Category Archives: Uncategorized

Some People Are Catching On…

I have written several times about how many people in Panama treat their country as a trash can.

Thankfully it looks as if some Panamanians are getting fed up with it and trying to do something about it. The areas around bus stops (although a bus will stop ANYWHERE if you wave at it) are the worse. Usually there’s a tienda nearby selling drinks and snacks and the containers generally end up on the ground.

This morning when I went to catch the bus into David, this was sitting in the caseta, a small structure with a tin roof to shelter people from the sun and rain while they wait for a bus. The handwriting says Basurero=Dump. Some people had actually used it. Now, who will be keeping their eye on it remains to be seen. I’m proud of at least ONE of my neighbors…

20150518_094542

 

20150518_094606

By the way, this happens to be my 800th blog post! Hooray ME!!!!

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Diligent

Over the last couple of days there’s been a little bird, about the size of a small finch, who has been diligently working away at building a nest in the lime tree out back. It flits in and out and never hangs around long enough to get a picture of it. It’s a member of the Oropendola family. They build hanging nests. This is what’s being constructed in my back yard…

IMG_0738

The closest I can come to identifying the bird through an internet search is this one…

houses-animals-02

But there’s a very good chance I’m wrong about which bird it actually is.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Learning Curve

I’ve decided that I should build a pontoon-type boat, doing it in four-foot segments (possibly eight-foot if I can be sure to divide that in half with a leak-proof bulkhead. These segments would be built here at the house in Boquerón and then trucked down to the marina in Pedregal where they’d be bolted and epoxied together. I have a LOT of experience with thickened epoxy as a bonding agent and I KNOW that the wood around the epoxied joint will give way before the joint will.

The pontoons will be 2-feet wide by 2-feet high, and between 24 and 28 feet long. Probably the latter. The beam of the boat will be 10-feet, with the house being 8-feet wide allowing for a nice roof overhang, or whatever that’s called in carpentry terms.

I decided on the pontoons because of the amount of flotation they offer. Here are the numbers I’ve come up with…

Each pontoon segment will be 2’X2’X4’ = 16 cubic feet

One cubic foot = 7.5 gallons (7.48)

One gallon of water weighs = 8.3453 pounds. One cubic foot = 7.48052 gallons. The weight of one cubic foot of water is 7.48052 gallons times 8.3453 pounds, which equals 62.42 pounds of water per cubic foot. OR, it would take 62.42 lbs. to completely sink a cubic foot container.

SO, 62.42 lbs X 16 cubic feet = 998.72 lbs. displacement for each 4’ pontoon. Minus the weight of the materials each pontoon will support, roughly, 900 lbs.

The sections in the bow would be made like the bow of a barge or scow, sloped up from the bottom to move through the water with less resistance. Figure that each one of those will be roughly half the volume of the regular one for a 28’ long structure overall, or roughly 11,700 lbs. flotation. Whatever kind of house structure I build on top of the pontoon segments plus all the junk that I’d bring aboard certainly isn’t going to amount to five and a half TONS!

If you look as building a raft-type structure using 55-gallon drums the figures look like this:

Now, a 55 gallon drum measures 35” X 24”. A 55 gallon drum will displace 459 lbs.

Because of the odd measurement of 35” you’d need 10 drums to make up each pontoon of a similar size to the plywood pontoons. Now you’re mucking around with non-standard size lumber or going for 10 barrels a side. The cheapest 55-gallon plastic barrels I’ve found around here cost $30/each (can’t find a source for used barrels like in the States because if they are available they’re snapped up instantly by people who use them for water storage.). That’s $600 for flotation. And how much flotation? Potentially 9,180 lbs., before deducting the weight of the materials needed to contain them. So more than a ton less flotation than the plywood pontoons.

I tried drawing these pontoon segments out on paper, but it wasn’t very successful, everything in 2-D. So I downloaded the free SketchUp design program and found out there’s a HUGE, STEEP learning curve and the frustration level was almost more than I could bear.

So, one Sunday morning last month I went into David (Dah VEED) to the store where I knew I could get 2′ X 2′ X 4′ styrofoam drop ceiling tiles, 1/2″ thick which is EXACTLY what like a pontoon segment would be like. (I’ve since decided that the bottoms of each segment should be 3/4″ thick instead of 1/2″. Using a hot-glue gun to assemble the pieces (Elmer’s School Glue took too long to dry and needed constant pressure to stick together, and contact cement INSTANTLY melts styrofoam) this is what I came up with.

IMG_0729

IMG_0730

IMG_0731

Not only did this help me to visualize the building process, I found out that certain things had to be inset from an edge to accommodate other pieces.

If there’s one character trait I possess it’s that I’m STUBBORN! I became bound and determined that I was going to learn how to use the SketchUp program at least well enough so that I could document here, and possibly later in e-book form, how to build this boat. So I watched, over and over again, various YouTube tutorials on how the program works. I had to constantly trying something, discarding it, repeat, repeat, repeat. But I persevered and, while the measurements are a bit off at least I was finally able to get something resembling a 3-D rendition of a pontoon segment…

Segment 1Segment 3

Those end pieces that stick up above the pontoons are where the 2 X 6 cross beams will attach the pontoons to form a catamaran structure. End to end each 4′ section will have a one-inch-thick attachment point. Bolted and epoxied they should be strong enough to be able to move the boat without a problem. So, diddling around some more with SketchUp, and getting better at it all the time though still having to try something, discard it and do it over again, I came up with these ideas.

28-foot pontoon 2

This is what a pontoon would look like. That square thing in the bow would be a hatch so I could use those segments to store anchor line and fenders.

Here they are with the cross braces and decking…

28-foot pontoon with cross braces28-foot pontoon with decking

So that’s what I’ve come up with so far…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Cool Stuff

If I ever became crippled or infirm, THIS is what I want for my walker…

walker

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

So Good It Needs A Repeat

Originally ran in July, 2009.

This is the Falkirk Wheel. It’s a rotating boat lift that connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. The difference in height between the two canals is 79 feet. Originally the two canals were connected with a series of 11 locks but by the 1930s these had fallen into disuse, were filled in and the land built upon.

The Millenium Commission  decided to regenerate the canals of central Scotland to connect Glasgow with Edinburgh once more. Designs were submitted for a lock to link the canals, with the Falkirk Wheel design winning. As with many Millennium Commission projects the site includes a visitors’ centre containing a shop, café and exhibition center.

Architectural services were supplied by Scotland-based RMJM from initial designs by Nicoll Russell Studios and engineers Binnie Black and Veatch.

The wheel, which has an overall diameter of 35 metres (110 ft), consists of two opposing arms which extend 15 metres beyond the central axle, and which take the shape of a Celtic-inspired, double-headed axe.Two sets of these axe-shaped arms are attached about 25 metres (82 ft) apart to a 3.5 metres (11 ft) diameter axle. Two diametrically-opposed water-filled caissons, each with a capacity of 80,000 imperial gallons (360,000 l; 96,000 US gal), are fitted between the ends of the arms.

These caissons always weigh the same whether or not they are carrying their combined capacity of 600 tonnes (590 LT; 660 ST) of floating canal barges as, according to Archimedes’s principle, floating objects displace their own weight in water, so when the boat enters, the amount of water leaving the caisson weighs exactly the same as the boat. This keeps the wheel balanced and so, despite its enormous mass, it rotates through 180° in five and a half minutes while using very little power. It takes just 22.5 kilowatts (30.2 hp) to power the electric motors, which consume just 1.5 kilowatt-hours (5.4 MJ) of energy in four minutes, roughly the same as boiling eight kettles of water.

The wheel is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world, and is regarded as an engineering landmark for Scotland. The United Kingdom has one other boat lift: the Anderton boat-lift in Cheshire. The Falkirk Wheel is an improvement on the Anderton boat lift and makes use of the same original principle: two balanced tanks, one going up and the other going down, however, the rotational mechanism is entirely unique to the Falkirk Wheel.

800px-FalkirkWheelSide_2004_SeanMcClean

800px-Falkirk_half_way_round

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hot Stuff

I bought some genuine Tabasco Sauce today. I LOVE hot sauces. Each one is good for a specific thing. For example, Crystal hot sauce is absolutely the BEST THING to put on popcorn. Screw butter. For me it’s Crystal hot sauce made by the Baumer family in New Orleans. I happen to actually know Mr. Baumer. His boat was three slips away from the Lady Ann which I ran out at the lakefront. Crystal is also pretty damned good on red beans and rice. When I was getting ready to move to France I went out and bought five bottles of Cyrstal. The first time I went to the grocery store over in Antibes I discovered they only sold two kinds of hot sauce over there…Tabasco and Crystal.

I also like D’Elidas. down here since I’ve never seen any Malinda’s and D’Elidas is close. They just started stocking Sriracha sauce at Romero and Rey. That stuff, with a bit of melted butter makes an excellent wing sauce. I don’t care for Cholula.

Now Tabasco is interesting. I actually know where Avery Island is in Louisiana. Ran crewboats all around the place for several years, but never stepped foot on it. Here’s the thing about Tabasco…it’s good on, like red beans and rice, but it sucks on popcorn. HOWEVER, if you’re going to make a Bloody Mary, there’s only ONE hot sauce that will work and that’s Tabasco. PERIOD! Any other hot sauce sucks when it comes to making bloody Bloody Marys.

Now, when I took the bottle of Tabasco out of the box it came in I looked at the stuff printed on it. Interesting. D’Elidas is made of “Selected habanero peppers (not just any run of the mill habaneros, no siree, ‘selected’ ones), Mustard, Vinegar, Water, Salt, Onion, Xanthan Gum (whatever the hell that stuff is) and 0.1% Sodium Benzoate (mmmmm, sodium benzoate).

I first had Melinda’s sauce at a place on Caye Caulker, Belize. There was a woman there who set up four card tables on her porch and made lunches. The most fantastic thing on her simple menu was a lobster tostada: flat, crispy tortilla with refried black beans, a healthy heaping serving of lobster salad, some chopped lettuce and grated cheese topping. For a buck U.S. !
There was a bottle of Melinda’s on the table and it was FANTASTIC ! In the six days I spent anchored at Caye Caulker I had lunch there four times…(I didn’t discover the place until my second day). Melinda’s was the first carrot-based hot sauce I’d ever come across. The ingredients are: Fresh Carrots, Choice Red Habanero Peppers, Onions, Lime Juice, Vinegar, Garlic and Salt. No Xanthan gum or sodium benzoate for that girl.

Now, probably the simplest of the sauces is Tabasco. Ingredients are: Distilled vinegar, red pepper, salt. PERIOD ! That’s it. NOTHING ELSE ! The Peppers are ground into a mash on the day of harvest and placed along with salt in white oak barrels. After aging for up to three years, the mash is strained to remove skins and seeds. The resulting liquid is mixed with vinegar, stirred occasionally for a month. And there you have it.

On the side of the box is the Nutrition Facts box. There are 0 calories in the official FDA “Serving Size”. Total Fat? 0 and there is 35 mg of Sodium in that serving which constitutes 1% of your daily value according to the FDA. Compare that to a “serving” of Old El Paso Thick ‘n Chunky Salsa that contains 200 mg of sodium of 9% of your daily value and that’s per 2 tablespoons of the stuff. And you’re never getting up from the table after just using 2 tablespoons, are ya?

Here’s a challenge for ya! The FDA’s “Serving Size” for Tabasco is 1 teaspoon (5 ml). I DARE YOU to down a teaspoon full of Tabasco Sauce in one go. Ain’t gonna happen.Tabasco_bottle_2013

Comments Off on Hot Stuff

Filed under Uncategorized

Panama Canal 100 Years Later

Ask anyone in the world what the first thing is they think of when they hear the word “Panama,” and the nearly universal response would have to be CANAL! One Hundred years ago the opening of the Panama Canal literally changed how the world worked. Shipping no longer had to make the treacherous voyage around Cape Horn, one of the worst places for shipping on the face of the globe.

Eventually, though shipping outgrew the size of the Canal’s locks. The lock chambers are 110 ft (33.53 m) wide by 1,050 ft (320 m) long, with a usable length of 1,000 ft (305 m). These dimensions determine the maximum size of ships that can use the canal; this size is known as Panamax. For years many new ships have been referred to as Postpanamax because they wouldn’t fit. Now, though, the country has been on a construction project unlike any other ever attempted. They’ve been building new locks to accommodate the larger ships. The new lock chambers will be 427 m (1,400.92 ft) long, 55 m (180.45 ft) wide, and 18.3 m (60.04 ft) deep. They will use rolling gates instead of miter gates, which are used by the existing locks.

To give you some idea of the immensity of this project take a look at these two videos updating the progress of the new lock system. Work is close to 90% completed. Income from the Canal today, and what will come from increased traffic (though it will take decades to pay off the several BILLION dollars the project will cost) is what makes Panama the most prosperous country in Central America and much of South America as well. Not only had the Canal project been a boon here ports all over the United States and Europe have been on a building boom, too, to match the anticipated volume of large shipping that will be coming their way with the completion of the Canal.

One thing worries me, though. This project has been a boon to construction workers in the country, and people don’t often think of all the businesses that support such a project…concrete companies, the drivers who haul the concrete and the land that’s being excavated. The mechanics who maintain those trucks. And it gets right down to the little corner “Super Minis” of “Chinos”, Panama’s answer to convenience stores where the workers spend their pay checks. What happens to all those people when the project is finished. What will they do for work then? Will it cause social unrest and massive unemployment? Time will tell, of course.

Comments Off on Panama Canal 100 Years Later

Filed under Uncategorized