Monday, April 04, 2011

Down at Redfish Island

It's been a busy few weeks. We launched our new branding campaign at work, raised money for the tsunami victims, and I'm neck deep in MS 150 planning and logistics. (The MS 150 is giving me stress-induced nightmares that our buses don't show up to Austin or that we don't have enough cots for all the riders in La Grange. It's way more stress to plan this event than it ever was riding it.) Meanwhile, at home I was attempting to rebuild the boat transmission while dealing with hardware failure on my four-year-old computer and about two hours of battery life on my two-year-old iPhone, which was refusing the charge at all with more and more frequency.

Let's just address the two big issues right now:
1) Seagate hard drives suck. They suck so bad that I can't even believe Seagate is still in business. This is the third hard drive failure I've had in two years. I'm so irritated. If you're going to buy an external drive, go with iomega. If you need an internal drive, stick with Hitachi or Western Digital. Avoid Seagate at all costs.
2) Non-replaceable batteries on Apple products are a major design flaw. Yes, by packing an oddly shaped battery in and around other components the Macbooks are remarkably thin, but damn, I'm not paying labor to have someone do surgery on my two-year-old iPhone just to get a fresh battery. Plus, the entire reason I need my phone to hold charge is that I will be without electricity the entire MS 150 weekend, and I need to be able to take phone calls from all of the volunteers to keep things running. Being able to swap batteries would be a key feature. The same goes for when I'm out on the boat and using the iPhone for GPS.

Long story short, I finally made some electronics upgrades. I was sad to do it because I had been saving the money to get the boat a bottom job and some upholstery work, but it was just time.

One great thing is that technology has progressed to the point that I was able to pick up a notebook more powerful and feature rich than the desktop I built a few years back for less than the desktop cost. I looked at the new MacBook Pros. I've held a grudge against Macs for a long time, but all my friends are switching, and the new generation have the Thunderbolt ports, etc. However, when it comes to features, that Thunderbolt port, for which absolutely no accessories currently exist, was the only thing the Macs had over a Dell XPS. You can't get Blu-Ray on a Mac. The Macs don't have 1080p screens. The Macs don't have HDMI out. The Macs don't have USB 3.0. The 15" Dell had all those features as well as a built-in TV tuner and a faster 2.7GHz i7 quad processor, 8GB Ram and 2GB video Ram for more than $1,500 less than the comparable MacBook. Talk about style over substance. I just can't fathom why someone would buy one of those machines.

As for the phone, until Android has the Navionics and other boating apps up to speed, I'm staying with iPhone. However, I didn't want to use my upgrade this close to the release of the rumored iPhone 5, so I turned to craigslist. I ended up buying a used iPhone 4 from a middle school kid whose parents switched to Sprint. It blows my mind that middle school kids now have smart phones, much less extra ones, but I guess there will always be rich kids with the latest gadgetry however age-inappropriate I might think it is for them. If I ever have kids, though, they're not getting anything except cans on a string until age 18.

With my technology restored and my communications functions returned to 100% capacity, I felt much better about life. Hopefully I'm set for another two or three years. With that sorted, I turned my attention back to the transmission. I got it buttoned up on Thursday night and despite dragging my feet a bit Friday in regards to getting to Kemah and getting started, the reinstall went much smoother and faster than I expected. The hardest part (aside from lifting that thing into place while lying on my side in the aft berth) was bolting the starter back in. I finished the job in about an hour without any extra bolts left over, so I think I remembered everything.

With all the bad luck I've been having lately, I was a bit stressed as we headed out for Redfish Island Saturday morning. I was just waiting for either the transmission to quit again or the engine to start spewing oil everywhere. Neither happened. I still don't have working fuel or temperature gauges, but other than that the boat ran great.

We put in a lot of sailing time. In fact, we left at 10:30 in the morning and didn't make it back to the marina until 9:30 that night. Part of that might be due to the fact that instead of checking my GPS for the heading to Redfish Island, I just took off towards some offshore platforms that I thought were near it. Well, it is near offshore platforms -- but the ones at the other end of the bay. You know, they all look the same when they're just specs on the horizon.

Once we made it to Redfish, we buddy boated with my friends on the Tina Marie who treated us to some amazing fajitas. I've been holding out on buying a grill for the Starwind, but maybe it's time.

The only disappointing thing about Saturday was that I was never able to get the Starwind past 4.5 knots whether we were motoring or under sail. Of course, the bottom hasn't been cleaned in almost two years, so I'm wondering if that's the issue. Last year we were making 6.5 knots easy. Go figure. I guess we should have her cleaned to see if it helps although I think there's no avoiding a bottom job this year.

There's always plenty of work to be done, but at least we're starting the season out on the water instead of stuck in the marina.