Category Archives: Sailing

Monitoring for structural failure

The sails on the new gargantuan $100 million luxury sailboat look awkward and inefficient to me, like wagon wheels on a modern sports car:

The Maltese sets sail

Built for venture capitalist Tom Perkins, the 87.5-meter yacht sports three 57-meter tall masts and each mast has 6 yards from which the sails hang. This design gives it a slight resemblance to a clipper ship.

A clipper ship? No. On second glance, I can see the wing-like properties of the sails perhaps equivalent to two modern sails laid opposite one another and connected together at the mast. Wonder what these hanging sails are made from and how long they are designed to last. Does each one furl into the boom above? This ship might be the largest, but I can’t believe it is the fastest, unless the term “personal yacht” somehow excludes the big trimarans and catamarans…or maybe just the word “yacht” excludes all the performance vessels. If you can’t beat ’em, build a new category?

Anyway, the masts have no stays and so I thought‘s note about monitoring for failures is interesting:

The company inserted sensors into the composite mast to give the crew information on the forces on the mast and prevent the structures from being pushed to the breaking point.

This reminds me of the prediction that sailboats will lose their rigging just like the wires of airplanes gave way to the clean lines of modern wings. Composites are a critical part of this development. Everything large that tries to be efficient now depends so much on carbon fiber that information about its use must be one of the most important resources for the future.

Wait, I know why those sails look antiquated to me. Isn’t that a modern version of Admiral Zheng’s giant fleet in the 1400s? I bet the bazillionare owner read a book about Zheng and said “Oooh, I want one”:


Ming dynasty records show that each treasure ship was 400 feet (122 metres) long and 160 feet (50 metres) wide. Bigger, in other words, than a football pitch.

Ok, the living space is obviously different, but that’s still a lot of monitoring for structural failure for over 500 years ago on many boats all significantly larger than this luxury yacht.

Phone cameras are quite handy

My pocket is now full of images…

Ghost-like clouds travelling along the shore:
huntington water

Two WWII-era B-24H bombers lay below these waters. Always gives me the creeps to sail here and know that they still haven’t been exumed and laid to rest properly:
huntington lake

(Bio)diesel technology at work…I averaged 25 mpg overall (over 40mpg on the downhill sections), compared with under 15 mpg for most other tow vehicles (including large pickups):
a-cat in tow

A Ford F-150 V6, for example, has 260 lb/ft of torque @ 3750 RPM, while a VW Passat little four cylinder has 247 lb/ft @ 1900 RPM.

My engine was practically idling up the mountains at 65 mph with the AC on (it was 110F in the valley) and I was still getting reasonable mpg. A friend who drives a giant american “dually” pickup said he almost over-heated and was barely getting 12 mpg.

On big trips I get a strong sense of security and independence knowing that my vehicle can travel over 600 miles per tank. The numbers speak for themselves, but you really haven’t towed (less than 2K lbs) in comfort until you’ve tried a modern (bio)diesel passenger car

Security Slogans: Ctrl-Alt-Del when you leave your seat

Few of us are probably lucky enough to invent something as contagious as a Security-Tubby or a Barney character. Instead, we are stuck with the task of creating “fun” posters with slogans.

One of my more successful ones so far has been based on the saying “Ctrl-Alt-Del when you leave your seat”.

People tell me that no matter how rediculous they might find security slogans at first, eventually this one grows on them and they can’t help but sing it aloud when they leave the office. You know you have won over your users when they start to beg for more effective ways to comply with the “Ctrl-Alt-Del song”.

I usually give them a tip like the following:

Although a screen lock button is already provided in most X distros, including Linux, Windows folks are usually in need of a shortcut. They’re simple to create with the following command:

%windir%\system32\rundll32.exe user32.dll,LockWorkStation

Then change the icon to something that looks like a “lock”. The orange key seems most popular among XP users (consistency helps the helpdesk) and can be found in the following library:


Lock Workstation Icon

Just put the button wherever convenient (desktop, taskbar, start, etc.) Although the setup is easily scripted and deployed over the network, sometimes it is best to hand it out to all your users like a present during the holiday season — “Security wishes you a safe and secure holiday. We hope you enjoy this new button.”

And believe it or not, people who start using this button will still say “hey, I did the Ctrl-Alt-Del thing, go check my screen”, even though they no longer are touching the keyboard when they step away. Ah, the power of security slogans.

loose lipsUnfortunately not all slogans are as catchy. Messages from security easily get lost in the sea of information users have to process every day and most of the other material they hear is so polished that phrases like “don’t get hooked by phishers” tend to blend right into the wallpaper. Thus, I believe the world of security would be far better off if more wordsmiths and poets were employed to craft our message, perhaps even at the state or federal level. Nothing too fancy would be necessary as the slogans that always seem to do best are the simple ones — “loose lips might sink ships”.

The Volvo Pirates

Something about the words “Pirate” and “Volvo” just dont’ go together, but nonetheless the media mogul Disney has entered their billboard into the famous round-the-world race. Early images of what real Pirates should look forward to in their waters indicate a flashy black and red cartoon character. I can just imagine being sleep-deprived in high seas during the middle of the night and staring at the eerie glow of a giant skull on the foresail. No word on the specifics yet, but the 70-footer will probably be outfitted with some of Harken’s latest wenches. Har har!

Nov 14th update: Hall Spars is apparently doing the rigging. Congrats Ben!