The best of intentions

by Erik Dolson

Now THAT was a success. Planning the tides, the currents, time of departure, time of arrival … I’ll tell you, I have talent. A special talent, in fact …

Somehow, I got it all exactly wrong.

Not a little bit wrong, not off on the shoulder wrong, but current dead on the bow wrong, full flood, maximum flow.

I’d planned to do 9 knots in my calculations the night before. At first I told myself it was the wind. Not really supposed to be any wind, according to two different forecasts I consulted, but there it was, about 10 degrees off the bow of the boat and blowing 18 mph. So I wasn’t making 9 knots, I was making 7.2.

But, I told myself, when I turn to the west the wind will be just off the starboard stern, and I’ll make it up then!

Sure enough, I turned the corner by Roche Harbor and the wind, now going more my direction, was much less fierce. So the speed of the boat picked up to … huh? Now the speed was down to 6.8 knots, over the ground, as current sped against me through the narrow gap.

Okay, okay, we still have the longest leg, down Haro Strait. That should go much, much better. It’s a long run, wind from the port side rear quarter, I bet I’ll do … ah c’mon! 7.3 knots!?!

This time I looked again at the currents on my iPad, at the same program I looked at last night. They must have changed it while I slept! Because it clearly showed exactly what I was seeing on the water. Flood at 10:30 a.m. Maximum flow at this time. Against my direction of travel.

So instead of 3 1/2 hours to Victoria, it took over four. No big deal, nothing to do when I arrived, anyway. I was there at 12:30ish, only because of having made my 8 a.m. sunrise departure which, honestly, was a bit of a miracle by itself though it would have been a faster trip if I’d overslept an hour or two.

I pulled into customs exactly as I wanted, it all felt good as I backed into the wind, tossed a line over the new cleat on the dock, realized I was still going aftward because I’d not shifted into neutral, jumped to put the shifter into forward to stop the backward momentum, regathered the line and again threw it over the cleat on the dock … then tried to hold the boat for a second before realizing it wasn’t the current that was pulling me forward but the slowly chugging Yanmar I again had not taken out of gear … banged my head on the corner of the new house getting to the gear shift …

Okay, stop. Just stop. This is not that hard. Be deliberate, my mentor once said.

Stop the boat. Throw and secure spring line. Position boat against the line. Tie the stern line, then the bow. Now you can call customs. Whew!

Leaving customs, I left all the fenders down and lines ready to deploy at the marina two minutes away. When I saw the slip I’d been assigned, in the easiest possible location, I spun Foxy about in the harbor full of boats with holiday crowds at the wall, backed smartly up alongside the dock, stopped the boat and had her tied securely in about a minute.

Oh, yeah, done this before, not a big deal. (Sshhh.)

Farther but faster, of course less travelled

by Erik Dolson

This evening I plotted two courses from Friday Harbor to Victoria, B.C. I’ll take the longer one tomorrow, the last day of 2018, and maybe get there sooner.

The route around the southern tip of San Juan Island is 26.2 miles. The route around the north end of the island is 30 miles. All things being equal, the southern route would be about a half hour faster.

But unless I’ve misread tide and current tables, I’d be going against the flow most of the way on the southern route.  If I head north, currents should give me a boost first toward Roche Harbor, and by the time I get to Haro Strait, they should carry me south. Go with the flow.

If that’s correct, the longer route should take about 3 hours 26 minutes from just outside Friday Harbor to just outside the breakwater at Victoria. The shorter route would take 3 hours 48 minutes, or so.

A quarter hour is meaningless, of course. It’s a sailboat. It motors along at about 8 knots under power, which actually isn’t bad for a sailboat. But I was born impatient, and my other hobby rips along at 160 miles an hour. There the competition is against other drivers, and there’s competition with myself, the scramble for tenths if not hundredths of a second, the roar, the thrust, hanging on to the edge of traction.

This is a different focus: repairing dorades so they don’t gulp water, placing mooring lines where they’ll be accessible when close to the dock, tying down solar panels so they don’t flap like wings in a bit of chop and wind; making sure the jib can be deployed if the engine fails, or the anchor if drifting close to shore. Look, think, be deliberate, step carefully. Prepare, execute.

Taking the longer but faster route is really more about the challenge of seeing if I’ve plotted the course correctly, read the current tables, done my homework. If not, I’ll pay the penalty of a slow slog. I’ve done slogs against the currents in Juan de Fuca, and it really stretches out the distance.

Plus, I’ve made the southern passage a number of times, never taken the northern route and would like to see something new. It might be a good idea to become familiar with a back-up transit, too, in case Juan de Fuca is particularly nasty some day when I need to be someplace.

But that’s just a rationalization. I’ve been doing that a lot, lately. Explaining myself to myself. Let’s just put the new passage down to a mild case of adventuring, of seeking the heightened senses of not knowing exactly what’s around the next bend.

You’ve been selected for … !

by Erik Dolson

Marriott Hotels has selected me for a special, low cost vacation. Windham Hotels wants me to view a resort property and tell all my friends (both of you)  how great it was. Credit Card Services is giving me a low, 6 percent interest rate on my Visa and Mastercard balances. To top it off, someone is going to give me better health insurance at NO ADDITIONAL COST!

All that by noon today. By bedtime, especially around the dinner hour,  I imagine I’ll have received another four or five spam calls. Up until now I would listen to the pitch, ask questions, hoping the caller would put me on a list that says that calling my phone number was a giant waste of time, and after all, time is money.

Then I was on the phone with James, a gentleman who sounded like he was in India.

“You just want to take my time!” he yelled after I asked him for the fourth time to tell me which credit card he was talking about. He cut the connection before I could say that his call and others I’d received today cost ME time, and aggravation. Good thing I am on an unlimited plan.

James and those on the other end of spam calls are just trying to eke out a living wherever their call center is located: India, The Philipines, South Carolina. I doubt it’s a high paying gig, but since I can’t get to his boss, or the boss’s boss, I’d hoped there was a feedback loop somewhere and they’d stop letting me waste their time as they wasted mine. It was about all I could do.

But James caused me to think again about “time is money.” So is electricity. And bandwidth. Battery usage. I wondered if there is anyplace in the system where AT&T and Verizon might be making money off spam. Because, after all, they make money off nearly every other use of bandwidth (at one time those were “our” airwaves. Another story).

Given that AT&T and Verizon are happy to store our information and share it with the U.S. government if asked (as a run around the law prohibiting the government itself from doing so), it’s not unreasonable that they know who is flooding the world with and profiting from the spam.

Could it be that AT&T and Verizon sell me service and then sell me to others? Why don’t I get a cut of that deal? Does spam take up bandwidth that AT&T and Verizon have said is in such short suppply? Could they stop spam, and if so, why don’t they? It’s not unreasonable to think they’re making a profit from the calls somehow. Someone is, or the calls would not exist.

Yes, there are other telecoms and they are not innocent. But sometimes you just want to aim at the head of a snake.

Spam calls are not just an annoyance. We should not have to go to lengths to block, screen, or otherwise avoid these intrusions into our lives. At one time, with landlines and later for unlisted cell phones, unasked for intrusions were illegal. They could be again. Perhaps it’s time for a person of authority to take an interest.

Free speech, you say? Nothing is free in a market economy. Spammers have just shifted the cost onto  me. They call my phone again and again and again, running down my battery and stealing my attention. I’d like it to stop. Time is money, and I don’t have enough of either one.

Oil men put Santa in chains

By Erik Dolson

Merry Christmas.

It’s that time to turn away from the scourge of Trump and look for kinder, gentler souls. Recent news gives us many candidates, but we’ve heard enough about foreigners with names like Putin or Erdoğan or Assad.

Fortunately, we can focus much closer to home on Gary R. Heminger, Chairman and CEO of Marathon Oil, and the Koch brothers, David and Charles,

These oligarchs are or soon will be responsible for killing thousands of innocent people around the world, many right here in the U.S. These three, especially, are attempting to get Americans to burn an additional 300,000 to 400,000 barrels of oil per day. Read more…


By Erik Dolson

Humor is how we communicate our intelligence.

Humor depends on something being out of context, that does not fit into “its” pattern.

Only a Brain that knows the pattern can tell when something does not fit.

Explaining a joke is not funny. Explaining “why”  fits the something into another pattern. Those of similar brains who see similar patterns just “get it.”

Pieces out of context are not always funny. Chaos can be terrifying. Clowns.

Do animals laugh?

Of course, when someone does something out of context that they see as funny.

Will machines ever laugh?

Of course, but we’ll never know why it happens.

We won’t get the joke.

Machines explaining it to us won’t be very funny.


By Erik Dolson

There are patterns in the Universe.

The Brain is a pattern-recognition organ.

Universe rewarded genes that produced Brain.

Because Universe has patterns, Universe has Brain. A universe with no patterns, no physics, no gravity, no stars, of Entropy and alone, could have no Brain. A universe without brains could have no patterns. If Brain, then patterns. If patterns, then Brain.

But our Universe has physics. Intelligence is inevitable.

We are not the apex. We are not the only brains.

Humanity occupies a point so small as to be nearly invisible, an instant of infinitesimal flicker in an expanse so eternal and infinite we can not fully comprehend.

Universe does not care. Others are rewarded.

Because there are patterns.

There will always be Brain. Intelligence is inevitable.