“There is Smoke in the Kitchen”


I joked about not burning the house down the other day, but yesterday our Nest Protect sent both Janet and I an emergency message that we had “smoke in our kitchen”.  I was in Seattle and Janet was at work.  Not fun.

The very first thing that I realized is that I didn’t know how to dial Chicago 911 from Seattle.  The local 911 operator told me that I had to call 411 Information to ask for the correct Chicago number.  Playing phone tag while your house is potentially burning down is less than “not fun”.

I finally got in touch with Chicago FD, and they sent someone out to investigate.  The Operator took my phone number down and said that they would call me back, which never occurred.  The fire station is two blocks from our house so I assumed that it would be a pretty straight forward affair to investigate if there was an actual fire or not.  After not getting a callback I was unsure whether it was because sending a fireman out from the station was a low priority or they were busy fighting our house fire.

Once Janet arrived home we realized that the alarm was just a malfunctioning Nest unit; no fire.  We soon realized that there is no way to turn off an alarming unit short of ripping it out of the ceiling, as it’s hard wired in.  She tried to call Nest Customer Service, but got put on hold for over ten minutes as the alarm was screaming in her ear.

Finally after opening some windows, despite the absence of smoke, the alarm quieted.  I suspect that it had some particle stuck in the sensor.  Later I learned that you could hit the unit gently with compressed air and they normally clear.

Lessons learned:

  1. Have commercial numbers for Chicago PD/FD preprogramed in your phone.
  2. Ask for a way to call back PD/FD even if they promise to call you back first.
  3. Have your neighbors’ phones programed into your phone.  We did not.
  4. Know how to disable alarms, or be aware of the fact that you can’t.
  5. Think these things through ahead of time.

Time Zones Apart

Janet and I in Havana, Cuba

Janet and I are on separate coasts for part of this week.  She’s in Boston at the ACEP Conference, and I’m in Seattle for work.  Thankfully we can chat and text throughout the day to keep our life on track.  One item that we’re wrestling with is where to travel at the end of the year so that we bump up to the highest level of SkyMiles with Delta for next year.  We’re both about 10,000 miles short from Diamond status, and have become spoiled with our club memberships and automatic upgrades.  We have a friend that found himself in the same situation last year, and he flew from New Orleans to Finland, turned right around and flew back.  Bob’s your uncle 🙂


Electronics… Don’t Burn the House Down


While Tortuga is up on sticks for the winter, I’ve decided to work hard at deepening my knowledge of maritime engineering.  She is such a complex vessel that I want to be able to diagnose and fix problems as they occur.  There’s not always a boatyard right around the next point of land.

I’ve started with maritime electronics, as that’s probably my weakest area.  Borrowing from Michael Jordan’s philosophy of working or practicing hard to turn your weaknesses into your strengths, I’ve amassed a reading list and intend to practice on our house.  This is making Janet a bit nervous, but I can’t break anything that can’t be fixed 🙂

Out For The Winter

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We pulled Tortuga out of the water for the winter.  It took 2-3 days to complete the winterization process.  Every system onboard had to be considered from a marine engineering perspective to ensure that no standing water was left that could freeze inside a closed pipe.  Refrigerators, freezer, water-maker, generator, toilet, sink faucets, shower, washing machine, engine, etc., all had to be carefully preserved with anti-freeze.  The deck was scrubbed down, all of the sails removed, halyards moused and removed, canvas removed and sent in for minor repairs, food removed and donated to other cruisers, batteries topped off and disconnected.  The to-do list was quite extensive as both the previous owner, Adrian, and I went over every single item in great detail.

She’ll be wrapped by the yard next week and tucked in for the winter.  Janet and I will head to Virginia in April to reverse the process and spend a couple of weeks making her our own.  Until then, I’m brushing up on marine and electrical mechanical systems, learning to sew, and completing all of the safety documentation for the DSC and EPIRBs.

Home For A Bit

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Dad hanging out with a new friend

We’re back in Chicago for a few days as Tortuga sits in a slip in Virginia.  I plan to return to Deltaville tomorrow to begin the process of putting her up for the winter.  The list of “to-do’s” is pretty extensive; winterize the Volvo diesel engine, the generator, and the water maker, take the sails down, remove any food or other perishable items, disconnect the batteries, remove the wind generator and the antennae tree, open the sea cocks, drain the faucets and washing machine, etc…  I’m planning on two solid days of work before the boatyard shrink wraps the boat and puts her up on stands for the winter.

In the meantime my parents, sister and brother-in-law are in Chicago for a visit.  It’s always good to have family here and see the city from a tourist’s perspective.

Sailors v. Powerboaters


As the U.S. Sailboat Show enters its last day, the U.S. Powerboat Show will come into the harbor to take it’s place.  I asked an Annapolis bartender if there was a difference between the Sailboat clientele (Sailors) and the Powerboaters.  He said that the Sailors normally drank rum, gin, or flavored vodka, while the Power guys favored bourbon and single malt whiskys.  Interesting distinction.  Maybe because the sailboats tend to cruise the Caribbean more where there are favorable winds, and rum is cheap and plentiful.  Clearly more research is needed.