Sometimes your best, just isn’t good enough.  A tough pill to swallow, but happens more often than we would like, hence just the other day… My trolling motor started to act up, with varying symptoms, from not working to most recent, working but when the prop hit the water it would stop.  I searched the internet for trouble shooting advice.  I followed the manufacture’s sequence of steps and led me to the deduction that the motor was bad.  I solicited advice from some really talented people and they too came to the same conclusion, a bad motor.  What to do?  So I went to Ace and got a new trolling motor.  With the help of the FirstMate, I modified it and mounted it on the flat.  Not too much “jerry rigging” but successfully got it in place.  Wired it up, turned it on, and “shit” it had the same symptoms as my old motor.  The best part is that I had reamed out some holes and cut the ends off the wires so I could not return the motor.  My boat neighbor, Dick, and I could only figure that the power coming from the battery must be the problem.  We took some wire and hooked up the motor direct to the battery and it WORKED PERFECT!  It must be the power wire running under the floor of the boat.  Shit again.  With the expert help from Dick, we ran new wires, added a new fuse, connected it all together and now I have a new, fully functioning, trolling motor.  IMG_2752The orange arrow points to the small bend in the wire that was the culprit.  A few years of bouncing and rubbing, caused it to break and corrode making it impossible for enough current to flow to the motor, causing it to have problems.  Why do electrical problems always take the most time to figure out?

Good news and good news, which do you want first? Ok, how about the good news… I have a new trolling motor ready to hunt big pike, see photo above.  The other good news is that I have a Used Minn Koto PowerDrive trolling motor that is seven years old, works great, with foot controls, for sale. Half price of a new one… $300

Sometimes when everything makes sense, it’s not really what it seems.  This trolling motor episode reminded of  that, and made me step back and think about other possibilities that might be true, other than the one’s I believe.  Maybe some of our assumptions aren’t as accurate as we want them to be, hence the motor diagnosis.


PS  Maybe my mistake was that I didn’t call Norm before buying the new motor…..

Posted in Captain's View | 1 Comment

Only way to get dumber, is to get older

I don’t know about your parents, but mine had sayings they told us while growing up that I didn’t understand until I got older. My dad told us, “The only way to get dumber, is to get older.” I guess I’m old enough now to understand this and here’s the story of how I learned this meaning.

After retirement I decided to start making our own maple syrup. I started with ten taps and actually made some syrup. Now we have 52 taps and are boiling like crazy to use the sap we are getting.

So on with the story… For a bunch of years we’ve been giving away our syrup to family and friends. With each gift I say the same thing, “It’s a little bit thin, but tastes good.” The syrup we make has always been fairly thin, not thick and creamy.

There are two methods of determining when your sap has turned into syrup: 1. Use a hydrometer. 2. Boil it to a temperature of 219 degrees. We have always used the boil to 219 degrees. We have always used the above thermometer for our syrup. I set it to 220 to just make sure and we have boiled to that point and canned our product for use and give away. It has always been thin, and we just thought that’s the way our syrup turns out.

Enter our new digital thermometer. Got this awhile ago and liked it so well we bought one for the houseboat too. While boiling down our first batch of syrup this season, I got the old analog dial thermometer and began keeping track of the temps. I got this idea of getting out the new digital thermometer to check the old one’s accuracy. So back in the house, got the digital, and returned to the sugar shack. I put the probe of the digital next to the old dial one. Six times I did that to verify the temp. HOLY OUT OF WHACK, BATMAN! The old thermometer was reading 5 degrees higher than the digital. Over and over my testing showed this difference. Eureka, we’ve been canning at 215 degrees thus the runny syrup.

This batch got canned at 218.7 degrees. Of course I taste tested and it’s thick and creamy just like syrup should be. At last, at last, we’ve finally figured it out! At 64 years old, you would think that I could have gotten the temperature right or figured out the problem of runny syrup, but I guess dad was right…. The only way to get dumber, is to get older.

Back to the sugar shack wondering what else I will do showing my new found ignorance…

Posted in Captain's View | 2 Comments

4. Next Time

What I will do next time
As with any new adventure or activity the learning curve is steep. This trip was no different, I learned a lot, about myself, others, the Hawaiian culture, traveling, planning travel, and most of all… I learned that I will be going back.

Based on my experience, here are some things I will do upon my return to the Hawaiian Islands:

• I did take my small compact binoculars, next time I will take a bigger more powerful pair of binocs. We used them a lot and more magnification would have been better. I might even take two pairs of binoculars, one compact and one larger.

• Take less clothes since the places we stay have a washer and dryer. Less dress shirts, everywhere we went was fairly casual.

• We stayed ten days on Kauai, next time I would stay there longer.

• If I can make it happen, I would go back to Pearl Harbor. I did enjoy the north shore of Oahu, so that might be a day trip or an overnight, but the traffic will keep me away from the rest of that Island.

• Sandals were fine for most of our travels around Kauai, but I would take two pair, one for outside and one for inside the house.

• This trip we adventured, seeing a lot on Kauai, next time I will spend more time at the places we enjoyed. Spend the whole day, instead of hours at a spot.

• Explore the beaches on the north and northeast side of Kauai. More often pack a cooler with lunch to have on the beach.

• Camp overnight at the beach at the end of the world’s bumpiest road, Polihale. My goal would be to take some milky way photos. They say the stars are so bright there you can reach up and touch them… I want some of that.

• Take more than one backup pair of sunglasses.

• The blow up pad for the airplane seat, totally worth it and will bring again.

• Take a headlamp for my pre-sunrise walks, and caves.

Now the effort starts to return…

Until next time…
malu huakaʻI   (safe travels)


Posted in Captain's View | Leave a comment

3. Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor
I knew we had to go and visit Pearl Harbor, and I also knew it would be a difficult visit for me.

I come from a patriotic family on both my mom’s and dad’s side. Uncles, grandfathers, and my Dad all served in WWII. Right after Pearl Harbor, my Grandfather Smalley went to Vinton, IA to re-enlist in the Navy, he had previously served during WWI. The recruiter told him he was too old, and he had already served during WWI. My grandfather went home to Mt Auburn, IA and told my dad’s older brother Roy to get into the car – they were going to Vinton. Arriving back at the recruiting station, my grandpa asked if they would like to have my uncle Roy who was 18 and a trained carpenter. Yes was the answer, but grandpa Smalley then added, “If you are going to take him, you have to take me.” The US Navy took both of them right on the spot. The next thing they were both off to the Navy. My Dad being a bit younger had to wait until his birthday in order to enlist after Pearl Harbor.
So the attack on Pearl Harbor prompted my Dad to enlist in the Navy along with his brother and dad during WWII. Pearl Harbor thrust us into the Pacific Theater of war where my Uncle Glenn served as a Marine Officer in Okinowa and Pelau.
I’ve heard the Pearl Harbor stories from my Dad. I’ve heard in his voice the seriousness of the term Pearl Harbor, and I knew I would feel all of that while visiting the site. My head was full of thoughts going back to things my Dad had said, the ramifications of how it affected my family and their service, and how it changed our country and the sacrifices men and women made.

Places like Gettysburg haunt me, just as Pearl Harbor did. I felt like I could hear the engines of the Japanese planes as they came in from the east with the sun to their back, the smell of burning fuel as their bombs and torpedoes did their damage to battleship row, and the confusion this daring attack caused throughout the harbor. Death still looms under the water as some sailors are entombed in the USS Arizona on the bottom of the harbor.I also was reminded of how many submarines and sailors were lost during WWII from all the memorials displayed on shore by the displayed sub at the Pearl Harbor Memorial. I worked on submarines during my Navy days, so this hit close to home.
All things said and thought about, I will return to Pearl Harbor for another visit. This time I will spend more time in the displays and museum along with just more alone time for me on a bench thinking about all of this that has gone on before us. It is a sacred, hallowed, and thoughtful place where I need to spend a bit more time. I can’t help but think, “What have we really learned about war?” “Why do we continue to put our young people in harms way?” “Have you seen the after effects on our people from war?” Peace,

Posted in Captain's View | 1 Comment

2 Hawaii, Traveling with Others

Traveling with others
Earlier in our lives, Joyce and I traveled on vacations with just our kids or the two of us. Did we have a good time? Yes. Did we see cool things? Yes. But recently we have been going on trips with friends. Mexico with our boat neighbors, Tony, Larry, Vicki, and Tracy. Key West with Bob and Mary Beth. Mexico, wine tours, houseboating, and now Hawaii with Deb and Harry Nelson.

What we have found that traveling with others makes for more fun. It’s a no brainer that you have to choose wisely the people you go with, but if you do, it will enhance your experience.

This trip was our longest, two weeks, and that doubles the importance of whom you travel with since it is for a longer time. We have spent a week with Harry and Deb, along with some other shorter trips, with nothing but fun to report, so before we left I was confident this would be another great experience.

After returning I can say with confidence that traveling with Harry and Deb is an advantage, fun, and they make things better. Joyce and I talked after getting home and at no time did we feel uncomfortable or needed a break from them, it was all good. It felt like a team effort. Each member had things to do, or skills they brought to the trip, except me. Harry is great at getting local directions and knowledge, Joyce is the master of the brochure and travel book, and Deb is the ultimate organizer and using her phone to make meals and tours happen. Me, I’m not sure, maybe I wear a lot of tie dye?

Advice on traveling with others that I have learned:
• Spend time together on shorter trips prior to planning a week or longer trip.
• Communicate with each other about the plans, and who pays for what ahead of time.
• Nobody gets their way all the time, compromise, discuss, and go with the flow.
• Be flexible. Plans and weather change, but there is always something good to do.
• Discuss expectations prior to the trip like: spending time all together or can we go separate ways, things you really want to do, eating in restaurants or cooking at the house, who can drive the rental car, and as you can see answering these types of questions before you go will make the trip a better experience.

Would we go on another trip with Harry and Deb? YES
Would we go again for two weeks or longer? YES
Do I have ideas for our next trip with Deb and Harry? YES

You can’t go wrong hanging out with good people, and the Nelson’s are just that!


Posted in Captain's View | Leave a comment

1. Some Thoughts on Hawaii

  1. Some thoughts on Hawaii

After returning from our trip to Hawaii, I thought I should jot down some of my thoughts and things I’ve learned along the way to the Islands.

Going to Hawaii is a big deal, 4,127 miles as the crow flies from Westby and 11 hours in an airline seat not including layovers from Minneapolis. These are based on 10 days on Kauai, 3 days on Oahu, and 1 day on the Big Island. A two week snapshot is what I am reporting on, my views of my experience, so they may not necessarily be what others and lots of research would prove out. In no particular order, here are some of my thoughts and observations:

  • Around every corner is postcard view. The beauty of the scenery is breath taking, hence the reason why I took over 16,000 photos.
  • The diversity of the eco systems was drastic and fantastic. Beaches, rain forest, desert, grassland, lava rock for miles, snow capped volcanoes, steam vents from volcanoes, black sand beaches, crop land, and you didn’t have to drive far to pass through several of these in one day, or one hour.
  • In Hawaii, it is my understanding that all the beaches are public. We walked between houses, through businesses, and trails through the countryside to get to lots of beaches. What a great thoughtful idea. Having access to one of this State’s most beautiful resources is genius.
  • The county parks and state parks were home to all good facilities, you know bathrooms. All the parks had them and I didn’t find one that was in shambles or dirty. The other benefit was there were a lot of county parks.
  • Traffic on Oahu will keep me from going back to Oahu, but Pearl Harbor may draw me back despite the traffic.
  • People were friendly and helpful everywhere we went, even when Harry stopped to ask directions from a guy washing out his boat in his driveway.
  • Costs of everything was a bit to a lot higher than here at home. Restaurant prices all a bit higher, drink prices higher, and pineapples are more expensive there than in the grocery store at home. Housing costs and lack of affordable housing plagues the working community like it does here and a lot of places. Saw gas around $3.89 per gallon, and some more and some less, but more than here.
  • The Groovy Stuff: shave ice most delicious, whale spotting, turtles, sunrises, the roar of the waves, north shore of Oahu’s big surf, lush jungle, steep green mountains, surfers, and did I say chickens, lots of chickens everywhere.

  • Take your shoes off outside before going into your house or someone else’s. The red lava dirt is very staining so taking off your shoes keeps the place cleaner.

This is the first of several blog posts on Hawaii… stay tuned.

Posted in Captain's View | 1 Comment

Out with the Old, in with the New

We have been houseboating since 1991, and throughout our river adventures we’ve never gotten tired of seeing one of these round the bend, especially at night.  So nostalgic, majestic, and thought provoking as they meander by… 
As they wheel by, thoughts of Tom Saywer and Huck Finn, days gone by before the locks and dams when paddle wheelers carried cargo and people up and down the river flood my brain.  This would have been a normal sight in the late 1800’s.  Shallow draft, steam powered, and could move large amounts of goods and people for the times.

As we watched this magnificent vessels pass by I couldn’t help think about why we didn’t see more modern ships come our way.  Smaller cruise ships, newer, faster, and some would argue better, but they never came.

Until now.  We knew the American Harmony was on its way and just after pouring our first cup of coffee, Joyce spotted it rounding the bend.  Thoughts ran through my head as I grabbed my camera and took off to the back of our boat.  Finally, a new face in the large cruising ships on the upper Mississippi, or was it?
All bright and white, no paddle, no stacks, and I thought “No Character.”  What thoughts would you inspire, American Harmony?  I thought, Was this the end of the paddle wheeler? Would more of these type of ships be coming?  And then it hit me, is this an example of out with the old and in with the new?
It’s like a lot of things around you:  On your job old ideas and ways were replaced by new ideas and methods, better maybe, but not always guaranteed.  Our equipment keeps being replaced with newer models to varying degrees of success, but most certainly money exchanges hands. Someone is always trying to invent a better mouse trap.

And then it hit me, that I am the metaphor for this change.  Suddenly you wake up and you are the paddle wheeler, old, outdated, and set in the past.  Suddenly you are out, and the new machines or people have come to take your place.

I’ve thought about you coming for quite some time. Now I’m not sure that I’m happy about it.  I will give you a chance to grow on me, but for now I am feeling like the paddle wheeler you are trying to pass by.


Posted in Captain's View | Leave a comment

T O double D’s RIP

I got a phone call recently from a good friend and former student, Matt Bethke. “Hey Smalley I’m putting something together for Vets to go fishing on the river, can you help?” How could I say no. “Yes”

That day arrived and I met Matt at our houseboat and with him was a Vet named Todd. He walked with a cane, wore a cool hat like I do, had an eye patch, yet made it all the way down our dock and then sat himself on the front of our boat with me. We introduced ourselves and then like old friends started swapping stories. I told him I had problems remembering names and that associations would help. Immediately he said, “just remember how I spell my name… T   O double d’s. Easy, right?” He was right.

We talked about things he had done with Matt and other fishing adventures. He talked about his recent move to Hillsboro and how much he liked living there. He had upcoming adventures with Matt doing an indoor sky diving event and his frustration with other Vet activities that wouldn’t allow him to bring a caregiver along… “How can I go if I can’t bring someone with me, at least to drive me there and then what are they supposed to do… just hang out?”

I just read a post from Matt Bethke, and my heart sank and broke at the same time.

From Matt’s post:
“This morning I was supposed to pick up a Veteran that I’ve been fishing with the past couple months. We were going indoor skydiving with a Wounded Warrior Project group. He was stoked! I hadn’t heard from him for a couple days, but we had a plan. I showed up at his place at 10 this morning, only to learn from his neighbor that Todd had killed himself Monday night. He had been through a lot, both physically and mentally, but I really felt that he had turned a corner and seemed genuinely excited about life again.”

Not much I can say to make things better. Not sure what to do to stop this. Too many, one is too many, and my heart is heavy.

Right now the only thing I can think of to do is to continue volunteering to help Matt with future fishing adventures with Veterans.

My condolences to Todd’s family and those who knew him better than I. Rest In Peace, brother. I hope you find the calmer waters you deserve on the other side…

When Matt calls me, I might be calling you too for help with the next Vet fishing adventure.


Posted in Captain's View | Leave a comment

Embarrassed Then Proud

Recently spent five days at LarryFest, a musical festival close to our house. We camp with the same core group of friends each year, and at some point we take a group photo.  That’s when this happened.
As I formed up the group for a photo, they kept telling me, “Give her the camera, have him take our photo” to a variety of people walking by.  I kept saying, “I’m not ready yet, I still have stuff to set on my camera.”  So I continued to adjust various settings both on the camera and the flash.
When I was ready, conveniently the young man below came walking up the grass road.  Perfect, perfect timing.  “Could you take our photo?”  “Yes” he replied.  Then the Karma Wave hit.
As he came close, I started to instruct him on how to take the picture and then he stopped me…  “You don’t recognize me Mr Smalley, I am Danny Johnson and I was in your photography class in high school.  You taught me about photography, I got this.”
Holy Crap, what are the chances of that happening!?  I was embarrassed that I didn’t recognize him, but once he said his name it all came flooding back.  Dan Johnson, I remember you.
True to his word, the above photo is the proof of his being a good student.  I went from being embarrassed to extremely proud.  Proud of what he has become, proud to have bragging rights to my friends that a former student took our picture, and proud to share a path with him again.

Not just proud, but I feel extremely lucky to have this happen to me.  This journey is a short one, make every day count.  Larry On.

See you on the other side of the lens,

Side note 1: If you haven’t noticed, I tend to take lots of photos.  As of late it has been more common that I leave my camera at home and I have a lot less photos to show for it.  The photo on top is the only photo I could find of Daniel, and he just happened to be in the background of a photo I took of someone else in camp.  Normally I would have had selfies, and lots of other photos from meeting him, but not as of late.  So I need to thank Daniel for helping to put the spark back in my shutterbug.  My camera is now packed and ready for my next adventure with Harry, Gary, and Dave…  Thanks.

Side note 2:
Seeing Daniel later that night I asked about what he was doing… Coulee Bicycle Co, he answered… Managing the service side.  Wow…. another proud moment.  Contact info below and if you live in the Onalaska area give Daniel a call.

Coulee Bicycle Co.
213 Main St
Onalaska, Wisconsin
(608) 783-7433


Posted in Captain's View | 1 Comment

1978 Was Great Book Download

 Last year Bruce Melrose and I wrote a book about our epic trip down the Mississippi River in 1978. “1978 Was Great” is the story of our vision quest for ten weeks that summer with lots of photos too. Recently Mel has passed away. I don’t know who got copies or who wants copies, for that matter, but I am making the book available for download via the link I am posting here. If you have problems downloading, please contact me. Thanks for reading…
Copy and paste this link in your browser and download to read.


Posted in Captain's View | Leave a comment

Ride A Mile In Their Truck

Just the other day I got invited to ride along in a snowplow.  I jumped at the chance and rode along as he cleared roads and sanded icy spots.  You can sit in your car and be frustrated by the slow-moving plow, or the lack of the plow on your road, or the snow and slush they pile up on your driveway, and the list could be longer, but after a few miles that all changes.

Levers everywhere, not only is there the plow on front but a wing plow on the side, and a back-end full of a sand and salt mixture.  All of these being controlled, sometimes simultaneously by one driver.  I forgot to mention that they also have to drive the truck.

Below is a tight spot that he maneuvered with ease.  Me, no way, I would have backed out of there.  We pushed on. (no pun intended)   This beautiful area we live in is very good for photographs, but the hills make it a difficult area to be a snowplow driver.  Some of the hills we went on were down right steep and long.  I couldn’t imagine trying to plow them with deep snow.

I couldn’t help but think of the people a snowplow driver impacts.  If your roads aren’t cleared off and salted, how many of us would make it to town?  How many of us would have accidents due to deep snow and icy conditions?  The answer is “A Lot.”

This is an unsung service job that saves lives, protects property, and allows us to get up and roam around the cabin.  There is a lot to do and think about almost every minute of driving this rig.  Each driver is responsible for an area of road, although they will help each other out for a variety of circumstances.
Above, you can see in the round mirror, the wing.  This is the only way a driver can see this blade and how they keep it where it should be is beyond me.  The wing also keeps the truck out of the ditch since it can clear snow to the side without getting too close to the edge of the road.  I know this is what clips your mailbox, but after riding along I can’t blame them, it’s a difficult job… at best.

You know the saying, “Walk a mile in my shoes.”  Sometimes we wear different shoes and in this case it’s a big truck, loaded with sand, and a couple of blades for moving snow.  I have a four-wheeler I plow snow with, but the power of these snowplows can be felt right up through the seats… Awesome.

After this ride of a mile in his shoes, I have come to the realization that I could not do this job.  Just isn’t going to work with my skill set, or lack of skills set.  I am grateful to these drivers and for what they do.  So when you see a snowplow, give them room and a wave of thanks since they are doing their job for you.

See you down the road,

Posted in Captain's View | Leave a comment