Posted by: glennandert | 23-July-2008

Take a Good Hard Look in the Mirror

Wellington Training Asks Kiwi Men to Take a Good Hard Look in the Mirror.

Why This is Newsworthy?

We’ve been changing the world, one man at a time, for about 20 years now. At last count, about 40,000 men worldwide. So, it’s boring, really. Well, unless you think the world needs more men with accountability and integrity. You know, a man that

  • is fully accountable for his actions and their consequences,
  • stands up and takes full responsibility for his life,
  • steps forward as a man without apologizing for who he is,
  • and has an open heart and compassionate mindfulness.

Who is behind this?

The New Zealand Mankind Project. Never heard of us? Not surprising – branding is for cows, not men.

What is this all about?

This is a training by men for men, and about being a man:

    A man has a connection to his feelings – he

  • connects with his feelings with his feet on the ground,
  • can clarify his feelings and express those feelings directly and authentically,
  • balances the depth of his heart with the wisdom of his mind,
  • and is authentic.
    A man is a leader – he

  • steps up to lead or mentor,
  • puts himself on the line and takes risks, with the courage to be vulnerable,
  • is fully alive and present,
  • gives his gifts to the world with a sense of purpose and clarity,
    with neither apology nor arrogance.
    A man steps into his relationships fully – he is able to

  • commit
  • be intimate
  • listen with his heart
  • speak his deepest truth

And it’s about being welcomed into a community of men governed by honesty, integrity and a level of trust that most men never know.

If that’s too kinky for you, go ahead stay a neanderthal.

Who the Hell Cares About This #$%* Anyway?

Let’s see, Mr Neanderthal’s partner seems to really “get this”. In fact, her response is “duh, it’s about time”. Then there are the folks that have to work with Mr. Neanderthal. And did I mention Mr. Neanderthal’s poor kids?

Does Anybody Say Good Things About This?

There are some awesome video testimonials at the MKP website.

Here are some text testimonials from men that have attended the training:

I went through my weekend in 1997. Its the most life altering experience I’ve had. Over the years the empowerment has spread to every part of my life. I am very, very happy with the life I have created.”- Burt W.

The New Warrior Training Adventure was a turning point in my life. I really noticed how I felt different crossing the threshold of my home Sunday night. I felt a depth of gratitude, responsibility, and love for myself, my family, job, and friends well up within me. I could see more clearly how I needed to live in the world around me. My confusion, emptiness, and aloneness had cleared. I began to trust in a deeper part of myself that I always sensed, but couldn’t act upon in my day to day living. It was truly wonderful to make the journey with others, and receive the support from so many men. I had never experienced this much trust and love from men in the past.” – Sean Niland

Some text testimonials from the partners of men that have attended:

I wish more money went into things like New Warrior instead of prison growth. If the court sentenced men to a weekend, the world would become a different place. The Mankind Project saved our marriage & I believe it saved Scott’s life. I am a true believer! This works. I hope more men make the decision to give themselves the gift. That’s what it is, a gift.” – Camille Darkes

My husband came in the front door and looked into my eyes and stayed there long enough to see my heart and soul. He’s never done this in our 18 years of marriage. This makes me feel so close and loved by him. Our 6-year-old daughter told me that daddy feels soft and more cuddly. I really appreciate the staff for giving me back my husband.” – a wife at an NWTA graduation

There are more testimonials and newspaper articles here and here.

Where is this?

I wish I could say that it is at our new 5-star resort for the new man. Sorry. Toughen up blokes – it’s at Camp Wainui in Wainuiomata, east of Wellington and Hutt Cities.

When is it?

The weekend of September 26-28. A whole weekend? Hey, it takes time to thaw out your average Neanderthal.

Does this Service Cost Money?

We have to pay for a place for you to sleep, the food you are going to eat, etc, etc. So, yes, there is a fee. That said, we won’t turn away a man that wants to come but can’t afford it.

More Information?

The ManKind Project is a not-for-profit, non-religious organisation. Call free 0800 MANKIND (0800 626 5463) or go to the website www.mkp.org.nz.

For further information contact Glenn Andert (Wellington), 027.354.4950.

Posted by: glennandert | 22-July-2008

The full make-over for ‘Learjet’, part three

This is the last of three parts of the story about painting lady ‘Learjet’. Part two is here.

Let’s get back to work …

OK, remember all that hard work on the topsides of the boat? Well, we have to do mostly the same thing on the deck as well. There is less surface area. But there are tons of obstructions – hatches, blocks, you name it. In a perfect world, one would spend a few months removing every bit of deck hardware to do this, and putting it all back on again after the paint job is finished. But in a perfect world, I’d have more time, and money! All the funny surface angles and shapes and all those obstructions make for lots of taping and sanding in difficult places. I also had to take about half the surface down to fiberglass, re-bog and fair, just like on the topsides. So this is almost as hard as the topsides. The only saving grace is that most of the deck is covered in non-skid (paint with embedded particles so you don’t slip and fall on your arse). Because that results in a coarse surface, the fairing does not have to be as perfect as for the topsides. Phew, we’ll just pass on this “minor bit”, and get on with the painting….

Here we have a photo of our famous master painter:

Willie is doing some a bit of touch up sanding before spraying the first coat of Interprotect.

Willie has been painting for a couple decades now. He spent a number of years painting in New Zealand and ultimately being trained by the country’s best painter. Willie brought those top skills back to Fiji, where he joined up with Brian who provided financing and business acumen to start Baobob Industries, which offers an amazing range of services to cruising yachts.

One of the other great things about Willie is that smile!

Here is a view inside “the tent” that covers ‘Learjet’ while she is being painted.

Learjet is far enough off the ground that Willie has to run around on that scaffolding in order to spray paint the sides. You can see it in the photo, but “the tent” is held together with a bunch of twine using the scaffold and Learjet’s stanchions for support. We’ll come back to some scary moments later.

Here we start taping the waterline. The whole bottom of the boat has to be covered in plastic, in order to prevent a coating of Interprotect all over the bottom of the boat.

And here is a view of ‘Learjet’ under her tent before the painting begins.

Remember that tree because we’ll come back to it later.

Oh, and don’t forget the air compressor for the paint gun:

Notice how we mix the paint in the cleanroom?

And yes, mixing paint is a 4 person job. 🙂

OK, so here we go. Finally, at long last, the first coat of International Interprotect on the deck:

Just like in an operating room, we keep the doctors sleeves rolled up with a bit of masking tape:

Ah, paint at last. You have no idea of how many weeks of effort it has taken to get to this point!

And now cleaning a clog out of the gun … If it takes slightly too long to get the next canister of paint attached and going, the paint can dry inside the gun. Or, it might be that cleanroom environment 🙂

Have you seen Glenn’s world renown winch artwork? Willie on left, crew on right.

Don’t forget the mascot

And his master, and the boss, Brian:

Back to painting … What a thrill to see Willie putting the first coat of Interprotect on the topsides:

This is an unbelievably hot and sweaty job inside that suit in the blazing topical heat and humidity. It takes skill, concentration, perseverance, and the eye and hand of a craftsman.

And don’t forget the encouragement of the crew:

There she is – deck with first coats and just one more side to go.

Ah … the topsides after many coats of Interprotect …

Don’t go worrying about that hole. That’s the drain hole for the compartment that holds the below-deck roller furler.

See that blue stuff? That’s called “glide coat”.

Believe it or not, we have more sanding to do. We use the blue paint as a guide to help fill and sand any spots that are not quite fair yet. The truly amazing bit is how Willie could look at that dull dark chocolate surface that was rough sanded and see with his eye whether it was fair or not. There is amazingly little sanding that is still necessary at this point.

A bit about this paint. It’s a very special epoxy primer, called a “barrier coat”. It’s water proof. It’s the only thing that keeps the sea water from getting into the fiberglass hull via osmosis. So from both functional and cosmetic perspectives, this layer of paint is critical! It’s also hellishly expensive. As I recall we burned up about $2500 worth of paint that day. A lot of it went up in paint smoke. And later, a lot of went up in paint dust as the hull was sanded to make her perfectly fair! Yep, that’s how it works. And after that sanding, we spent more money to spray on more barrier coat onto the now perfectly fair hull.

After lots more sanding and making everything perfect (many more days of work), the “top coat” is sprayed on. The barrier coat that we painted many days before dries quickly and you are going to sand it and fill it anyway, so minor imperfections don’t matter. But the topcoat is very very glossy, very sticky, much thicker, and takes a couple hours to become tack free. Furthermore, we have to put on several coats, without sanding in between. That requires putting on a coat, waiting the just perfect amount of time, putting on another coat, waiting again, etc. Wait too long, and the chemical bond between coats is not good enough and you might have a paint failure down stream. Wait not long enough, and you gets runs.

The topsides were sprayed with top coat first. It came out beautiful. Just gorgeous. But Murphy rules. We had been fighting the weather for weeks. The intense heat of the day would cause the mountain jungles to literally make their own thunder clouds. If the wind was not blowing right, they would blow off the mountains and paste us in the afternoon with a torrential downpour.

The day of putting topcoat on the topsides we had only 3 hours of cure time before the rain. It was not enough. The epoxy paint was hard enough that the rain did not “dent” the surface, but the remaining fine dust on deck was washed off and down the side and impregnated into the finish making “dirty” rivulets. Oh, and we had a squall at the same time that blew one of the scaffolds into the side of the boat, making a nice ding in the fresh paint job! So a day’s worth of work painting, more $1000s in paint went down the drain. Not to mention that now you have to let it dry for a day or two, and sand it, to get a mechanical bond for the next attempt at paint. Gads. The only good news is that the extra paint and sanding makes for a spectacular finish!

Painting the deck was even more of a nightmare. I won’t bore you with the details. But you have to paint it in panels. You have to fight the ever increasing frequency of days with rain. And you have to fight the debris from the bloody tree right next to the job.

After days and days of preparation and painting, the whole boat is covered with her beautiful new paint! The only painting that remains is putting on the blue bootstripe – that’s the blue line just above the waterline. To do that requires recovering virtually the entire boat, again! It takes two days of prep work to put on a strip of blue paint about 100mm tall!

We are going to paint that thin little strip between the black plastic and the brown paper!

Then there is the “graphics”. Replicating that was interesting. I spent about a week on that project. Before the painting started, I did a lot of measuring:

The original was hand painted. So I had to get some sort of sense for how it was laid out, and some base line measurement that I could use for double checking my work later. After all, the old graphics were sanded off many weeks before the new one went on.

And then there was 3 days of learning vector graphics in Photoshop in order to create the digital files necessary to cut new vinyl graphics. And then there was finding a vendor to make it and help me apply it. I thought close to $1500 was expensive, given that you can buy the vinyl material itself for less than $100. I shopped New Zealand, Australia and the USA. Sending the big graphics files from the unreliable and slow internet at Vuda Point was itself an interesting challenge. I ended up having to buy a fan to keep the local router cool – but that’s another story! Anyway, in the end it turned out that a local Fijian company, King’s Neon Signs, was able to offer me the best deal. And application was actually quite tricky. The graphics are huge – the lettering alone is 3 meters wide and 3/4 of a meter tall. The pin stripes add another 4 meters! After watching Willie’s man lay out the lines for the bootstripe, I was able to teach the graphics applicator how to do the same for the pin stripes (it took several attempts before he got the hang of it). And it came out beautiful.

The timing of everything was getting so critical. The graphics need to dry for at least 5-7 days before the boat can be lifted in order to ensure that the lifting straps do not move the vinyl around. With the rain delays and the extra little problems we had to tackle, I was faced with the very real possibility that the boat would not be ready before my crew arrived to help me sail Learjet back to New Zealand for the summer.

Almost done. Now we just have to put on new anti-fouling paint on the underwater surfaces (the old bottom paint had to be sanded off because it lost its killing power from being out of the water for so long).

And here she is, all shiny in her new coat of paint:

(photos courtesy Leah Pepe).

For those of you who are observant, Learjet has been undergoing a gradual color change over the years as various things have been renewed. The new graphics are now a lovely blue color, completely her transition from maroon and grey to blue and silver, inside and out.

The best graphics are on the transom.

I had Willie and his crew write their signatures. I combined that with a recreation of a bit of the Baobab logo (as seen on the back of their t-shirts) and created a graphic representing Willie signing his masterpiece – this was the first time Willie had ever signed one of his boats! It’s my pleasure and honor to own the first signed copy of Willie’s art!

Finally, at long last, after a long, hot, dirty and sometimes frightening, 10 weeks, Learjet is ready for the water again. Here she is in the travel lift on her way to the water.

She stops for an hour or so to get a few coats of anti-foul on the bottom of the keel.

Glenn with Willie and part of his crew.

Backing down the slip way:

Seconds before the splash:

(Launch photos courtesy Leah Pepe).

After rushing aboard to check for leaks, it is great to NOT hear the dreaded “glug glug glug”, especially after having replaced all the thruhulls!

I don’t have any great shots of ‘Learjet’ in the water, post paint job. Here is the best one so far, courtesy Dennis Gill. This is ‘Learjet’ lying in Gisborne, New Zealand, after the ocean passage from New Caledonia.

And here is Glenn, Antonin and Lori in New Caledonia just before bringing the flash new ‘Learjet’ to her new home in New Zealand. (Photo courtesy of Dennis Gill).

Would I do it again? Not on purpose. 🙂 This was not an easy project. It took 10 weeks instead of 2. A lot of unexpected obstacles had to be overcome. It was more expensive than I anticipated. And the unusual bad weather made a tough project even tougher. Like most boat projects, it was a very big learning experience. But lady Learjet is properly protected now. And she looks so beautiful in her glossy new digs. The fairing job on the topsides is so good that I suspect she looks better now than when she was new. Thanks to her advanced design when she was built, she could pass for a new boat now. Anyway, I think Willie and Brian at Baobab did an awesome job, and I’m glad I had Learjet painted by the famous Willie.

OK. Hopefully that’s the last major story about painting for a while!

Posted by: glennandert | 21-July-2008

Cloud Computing in New Zealand?

It’s on its way. Some call it cloud computing. This is going to have a huge impact on New Zealand. Is anybody thinking about this?

First some background:

At the most basic level you have Server Virtualization (VPS, or virtual private server). Virtualization is an abstraction layer that allows multiple virtual machines to run in isolation, side-by-side on the same physical machine. Each virtual machine can run the same or different operating systems (Linux, BSD, Unix, Solaris, Microsoft).

By decoupling the physical hardware from the operating system, virtualization allows you to:

  • Create fully configured isolated virtual machines with it’s own set of virtual hardware to run an operating system and applications
  • Rapidly save, copy and provision virtual machines that can be moved from one physical server to another for workload consolidation and zero downtime maintenance

Unlike a physical machine, a virtual machine is cheap.

Elastic Computing leverages server virtualization to deploy applications such that hardware, bandwidth and storage are used in a flexible and dynamic way. Each application can be scaled on the fly, without affecting other applications deployed on the grid (the underlying collection of physical resources).

Traditionally one would construct a web application from load balancers, web servers, application servers, database servers, etc across multiple physical machines dedicated to this application. With virtualization the machines are virtual. To retain non-stop capabilities, these virtual machines are still spread across physical machines. However, the number and distribution of virtual machines is totally flexible allowing tremendous scalability.

Similarly, in the old days, you would deploy a single operating system to a single machine. Elastic computing can run a virtualized operating system on many physical servers all at once.

We have astonishing levels of infrastructure load balancing, dynamic server configuration, automated system administration, etc.

Because virtual machines are cheap, and administration is automatic, we have the ability to deploy even relatively minor applications using enterprise level self-healing self-scaling architectures capable of recovering from and continuing in the face of disasters.

Elastic computing is data-driven, which means that no human interaction is needed to add and reduce resources applied to a given application dynamically and flexibly adjusting to meet system demand / requirements and billed on a usage basis.

The definition of “a backbone utility” is Amazon’s AWS Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3) because they are the leader in this space at this time. But there are plenty of new players on the horizon.

With an appropriate elastic computing platform, applications can be migrated between utility backbones and private grids.

Large computer companies, like IBM and HP, are moving to this architecture internally, and reaping 10-fold cost savings. That’s right, 1/10 the cost. This is called a Virtual Private Data Center (VPD).

3Tera is a great example of how all this comes together. They provide an incredibly powerful platform and tools enabling a company or hosting provider to run a self-contained cloud on a grid of commodity-based hardware and enjoy all the rewards. And there are plenty of other players on the horizon.

You can moan all you want about security, privacy, control and all those traditional arguments against outsourcing. Cloud computing is going to happen. With an underlying ten-fold cost reduction, this is like an avalanche – you can’t stop it. We’ll just all have to pray that applications don’t become any less secure as a result.

OK, with that background in place. What does this all mean for New Zealand?

For our companies and government to be competitive we need to be using this technology. Not 10 years from now, along with the other late adopters. Now, as it matures. Otherwise, more business will go offshore to “the big guys”.

Where is the knee in the curve on grid size? It’s big. HP is replacing near 100 data centers worldwide with near 10 in the USA. Google has considerably more than that. All of New Zealand’s significant applications taken together are a small fraction of this. So, a small number of data centers can cover all of New Zealand’s needs. It is conceivable that at some point the cost part of the equation will drive the data centers offshore, but I hope not.

It is very clear you can’t do this cloud computing business without a great broadband infrastructure. What we have is way behind the USA. We need tons of bandwidth, reliable, and cheap. We need it in and between the business centers of our country.

If we don’t build our own grid and cloud, it will all go offshore. That will have a huge negative impact on local  IT business. The automation inherent in the cloud architecture will eliminate the need for a lot of current IT skills. It takes a whole new skill set to operate these kinds of data centers. And it impacts the way software developers build applications as well. We can develop those skills.

If it all goes offshore, where will your bank account and tax records be stored? In New Zealand? Or in America in the Amazon cloud somewhere? And don’t go down the protectionism route here – that never works. Let’s be good at this and compete.

Here is an example of what NOT TO DO:

In America, the iPhone 3G costs $260 with a $40/month data plan (that’s in kiwi dollars). Vodafone markets the same product here in New Zealand for $199 with a $250/month data plan – 6 times the price. That’s ludicrous. Why? It looks like complacency and lack of competition, but I confess to not really understanding. Why does it matter? Well, in just a few short years, it is likely that the mobile phone will replace the PC as the common computing platform. At the office or at home, just put your phone into a docking device where it gets charged and is connected to a nice big screen and wireless keyboard and mouse. Yippie, no more synchronization! The iPhone could very well be it. There is a whole new market for iPhone apps. Some are “silly”, like games. But many are terrific. New Zealand start up companies could be participating in this new market. All except for the fact that New Zealanders don’t own iPhones! [Yes, we could just go compete in the overseas markets, but as we all know, it’s much easier to first perfect things locally.]

One more example: Why do kiwis spend so much time sending txt messages? Because it’s too bloody expensive to use or call a mobile phone. Sorry people, this is unique to the New Zealand market and it is nuts.

So, that’s two examples of what NOT to do with the networking infrastructure.

There is lots of activity around the world looking at building these mega data centers in places that are remote, cold and near dams or other sources of electricity! Is there an opportunity for us to be a leader? Don’t we have some remote cold places around here? 🙂 And don’t we use most of our electricity melting aluminum? Note that this would entail moving lots of bits fast and cheap under the ocean. [There is an inherent time lag as a result of distance. So maybe our customers are Oceania and Asia?] Oh, and by the way, the infrastructure that connects us to Australia and the USA is way too expensive as it is currently priced.

We need a world class networking infrastructure, or else cloud computing going offshore is going to be just another nail in the coffin of the local IT business environment. And we need it now!

Comments welcome.

Posted by: glennandert | 28-June-2008

The full make-over for ‘Learjet’, part two

This is part two of the story about painting lady ‘Learjet’. Part one is here.

Let’s go to work …

Sand off all the paint from the topsides, until you get a good solid substrate to hold the new paint. In this case, most of the paint came off.

Now we need to sand it “fair”. This is about surface shape – no funny dips and the like that will catch your eye when the high gloss paint is on. “Smooth” is different concept, which is about texture — in fact, this step is done with 80-grit sandpaper, which is quite coarse.

Sanding it fair is rather tricky. Paint and “bog” sand differently, because one is harder [“bog” is the Kiwi word for “fairing compound”, which an epoxy based material used as “filler”]. So going at it with an orbital sander or something like that will actually make it less fair.

So, here is how we do it.

Those funny zebra stripes are the “glide coat”. Basically you just let somebody tag your boat! Next is “long boarding”. This is how you sand it fair, removing existing dips (by sanding off the highs), without introducing any new dips.

Long Boarding

The man on the right is holding the “long board”. It has a long piece of 80 grit sandpaper attached.  Next a pair of men grab that board and go for it, like this

Two men can go at it in the blazing heat and humidity for about 15 minutes, and then they need a rest under the tree. So we have 3 teams of two men each. And this goes on for days and days. The resulting surface is the very opposite of smooth and glossy – that dull surface makes it very difficult to see whether the surface is in fact fair. It takes an artist’s eye to be able to “see” it at this stage (you don’t want to be noticing these glaring defects after $1000s of dollars of topcoat have been put on!)

Afters a couple days of work doing this, we discover that the remaining paint on the front third of the boat is simply not going to be a good substrate. It wants to come off in chips in some places. Eeeks. So now we spend days with hand scrapers scraping off all the remaining old paint on the front third of the boat.

Then we had a big rain for a few days. And then some good heat. And then … many more days of long boarding. There was almost a week of effort into long boarding by the time we finish. And then … the fairing on the front third of the boat is holding tiny little water drops. Could paint over it. But that would risk a paint failure later. So the fairing has to come off too! More than a week’s worth of work stripping paint and long boarding is down the tubes, and the wallet is screaming in pain.

A day or so with a grinder and sanders and all the fairing is all off. The remaining fairing and the hull are looking very very good. So now we get to start over. This is like building the boat from scratch. The entire hull has to be covered with fairing compound and faired! The fairing compound is a mix of epoxy resin and microballoons, and a rather yummy looking chocolate color. You can’t just put new compound in some places and try to long board it fair, because the old material is very very hard compared to the new fairing compound, and you’ll just end up with dips. So you have to cover the entire boat with gobs and gobs of fairing compound, and then long board it until it is fair, and keep long boarding until the original surface starts to just show. By that point, you’ve removed about 90% of the fairing compound you just put on! Why?, because you want the thinnest possible fairing layer both for weight reasons and because thin is more durable than thick. And here is the result

Sanded Microballoons

You can see areas where the material below the chocolate is starting to show through. That’s good. Don’t worry about those dark chocolate areas. This is a morning photo and the dew on deck is still draining down the sides.

But … we are not done. While the surface is now fair, there are a few zillion small divits, all of which have to be filled before painting. Now we use a different filler, which is softer than the previous filler, dries quickly, and is great for this part of the job. The whole boat has to filled this way. And this is the result, before sanding, again…. [Don’t worry about that hole at the bow, that’s the drain hole for the locker that contains the roller furler.]

Unsanded Interfill

Now we “short board” to sand that filler fair. Short boards are a one-man job. You don’t need a long board because the filler to be removed is soft compared to the microballoon mixture below, so you sand just enough to bring the surface flat again. Here is the army short boarding, for days on end, like this

Short Boarding

Alas, I don’t have a good photo of what this looks like at this point. But it’s basically a dull chocolate hull with funny looking green chicken pox all over the place!

We’ll take a break here…. Stay tune for the next edition.

Posted by: glennandert | 28-June-2008

Tango Fire

Pamela and went to see Tango Fire by Estampas Portenas last night. Wow. Stunning. Incredible. How do they do that? Well, it was awesome. Very enteraining, beautiful, and yes very sexy! Here is their splash photo from their website

The one-liner that enticed me to by the tickets was “Argentina’s hottest tango company delivers an evening of high-energy sensuality and sophistication that will leave you breathless”. My expectations were met!

Their website is here. If the show ever comes your way, I highly recommend it!

Posted by: glennandert | 18-June-2008

Immigration into New Zealand

My experience immigrating into New Zealand has been delightful, so far.

Shortly after arrival in Wellington in February, I talked to a number of private immigration consultants. Steve McNulty at Migrate New Zealand was extraordinarily helpful. He spent close to an hour giving me great advice, suggested that I should do the process myself, and would not take a fee for his time. Should you ever need an immigration consultant, Steve is my recommendation.

New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS) has been quite helpful and friendly all along the way – not what I expect from a government organization (based on my experience in the USA). My first happy encounter resulted in my visitor permit being extended into 2009. Wow – that was more than I expected. My second happy encounter occurred just recently — NZIS informed me that they have selected my “Expression of Interest” (EOI) from the applicant pool. Yahoo!!! (Or, should that be Google?). Next, they will assign an officer to my case, and review my EOI to make sure that my claims are credible, which they are. Then they will send me an “Invitation to Apply”. At that point, I submit my actual application for residency, and a bunch of supporting documents. The cool thing is that I have already supplied all that stuff – medical exam, FBI report, financial, education, work history, etc, and its all good. So I am hoping for smooth sailing from this point forward in the process! Very very cool! It takes a while for the wheels to turn, I’m told. So we should breath while we are waiting 🙂

Posted by: glennandert | 18-June-2008

Blue Ribbon Eel

Here is another photo from Namena (see this blog post).


I saw some of these eels my previous year, also in Fiji. I took a lot of photos, all of which suffered one or more flaws with focus, lighting or blur (the little buggers want to disappear just as you press the shutter release).

These eels are shy, cute and absolutely gorgeous. It hides in sane or crevices in rocks where it hides waiting to dart out to feed on small fishes. It’s mouth is open because it is breathing, not because it wants to eat you!

The coloration in this photo indicates that is an adult male. Other colorations are possible, but I’ve only seen this one. As the eel grows and gets older, it changes sex from a male to a female. And it changes its colour from blue to yellow as it becomes a fully mature female.

For more details, check out Blue Ribbon Eel on Wikipedia.

Check out this photo at Wikipedia — if only mine was this good!

Posted by: glennandert | 18-June-2008

Underwater photography equipment

In my three years out cruising on Learjet, I have been through 3 different underwater camera setups – yep, one per year!

In my first year out on Learjet, my underwater setup was a SeaLife DC300. Purpose built for underwater photography. What a dog. Can’t focus worth beans. Slow. Eats batteries so fast that the camera is gone long before the tank is empty. And often trashes the memory card leaving trashed images.

While in Suwarrow, Cook Islands, I met a very switched on Kiwi by the name of Luke aboard the Kiwi yacht ‘Quintessa’. Luke showed me his Canon digital compact, matching Canon housing, and his photos. Wow.

So, for my second year out on ‘Learjet’ I leaped for a Canon S80, matching housing, Inon D2000 strobe, Ultralight Control Systems tray and arms. Completely automatic flash. Awesome photos. Easy to use. Very flexible. Partway through the year I also experimented with the Magic Filter from the UK, which makes for great colors during shallow dives, without the hassle of the strobe, and without backscatter. I had an awesome time with this setup, and took some really great shots. I was lucky enough to have Luke aboard for a few weeks while we explored Beqa and Kadavu Fiji. I struggled to keep up with Luke’s skill! But with more practice through the season, I became pretty adapt. I was gutted (as we say in Kiwi land) when I flooded that camera partway through the season while at a remote island in the Lau Group of Fiji. Ended up sailing the yacht to American Samoa in order to replace it!

During my second year I started fantasizing about taking my D70 underwater. But the price of housings was too shocking. So I gave up on it. Well, not quite. I did put in a saved search on eBay for a used housing. Many months later while in the boatyard in the New Zealand summer that search found me a used Seacam underwater housing. I was the only bidder and got it for a great price. The seller was Mike Mesgleski from Underwater Camera Repair. He was a champ, answering all of my stupid questions.

Of course, the strobes are incompatible between these technologies. So as much as I loved my Inon, I had to get a new strobe and opted for the Sea and Sea YS110.

Oh, and you need a separate focusing light. So I sprung for the Hartenberger Nano focus light, which I also use as my dive light – beautiful piece of equipment.

I received great support from backscatter.com. for the strobe and light. They were very very helpful.

Oh, and I had to spring for another lens for underwater work, a Nikon AF Nikkor 60mm f2.8D macro autofocus I love this outfit.

I have had many many hours of fun with this thing. The macro capabilities are tremendous. And the Hartenberger is awesome. It greatly simplifies the whole lighting situation, which I have to confess is still quite difficult for me, since it is NOT automatic, and no creature waits around while you fiddle with your light settings!

Posted by: glennandert | 10-June-2008

Black and white Crinoid on red Sea Fan

The following photo is a black and white Crinoid attached to a red fan coral.

Black and white Crinoid

Crinoids, also known as sea lilies or feather-stars, are marine animals with a mouth on top surrounded by feeding arms. Although the basic echinoderm pattern of five-fold symmetry can be recognized, most crinoids have many more than five arms (as you can see in this photo, they can have a LOT more). They feed by filtering small particles of food from the sea water with their feather like arms. This kind of crinoid has a stem used to attach itself to a substrate (in this case the fan coral). You can gently remove them from the substrate and observe the “feet” of the stem wiggling about trying to grab hold of something. There are several hundred known forms of crinoids and I have seen them in an amazing variety of colors. (Courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crinoid)

This photo was taken at one of 3 Namena dive sites (Fiji) on 25-May-2007, along with the All Girl Crew (Pam, Leah and Grace) of ‘Learjet’.

This is one of the dive sites that places Fiji firmly on the map of the world’s best dive destinations. Any country would be proud to call such a rich and varied dive site their own. In times of old, sailors could use the pass here to avoid tacking around the island and reefs of Namena, and it now represents an area of the South Pacific which discerning divers treasure.

This map shows you roughly where Namena is in Fiji.

Fiji Map

Nearby is Moody’s Namena Island Resort – a unique and secluded retreat on an extraordinary island in the Koro Sea. Access is by way of a boat transfer from Savusavu, or by charter float plane from Nadi. About a month later, Pamela and I stopped near Namena on our way to Yadua Island. We hoped to be able to visit the island, and perhaps see the iguanas. But we found the management to be rather stand-offish, well to lowly yachties anyway.

Posted by: glennandert | 10-June-2008

The full make-over for ‘Learjet’

This is the beginning of the grand story about painting lady ‘Learjet’ in Fiji Nov/Dec 2007.

Poor ‘Learjet’ needed a new paint job for the entire exterior. She was still sporting her original paint job from 1989. The age and the wear and tear from 3 years in the tropics and we were beyond cosmetics. The paint was in such bad shape that I would soon risk water intrusion below the paint (not good).

Painting the bottom is pretty much a standard maintenance issue, so we’ll ignore that. Painting the topsides (the sides of the boat, above the water line) is a big issue. And painting the deck is a big deal multiplied by about three.

My original plan was to do the paint job over the summer (Jan thru Mar 2008 ) in New Zealand, perhaps at Nelson. But I met a really good painter in Fiji, Willie. He had a great reputation, including having been trained by one of the best painters in New Zealand. So, with Pamela returning to New Zealand to attend to her business for about 6 weeks, I figured I would use that window to do the job in Fiji, which would keep me out of the boat yard during the NZ summer.

So, I started on what was thought to be a 2 week job that turned out to be a 10 week job!

The story begins with ‘Learjet’ stored in her “hole” at Vuda Pt Marina, near Nadi Fiji.

Learjet in the hole

Notice ‘Learjet’s keel in that ditch — “the hole”. Normally a yacht is lowered far enough that it rests on the old used tires in the foreground. Well, they didn’t have any “holes” deep enough for ‘Learjet’s 2.8 meter draft. Hence the stands.

Notice the tree in the background. That caused me no end of headaches with debris from the tree fouling the paint job. But I had to go here, because it was the deepest hole, and their stands are not high enough to handle ‘Learjet’ in a shallower hole, not to mention that the higher she it, the harder it is to paint her. In retrospect, I should have made them put me somewhere else in the yard further from a tree, and simply hired a backhoe to deep the trench deeper.

Notice that wind turbine on the radar arch. That’s my spiffy Lakota wind turbine that puts out 800 watts of electricity, and tilts itself into helicopter orientation when the wind pipes up, and is completely self-managing up to about 100 knots of wind.

Oh, and the boom and stack pack. That’s a completed project from the previous summer — carbon boom, 2/3 meter wide landing pattern in the stack pack for those lovely 3DL sails.

Can’t wait until next edition???

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