First Friday 2015
05 January 2015 | Whortonsville, NC
We really enjoyed our extended excursion to Ocracoke in November but when we got back we immediately began preparation for the holidays. We always do a turkey and all the trimmings dinner on Thanksgiving for our little tribe and any other extended family that want to come. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It takes one trip to the grocery store, one day of prep work and one day of stuffing yourself with good food. Then it is over unlike Christmas which drags on for a month.
The weather has been typical Carolina early winter. The temperatures have been bearable but we have a lot of dreary days. We haven’t burned a single piece of wood from our handsome wood pile. We have been spending some time with our grandchildren which is great because they won’t be children forever. Judy returns to work in the tax office on January 5 so we decided to at least head to the boat to make sure it still floats. I wanted to crank the diesel and make sure the systems were working as advertized. We won’t be making the trip many times until April because of the typical weather and Judy working. I will make some trips by myself to do the annual maintenance and other boat keeping jobs.
Jan and Ken sent me a text on New Year’s day saying it was really cold and we should send an “ice breaker” because there was ice on the creek. Unfortunately, we missed them. They left for home the day before we left for Ensign Harbor.
Friday January 2, 2015
We packed light for the trip to Ensign Harbor mainly because it was to be a short trip and there was to be no cooking aboard. We left shortly after 8am. The trip takes 5 hours even if you are in a hurry. We usually take our time and enjoy the ride, stopping to stretch our legs as needed. We arrived before 2 pm and unpacked then took a walk, which was nice after being cooped up in a car. We always check out the “Coffee Creek Weather Rock” (pictured above) when we walk down to “Point Marina”.
Chris and his wife had been there for several days working on their newly acquired Westsail 32. We didn’t expect to see any other dock mates. Nick stopped by and told me about their trip to Costa Rica. We talked about Internet access there at the marina. Chris had purchased a WIFI booster that was working well. I had recently purchased one and it really works great. Nick had been struggling to provide a better WIFI signal but had not been very successful. Personally, the booster works great and I appreciate Nick allowing us to use his personal WIFI. It is almost required equipment if you need to reach WIFI while traveling on the boat or in the camper.
I accomplished what I went for when I made sure the diesel would crank and checked the bilge pump and electrical system. On a recommendation of Roger (ace boat mechanic) I have been disengaging the battery charger from the batteries when we are not aboard. Roger says they will last longer if they have to work a bit. I did not connect the charger before I cranked the engine and was happy to see that the starting battery still had plenty if juice to crank the little diesel.
Since I retired (got downsized) I have been working on a computer application for Amateur Radio Traffic Handlers. As you can imagine, it is a small audience but it keeps my brain working figuring how to solve a real world problem with software. I spent some time on Friday afternoon writing a minor code change for the next release.
We were planning to eat out on Friday night. We originally talked about pizza at the Silos Restaurant in Oriental. After some discussion about a seafood place, Judy decided she really wanted pizza. It was early when we left for dinner so the Silos was not crowded. We ordered a Greek pizza and it was quite good. The Silos had a bad habit of being out of things. The waitress came back and told us they were out of olives and would we like something else substituted. How can an Italian restaurant be out of olives? It does not bode well for the future of the business because this has happened every time we have been there.
Our early dinner was to allow me to get back to the boat for an Amateur Radio related experiment. Back in May, I went to the Dayton Hamfest which, as the name implies, is a huge swap meet for Amateur Radio. I bought my “retirement” radio transmitter, a Kenwood TS-950s. I bought the radio because I like Kenwood gear and the rig is easier to operate than some of the “menu” driven radios. I didn’t realize it when I bought it but the Kenwood Company has designed software that will allow the radio to be operated remotely across the Internet. After some research, I found that with very little expense, I would be able to connect the radio to the laptop in my radio shack and control it from another laptop theoretically anywhere I have Internet access. How cool is that? To control the radio from the laptop I needed a type 2 USB cable. I priced one at the Benson Hamfest and the seller just gave it to me. I built a set of audio cables to connect the TS-590s and the laptop’s sound card from parts in one of my many “junk boxes” and purchased a computer (gaming) headset on eBay for a whopping $8 shipping included. With the hardware in place the fun of getting the software to work began. None of this is simple and there are a lot of moving parts. This is when having a son with a master’s degree in computer science comes in handy. Matthew explained how to open router ports to the radio shack laptop to allow the remote laptop to access it. Once all that was in place, I made a trip to the local McDonalds (at home) to give it a go. My friend Hal was standing by and we were able to make a contact. Hal told me that there was a lot of background noise but I fixed that by disabling the build in microphone on the remote laptop.
The Friday evening North Carolina traffic net was the smoke test for my “Remote over IP” radio system. I was able to check in and participate almost as if I had been at home. I was even able to handle traffic. It was not perfect but it was close and a lot better than trying to install a radio and antenna system onboard the boat. Many stations commented that they could not tell the difference between remote and normal at-home operation. I really enjoy participating in the traffic system and doing things like this keeps my problem solving skills sharp.
We spent the rest of the evening reading and surfing the net and turned in early. The weather was not too cold just a little damp. The small electric heater took care of the cold and the damp and we slept comfortably.
Saturday January 3, 2015
The weather had deteriorated but this was expected. It rained a bit over night but was not raining when we woke. We had no plans to for the day and decided to head for home before the weather got worse, which it was sure to do, based on the Internet radar picture. Chris was headed back to Ohio. I do not envy that drive. It didn’t take long to pack and leave. We were planning lunch at the “Rockin’ Comet” diner in Clayton. We stop there when we are not in a hurry to get home. With the new Clayton bypass, it is a bit out of the way now but worth the effort if you want a good meal. Judy wanted to stop at the Antique Mall in Asheboro so we will make a day of getting home. That is fine with me because the company is much more than acceptable.
The next trip will be for spring maintenance unless we have an unusually nice weekend. Otherwise I will watch for a warm couple of days. That probably won’t be before late February or early March.