Thursday, February 28, 2013

Big Ben: The Top Show Jumping Horse

She did fall but got right back up and finishe...

The strength, agility and endurance of many animals on this planet are truly amazing to observe. So many animals have speed, power and perfectly designed anatomy to achieve optimal performance, but none match that of a champion show jumping horse (and working for Silver Lining Herbs allows me to see a lot of amazing animals!). Their sheer size is staggering and their brute strength and power unfold beautifully before your eyes as you watch them overcome great obstacles. The infamous show jumping horse, Big Ben, was the reigning champ of his day. No other horse demonstrated such dedication. Some thought him to be nearly indestructible and unstoppable.

Big Ben was born on April 20, 1976. His original name was “Winston” when he was born into the van Hooydonk Farm in northern Belgium. Although he was from humble roots and average sized parents, Big Ben grew up larger than most other Belgian Warmbloods: big enough for big goals and dreams. Due to his size, he was bought for a Canadian equestrian named Ian Millar at a hefty cost: $45,000. Big Ben was then relocated to a farm in Perth, Ontario, Canada. As he began training and soon after began winning races, Ian Millar was offered many generous offers for Big Ben, but their bond was a strong one, so he refused every one.

His career took off in 1984 when he began his show jumping events. On top of these events, Millar rode Big Ben through more than 40 Grand Prix titles. Two of these titles included world cups: one the pair earned in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1988 and one in Tampa, Florida the following year. Just a year later, Big Ben lead Millar to three more Grand Prix titles, making Ian Millar the number one rider in the world. The two also won two other prestigious international titles. Big Ben seemed unstoppable, despite two episodes of colic and a traffic accident where his trailer was completely overturned. Two other horses were killed and another was too injured to continue its career. Despite this traumatic experience, Big Ben won the Grand Prix again just two months later. His final derby appearance was in front of 50,000 spectators where he led Millar, once again, to victory. At the age of 18, Big Ben finally retired after a long and successful career. He suffered a third bought of colic, which proved to be fatal. He rests today on a knoll overlooking Millar’s farm.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Moon Landing 2

December 7–19: Apollo 17, the last manned Moon...

It’s been four days since launch, but I can still feel how it shook my bones. My fingers had hurt for a whole day afterwards, but now had gone numb. I couldn’t differentiate the feeling from whatever being in space was doing to us. The doctors told us that we would be fine, that we wouldn’t be in space long enough for any sort of effects to take shape.Nothing would happen, as far as they could predict. But that’s all speculation on their part, on our parts. No one really knows a god damn thing about what being up here is like or how it feels. I’m not even sure I’ve figured it out yet. But it’s different.

Neil tells me that the first motions of landing will be soon, but I already know. I’ve spent hours preparing the lander. I know her in and out. Of course I know the landing will be soon. I know because I can’t stop shaking. Not like the launch, not that sort of rumbling vibration. But my hands are having a hard time staying steady. I can’t do anything about it.The landing is the most dangerous part. They can prep us for everything; the g-force, the weightlessness, the way the ship glides through the atmosphere, the shaking. But they can’t prepare us to know that this will work. No one’s certain. This could all go wrong.

But I’m being counterproductive. I have to make adjustments before we prep the launcher for release. I have to make sure everything is proper, slid in right, locked in tight. I’m piloting a thin, miniature craft to the surface of the moon. This requires precision. Neil tells me I’ve checked it too many times, that I know what I’m doing and that it will all work out like the training. We’ve done this before, he jokes. We’ve landed on the moon a hundred times. Just do it once more, he tells me. I’m comforted that he’s trying.
I can see out the small port window behind him. I can see the Earth. It’s a blue orb with colors, swirling white over subtle forest green and earthen brown. I’ve seen it before, we all know what earth looks like.The planets where you expect them, the clouds wherever they want to be.It’s just like we’ve always known it. But from this view it feels as though it’s pulsating gently. It looks like its alive, throbbing away from us. I’m starting to feel sick, but it’s probably just the nervous tension.

Neil is confirming with Mike on the details, but I’m not really listening. Like Neil said, we’ve done this a hundred times. We’ve done the landing on a routine like most people have breakfast and read the paper.It’s instinctual now. Neil tells me that the boys back home just radioed in.We’re ready to begin the procedure, and that it’s time to ready the Eagle.

As Neil is putting his suit on, the Earth still pulsates over his shoulder. It’s subtle rhythm as almost audible, like a heartbeat. Neil sees me staring and smiles. He tells me they’ll be proud, this is what they’re all waiting for. Don’t be nervous, he says, I’ll get the first chance to make the mistakes on national TV. Michael pats me on the shoulder to let me know it’s time.

The Earth seems farther now, sucked in by the black wall of space behind it, pumping deeper and deeper away from us.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Shelduck Boat

Shelduck is undergoing her early sailing trials following her successful maiden voyages at the Beale park boat show in England. She started life as a tender, but has turned out to be far too pretty to be used solely for that purpose. However, for people who don't want to tow a tender behind their yacht, she is light enough (48 lbs) (a whole lot more than other boats) and beautiful enough to be hauled and stored on deck.

And when you reach your anchorage, you can drop her overboard, raise her little lug rig and explore those places inaccessible by yacht.

She has buoyancy fore and aft, under the cambered seats, and two rowing positions, depending on crew. The boat is intended to have a movable seat/waterproof box for the rowing alone position, and a chunky gunwale and full length keel should stiffen and protect her and make her easy to beach. 

At present she has a dipping lg rig which looks the part. The whole family have learnt to dip her with varying degrees of skill and you've gotta love the quirkiness of its rig. However, it might not be everyone's liking, especially if you are trying to teach youngsters to sail. For this reason the boat comes with an easier alternative, but it has to be in an awkward location, near the forward buoyancy tank.

The major design change however was fitting a small centre-board. This sits under the central rowing/sailing seat and was reluctantly added after extensive trials with everything but. It adds another 10lbs or so, taking her weight up to around 58lbs but the benefits in not sliding sideways when sailing more than compensate for this. The reason it's a hinging centre board rather than a simpler dagger board were because there are specifications for minimum downflooding height and a centre-board enables the boat to cover the top of the case at the lower, aft end and so fulfill the RCD with ease. Also the Centreboard is directly below the sailor, so a daggerboard could not be raised at all while sitting on the only sailing seat!

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Ultimate Speed Boat

We've done some boat reviewing in the past, including models ranging from Manitou Pontoon Boats to Hobie Cats. Today we'll step on the throttle, and review the ultimate speedster made by Carvelle.

Caravelle’s 232 Interceptor Sport Cabin can run with the best of them and still carry a family along for the ride.

So this must be what it feels like to be a fighter pilot. The mantra “Hurry Up And Wait,” a rallying cry for pilots and military folks, never rang more true than today. You've been “waiting” for four hours in a car ride from the city to the banks of the Flint River in south Georgia to take Caravelle’s 232 Interceptor Sport Cabin for a spin. Now that you've pulled up to the river, you’re hurrying, because they’re about to shove off without you!

You hop on board just in the nick of time, thankful to be out on the water with a cool breeze kicking up rather than having your car’s air conditioner try to create the same feeling. This is what boating is all about. A little breeze, a little sun, some friends to go along for the ride, and a sleek-looking boat at your command.

First impressions can be tricky with some boats, but not the Interceptor 232 SC. Caravelle wants you to think one thing at first glance — fast. The red and black trim, checkered cockpit design, curved windshield and pointy hull say it all. The 300-hp MerCruiser 350 MAG aft will call anyone’s bluff who wasn’t a believer till that point.

Your crew of four heads out to the middle of the Flint. With the water level a bit down, the depthfinder becomes your best friend. The Caravelle rep gives specific instructions to stay as close to the middle of the river as possible ... and be on the lookout for debris. You frown slightly, wanting to go wide open whenever and wherever you choose with the 232 SC, but once you start visualizing a speed track with this test run, your mood picks up. You take one look around the cockpit to make sure everyone is strapped in ... er ... seated. Fortunately, there are three grab handles in the cockpit, just in case the ride gets a little bumpy. The U-shaped lounge is large, and to top it all off, the 232 SC is designed with gunwale cushions on each side, so you won’t get sore from brushing up against fiberglass with spins and turns.

Go time. You push the throttle controls forward, anticipating a quick acceleration. In about four seconds you’ve planed, and 9.6 seconds into the run you've crossed the 30-mph threshold. But the 232 SC can do so much more than that. Running downstream, you top out at 55.8 mph. You take off your cap and flip-up your helm seat to get the full-on wind whip. Within seconds your hat hair is replaced by a more frazzled look, but you’re just grinning at this point.

It feels a lot faster than that, too. Caravelle’s extended running surface, pad bottom, deep vee (XPV) hull gets the credit here. With the extended running surface, you get quick planing times, without having to put the engine through full throttle to get it to that point. The pad bottom part of this tandem package hull means a little extra stability when you’re up at top speeds. It’s evidenced in the turns you make with the 232 SC. Once you adjust the trim accordingly, you’re really flying down the river. Even though the water’s not particularly choppy, you try a few waves, and the Caravelle answers the call. It’s rarely choppy on board, which your passengers love. You get to enjoy the turns. You’re able to pivot, reverse course and peel water with the MerCruiser’s throaty roar sending adrenaline rushes to your hands. The 232 SC drives like a bona-fide race car, and you’re happy to oblige its persona.

But it’s not all fast and furious on the Interceptor. Caravelle doesn't mention the 232 SC’s family features in passing, because the boatbuilder designed the 232 SC as a family boat. A very fast family boat, but a family boat nonetheless. The sport cabin is the main attraction for family needs, providing a place to get away from the heat or take a nap, although you still have the option of breaking out the standard full Bimini top. The cabin holds a quaint V-berth, with a standard portable head underneath it. You’ll need that if you plan to stay out on the water for an entire day for sure. There’s also a CO detector, rail storage for little knick knacks, more storage under the V-berth, and reading lights. The V-berth gets the job done as a quick hideaway from the elements, but it’s a little small on head room, and not necessarily a viable overnighting option. Two adults might feel cramped trying to make a sleep-over of it. Along with ample storage under the V-berth are lots of places all around the 232 SC to put your gear. Cooler access is granted underneath the U-Shaped lounge, and there’s even room for stowables beside the engine. Access to the MerCruiser is easy, and you have engine divider boards on either side so you can use the available space as compartments for things like extra lifejackets or watersports gear.

The stereo is also a nice plus, located where the passenger in the other bolster seat has command of the tunes, so you can just concentrate on the driving. There’s four speakers on board, plenty to get the job done, and a 12-volt receptacle for assorted electronics needs.

Caravelle wants its customers to enjoy the 232 SC for a long time, and that’s why it boasts a no-wood construction. That should make long-term maintenance costs lower, and having a fiberglass floor and snap-in carpet makes short-term cleanups go much smoother.

The base price is smooth as well. For a wood-free, go-fast boat with family amenities you pay just under $34,000.

The Verdict:
The Caravelle Interceptor 232 SC is a fast boat with family features. The captain will love the quick planing speed and performance. Loungers will enjoy the large sunpad and the V-berth, although the V-berth is a little too small for comfortable overnighting. All in all, a capable family speedster.