All posts tagged safety

We all have a number of things we like to carry around wherever we go. For me it’s a folding knife, a small flashlight and a lighter. My items are for safety concerns, but others might carry objects for different uses, like a pen, lipstick or a lucky coin. Most people carry a cell phone. We carry them because they make us feel better or we use them often. One item I am thinking of adding to my EDC kit is a simple wooden wedge.



Now why would I carry one of those? With the recent active shooter and terrorist events everywhere, you might one day find yourself needing to lock a door for which there is no lock or you don’t have the key. Very unlikely, I know, but a wedge has many uses. It can help crack open a locked door or window, fix an uneven table leg at a nice outside cafe terrace or prevent a wheelchair from rolling down a slope; the list is long… We have all at some point looked ariund for some object to be used as a wedge, so why not carry one to start with?

I realize I haven’t posted that story yet. Not that it’s very interesting, but informative in a way of telling what not to do.. I made a few mistakes that could have been costly, in money and personal safety. It happened a few months ago…

I had a craving for ice cream that night, rode my bicycle to Walgreens. I didn’t have a lock for my bike but oh well, I was only going to be inside for a couple minutes.. There was a guy near the entrance who was just standing there. A little red flag popped in my mind but I told myself he was just waiting for someone inside the store. Mistake number one: Not listening to my intuition. This is doubly bad because I always advocate doing so when teaching or talking about self-defense. It took me only seconds to grab the ice cream and head for the cashier, from which I could see my bike outside… And the guy jumping on it! I ran out, ice cream in hand without paying! The thief was getting away, not looking back over his shoulder (his big mistake). I could have thrown the ice cream at him but I love ice cream too much to even think about that..

I started running. I hate running, never been good at it and with the metal rod inside my femur, I can’t run for very long before those screws start biting. The thief went around the store, picking up speed. As I thought my expensive bike was lost he turned into a group of apartments right behind the store! I saw him get into a door with my bike. Again, the fool did not look back. I had seen him before on the street, pimping a male prostitute. Now, this is not my neighborhood, but this area is situated between my street and my favorite coffee shop, so I do see a lot of “interesting” characters there on U.S. 41. It is good to keep a mental representation of who is local and what goes on around you.. I would have seen him again soon or later. Interestingly, he was involved in a stabbing of a “customer” a few months later. his male street worker did the stabbing, but he was arrested as an accomplice. So, I wasn’t dealing with a choir boy here.

What I should have done right there was to call 911. Instead, I ran to the apartment. Mistake number two. A side door was open and that male prostitute, the thief’s boyfriend was inside cooking. I did not force my way in but demanded my bicycle in no uncertain terms… He pretended not to know what I was talking about. That’s when things could have taken a different turn. I had two male individuals in the house, with at the very least kitchen knives, and who knows what else.. Had they attacked me I would have had to choose between defending myself and calling the police. I was too out of breath by then to run again. I told the “guy” I was calling the police, which I did. As I was taking with the 911 operator, the thief came out.

He offered to give me back my bike if I hung up the phone! At that point, all I wanted was my bike back. I told the operator I was getting it back and would be leaving the scene. I couldn’t help but insult the thief and told him I better not see him again… Mistake number three. The 911 operator heard that. Had anything happened to him that night, not of my doing, I would nevertheless have been suspected.. Low-lives like him have a knack for getting in trouble. He said “you won’t” and ran away. When I am pissed-off, I do not look friendly..

I went back to the store to pay for the ice cream, which I was still clutching in my now cold hand. What are the lessons I learned?

  1. I should have locked my bike, or upon getting the red flag, left and came back later.
  2. I should have called the police immediately after seeing the thief get inside the apartment.
  3. I should not have accepted the trade and the police would have been there already had I called earlier.
  4. I should have refrained from insulting and semi-threaten the thief with the 911 operator listening.
  5. I should have been better conditioned to run after him, thus not being out of breath had I been forced to defend myself.

When the thief entered the house, there was the time for me to stop, think and catch my breath. I didn’t. I was not in danger right then and the thief couldn’t have left without running into me. I had all the time in the world to formulate a plan. Something I will definitely remember: Don’t rush if it’s not needed, stop and think. I skipped right over the OODA loop, putting myself in danger.

Could I be even dumber than that? You bet. A few days later I was sitting outside the aforementioned coffee shop. My bike this time was locked with a shiny brand new lock. Who shows up for a cup of coffee while his male prostitute boyfriend puts the bread and butter on the table (and maybe elsewhere)? Yep, the bicycle thief! What I should have said then was nothing. Instead I said “Are you going to try to steal that bike again?” He looked at me and blurted something like “You crazy, I didn’t steal your bike, I have a job.” Yeah, you’re a pimp.. I didn’t say that, but I yelled at him to “get the f-ck out of here!” Which he promptly did. I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I don’t think I was at a big risk then, but you never know how things turn out until it’s over; really over sometimes.. New lesson learned: Don’t let your emotions run your mouth.

When we end-up in dicey situations, it is often of our own doing. Maybe not because of an immediate bad decision, but sometimes because of one made months, even years earlier. In this case, not buying a lock was my first mistake, I think.. The others followed. Accidents are almost always a succession of mistakes or overlooking successive clues that things aren’t going in the right direction. That’s when the OODA loop works. Learn about it!

The Best of All Worlds” is where we live today. Unfortunately humanity has bipolar disorder. Find an asteroid on a collision course with earth, and all the industrial nations of the world would chip-in to build a spacecraft and go blow it up. After that, we’d just go back to killing each-other. History is full of lows we would rather forget. I was inspired today by my friend Victoria’s blog entry on the Holocaust. We must remember such events, and most importantly how they started. But knowing the signs doesn’t help much. Knowing that you can drown doesn’t teach you how to swim.

When I was twelve-years-old, my grandfather hung a couple old pots on a tree branch, handed me his sixteen-gauge shotgun and said “go ahead, aim carefully.” He used to tell me stories about the war, when I bugged him enough to get him to talk. That’s probably when I first realized that it wasn’t always the best of all worlds. He never warned me about watching for signs of impending doom, he just taught me skills that had helped him survive the darkest years of the century. I did not think much of it at the time, it was all fun and games for a boy my age. I did however feel compelled to keep studying and spent a decade handling and shooting small arms, hundreds of rounds a week, with rifle, sub-machine-gun and pistols. I practiced martial arts for years. I went camping, traveling, learned basic survival skills and street-smartness. I could as well have picked-up golf or tennis. Something in me told me I had to learn those things. That compulsion is part of me. It is not a fad, not an ego trip, not a hobby. I do not wonder why.

We humans have a tool no other animal possesses, self deception. It is a curse. If you ever wonder how some people can be very intelligent but have no common-sense, there you go, self-deception. No animal in the wild is going to think “what what that noise? Oh, probably nothing..” We do it all the time: “The government would never do that,” “that guy would never hurt me,” “that could never happen here.” Why think about unpleasantness..

I spend enough time in coffee shops to hear it all, mostly rants about politics and how civilization as we know it is about to end. There is a lot of talking going on. Not much else. I am not a proponent of revolution mind you, the best answer to political problems is informed vote. Emphasis on “informed.” What I am a proponent of is preparedness. Things occasionally do go to hell in a hand-basket, on a macro, or micro scale, doesn’t matter, you can end-up just as dead. Being killed by a horde of thugs after an economic breakdown or a mugger at the ATM machine makes no difference. I will tell you exactly what most people do when something like that happens: Nothing. It’s too late for learning how to swim after you fall off the boat. Even worse: It’s too late to learn how to swim after your family falls off the boat. Take a few minutes to think that one over…

If you’re a loner and plan on crawling into a fetal position and keel-over when the going gets though, be my guest. It’s your choice. But of course, it won’t happen to you, right? I am addressing most of us here however, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, friends, and most importantly, parents. It is parent’s responsibility to learn how to defend their children, and teach them to defend themselves. And here is what baffles me the most, almost nobody does. Parents tell their kids not to talk with strangers, but they have no idea about what to do if the stranger has a big knife and is not interested in talking to them at all. Any decent parent would fly to the rescue, but unfortunately, whatever they do next would probably not be the best action, as far as outcome is concerned. Sorry about giving you a guilt trip here, but if I don’t, who else will? You’re not a bad parent, you just deceived yourself. Now you have no excuse, you have been informed. Yet, I will tell you exactly what most of you will do: Nothing.

I am also advocating building strong communities. Look at Switzerland. Every house in Switzerland has an assault rifle provided by the government. Kids in Siberia learn to shoot Kalashnikovs around ten-years-old. Young men and women in Israel serve in the IDF for three or two years respectively. Anybody thinking about invading Switzerland, Siberia or Israel is going to think twice about it.. Anyone attempting to invade Western Europe would have no problem at all. It has been done more than once before. The United States would be a different story, with the number of guns in circulation. The question is, do you have one? Do you know how to use it safely and efficiently? Oh, you are anti-gun.. That’s like being anti-life-vest on a boat. But we are in the same boat. You don’t live in a separate world where everybody is nice and respectful. You live in the same world as the people who were killed by home invaders or raped and killed by sexual predators. Sure, it might not happen to you. What if it does? What if the mighty Dollar takes a plunge and the gangs from that other part of town want your food after they ramsack the supermarket that just closed down? Anyway, enough scare tactics. I don’t spend all my time thinking about such scenarios, actually, I almost never do but for times like today. You know all this anyway. Yet, I will tell you exactly what most of you will do to be more prepared: Nothing.

Now, if you are still reading and haven’t crossed me off your list of friends for being a psycho survivalist type (I’m not, far from it) who makes you feel guilty about spending too much time watching television and getting fat on junk food, you might be onto something. I am not telling you to go to the Gym every day or run 10K twice a week. I get pretty lazy myself at times. There is however a minimal physical condition you should aspire to reach. Now is the time to make new-year resolutions. Read my blog on combat conditioning. If you want to exercise and learn useful skills at the same time, don’t go hit balls with a racket, learn a martial art. Go camping with your kids, learn and teach them what it takes to survive outside your cozy house, how to catch a rabbit, a fish, gut it, cook it. Learn about firearms, safety first.. If not to defend yourself in your house, you might need one someday to shoot your food! You’re vegetarian? Doesn’t matter. When you’ll be hungry enough, your brain will make you seek proteins, and you will eat meat, I promise you. There are whole books about self-sufficiency, I am not going to tell you what to do. If you need advise on firearms or martial arts, you can ask me. I am no expert, but I’ve been around, and if I can’t answer, I know people who can, or where to look. Just ask yourself “Can I take care of myself without society? Defend myself without the cops?” The police can’t be at your door in one minute, can they? But sometimes, that’s all the time you’ll have. Be glad you are now wondering about your personal well-being and you family’s, because I’ll tell you exactly what most people will do to be more prepared: Nothing.

An often overlooked home self defense option is the sword. They work as well today as they did centuries ago, as we can read about in this recent news article. A Baltimore student killed an intruder with a Samurai sword. At short to medium range, a good sword is deadlier than any gun. It never jams, and never runs out of ammo. Modern reproductions of Japanese katanas made in China have come a long way and are now available for a couple hundred dollars. So, is a sword the self defense weapon of choice?

Well, it depends.. As with any weapon, are you willing to spend the time to learn to handle it safely and practice on a regular basis? “It’s just a sword” you might say, but a 28-inch razor sharp blade can ruin your day very fast; just look at this:

Sword injury.

Sword injury.

Picture from the excellent site:
Swords Buyers Guide

And this is what happens when you mess with a cheap stainless steel wall-hanger:

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Avoid stainless steel like the plague. Be very suspicious of movie related products or cheap “Ninja” katanas. A sword, even a bad one, is very dangerous. The difference about a bad one is that is is as dangerous to you or people around you as it would be to an intruder. It only has to touch you to cause gruesome injuries. Sword makers offer non-sharpened models called iaitos, used in the discipline of Iaido, which is the art of drawing. They are a good investment and insurance policy for your early training..

As far as Japanese sword arts, you might want to look into Iaido, Kenjutsu, Kendo or Shinkendo. My opinion is that your best bet is an art that actually teaches to cut targets (Tameshigiri). I would personally look into Shinkendo or Toyama-Ryu, which are modern swordsmanship systems. You don’t have to become an expert, but learning a few basic techniques, cuts and safety are a minimum.

Are you willing to spend $200 or $300 for a decent blade made of carbon steel, forged and mounted properly? These figures are actually cheap compared to real Japanese swords starting at around $6,000. CAS Hanwei and Cheness Inc. are the major manufacturers of decent quality reproductions. Hanwei also offers medieval swords worth a look, if you prefer the Highlander type of hardware! Cold Steel also has a good collection of practical swords (I like their Chinese War Sword). See below how Cheness forges a blade:

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Though not made in Japan (Nihonto or modern Shinken), the Chinese reproductions are real swords made by hand using somewhat similar techniques. For most people, they are the only accessible models, with a price range of about $150 to $3,000. For home defense, a $300 spring steel model would do just fine. I like the cheness Ko-Katanas, which are a shortened version for tight spaces, like a house. You’ll never (hopefully) carry your sword outside your house, so you don’t need a long one. A wakisashi would do fine as well (one-handed). Watch below as Paul Southren from Swords Buyers Guide tests a Cheness katana. Very impressive.

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Carbon steel rusts.. You will have to clean and oil your sword at least every other month. It isn’t a high price to pay to keep your weapon ready and in good shape. Aside from that, a good sword will never let you down. If you practice swordsmanship, you also have an excuse for owning one and grabbing “the closest thing that could be used as a weapon” when it comes to explain to a judge why you cut a robber in half instead of calling 911 and waiting for the cops while getting beaten-up or killed.. And yes, the above mentioned swords will cut someone in half if you practice long enough to get a perfect cut. More often than not however, just showing the sword tends to convince intruders to turn around and start running.

I may have a preference for Japanese swords just because of their light weight, but any good quality medieval or antiquity reproductions would do fine, from European blades to sabers, scimitars, Chinese swords, there is something out there for everyone. With anti-gun laws looming on our horizon, a sword might be a good choice. It sure beats a jammed gun any day. You never have to buy ammo, so practicing might involve just a bit of your time and sweat, maybe a membership fee and a few tatami mats.. If you do decide to get one, be responsible, get professional advise, and learn about self-defense laws. Be safe 🙂

Building a sailboat may seem like a daunting task, but like any big project, if you keep at it, you eventually finish. People build houses, airplanes, barns, cars, you name it, they build it in their backyard. You used to be able to buy a sturdy boat ready to cross oceans. Early fiberglass boats were thick and strong because nobody knew how epoxy and fiberglass would age. Wooden boats have been built since the beginning of time, their construction has been mastered long ago. Stell hulls are seldom seen on pleasure vessels, but eveybody else use them, and for good reasons. I set myself to build a steel 32Ft. double-ended ketch a few years ago. Why not buy a production boat you may ask, well, they just don’t make them “like that” anymore. If I just wanted to sail in the intercoastal, any boat would do fine. Hell, if it sunk, I could swim to shore.. Modern Ocean cruising boats are hard to find. If I had the money I would probably get a Hans Christian 33 or 38. I like double-ended boats. Those have a canoe stern (pointy back). This type of hull was used on rescue boats in Nothern Europe. So, my thinking is that if you have one, you may not need to be rescued in the first place.. I spent countless hours on the internet researching the best blue water cruisers, strong boats that can take a beating and cross large oceans. I even bought drawings for the Tahitiana design, and took a three month welding class for that purpose (steel boat). Incidentally, I found such a boat for sale in Ft. Lauderdale and bought it; I am in the process of restoring it right now. It won’t be my last boat, I consider it to be a learning tool. I narrowed building material to two, steel and wood. The reason for this is because both are easy to fix anywhere and require only simple tools and skills. Welding isn’t hard to learn and machines are affordable. Both are strong and widely available. Steel is the strongest and my favorite. Aluminum is too expensive and harder to weld. Fiberglass is messy, I just don’t like it. It is too easy to mess-up epoxy with the wrong mix or curing temperature; bubbles can form, blisters later, just not my kind of material. With steel or wood, there are no surprises. Rust you may ask? With modern coatings it itsn’t a concern anymore. The result of my research is a short list of capable boats ranging from 15ft. to 50ft. that one or two people can build themselves to experience what is probably the last real freedom on this earth.

15 Ft.: The Macnaughton Farthing is a very small boat designed for one person. With a displacement of 2160Lbs. is is however pretty beefy for it’s length. I really like the junk rig, which greatly facilitates handling, if not performance. Remember, safety matters most here, not speed. The full foam flotation will increase safety when you can’t carry a life-raft. Here is the quote that sold me on the Macnaughton Farthing page: “Farthing is probably the least expensive way to achieve and maintain permanent global mobility.” That sounds like music to my ears. Macnaughton has other great designs, but the Farthing is the most intriguing one. I will buy those plans as soon as I can and keep them, if there was ever a time when I needed “global mobility.” As one sailor and writer said “Go small, go now!”

23 Ft.: Weston farmer’s Cherub is one of the smallest designs that can be built out of steel. It could probably take an experienced couple practically anywhere, and for very little money. Displacement is 5000Lbs. The reason I like stell so much is that your boat can be thrown on rocks, hit a floating log, whale, container, or another “plastic” boat with a good chance of coming out unscathed. 23 Ft. isn’t that small, considering that Serge Testa circumnavigated the world in a twelve foot boat.

25 Ft.: The Ganley Hitchhiker is a Colin Archer style double-ended boat, with a marconi or junk rig. Unfortunately, the site that was selling the plans is down ( The designer, Denis Ganley was killed in an auto accident in 1997. His boat seems to be the perfect size for a budget conscious sailor who wants a boat large enough for extended cruising. I do not know if and where the Hitch-Hiker plans are available. If anyone knows, please post a message in the comments below.

32 Ft.: The Tahitiana is another Weston Farmer boat, and my personal choice at this time. I bought my plans from his son a few years ago. The boat is a redesign of Jack Hanna’s famous Tahiti Ketch. The design has a great reputation as an ocean-going vessel capable of surviving even the worst conditions. My boat is not a Tahitiana per say, but all dimentions are identical, except that it has one chine instead of two and was presumably built in 1950, way before the Tahitiana lines were published. I would appreciate any information on my boat…

After first restoration

After first restoration

Dagny needed a facelift...

Dagny needed a facelift...

I plan on using a junk rig on Dagny. The deck needs sandblasting. The cabin roof needs to be replaced and the interior redone. The engine runs but the starter was stolen and I am worried about some vibrations I noticed the last time I took her out. Probably the old prop unbalanced, I hope. Working on old boats is fun, but beware, it will cost you!

36 – 38 Ft.: I haven’t found the best design in this size range, suggestions are welcome!

43? Ft. Colvin Pinky Schooner and Gazelle. Is it a 42? I can’t find my copy of “Steel Boatbuilding” tonight, but Colvin in his book offers the plans of his beautiful schooner-rigged steel double-ender, for free! Well, you need to buy the book (see above). It can be built as a voyaging yacht or cargo ship. It is again a very safe design in bad weather. The Gazelle is another one of his designs based on a Chinese junk, with of course, a junk rig. It is of a relatively light displacement for it’s size, but because of it’s construction, would be at ease offshore:

The Colvin Gazelle

The Colvin Gazelle

Colvin is the authority on steel boat building in the United States. I once asked him if he could tell me what paint to use on my boat. To my surprise, he replied with a long email explaining what products and procedures to use to assure a long rust-free life for my boat. I followed it to the letter, and it worked perfectly! His book explains it all. I would never consider working on a steel boat without reading it. His larger junks are really appealing. If I was to ever build something in the 60-65ft. range I would choose a Colvin junk.

50 Ft.: This is my dream boat, if I ever make enough money to buy all that steel. The George Buehler Otter. This is a gigantic boat. 50Ft. is large enough for a family of four or five. The hull is plated with quarter-inch steel and displaces 44000Lbs. That thickness will stop most handgun bullets! I would need help to build one. The plates are heavy and my back would not permit me to handle them, or even participate in the lifting. I would love to weld-up such a monster however. George Buehler has a no-nonsense approach to boats I really like. I learned a lot from his book on backyard boat-building (see above). This would be my definite choice for a liveaboard vessel. A boat that size could feel like a luxury appartment with the right inside design, nice woods and all creature comforts. I would rather invest in such a project than build a house. You can’t leave with your house if things go bad where you live.. With a boat, you load the whole family and just go, no worries about your house, you’re leaving in it! no to mention waterfront living and no property taxes. Now, I just need to find a woman with an open mind..