Sunday, October 28, 2012

SteamCon IV - Where There Were Monsters

Steam Con IV is over and we're all trapped firmly in the mundane world once more. However. For a few brief days, the Hyatt in Bellevue was the site of an in invasion of hideous (but polite!) Victorian monsters and those that hunt the diabolical creatures. Enough chatter. On to the photos! Behold, Baba Yaga! And a well dressed mummy - note her mummified companion at her side.
Dr. Jekyll and the nortorious creature, Hyde. A very small dragon invaded the mercantile at one point causing a stampede as the shoppers were lured in by the creature's fiendish cuteness.

Medusa and the brave Perseus (AKA Mike and Casey Spence) Also, a glimpse of a pair of monster hunters - loaded for whatever danger might wander into their sites.

This man is on stilts. In costume. Playing a bagpipe. The blurry is invalid.

Below, we have the Vampire Rhiannon and the lovely Lady Anna K. Sunnamun, explorer, late of Egypt. (AKA Rhiannon and Melissa Thornley)

And here, we have the entire crew. From left to right: Emily Olesin, Casey Spence (Medusa), in the pith helmet Mike Spence (Perseus), in front Keith Burnard, Rhiannon Thornley, Melissa Thornley, Melissa Denny and Alden Denny.
I was a Victorian Black Widow. Sadly for a number of people, they mistook me for the superhero variety rather than the arachnid and thus venomous type. The costume wasn't elaborate, but the tragedy is that I don't sew and the great bulk of my creative impulse appears to be reserved for writing stories. It took a very long time for me to complete the pattern I'd chosen. We won't talk about the number of seams I had to rip out because I'd misunderstood a set of instructions. Nor will we discuss the blood that I may have shed from sticking myself with pins during the constuction phase.
From fabric, to half sewn objects.

To completed outfit (without accesories) to the con where the vampire and I were caught conferring about the relative merits of poisoned bites.

Join us next year for SteamCon V. The theme is Around the World. Costumes are optional, thought clothing is not, but costumes are a good portion of the fun.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One of the Dangers of Boating

A day of fishing turned deadly this past Friday. It was a clear, blue, sunny October day. Two men took their 16' aluminum boat out for a day of fishing in the water just outside of Shilshole Bay Marina. At 4pm, they were a mile or so from the breakwater when a 44' power boat collided with them. Their fishing boat capsized. Both men went into the frigid water.

One of them suffered a heart attack and could not be revived. The other man was pulled from the water and is recovering from his injuries.

I won't post the photos. Some of them can be distressing (no photos of the people - but the overturned boat being towed by the Coast Guard and the damage to the fishing boat are heartbreaking enough, especially knowing that the accident cost a man his life.) If, however, you want to understand what  kind of damage a collision like this can do, click here - this is KIRO 7's coverage - photos and video.

The investigation into what cased the collision is ongoing, so there's no point in trying to place blame. I wanted to mention this accident because when you're on the water, collisions and near collisions are far more common than you might think. Boaters have insane lists of rules for right of way. The link takes you to just one site dedicated to a summary of the rules, but allow me to boil this down.

Rule 1. Know the navigation rules and follow them.

But when that fails, see:
Rule 2. The safety of your vessel and everyone on it is your responsibility. Do whatever is necessary to avoid a collision so long as your action endangers no one else.

The School of Dad (where I learned to sail) put it this way: "You can hollar that you had right of way the entire time you're sinking."  Yes. Collisions happen. People die. In Washington State, a number of people die in boating accidents every year. Most of those accidents involve alcohol and drowning. Sometimes, it's collision and loss of boats and sometimes loss of life. There's a lot of water out there, but not so much that you can allow your attention to stray when you're at the helm.

If you're writing fiction, a collision, especially at night or in low visibility conditions (fog, rain, snow), is a perfectly valid disaster to have befall your characters. Have a look at current conditions and water temperature conditions for your region.There are places in Washington State and up into Canadian waters where the currents run so hard and fast that if someone goes in, the chances of survival are slim to none. Point of interest: Most of the water north of Washington state is warmer than it is at the Washington coast. Here's the NOAA guide for water temperature observations for most of the nation. Though, I'm linking you directly to the page for Seattle and surrounding waters. Click on the nav menu on the left to find other areas of the nation.

If you go out on the water for real, remember your life jackets, please. And remind everyone on board to help you keep watch for other vessels.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Boats and Electricity

I owe you a post about power boats - I will post it. I swear. It's a bigger subject than I'd originally thought. In the meantime, however, I bring you this: Photo of something you never, ever want to see on YOUR boat.

How to burn your boat to the waterline in one easy step: Don't check your connection to shore power on a regular (at least weekly) basis. The photo above is the result of that. If you don't want to lose the boat to fire, check your plugs! Oh. And if you *think* you smell something burning? Check the shore power connection.

Most boats have batteries. The bigger the boat, the bigger the battery bank. Cabin lights, sailing instruments and running lights all operate from the batteries. However, while boats are in dock, most of us are also hooked into shore power. This recharges the batteries, but it also allows us to run computers, our refrigerator, and anything else that requires a regular plug to operate (like heaters). Shore power connections are exposed to the elements. This isn't usually an issue - think of your outdoor holiday light displays. These plugs and the cords are designed for outdoor use and they serve reliably for years.

The problem is that when these cords fail (and they will, it's just a matter of time) they almost always fail at the BOAT end (the picture above) not on the dock end. When they fail, it's almost always in the fashion shown in the photo - heat, melting and scorching from runaway current. Boat fires can and do start this way. Yes. That picture is of our plug. Once I found this scorch, we did not plug back in - we immediately went to the marine store and bought a new shorepower plug solution called SmartPlug. (I'm not affiliated with the company in any way, shape or form - we just picked it for safety reasons that made sense to us.) We went that route because those plugs have fuses and temperature sensors. If heat builds up in the plug, the fuse trips and shuts down all current. This makes it much harder to burn down the boat.

It's amazing how I took electricity for granted until we moved aboard a boat. To a certain extent, I still do - the power just shows up ready for me to plug into at the dock stand. But the line into the boat is 100% our responsibility and there's clearly maintenance - even if it's just checking the connection from time to time - required to keep everyone and everything safe.

The nice part, if you're writing fiction, is that you now have a believable disaster that could befall your fictional boaters. (Note: I knew we had a problem because our 'Reverse Polarity' light came on in the onboard electrical panel. So if you want to rescue your boater before the boat catches fire - you can have one of them see the red Reverse Polarity light shining and question it. For the record, the rest of our electrical panel indicators are green - that one's the only red light.)