Sunday, February 1, 2009

From the log: The first voyage

It was quite an adventure. I must preface everything I say with the caveat that we got a lot of boat for the money. The corollary to this is that some of the boat that we got isn't all there. That said...

Saturday, November 1, 1997
We arrived in Bellingham in the late afternoon, tired after the looonnngg drive from Spokane. We bought enough provisions to get thru a few days, unloaded a Blazer-load of stuff onto Eolian, and settled in for the evening. Task 1: get the refrigerator working. After some arbitrary experimenting, we found that the breaker marked "Refrigerator" didn't turn on the refer, nor did the breaker marked "Freezer" turn on the refer or the freezer, but if both were on, then the refer and the freezer would come on. 20 years of hacked wiring and a harbinger of work to come...

We had a nice dinner, and turned in early.

Today was devoted to familiarization. I pored over the blueprints and crawled thru the bilges trying to learn everything I could. My primary objective was to find out how much fuel we had on board (the Previous Owner had said that there was more than 100 gal in each of the tanks), how much water, and how much waste in the holding tank. After 4 very frustrating hours, we found: the 2 water gauges don't work. The two fuel gages don't work. There is no way to tell if the holding tank is full, other than the sudden presence of a bad odor when the head is flushed. I also found yet another 2 anchors, a spare prop, and more storage than I could have imagined.

We wanted to move the boat from the broker's slip to the visitor's dock so that we would have an easy time of leaving on Monday morning, and I wanted some practice in boat-handling... with the bowsprit and the davits, the boat is 52' long. Adding the rubber dingy to the davits makes nearly 60 feet. Getting this out of the slip at the broker's was NOT easy. I didn't hit anything, and only had to back up once... when the handline on the dingy caught on the fire hydrant on the dock, and stretched the dingy like a rubber band. The line broke, but the dingy still holds air - this is one time when rotten rope was a good thing... Docking at the visitor's dock was pretty much uneventful, although I should have approached much more slowly. I misjudged the balance between windage and momentum (the wind was blowing pretty strong at that point). Momentum rules. Big time.

We experimented with lighting the Dickenson cabin heater, and found it to be very capable of keeping the cabin toasty warm when the temp is in the 30's outside.

We pulled away from the dock at about 7:30 (not yet on island time...) and headed south under engine power. One of the early tasks - in the first couple of hours - was to get the primary autopilot working. We had the remote on a long cable, but still needed to find the main control panel in order to make the remote operational. When we did find it (in the back of the cockpit, behind one of the cushions), the auto pilot was a real blessing. It allowed us the freedom to move around (yet still keeping a lookout for logs - there are lots of these).

The plan was to go south thru the Swinomish Passage, rather than to go all the way around Whidbey Island. This is a neat little cut, that goes from east of Anacortes down to LaConner in the south. The entrance at either end of the passage is dredged thru tidal mud flats, so it is critical to pay attention to the buoys/markers/lights, etc. Just at the north end of the passage, the engine coughed a couple of times, and quit. BIG PANIC. I charged Jane with deciding when the anchor needed to go down to keep us off the mud, as we were drifting in that direction due to tidal current, and I went below. My first thought was that there wasn't really 100 gallons of fuel in each of the tanks, so I switched from port to starboard tank. rrrrrrrrrrr... nothing. Next, a little tickle in the back of my head made me look at the operating notes that the owner had left. Sure enough, in getting the Dickenson heater working last night, I had left the valving in a configuration which forced all the diesel to go thru a small electric fuel pump *before* it went to the more than adequate filter bank ahead of the engine. See, there is this little tiny screen in the pump, and the smallest chunk of glop will plug it off... So some valving changes were made, and rrrrrrrrr... nothing. Next part of the process: gotta bleed the air out of the fuel system. Talk about learning under pressure! I had brought my tools with me (good thing... there wasn't even a screwdriver on board), and I bled the pump... rrrrrrrrrrrr... nothing. Knowing that you have three battery banks, fully charged, is a comforting feeling. Last resort... crack the line feeding the highest injector... pssttssttsst a bunch of bubbles came out. rrrrrrr... rumblerumblerumble! Its a good thing that we hadn't made it to the shallow water. Learning how to operate the anchor windlass under panic conditions would not have been good. I will now *always* check the fuel valving before we leave. I also have on my to do list to re-plumb the entire fuel system. There are enough valves down there to run a nuclear power plant.

LaConner was beautiful, making the long putt down the passage well worthwhile. At the southern end, looking back between high cliffs, there is a graceful steel arch bridge over the passage, and pure white Mt. Baker was framed in it.

I will leave out the other hours of the trip, except to say that the warm, cloudless skies couldn't have been more ideal... kind of unbelievable for November weather.

Unfortunately, the trip is more than a day long. We had decided to overnight in Everett, given where we were. But we didn't make it in daylight. So we turned on the running lights (can you guess?) nothing. Not wishing to drop parts into the sea, and knowing that there was very little traffic, we just barged ahead, using a flashlight bungeed to the stern pulpit, and running the one functioning spreader light.

Picking up navigation markers at night with a backdrop of city lights is *hard*... but you must do it, since the entrance to Everett is a dredged channel. The buoy marking the point where you must turn into the channel is yellow, and has a yellow flashing light on it. Kind of hard to pick out against all those flashing yellow lights on construction barricades, etc. on shore. But we made it without incident, although finding the marina was not too easy. The ever-present restaurants made it easier. Docking was pretty neat... the channel is actually a river bed, and there is a substantial current - maybe 2 knots. So I just idled ahead at 2 knots (stationary with respect to the shore) and slowly sidled up against the dock. One of the people on the dock actually complemented us on our landing... if he only knew...

It turned out that we tied up directly across from one of the Cooper 416's we had looked at... This put the cap on it... there is no question that we got the right boat.

More fun finding the inverter and getting it online (there was no 110v on the dock where we were tied up) so that we could run some appliances... and the TV. Unfortunately, tho, I fell asleep in the middle of the X-files.

Ice on the docks this morning!

We left without further incident, and continued south. There were only two incidents worth mentioning between Everett and Seattle...
  1. At the south end of the Saratoga passage, two fishermen had their nets completely blocking off the channel by positioning them in an overlapping manner. One of them had to come over and warn me - I had missed his buoy in the sun-sparkle on the water. He was polite and friendly, and I think he knew that this was not a good idea.
  2. A pod of maybe a dozen Orcas surfaced maybe 100 yds off the port bow. They were moving in such a direction that I was sure to hit them, so I veered 90 degrees to the right and went around them. They are Big!, and they were just playing... fins, heads, tails, spouts all sticking out of the water at one time or another. I went below to get the camera, but at our closest approach, they sounded, only surfacing again when they were too far astern to make a good picture.

Arriving at the Seattle Ship Canal from the north, Seattle doesn't look like a city at all from the sea! You have to be quite close to shore to see the houses in between the trees - from further out, it just looks like more coastline!

The wind had come up to 25 knots during the day, and the entrance to the Ship Canal had 3 foot waves in it. Because we were tired, worried about how to make the bridges come up, worried about the locks, and still a little unsure about boat handling in close quarters, we decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and tucked in to the Shilshole marina to wait for the wind to lay.

This turned out to be a good decision, because we got in touch with Erica who had dinner with us at Ray's Boat House, and because we went to the locks and talked with the lockman on duty for quite some time regarding procedure and custom. It was well worth while.

Winds are calm this morning, thank goodness.

We left the marina to try to time things so that we would be able to open the bridges (they don't open 7-9 am due to rush hour traffic). Doing the locks and the bridges is not difficult, knowing how it is supposed to work. For the bridges, you simply give them a little warning (long, short horn blast), and they will have the span up when you get there. The locks were pretty easy too, but I suspect that on a summer Sunday evening, waiting for a spot and getting into the lock with a million other boats would be a whole lot more complicated and difficult. I think we'll try to avoid this.

So... Eolian is currently tied up at slip 13 at the Yale Street Landing (SE corner of Lake Union).


Anonymous said...

I always found going through the locks very creepy. You basically power into a hole, and then they close your only way out. Sort of like something out of Indiana Jones. Fortunately there is no huge boulder that chases you.

Robert Salnick said...

... unless you are in there with a poorly tended 55' footer...

Anonymous said...

I like that you're transcribing portions of the logs. Now we'll know when you're stretching the story on the nth telling.

Robert Salnick said...



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