Monday, August 31, 2009

Keeping the Towels Fresh

The lifelines are ready-made clotheslines for drying the bath towels after use. By drying them this way, they stay a lot fresher between launderings, and the moisture is not left inside the boat.

Of course, this does make it look like we live aboard... but then hey, we do!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Message in a Bottle: A Dilemma For Me

While walking the beach on Camano Island yesterday evening, I found my very first message in a bottle! The message wasn't much - just a brief comment in feminine handwriting looking for love, and a phone number. I'm not looking for love, so I guess this was a wrong number. I haven't called the phone number yet - I'm trying to decide if I should offer to throw the bottle in again since I was not the intended recipient. What would you do?

Message to bottle messengers: Please people, when you make one of these very old-fashioned tweets, PLEASE put a date on it, and the location where you cast the bottle adrift!

At least I can now hold my head up when I am with the crew of Ghost - they've all found a message in a bottle.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Destination: The Tacoma Narrows

If you arrived here by searching for a chart, please see this page.

The Tacoma Narrows are an amazing place. When you think of the huge quantity of water that has to move into and out of the entire South Sound, twice a day... all that water has to get there via the Narrows. Its no wonder that the tidal currents here are prodigious. Because the Narrows are after all, well... narrow.

This chart segment (depths in fathoms) shows that The Narrows are just South of Gig Harbor, and almost appear to be an extension of Colvos Passage, which extends to the North in the center of the chart segment. Depths are not a concern.

Tidal current, however, is. Unless it is a small tidal change, or unless you have a very large engine, you will not attempt to stem the tide here. But despite the magnitude of the current, there is very little turbulence (not at all like Deception Pass!) Transiting The Narrows is more like boating on a mile-wide river.

If you watch the locals, they will show you how to take maximum advantage of the higher speed flows within the general tidal current. Like canoeists in a river know, the maximum flow will always be at the outside of the bends in the river channel. So too for The Narrows. Our maximum speed-over-ground (as shown by GPS) so far is 13 kt in The Narrows... What's yours?

You will get to see the magnificent Tacoma Narrows Bridge from a unique perspective: sea level. Don't worry about clearance above your mast - there is plenty of room. Oh, and these pictures were taken in 2002 - before construction of the second span (that is, an entirely new bridge, right next to the old one).

I should point out that The Narrows funnels air flow as well as water flow. When the wind is up, it will really be up in The Narrows. For entertainment, check out some links to the first Tacoma Narrows bridge in the wind - an interesting study in resonance. Can you imagine the entire bridge span vibrating like a bowed violin string? It only lasted 4 months.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Project: Head Replumbing

This project is from 2006.

When we took possession of Eolian, the PVC and rubber head hoses had been permeated by the 'contents' of those hoses, making a bad smell everywhere down below. We replaced all of those hoses early on with good hose. In 2006, about 7 years later, those hoses had again been penetrated. My research (oh sure, NOW do the research...) showed that even the highest grade hose (which costs in excess of $10/ft) permeates in 10 years. The cheaper grades are supposed to last only 5 years. I guess that means that we did better than most.

The same research showed that solid PVC pipe (like that used in houses) will NEVER permeate. So, OK - out with the hose, and in with solid PVC pipe. First problem: most plumbing supply houses stock only ABS for sanitary fittings (long sweep elbows, sanitary tees, etc... Things can get hung up in regular sharp-cornered elbows, and sewer snakes can't be made to go around sharp corners.) But we have found a couple of stores close by that stock PVC fittings, and in ALL the weird angles we will need to use to run pipe in a boat. Also, some short lengths of hose are still needed to make connections at the ends of the pipe runs - stuff moves on a boat, and flexible connections are required to prevent breaking the pipe, so special hose-to-pipe adapters were needed. Found those too, in a store that specializes in marine heads.

The first of many batches of about $60 worth of fittings:

I have found that it takes way more fittings to do this plumbing on a boat than it does to plumb a house. In a house, virtually everything can be addressed with 90 degree elbows - 45s are rarely used. On a boat it is the 90 which is rare.

So I make up a part of a run, studying the various combinations of fittings needed to make the corners and still trying to fit the triple criteria of:
  • Use the minimum number of fittings because they cost a lot
  • Make things neat - fit the piping into the available space tightly
  • Make corners gradual - two 45s with a short length of pipe are better than a long sweep 90
It takes me a long time to work out each run. Conservatively, I estimate that I spent an hour on each bend, working in cramped quarters, making sure that the pipe lead from the bend goes exactly where I want it to, and doesn't interfere with other runs. (There are two pipe runs tucked in that corner in the picture.)

Also, there is the logistics of assembly. Put things together in the wrong order, and you literally "can't get there from here". Finally, the small spaces get you. For example, the inside dimension of the forward head sink vanity, thru which two runs needed to pass, is 27". Outside dimension, and leaving enough to cement on a fitting on the end, is 31". But because of the cramped spaces, there is no way to get a 31" piece of pipe in there. So, you cut it in half, and join it with a coupling inside the cabinet. Standing on your head. Working at arm's length in a small space. Breathing in the PVC cement fumes.

Also, because I can, I included cleanouts (wyes with screw-out plugs) where it made sense (at least one on each pipe run). These allow access with a sewer snake, but also provide a port which can be used to add hydrochloric acid to dissolve the carbonates which form as a reaction product between urine and seawater. I decided that all these cleanouts need to be above the waterline, so the plugs can be safely removed even if the seacocks are not closed.

Finally, I used PVC fittings to make improved versions of the vented loops. The original bronze ones were only 1" internal diameter, and were mostly clogged with carbonates anyway. Mine are 1.5" diameter all the way thru, and in addition provide a disengaging zone below the vent line so that it is less likely that sewage will enter that vent line. (Vented loops are required because the heads would directly communicate with the sea when the overboard discharge line is open - and the heads are located below the waterline. Without the vented loop, a siphon could start, with the ocean filling the boat thru the head. The vented loop is a siphon breaker.)

Oh and by the way, I discovered while cutting pipe on the dock, that PVC pipe doesn't float. Just sayin'

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Upwind? How does *that* work?

Jack o' lanterns, and 747s. Huh? What?

I need 'em both to explain this.


Nobody has any difficulty understanding how a sailboat can sail directly downwind. All you need is lots of square feet of sail up there. The wind pushes on the sail, the sail pulls the boat. Piece of cake.

And it is not a very big leap to sailing at 45 degrees from downwind. The boat has a keel, which serves to make it difficult to push it sideways in the water. So, you put the sail up angled to catch the most wind, except that now it will be pulling the boat partly sideways. You pretty much still go where you want. But the keel is not on rails, so there is some, small sideways slippage, towards the downwind, or leeward direction. (This slippage is known as leeway - the origin of the common usage of the word.)

But upwind?? How does that work?

Well, first a sailboat cannot go directly upwind, into the eye of the wind. The best it can do is about 45 degrees either side of the eye of the wind. But how?

Those sails are not just big bedsheets up there. They are carefully constructed to have a particular shape when they are full of wind. If you looked at a horizontal cross section of a loaded sail, you might recognize the shape - it is the same general shape that an airplane wing has. And we know what air flowing over an airplane wing does: It provides lift. It is the air flowing over the carefully shaped wings of a 747 that keeps that million pounds up there.

Now imagine an airplane wing turned up on end: starting to look like a sail, isn't it (in fact, some high-speed racing boats have been built with solid "sails" that bear a whole lot more resemblance to airplane wings than cloth sails). Which way does the lift on the airplane wing pull? Well, up, of course. But when that wing is tipped up on end, the lift is sideways, pulling on the curved side (wings are flat on the bottom, aren't they).

Now come back to the sails. When sailing upwind, the sails are not oriented to catch the most wind. Instead, now is when all that carefully engineered shape comes into play. They are oriented so that the wind flows over them, like that airplane wing. And like the airplane wing, they generate lift. So, sailing upwind, the wind is pulling on the sails.

Still, how does that move the boat? I am not going to draw vector diagrams here. Instead, here's an analogy: the pumpkin seed. Huh? I know it is early for Hallowe'en, but imagine that you have pulled a fresh, slimy pumpkin seed out of a pumpkin. Now, put that seed between your thumb and forefinger, and squeeze it. If your finger tips are the slightest bit out of parallel, that seed is going to squirt out. Now come back to the boat... one "finger" is the wind, pulling the boat, and the other is the keel, preventing it from going (very much) sideways. The result of being pinched between the wind and the keel? It squirts forward. That's the best I can do without vectors.

There is also art and careful engineering in the arrangement of the sails on the boat, beyond the effort to get the most square feet in the wind within the physical constraints of the boat. Again, the airplane. Next time you are on final approach, look at what the pilot has done to the wings. In flight they are streamlined. But on final approach, when airspeed is much lower, the same lift is still needed, or the plane will fall out of the sky. To generate this extra lift at low speed, the pilot changes portions of the wing to create slots at the front of the wing. The air moving thru the slots is greatly accelerated, thereby providing the missing but needed lift.

Now look at the slots created by this boat's sails:

There are three of them, and because the sails are arranged one ahead of the next, they each accelerate the flow for the next one. The effect is very real, and amazing. On a light wind day, if you go forward and stand in the slot between the main and jib, the wind will be very significantly stronger than if you stand in the more or less free air at the stern. And it works, very, very well.

After all, that 747 stays up there...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The new toy

I need to preface this with the observation that many of you probably have tools like this on board. For us, who have been using a very old Garmin hand-held most of our boating career, Arthur Clark was spot on when he said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Magic indeed.

You may remember that we got a new GPS before our last trip to the San Juan Islands. As you saw in the picture there, it came with just some low-res satellite photos to add context to the display. Well, this was infinitely more than the old hand-held did, and it was a lot of fun on the trip. But now... Now...

I purchased a data chip which plugs into the device. Now, I get a whole lot more! All the aids to navigation are located on the display, and the shoreline is now a high-res satellite image. In the closer-in views, the depth contours are shown. And if I choose, I can see a fish-eye view of our course (this is the view from our slip - that is the shoreline looming over to the right).

The accuracy is stunning. With the hi-res photos turned on, the boat icon actually overlays the blocky pixels that are actually our boat, in our slip, in the satellite photo!

Now the real challenge will begin: to continue to look out over the bow and enjoy sailing for what it is: wind, water and boat, and not let this instrument turn the experience into a video game. I can easily see how tempting this would be...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ode to the Lowly Dock Cart

We complain when they are dirty
We complain when they are full of rain water
We complain when the wheels squeak and wobble
We complain when we set our fresh laundry in one that had just been used to haul used engine oil
We complain when they are all at the shore end of the dock
We complain when they are all at the far end of the dock.

But we complain loudest of all, when there are none to be found.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grocophobia: Fear of the Marine Head

It could be an embarrassing moment.

You are aboard someone's boat, and after an afternoon of sun and adult beverages, the inevitable pressure buildup happens. But you've heard stories about marine toilets, and are filled with disquieting thoughts... What if I do something wrong? Could I sink the boat? What if I have to call the boat owner? What if I have to call the boat owner with my work product still in the bowl?? So you cross your legs and contemplate swimming, even tho the water temperature is only 54 degrees. And you vow to never drink beer on a boat again.

Never fear. As your guide to all things living aboard, I will take you thru those fears, and give you the confidence of foreknowledge.

The marine toilet (head) is different from your familiar household appliance, because it is adapted to a different environment:

  • First of all, because of the cramped quarters onboard, it is smaller. There will be overhang. It's not you.
  • Your household toilet uses about 5 gallons of water per flush. Now, at 45 gallons, Eolian has a very generous holding tank, but with a household toilet, that volume could only accommodate 9 flushes. So the marine head does not flush like a household toilet, in order to reduce the volume of waste. And because fresh water is precious (all you have is what is in your tanks), the marine head flushes with seawater.
  • Your household sewer plumbing is 3" or 4" in diameter. On a boat, the plumbing is 1.5" in diameter (it's the white hose in the picture), and at least as critically, the path from the bowl to the holding tank is very tortuous indeed. You may have heard the adage, "Don't put anything in there unless you have eaten it first," (small amounts of tissue exempted). Believe it. If something jams in there, I am the one who has to disassemble the system and dig it out, and everything that piled up behind it.
  • The marine head does not use gravity to do its job. Instead, a pump is used to move the waste from the bowl to the tank. There are manual pumps, electric pumps, vacuum pumps... but there is always pumping involved.

So. How does this device, which looks vaguely like it might have come from Frankenstein's laboratory, work?

The familiar household toilet has one, "do everything" lever: flush, and the contents are swept away and the bowl is rinsed. With the marine head, these are typically two separate activities. On Eolian our heads are Groco Model HFs, and they work like this:
  1. Operate the pump by alternately pulling up and pushing down the handle. This will alternately draw contents from the bowl and then push them into the white discharge hose. Continue until the bowl is empty, or nearly so.
  2. See that small brass lever? It is in the horizontal position in this picture. In this position, it prevents the entry of the flush sea water. Move the lever to the upright position, opening the flush water valve.

  3. Again operate the pump handle. Now with each complete up/down cycle, flush water will rinse the bowl, and then be pumped into the discharge hose. Rinse enough to be clean, but don't overdo it - remember that 45 gallon tank. If it is night, enjoy the swirling points of light as excited plankton spin around the bowl.
  4. Return the brass lever to the horizontal position. THIS IS IMPORTANT! If the flush valve is left open, seawater will slowly fill the bowl, overflow onto the floor, and... (so, yes. I suppose you could sink the boat...) Always leave the head with the brass lever horizontal.
  5. Pump out any remaining rinse water. The bowl should be left empty - this is a sailboat. We don't want remaining water to slosh out when the boat heels underway. Even if we are tied at the dock, it is a good habit to get into - leave the bowl empty.
Other marine heads will have slightly different operation, but the basic principles will be the same.

Fear gone? I hope so. And armed with this knowledge, if the next head you encounter is not a Groco, at least you will have the basics down, and should feel confident.

Now go ahead, uncross those legs...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Call me Betsy

We spent Saturday night anchored in Port Madison. It was a lovely evening, and the harbor was essentially empty due to a big Latitudes & Attitudes rendezvous over in Poulsbo. Ah, peace and quiet - that's the ticket.

As the evening was a little cool, we elected to cook something for dinner that would add some heat to the cabin... so we had corn bread and clam chowder. Both were from pre-packaged mixes (you add canned clams to the chowder). In fact, I was a little stingy with the water in the chowder, so it turned out more like an etouffee. And there was merlot. And guitar.

The next morning (after eating the leftover cornbread, of course), I started a project (I can't help myself). It seems that the stitching on our dodger and bimini, which we had newly made 6 years ago, is starting to go. Not the Sunbrella canvas, but the stitching. Aside: Why can't they make thread out of the same stuff as the Sunbrella? The stitching always fails first.

I have about 25 feet of stitching to redo; about 10 is done so far.

I have a far greater appreciation for Betsy Ross sewing together all those stripes...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thru the Hull

Unless you live on a boat, you have had perhaps only the briefest exposure to the sound that boats make in the water (swimming in a lake with nearby boats?). Let me assure you that you don't need all kinds of fancy, expensive sonar gear to hear the sound of a boat's propeller. It comes right thru the hull.

There is a boat show going on at Shilshole right now, and this has involved a lot of moving about by a lot of boats. It has been kind of noisy down below for the last few days because of this. Boat propellers are LOUD!

All that fancy gear on submarines is used to detect the prop noise from boats many miles away, and to analyze it and to identify the source. But for boats near or directly above the submarine, trust me, the whole crew knows about them, their only "instrumentation" being their ears, inside the steel bubble of the hull.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Blessings Just Keep Coming

Today, Jane kept the crab ring going for part of the afternoon (its on the other end of that line tied to the mooring cleat). When I got home, we had fresh crab, sitting on the dock. Then we opened a bottle of Hyatt cabernet and went for a wine cruise. There is a boat show here in the marina, so we did it from the water, in the dinghy, with wine.

Yeah, the folks on the docks were jealous.

I know I am becoming repetitive... but really... how could it get any better than this?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Destination: Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, San Juan Islands

If you arrived here by searching for a chart, please see this page.
Sometimes when you are in the San Juan islands, you feel the need for a little civilization. Maybe you have run out of sugar, or maybe you'd like... Electricity! Cell phone reception! Internet!

Friday Harbor is your first choice. It is the county seat of San Juan County (Not to be confused with Washington's other island-based county: Island County, which contains Whidbey and Camano Islands). It has all of the trappings of a county seat, most notably, Friday Harbor's own brewery, the Front Street Ale House, almost directly above the marina. I'm not going to tell you how to find it... you won't be able to miss it (we never do).

The chart shows that you can enter the harbor at either end of Browns Island, but for some reason, we always go in at the West end. You have three choices here:
  • You can tie up at the dock (call ahead on VHF 66), or just go to the "North" breakwater - the farthest one to the right on entering the harbor (farthest left on the chart), and tie up if you can - it is first come, first served.
  • Anchor in front of the University of Washington Friday Harbor Labs. This is pretty deep water here - like 50-60 feet. Yes, that is Eolian, anchored out there in front of Friday Harbor Labs, with Adventuress (102' schooner) in the background. And that is me rowing back out to the boat because I forgot my shoes.
  • Anchor between Browns Island and the town. Be careful here of the cable areas... It is not much shallower, but it is more protected. Even from ferry wakes - when the ferries are in the harbor, they are moving slow. This is our favorite.
In recent years Friday Harbor has become a tourist attraction - perhaps because it is an island destination, easily accessible by ferry (out of Anacortes). If you should choose to go to Friday Harbor via the ferry, leave your car in Anacortes. If you really feel the need for wheeled transportation, there are scooter and bicycle rental places within very short walking distance of the ferry terminal.

The town is charming, and is filled with artsy places and galleries... and real estate offices (the days of buying cheap property on San Juan Island are gone). There is an easily accessible grocery store at the top of the hill (follow the main drag) - the other one burned down a couple of years ago, and was rebuilt as a Windemere office. Huh. There are a couple of car parts dealers, should you need, for example, a new alternator, like the guy tied up behind us a couple of weeks ago. There are even a couple of live web cams!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...