Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Movie Reviews: All Is Lost and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty

 I watched this movie a couple weeks ago. This is a story of a middle aged sailor single handing a sailboat in the Indian Ocean. In a nutshell, he collides with a floating shipping container, repairs the structural damage, encounters a storm, is dismasted, abandons the sailboat to a life raft and drifts in the ocean until rescue. Or is he rescued?

From the beginning, I found this movie disturbing. It starts with a voice reading a message where the voice talks about being adrift, only a half day of food left and ends it by reading "All Is Lost". Then a caption pops up on the screen that says: "Eight days earlier" and the movie starts with the boat impaled on the container. What! Eight days from his collision to when he writes a note saying "All is lost"! This seemed to be the theme of the entire movie. A theme of a lack of urgency and skill and giving up when things get rough. Eight days is not very long for survival at sea. Many have survived much longer, but our hero seems to show little resourcefulness or mental toughness to survive.

From the beginning, many inaccuracies show up. After the collision with the container, our hero shows a lack of urgency with stopping the inrush of water and repairing the damage. He tries the electrical system to I assume start the electric bilge pump. Nothing works. Hmm, are the batteries flooded? No, when he removes one, it is clearly visible that it is a sealed, AGM(absorbed glass mat) battery that should have withstood immersion. And it did have power left in it to try to make his radio operate. Instead he had to manually pump out the boat with a pump handle cut from a mop handle. What! Here is a boat that probably sailed half way around the world and the proper pump handle was not aboard? And was not lanyard to the boat next to the pump?

Anyway, he tries to make a distress call by broadcasting on a VHF radio( a radio with line of sight transmission only) with the term "SOS". This is laughable as "SOS" was a distress signal developed for Morse Code(..., ---, ...). The proper voice distress call(since 1927) is "Mayday" repeated three times. Where does the moviemaker get this stuff?

He notices that a storm is approaching, so rather than preparing the boat and hanking on the storm jib, he spends valuable time shaving! So when the storm arrives, he is caught trying to manhandle a storm sail around while the waves are breaking aboard. He is rolled a couple of times and is dismasted. Every time he goes on deck, he leaves the companionway hatch and hatchboards open allowing water to flood the boat. He finally abandons the sailboat with nothing but the liferaft. Where is his "ditch bag". Most sailors I know prepare a kit of survival gear that is stored with the raft and goes with the raft. This kit will have survival food, water, flares and other survival equipment. I would include a handheld GPS, handheld VHF radio and a hand operated reverse osmosis water maker.

After the storm and an uncomfortable night in the life raft, the morning is calm. The sailboat is still afloat no thanks to the sailor who left the hatches open so the boat could flood. Our hero reboards the boat to finally try to get provision to survive. He also spends a lot of time retrieving a sextant(celestial navigation device) from a locker deep within the boat. No effort was made to save the boat from sinking and it finally does go down. Since his life raft was still tethered to the sailboat, I was expecting the sailboat to pull the raft under.

The time in the raft was a bit more believable. He showed some ingenuity in constructing a solar still that allowed him to process some drinking water. But when he unwrapped the sextant, the look on his face was one of "what is this?". As has happened with other survivors, while drifting for a few days, ships did not respond to his distress signals.

His final act of signaling for help was one of desperation with no further chance of survival if it failed. This to me is where "All Is Lost" does not present a story of courage and perseverance. The Tom Hanks movie, "Cast Away" is a lot more believable as a story of survival.

Because of the numerous inaccuracies in this movie and the theme throughout of  giving up, I do not recommend this movie. I think that most people will be drawn to this movie because the only character is played by a known actor, Robert Redford. And in nautical "speak", I give this movie two marlinspikes down!

In contrast to the movie "All Is Lost", I liked this movie! Walter is a quiet, shy, daydreamer who lives a non eventful life. He works at Life Magazine as a "negative asset manager". His job title makes his new managers pause and stare at Walter. But Walter handles the photographic negatives for the company.

When Walter cannot find a negative that is targeted for the last Life Magazine cover, he starts on a worldwide search for the photographer, his hero Sean O Connell (Sean Penn) to find out what happened to the missing negative. This leads to travels to Greenland, Iceland, Afghanistan and the Himalaya mountains. Although unbelievable things happen to Walter, he discovers himself along the way. Using clues from other negatives, he finds Sean and the negative. In his last task with the company, he presents it to his boss along with a lecture. In the end, he is terminated from Life as it is closing, he "gets" the girl and he stands taller! This is a great movie for us "daydreamers".

The scenes in the movie were spectacular. The mountain scenes especially were good. The movie was well made. The actors believable. I think Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty, played this part well. I give this movie "two iceaxes up" and recommend it as a good movie to watch.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Pony Car Project-More Power!

The following statement from Late Model Restoration's product page described the dilemma I was in:
"1986-1993 Mustang stock alternators suffer from small wiring and low output, and the power wire plug is prone to melt and even cause an under hood fire. Add under drive pulleys and running your accessories such as headlights, A/C or the heat and you'll likely see the lights dim and the battery gauge drop. Throw an electric cooling fan in to the mix and the stock alternator simply cant keep up."

My Mustang never seemed to have a fully charged battery. At night, when I would stop and the engine drop to idle, the lights would dim and the voltmeter in the dash would drop to the bottom of the normal range. Furthermore, even in the daytime, if I drove very far, stopped somewhere and tried to restart the Mustang, often it would grind over slowly before it would start. This could have also been a failing starter. So after Black Friday, Late Model Restoration was having a sale and one of the items was a SVE 130 amp alternator and wiring kit including a number 4 gauge power wire. The sale price was very discounted so I bought the kit.

Last Friday I installed the new alternator. Since it is physically larger than the stock alternator, I had to modify the mounting bracket by cutting a notch in the bracket. The wiring required new terminals crimped on and new connectors soldered onto existing wiring. Lastly, a new number four power cable with fuse was run from the alternator to the starter solenoid. It took me about two hours to complete the installation.

The new alternator puts out much more power. At just above idle, it now puts out about 14.3 volts and keeps the battery charged to 12.8 volts. The battery is charged enough now so that the starter spins the engine over nicely instead of grinding over real slow. Now, I can stop worrying about changing the starter!

 The alternator bracket needed to be notched to clear the larger alternator.
 The 130 amp alternator kit arrived with all the parts needed to install.
 The new alternator installed. Some of the connections are in a different location than the stock alternator. This actually allowed more room with some other components around the engine.
While I was at it, I also changed the instrument cluster with one from a 1991 Mustang that I bought a week ago at a wrecking yard. The old cluster had weak, faded out backlighting and the background paint was peeling off allowing light to bleed through. Also the gages did not seem to indicate properly. I don't know if this was because of dirt, a weak power supply or if someone had removed the needles and reinstalled them incorrectly. The new instrument cluster has bright backlighting and the gages seem to indicate properly. So far, it has been very worthwhile to change out the instruments.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Pony Car Project-The Eyes Are The Window Of The Soul

Headlights are the "eyes" of a car. They are one of the first things that you notice when you approach a car. Some cars hide their headlights and only show them after dark. The 1979-1986 Mustangs had four headlights and the car was referred to as a "four eye".

My Mustang has what is referred to as the aerodynamic front end. The headlights, marker lights and turn signals are molded into the front fairings. I have wanted to change the light set for some time. One headlight had the bulb socket melt (and fog the inside), all of the light were dulled and I could not get them any brighter. Some of the plastics were crazed and chipped around the edges. But the greatest reason for changing the light set was just to update the car and while I was at it, I really wanted smoked lenses to give have a "stealth" look.

For "Black Friday" and until December 6th, Late Model Restoration
(http://www.latemodelrestoration.com/1979-93-Mustang) had a sale on a lot of their items. One thing that I noticed was a substantial savings on their Ultra smoked light set. This is a clear, non ribbed headlight set with a slight dark appearance. I ordered it (along with an upgraded alternator kit) and it arrived last Friday. I installed the lights yesterday.

 Here is the Mustang with the older non-smoked headlights. The fog lights are smoked already.
 This is the left side turn signal, headlight and marker light. They are very shiny and the lenses clear with a slight dark appearance.
  Here are the lights installed and illuminated. I was concerned that they would be too dark at night. But they seem as bright as the old lights. LMR suggests buying a brighter set of light bulbs. I think I will wait until I get these lights adjusted better before I consider new bulbs.
 Even without the lights on, the lights have a stealthy look.
 Even without the lights on, the lights have a stealthy look. This car would look good painted black.
 And today, I made a trip to a wrecking yard and picked some parts off a 1983 and a 1991 Mustang. Good finds and a great price!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Winter Vashon Race 2013-It's Called "Winter" Vashon For A Reason

The Winter Vashon Race is a 30.6 NM race that starts at the Tacoma Yacht Club near Pt Defiance and goes around Vashon Island. This race is the first race of the four race South Sound Series. Lots of people think that we quit racing in the winter and start racing again in the spring. This race is the beginning of my racing season.
On Friday, I delivered the boat to Tacoma Yacht Club. I got an early start at 0700 and arrived at the guest moorage around 1050. I was able to get a great spot on the dock. It was a cold delivery. The temperature was in the mid 20's when I left the house. Fortunately, the sun came out and what wind there was was from behind. Until I exited Colvos Pass. Crossing the last few miles across Dalco Pass, the wind was easterly on the beam and was blowing up to 25 knots. This made a pretty uncomfortable, wet final part of the delivery. As the day went on, more boats arrived and the docks filled up with boats. There were many tales of cold people and frozen spray on the boats.  Later in the evening, Tacoma Yacht Club put on their usual prerace dinner. Much discussion centered around the weather forecast for the next day. The forecast was for winds in the low teens and decreasing through the day. One thing was certain, it was suppose to be cold! Through the night, the wind rattled the rigging of the assembled boats. I was able to stay warm in the boat with the furnace running.
Saturday morning was still cold with the temps again in the mid twenties. The wind was blowing at about 10-12 knots from the north east. As boats milled around the starting area, it was interesting to see many boats sailing with small jibs. We thought about it, but decided that the heavy No. 1 jib might be better in the variable wind strengths. We were in the third start at 0915 and got an excellent start at the pin end. The first part of the course took us on a close reach across Dalco Pass and into Colvos Pass where we sailed close hauled. I was concerned about getting too close to Vashon Island and losing the wind, but it stayed fairly constant as it rolled off the land. Since the wind was somewhat easterly, we sailed past Olalla  before we were headed and had to tack. Some boats in our class did not sail as high of a course as us and made multiple tacks before we had to tack. We only made three tacks before a nice shift to the left let us lay the mark from near Fragaria on the Kitsap shore. Near the north end of Vashon Island the wind did get gusty and we saw some gusts in the low 20's and as we cleared Colvos Pass, the wind seemed to settle out around 15 knots. Also the strong ebb flowing against the NE winds made for some sloppy conditions. It remained cold and the crew told me that there was slush on the foredeck from the spray and one of my guys said that the spray was freezing on his glasses. We rounded the mark in first place in our class.
We set the spinnaker and headed downwind toward Pt Robinson. It started out as a fast reach, but as we approached the bottom of the island, the wind became more puffy and the fleet compressed. First "Absolutely" and "Tantivy" closed up some on us and then after we jibed,  "Something Special" climbed up on our quarter. We luffed up "Something Special". They fell off and sailed into a light spot below us. On the final reach, "Absolutely" used there waterline and "Tantivy" reached with their asymmetrical spinnaker and sailed ahead of us with "Tantivy" finishing first and "Absolutely" second just 42 seconds ahead of us. We placed third finishing at 1407.
Results can be found here: Winter Vashon Results
And some great pictures can be found here including several of us: https://www.facebook.com/sean.trew/media_set?set=a.660005064022353.1073741863.100000385963463&type=1
Many more pictures are here, except we are not in any of them: http://janpix.smugmug.com/Boats/TYC-Winter-Vashon-2013/35233680_LWGJzj#!i=2955277832&k=9M7gf2g
It really was a great day for a race. The sun was out the whole day and the wind stayed constant enough to get us back to the finish well before dark. Mt Ranier was visible the whole day. Thanks to Tacoma Yacht Club for putting on a great race. And thanks to my crew of Walter, Rainer, David, Tim and Tom. They did a great job and I never heard them complain about the cold.
After the race, I headed home arriving back at Brownsville at 1835. It was very cold motoring into the now much lighter north winds. I drank hot fluids and bundle up, but my hands got cold and cramped making it hard to get my mittens on. It was 22 degrees when I got to the marina.
One final item. I need to apologize to the start before ours. I lost focus for a couple of minutes and bumbled into there starting area. I know better than this and feel embarrassed that it happened. I apologized to one crew and they were very forgiving.
 Sunrise on Friday morning.
 Rafted boats at Tacoma Yacht Club.
 Later in the afternoon, boats still finishing the race.
Our course for the day. The race went around Vashon Island in a clockwise direction.