Sunday, November 19, 2017

You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose...


... but, you can't wipe your friends on the couch.

No scooter, bike, boat, dolphin stuff in this post - it's all about the picks.  Well, taking your pick of the picks.

Guitars get all the attention.  Oh, amps and PAs, too.  Straps and strings.  I have my favorites.  But, the pick you pick makes a difference, as well.

I ran some tests today with a variety of picks.  Well, not so much "tests," because there was nothing scientific about it... I played different guitars with different picks to see what sounds the best (to me).


Is there really a difference, you ask?  OK, you probably didn't ask that.  If you aren't a guitar person, you probably didn't make it this far in today's post.  Yes, there is a difference.  What you see above are different manufacturers, sizes, materials, thickness... and cost.  The cost range in the picks above is from less than $1 to more than $25.

If you're still reading, now you're asking: Does a $25 pick sound 25 times better than a $1 pick?  Well, there is more to it than that.

Also, I prefer different picks on different guitars.

Starting the top left: a Gravity Gold Series, a Tusq, Guitar Moose Pro Sticky-Pick (carbon fiber), a Charmed Life Brown Series, and a Dunlap Prime-Tone.  Bottom row, left to right: a "no name" pick trying to look like tortoise-shell, a home-made acrylic pick, a Gravity Classic acrylic, and a Taylor heavy.

Yes, they all sound different.  The material and thickness matter.  While any of them would work, I find the Gravity Gold is my favorite on my Emerald X7, and the Gravity Classic 1.1mm and the Charmed Life brown 1.15mm tie for favorites on the X20.  All three of those picks fall into the "premium" category.  Nice rich sound, very little pick noise (the sound of the pick striking the strings).

Least favorite would be the Dunlap Prime-Tone and the faux tortoise-shell, due mostly to the overly bright sound.  The others fall into the "OK" category.  The Guitar Moose pick (top row, center) is unique in that it has a sticky thicker material where you hold it, carbon fiber on the bottom.  The Taylor is a typical celluloid pick (think: Fender heavy) that is less than a buck... this type of pick is what most guitar players use, and it sounds decent.  I used something similar to that for over 4 decades - a Wabash Blue, which you can still find used on eBay for about $12 and up.  Back in my day (insert your own old-guy joke here), I used to buy these by the fist-full (and break a couple each night).  I think a gross of them was less than $10 in my mis-spent youth.  Who knew cheap guitar picks would appreciate in value?  ;-)


Friday, November 17, 2017

Breakfast Cruise...


It's all about the timing.

This morning, Joan said, "How would you like to get Manuel's this morning, and we'll take it out on the boat?"

I'm in.  I wanted to see what it takes to get over and around the dredge pipe, and the weather weasels are calling for winds in the 20s with higher gusts this afternoon... a breakfast cruise it is.

"Manuel's" means breakfast tortilla, with whatever you want inside - make mine: sausage, egg, cheese, and potato.  They are huge, so one takes care of the both of us.

While I went to pick up the tortilla, Joan got other stuff ready for the boat.  When I came back, she cut the tortilla in half and put each in a plastic bag so they'd be easy to eat on the boat.  While she did that, I prepped the boat and let the engine warm up.

The dredge was running when we pushed off from our dock - that means the pipe is going to be full and it tends to sink... we were able to pass over it in a low spot without scraping.  It is a tight fit going between the pipe and the boat-lifts on the other side.



Easy passage from that lower photo above to make our turn into the next canal.  The wind had already started building as we turned into the ICW.  A light chop on the water when Joan passed out breakfast...


We saw a couple dorsal fins in the distance, but with one hand on the wheel and the other on the tortilla... well, I was out of hands.

A pelican posing...


Further down the channel, a crewboat coming in...


The first dolphin image...



They started moving towards our boat...





A wave good-bye...


A happy, unexpected dolphin experience.


We turned back towards home.  This bait-shrimper is popular with the pelicans...




A dolphin bow-surfing this Gulf shrimper...


This pelican is a fan of The Clash...

(Should I Stay Or Should I Go?)  ;-)

A bit of bird-watching...


The wind ruffling the feathers of this Roseate Spoonbill...



The Gulf shrimper just behind the bait shrimper, for a size comparison...


Before we turned into our canal, we took a look where the dredge is currently working...


The small bridge that is just beyond the dredge is what separates our canal from this canal; the pipe has been run under the bridge and all the way up our canal.  Again, our timing was good - when we came in the dredge was hard at it, and the pipe was submerged; a bit of a tight fit making the rotation at our dock, but certainly doable.  No doubt, this situation will change as the dredge moves, but I was sure happy to be able to get out today, with no issues.

An osprey fly-over to wrap up the morning...




Thursday, November 16, 2017

A visit...


The dredge foreman stopped at our house this morning.  We looked up and down the canal and visited for a bit.  He is sympathetic, and I understand their situation.  The way they have the pipe right now, I think I can get by it with only two places to "jump" the pipe (push down on the pipe with a boat pole, raise the motor, and ease the boat across the pipe).  He said that situation will change each day as the actual dredge moves.

So, there won't be any "leaving in the dark for sunrise" excursions, nor "coming back after dark" sunset trips - you have to see down into the water to see how far you're pushing the pipe.  No solo trips either, since it will take two of us to cross the pipe.

But, unlike when the dredge is in the canal, and tied off to docks on both sides, with a bit more effort, we should be able to get in and out.  Here is their pontoon, being used to check pipe connections just up from our dock...


He told me about some of the crap they have run into in the canals: a roof (??), shingles, metal flashing from roofs, tarps, grill covers, etc.  Each time they run into something like that, it takes time to clear the mess before they can begin dredging again.  They have two dredges running now... when I asked him when they expected to be done, he shook his head - "It just depends on what we run into to.

Literally.

In the meantime, we installed a couple automatic lights and a camera that lets us keep an eye on the boat and dock - from anywhere.

Projects done... for now.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Trapped...


Yep.  As expected.  They are setting up the dredge pipe in front of our dock...



(Sigh)

We waited for a month to put our boat in, due to the dredge operation... had a good couple of weeks to get out on the boat.  And now, back to this.

I enjoyed getting out there - really missed seeing the dolphins.  No idea how long this portion of the dredge work will be, but I will be visiting with the "boss" for the dredge crew tomorrow (we spoke on the phone today) to see if there is some way they can "snake" the pipe (and I understand they have to put slack in the pipe to allow movement of the dredge without having to break the line repeatedly) in a way that I will only have to cross it a couple times to get out.

We'll see how it plays out.

---------

On edit:

These guys work hard.  Here they are as the last light of the day slips away...



Yes, that worker is straddling the pipe while they position it and bolt it in place.

Looking up from that, this makes me feel serene...




Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Just when you thought it was safe to head out in your boat...


They're back!  The dreaded dredge.  It has moved into the section of canal that is northwest of us... oh, you can't get there directly from our place, but it is the same canal.  And it looks like they will, indeed, be running the dredge pipe down our section of canal.

Of course, because the weather weasels are predicting absolutely beautiful weather for the the near term.

We had some running to do, but when we got home, I asked Joan if she wanted to do a sunset cruise on the boat... "No, I have stuff to do here - you go."

OK.

Looking down our canal as I pulled away from our dock, you can see the beginnings of the dredge pipe being moved back in...




Well over a year into a 6 month project - and when you think they are done blocking your way in and out... nope.  There was just enough room for me to get out without having to cross one of their pipes.  That is because they haven't hooked up the pipes that will be running right past our dock.

I asked two of the workers if they were going to block me in... "Habla usted Espanol?"  I didn't want to waste time - it was already getting close to 4:00, and I was hoping to make the 4:00 bridge opening to head across the Laguna Madre (my "once around the island" route).

Only one bird posing on my way out the last canal...


Heading east towards the bridge, I saw this on the hard at South Point Marina...


A Ranger Tug - with a "for sale" sign in the window and Washington State registration numbers.  I know that routing - this boat is a long ways from home.  No idea who it belongs to.

Heading towards the bridge, I gave them a call on the VHF radio...


No response.  I kept heading towards the bridge, photographing these pelicans along the way...


Another call to the bridge.  No response.  I gave a long blast on the horn... I think I woke him up - he came on the radio and said, "I'm getting it open right now!"  Timing is everything - I have seen them refuse to open the bridge if you are two minutes after the hour with your call.

Looking back to the west...



There is a University of Texs facility just past the bridge.  We have seen these lately?  Any idea what it is?


If you said, "Artificial reef," you get 100 bonus points.  Through the bridge and into the Laguna Madre - beautiful blue water today...



Looking to the northwest towards Port Isabel, you can see the lighthouse...


That is scaffolding around the lighthouse... part of a 4 month restoration project that is closing in on a year now.  Sound familiar?  Welcome to the land of maƱana.

I turned south, heading towards the ship channel... and what do I see in the ship channel?


A ship.  Heading out.  I heard them talking with the Pilot Boat...



Large ships coming and going from the Port of Brownsville are required to have a Pilot onboard.  This is a master captain with the local knowledge necessary to help guide the ship through that 18 mile long, narrow channel.  He is put onboard the ship from a Pilot boat (above), then guides that ship's crew to the port.  Same thing on departure, where once clear of the ship channel, the Pilot moves from the ship back to one of the Pilot boats.  Via a ladder.  While both are moving.  In port areas like this, the Pilots are at the top of the captain food chain.

Interesting to watch...


Also heading out, this shrimper...


Who passed by me a lot closer than necessary.  Fortunately, while moving out of his path, I saw some dorsal fins along the side of the channel.  I slowed down, grabbed my camera, and...



OK, my work here is done!  Well, I was heading back towards home.


Moving west in the ship channel, I had the dolphins to myself... until a couple excursion boats saw what I was seeing.  I gave them plenty of room.



I scooted along, wanting to get to our canal before dark - in case the dredge pipes are across the canal.  With no lights on them.  In the dark.

Looking back over my shoulder, I saw this coming up the ship channel...


Mexican Naval vessel.  Not a regular occurence.

Getting close to sunset...


In the warm light, an osprey on a daymark...


Making the last turn from the PI turning basin, heading towards our canals...


Making the turn into our canal, I held my breath... they have pipe floating down about halfway in this section of canal; they left me enough room to get by.  Today.  I am sure that will change tomorrow.