Category Archives: Blog

Books Done, Still Loads of Paper

books-done_2876I tried very hard this year to push as much of my company records to digital files and NOT paper, but it seems to be almost impossible.  About half my business receipts are digital only this year, which is better than in past years.

I do the majority of my purchases for the business online, but the irony is that if I’m ordering physical goods (as opposed to software) these online order always arrive with a lot of paper, particularly if they come in from outside Canada.

So while my order receipt is saved as a PDF, the gear shows up with a paper receipt, packing list, and some kind of brokerage/customs form – all hard copy.  Even when the courier shows up at the door with his/her fancy wireless tracking device, they still end up giving me multiple paper copies.

I guess that’s why doing the year-end books is called “paper work”.

Did I Just Hear Maelle Ricker’s Voice ?

It took me about 20 minutes to realize I was sitting right next to super star snowboarder Maëlle Ricker this afternoon in Edgemont Village.

This was doubly embarrassing considering she’d actually stopped to talk to me, inquiring about the camera I had mounted to a park bench. See, I was experimenting with shooting some time lapse photography with my GoPro camera, and I was sitting there, with the camera, when she walked by to grab the adjacent outdoor table.

She asked about the camera and mentioned she’d seen quite a few of them.  I, like a dope, totally didn’t realize who she was – and blathered on about a project I’m doing for one of my clients, and how I needed to experiment a bit with the time lapse feature on the camera.   She sat down to meet with her friend, and I sat with my coffee and muffin.

I didn’t meant to eaves drop – but they were sitting right next to me, and as I sat there, I realized that I recognized the voice.

Where Do I Know That Voice ?

It’s probably because of a long career in radio, but I always lock in on people’s voices and vocal patterns.

In any event, it finally dawned on me, remembering her countless interviews after her amazing success at the Olympics.

So now what ?

I eventually got up and got her and her friend a glass of water from inside Delaney’s (it was hot this afternoon).

I offered them each a glass, with an awkward: “Um, I feel really silly, but I just realized who you are. I recognized your voice. Here’s some water”.

I’m pretty anyone else would have run screaming the other way, but they took in in stride, and after their meeting ended, I asked if I could get a picture with her. She didn’t even hesitate.

I didn’t have my Nikon with me, so used the GoPro to take the picture.

We had a lovely chat – she’s very very nice – and that makes her even a bigger super star in my books.

Finding Denatured Alcohol in Canada

UPDATE:  Captain Phab Marine Alcohol is no longer available.  In an email from the company in Aug 2021:  “

“Unfortunately we do not produce marine alcohol anymore, it was discontinued due to a Health Canada recall in Oct 2019. This recall was all stove alcohol across the country, not just Captain Phab.

We do however have a Lloyds Ethanol, which is essentially the same. Burns clean, and is used in boat stoves.

This comes in a 1L and we have stock.”

Original article below – and there’s a lot of great info in the comments.


Who knew that finding alcohol could be this hard !

My little sailboat Madsu has a non-pressurized alcohol stove made by Origo.

I love the stove – it’s super hot, needs zero maintenance, and compared to pressurized gas, is super safe.

The stove is responsible for making coffee, hot water for shaving, and all my cooking that isn’t BBQ;  in short, one of the most important items on the boat !

Up until this year, I’ve been able to buy denatured alcohol for the stove at one of my local hardware stores – Rona used to stock it with solvents and turpentine – and it was relatively cheap.  It was simply called Denatured Alcohol – a no brainer.

This year, I haven’t been able to find it anywhere.

So, I did a quick crash course on alcohol for stoves.

A search on the web shows that other people in Canada have trouble finding denatured alcohol.  Other than for use in stove, apparently bike folks use it to clean gears etc.

Denatured alcohol is Ethanol – grain alcohol that’s been treated to make it undrinkable.  It burns super hot and while not great for the environment, burning it is slightly LESS bad that burning other types of fuel.   Most places I went to looking for this fuel, including my local marine store (Martin Marine in North Vancouver) sell Methyl Hydrate, which will also work in the stove.   Methyl Hydrate is wood alcohol – if you’re old enough you probably remember using it in Bunson Burners in high school chemistry.

In any event, I was bent on finding denatured alcohol rather that burn methyl hydrate.

I thought I had found what I was looking for over at West Marine. They sell something called blue flame stove fuel, and though there was very little information on the bottle, I assume this is some type of ethanol mix.  I almost had heart failure when I picked up the small bottle (less than a litre) and saw the price tag:  $30.00. Burning EverClear would be cheaper.   Meanwhile, in the US, West Marine sells a gallon of  “soot-free alcohol” for 29.00 !

I’d almost given up, when I stopped by Steveston Marine just off Granville Island. They now stock something called Captain PHAB Marine Alcohol, from a Peterborough Ontario company, Captain PHAB.

It sells for $19.99 for a 4 litre bottle (that’s 1.14 gallons) and it’s a 90-10 mix (Ethanol and whatever they use to make it undrinkable).  The staffer told me that one of the reasons denatured alcohol has been hard to find is that one of the main suppliers either went out of business or stopped carrying it.

So, for all you sailers, campers and bikers – try Steveston Marine in the lower mainland, or check your local marine store and if they don’t have it, get them to order it for you from Captain PHAB.

As for me, I’m heading down to the boat right now to fill up my stove and perk up a pot of coffee.

I’m so damned pleased with myself, I might even shave.

Great Vancouver Office Space Opportunity

My friend Andrew Gregory emailed to ask if I’d spread the word about some office space they have available, as they’ve moved part of their team to their other office in Ottawa.  Here’s the low-down:

50% share of penthouse office on the 6th floor of 23 West Pender.  270% views of Vancouver with windows that open to allow fresh air.

Includes wi-fi, alarm system, full private bathroom with shower, boardroom for meetings with North and East-facing windows, and full kitchen.  Cleaning service 2X monthly.  Sublet will share space with another social games company.  Over 1,000 sq. ft available for sublet.  Space comfortable for 6-7 person company…developers preferred.  Available immediately and will extend to end of year.

If you’re interested, contact Andrew directly at 604-783-4962.   They’re a great bunch to hang out / work with.

Madsu’s New Navigation Lights

Catalina 22’s of Madsu’s vintage had very awkwardly sighted navigation lights.

The bow light is actually behind the forestay and stem head fitting – not the best for visiblity.  And if I happen to have dropped the foresail on the deck, the light would usually get covered up. (See if you can even find the bow light in this picture of Madsu at the dock)

The stern light was a bit better, though mounted on the deck port-side, and not always visible.  While legal, these old lights have always made me nervous, particularly because I love night sailing.

So, before putting Madsu in the water this year I wanted to install new fore and aft nav lights, up on the pulpit/pushpit where they’d be seen.

Finding lights at Steveston Marine was easy – I got some nice Perko lights on sale – but mounting them on Madsu’s 1 inch pulpit and pushpit rails would be the challenge.

Catalina Direct sells a pulpit mount for over 30.00 dollars, and given the shipping and brokerage, it seemed like a crazy amount of money to spend.  So I decided to make my own (and spend a crazy amount of time to save a few bucks).

A few years ago I had purchased some stainless rail mount brackets (for a the traveler setup), and still had a few extra.

What I needed was some sort of plate to mount the lights on.  So, out came the jig saw and a piece of aluminum plate I had bought when I made the backing plates for the new winches.

I cut the plates, thinking I’d use 2 rail mounts on the bow light – but later opted to simplify with one (a good choice).  A little work with a grinder, then a file, then my Dremel tool, and the plates came out looking pretty great.

Next, I tapped holes for mounting the lights, and for securing the plate to the rail mounts.  I (and others) like to sit on the pulpit on a nice summer day, and with the mounting screws tapped, there’ll be no bolts protruding.

I wasn’t really up for drilling holes in the rail tubing and trying to chase the wiring through – I ran the wiring externally and secured it with self-amalgamating (rigging) tape.  If it turns out to be a nuisance, I’ll chase the wires inside the tubing next year.

Now I’ve got an additional level of comfort sailing at night, knowing that Madsu’s bow and stern light are visible.

Multimedia Gallery with kk+

There’s a fun multimedia gallery that’s part of the BC Pavilion on the 4th floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

I’m working with DigiBC during the games, and many of their members provided the content and technology for the gallery.  And friend  Sara Bailey, is the curator.   Sara worked on some of the earliest CBC Radio 3 designs back in 1999 (prototypes actually) and she and I worked together as consultants for a number of years.

On Wednesday, she offered photographer Kris Krug and I a preview of the gallery (it opened on Friday).

I shot a full ‘tour’ with Sara guiding us through – that will be online in a few days.  But I also put together this little piece for Kris.

He and I first met ten years ago when he was publisher of one of Vancouver’s first online magazines and we were just starting to put some definition on what CBC Radio would be.

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

There’s a higher quality version online here , on YouTube here, on Vimeo here

You can also see a longer, full video tour of the gallery with Sara Bailey here.

December is for Shoveling

20091220_yard_8640Most of last weekend was spent shoveling.


Saturday was one of those magic “December on the Coast” kind of days.

It was sunny with the temperature around 12 degrees C.

Perfect for shoveling a big pile of manure, and converting some lawn into edible garden.

Details on my garden’s website –


If you’re wondering why my garden has its own website…it was jealous of the sailboat’s website, so now it has its own.

Twitter Phishing Site

The newest phishing scam showed up today – maybe it’s been around a while?

First you get the Direct Message – this one forwarded to my email:


The link in the DM/email takes you to a  site that is a perfect replica of the (old) Twitter logon screen.

But wait.

ALWAYS check the URL before you type in your username/password.


They even bothered to include the Twitter favicon, but the url is…


And here’s who owns THAT URL, via a public Whois search…

Registrant Contact:
   jiang wen bin
   jiang wen bin jiang wen bin
   +86.0517757813719 fax: +86.0517757813719
   jin hua chang jiang lu 125 hao5zhuang 603
   jin hua ZJ 345634

Administrative Contact:
   jiang jiang
   +86.02163883527 fax: +86.02163883527
   jinghua Changjiang east street 1255603
   jing hua SH 345634

Technical Contact:
   jiang wen bin jiang wen bin
   +86.0517757813719 fax: +86.0517757813719
   jin hua chang jiang lu 125 hao5zhuang 603
   jin hua ZJ 345634

Billing Contact:
   jiang wen bin jiang wen bin
   +86.0517757813719 fax: +86.0517757813719
   jin hua chang jiang lu 125 hao5zhuang 603
   jin hua ZJ 345634


Q Revelation

Listening to that Q show this morning on the kitchen radio, it finally dawned on me.

It’s The Radio Show with Jack Farr, revisited for 2009.

Guests being hyped this week in include Howie Mandel and Anne Murray, peppered with indie Canadian bands and pop culture ‘stars’ from the US.

It sounds like every story meeting at Jack Farr’s The Radio Show in 1982, right down to David Suzuki (who was Jack’s bemused guest more than a few times).

This might not be that surprising, considering that the Q guy was a guest on the The Radio Show back then, when he, that Q guy, was touring with Moxy Fruvous (insert your own umlauts at will).

I think I know what happened. While he was busy photocopying band bios on the CBC’s Xerox, he must have stolen all our secrets.


The only difference is that in those days, Executive Producer Jim Millican insisted all items be short – like 3-and-a-half to 5 minutes maximum.

Which is about as long as that Q guy’s guest intros.




There were a lot of things wrong with the mid 1980’s.

Almost all of them are encapsulated in this photo.

Yours truly, CBC Winnipeg Open House – circa 1984


Perfect Gift for Your Scuba Diving Friend(s)

Here’s the deal:

I’ve been doing some work with Sea Dragon Charters over the last few months, and I’ve got a limited number of gift certificates available for scuba dive trips in Howe Sound.

[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”” width=”424″ height=”254″ targetclass=”flashmovie”]Get Adobe Flash player


If there’s someone in your circle of family or friends who dives, this is a perfect gift.

Each gift certificate is for 1 person/2 dives aboard Sea Dragon, and includes filling their tank after the 1st dive so they don’t need to bring (or rent) 2 tanks.
Each dive trip is customized to the experience of the divers, and the location(s) in Howe Sound are determined on the dive day.

Each gift certificate is $ 99.00 Canadian.  You save on all taxes.

Buy in packets of 2 and save an additional 25%
That’s a 2 pack for $148.50

You don’t have to commit to a date, the recipient can book their dive at a date that’s convenient for them, based on availability on that date.  Gift certificates must be used before August 31, 2010.  Divers need to bring (or rent) their own equipment as the dive charter does not include scuba dive gear.

You’ll get a personalized gift certificate, custom printed with the name of the recipient(s).


email me if you’re interested

And you can read more about The Sea Dragon on their website.

-Robert Ouimet

CTV goes all CBC like

CTV has relaunched its website

It all looks a lot like the CBC website, aside from having a bigger, flashier main page banner.

But ‘below the fold’, it’s pretty much the same grid.

(there’s a  larger overlay here )

Flattery ?

[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”/wp-content/uploads/cbc_ctv.swf” width=”424″ height=”312″ targetclass=”flashmovie”]Get Adobe Flash player


My Waterproof Sony eBook


We’re really fortunate to have a hot tub just steps outside our bedroom. It’s rare that I’m not in the tub, even for a few minutes, every night.

One thing I love to do is read in the hut tub – despite the steamy glasses. When I switched from paper to a Sony ebook reader, I ran into a bit of a problem.

Water and electronics don’t mix, and how could I possibly read in the hot tub without risking ruining the ebook?

EB had the perfect solution.  She reached into the 3rd kitchen drawer and pulled out a ziplock bag.

Problem solved.  I can still access all the ebook’s functions through the plastic, and it’s completely safe, even from a dunking.


Cold, Dark and Snap

We went out for an evening sail a few nights ago – a pretty big change in weather from even just a few days ago.

It was cool and threatening rain, and despite the weather office removing the wind warning, it was still gusty with lots of chop.

Our friends didn’t seem to mind – they were just happy to be out on a sailboat an d with Madsu’s main reefed and the 100% jib hanked on, we were making pretty good progress to weather.

We were the only sailboat out and tacked across from West Van to Bowen a couple of times.

I figured we should head in before it got too dark and colder.  Reaching along the West Van shore near Whytecliff Park I decided to drop the jib and sail under main alone.  It was now pretty much dark,  and I dumped the main and lowered the motor to take us home.

Just as I pulled on the recoil cord to start the outboard,  the cord snapped,  right near the handle.   It must have been really frayed as the pull didn’t even turn the motor over, and here I was with the pull start handle in my hand, the sails down, and the motor not running.

Fortunately, we had done a few things right.  When I’m sailing solo I always give myself lots of room and lots of time to get stuff done, and even though I had crew last night, I’d done the same.

We were  2 or 3 cables off the shore, so had a bit of sea room – lots of time to get the sails back up if necessary.  We also were not on a lee shore.  Horseshoe Bay is a busy ferry terminal and I always raise and douse sails well away from the ferry track.  I was glad I had done so tonight, as I looked out into the dark to see the Bowen Ferry approaching.

I popped the lid on the outboard and realized I couldn’t really see too much in the dark, and wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of trying to fiddle with the recoil line in a sloppy chop.  The Evinrude has a great big flywheel up top, and sure enough, it’s got a groove built-in for wrapping a line.

The groove is quite narrow – probably the same as the recoil line itself which I learn later is 5/32″ line – and I don’t have anything that small on the boat.  I did manage to find a couple of feet of 1/4″ line in my skipper bag, and though it was barely recessed in the groove slot, I was able to wrap it ONCE around the flywheel.

One pull.

Two pulls.

With only one wrap around the flywheel, I’m not getting much momentum, but the motor is a notoriously good starter, so I figure it’s going to fire.

Should I choke and risk flooding it?

Sure, let’s choke.


One more pull.  Choke Off.

Pull. She fired right up, and we motored in without further mishap.

It was a good lesson though.  I’m always pretty cautious when dousing sails and motoring up to get to the moorage.   I’ve been caught on a lee shore before, and it isn’t anything I ever want to repeat, so I tend to give myself a lot of room – I was glad I did on this night.20090807_fray

No matter how well maintained your vessel – things break.  I keep Madsu is top shape, and since the outboard had been serviced in the spring, including a new recoil line, this caught me totally unawares.

What I didn’t realize is that the recoil line was chafing against the casing – there is a soft metal sleeve or grommet to keep chafe down, but it had worn through and the line was slowly cut through from friction against the casing.   I now have an emergency line of the right width in my bag, in case I have to use the flywheel to start up again.


Finally, I was grateful for a motor that starts well, and another good reason to keep it serviced and running properly.


This is the grommet meant to protect the recoil line as it passes through the motor casing. It’s soft metal, brass I think.

You can see how it’s worn away in one spot – that’s because of the extreme angle required to pull the line when the motor is down and in the water.  The starter handle sits tight against this grommet when the line is attached and I hadn’t noticed how it had worn right through.  Every pull was cutting through the line.

The Repair:

I did get a new grommet from Lorship Marine on Victoria Drive.  It’s essentially a tube, pre-flared at one end. You insert it from the inside of the motor casing, then hand flare the outside. 20090813_recoil_line_inside

Once I’d cut out the old grommet, I had to remove part of the carb in order to be able to insert the grommet through the casing.20090813_flaring_tool

Then I had to flare the tube on the outside – I found a flaring tool at Home Depot which got things started ok, then finished off withe some gentle work with the ball peen hammer.  I had to jam a piece of hardwood in to support the inside end of the grommet while I flared the outside. The flaring tool did an excellent job of getting a nice consistent shape to the start of the flare, and with some light touches with the hammer, I was able to get a really nicely shaped grommet by the end of it.

I had taken the motor off the boat and worked on it at home. It would have been a really difficult job with the motor still on the boat, so I was glad I was able to do the repair here, as opposed to while out cruising.


Cuba, You’re Better Off Without Them

I finally got around to sending two of my wireless mic/transmitters in for repair.

I have had these two Comtek rigs sitting in a cupboard for a year – neither of them is very old or even used that much,  but they both went on the fritz and I’d literally shelved them in favour of buying vastly superior Lectrosonic gear (which is also much more expensive).

Not that the Comtek rigs were cheap by any stretch of the imagination, so given that they represented a substantial investment and were useless as is,  I finally decided to send them away to be fixed.

Comtek’s head office is in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was very efficient in dealing with them. They fixed and sent them back within a couple of weeks (and almost 300 dollars USD in repair costs, plus shipping, plus brokerage fees).

The receipt that came with them caught my attention – not because of the dollar amount – but because of the reminder of the US of A’s embargo on Cuba and other countries…


And I couldn’t help but think:

“Cuba, you’ve got enough problems.  In this case, they’re actually doing you a favour.

Really.  You are much better off without this brand of American technology”