work on Monday, so having to stay here beyond Sunday would be a bit of a disaster, and we'd probably go out of our minds stuck here on the boat in Cape May in storms for 3 days.
The radar picture looks scary - storm is coming
I have several apps that we are using to track the weather. We tap into the NOAA database directly to see alerts. Weather Underground is an extremely useful and information-rich app, and it's our primary one. I also use Dark Sky, which has surprisingly accurate short term information about rain wherever you are, and MyRadar, pictured above, which gives real time radar images. You can see we are the blue dot, and the storm is moving from West to East, so in the next 12 hours, I expect we'll see some action, not the good kind.

Anyway, vacation is just about over, and I'm going to spend whatever time we are stuck here getting caught up on work. Ann has a book, and Benny has his video games. There are also movie theatres here, and perhaps some indoor shopping areas, so we'll survive the waiting period, and the only thing I don't know is if we'll be able to go Saturday or not. We are okay with rain, but we want to avoid heavy seas and lightning. 

So we wait.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Day 18: Back on track - making up lost time

We woke up this morning at 7:30 and made up some of the sleep we lost the night before. It felt great to be in a nice marina with full water tanks and calm sea waters. I went to the service office, and they immediately sent out a very friendly mechanic to look at our generator issue. He found seaweed and grass in the water hose that led to the pump, as well as similar debris in the pump itself. After about 20 minutes, he was able to clear everything, and we once again had a working generator!
Once again, leaving Falmouth in our rear view mirror
With our boat in full working order, we set out for Milford, where we were scheduled to arrive yesterday. The trip to Milford would be about 5 hours at 23 knots. We had great clear seas, and I sat on the flybridge thinking that life is good. I reflected on the surprise we had when we arrived in Falmouth yesterday docking the boat.

As I was backing into the slip, the dockhand told me to be careful because my swim ladder was sticking out. Ann and I both exclaimed at the same time "We have a swim ladder?" That was news to us. In fact, when we were out in Baltimore before the trip, I looked for a swim ladder, and concluded that since the swim platform goes up and down, there must not be a ladder. But, there it was, on the port side, sticking all the way out. It must have come out in the storm we were in, and the poor thing was hanging out in the water with 23 knots of pressure against it the whole way to Falmouth. It is surprising that it was still mostly in tact. However, it was bent out of shape, and we were unable to get it stowed. Not sure of what to do, I got it in as far as I could, and then I secured it with bungie cords and a fender line. Doesn't look great, but it will hold until we get home and get it fixed.
Turns out, we do have a swim ladder! Who knew?
Since there were no boats around and no waves on our trip to Milford, I decided to use my time to look at the weather for the next few days. It appeared that today and tomorrow would be calm, but there would be thunderstorms along our entire path on Friday. I dreaded the thought of getting caught in more weather, and I also did not want to get home any later than we already were. I looked at our itinerary and realized that tomorrow's trip to Brooklyn was only about 3 hours. So, I asked Ann how she felt about skipping Milford and heading straight to Brooklyn today for an 8 hour ride, longer than we ever planned on traveling in one day.

Ann was a bit under the weather today, and I think a bit nauseous from being on the boat so long. But, she agreed that this was a good plan. So, I canceled the slip in Milford, which we were able to do without having to pay, and I contacted the Brooklyn marina to ask them to ignore my request for a one day delay, and that we were coming today. It really was a long ride, but it was a pretty one. We saw great lighthouses on the way, and nice scenery and bridges.
Lighthouse on Long Island Sound
Another pretty lighthouse closer to Brooklyn
Getting closer to New York
I called the marina in Brooklyn to see if they had fuel because this long travel day used up almost our entire supply, despite having filled up last night in Falmouth. It turns out that they do not. It took me a while calling around to find a place where we could fuel up. There was no option not to because tomorrow is our run to Cape May - another long trip, and it's on open ocean, so we need to be full for that. Finally, I found a great place in Port Washington in Manhasset Bay. It was an absolutely stunningly beautiful cove, just outside NYC. Once we entered, we got a view of the houses, really mansions, right on the water. The dockhand told us that Chris Rock and Adam Sandler were currently renting houses there, and that he had seen them in town. Nice to see how the other .000001% live.
Nice little shack on the water
This one had a boat as big as Sababa docked in their private pier
Maybe next time, I should buy diesel fuel in a more run down area. The bill was almost $1,200. My most expensive fill up ever. Ann and Benny were no longer the only ones who felt like puking.

We arrived in Brooklyn around 6:00 pm, and amazingly, that put us right back on the original schedule. Ann wasn't feeling great, and Benny was pretty worn out, and I was completely pooped, so we skipped washing down the boat. After all, we're just going out on the ocean again tomorrow. Really needed a break. I took a shower while Benny scoped out the soccer fields next door and Ann checked us into the marina.
Tied up in Brooklyn
This place is really wavy and busy, but I have to say, it's not every day you have a view of the statue of liberty from your boat to the left and NYC up close to the right. What a location!
View from the flybridge in our slip
View from the cockpit, a 90 degree clockwise turn from the picture above
After cleaning ourselves up and tidying the boat, we headed out for a nice dinner in Brooklyn, aided by Yelp. It was not Peter Lugars, but it was pretty good. Ironically, if I had not told Cousin Kenny that we were running behind schedule, tonight would have worked out great at my favorite restaurant in the States, but once I told him I couldn't come, he canceled the reservation and made plans with his brother who was in town from Hong Kong, and so it was impossible to get the reservation and the plans back on track. I'll have something to look forward to next time.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is great. Seas should be 1-2 feet, which is basically flat, and the temp around 80. Ideal weather. I was able to book a slip in the same marina in Cape May where we stayed almost 3 weeks ago on the first night of our trip. We may have some challenges on Friday, as the forecast is not nearly as good, but there may be a travel window for us. We'll deal with that tomorrow night. For now, we're happy to be on schedule and ready to be home again soon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Day 17: part 2

We were not bored at all stuck on our mooring ball in Cohasset Cove, MA. In fact, we were super busy calling around to all the marinas between there and Newport, RI to see who could take us, assuming the seas were favorable enough for us to travel. The predicament was that some marinas said they had space, but only if we would commit and pay for the slip. Slips range from around $250 to $400 a night for a boat like ours, and we did not know where we would be able to get to, so we did not want to shell out the money, and thus, we could not guarantee anything.

We were able to find a slip in Sandwich, MA, right at the entrance to the Cape Cod canal, but when we called back a couple of hours later, they said that someone snagged the slip from under us, since we did not pay. Given our lack of water and Ann's general feeling that she wanted to get off the boat, we decided to at least make a run for Scituate around 3pm. If the seas were really scary, we would just turn around and anchor again in Cohasset. If it was uncomfortable but not scary, we would make it to Scituate where we had a slip on hold. That would be an unpleasant hour to go 6 miles, but worth it to be on a dock with water and security. And, if the waves were not too bad, we would go as far as we could.

The problem was that by 2:30, I was not able to find a single place past the Canal that had any availability for tonight. I must have made a dozen calls to all the different marinas. Then it occurred to me to try the Kingsman Yacht club in Falmouth where we stayed on our way up. They remembered us, and they told me it is against their policy, but they could hold a slip for us, and if we could make it there, it was ours, and if not, we would not have to pay.

As we left Cohasset Cove behind us, Ann commented that she wanted to forget that place as quickly as possible. Pulling off the mooring ball and raising our anchor, I had to agree.
The view from our ill-fated mooring ball at Cohasset Cove
I decided to drive from the flybridge despite the cold air. It was 59 degrees and very windy when we pulled out. Initially, the waves seemed pretty manageable, but then we hit some big ones. Benny came up and told me we needed to go to Scituate because he did not want to travel in these waves. I had a sinking feeling that we were not going to get far today. I implored with him to see how he felt when we turned South, because the waves were coming from the East, and I thought that taking the waves on sideways would be less dramatic than head on. In fact, that was correct, and pretty soon we were surfing on top of the waves going in the same direction, and that is actually fun and not at all scary.  Benny agreed. We clocked in at 26 knots for a while with engine load at 85%. That is extremely good for this boast! I spoke with Ann, who was down below, over the radio on channel 73 (Lady Ann, Lady Ann, this is Sababa, over - yes, that's really how we communicate - using the marine radio and a portable that I keep inside), and we agreed to push on to Falmouth.

Pretty soon, the waves dropped to 2-3 feet, and when we reached the canal about 75 minutes later, the water was still and calm, and we were so happy.
The cape cod canal was our first calm waters in 2 days
Although it was still chilly out, we felt like the nightmare was over, and excited to tie up in Falmouth soon. We arrived just in time for a beautiful sunset, and I felt nostalgia for Elana, who was so into the sunsets on the trip with us. Lucky Elana managed to miss all of our adventures with the storm.
A peaceful evening at last
After arriving in Falmouth, we could not fill our water tanks fast enough. Ann was already in the shower as the water was coming in. I washed down the boat while Benny excitedly hooked up his video games. Without the generator, we did not have enough power for him to play video games on the mooring ball, as I did not feel that was a good use of our inverter and house batteries in a crisis situation. Call me old fashioned.
Tied up in Falmouth. The pleasure of a full service marina with floating docks
Tomorrow morning, we have an appointment with a mechanic at 7a.m. to look at the generator. If he is able to fix that, we will be at full strength with empty head tanks, full water tanks, food, drinking water and power. No stopping us now.

Hopefully, we will be able to get to Millford, CT tomorrow. I'm trying to get a slip at the original marina we were booked at, and if I am successful, then we will be exactly one day behind our planned schedule. Unfortunately there were two bits of collateral damage because of our storm delay. The Geva boys can no longer come with us to Maryland and instead will be taking a bus, and sadly, I will have to miss Peter Lugars with my cousin Kenny that was planned for tomorrow night. My vegan family even agreed to come with me if we could find something for them to eat because they knew how much it meant to me, but the restaurant is sold out. In fact, Kenny tried to convince them to let us have a table, but was unsuccessful. This is definitely one part of the trip I will have to make up some other time.

So, hopefully we'll have good weather the rest of the way. The next 2 days look good, and that should get us to Brooklyn, and if all goes well, we will get home on Saturday instead of Friday. But, of course, this is a boat trip, so anything can (and usually does) happen.

Day 17: Cohasset Cove

I suppose this blog got a lot more interesting the last couple of days. Nothing like a little drama to spice things up.

When I left off last night, Ann and Benny were lying down in the salon because they did not feel comfortable in the bedrooms with no heat and greater rocking motion. It was warmer upstairs, and this way Ann could keep an eye on things. Neither of us slept much. Every time I started to fall asleep, we would get hit by a big wave or something, and I would jump up and check our bearings with respect to the channel lights. I don't think I ever slept for a full hour. At 5:15 a.m., Ann was concerned that the mooring ball was banging into the hull of the boat, and she asked me to go take a look. I walked out to the bow and adjusted the anchor a couple of feet, and noticed that this new setting was bad because the anchor line and the mooring line could get tangled. So, I put it back the way it was. It was wet, rainy and 55 degrees, and I was in my pajamas, so not the happiest camper in the world.

I tried to go back to bed, and I think between 5:30 and 8:00 the three of us must have slept a bit. The biggest concern I had was our supply of drinking water. We were down to just a few bottles with minimal prospects for leaving here today because the forecast was not very good. Four to seven foot seas in the morning, going down to 3-5 this afternoon. I was also worried about power. The generator needs a mechanic, and our inverter would not turn on.

I called our home mechanic, and he walked me through getting the 2000 Watt inverter working. With that in place, we can run the outlets to charge our devices, and even use the microwave and the toaster, but not at the same time. My plan was to run the main engines periodically for a short period of time just to keep the house batteries charged.

We are also just about out of water in our tanks. So, I asked our mechanic about using raw water from outside the boat - the water we are sitting in. There is no mechanism on the boat to pump in that water, but we can scoop it up and drop it into our toilets to flush. I will say this about Prestige in Baltimore, their customer service is amazing. Their main mechanic has been on the phone with me throughout the last two days, and he's always proactive friendly and patient!

After we ate breakfast, Benny and I took the dinghy to shore and filled up our two gallon cooler and about 10 empty bottles with fresh water from a hose. Now, with a working inverter and plenty of drinking water, we feel better, but we would also like showers, and Ann commented that she really wants to get off the boat.

We spent the rest of the morning making tentative plans for today. We checked on the availability of marinas ranging from 6 miles away all the way to Newport where we have a paid slip that will not be refunded. We also canceled our reservation in Milford where we were supposed to be today, and postponed our reservation in Brooklyn. We also checked on the availability of mechanics to fix our generator water pump at various places.

At the moment, the dockmaster here thinks that there are 6 foot waves out there. We saw a crabbing boat go out and then come back about 20 minutes later, apparently giving up on their outing. Not a good sign. So, we are staying put for now. If we get any indication that the weather is improving, we are hoping to take the boat over to the next town over, Scituate, MA. It's a 6 mile run, which will take us an hour if the waves are really bad, but could take as little as 15 minutes if we can go fast. We have a slip on hold there, and that would mean power, water tanks full, showers, and even possibly going into whatever town there is to find food.

As I type this, a 36 foot sailboat passed us on the way out and we overheard their conversation with the dockmaster on channel 10 saying they are deciding to brave it. The dockmaster told them to come right back if it's too rough, so we'll see if they come back. Our 59' boat can handle so much more than a 36' boat. In fact, I don't think 6 foot waves are much to worry about on our boat, but there is the comfort of my crew to consider, and Ann has been a little queazy today, while Benny is prone to seasickness with extreme bouncing of the boat.

If we head to Scituate, and we find the water to be manageable, then we also have a slip available to us at Sandwich, MA, which is 35  miles away, just inside the Cape Cod Canal. However, if we make it to Sandwich, then we might as well push onwards because the canal should be relatively calm. Our Newport, RI slip is a long-shot, but I suppose if the seas are not bad, we can push that far and arrive before dark. We have until 5pm to notify them that we are coming, and they will make our slip available however late we get there.

Thus the life of the boater in questionable weather - we really have no idea where we'll end up tonight, but we will make safety the first priority. I'll try to write again this evening if there are any interesting developments. I hope I won't write that we left Cohasset at 3pm, and returned to Cohasset at 3:30 pm with our tail between our legs... But even if we do, at least we have plenty of water to drink for now.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Day 16: part two

This is a continuation of an earlier blog post that I wrote today. I left off where we were attached to a mooring ball, and everything was finally okay.

Well, that was what we thought.

So, around 6pm, the dockmaster comes whizzing by on her small boat and gesticulating wildly. I run up to see what's going on, and she yells through the pouring rain that one of our lines to the mooring ball has chaffed and torn completely off, and the other is about to go. By some miracle, she had decided to patrol and come by and see how we were doing. We had been keeping a close eye on the swinging boats around us, but had not looked at the lines on the mooring ball, and we were minutes away from completely breaking loose, without knowing it and without our engines running. A real near disaster. We would have charged right into the moored boats behind us, and according to the dockmaster, taken out all the boats in the marina. Probably a slight exaggeration, but it would have been seriously ugly. My god.

The wind and the rain were pretty fierce, and the current was very strong. Even in this cove the waves were high. I immediately started the engines, and we began quickly thinking about what to do. We had some back and forth yelling with the dockmaster about whether to set our anchor, to go back to Boston and what other options did we have? We asked about tying up to the private yacht club dock, and she insisted that we could not go there because it was private. Ann yelled back that this is a serious potentially life or death situation, and the dockmaster said that we just couldn't do it.

Ann and I talked and decided that at this point, with our boat about to break free, and under these conditions, we were just going to head to that dock and tie up and fight with the yacht club people if we had to. Would they really kick us off the dock and send us into the rough seas? I'd rather deal with the problem of an upset yacht club manager than this storm.

I started up the engines, but immediately something did not feel right. The joystick control gave a warning that I only had partial power and control. What the hell does that mean, and why now of all times? The current brought us really fast towards the dock, which seemed small as we approached it. I did not have the power to fight it with the joystick, so I grabbed the main thrusters and the bow thruster and tried to slow our approach. As the bow would not come around, Ann suggested that I switch our orientation and go port side in. That was a great suggestion, as I would not have made it to the starboard side in time. Benny had to move the fenders to the other side with lightning speed, which he actually accomplished. He was amazing.

I actually don't know how I did it, but I managed to get the boat lined up nicely with the dock and to stop it just right. I don't think I could do it if I tried ten more times. The port side engine was reading zero load, and the starboard was working hard. Later, in my thinking about this, I decided that I probably had just not started the port side engine, which is why the joystick wasn't working. It was a very hectic time when I was starting them, and I must have just not turned the key hard enough.

Anyway, Benny jumped off with a stern line, and I managed to keep the boat close while we got a spring line and a bow line tied up. Sure enough the marina manager came rushing over and in a very forceful voice told us we could not tie up on his dock, and that this was private. I came off the boat and in as calm a voice as I could muster I said, "Look sir, I understand your position. I am just trying to keep my family safe right now. We can't go back out because of the storm, and we can't attach to the mooring because we came off of it. I am tied up here to catch my breath and figure out what to do."

He insisted that the dock could not hold our boat which was too heavy and had too much windage. He said that the tide was out, and when it came back in, the winds would be fierce, and that our boat would tear their whole dock out and all the boats with it. And that no matter what, we were not sleeping there. He became a bit more cooperative when he realized that we were trying to solve a problem together, and that I was not insisting on staying on his dock. I believed him that the dock would not hold us. The cleats looked very small, and the dock was floating, but connected to the shore with chains, and it was clearly designed for small boats to tie up. They did not even have 50 amp power connectors.

The marina manager called over to the next town over that had an inlet, to see if they could take us. They are 6 miles away, and I figured it would take us at least an hour to get there, and by then, there were probably 90 minutes of "daylight" left. It was pretty dark anyway due to the storm. Luckily, I guess, the other town said that they could not accommodate us. I don't know if it was because we are too big, because they are full, or because they didn't want to deal with us the way this place had to.

So, we had to find a solution. The dockmaster and another woman who joined her to help suggested that they could bring some new, thicker lines to tie us to the mooring ball. The plan was for us to drive about 80 feet past the mooring ball, drop our anchor, and drift back past the ball. Then, while anchored, we would tie the lines as safety lines to the mooring ball, and set them up in such a way that they would not chafe like the other ones did. All this during a storm.

I killed the engines and restarted them, and I was thrilled to see that this time everything looked good, and the load was even on both. So whatever problem I had before was gone, and I was much more confident in my ability to pull off our plan with full joystick and throttle control. We set out, and I could tell the marina manager was relieved to have us off his hands. Getting the anchor set was quite an adventure itself. Our anchor winch was loose, and the anchor did not hold well on the boat, but it set nicely in the mud. The two dockmaster women were yelling for me to go this way and that, and I started to worry about the depth. I got the anchor dropped and drifted back, but not towards the mooring ball. So, it took all the skill I had to get us over there, and by some miracle, Ann was able to get the mooring lines attached to our cleats. Benny was up there helping as well. I seriously do not understand how they pulled this off. We kept both lines on the starboard side to avoid the chaffing problem.

Finally, we were connected with a belt and suspenders. The anchor as the primary hold, and the two lines to the mooring ball as pretty good backup. For some reason, we found it a lot harder to relax, given our earlier experience, and we decided that we would keep watches throughout the night.

I called our boat mechanic who explained to me where to find a tool to tighten the anchor winch, and how to test it, and that worked like a charm. I also took some fender lines that I had and created an anchor safety that should provide some backup. When we get home, one of the things at the top of my list will be to get a better anchor safety system in place.

So, just as it seemed like things were under control, except for, of course, our water shortage, suddenly the heat turned off, and the generator died. I tried restarting it, and it would not stay on for more than 5 seconds. I called my mechanic, and he suggested I check the water strainer. It was full of debris, but I could not get it open. Ann and I brainstormed ideas for getting some leverage, but nothing worked. We alternated trying to open it. Finally, we gave up, and just as we were going up, out of the engine room, I decided to give it one more try with all my strength, and I got it! It was so filthy that I was sure this was the problem. We emptied it out, and I put the strainer back in and started up the generator - and it died 5 seconds later. Ugh.

I called the mechanic back, and he said to close the seacock, fill the strainer with water, start the engine, and quickly open the valve, and that this has worked in the past and might do the trick. I poured in some of our precious water, and tried what he said, but it did not work. The mechanic concluded that either we have a bad impeller, or that debris got into the water pump that feeds the strainer (seems like a bad design to have the pump in front of the strainer, but I guess it's above the water level so there may be no choice), and so the generator engine could not cool.

The consequence of having no generator is that we have to conserve a bit on our power usage, and we are without heating or cooling. We will charge all the batteries again in the morning when we run the main engines, so it's not really a problem, just an inconvenience. I also have a spare impeller on board, so if we find a mechanic at our next marina, hopefully he can fix this and the generator will work again. It's really the least of our problems.

So, now it's 11:15, and Ann and Benny are trying to sleep upstairs in the saloon where I am sitting nearby and recounting the last few hours. It was exhausting, but we don't want to all sleep at the same time. We are keeping an eye on the anchor and the mooring lines and the boats around us. Need to make sure we aren't dragging or moving. The storm picks up periodically, and that is a little scary. We're pretty concerned about the mooring ball hitting our starboard hull because we are close to it, but the wind and current are pushing us away from that direction, and at the moment, having that safety backing up the anchor is the most important thing for us.

Tomorrow, we will probably be pretty tired from lack of sleep, but we will have to use all our judgement and resourcefulness to get to a marina somewhere. We're no longer very concerned with timing, just with safety and getting some water. If the seas are too rough for travel, we will stay put, but I will call the dockmaster and figure out how to get some drinking water on the boat. Maybe use our dingy to get to shore if it's calm in here. Also, if our tanks run dry, we won't be able to flush the toilets, so we need to get to a marina in short order.

So, here we are. It's 58 degrees out. I believe we are secure with our anchor and the mooring backup. The weather tomorrow should be better. But, we will be smart and nimble and flexible, and we will figure out how to get through this. I'm sure of that.

It would be nice to enjoy all of the pleasures of boating and that's it, but that is not reality. We have to learn to be problem solvers, to be handy, and to keep our wits about us. Boating is fun and exciting, but it's also challenging, complicated and hard. As my friend Michael Rosman likes to say, "from bad decisions come good stories". If we had stayed in Boston today, it would have been so much simpler, but I would have had nothing to blog about. We went to some museum, and we had lunch and blah blah blah. Isn't this more fun???