Sunday, July 05, 2009

Day 42 - Independence Day and Independent Energy

Happy July 4!

Today America is celebrating Independence Day, and although as a Brit I
don't celebrate July 4, I have been celebrating my own version of
independence. One of the things that gives me the most satisfaction
about my ocean-bound existence is the feeling of having everything that
I need, right here, within the confines of my little 23-foot boat.

I've got my food – plenty enough to last me for months to come, if need
be. I've got my watermaker, an electric unit that uses reverse osmosis
to convert seawater into drinking water. And I have unlimited supplies
of electricity, thanks to my solar panels and more sunshine than I know
what to do with.

For the techies, here is the geeky low-down: On the roof of my aft cabin
I have 4 x 60W panels, and on the fore cabin 2 x 40W panels. They charge
two marine batteries, one in each cabin – about 52Ah each. And those
batteries power my entire electrical system – as well as the watermaker
there is a bilge pump, VHF marine radio, Lazarus the temperamental
stereo and a cabin light. Everything else runs off a bank of 6 cigar
lighter sockets. The GPS and the Solaradata tracker are permanently
plugged in, and I plug in other things (cameras, laptops, satphone etc)
when they require rechargingI have a 150W AC inverter for the gadgets
that won't run off 12V DC.

So far (touch wood) the solar panels have worked flawlessly. They are
the only components of electrical kit that have survived since the
Atlantic crossing in 2005. They just sit there, sunbathing and churning
out electricity to charge Brocade's batteries.

So here I am, all self-contained and self-sufficient. It's a good
feeling.

So to now extrapolate wildly – and maybe a little disingenuously – from
this example… I have a question: why would anybody resist moves towards
renewable energy – like solar?

Let's for a moment put aside the whole issue of climate change. Just
park it. Put it out of your mind. Whether it's real or not, caused by
humans or not – all irrelevant for now.

And let's consider these questions:

1. Would you rather get your energy from clean sources or from
polluting sources?
2. Would you rather get your energy from infinitely renewable
sources (wind, solar, tidal etc) or from sources that, whichever way you
slice it, will run out at some point in the future?
3. Would you prefer that people – particularly children – are
afflicted by asthma, autism, and other pollution-related diseases, or
not?
4. Would you prefer that America leads the world in the emerging
energy and transport technologies, or that it gets overtaken by other
countries?
5. Would you rather that your country is self-sufficient for its
energy needs, or dependent on oil imported from some very questionable
foreign trade partners?

For me personally, I like being self-reliant. I like to know that I am
in control (weather aside) of my own destiny. I like knowing that the
key to my future is in my own hands. And for me this is a strong
argument (amongst many) in favor of renewable energies. Most of them can
be generated within the country in which they are needed.

To me, it is baffling that anybody would want to live any other way.
Self-sufficiency in any sense, whether it relates to energy sources, or
even physical and emotional self-sufficiency, is very empowering. Why
would anybody deliberately choose anything else?

[photo: the solar panels on my fore cabin – now thankfully washed free
of the booby bird poop that my feathered friends deposited on them in
the first couple of weeks of my voyage, threatening to seriously reduce
my electricity supply...]

Other Stuff:

Today was a good day at the oars. Some days (most days!) motivation is a
challenge, but today was a little easier than most. There is no
particular rhyme or reason to it. It's just the way it is. I used to
beat myself up for not being super-motivated every day. But hey, when
you're out here for 100 days at a stretch, there are bound to be good
days and not-so-good days, and I've learned to accept each as it comes.

Oooh, just picked up the email from my Mum passing on your comments –
and the good news that in the 24 hours before she sent the email I had
covered 44.5 miles. That IS a good day – yippee!

Thanks for all the great comments from my team of landlubbing
cheerleaders. I really appreciate the moral support. You're great!

Thanks also for all the interest in the Larabar bookmarks. I'm glad the
idea is catching on! When I get back to dry land we'll sort out the
arrangements and put them in the eBay store – and announce them on the
website. So stay tuned!

Thanks, UncaDoug, for the song lyrics. Made me laugh!

And thanks to the folks who have sent details of when and where I might
see the Space Station. I will look out for it tomorrow night. Will it be
looking out for me?!

Quick answers to quick questions:

Q: What University did you attend and were you on the row team?
A: Oxford University. Yes, I rowed for the University twice, in my
second and third years.

Q: How does ocean rowing compare to running a marathon?
A: Hmmm. I ran marathons because people told me I would learn things
about myself in the last few miles of a marathon. The main thing I
learned was that running 26.2 miles hurts like hell and makes your
toenails drop off. So maybe I needed a longer challenge, and a more
independent one. Ocean rowing is a lot more free-format. There is no
particular mainstream way to train for or complete an ocean row. It is
less of a race, more of an adventure into the unknown. And if you think
better of it part way through, you can't catch the bus to the finish
line!

Q: Does your body get use to the rigors of ocean rowing?
A: Yes, the body does. And eventually so does the mind. I am a firm
believer that human beings can adapt to almost anything – if they are
sufficiently motivated.

Weather report:

Position at 2135 HST: 09 02.238N, 172 50.563W
Wind: 12-20kts E
Seas: 6-9ft E
Weather: brief shower this morning, otherwise hazy overcast with breaks
of hot sunshine

Weather forecast, courtesy of weatherguy.com

As of Thursday, 02 July 2009. The easterly trade winds have turned more
ENE still around the 20+kts. Expect brief periods of lower winds to
around 15-18kts, then abating to the 15kt range on July 6th. Seas abate
to 6-7ft. Winds south of the ITCZ are E to ESE 10-12kts or less.

Sky conditions: Partly to mostly cloudy with mostly low level clouds.
Isolated rainshowers. Convective clouds begin about 07 30N and that
means vertical development extending to 30-50,000ft. Increased chance of
rainshowers and thunderstorms.

ITCZ: The most active part of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ)
is now along 170W to 180W between 2N and 7 30N. There remain widespread
areas of wind 30-40kts in heavy rainshowers and thunderstorms. However,
last 24hrs, the ITCZ has become less active, but you will likely
experience squalls and thunderstorms.

Ocean Current: You are currently in a west setting current of about 0.2
to 0.3kts so that is not helping your southerly progress. The good news
is the current changes direction at about 06 00N to eastward flowing at
about 0.4 to 0.5kts; ie the North Equatorial Counter Current. That
should help in hindering your westward movement. The NEEC extends to
about 00 30S. In the lighter winds south of the ITCZ, it may be possible
to row/drift eastward. We don't quite yet know the full impact of the
current and the opposing wind on your boat, but hopefully it will
benefit your goal of getting south of the Equator before Tuvalu.

Forecast below is for a SWerly course.
Date/Time HST Wind kts Seas (ft)
02/1800-04/0900 ENE 17-22 7-9
04/0900-06/0000 ENE 15-20 6-8
06/0000-08/1800 ENE 12-17 6-7

Next Update: Monday, 06July

27 comments:

  1. 45 miles plus is very impressive. Roz you make me feel guilty when I am not motivated to do anything such as paddling, training or studying. I have wanted for years to place solar panels on the house. In most states in the US the State government or the utility company give monetary incentives if solar panels are placed on a structure. Slowly solar panels are springing up.

    ~ Gregory

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  2. I lived in my car (a big old Cadillac) for a month or so when I was young, and had a similar feeling. Everything I needed was in the car. The front seat was used for transportation. The back seat was my bed, with a comfy sleeping bag. And in the huge trunk were all my worldly possessions: a couple of boxes of books, some clothes, and a bunch of kitchen utensils.

    It was a wonderful feeling, to need nothing more than that car and what it contained (and it was the only time, to date, that I "owned my own house" :-) ). Nothing like your trip, of course; but a similar feeling of independence.

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  3. BTW, since you mention being independent, you do indeed have an unlimited supply of energy, as well as water from your machine. But not an unlimited supply of food. Have you ever considered fishing off the side of the boat? You could even have a little electric grill that hangs off the side of the boat to grill the fish on. Then you'd have an unlimited supply of food, as well! (But, with your luck, you'd probably catch a squid, right? :-) )

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  4. OK, last comment... Here's another thought for energy generation: a device that converts tidal energy into electricity. During your off hours, when you're not rowing, you could lower it into the ocean and have the currents generate electricity for you. Just a thought, since we're talking about green energy and stuff.

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  5. Anonymous9:13 am GMT

    On a hot-air balloon one does not feel the wind because the balloon is moving with the wind. Would it not be the same on a boat if the currect is moving the boat?
    Also, fish may be there in unlimited numbers for a boat like Brocade, but we are now being made aware more and more that the oceans do not hold unlimited numbers of edible fish. Rita Savage

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  6. On a hot-air balloon one does not feel the wind because the balloon is moving with the wind. Would it not be the same on a boat if the currect is moving the boat?
    Also, fish may be there in unlimited numbers for a boat like Brocade, but we are now being made aware more and more that the oceans do not hold unlimited numbers of edible fish. Rita Savage

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  7. Methinks a mini Pelamis type wave generator would be more apt at night. Horses for courses, and just the thing for us Brits would have a sunlight deficit, but bags of waves ;)

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  8. you could have a dynamo attached to your rowing seat. Mrs. Savage, I'm happy to see you back.

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  9. Hi Roz. I'm a longtime reader but this is my first post. As to renewable energy in America, I am firmly in the "YES!!" camp. However, getting it to become policy is a real struggle as the US government has a complicated agenda that does not always make immediate economic or common sense. Look no further than the bailout of GM for an excellent example of something that defies logic in the short term but will hopefully pan out over the long haul.

    In terms of renewable energy, it's turning into a heated battleground here. The Heritage Foundation (conservative Republican think tank) recently released a study citing Spain's green energy program as a dismal failure because - even though it's working - it has produced job losses in traditional energy fields. There is no doubt in my mind that the analysis is biased (the Heritage Foundation = not known for providing balanced opinions) but anything in this economy that suggests at job losses is a nonstarter.

    By the way, I did (a very brief) part of my graduate work at St Peter's College in Oxford.

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  10. Wow, what a great couple days of reading. Thank you, Roz, for the weather photo. I love seeing weather far off in the Gulf of Mexico when I'm on the coast in Florida, and even not so far off when rain storms move through the city and I can watch from my 22nd-floor office.

    Thank you, Rick and UncaDoug, for the examples of judging distance if you know the height of the clouds. I have vague memories of sine cosine formulas from college 25 years ago, and I didn't know how the earth's curvature would play into that.

    I love the Larabar bookmark idea. That paired with a book would also be a great gift for friends and family. ***cough/hint to others***

    Greg at Conway Kayak -- I enjoyed reading about your speech topic. I had JFDI engraved on my iPod Touch. It's such a simple, elegant solution to so many situations where you can burn more energy having anxiety over anticipating having to do something than it would take to actually do it.

    Hi to Rita. Hope you're recovering well.

    I totally understand Roz's reasons not to fish. She related a story last year of a colleague who caught and killed a fish on his voyage and it turned out to be an inedible variety and he ended up feeling terrible about it. Plus, with all Roz has to do, the chore of cleaning fish is not a really pleasant one to add to it. I can imagine that once you get fish guts smell into your boat it's hard to get rid of it.

    You're so right about solar and other renewable energy, Roz. Kim's take on the situation is all too true, though. It's very difficult here in the U.S. to get business people and politicians to invest in a longterm plan. If it doesn't turn a profit right now, it doesn't get support. Very shortsighted. I'm sure we'll continue to pay for it in more painful ways in the years to come.

    And just because I don't want to end on a depressing note like that, I'll share that we've had a lovely long weekend here in Atlanta. We're going to get some nice rain today. A house wren is singing atop its nest box in the yard. And I'm going to go up my pre-order of your book from one to three. I know my Mom would enjoy it, and I'm sure I'll run across someone else I want to pass it along to as soon as it comes out.

    Wishing you good southerly progress.

    Joan

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  11. A belated Happy Fourth. Unfortunately the political system here is, as Kim said, complicated. It is the lobbyists, I think. The lobbyist to congressman ratio is some ridiculous number like 65 to 1 (with the lobbyists comprising the larger number), needless to say a large number of them are employed by the big energy lobby.Never mind campaign contributions, we really need to reform the laws governing those as well. Also, we have a populace that can't seem to agree on how and what should be done, as well as a indulged populace that doesn't seem to want to give anything up. Something's gotta give.

    You have reminded me of an article about a wave energy buoy that is being tested in Oregon.

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  12. Anonymous3:50 pm GMT

    Grateful thanks to the many well-wishers who have sent me kind messages following my recent operation. I am doing well now, though not yet doing 10,000 steps a day. I can't keep up with Roz's challenge. Rita Savage. (One difficulty I have is posting a comment on this blog. When I try to post it, the computer usually tells me that it can't do it, then does it anyway and sometimes twice.)

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  13. Roz, first congrats! The latest RozTracker shows you crossed 9N just 2 miles back (3 miles by the time I finish typing).

    I have been wondering about Brocade's batteries and solar panels. Thanks for explaining the details of your system.

    Kim, Joan and Meg, have hope! You can be the catalyst for change. Tell your mayor you want what liberal Berkeley and conservative Palm Desert have. Berkeley calls it the "Financing Initiative for Renewable and Solar Technology" aka "FIRST". Palm Desert made it a state law so it is available to every city in California. I met with the mayor of my town and he wants it for Hayward, so now city staff are working on it.

    Let me tell you more about what is going on here in CA:

    Solar electrical generation is becoming more affordable as innovation improves the technology and as cities are beginning to help residents and businesses FINANCE roof top installations. Check out AB 811, CityFIRST and BerkeleyFirst. There is a tidal wave of interested cities and states following Berkeley and Palm Desert's lead. I encourage Roz's fans around the globe to talk with your mayors and representatives about initiating this in your local government -- it started with one person taking action in one city. You can be the one to get it started in your town.

    Recently I was also surprised to learn that concentrated solar thermal heating of water already is cost effective and is being used to generate electricity on a large scale, as well as to generate heat for industrial purposes, and even for cooking Frito-Lay SunChips. Solar thermal can also heat and cool the living space in homes and commercial buildings.

    Entrepreneurs, innovators, utilities and local civic leaders and city governments are making progress and I am optimistic about the transition to renewable energy -- after all, fossil fuels are finite and depleting, so we have no other viable choice.

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  14. Sounds like a perfect non- polluting free energy system don't it? Well almost, but what about those two lead acid batteries? Sulfuric acid,lead and plastic. Can't just leave them lying around when they are done in. Recycle? Yes, but costly and uses more energy than the battery ever stored.

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  15. Good to hear from you Rita. Glad you are up and about. Don't worry about the technology, we're cool. Love you too ;-D

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  17. Hello Roz

    I completley supports the notion of solar energy for all. Recycling is the other way to resolve our economic and ecological crisis. I try to get things I need for free. Not because I'm cheap but because it's available and most of the time will ends up in a landfil. I build traditional Aleutian kayaks here in Alameda - a few steps away from Nelson's where I could see Brocade regularly while it was waiting for it's voyage to Hawaii - My shop was 100% built out of recycle material, workbenchs, tools etc. All FREE off Craigslist. The Navy has asked us to move in order for them to "clean" the toxic waist in this area of the base - I got myself some quasi new portable classrooms on Craigslist for FREE and placed them in another area of the base. Now my next move is to make the shop 100% renewable energy dependent. Being a "new" technology not much is available for Free but where there is a will there is a way. That's my way of preserving MY PLANET (Yes it's personal :-). Again thank you Roz for showing the way!

    Happy Rowing

    Sebastian of San Francisco

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  18. Sebastian, yes it is personal. Very good point ;-D

    I would like to visit your shop when you get settled in. Yours would be a great "good news" story for my ever- evolving climate presentations. Call me at 432-1452. BTW, I rowed Alcatraz to Aquatic Park in a Monomoy whale boat for 7 years back in the '70s. It's time for a kayak.

    As a follow-up to Roz's theme due jour, just a few minutes ago Joe Romm of ClimateProgress.org sent an email with the following post:

    Interior Secretary Salazar, Senator Reid announce ‘Fast-Track’ initiatives for up to 100,000 MW of solar energy development on Western lands

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  19. Hi Roz,

    Renewables are certainly a very important part of the story, another part is to undo the addiction to energy that is so much a part of our lives, ... using a bit of human energy instead of mains systems power to beat an egg, or sweep a floor, ...if every person looked for opportunities to change small things they'd move closer to understanding the bigger addictions
    hopefully it won't be too long before all our laptops, mobile phones, i-pods, can be charged in the sun through photovoltaic coatings ...
    you can already get an umbrella with stand that uses dye based photovoltaic system in the fabric to charge gadgets ... I can see shade sails everywhere gathering energy for us all in the not too distant future!

    one of the things that we need to ensure is that we don't solve problems of water shortage for instance by relying on high energy consuming desalination plants, if we demand that assessment criteria for solutions seriously consider energy use and source, we're going to make progress ... and in particular if a whole of life cycle approach is taken

    let's all ask for bio-plastics, that are bio-degradable, made from the by-products of sugar cane or bamboo ... sugar cane has an advantage of increasing soil carbon through carbon stones; let's all demand bio-digesters to capture and use the methane from our leftover dinners that we throw out; let's demand that all shipping supplement fuel with bio-diesel produced on board, solar and wind; let's demand planes with photovoltaic coatings; houses and other buildings with rooves and windows that use photovoltaic coatings; let's demand solar driven air-conditioning;

    ... personally I think that all flat screen digital TV's should only operate with a dynamo ... so that those who watch must earn/ drive for the privilege ... the population would be fitter, and me think's watch a whole lot less adds for stuff they don't need, because they'd be more choosy about what they watch!

    and most importantly let's make sure that whatever progress we make, we share it with the rest of the world so that all people enjoy improvements.

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  20. Woo! Awesome day! :)

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  21. Thanks for the Rain on the Parade Tex: Roz needs the batteries for at night because she is off the grid (or needs a really long extension cord!) However, solar can be installed as a purely passive system with no battery backup. It then provides energy to the home/business during daylight and excess back to the grid for distribution. At night the home/business is back on the grid. We've installed 2 systems on Habitat For Humanity Homes in Anaheim and San Juan Capistrano California and they are completely passive. Warranty is approximately 25 years...sans Booby poop and flying squid! Safe rowing Roz.

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  22. on your self sufficient stance...well said.

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  23. Hey Roz!

    I understand its a big ocean out there, and you are pretty busy rowing alot, but do you ever see any ships out there? What sort of feelings would you get if you happened to see one?

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  24. Watch out for the squids, yikes. I have a friend who grew up in a solor household and apparnly the project became more of a headache than a solution. She is quite cross at the idea of solor and its benifits. I still belive and crossing my fingers for better batteries. That is really the issue with us. Im still interested and looking into converting some applances to renewable. Great progress WOW

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  25. Rita:

    My thought was that the tides don't pull the boat completely. There's some drag from the weight of the boat. So the tide may move X feet in a minute; but the boat itself may only move Y feet, due to drag. Thus, the water under the boat would be moving faster than the boat is drifting, and there would be enough of a difference to power a tidal energy generator.

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  26. Wow! RozTracker shows your course is nearly due south (197) today (8:30 am to 4:30 pm). What has come over you? Is there no wind or are you heading Brocade on a SE or SSE bearing? Good on ya ;-D

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  27. Wind turbine are two types

    Horizontal wind turbine and vertical wind turbine.they both are very important and useful.

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