Oct 102011
 
Geocaching

This piece is not intended to cover the rules of Geocaching. There are plenty of do’s and don’ts around the web and if you haven’t read them lately I suggest you start with:  http://www.geocaching.com/guide/default.aspx

This article is intended to cover of some of the more esoteric aspects of caching etiquette which the newcomer to the game may not have considered.

Geocaching is not a crime. I state this obvious fact as many geocachers appear to hide their GPS and/or use it furtively while on the trail regardless of how far they are from the hide.  While stealth is usually required at the hide to ensure you don’t give away the caches location to muggles. It’s perfectly acceptable to be seen using your GPS and engage with muggles and fellow geocachers while out on the trail. We’ve recently taken to wearing a badge with our caching name on, which while meaningless to muggles, quickly and easily identifies us as geocachers.

Sooner or later you’re going to meet other cachers out hunting for the same hide as yourself. The polite thing to do is introduce yourself. Establish if you’re both going for the same hide and if so join forces. Geocaching can be even more fun if you do it as a team sport and/or a social event. If there are other caches in the area you can head in different directions afterwards, if not, enjoy the company of your fellow cachers. In our experience they’re a pretty friendly bunch.

If you are caught “cache in hand” by another cacher you should ask if them if they wish to sign the log or offer to re-hide once they are out of sight, so they can return later and find it for themselves. In most cases the log will be signed by all. Be sure to give you new friends a mention in your log.

If Travel Bugs or Coins are exchanged at these meetings, make sure you arrange for the handover to be done through logging the trackable in and out of the cache. This ensures that the trackable gets credited with its miles and the owner knows it whereabouts.

While on the topic of trackables. Do make sure you log your trackable in and out of their boxes. If you pick up a trackable which hasn’t been logged into a box by a previous cacher, don’t immediately grab it from them. Wait a few of days to give them the chance to log it in. They may be away from home and unable to log it immediately. For this reason, don’t pick up too many trackables at once, they can become difficult to manage.

If a trackable has a particular goal you can help with in the not too distant future, it’s quite acceptable to hold onto the trackable for an extended period. If you intend doing this, say so in the trackables log or contact the owner directly. I had a cacher contact me to say he was going to the US on holiday in a few weeks and could he hold on to my trackable until he did so. Of course, I was delighted to say yes and very grateful for the note.

Some trackables a quite large and if you pick one up it could be some time before you find a box big enough to place it again. It’s important therefore, that when you are holding trackables you indicate these as “visited” in your cache logs. This adds miles and interest for the trackables owner as well as assuring them the trackable is still in circulation.

If you find a cache that is worse for wear. Do your best to leave it in better condition than you find it. Remove any items that may be spoiling the contents such as foodstuffs or soggy items. Try to keep the contents dry and if already wet, try to dry off the contents as much as you can. We carry spare logs and plastic bags which can be used to isolate damp objects or provide protection around a damaged container. Be sure to inform the cache owner by posting a “needs maintenance” log where necessary.

It’s not uncommon to find a cache exposed or otherwise not hidden very well. This is often down to animal interference or movement due to weather effects. In these cases do your best to hide the cache as best you can without relocating it. If you must relocate, post the new co-ordinates with your log so the owner can find it and attend to it if needed. Likewise, if you find a cache that appears to be well off it’s published co-ordinates. Let the owner and any other seekers know by posting the coordinates at which you found it on your log.

Trading is not compulsory and I tend to think of it as something to enhance the game for the kids. Don’t feel you have to leave something or even break the guidelines in order to do so. If you do trade, do so responsibly. Keep it kid friendly.

Sign the log. An integral part of the game is the signing of the log. There’s much debate on the subject of leaving a calling card but whether you love them or hate them, they are not a replacement for signing a log. I know many people like to leave and receive calling cards in caches. Personally I consider them litter and remove them from my caches and bin them, they take up valuable space and invariably blow away when you open the box. A cache owner is well within his/her rights to delete your online log if it transpires you didn’t sign the one in the cache.

Sign the log appropriately. In smaller hides it is only appropriate to date and sign a log, indeed, nano caches may only have space for an initial. Standard boxes with notebooks allow you to be more expressive but this does not give you licence to waste space in the logbook. The cache owner doesn’t want to be constantly renewing logbooks needlessly. Don’t use up a whole page by drawing a huge smiley face when you could have just signed the next line of the previous page. Show some common sense and consideration for the cache owner.

If out caching with friends who each have their own caching id’s it is quite acceptable to give yourselves a team name for that day and sign the logs using just that team name rather than several individual logs. When the team members subsequently log the finds online they can add “found with team xyz” to the log entry.

Cache owners go to varying amounts of effort of place a cache from simple urban drive-bys to long hikes up tall mountains. It’s reasonable therefore for them to expect you to put a suitable amount of effort into your online logs. While a quick “found it” may be acceptable for a busy urban drive-by. If you’ve spent a day hiking up a mountain you should be able to be a bit more expressive about your experiences. This not only rewards the cache owner for his trouble and encourages them to place more hides, but gives future cachers an idea of what to expect should they undertake to seek the cache. Be careful not to give too much away though, don’t spoil the hunt for others.

An exception is the series, where you’ve spent time doing a large series of caches in quick succession it is often difficult to think of something to write for each log and the temptation to cut a paste a short phrase into each entry is very tempting and to a degree acceptable. You should however highlight any exceptions and include at least one comprehensive entry, usually on the log of the final cache where you can summarise the overall experience of the series.

I hope you find this piece helpful and good hunting…

May 302011
 
Bluebird

After receiving a bit of a financial shock after having the car serviced on the Friday, we intended to spend the rest of a long weekend on our boat Bluebird on the Lancaster Canal. We arrived at the marina Saturday lunchtime and after having lunch on board, we set off into a strong headwind.

Bluebird is a fiberglass boat with a fairly flat bottom which only draws a few inches, this means even a light breeze can make navigating a canal an interesting experience. This day there were times when the boat would be forty-five degrees to the bank pointing into wind as we crabbed along the canal or we would turn into a bridge hole only to be brought to a sudden halt by the wind funneling through it and we’d have to push the throttle forward to ease the boat through. Needless to say we didn’t go too far before we tied up beside a pub of the night in the hope that the wind would subside and we could move on again the following day.

Bream

Lancaster Canal Bream

I unpacked my fishing gear while the crew curled up with a book. How she manages to read so many books with her eyes closed and snoring I’ll never know. Thus began a very uneventful but not unpleasant afternoon, which included good size bream and one of those horrible canal eels which tear up your tackle and cannot be held and unhooked  as they squirm violently and spread there vile slime all over the place.

The wind was starting to ease and we decided to dine on board before retiring to the pub for the evening and partaking of a glass or four of relaxation fluid. At least that was the plan. It was the Saturday of the Champions League Final and this was one of those pubs with a big screen and TV’s in every corner. Plus being so far from Manchester it meant the place was full to the brim with Manchester United fans.

Now there are only two things I don’t mind queuing for, Beer and Money. So a busy pub wasn’t going to deter me but this night it was more than busy, it was full! There were very few people being served at the bar because no one could get to it. Everyone appeared to be pinned to their spot by the crowds facing each of the many screens. We turned and headed back to the boat and the wine and whiskey we already had on board, (note to self: buy a case of beer).

In response to the digital switchover Bluebird is equipped with a satellite TV system which usually works very well despite the movement of the boat. Re-pointing the dish at the satellite each time we moor Is no more onerous the pointing a conventional TV aerial in the right direction. The only problem is, you must have direct line of sight to the satellite and this is was our problem this night as we had a huge dense tree in the way so no TV tonight.

So there we were, sat in our snug little boat, radio playing away and a large glass of red wine in hand but in dire risk of having to make conversation. Not to fear, we keep a pack of cards on board for just such an emergency. But then it dawned on us. In this day of PSP and X-Box we could only remember two cards games, one is Solitaire the other is Snap! (note to self: buy a book of card games). Then I remembered a version of Scrabble played with nothing more than pen and paper and so began a most enjoyable evening and we both agreed, we need to leave the TV off more often.

Later that night tucked up in bed I remember waking, and through the red wine haze I heard the sound of rain on the roof of the boat. It wasn’t the pitter-patter type of rain, it was the hammering of the ‘lashing it down’ type of rain being forced along by a howling gale. I could feel Bluebird tugging at her mooring lines and then I heard a scrapping noise and a splash. I’d forgotten to bring my landing net back inboard, (note to self: buy a new landing net).

The next morning it was clear we weren’t going to be cruising very far again. Dark clouds were looming and the wind was blowing stronger than ever. I couldn’t pass the time fishing as I normally would in case I caught a whale and I no longer had a landing net. The following day would be a Bank Holiday Monday, notorious for bad weather so we agreed that at the first sign of a lull we’d turn tail and head back to the marina while we could. Mid-morning it was still a lively breeze with strong gusts when we turned the boat around, or at least the wind did, the cockpit canopy acting like a sail spinning us around easily. We motored back up the canal using just enough throttle to provided steerage as the wind propelled us north except for the occasional blast of rev’s to catch the boat as the wind gusted from different directions. Other than a gentle bump against the pontoon we moored back at the marina relatively uneventfully.

After a late lunch we packed our gear into the car and headed for home on the other side of Morecambe Bay where it turned out the weather had remained bright and sunny with gentle breezes.

GeocachingTo salvage what was left of the long weekend we spent the Monday wandering through woodland looking for Geocaches in still air and glorious sunshine. Pleasant though it was, we’d only been out a couple of hours when we both agreed. It would have been a great day for boating…

(note to self: if you wait for the right weather, you’ll never do anything).

May 262011
 
Geocaching

We found our first Geocache on the 5th of August 2010. Ten months and Two Hundred and Twenty-five finds later we’re still hooked. But if anyone asks me why we do it, we struggle to give a simple answer. I’ve already forgotten exactly how we heard about Geocaching. It was one those over the grapevine things that just crosses your path one day and I thought, “That sounds interesting, let’s give it a go”. Armed with a mobile phone my wife and  I set off on our first hunt not really knowing what to expect. I’m not going to explain [More…]