Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Destination: Agate Pass

If you arrived here by searching for a chart, please see this page.
Think of a gateway. Agate Pass is a gateway to the beautiful lake-like waters behind Bainbridge Island.

Agate Pass is the narrow waterway which separates the north shore of Bainbridge Island from the Kitsap Peninsula mainland. In fact, it is so narrow (about 300 yards) that in 1950, a bridge was built across the Pass. The $1,351,363 expense was repaid in one year by charging a 35 cent toll. There are many on the Island who still rue the day that the bridge opened, because it changed Island life, forever.

For a tide-scoured channel, the Pass is surprisingly shallow. One needs to particularly pay attention to the lengthwise shoal at the North end, whose northern end is marked by a red buoy. Because of this shoal, the center of the navigable channel for a deep draft boat is really about the southern one quarter of the width. Depths range from 23 feet at the North end to about 30 feet at the South end.

This picture (thumbnail as usual... click on it to get a full-size version) shows the entire length of Agate Pass, from the North end looking South.

One might expect that tidal currents would be terrific in the narrow channel... but they are pretty benign. Although the flow can be as much as 3 kt during a large tide change, it's organized, like a river - not the roiling turbulent flow of Deception Pass. Although we do not attempt Agate Pass against the current, we regularly transit with the current. Even at max flood, the flow is smooth so there is no risk of loosing control of the boat.

The bridge at the south end has a vertical clearance of 75 feet at MHW. If your air draft is in this neighborhood, you may need to avoid high slack. Eolian needs about 65 feet, so we don't worry, although it always looks scary when you pass under.

After passing under the bridge, you enter the waterways behind Bainbridge Island. Having crossed 4 miles of the sometimes boisterous Admiralty Inlet, and another 2 miles of the only slightly more protected Port Madison Bay, you enter a very different world. It is calm, but more, it is intimate. Heavily wooded shorelines surround you on all sides, and a complicated shoreline tempts the eye to explore.

It is entirely fitting that this place should have a gateway; Agate Pass fits the role perfectly.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Weekend Report 3/29: Heat Pump Installation

As I mentioned last week, we are still putting the finishing touches on the heat pump installation. One of those finishing touches is to protect the flexible ductwork in the storage compartment under Jane's berth from the heavy things that are normally stored there.

The first step was to cut some cleat stock out of some scrap lumber, and glue/screw it to the surfaces surrounding the ductwork, to provide a foundation.

Next, making templates out of cardboard saves lumber, and allows you to change your mind about the design at zero material cost.

Once I settled on a design, I used the templates to mark up the plywood, cut it out with a saber saw. Because everything is made to fit, it fits perfectly (OK, I was surprised too).

After all the pieces were cut, I glued on more cleat stock in the appropriate places, and then assembled the whole thing.

A little sanding, a couple of coats of paint, and it looks like a factory install (almost).

Weekend Report 3/29: Bowsprit Renewal

Lovely woman that she is, Jane suggested that I bring the bowsprit into the living room so that the primer will cure more quickly. So I did. And indeed, I was able to get all the primer coats (3) on this weekend.

Like automotive primer, this primer is designed to go on thick, cure quickly, and be easy to sand. Its purpose is to fill minor nicks and sanding scratches, just as when finishing a car (with which I have entirely too much experience). And as on a car, the best use of the primer is to sand nearly all of it off before recoating, leaving it only in the low spots. This is Interlux primer, and it works very well. I continue to be impressed with Interlux products.

Since one side of the bowsprit must rest on the sawhorses, I can do at most 3 sides at a time. Thus the system arose (OK, OK, I am an engineer... I can't help myself...) to coat 3 sides, rotate 1 side clockwise, coat 3 sides, etc. Thus to get 3 coats on all sides, I needed to coat 3 sides 4 times (check me if you like). The last coat went on this afternoon.

Next will come some hand sanding with 150 grit (no sander scratches allowed in this coat), and the first of 4 coats (3 sides each...) of finish paint.

It really looks like a bowsprit now...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Birds Below Me

At least once a year, I get to see Eolian from a very unique perspective: from 60 feet above her deck.

It is scary up there. From personal experience, I can tell you that it is at least twice as far, looking down from the masthead, as it is looking up at the masthead from the deck.

Here are some additional elements that add to the experience:
  • Your perch is a glorified child's swing seat
  • At the masthead, there is nothing above you to grab hold of, should you loose your balance
  • The top of the mast is 63 feet above the water... when the boat rocks (for example, due to a wake), the motion is greatly magnified at the masthead - it moves thru feet of swing in a rapid motion, seemingly trying to throw you
  • If you drop something (a tool...), you know it will cause significant damage below. On the other hand, from up there it looks like it would be difficult to drop something and actually hit the boat with it.
  • You see birds flying below you
But whether the lights at the masthead need attention or not, I make the trip at least annually to inspect the rigging for cracked fittings, broken strands in the rig wires, etc.

There are many ways to ascend the mast:
  • Some people have a partner winch them up using a halyard winch. This one frightens me, because without a third person to tail, there is the chance that the turns on the winch could slip
  • Some people have steps attached to the mast. This leaves you with at most one hand to do work at the top. If you wear a harness, then a second person can belay a halyard on the harness. When you get to the top, the belay line is made fast, and you can then have both hands to work. But two people are required for this.
  • Some people hoist a strap with footloops sewn into it using a halyard, and then climb that. Again, you will have at most one hand to do work. A second halyard and a second person can solve that problem here too.
But for unassisted climbing, I prefer to tie off a halyard, and then use a pair of Petzl mountaineering ascenders on that halyard. I like the comfort and "security" of a bosun's chair, so I hang that from the upper ascender, and a double footloop from the lower ascender. I can climb the halyard then by standing up, sliding up the upper ascender, sitting down, pulling up the lower ascender, etc., inchworming my way up using the biggest muscles in my body. Because the lower end of the halyard is free, I can easily pull myself out to the spreader tips, or swing outside of the shrouds as I get high on the mast where it gets crowded.

The view is breathtaking! Sometimes I go up there just for the view, especially at an anchorage if it is calm - here, we are in Port Madison - I was installing our new LED anchor and bow lights.

Typing this, I realize that I have never enjoyed a sunset from the masthead. This is a bucket list item I should really address this summer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Places and Destinations

That string of postings on Voyage #4 seemed to me to run on forever (did it to you too?). I am going to make an executive decision here, and mix in some descriptions of interesting places and destinations on Tuesdays.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Voyage #4: A Frightening Night at Anchor

Last week, we left Eolian at anchor in Friday Harbor for the night. Read on and join us for a scary sleepless night anchored off Hope Island...

The next day, we rose and dawdled, since the next planned destination was back to Blind Bay. This is a short trip, and so we had plenty of time to wait for favorable tide. We had chosen to return here because strong southerly winds were forecast, and we wanted to take advantage of the good holding ground and protection from southerly winds that this bay affords. Once again we went all the way to the back to reduce wave fetch. We didn't do any more crabbing... We had actually reached the point where we we getting tired of crab.

The wind never materialized. But the forecast continued to call for it, but now as gale force westerlies in the Straight of Juan de Fuca. We planned to return to our Hope Island anchorage for the night, since it would provide us with shelter from what would be northerlies (the wind comes in the Straight, and then splits when it reaches the mainland, going north thru the San Juans, making a southerly there, and going south thru Admiralty Inlet and Skagit Bay, appearing as a northerly there).

Having learned our lesson on the way north, we timed our exit from the Islands so that we would have a favorable tide in Guemes Channel and Swinomish Passage. This meant that we left Blind Bay at 10:00, expecting to find southerlies in Rosario Straight. Didn't happen - once again it was dead calm. In fact it looked calm all the way across the Straight of Juan de Fuca and as far south as we could see. We indeed did enjoy the tidal effects going thru Swinomish Passage, making 8 kt over the ground with the engine idling. Note to self: ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH THE TIDE.

We anchored in nearly the same spot on the south shore of Hope Island. I didn't describe this earlier, but there is a narrow finger of water 2-3 fathoms deep which runs part way along this shore, surrounded by depths of 2 feet or less. We were anchored near the east end of the "deep" channel. One other detail I didn't mention earlier was that the tidal current in the area had us facing west. We were tired and went to bed a little after dark.

At 22:30, we were awakened with the howl of wind in the rigging. It had finally arrived, and indeed we were protected from the worst of it. We were seeing 10-15 kt, with the occasional gust to 25, all out of the west. So far the plan was working, but neither of us could sleep so we sat in the saloon or the cockpit, keeping watch and talking quietly. By 23:30, we were both quite tired, and things had not changed - the wind continued at about the same strength from about the same direction, and the anchor continued to *not* move. I think we may have both dozed off.

Suddenly, Jane said, "We're loose!" I bolted to the cockpit and sure enough, we were sideways to the wind and facing the island. I started going over in my mind what we would have to do - when a boat is sideways to the wind, it is drifting, and there wasn't much deep water to the east of us. But as I watched, I realized that despite our unusual attitude, Eolian was not moving. My next thought was that we had *already* run aground... but the depth sounder showed 12 feet of water (we draw 6). I was stumped. As I sat there, groggy from the sudden awakening, Eolian shifted some more, and soon the wind was coming over the *stern* at 25 kt. Now this was truly weird! I went forward and checked: yes, we still had the anchor, and the rode was streaming aft from the now east-facing bow. Strangely, it was nearly slack most of the time.

It must have taken me an hour in my muddled state to figure it out: the tide had changed, and Eolian was ignoring the wind and trying to position herself pointing into the now westward-flowing tidal current. In effect, the wind and tide were nearly canceling each other out. Finally, I started steering her in the tidal current, and was able to reliably get her pointing either north or south, but she wouldn't stay there. It dawned on me, at last, that once she was sideways, I would need to steer *backwards* if I wanted her to go farther around. So I got her pointed at the island (the way to turn so that the anchor chain wouldn't get wrapped around the keel), and held her there until a gust pulled/pushed her a little farther around. I spun the wheel around the other way, and voila! Eolian was pointed into the wind again. Things quieted down (she's much more streamlined with the wind coming over the bow) and there was no more radical heeling and slewing around. I found that if I kept the rudder hard over to port, she was in a meta-stable situation. Eventually I became satisfied that we weren't going to go aground, and that Eolian would continue to point more or less westward, into the wind. I went back down into the saloon, where Jane and I talked quietly, and then more quietly. I think we fell asleep at about 04:30, and we awoke from our uncomfortable sleeping positions at 06:30, as light was returning to the sky.

We made preparations to get underway after a cup of coffee. The anchor was *really* hooked good - it came up with a ball of mud 2 feet in diameter which took quite a while to hose off. Nevertheless we were under way the earliest of the trip: 07:30.

Using the staysail and the mizzen, we sailed the length of Skagit Bay, but had to go to motor sailing as we made the S turn into Saratoga Passage. Finally, the wind died and we dropped the sails.

After a long day, we arrived at Everett at 16:30. Tired as we were, our timing was such that a tug with a log boom slloowwllyy moved across the entrance channel to Everett, just as we arrived. So we turned slow circles until he cleared the channel. We treated ourselves to a dinner at the 'other' Anthony's - an upscale southwestern grill. It was great food too. Interesting that we both favored this over seafood...

We slept well that night.

We left Everett at 08:15 the next morning. Sailing south from Everett was bitter-sweet. It was one of the best sails of the trip (downwind tacking in 15 kt), but it was the last. We were still tired (kind of jet-lagged), and the cool sunny day and ideal sailing conditions served to put us in a strange state of mind - sad, contemplative, content, satisfied.

We tied up in our slip at Shilshole at 15:30. I forgot to hook up the shore power cable until 17:30 - I guess that means the trip was a sucess.

I know it sure felt that way.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Heat Pump Installation

Another short Weekend Report; another bonus project report. But it is a current one - we are still working on cleaning up and finalizing the initial installation.

I had always thought heat pumps were the perfect answer for heating/cooling on a boat, but never considered one due to their cost. When I saw a two-year old one on craigslist for less than 1/4 the retail cost, I jumped without hesitation.

(An aside to those who do not know how a heat pump works: A heat pump is almost exactly like an air conditioner, but with the addition of solenoid valves which allow reversal of the freon flow. Did you ever notice that a running window air conditioner blows hot air outside? That is the heat which was removed from the cooler inside. If you were to physically turn the unit around in the window, it would become a heater. The solenoid valves allow this reversal of function without having to physically move the unit. And yes, the heat pump is also an air conditioner. One more thing: on a marine heat pump, the heat source/sink is not the outside air, but is instead the water. In Puget Sound, the water temperature ranges from about 55 degrees in the summer to about 48 degrees in the winter, so it is perfect for this.)

Here on the boat, we live on 30 amps. That is, the total amount of power available to us is a little less than what you can get from 2 household circuits. This requires us to be conscious of our electrical usage. With the current price of diesel, it is cheaper to heat the boat with electricity than using diesel in our diesel heater. To do this, we have used 3 space heaters (forward cabin, main saloon, aft head), each set on a 500 watt setting. Thus we were heating with 15 amps, leaving another 15 amps to run the water heater, refrigerator, espresso machine, microwave, lighting, etc. Tho this sounds like not very much heat, it was sufficient until outside air temps dipped into the low 40's, at which time we had to fire up the diesel heater too to make up the difference.

Those 3 500 watt heaters were pulling about 15 amps, and delivering about 5100 BTU/hr. The heat pump, when in heating mode, draws 12 amps, and delivers 18,000 BTU/hr. That is, the heat pump delivers more than 3 times as much heat, and uses less power to do so. That is because not only do we get the energy from the 12 amps drawn from the electrical circuit, but this energy is used to MOVE heat, so we also get the heat captured from the sea water. We also get air conditioning, but that is seldom needed in this climate.

The heat pump is about the size of a window air conditioner, but without the external housing. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures before I got it into the fwd settee compartment. Because of its size, it was necessary to remove both the door and the bezel from the large opening. It just fit. Next, the unit requires a supply of sea water for its pump. For now, given that we are in the heating season, I stole the connection for the generator, and I made use of an abandoned above-the-waterline thru hull for the discharge. The initial installation just had the giant 6" hot air discharge hose led back out the door. And although this kept the main saloon toasty warm, it left the ends of the boat cool.

So to string 4" flexible aluminum ductwork (think dryer hose) from the compartment to carefully chosen locations for heat registers... I rented a big (BIG) electric drill and a 4.5" hole saw. This is a monster. It takes two hands and all my strength to keep this thing going in the right direction and not jumping out of the hole and chewing up everything in sight. And given that all the duct locations are run thru the backs of the small compartments along the port side of the boat, running the hole saw to make the holes can best be compared to wrestling with a pit bull while under your kitchen sink, with the door closed.

There were a lot of holes to be cut; each took between 30 and 60 minutes to make.

I found the 4 - 4" grills for the cabins and heads on the internet, but the 6x10" grill for the main saloon is made of a conventional grill, with a teak overlay bezel (that I made) in place. Thankfully, the giant silver snake is gone from the saloon.

We are warm and cozy, and when you hang up a towel in the head, it is dry the next time you use it, instead of just cold. The boat has never been this warm, and yet the heat pump runs just a fraction of the time, and is far quieter than the fans in the 3 space heaters. We also now have a smart programmable thermostat which allows us to have the boat cool when we are absent or asleep and warm when we are here, automatically.

OK, you people in houses have had these for a long time. For us it is a new luxury.

Weekend Report: 3/22: Bowsprit Renewal

Well I really screwed up this weekend - I forgot the camera, so no pictures.

So, here's what happened on the bowsprit:
I sanded the epoxy/microballoons, which worked pretty well, although the residual end cut solution still on the surface of the wood had a tendency to clog up the sandpaper.

I applied a coat of Interlux primer to 3 sides - this is what I wish I had a picture of... for the first time, it looks like what will be the finished product. Its a bowsprit!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Nautical terminology - you know more than you may think

Ships and nautical lore were an integral part of our culture for hundreds of years. It should come as no surprise that portions of the terminology from off shore were adopted into common usage on shore as well. Here are some that I have gathered together from various sources that you may recognize, still in use, and still retaining at least some of their original meaning:

  • A- - A prefix attached to a noun, indicating "toward". For example, "astern", which means towards the stern or back of the ship. More familiar versions: Aloft - towards the masthead, Ahead - towards the head or front of the ship, Alee - towards the lee or downwind side of the ship.
  • Above Board – On or above the deck, in plain view, not hiding anything.
  • All 9 Yards - A full-rigged ship has three masts, each of which is equipped with three primary horizontal spars which hold the tops of the sails, called yards. The expression means basically, "everything", as when a ship was in a shipyard for refitting, and the captain described the work to be done as "all 9 yards".
  • As the Crow Flies - When lost or unsure of their position in coastal waters, ships would release a caged crow. The crow would fly straight towards the nearest land thus giving the vessel some sort of a navigational fix. The tallest lookout platform on a ship came to be know as the crow's nest.
  • Booby – A type of bird that had little fear and therefore was particularly easy to catch, hence booby prize.
  • By and LargeBy means into the wind, while large means with the wind. By and large is used to indicate all possible situations "the ship handles well both by and large".
  • By the board – Gone overboard.
  • Cat o' nine tails – A short nine-tailed whip kept by the bosun's mate to flog sailors. When not in use, the cat was kept in a bag, hence the term "cat out of the bag".
  • No Room to Swing a Cat - The entire ship's company was required to witness flogging at close hand. The crew might crowd around so that the Bosun's Mate might not have enough room to swing his cat o' nine tails.
  • Chock-a-block – Rigging blocks that are so tight against one another that they cannot be further tightened.
  • Clean bill of health – A certificate issued by a port indicating that the ship carries no infectious diseases.
  • Clean slate – At the helm, the watch keeper would record details of speed, distances, headings, etc. on a slate. If there were no problems during the watch, the slate would be wiped clean so that the new watch could start over with a clean slate.
  • Cut and run – When wanting to make a quick escape, a ship might cut lashings to sails or cables for anchors, causing damage to the rigging, or losing an anchor, but shortening the time needed to make ready by bypassing the proper procedures.
  • Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea – The devil seam was the garboard seam, the seam between the keel and the first course of planking on a ship's hull. When not in a dry dock, the way to get at the hull for maintenance was to anchor the ship in shallow water, and wait for the tide to go out, laying the ship on the sea bottom. The garboard seam was the last to be revealed by the outgoing tide, and the first to be covered by the incoming tide, making caulking it difficult to get done - thus the name. Imagine a sailor suspended from deck on a plank above the incoming tide, trying to finish getting the seam caulked, and you have the origin of the expression.
  • Devil to pay (or Devil to pay, and no pitch hot) – 'Paying' the Devil is caulking the devil seam.
  • Extremis – (also known as “in extremis”) the point under International Rules of the Road at which the privileged (or stand-on) vessel on collision course with a burdened (or give-way) vessel determines it must maneuver to avoid a collision. Prior to extremis, the privileged vessel must maintain course and speed and the burdened vessel must maneuver to avoid collision.
  • First rate – The classification for the largest sailing warships of the 17th through 19th centuries. They had 3 masts, 850+ crew and 100+ guns.
  • Fly by night – A sail requiring little attention, thus safe to use at night, when monitoring it would be dificult.
  • Footloose – If the foot of a sail is not secured properly, it is footloose, and it dances randomly in the wind.
  • Freeze the balls off a brass monkey - Nothing to do with unfortunate anatomical frostbite. Onboard a ship of war, a monkey was a bronze plate with indentations sized and spaced to form a firm base for a pyramidal stack of cannon balls, keeping them at the ready for the gunners. Bronze was used because it doesn't corrode in nautical conditions, but unfortunately it has a significantly different coefficient of thermal expansion than the cast iron cannon balls. When the temperature dropped, the monkey shrank more than the cannon balls, making the base no longer fit the stack of cannon balls properly. If it was cold enough, the cannon balls would escape.
  • Garbled - Garbling was the prohibited practice of mixing rubbish with the cargo.
  • Give a Wide Berth - To anchor a ship far enough away from other ships prevent collisions when they swung on their anchors with the wind or tide.
  • Grog – Watered-down pusser's rum consisting of half a gill with equal part of water, issued to all seamen over twenty. (CPOs and POs were issued with neat rum) From the British Admiral Vernon who, in 1740, ordered the men's ration of rum to be watered down. He was called "Old Grogram" because he often wore a grogram coat), and the watered rum came to be called 'grog'.
  • Groggy – Too much grog.
  • Hand over fist – To climb steadily upwards, from the motion of a sailor climbing shrouds on a sailing ship (originally "hand over hand").
  • Holiday – A gap in the coverage of newly applied paint, slush, tar or other preservative.
  • In the offing – In the water visible from on board a ship.
  • To Know the Ropes - There were miles of cordage in the rigging of a square rigged ship. The only way of keeping track of and knowing the function of all of these lines was to know where they were located. It took an experienced seaman to know the ropes.
  • Leeway - Unless a ship is sailing directly downwind, she is not moving in the direction she is facing. Instead, she moves, at least a little, towards the lee or downwind... she is said to be making leeway. A prudent captain, when sailing near a lee shore, would always allow sufficient room so that the leeway his ship made did not carry him ashore.
  • Loggerhead – An iron caulking hammer, used for driving caulking into seams and (occasionally) in a fight. Hence: 'at loggerheads'.
  • Loose cannon – A loose cannon, weighing thousands of pounds, would crush anything and anyone in its path, and possibly even knock a hole in the hull, thus endangering the seaworthiness of the whole ship.
  • Overbear – To sail downwind directly at another ship, stealing the wind from its sails.
  • Over a barrel – Adult sailors were flogged on the back or shoulders while tied to a grating, but boys were beaten instead on the posterior (often bared), with a cane or cat, while bending, often tied down, over the barrel of a gun; also known as (kissing) the gunner's daughter.
  • Pipe down – A signal on the bosun's pipe to signal the end of the day, requiring lights (and smoking pipes) to be extinguished and silence from the crew.
  • Press Into Service - The British navy filled their ships' crew quotas by kidnapping men off the streets and forcing them into service. This was called Impressment and was done by Press Gangs.
  • Rummage sale – A sale of damaged cargo (from French arrimage).
  • Scuttlebutt - A butt was a barrel. Scuttle meant to chop a hole in something. The scuttlebutt was a water barrel with a hole cut into it so that sailors could reach in and dip out drinking water. The scuttlebutt was the place where the ship's gossip was exchanged.
  • Shakes – Staves of barrels or casks broken down after being emptied to save space below. They are worth very little, leading to the phrase "no great shakes".
  • Skysail – A sail set very high, above the royals. Only carried by a few ships.
  • Skyscraper – A small, triangular sail, above the skysail. Used in light winds on a very few ships.
  • Slush – Greasy substance obtained by boiling or scraping the fat from empty salted meat storage barrels, or the floating fat residue after boiling the crew's meal. In the Royal Navy, the perquisite of the cook who could sell it or exchange it (usually for alcohol) with other members of the crew. Used for greasing parts of the running rigging of the ship and therefore valuable to the master and bosun.
  • Slush Fund – The money obtained by the cook selling slush ashore. Used for the benefit of the crew (or the cook).
  • Son of a gun – The space between the guns was used as a semi-private place for trysts with prostitutes and wives, which sometimes led to birth of children with disputed parentage. When parentage of a baby born onboard was indeterminate, the child was entered on the ship's books as the "son of a gun".
  • Square meal – A sufficient quantity of food. Meals on board ship were served to the crew on a square wooden plate in harbor or at sea in good weather.
  • Squared away – Yards held rigidly perpendicular to their masts and parallel to the deck. This was rarely the best trim of the yards for efficiency but made a pretty sight for inspections and in harbor.
  • Taken aback – An inattentive helmsmen might allow the dangerous situation to arise where the wind is blowing into the sails 'backwards', causing a sudden unintended tack or jibe.
  • Taking the wind out of his sails - Sailing in a manner so as to steal or divert wind from another ship's sails.
  • Three sheets to the wind – On a three-masted ship, having the sheets of the three lower courses loose will result in the ship meandering aimlessly downwind.
  • Toe the line or Toe the mark – At parade, sailors and soldiers were required to stand in line, their toes in line with a seam on the deck.
  • Touch and go – The bottom of the ship touching the bottom, but not grounding.
  • Under the weather – Serving a watch on the weather side of the ship, exposed to wind and spray.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Voyage #4: San Juan Islands - Days 7 - 9

Last week, we left Eolian tied up at the dock in Friday Harbor for the night. We had tied up there because we planned to meet the ferry the kids would be on the next day. Let's rejoin her the next morning, day 7 of the trip....

They arrived in the middle of the next morning - it was great to see them walking down the dock. By the time we were ready to leave the dock (11:30), we had 15 kt of wind pinning us there with no room forward or aft to maneuver. Our bowsprit was literally over the cockpit of the boat in front of us. We employed the help of folks on the dock and our newly acquired crew, and I released all but the bow line and backed up. This had the effect of turning the stern out toward the wind and away from the dock. I let it bounce back a little and did it again, turning us even more, and called for the bow line to be released. With a lot of pushing from the crew, we managed to leave without damaging Eolian or the boat which had been behind us. We couldn't have done it without all those involved.

As you might guess, having a strong wind nearly out of the west at 15-25 kt gave us a *wonderful* reach up San Juan Channel. We flew the main and staysail and were just about perfectly powered making 7 kt with about a 10 degree heel. While we were underway, Jane used the last of the crab we had in the refer to make a crab chowder. By the way, this was the first time we really needed to use the gimble on the stove - it worked perfectly. This was a great beginning for the kids' trip - it certainly got everyone's blood pumping. The wind carried us about halfway up Spieden Island, but eventually turned light. We enjoyed watching another boat caught in the tide rips, sailing north, but moving south with the tide... if you're not paying attention, this is an easy situation to get into. We then motor sailed the rest of the way to Stuart Island, dropping the hook in Reid Harbor at 15:40.

Reid Harbor is a perfect gunkhole - it is nearly a mile long, but quite narrow and has a nearly uniform depth of 15-25 feet. Given the holiday weekend, there were a lot of boats there, but nevertheless, we wove our way between them finally picking a spot about a third of the way in. The kids immediately got the crab ring overboard, and enthusiastically took responsibility for providing dinner for 5. It didn't take too long, and there were 7 crabs for dinner.

Another peaceful night at anchor led to another idyllic morning drinking coffee in the cockpit. We waited for wind to build, but by 12:45 we couldn't afford to wait any longer, so we weighed anchor and powered our way south to Parks Bay on the south shore of Shaw Island. At 15:30 we anchored as close in to the back of the bay as we could get, but this one is deep - we were in 50 feet of water. Late in the afternoon, Adventuress joined us in the bay, but nearer the mouth. Everything aboard this 120 foot wood schooner is kid-powered, and it was a delight to watch from across the water. Adventuress is run by a foundation which provides overnight or longer sea experiences to groups of children and adults who sign on as working crew. Although I didn't take any pictures of her in Parks Bay, I did catch her ghosting in light air off of Cypress Island earlier in the trip, and she was tied to the dock with us in Friday Harbor.

This night was not as calm as what we had had earlier. I was awakened to 20 kt blowing thru the anchorage at 06:00. I sat in the saloon and kept watch, but the anchor stayed firmly attached to the bottom. The rest of the crew woke later on their own. We had to get the kids back to Friday Harbor (across San Juan Channel) to meet the ferry, so we weighed anchor and drove across the channel. There was plenty of wind, but it didn't seem worth the effort to hoist the sails for the short trip. Again, the plan was to arrive as others were leaving, but we were not lucky this time. We ended up anchoring in the bay nearly in front of the UW Oceanography facility. We dinghied to shore (multiple trips, including an extra one because I forgot my shoes aboard), and went to the tavern just above the waterfront for a quick celebratory brew before the kids
boarded the ferry for the trip back to the mainland.

Jane and I enjoyed the rest of the afternoon walking around Friday Harbor, finally rowing back to Eolian late in the afternoon. We had a quiet evening watching the traffic, missing the kids. I think I enjoyed the night at anchor in Friday Harbor at least as much as the one tied to the dock a few days earlier. It is much quieter and more peaceful, but there is plenty to watch. Finally, it was a warm evening, and we sat in the cockpit drinking a glass of wine while we watched the lights - a much nicer view than the one on the dock.

To be continued...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Autopilot keeps tripping the breaker

Because the weekend post this week is so short, I don't want anyone to feel cheated. So here is a bonus: solving the problem of an autopilot that kept tripping the breaker, from the summer of 2007.

Well, it happened again. The autopilot began tripping the breaker. This last happened in July of 2005. At that time, I fixed the problem by filing the relay points and putting it back in service. I also ordered two new relays and held them against future need. We now have that need.

Briefly, this problem is due to a bad design decision on the part of the EE at the autopilot manufacturer. He needed to switch a load which could be up to 15 amps with the motor stalled (I checked by stalling the motor...) but he used relays with contacts rated at 10 amps. However, each relay had two sets of contacts, and the EE reasoned that if he just connected both sets of contacts in parallel, he would have 20 amp switching capacity. Unfortunately, that's not true.

Arcing occurs at the contacts when they open, caused by the magnetic field collapse in the motor when current is interrupted. This is the toughest part of the service life of a relay contact. With two contacts in parallel, when the relay opens (here in the REAL world...), one of the contacts inevitably opens a tiny bit earlier than the other. This first contact is essentially switching zero current, since its parallel mate is still closed. But then when the other contact opens a fraction of a millisecond later, it is switching the entire current. The contact points overheat, and metal is transferred from one contact point to its mate. Sometimes the contacts are actually welded together.

Because of the way that the circuitry is laid out in the autopilot, if one of the parallel members of the pair of contacts fails to actuate when the other does, a direct short of battery power occurs, tripping the breaker. Here, I am holding the relay in the actuated condition, and the right-hand movable contact is doing what it should. But the left-hand movable contact has caught on the upper stationary contact, due to the transferred metal. This would trip the breaker.

I installed the replacement relays (each has a single set of contacts rated at 30 amps). This required some finicky rerouting of the existing wiring in the cramped confines of the autopilot housing, but it is done.

Now we will see how long these contacts last...

(NB: They're still working...)

Weekend Report: 3/15 - Bowsprit Fabrication

In order to smooth out the places where the planer tore out chunks, where there was chatter, where there were splits at knots, and finally all the little knife cuts on the top surface (which is still the original surface of the pressure treated lumber), I mixed up a batch of epoxy and enough microballoons to make a stiff paste, and troweled it over everything.

I burned a whole BBQ tank of propane in the furnace keeping it warm in the shop, but still it took a a long time for the epoxy to go off. In the end, although it was not hard enough for sanding, on Sunday I applied another coat where it appeared necessary, heated up the shop one more time, and left it for the week. Hopefully it will be cured by next weekend.

Note: it is snowing here in Seattle, in the middle of March...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What's in a name?

What's in a name? Everything. Names are power.

Choosing a name for something or someone is a scary thing. The name defines that person or thing. We have named two children and 4 boats - there is a surprising amount of similarity in the acts.

So how do you choose a name?

One universal criterion is that you don't want your boat to have the same name as others you know. So uniqueness is important.

Sometimes you work from the other end - you know several names that you don't want. You don't want "dorky" names, or you may not want names that utilize cutesy spelling. For a boat, it could be an important thing to get the name across to someone at the other end of a crappy radio connection in an emergency (well, I suspect Eolian fails at that one...).

But in the end, you want a name that fits. I think that means the name should somehow resonate with you and your life; and be a fitting one for the boat. In a response to a comment, I said, "You should spend time with her, and listen to her, and she will tell you what her name is."

Nevertheless, this leaves LOTS of room for interpretation.

Boats are female. But I don't take this literally. For example, in Spanish, virtually everything is assigned a gender. So, for example, a library is female, as is light, but heaven is male and so is water. Some of these assignments seem to me to be arbitrary; so I don't make too much of the gender thing. I think of the female gender of boats in the same way as I think of the female gender of a library. I don't feel that a boat name has to be female any more than I feel that a library has to have a female name. Nevertheless, some female names are very suitable for boats. Since I brought it up above, I think Luz (Spanish for "light" - pronounced "loose", and often used as a woman's name) would be a wonderful boat name.

Because of their frozen action potential, I think gerund phrases can make really neat boat names. An example that used to be on G dock: Phoenix Rising. But Waiting for a New Lover's Kiss, while it has a great rhythm and leaves a wonderful feel in your mouth after saying it, it is a little too complicated - and it wouldn't fit on a transom anyway. Darn.

Still thinking about sailboats, I think that those names fit best which evoke one or more of these concepts:
  • Safety
  • Grace
  • Elegance
  • Comfort
  • Peace
  • Strength
Can we talk about elegance for just a second? For an absurd comparison, which name do you think is more elegant, Macho Burrito or Circe? (Both of these are real boat names we have seen.) Yeah, exactly.

So how do I characterize elegance? Elegance is understated. It is ivory instead of neon orange. It evokes rather than describes. It leaves room for the imagination to roam a bit. For example, Sequoia instead of Safe Harbor.

Elegance is economical, spare. That is, where one word will do, two are not used; where a word of 4 letters gets the concept across, the 7 letter word is discarded (Dawn vs. Red Sunrise).

But generalizations are still just that: generalizations. I think Eventide is a more elegant name than Sunset. Tho it is longer, it is far more evocative.

So, how did Eolian get her name?

When we signed the purchase papers, one set was for US Documentation (that is, the title for the boat is issued by the US government instead of a state government). The documentation papers required the boat name, and all we knew at the time was that it would be different. The pressure was on - the sale could not be completed without the name.

So, in a process which probably goes back to antiquity, we worked up a list of candidate names and arranged them and rearranged them, and rearranged them again. Eolian, which means "windborne", wasn't on the list at first, but Aeolis was. Eventually we had the list down to 3:
  • Eolian (now re-spelled to make sight pronunciation easier)
  • Aerie
  • Eden's Breath
We chose Eolian. I won't speak for Jane, but for me anyway, the name evokes that magical feeling that you get when...

OK, wait, I have to build an image for you here:

You power out of the busyness and confusion of the harbor past the jetty into open water. You hoist the sails while driving into the wind - a noisy operation because in addition to the rattle and drone of the engine, now you have the sails flapping and flogging. Finally when all is ready, you bear off a little and you shut down the engine. The sails fill and suddenly, all is quiet. She puts her shoulder down, and silently, borne only by the power of the wind passing over her sails, she glides purposefully ahead.

There, that feeling.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Voyage #4: San Juan Islands - Days 4 - 6

San Juan Islands
8/24/2001 - 9/8/2001

Last week, we left Eolian anchored at Hope Island for the night, having already experienced an engine failure under way, and a wedding. Let's rejoin her the next morning, day 4 of the trip....

We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast with coffee in the cockpit (catching the pattern yet?), and hoisted anchor at 09:00. We drove south about 2 miles to the entrance of Swinomish Passage, and turned east into the *very* narrow dredged channel, dredged right thru the place where the seagulls were walking. There are range boards, and it really pays to keep them lined up. In the middle of the channel there was 12 feet of water, but it shoaled quickly to either side of the channel center. Just when it seems that you are about to run directly into the mainland, the channel turns left into a classic 'hole in the wall', passing thru narrow high cliffs into the passage proper. This Army Corps of Engineers project provides a protected alternate passage to the wild waters of Deception Pass. We continued north, and soon saw the 'Rainbow Bridge' which frames LaConner when approaching from the south.

LaConner is a quaint little town which now is nearly completely gentrified - it is packed with antique shops, art galleries, and restaurants - even a brew pub. Tho there are many docks, we didn't stop since we had planned to anchor in the San Juans that night. Helping to make this decision was an unfavorable tidal current which continued to build thru the morning. By the time we had reached the railroad bridge at the north end of the passage, we were showing 7.5 kt indicated but struggling to make 2 kt over the ground. As we cleared into the dredged channel in Padilla bay, we were met with a 20 kt north wind with intermittent showers. Of course this slowed us even more. It *really* doesn't pay to fight the tide...

After fighting that wind (which had now built to over 25 kt), I was looking forward to a rousing reach down Guemes Channel past Anacortes, so we raised sail and turned to port. Alas, it was not to be. Apparently the strong wind existed only in Padilla bay... and we were back to the diesel again. We did keep the main and mizzen up and made some use of them and the engine together.

(Please note: These pictures are all much larger than they show here. Click on any of them to see a full-sized one - this is especially helpful with the charts)

We motor-sailed the length of Guemes Channel, passing Anacortes. At a drydock there, a Washington State ferry was out of the water. If you think these look big when floating - they are HUGE when they are dry. One prop on each end - looked like it must be at least 8 feet in diameter.

We found that Rosario Strait was calm, despite the fresh breeze just a few miles to the east. Oh well. We motored across and ducked into the Islands thru Thatcher pass. Jane had an objective to see new territory in the islands, so we didn't stop at our traditional first night place: Spencer Spit (a neat State Marine Park with lots of buoys and lots of activity) and instead turned into Lopez Sound and tucked into a little bight at the north end called Brigantine Bay. This ideal quiet little anchorage off Decatur Island is protected by small but tall Trump Island. We dropped the hook at 16:30, finally. Too tired and really too late to start, we didn't crab. After dinner we had a glass of wine and watched the sunset and the wildlife quieting for the night.

Next morning (notice I have forgotten what day it is?), we laid around reading and enjoying the wildlife - we saw seals breaching and slapping the water in some kind of seal game, and seagulls eating clams. They dig them up and then carry them aloft and drop them onto the rocks to crack them open. We were waiting for the fog and clouds to burn off. It was so calm that the each land mass in the view was paired with a perfect mirror image - absolutely stunning. We decided that morning that we need to do more exploration of Lopez Sound on our next visit to the Islands. It's a beautiful place.

We left finally at 12:45, heading for Blind Bay on the north side of Shaw Island. As with most of the passages, there was a mix of sailing and motoring in light wind. We arrived at 16:00 and proceeded to the south end of the bay. The wind was forecast to be from the south, so an anchorage in the south end of the bay would provide a little shelter in the lee of the island and would reduce the fetch for waves to nothing. Blind Bay is a large open bay with a narrow entrance and a uniform depth of 20 feet - kind of like a lake - with room for lots of boats. We put out the crab ring and immediately began to bring in Dungeness. In fact, everything we had caught on the trip was Dungeness, while down south at Shilshole and Bainbridge Island, we catch almost exclusively rock crabs. Erica says this is because of the significant difference in salinity (the south Sound is much less saline than the Islands). Although we brought in a lot of crabs, most were female (which for Dungeness cannot be kept). We did get one large male, which we saved for later. We were intrigued by a young woman who got into a small ski boat and rushed across the bay and then the channel to Orcas Island and picked up her husband from work - sounds like a neat way to commute to work, at least when the weather is nice.

Next morning we were lazy again, except that we did exercise the crab ring, finally getting two more keepers. Despite the fact that we only had a few miles to go to get to Friday Harbor (our destination for today), we left a little earlier than would seem necessary: 09:25. The plan was to arrive at Friday Harbor just when folks were leaving their slips and before the big rush begins in the afternoon. This *was* Labor Day weekend after all. The plan was to be tied to the dock (preferably) or at anchor at Friday Harbor so that we could meet Adam, Erica, and Ken (our son, daughter, and son in law) - who were coming on the ferry from the mainland the next day. Surprisingly, when we contacted the harbormaster, we were assigned a slip immediately.

The problem was that in order to tie up to the slip, we would have to accomplish a turn tighter than Eolian can make. So, I moved her into the marina and then began the slow 'spin in place' turn alternating between forward with the rudder cocked all the way over and reverse (where it doesn't matter where the rudder is positioned). Just as I got lined up for the slot, the dock crew warned me off because the next boat in line was leaving. This was good, since it would give me a larger spot to hit, but bad because I had to back out and get lined up all over again. During the entire maneuver, smaller boats continued to buzz past and all around us. At first, this was a great concern to me, but I soon realized that they were far more maneuverable than we were, so I largely ignored them. Finally, we were tied to the dock.

We refilled the water tanks and plugged into shore power. Not too long after that, we both had a shower, then we went up into town to buy groceries - three college kids were going to eat a lot!

To be continued...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Weekend Report: 3/8 - Bowsprit Fabrication

Finishing continues. To be certain that rot cannot start from any of the 19 holes drilled thru the bowsprit, I pushed corks into one end of each hole and filled the holes with end cut solution thru the other end. I kept refilling the holes as the solution migrated into the wood, eventually using up about a quart in this fashion.

While this was going on, I continued to periodically bathe the rest of the bowsprit in the end cut solution. It has so much copper in it now that it is as black as a railroad tie.

BTW - a word of caution to those who might want to do this - the end cut solution is pretty nasty stuff. If you get a drop on your hands, you will soon taste metal. Wear nitrile rubber gloves. Really.

Next week, I will start with the epoxy and microballoons, to smooth the surface in final preparation for paint.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Conscious Consumption: Living on 30 amps

The yellow shore power cord that connects Eolian to the dock power is an electrical umbilical cord - it brings in all of the electricity we use at the dock.

Now, it has been a long time for most of you since you had to think consciously about how much power you were using in your house. Household power systems have been upgraded to the point where the supply almost always exceeds the possible demand.

Not so here. The shore power cord, the power panel and all the circuitry onboard are designed to handle 30 amps maximum. So how much is that, really?
  • Heat pump: 12 amps
  • Refrigeration: 5 amps
  • Water heater: 10 amps
  • Interior lighting: 4 amps
  • Battery Charger: 15 amps
  • Espresso maker: 10 amps
  • Microwave: 15 amps
  • Vacuum cleaner: 10 amps
  • Hair dryer: 15 amps
Well. You see the problem. Before you do anything which uses a lot of power, you have to take a look at the power panel, and see what the boat is drawing. You may have to turn something else off. So, for example, when you ladies want to use the hair dryer, it is typically right after taking a shower - which means the water heater is running, since it was depleted supplying hot water for that shower. It is cold outside, so the heat pump may be running too. That is 22 amps, just for those 2. Typically, I shut off the water heater while the hair dryer is running. Of course, the trick is to remember to turn it back on when you are done.

Off the dock, the equation changes. The limit doesn't change, but the supply does. Most of the boat is set up to run off of 12 volt power, and we have 8 large batteries onboard to supply that power. To use battery power to run standard 120VAC appliances, we have a large inverter, which transforms 12VDC into 120VAC. A 100% efficient translation of power like that says that (volts x amps) on the input side of the inverter must equal (volts x amps) on the output side. Therefore, since we are stepping up the voltage by a factor of 10 (12V -> 120V), the input current must be 10 times the output current. This means that your hair dryer, which pulls 15 amps at 120VAC, is pulling 150 amps out of the batteries. This is a huge load - twice what the starter in your car pulls when starting it, if you have a V8. Imagine cranking two recalcitrant V8-equipped cars continuously the whole time you are running the hair dryer. So running big loads off the inverter is possible, but uses prodigious amounts of battery power. But running the espresso maker every morning is not optional on Eolian.

Therefore, we also have a generator onboard. It is diesel fired, produces 30 amps at 120VAC. But it disturbs the serenity of a quiet anchorage, so I try to minimize its use. It is the choice if we need the hair dryer (its noisy too...). It also supplies the battery charger so that when the generator is running, the battery banks are recharging.

So, typically the electrical budget when we are off the dock requires about an hour of generator in the morning and 30-60 minutes again at night. The output is essentially directed into the batteries to replenish what has been taken out by the daily operation of the boat. You learn to think in terms of amp-hours at 12 volts. Refrigeration uses 60-100 amp-hours per day. Making the obligatory two rounds of lattes in the morning uses about 20 amp hours. Running the anchor light all night used to use about 15 amp hours, but now we have an LED anchor light that uses about 1/10 of that - small enough to be ignored, and a blessing.

If we run the engine that day, the engine alternator will typically eliminate the need for running the generator

Its a lot easier when you just have to pay the power bill once a month, isn't it? Living on a boat is a lot like that in many ways: You are, and must be consciously aware of things that are invisible, behind the scenes, ignored, on shore.

But being conscious is a good thing, I think.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Voyage #4: San Juan Islands - Days 1-3

San Juan Islands
8/24/2001 - 9/8/2001

August 24,2001

We had been trying to find the time to make a long trip aboard Eolian - long being defined as more than a couple of days. Although a year ago, we actually did 4 days over the Labor Day weekend, this trip would be the first real journey - to the San Juan Islands where we have a lot of fond memories, from other boats and other times. We were allowing for 2 weeks, which made for a relaxed trip.

We didn't rush, and as a consequence, we got off the dock at 09:12 (according to the log). Not only did this make for a leisurely morning, but it also allowed us to take advantage of the tides and get a free ride north to the tune of about 1 kt. This was a good thing, since we had no wind until we got to the south end of Whidbey Island, where we shut down the engine and sailed before the south wind under jib and mizzen, going north up into Possession Sound toward Everett. When we got north of Jefferson Head (on the west) and Meadow Bay (on the east), I remarked that this was the farthest north we had been since the delivery trip down from Bellingham, nearly 4 years ago. We were definitely leaving the cruising grounds we had been enjoying for all that time, and which we had come to know like the back of our hands.

Not long after raising sail, while Eolian was sailing herself under autopilot, I was walking the decks, enjoying the sun, the wind, and the boat moving thru the water. Then I heard the splat of the bilge pump discharging onto the passing sea. It didn't run long, but it shouldn't have been running at all. So I went looking. After pulling up the third floorboard, I found the problem - there was sea water dripping off of everything. It seems that one of the sea water hoses on the engine had split, and had sprayed all over everything. The hose was still drooling too. I shut off the relevant sea cock, and cleaned up the salt water to
try to avoid corrosion problems. I removed the (short - about 3" long) hose, and went thru the ships stores looking for something to use as a replacement. Nothing aboard would match the approx 1 1/4" dia. Jane found a short piece of white plastic 1" head hose that I had bought to use as a chafe guard on the docklines, and I eventually determined that this was the best we were going to do. So I fired up the inverter (wonderful invention!) and heated up the heat gun. I softened the plastic hose enough so that I could stretch it over the pipes, but it was tricky since getting the second end on had to be done quickly, before any part of the hose cooled and hardened. I got it on almost completely and applied the hose clamps again. Starting the engine, it dripped a little, but that was all.

This was well and good, since we needed the engine to dock in Everett (16:20), where we stayed the first night. We got cleaned up, and had dinner at Anthony's (a great seafood restaurant) right on the dock, and right above Eolian.

Saturday morning we walked up to the West Marine store in the area and got a piece of replacement hose, and installed it. Then the rest of the day was spent exploring the port on foot - partly because we were slated to attend a wedding at the marina on Sunday, and we wanted to know where to go. Sunday was consumed with the wedding.

Monday, we left the dock at Everett at 08:20, and headed north up Saratoga Passage, past Camano Head on the south tip of Camano Island.

We were able to sail all the way from Everett and part way up Camano, but the wind finally gave out and we were forced to use the diesel again. We drove the rest of the way to Skagit Bay. This is a strange area... we would be motoring along in 40 feet while just a little way to starboard there were seagulls *walking* in what was for them knee deep water. You do need to pay attention to the charts... We anchored in a lovely little place close in to the south shore of Hope Island in an area with a uniform depth of 21 feet, sheltered by the island from the now-building north wind. We quickly caught 3 Dungeness crabs, upon which we feasted. Jane was tired, but I put down the dinghy and rowed the length of Hope Island and went ashore at some interesting rocks on the east tip. There I found a decorative piece of driftwood, balanced perfectly on a rock. Its precarious position fairly called out to me. That piece of driftwood lived on the aft deck for the rest of the trip.

To be continued...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Weekend Report: 3/1 - Bowsprit Fabrication

This weekend I finally finished shaping the bowsprit. The last task was cutting the tip down to a cylinder that would fit the cranse iron. I made the new one long enough that it will protrude about 3" - I think that will look better than having it cut flush with the end as the old one was. And having it exposed will hopefully make any rot which might appear more obvious.

Cutting the tip was a tedious job - I used a hammer, chisel, sure-form plane and a sander, with a piece of 4" sewer pipe pressed into service as a gauge. I would like to have used the cranse iron itself, thus guaranteeing a proper fit, but it is busy right now, holding up the mast. I made the tip a bit small, because it will be painted, and because it will swell once it gets out into the weather.

Next, I repeatedly bathed the whole bowsprit in "end cut" solution. This is a solution of copper napthenate in some generic solvent, with a little brown pigment added (so you can see where it has been applied? Probably). It is a wood preservative designed for application to the ends of pressure treated lumber when it is cut - entirely appropriate given that the bowsprit is made out of pressure treated lumber! (That's froth on there - the stuff kind of foams up when you roll it on.)
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