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Saturday, March 25, 2006


Let's talk about marine surveyors for a minute, because these dudes have an inordinate amount of power when it comes to the transfer of property between a buyer and a seller.

First of all, there's no real standard by which a surveyor learns his or her trade. You don't need a degree in it, nor do you need much experience. You don't need to be a seafarer, a licensed captain, or even a weekend warrior. You can become an accredited surveyor by making up some business cards and taking out an advertisement in a magazine.

This doesn't mean all surveyors are inexperienced or no-nothing charlatans. There are some very good surveyors out there. You just have to take the time to find them. You also have to know what you want your surveyor to do for you. Remember, a surveyor is working for you, NOT for themselves, which seems the case all too often.

I recently had an experience with a surveyor who made unsubstantiated claims that later turned out to be in direct conflict with a USCG inspection of the same vessel. This surveyor was not experience. In fact, prior to the inspection, he actually admitted to me it was his first crossplanked vessel. He said he had to research the particulars on the Internet. Right then and there, I knew we were all heading the wrong way.

When searching for a surveyor, make sure you choose one who specializes in the type of boat you're buying. If it's a wood sailing yacht, don't choose a guy who inspects steel tugboats for a living. In my case, the surveyor who came for the buyer thought he knew more than the Coast Guard Inspector, a guy who not only specializes in passenger vessels but who does nothing but inspect passenger vessels year in and year out. In fact, this particular Coast Guard inspector knew the type of boat intimately.

Everything worked out for the best, despite the survey. But it was a stressful experience I would not want to repeat.


Saturday, March 11, 2006

Morning Ferry Ride to Vinalhaven in Sea Smoke

Photo above comes courtesy of my friend Al, who works for the Maine State Ferry Service. It's a cold winter morning on the way to Carver's Harbor on Vinalhaven Island in Maine's Penobscot Bay. You can see a stream of sea smoke off the starboard bow.

Sea smoke, advection fog, or steam fog, is an interesting physical phenomenon caused by cold air advection over warmer water. It's a type of fog that requires a perfect set of conditions. The nearest comparison would be the strange mist you sometimes see on the surface of your hot coffee, before you add the cream and sugar. Take a look at it next time you pour yourself a cup. Clouds of tiny water droplets are racing across the surface.

What makes sea smoke and the mist on your coffee different than other types of fog and mist is the size of the droplets. In sea smoke and the mist in your coffee, all the droplets are of uniform size and kinetic energy. The bigger, slower droplets fall back into liquid, and the smaller, more kinetic droplets, evaporate completely.

Sea smoke and the steam fog on your hot coffee are the same phenomenon.


Friday, March 10, 2006

That's My Van!

I hope my friend doesn't mind me posting this but I just can't resist.

There's this bar on Main Street. It's owned by some friends of a friend. My friend's name is, well, let's call him Doug. The owners names . . . call them Tom. They're both named, Tom. Two Toms.

Every day my friend, Doug, a lobsterman (that's the Moon Dog connection), drives past the bar on his way home from work. At least three days a week, as he drives by, he sees a Michelob Light van parked outside. It so happens this van is driven by a friend of Tom's and Doug's who is the regional rep for Michelob. The rep typically double parks in front of the bar or finds a nearby parking spot and he either leaves the keys in the van or sometimes he leaves the keys in and actually leaves the van running, then he goes inside to make a sale and maybe have a beer. Just one beer. (Yeah, right.) Bear in mind, here in Maine, all of us, almost all of us, leave our keys in the ignition all the time, no matter where we are. It's crazy, but we do it anyway. Back to my story. . . .

Whenever Doug sees his buddy's Michelob van, Doug parks his own vehicle, jumps in the Michelob van, and drives it around the corner to another parking spot in town, so that when his friend comes out of the bar, his friend has to search for the van before he can drive home.

The other day, as Doug is driving home, he sees the Mich van outside the bar. He parks his truck, jumps in the already running van, and drives it off. But this time, instead of parking it somewhere else, he pulls around the corner, stops in front of the big picture windows of the bar, rolls down the van window, sticks his arm out, and flips his friend the bird.

Except, it's not his friend standing at the bar talking to one of the two Toms, it's his friend's boss, whom Doug has never met.

The boss, with an incredulous "someone's steeling my car" look on his face, points a finger at Doug and says something like: "What the- Who the-" And then Doug spins the wheels and drives off.

Doug finally gets up the nerve to park the car and go to the bar to apologize. Story should end there but it doesn't. Doug sits next to the boss, orders a Budweiser. Tom comes over to him and whispers: "Steal a guy's car, least you can do is order one of his beers."


More on the Ports Deal

The controversial Ports deal for DP World is dead. To save face, according to media reports, the administration asked DP to pull out.

I have mixed feelings about this outcome for a variety of reasons, many of which I mentioned in another post. However, if the issue did anything, it brought to light the double standard and knee-jerk grandstanding of many of our lawmakers. Somebody somewhere should keep track of all the politicians who jump the gun on issues and make fools of themselves. Do you want someone with a hair trigger running your government, your military?

Quite a few democrats, and even some republicans, when it became clear security was not the magic bullet, decided to use the Arab boycott of Israel (in effect since 1948) as an argument against the deal. However, these days, with many Arab countries in the WTO, unauthorized and unilateral embargoes and boycotts against a WTO-favored country are banned, making the 'official' Arab policy against Israeli goods and trade a boycott in name only. In fact, only two Arab countries maintain Israel Embargo and Boycott Enforcement Offices. One is Syria, the other Lebanon. This does not mean Israel enjoys unencumbered open trade with Arab countries. On the contrary, even Egypt and Jordan, with which it is at peace, are far from full trade partners. But the difference between what is and what is suppose to be proves the ambiguousness of the boycott. In other words, it shows there are rays of light shining in an area that the media typically paints as a deep, dark, impenetrable hole of bleak and bloody terror.

In fact, of all the Arab countries, the UAE, of which Dubai is a part, has maintained working relationships with several large Israeli firms. One of these is Zim Lines, whose CEO, in letters to DP World executives and certain members of government, most notably Clinton and Schumer of New York, expressed his dismay at the beating DP World was taking in the US Press and the halls of Congress. He stated in his letter that Zim Lines has called on multiple ports owned by DP World including those in Dubai itself.

The duplicity of Clinton and Schumer and others is clear. On the one hand, they criticize the administration for not reaching out more to Arab moderates and Arabs who look more favorably on western culture. Moreover, they blame this administration for what they perceive as a festering Arab animosity to the U.S. And yet, they are unwilling to treat as equals the Arabs who want to work with us and who respect our financial and economic traditions.

Do I want DP World to own these six U.S. port operations? I don't know. But I would not fly off half-cocked armed with a pocketful of misapplied mistrust and barrel of erroneous information. I am also inclined to improve our relations with people through joint enterprises whereby we own some of what they have and they own some of what we have. Economic cooperation is a powerful tool in the fight against terror. It just may be the most effective tool we have.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Katrina News

Once again the liberal media and a bunch of left of center politicians are leading the charge against the administration. What did Bush know, when did he know it, and how can we screw him for knowing what he knew and not doing anything about it?

Here's a flash:

We all freakin' knew it! Every last one of us -- mariners, weathermen, amateur climatologists, just about everybody who knows anything about wind and waves -- knew this mother of a hurricane was going to turn Greater New Orleans and nearby Gulf Coast areas into a giant sewer pit.

Why spend millions of taxpayer dollars trying to find out what we already know?

Here's another flash:

Who's idea was it to put 1.3 million people five to ten feet below sea level? We should find out who that guy is or was and vilify the crap out of him.

Also, who's idea was it to protect this unbelievably vulnerable city with sand and dirt? There's another dickhead worthy of vilification.

So, Bush and FEMA knew? Like I said, it was plain as the nose on your face. And they didn't do anything enough about. That's pretty much a given too. Why spend more money to find out that the administration wasn't prepared? Guess what? No administration was prepared. Nobody could have done much about it because the damn city got hit with a monster hurricane and it's BELOW SEA LEVEL!!!!

What went wrong there is not worth spending money on. While the deficit skyrockets and spending increases, congress and the media want more reports and commissions. Tell you what. I'll save you the trouble and millions of dollars in the process. Give me a million dollars and I'll tell you what went wrong. Hell, I'll give a primer for nothing right now:

1. The city is below sea level.
2. The city is smack dab in the way of any hurricane bearing from the Gulf into the Mississippi River Valley.
3. While everybody knew this was the mother of all hurricanes (winds over 200 mph at one point), Louisiana State leadership was not prepared; they failed at every level of the evacuation effort. They didn't give people enough time to get away. Where did they expect them to go if they didn't have time to get to relatives or friends houses? Ultimately, the Governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans must field the blame. Why they're not both working at a Quicky Mart right now makes me wonder what in hell people down there are thinking.
4. The Administration, and FEMA in particular, did not adequately address the disaster soon enough. Moreover, when they finally got their act together, they were inefficient, wasteful, and borderline incompetent. However, given the scope of the problem, I'm not sure any other administration would have done any better. What they should be faulted for is their ineffectual response to the media hype, which ended up being a knee jerk waste of taxpayer money.
5. All the people who want to make this a race issue and not one of state government incompetence are missing the point and laying blame in the wrong place.
6. People would like to make this an issue of race and poverty, and yes, that played significantly into the disaster. Here's another news flash: Poverty Sucks! Being Poor Sucks! Having No Money Sucks! Not Being Able to Buy A Bus Ticket To Get The Hell Out Of The Way Of A Giant Hurricane Sucks!

Congress really has its head up its collective ass. Instead of spending millions on special commissions and investigations, they should take the money, divide it, and dole it out to the poor people of New Orleans so that maybe next year when there's another monster hurricane the people who got caught this year can afford to get the hell out of the way. Or maybe they should just put it in the governor's back pocket so next year when the time comes she can buy herself a few more sandbags.


Port Security

Talk about your controversies. This news has gotten so much play over the last few days it's hard to know what's right and what's wrong. The extreme left want to make it look like a conspiracy of back door deals involving Bush's cronies. The administration insists the deal won't effect national security. The middle -- including democrats and republicans -- are joining together for completely different reasons. Republican isolationists and democratic anti-industrialists working together to nix the deal.

What's the real truth?

For one thing, there is a bit of cronyism involved.

According to the Wall Street Journal, John Snow, who now overseas the government department that was involved in the ports deal review process, used to head the CSX Corp., from which DP World bought CSX's International Port ops in 2004. Snow left CSX to take the appointment by Bush. In addition, Dave Sanborn, who Bush has recommended for the job of Maritime Administrator, used to be DP World's Europe and Latin American Operations. Is this significant? Not really.

First of all, Peninsular of the UK had been trying to sell their interests in the US ports for awhile. There had been a bidding war going on. Eventually, the highest bidder, DP World, won. It's not likely that any buddy-buddy influence or posturing would create a situation whereby a seller would take anything other than the highest offer. Also, let's not forget how small a fraternity this biz really is. At this level, with these kind of dollars involved, there are only so many companies and so many CEOs and directors. Not many corporations can pony up $6.8 billion for port operations, nor are there many potential maritime executives worth millions in annual salaries. Add to this the fact that a major Ports Op and Stevedore company based in Miami was also bidding on the purchase, which is how this deal made the front page in the first place. When reps from this company realized they lost the deal, they cried foul.

One way to look at this affair is that it's an in house buddy buddy deal, whereby big corporations are making multi-billion dollar deals regardless of the public's interests. On the other hand, DP World is one of the largest maritime business in the world, and where would you go for qualified staffers -- Burger King???

No doubt politics is all about buddies patting themselves on the back and giving each other attaboys, no matter who's in charge. The hard part is having to listen to knee-jerk Democratic opportunists like Schumer, Pelosi and Kerry growling like a pack of hungry dogs. Pelosi, in particular, is so incredibly ill suited to comment on this issue, it's a wonder anybody takes her seriously. How can legislators who've never actually owned a business or operated in a corporate environment know anything about real world business operations?

Meanwhile, the best one can say about this deal is it's either the best thing that could happen or the worst thing. In other words, if we let them in here, with as many westerners as there are already at top positions at DP World, then we have an interest there and they have an interest here. Things are such that what damages us damages them and what damages them damages us. If you ask me, that's a recipe for cooperation and not mutual destruction. Also, look at where Dubai is on the map. It's right next to Iran. It even looks like a damn toe hold. But hey, I'm a Globalist. Like Isaac Asimov was. I believe the future of this planet depends on the interconnection of businesses and economies. I believe in a What-Hurts-Us-Hurts-Them and vice versa global community.

On the other hand, if you like speculating about conspiracies, you might ask what happens when Al Qaeda or whomever get that one guy, that Manchurian Candidate, that Timothy McVeigh? Truth is, if this is the case, there's nothing you can do about.