Saturday, January 23, 2016

Hard Disk Hell

We are docked at the Riviera Beach Municipal Marina (map), in the community of that name on Lake Worth. Riviera Beach is actually the home of the Port of Palm Beach, and the cruise ship docks just south of us, and a bit further south is the giant Tropical cargo terminal. The pilot boats live right here at the marina, as do the work boats for the enormous dredging project in the harbor.

Today we are pinned down on the boat by a wind storm of epic proportion, now 20-25kts and working its way to 30kt steady with gusts to 40. The entire state of Florida is on a small craft advisory or a gale warning. This is the third wind storm we've sat out since arriving here last Thursday, just in time to dodge the first one. How we came to be here is something of a story in itself, which I will get to shortly.

Vector in Riviera Beach.

I am once again overdue with the blog, so there is a lot to catch up. My excuse this time is a hard disk failure. It's not the drive in my laptop, but both my laptop and my typing fingers have been overbooked dealing with the issue for nearly the entire time we've been here, and aside from barely keeping up with email and some social media, I am just now coming up for air.

The drive in question is the half-terabyte unit in our network file server. A couple of weeks ago, Louise needed to get something off the server, and it was down, with a red error light lit. Quick diagnostics suggested a fan cooling error, but further troubleshooting, including connecting the fan directly to power, revealed a software problem. Fearing the drive itself might be going bad, we powered it down until I could spend some serious time working on it; fortunately we were already planning an extended stop somewhere in the Stuart-Palm Beach area.

For the last couple of years, I've been using cloud services to back up my important files, and I've been slowly migrating files from the server to the cloud service. It's a fiddly, lock-step process, not unlike playing Tower of Hanoi, and I confess that I made the decision to leave at least some of the data on the server unprotected by any other means. That includes some archived photographs, including bus photos, ripped music, old backups, and the like, that I judged to be "low risk," especially because I am pretty good at data recovery.

The server is nearly a decade old -- the drive is dated September, 2006 -- and, sure enough, the disk itself is failing. When I yanked it out and connected it directly to my laptop I could only get perhaps half the contents; I ended up having to do a low-level copy to a good drive, a 70+ hour process, and then run file system repair tools on it, another day or so, before I could get to most of the data on the drive.

The server and its bad disk (left). The smaller disk (foreground) is the same capacity and was the target for the low-level copy.

One of the problems with data recovery tools is that they can't differentiate between what was lost in a crash and what was deleted deliberately, and so the final step was the hardest -- processing all the recovered data to eliminate duplicates, get rid of junk, and move orphaned files closer to where they belong. I'm not done, but I'm far enough along to declare victory, and some 180gb is now uploading to the cloud where it belongs.

In hindsight, I probably should have gotten a blog post done in the nearly three days the low-level copy was running, but I tried to stay off the laptop, and busied myself with other projects. We have, in fact, taken a slip here for a full month, so I can catch up on projects and we can get some doctor visits in.

Sunset at Eau Gallie.

After my last blog post from Eau Gallie, we had a pleasant evening and a spectacular sunset over the Indian River. In the morning, we weighed anchor and continued south toward Vero Beach, where we were hoping to take a mooring at the city marina. Long-time readers may know that we took a slip there two years ago because their moorings were full; that was expensive and we also suffered some damage at the hands of their rickety old docks and narrow slips, an experience we did not want to repeat.

We were thus surprised to learn that they no longer allow power boats longer than 50' to use the moorings. Two years ago they had offered to let us raft on a mooring, and apparently they will still raft up to three trawlers on a mooring, so long as they are less than 50'. Somehow, in their twisted calculus, the wind load of a single 52' boat is higher than that of three 48-footers rafted together, and so they turned us down. Too bad, really, because we were hoping to connect with our friends Steve and Barb who were already there, and perhaps stay a second night to visit our friends Chris and Alyse, who live nearby.

Once we realized we were not getting into Vero Beach, we figured we could just make Fort Pierce in the daylight if we pressed on along, and that's what we did. We dropped the hook just south of the bascule bridge in a small anchorage off Harbortown Marina (map). Alyse and Chris graciously drove down to meet us for cocktails and dinner at the little restaurant there, which has its own dock. In the morning we brought Vector into the marina to avail ourselves of the $5 pumpout before continuing south down the ICW.

Our anchorage. Someone is living on the Viking Starliner, formerly a Block Island Ferry, Boston harbor cruise boat, and more recently a floating casino. The "sailboat" on the right is a floating billboard, swinging in the current.

Fort Pierce is a day's cruise from Stuart, where we spent three months a couple of years ago, and cruising south from Fort Pierce we finally had to put up or shut up about where we wanted to spend a month catching up. Both Stuart and Palm Beach were high up the list, because we know our way around and there are plenty of chandleries, boat repair shops, hardware stores, restaurants, and other services at each.

By the time we reached "the crossroads" where the St. Lucie River, leading to Stuart, intersects the ICW, we still had not nailed down a plan or a place to stay, and so we turned up the river for a mile and a half to the first anchorage, at Sewalls Point (map), to settle in for the night and preserve our options in the morning.

We more or less concluded that Stuart was the better choice, with more easily accessible services, less expensive dockage, and easier scooter parking. Just one small problem: the Stuart Boat Show was last weekend, and arriving just a day ahead of time, our preferred marina, which hosts the show, was completely unavailable, and most other marinas were sold out for the weekend. Our backup choice there no longer allows stays longer than five days, due to "liveaboard" regulations.

We might have just anchored for a week, until they could get us in, but with Louise's foot still out of commission, climbing in and out of the tender and on and off various dinghy landings was not a good idea. We had to set our sights further south, where Lake Park, our first choice, was already booked, and Riviera Beach would not sell us a month due to Trawler Fest coming in next weekend. At around $25/foot, these were the two most reasonable options, with anyone else wanting another $10/foot.

After some negotiating back and forth, I finally got Riviera Beach to agree to take us on a monthly rate by promising them we'd leave for the duration of Trawler Fest, about six days, and go anchor in the lake. I reasoned that we'd thus have ten days at the dock for Louise's foot to get a little better before we'd need to be tendering around, and we'd still have the scooters ashore and easy dinghy dock access for our week away from the dock.

I passed this nice Ricker on my way back and forth from our original slip. I did a double-take...

After a false start, heading out St. Lucie inlet to find uncomfortable seas, we turned around and took the inside route through Jupiter instead. We thus made it here just at closing time on Thursday, and we made a stop at the face dock to offload the scooters before heading to our slip. Only after we were fully tied up and the office was closed did I realize that it was a full third of a mile walk from our slip to the office and parking lot -- just what Louise needs with her bad foot. A tender ride would have been easier by comparison.

No matter, because the first wind storm arrived that night, and pinned us on the boat for a full day and a half anyway. Louise never left the boat for two days, and I hiked over to the office a couple of times for paperwork and beer, plus I got the scooters started, off the dock, and into the parking lot. The dockmaster was very accommodating, and assigned us a slip much closer to the office, to which we moved Saturday morning. We've been comfortable here since.

This H1 is "parked" at a hotel garage, behind fixed Plexiglass and on blocks. Museum piece?

That let Louise get off the boat and over to her scooter, and we've been out to dinner a few times and even on a provisioning run. One evening we ate a a rooftop Mediterranean restaurant atop a beachfront hotel on Singer Island. The food was OK, if not very Mediterranean, and it had a nice view, but a weird parking garage.

The two spaces closest to the elevator. We considered parking one scoot on each side of him, but were afraid of what such a douche might do to them.

Friday afternoon, while still in our original slip and after the worst of the winds had abated, we splashed the tender and I ran it over to the nearby boat ramp, where I was met by a trailer from a local Mercury dealer; they'll be looking into our recent rough idle problem, and I have also since authorized them to replace the bent propeller shaft. Maintenance that's overdue all the way around; I had originally told them we'd need it back this Monday, in time to be booted out of the marina. Before I took it over, I measured for a new steering cable, which I ordered on Amazon.

Helm end of the steering cable. I took this photo so I could tell what kind of end it has; no way to get my eyeball in there.

That Friday morning the winds were so bad that an unoccupied sailboat further south broke loose from its anchor and made its way north to the marina, where it slammed into a ten million dollar superyacht. We were on the wrong side and could only see its mast approaching, with a dozen yacht crewmen scrambling to the deck with fenders in hand. By the time I could walk around to snap a photo, the Coast Guard had arrived and were hooking up to tow it away before it did any more damage.

USCG 45-footer preparing to pull a wayward sailboat off Li-Lien.

After we got settled in over here in our new spot, I set to work on the file server and several other "rainy day" projects. I needed to upgrade the firmware in our WiFi amplifier, as well as on our Iridium satellite device. The new firmware is supposed to make the latter item more reliable, and after getting it squared away I sent a few test messages. We'll be letting our Spot tracking service lapse at the end of the current term, and will be using the Iridium satellite device to send tracking reports in the future; I'll post a tracking link the next time we go offshore.

The only physical user interface for our Iridium device. All the features work from a smartphone over WiFi.

Saturday night we were rousted at 2am by the very loud sound of someone's foremost staysail coming unfurled in the high winds and nearly ripping off the boat. I tried to get a photo or video but it was just too dark. We watched for a half hour, a sort of slow-motion train wreck. There were already a half dozen sailors working the problem, so not much we could do to help. It woke the whole marina.

In the one really nice day we've had since arriving here, we walked over to the boatyard next door to check it out. In addition to a month of downtime for my own projects, we are going to need a haulout to paint the bottom and service the stabilizers.

The place next door looks like more of a do-it-yourself kind of yard, but there is a painting shop across the street. While wandering the yard we came across a manned submersible; on our way into Riviera Beach we had to slow down for a pair of RIBs towing a similar manned submersible, possibly this same one, on some sort of test mission.

Weird submersible of unknown purpose.

A couple of days ago, the marina called to tell me that they could accommodate us through Trawler Fest after all, but we'd have to leave this close slip and go back to the north dock, albeit a bit closer than where they originally put us. That's fine with us, as it means we can just stagger back to the boat after the cocktail parties, the only part of Trawler Fest that we saw fit to buy this time around. After seven or so of them now, we don't find much new information there any longer, but it's always nice to meet the participants.

So we're paid up here through Valentine's day, and with any luck, we'll be done by then with doctor visits and projects, and we'll have our tender back from the shop. So long as we're here, we are taking advantage of a good delivery address to get various items from Amazon and other vendors, including the inflatable kayak that we've been wanting, which we ordered post-haste just in case the tender was delayed while we were booted out for the show.

In and among the project work, we'll try to get down to downtown West Palm Beach a time or two to sample the interesting restaurant scene there. We'll also try to take the new kayak over to Peanut Island, just a few hundred feet away, just as soon as the weather cooperates. And we've even tentatively booked a rental car to drive down to the Miami Boat Show for a day, to check out some new products and get in on some show special pricing for things we'd need anyway.

Since we won't be moving I don't expect to be posting much here during our stay. If I find the time and motivation I might catch up on some project-related posts that are still in the works. I'll also post if we develop any plan for our next steps other than "further south." As it stands right now, we are blissfully uncommitted beyond next weekend.


  1. Hi Sean:

    That looks like a Buffalo NAS. I took your advice a few years ago and bought one. Like yours. mine packed it in as well. I'm not quite ready to trust the Cloud yet so I bought another Buffalo, this one contains 2 HDs with 100% redundancy so if one packs it in the other has the identical data on it. Something to consider

    1. Yes, it's a Buffalo, the same one we've had for years. We really needed to move to cloud backup anyway, because it does not matter how many hard drives we have aboard if the boat sinks.

      That said, I have a spare drive and I will be rebuilding the Buffalo shortly, as we find it convenient for transferring files around the boat, and for temporary file storage. I could probably convert it to RAID but then I'd have to buy disks, and it's not worth putting any money into it. A full TB on Dropbox costs me a C-note per year, and all of my files magically show up on every device I own.


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