Monday, February 28, 2011

This is not a navigation post

I was going to post a review of a book tonight, but will have to delay it until tomorrow, as it is a book about navigation.

Unfortunately it seems that reading endless (ok about 42) navigation posts has already caused Tillerman to retreat leaving a paranoid android call Marvin Arvin to take over the Proper Course. It also caused O'Docker to complain of unfair practices in me apparently flooding the blogsphere with navigation posts in order to win a book I already own.

So I won't explain how you can navigate your way to Hawaii by lying on your back on the foredeck, head to the mast, so you could use it as a pointer to Arcturus, which should spin its way directly overhead: you will just have to simply admire the beauty that is the night's sky.

And I won't explain how the Egyptian King Necho II sent an expedition of Phoenicians to sail from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean the long way round, which found its way by simply keeping turning right, so you will have to watch Dylan's Keep Turning Left instead.

Instead I'll simply post a picture of the daffodils which are currently opening in the parks nearby.

And there can't be any navigational information in daffs coming out where JP lives on the 28th February - can there?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Buff Guide to Navigation

G'day all! Buff Staysail here, Buff by name and Buff by nature!

Well that drongo JP has only just realised that he's already got a copy of The Natural Navigator from that Tristan chap, so he's gone off in a huff (JP: not true!!) not wanting to win another (JP: ok, that bit's true) leaving yours truly to set you straight with more words of wisdom.

1. Use GPS

All this stuff about looking for 'roo dropings, following Arcturus to Hawaii whatever, seriously why bother? Just buy a GPS, preferably big screen version - what's it? chart plotter? - so you can just drag and plop or whatever the term is to where you want to go. Simple!

2. Make sure your GPS is water-proof

So I get myself a iPad thing, dead cool, got JP to set it up with Navionics, NavX you name it and the first sniff of salt water it fizzes a bit then dies!! Not so cool now, eh?? Expensive too! Next time I'll test it by dropping it in the bath first.

3. Don't go out in the fog

There's a lot of bollocks about finding your way in the fog - but seriously, what were you doing out there in the first place? Buff's rule of thumb is that if you can't see the sheila's in their bikini's lying on the foredeck its a bar day.

4. Follow others

A lot of people get all worked up about the start of a race, but not Buff. You see these losers battling to be first across the line, but then they've got to work out where the marks are. Let me tell you the committees secret - they enjoy changing the mark positions!! All this talk about wind shifts is a cover for them have a good larf watching boats go in the wrong direction. Let others do the hard work and remember that over a regatta you often just need to run-up a lot to win.

5. Find the bar

Now the important bit: navigation is not just for on the water, its for land too! But what is more important than finding the bar for that cold one after a hot day on the water? Nothing of course!! And for the best bar you need to just check with an expert, namely your's truly! My answer is always the same: thanks for asking, I'll have a beer!!

6. Find yourself

Buff's been all spiritual like since my epi.. er... aphi... revelation last month, so now I know that travel is just an illusion, for wherever you go you'll always be here! Now is that deep or what!!! So make sure you've a 4-pack of cold tinnies to hand, and then wherever you go you'll always be in the bar!!

That's about it for now. This is Buff Staysail, navigator, over and out!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

B.O. Smash 'n' Grab Developers reveals NEW Standard Quay!

G'day all! Buff Staysail here, Buff by name and Buff by nature!!

Well JP really did it with that last post. There was I all lined up with the contract to develop Faversham Creek's Standard Quay when that pom let the cat out the bag.

No worries! Buff Enterprises has already restructured after a late night VC telecon and relaunched as the Buff O'Docker Smash 'n' Grab Developers Inc. Ltd.

Yup, after a networking event involving many a beer with O'Docker, we have a merger!! Buff's now got his contact network locked into ol' Silicon Valley, home of the billionaires!!

And we can exclusively give readers of this blog first pick of the apartments in these prestigious new blocks - artist's impression above - so register now!!

For a small deposit of just $ 10,000 (*) you can ensure that you'll have views over the Swale mud flats! Just 68 minutes from the world's top shopping city and everything else that London can offer!!!

You'd be mad to turn this down!! A limited offer with just 4,000 apartments available - don't be disappointed, cough up invest now!! And the first ten to register for the Super Quay will get a free (**) hat!!

This is Buff Staysail, CEO of B.O. Smash 'n' Grab Developers Inc Ltd, over and out!!

(*) non-refundable, make payable to B.O. Smash 'n' Grab Developers Inc. Ltd. Completion subject to successful financing, purchasing of land, planning permission, being basically bothered to do anything about it etc etc. T&Cs apply - consult a financial adviser first and don't blame us for anything!!
(**) to be confirmed

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Standard Quay on Faversham Creek

A couple of years ago I blogged on a visit to Standard Quay on Faversham Creek. It was one of those places that oozed character and mud in equal portions, with real Thames Barges being repaired in along banks that have seen traffic probably as far back as the Romans.

So it was with some concern that I read over on Dory Man that there are plans to re-develop it, and in particular change the focus from a working quay to a more tourist friendly site.

I think this would miss the point: the reason why Faversham has character is that it has authenticity. It really is a working yard, and those really are Thames barges that do need work done on them.

Authenticity is not something that can be magicked up by adding a cappuccino bar. If I want to see the Eiffel Tower I would go to Paris. If I want to see the pyramids I would go to Egypt. In neither case would I head off to Las Vegas - even though the latter has copies of both and more Starbucks - because in an increasingly homogenised world what we want to see are originals, for they are the real thing.

If you agree then there is something you can do: add your name to the petition, which can be found here.

People power really can work - just ask the Egyptions.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Why lambs are navigational hazards

To end a triptic of posts about navigation here is a re-post from last year when I went with various family members on a chartered motor yacht on the Thames......

So imagine the scene: the lock doors open and JP carefully steers the Winnebago Caversham Royal inside, choosing with care a space with plenty of bollards to loop lines around.

JP: Ropes on left please

(it wasn't the moment for "lines" or "port side")

Senior crew: Oh look at those lambs!

Junior crew (chorus): Oh wow! There's another one! Ahhh!

Ship's mates: Be careful children, mind the gap!

JP: Hey people, can we have some ropes please?

Junior crew (various): Oh look at that one - it's black! Where? There! etc

Ship's mates: Wait for a grown up to help you get on land


In retrospect I regret those exclamation marks. As always boating is a learning experience and this was no exception. Better communication would be a good goal for next time, to avoid having to speak in capitals.

But it did leave me with a thought - would that have happened had I worn the captain's hat?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Navigational mistake

They say you lean from your mistakes: well here's where I learnt something about navigation.

It was on the return leg of the Fastnet, which as you might know means you go outside the Scilly Isles. I was navigating and sometime very early in the morning, out in the Celtic Sea, I set a waypoint off Bishops Rock (see chart above), a little bit off to give a safety margin, but not too much to extend our route.

So next day as we counted down the miles to that waypoint I notice that the boats that had been next to us were either further inshore or offshore, and either way had gained on us. With a sinking feeling I checked the tides and was rather horrified to find I'd sent us directly headed into the strongest part of the stream. We were maybe a knot or two slower over the ground than the competition.

There was nothing for it but to 'fess up and suggest we bear in towards the shore.

I should have known better but I had been tired, and the brain doesn't work well without sleep. It starts to switch over to automatic and it turned out my internal auto-pilot had missed a key logic block. It had done what was necessary for a safe passage, but not a fast passage.

It was a valuable lesson : navigation is a safety of life skill, and if tiredness in any way limits your ability to correctly navigate then that's a danger to the boat and crew.

It's best to keep practising until navigation can be done on automatic, so that even a tired brain will know what steps to follow.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Navigating the land of the dead

We wonder what happens after death, we always have. For the ancient Egyptians it was the start of a new journey, leading either to eternity or destruction.

The afterlife for them was a complex domain of gods, beasts and traps for the unprepared. To navigate a way successfully to paradise they needed a guide, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, currently the focus of a stunning exhibition at the British Museum.

But it is not like an Admiralty chart, rather it's a bit like a Harry Potter spell book, words of power to control the afterlife. So for example should you be worried about beetles (and who isn't) then the appropriate spell is number 36:

Begone from me! O crooked-lips! I am Khnum, Lord of Shen, who despatches the words of the gods to Ra, and I report affairs to their master.

The exhibition describes many of the 192 charms, taking you on the path from death to (hopefully) the bliss like field of reeds (above) where you glide peacefully in your boat with gods and family members. 

The journey of the modern day visitor is in contrast an intensive learning curve, with examples at each stage from several papyrus's together with tools, masks and amulets. 

The papyrus's themselves are works of beauty, many over 3,000 years old, colours and marking preserved carefully, so carefully it is unlikely a similar collection will be on display any time soon. They tell the story of the spirit or ba, connected to the mummy, the preserved body, but able to come forth by day (hence its alternative tile of "The book of coming forth by day").

The spells allow this process, allow the body to transmute into birds or snakes, fight off crocodiles, control water, make servants to harvest the crops, open gateways, give safe passage, name guardians correctly, ward off evils and fend off disease.

After many trials the deceased would be judged, their heart placed on the scales, with all deeds good and ill weighted in the balance. The punishment for the bad was to be handed to the monster called the Devourer, part crocodile, lion and hippo.

Obviously many powerful Egyptians were worried that their heart might reveal a bit too much, in which case there was a special spell to ensure their heart keeps their secrets (Mr Mubaruk might be interested to know it it is number 30B).

For those that passed they could pass into the kingdom of Osiris and eternity. To speed them on their way their spirit or ba (oft represented like here as a human headed bird) could even hoist a sail:

It is a lot to take in, and it takes a good two hours to go from start to finish. It does feel like a crash course in Egyptian hieroglyphs and theology under the great reading room dome.

But it is worth it. For at the end are two complete Books of the Dead, and now understanding some of its symbology you can follow the passage of the dead from mummy, through challenges and dangers, on to being weighing in the balance on to an afterlife in the field of reeds.

An amazing collection, possibly a once in a lifetime, so do try to catch it if you can. But leave enough time to savour each papyrus, to learn all the symbols, understand their meaning and relationship to the Egyptian's gods.

For then you can imagine what life must have been like for those people walking by the Nile or sailing through its reed beds all of three thousand years ago.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday picture quiz

After a meeting in central London I took some time off to visit this building, but:
  • What is it?
  • What was it?
  • Why did something that happened here cause a spot of bother in the 20th Century?
  • What would you currently find there?
  • Why is what you'd find there rather topical?
  • Can you think of way of connecting it with the theme of "navigation"?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blogging go slow update

Apologies for lack of posts - serious illness of a family member.

Anyhow, have drafted in my head a post on navigation, the latest group writing project, which hopefully will have a chance to blog on later on, together with two book reviews.

As they say, later......

Friday, February 11, 2011

Congratulations Egypt

I'm pretty smashed but have just enough energy to switch on Al Jazeera and watch the great party going on in Cairo.

Epic, epoch making events: a mostly peaceful disposing of a dictator by people power!

There will no doubt be difficult times on the road ahead, but for now lets enjoy their moment.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Inflatable everything?

One of the things I was meant to do last weekend was another hunt for a suitable inflatable kayak, after failing to find one at the Boat Show.

While wandering the halls of the ExCel centre I had this thought - what about an inflatable sailing dinghy? Just as I was shaking my head at my own stupidity what should I see but the above, the SmartKat inflatable catamaran.

It looks surprisingly good for something that packs up into two bags, and is relatively straight-forward to put together, as can be seen in this YouTube video.

And if catamarans then what else? Well apparently even the sky is not the limit as this proposed module to the space station is to go by:

Blow me up, Scotty!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Goodbye Fitzbillies

A combination of work overload and family crisis means that blogging has dropped off the to do list recently but today have been driven to post what is sad news for those of us who have fond memories of Fitzbillies and their famous Chelsea buns.

These sticky, gooey delicacies (above) followed a recipe unique to Fitzbillies and their Cambridge tea shop, and I have fond memories of them as a student (or more often the cheaper Chesea buns "bits").

But alas it has been reported that they have recently gone into administration.

Another example of the need to enjoy good things while you can.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Buff's Mandatory Laser Bill

G'day all! Buff Staysail here, Buff by name and Buff by nature!

Well JP's a bit low this evening so I've cooked up another bit of Buff Enterprise magic to make the blues go away! Yup, it's another Get-Rich-Scheme courtesy of your's truly.

I read this article about how some state (anyone heard of a "South Dakota"?) is going to make it mandatory to own a gun, and that raised the interesting question - why stop there?

Let's take it to its logical conclusion and make it mandatory to own a Laser!!

Let's do the maths for California. There's about 12m households, so if each one pays (say) $1k (prices slashed for mass production - which of course will be in state, hence reducing unemployment, win-win) and yours truly gets a 2.5% commission (very reasonable, well below Buff's usual 20%) that makes a whopping $ 300 million.

Now of course we've got to be realistic here, no need to get greedy. A lot of this will be funnelled via the in-house B-Street lobby firm into sufficient campaign funds to get this radical legislation passed. We can argue it's all to do with health  - you know get active, reduce medical bills bla bla bla...

But it will be worth it - create jobs AND make those yanks healthier AND give Tillerman a bit of competition AND get the price of sails down AND make ol' Buff truly loaded.


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Egyptian Felucca

In honour of the totally thrilling events ongoing in Egypt, and hoping for a rapid resolution (Earth to Mubarak: just go already) here are some Felucca's on the Nile.

Latest updates to be found on Al Jazeera here.

Update: Oh dear, all gone horrible wrong, just a day later. Keeping my fingers crossed democracy wins out over dictatorship!