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Last Quebec schooner of its kind threatened after grounding in Cuba

first_imgMONTREAL — Cuban authorities have backed off a threat to seize the last surviving St. Lawrence River schooner, which ran aground on a beach in the Caribbean country on Jan. 27.But the danger remains very real for the Grosse-Ile, the last seaworthy vessel of its kind and an important piece of the province’s maritime heritage.The ship’s owner, Didier Epars, and his son Vincent were forced to ground the ship to avoid sinking after its engine failed during an intense storm.“We deliberately ran aground at Maria la Gorda Cuba to save our lives,” Epars wrote in a message to The Canadian Press, describing how he and his son swam ashore wearing life-jackets after the ship hit bottom.His son has since left Cuba, but Epars remains “in custody” — albeit at a holiday resort that he said is actually run by the Cuban military. The resort is close to his ship, which he monitors from a distance when he can. The ship has nonetheless been repeatedly pillaged by thieves, he said.“The Cuban army wants the boat in exchange for my freedom,” Epars wrote. The Canadian Press obtained a handwritten letter bearing an official Cuban seal in which a military representative tried to bargain for Epars’ release in exchange for the Grosse-Ile.The vessel ideally would have been towed and repaired weeks ago, but Epars has encountered problems with his insurer. Concept Special Risks of the United Kingdom, the agency representing insurance company Great Lakes Insurance SE, says the insurance policy covers salvage costs up to a certain limit, but it wants Epars to arrange the towing and then seek reimbursement. Epars says he is not able to and is asking the insurers to make arrangements.Last Friday, a Cuban tugboat that had not been requested by Epars or the insurer showed up. But in the end it turned back without dislodging the Grosse-Ile, saying only that “the negotiations failed.” Information obtained later revealed that the salvagers had demanded 270,000 euros  — approximately $410,000 — to extract the ship.Adding to the precariousness of the situation, the insurance policy expired Feb. 26, although the insurer recognizes its responsibility for incidents that occurred while the policy was still in force.The British company has told Epars it is looking for a towing firm outside Cuba, but it asked him to pay up front the amount of the deductible, US$140,000. The firm blames the delays on problems obtaining the necessary permits for a salvage operation in Cuba and insisted that the search for a tugboat was Epars’ responsibility.Built in 1951, the Grosse-Ile was used to provision the island east of Quebec City after which it was named. Epars bought it in 1992, but it needed to be almost entirely rebuilt. It took him 20 years to get the necessary permits to take on passengers, and in 2015 the schooner returned to the water, sailing between Quebec City and Montreal.Global Affairs Canada had little to say when asked if it planned to intervene on behalf of Epars and his schooner. A department spokesman said “consular services are provided to a Canadian citizen who is in Cuba following a boating accident” and “consular agents in Cuba are in contact with local authorities to collect additional information.”In Quebec City, the Department of International Relations said it has contacted Global Affairs Canada and is monitoring the situation from a distance. The provincial Culture Department said the Grosse-Ile does not have a legal heritage status. Despite several requests by Epars, the authorities have refused because the restoration modified the hull and added sails.Even if the ship had heritage recognition, it would not provide protection outside Quebec.Pierre Saint-Arnaud, The Canadian Presslast_img read more

Hubitat the privacyfocused smart home hub launches its longawaited app

first_img See it Review • Google Nest Hub review: Still the smart display to beat • Aug 31 • Alexa can tell you if someone breaks into your house $99 See It CNET Smart Home Aug 30 • Battling bot vacs: iRobot Roomba S9+ vs Neato Botvac D7 Connected Dell See It Aug 31 • The best coffee grinders you can buy right now 1 Share your voice Amazon Privacy Philips Hubitat The Hubitat Elevation smart-home hub promises more privacy than the competition by keeping all of the data it needs to power your smart home stored locally. The rules needed for your door sensor to trigger your alarm or for your Ecobee smart thermostat to talk to your Philips Hue smart light bulbs are all stored on the device instead of the cloud. Up until this point, Hubitat was missing one key element common to most smart-home systems — an app. You had to set up your system in a web browser. You could access that browser from your phone, but Hubitat didn’t have an interface designed for it. Hubitat actually promised an app at CES this year as it launched its newest hub, and the company finally debuted the app for iOS and Android on Thursday.The app comes with push notifications and a customizable dashboard. You’ll be able to access any of your gadgets remotely — Hubitat works with a wide variety of third-party gadgets from brands like Lutron and Yale. It also works with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. You can use the app to set up rules involving presence detection or geofencing — so your smart home acts differently depending on if you’re home or away. Hubitat will maintain its dedication to privacy by limiting geofencing to a specific boundary — so it won’t track your GPS at all times, it simply knows when your phone crosses a designated line. If you’re using the app at home, your phone can talk directly to the Hubitat app to keep your commands local. You’ll be able to use the app to access your devices from anywhere, and controlling your home remotely will involve the cloud — and might be part of the reason Hubitat took so long to launch an app in the first place. Nevertheless, the processing and rules storage should still happen on the hub itself, with the cloud used mostly as a bridge.Before the app, the Hubitat system looked mostly aimed at avid smart-home DIYers as opposed to those with a casual interest in connected tech. In addition to the added privacy of local processing, the main benefit was the enhanced customization. You could set up a wide variety of rules using many different sensors and devices. A simplified app might help Hubitat find a broader appeal.You can buy the company’s new Hubitat Elevation hub for $90 on the company’s site.  Best Buy Mentioned Above Google Home Hub How To • Google Assistant, Android Q, Google Nest Hub Max: Google’s big plans for the rest of the yearcenter_img $79 News • Get the Google Nest Hub for just $67 reading • Hubitat — the privacy-focused smart home hub — launches its long-awaited app Smart Home Google Nest Hub Preview • Google Home Hub joins the fight to put a screen on your countertop Comment See It Aug 31 • Best smart light bulbs for 2019 (plus switches, light strips, accessories and more) $99 Walmart $99 Tags CNET Smart Home CNET may get a commission from retail offers. See Alllast_img read more