Sunday, November 29, 2009

Project: Rebuild the Hatches

This is a project from the spring of 2006

Eolian has two hatches, fore and aft. They were constructed by building a teak frame, covering it with a piece of 1/2" plexiglass, and then teak slats were applied to the plexiglass - for decoration and to protect it, I assume.

Well, they are shot. The plexiglass is crazed, the old Cetol finish is done, the interior, which was never finished, is solid mildew, and the fittings were corroded green.

So I disassembled them into their component pieces (2 sheets of Plexiglas, a pile of slats, and the 8 pieces of teak that made up the frames). I anticipated that it would be difficult to disassemble the frames, but all the joints were extremely loose - it appears that it was the Plexiglas screwed on top of the frames that was holding everything together. As it turns out, the frames were assembled by simply driving a screw down thru the half-lap corners. Poor technique. Really poor.

I stripped and sanded all the pieces, and then reassembled the frames, this time by drilling out a 1/4" hole at each corner and doweling them with epoxy and birch dowels. Much more solid!

We bought two fresh pieces of Plexiglas, and I ran a router around the edge. First with a flush-trim bit to make the Plexiglas fit the frames exactly, and then with a 1/2" round-over bit to make a finished edge. Then a trip across the buffing wheel made the routed edges transparent again. And drilling about a million holes in the Plexiglas for the attachment of the slats, the frames, and for the two pieces of hardware that get directly attached to the Plexiglas: A latch device, and a hold-open. The latch was bronze, and typically very corroded - it buffed out on the buffing wheel beautifully.

In the original hatches, the hardware was attached to the Plexiglas like this:
  • Drill holes in the Plexiglas. Make them too big for the screws.
  • To prevent leaks, smear the bottom of the hardware with silicone
  • Using wood screws that were too small to grip the edges of the holes, attach (??) the hardware
In fact, it was the silicone which mounted the hardware. The screws were completely useless. This time, after drilling 1/8" holes, I tapped them to 8-32 and used 8-32 machine screws to hold the hardware on. Oh yeah, and I used silicone too - the seal is necessary, and who knows - it worked as almost the only attachment for 27 years...

With 6 coats of varnish on everything and the slats on and mounted they look nothing like the old ones - they look great!

Since the hatches look so nice, Jane made some covers for them so that (hopefully) we won't have to varnish them every year. The covers have windows in them to let in the light, and the hatches can be opened without removing the covers. A very nice job, and a great addition!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

It really is a good thing to have a day set aside for this. Too often we are experts at the cynical, the whine, the complaint. Beka said it way better than I can. Throughout the history of mankind, there have been very, very few who would not have jumped at the chance to enjoy the blessings we have.

But: Just one day??!? Really, one day a year is laughably inadequate. The challenge for all of us is to live each day consciously - fully aware of all the goodness that comes our way, every day. Every single day.

So especially today, here are some things that we are thankful for (sublime, mundane and maritime guaranteed to be randomly mixed):
  • That Adam could join us for the Thanksgiving celebration.
  • That Ken and Erica's pregnancy is moving along normally, right on schedule. I've seen an ultrasound of a foot! And a nose!
  • That Jon and Tina (part of Adam's BBH crew) are able to join us for Thanksgiving.
  • That Joe Buys (also part of the BBH crew) can join us. We will have a full table for the feast, and that is as it should be.
  • That we have had 80" of snow already for skiing!
  • That both Jane and I have new (old) skis this year!
  • I am thankful every single time that the heat pump on Eolian kicks on! (It just did - Yay! - I am writing this ahead.)
  • I am thankful that we are privileged to live here, where we can enjoy near-spring like conditions and yet be within driving distance of skiing.
  • I am thankful that we were tested - our week of 30+ kt winds is over - and that we, and all our friends on the dock, survived it unscathed.
  • I am thankful for the wonderful friends that the liveaboard lifestyle has provided us over the years.
  • I am thankful that we have no deck leaks this year (knock wood).
  • I am thankful that I have the luxury of a heated shop to fix things in. And a long list of things to fix!
  • I am thankful that I am nearly done with rebuilding the deck at our cabin (after 3! years)

Jane preferred the essay approach:

I have many things to be thankful for, family and friends topping the list. As a sailor, I am thankful for an incredible summer that just kept giving. It seemed like just desserts as we had a record-setting winter leaving snow on our finger pier numerous times, nonetheless, this summer tops my record as my best in Seattle. Summer arrived early for us, meaning from Memorial Day on we enjoyed plenty of sunshine and wind. The dock was the site of numerous dock parties that lingered late because we weren't chilled by a fierce evening blow. The San Juans provided plenty of anchor lingering days and a memorable ride from Lopez to Port Madison in less than a day. Our favorite gunkholes were welcoming as we enjoyed some of the most comfortable evenings we have had sailing in the Pacific Northwest.

We are definitely November in Seattle now, rain, rain, rain. I am thankful as that is how it should be. Temperate lowlands make life on the dock manageable. The rain is snow, snow, snow in the mountains. I am thankful for the white stuff as we enter the ski season. The Salnicks have enjoyed another bountiful year with many joys.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving To You!

Tuesday evening after dinner, while I was tuning up my guitar and getting ready for my guitar class, I heard a tapping on the hull. I stretched up, and Fred and Lynda from Black Opal were outside on the dock. I rushed up on deck, and was met by them, singing:

Happy Thanksgiving to you!
Happy Thanksgiving to you!
Happy Thanksgiving dear Eolian!
Happy Thanksgiving to you!

And then they gave me a lovely gift pack with a Thanksgiving-themed paper plate and napkin, and two heavenly Harvey Wallbanger cupcakes! It was a reverse trick-or-treat... Umm... a thank-and-treat! Then they went on to do other boats.

As you might have noticed, it was necessary to sample one of the cupcakes in order to make the quality assessment so I could report to you. I may have to repeat the testing in a minute. Just to be sure.

I am thankful for wonderful friends.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

You know you are from the Pacific Northwest if...

This came to me from my friend Courtney Fujita. This is sooo true! It needs to be shared with those of you who live where slugs are small and inoffensive...

You know you are from the Pacific Northwest if:

You know the state flower is mildew.

You know the state motto: "Rain? What rain?"

You have a T-shirt that says, "200 Billion Slugs Can't Be Wrong!"

You use the term "sun break" and know what it means.

You open the windows in the summer to let the warm air in.

Your Early Girl tomatoes ripen in September.

Names like Point No Point, Useless Bay, Deception Pass, Destruction Island and Friday Harbor don't faze you.

You feel guilty throwing out paper or aluminum cans.

To you, if it doesn't have snow or hasn't erupted recently, it is not a real mountain.

You know more people who own a boat than own an air conditioner.

You will stand on a deserted corner in the rain and wait for the "Walk" signal.

You feel overdressed if you wear a suit to a fancy restaurant.

You can order coffee 10 different ways.

You can taste the difference between Seattle's Best, Tully's and Starbucks.

To you, swimming is an indoor sport.

You never go camping without a poncho and waterproof matches.

You know the difference between Coho, Chinook, and Sockeye salmon.

You know how to pronounce Puyallup, Sequim, Sekiu, Yakima, Oregon, Wenatchee, Steilacoom, Quileute, Cle Elum and Willamette.

You know Forks is not a bunch of eating utensil but a town on the Olympic Peninsula.

You can tell the difference between Thai, Japanese and Chinese food.

You know that Boring is not a state of mind, but a town in Oregon.

You have no concept of humidity without precipitation.

You know that a forecast of "rain, changing to showers" means "constant drizzle changing to intermittent drizzle."

You are not fazed by the weather forecast, "Today: Showers followed by rain. Tomorrow: Rain followed by showers."

You rejoice at a forecast of "rain with sun breaks."

You know what "The mountain is out" means.

When the temperature gets above 50, you put on your shorts (If you're warm blooded, that is. If you're cold blooded, you wear a sweatshirt all summer.)

You can point out at least two volcanoes, even if you can't see through the cloud cover.

You think people who use umbrellas are either tourists or wimps (or both).

You have actually used your mountain bike on a mountain.

You knew immediately that the view out of Frazier's window was fake.

You use a down comforter and wear flannel pajamas in the summer.

Your kid's Halloween costumes fit under a raincoat.

You know all the seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Raining (Spring), Road Construction (Summer), Deer and Elk season (Fall).

Every year you have to buy new sunglasses because you can't find the old ones after such a long time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Close Encounters Redux

If you haven't seen a sea lion, I'm pretty sure that I did an inadequate job of describing these creatures.

This weekend, Jane had a close encounter with one. A stuffed one, or she wouldn't have been this nonchalant. They are massive creatures.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Last night we attended Jared Anardi's 30th birthday celebration.

Jared is one of a group of Adam's friends - friends that became so early in their college careers. Sad to say, that is getting to be quite a while ago. These guys all graduated in the spring of 2002 (yes, that is a Rainier "R" on Adam's mortar board - he said it had more to do with his graduation than anything else). But what is amazing is that these guys have managed to stay friends thru significant life changes, distance, and over more than a decade. Some friendships seem destined to be forged for life, don't they?

Our first encounter with these guys was when Adam brought them all down to the boat. It was like one of those circus clown acts - they just kept coming and coming and coming down the companionway... seemingly forever. When they were all aboard, most of us had to remain standing.

And now, most are married, some with children. A year ago last summer, we were privileged to be guests at Jared and Beka's wedding, and last night we were again privileged to be included at Jared's passing into Middle Age. In an entirely fitting ceremony, we were invited to be witnesses to Jared's and Beka's Last Will and Testaments (no, I didn't read them, so I have no idea what I might inherit).

Then the evening's real work began - Matt and Jared and Jon, after suitably preparing themselves, set up a beer pong playfield. There was intense competition, and there was equally intense critique of the moves made by the players.

Jane and I regard it as an extreme privilege to be included in this fellowship. These are fine people, and it is a gift to be able to watch them face and overcome the challenges that life has handed them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Shilshole Shuffle

It is sad. But it is a happy thing too.

We are about to lose our neighbors, Curtis and Cynthia on Wind Dancer. They will be moving their boat inside the Locks to somewhere on the Ship Canal because it will be closer to Curtis' work. We are sad, because they have been great neighbors, and we will be sorry to see them go.

But we will be happy because Brent and Jill on Ambition will be taking their slip, and become our new neighbors. Ambition is even the same boat as Wind Dancer - an Irwin 53! Amazingly, we had 4 of these Florida-manufactured boats on our dock at one point two summers ago - we are down to 3 right now, and with Wind Dancer leaving that will make two.

Shilshole rents slips from the first of the month, so at the beginning of every month there is a shuffling going on - people moving in, people moving out, people trading slips with others, working their way toward what they consider to be their ideal slip:
  • Port tie
  • Starboard tie
  • North facing
  • South facing
  • Close to shore
  • Out at the end of the dock
  • Next to a liveaboard
  • Not next to a liveaboard
  • Straight-in shot (for those few slips where this is possible (I'm talkin' to you, Ghost)
  • Next to a sailboat
  • Next to a power boat
Fortunately, we think we are there, and feel very fortunate to have this slip.

There is another collection of folks who are in motion too - those who are sub-leasing slips. As one sub-lease expires, another opens up (or at least, they hope so), and so these folks move every month or three.

We who live on boats are, almost by definition, a transient community. In fact, tho we were dock newbies in 1999, we are now some of the oldest residents (well, yeah, that way too I guess) of G Dock. It falls to us to keep the memories of past residents like Art on Phoenix Rising (now at Fox Island), Brian and Martha on Nawura (now in New Zealand), Billy and Trish on Kwinhagak (now in Mexico), Tom & Dawn on Warm Rain (now in the South Pacific) alive for the newer folks.

There are, after all, plenty of memories.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Close Encounters

Back in the bight of Port Madison on Bainbridge Island, where we like to anchor, there is a collection of lovely large houses. This (poor) picture shows that there are at least 5 of them there, and there is a shared dock for them just at the left side of the picture.

Now, I want you to let me create an image for you. It's a warm summer morning. Early. Imagine a well-to-do man, leaving one of these houses to walk down to the docks to get in his boat and commute to Seattle. He is wearing a suit, carrying a cup of coffee and newspaper in one hand, and a briefcase in the other. Perhaps he is trying to get a head start on the day. It may be early, but he is on top of his game, so as he walks down the dock, he is reading the newspaper, a little groggy, barely paying enough attention to keep from wandering off the dock into the water.

Now how do we have so much detail about this? Because we were watching thru binoculars, that's why. And why did we choose to watch this particular commuter on this particular morning? Well, see there was this giant sea lion sleeping out on the end of the dock.

Sea lions are big. And tho they look kind of like a 600 lb water balloon full of blubber, they can be fast, they have teeth, and most of all, they are very loud.

So here comes Mr. Businessman, sauntering along. And the sea lion wakes up. Detecting a threat to his lair, he rears up and lets loose with a mighty bellow. Mr. Businessman stops short and spills his coffee all over everything. He is maybe 15 feet away from a noisy, smelly aggressive creature that outweighs him by a factor of 4, and he is looking him straight in the eyes (reared up, the sea lion is about the same height as Mr. Businessman). That suit is going to the cleaners. Another bellow pours forth, and Mr Businessman knows that tho he may be in charge in the boardroom, he is very much overmatched here. Slowly he backs up, until he is maybe 50 feet away, then he turns around and hurries back to the house.

I suspect he was late for work.

The sea lion went back to sleep.

It's Still There...

But proving how adaptable the human animal is, both of us slept thru the night.

As the pressure trace shows, we are on the back side of the low now, so we can expect some relief...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Short Night

Look what rolled in at 03:30 last night... Not a lot of sleep once the wind goes over 25 knots - the rigging moans and shrieks, and the boat surges against the fenders, squeaking with an irregular rhythm. I have tried to make an audio recording of this cacophony for you, but no luck so far.

So I was out in the cockpit in my sweats, watching the anemometer, and then outside checking the lines on Eolian and nearby boats.

Today is already a long day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

1020 feet

Without lawns to mow, driveways to shovel, gardens to till, gutters to clean, etc. folks sometimes wonder how we stay in shape living the sedentary lifestyle on a boat.

There is this little sign at the head of the dock, on the gate door. Is it is there to assist firefighters? Do they carry that much hose? Maybe it's to discourage them.

Regardless, it means that for those of us out at the end of the dock, a round trip to shore is almost a half mile walk.
  • Leave your cell phone in the car? Half-mile walk.
  • Move the laundry from the washers to the dryers in the laundromat? Half mile walk.
  • Somebody visits and needs to be let in at the gate? Half mile walk.
  • Use the head on shore? Half mile walk.
  • Did you turn off your headlights? Are you sure? Half mile walk.
  • Get out to the car and realize that you left your cell phone back onboard? Half mile walk.
  • Run out of sugar? Half mile walk PLUS the drive to the store.
We manage to stay in pretty good shape, somehow.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Project: Heat Pump Permanent Wiring Yoga

There... over there on the right hand side of the picture, near the bottom... See that grey power cord snaking out of the compartment under the dinette seating? That has been our "permanent power wiring" for the heat pump since we installed it last winter.

Now, it is a proven Law Of Nature that the incentive for completing a project is proportional to the amount of the project remaining. Thus, you can approach project completion, but it is difficult to actually get there. This is one of those items. I have been "temporarily" supplying power to the heat pump by plugging it in to a convenient outlet, for a year.

In order to properly wire the heat pump, it needed to have its own breaker in the power panel. And a decision had to be made as to whether to supply the heat pump thru the inverter, or direct from the mains. And since the wiring for the water heater had a PO splice in it and was conveniently nearby, it needed to be replaced too.

But first: power thru the inverter or not? Although the inverter can power the heat pump (I tried it), we would never do that - the battery load is unsustainable. So then, why would I choose to power it thru the inverter, as that was the final decision? The reasoning went like this:
  • We have significant 12V loads on Eolian, even when plugged into shore power. Most notably refrigeration
  • Significant 12V loads mean that the battery charger will be needed frequently, and will need to deliver significant power - not just a trickle charge.
  • In turn, this means the battery charger will require significant amounts of power.
  • The battery charger is actually part of the inverter, a perfect convergence of function
  • Our Heart inverter has a "power sharing" function. That is, you can program the inverter/charger to use a maximum amount of 110V power to supply its loads (including the integrated battery charger). If the need increases beyond the power sharing setting, the amount of power available to the battery charger is reduced.
  • Loads which are not supplied thru the inverter are unknown to it. Our water heater is wired direct to the mains, and draws about 10 amps. Therefore the inverter has been programmed to take no more than 20 amps for its needs, to avoid exceeding our 30 amp total load maximum.
  • If I were to have powered the heat pump direct, I would have had to reduce the load sharing setting to 5 amps, since the heat pump draws 12 amps ( the load sharing is in 5 amp increments - there is no 8 amp setting)
  • 5 amps is not a reasonable amount of power to share amongst the battery charger and all the power outlets on board.
  • By powering the heat pump thru the inverter, I can leave the power sharing setting at 20 amps. If the heat pump is running, there will be a maximum of 8 amps available to the battery charger - not enough to run refrigeration, so at least part of the refrigeration load will come out of the batteries. But as soon as the heat pump shuts off, the battery charger wants the full 20 amps to replenish the batteries.
This was a good decision - it works well. In fact, by running for a year with our "temporary" setup, we were already running thru the inverter, since the outlets are powered that way. We have had a successful one-year trial.

Now for implementation. The under-seating compartments all had to be completely emptied. The heat pump is in the compartment behind the teak-surrounded white grill (far right), the water heater is in the next compartment to the left (with the solid teak door), and the power panel is below the nav station desktop (accessible only thru the small opening, awkwardly oriented the wrong way).

Stringing the wire was not difficult, nor was terminating it at the water heater and the heat pump (other than the joy of wedging my body into those small spaces to do the work). Most of the effort was spent with my head and shoulders down in that small opening in the nav station, reconfiguring the breakers and wiring behind the panel. Jane got a particularly unflattering picture of me, immersed in the work...

So, we have accomplished the impossible: we have reached the asymptote - the project is complete!

Yoga? Who needs it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Keel? Why Is There a Keel?

(For those of you reading because you are attracted to the romance of sailing into the sunset, or the peace of being anchored in a quiet cove at dawn... There is no romance in what follows - it is the technology which enables the romance. But I promise: no equations or vectors, just common sense and analogies)

Why would you take a perfectly good boat, and then handicap her by hanging 6 tons of lead (in Eolian's case) from her bottom?

Two reasons. The keel actually performs two separate functions that, in a wonderful bit of convergence, work out to require the same structure.

First: Keep the boat from falling over.

A sailboat has a tall mast, and carries a lot of sail up there, The weight of the mast and rigging alone, plus the sails would make her unstable and likely to fall over without the weight down below the waterline. Then there is the tremendous force that the wind adds! The hull actually acts as a fulcrum on which the mast/keel arm pivots. As the mast descends due to weight and force of wind, the hull rolls and forces the keel to rise, like a teeter-totter (<-- I think that may be the first time I have ever typed that word... it looks strange to me). As the boat rolls farther, the keel is pulled out farther away from directly below the hull, increasing the roll resistance. At the same time, as the mast goes more and more toward the horizontal, it becomes less and less effective at catching the wind. therefore the system is stable and self-correcting. As the boat heels more and more, it becomes more and more difficult to increase the angle of heel. The greater the weight, and the lower in the water below the hull it is suspended, the greater the stability which results.

Second: Keep the boat from sliding sideways in the water.

When the boat is sailing in any direction except dead downwind, the force of the wind on the sails is not along the boat's line of motion. To make this possible, something is needed to create a force which will resist the hull's desire to drift downwind. Once again, the keel comes to the rescue. In this case, the shape and surface area are the controlling factors; weight is irrelevant.

In the early days of yacht design, it was the "keel-as-a-barn-door" theory that prevailed. The idea being that a barn door would be really hard to push sideways thru the water. And in fact this is true. It leads to the full and modified-full keel designs which have been with us from antiquity. These boats (including Eolian with a modified full keel) are additionally very stable and easy to hold on course.

Tho the full keel design works well at optimizing one parameter: lateral resistance, it fails badly at optimizing another: wetted surface. Dragging anything thru the water takes effort - an effort that is proportional to (among many other things), the amount of surface area submerged in the water. Given a constant propulsive force, decreasing wetted surface will result in an increase in speed.

In the middle part of the last century (that would be the 20th century...), the search for a keel design that would provide the needed lateral resistance with decreased wetted surface was on. This led to the modern fin keel, when it was recognized that the keel moving thru the water could be viewed as a wing (much as the sail can be viewed as a wing operating in the air above), and thus could be designed as a hydrodynamic lifting body, - long and narrow with an airfoil cross section, instead of a barn door. Fin keel boats are faster, but are a little less stable - it takes more steering to keep them on course. However, they are far more maneuverable in close quarters, like a marina, since the boat pivots easily on the narrow fin.


At first, the fin keels were just (nicely shaped) slabs of lead or cast iron. But then another conceptual breakthru came when it was realized that, if the keel material were strong enough, the bulk of the weight could be concentrated at the bottom in the form of a bulb, maximizing the righting moment that any given amount of keel weight could deliver.

Next, bear with me for a moment as we consider the keel as a lifting body. Consider the more familiar form of a lifting surface: an airplane wing. No matter how you describe the mechanism that makes it generate lift, it is a truism that the pressure on the bottom of the wing exceeds that on the top, if it is generating lift. Now what happens at the end of the wing? Yup... air flows out from under the wing and tries to fill the low pressure area on the top. This leads to the tip vortices that force air traffic controllers to space out flights at an airport. And it leads to a decrease in lift. The small vertical winglets seen on the wingtips of the most modern planes are effective at blocking this bottom-to-top flow.

Now back to the keel... it needs to lift from either side as the boat moves from one tack to the other., making each side of the keel alternately the high pressure and then the low pressure side. And yes, tip vortices rolling off the bottom steal away some of the effective lift of the keel. The same thinking that brings winglets to airplane wings has brought the wing keel - but with winglets on both sides. And in addition, the winglets are usually a modified form of bulb - that is, they contain a substantial fraction of the keel's weight. Because the wings increase the keel's effectiveness as a lateral plane, and because they allow weight concentration at the bottom where it is most effective, wing keel boats can have shorter keels than their fin keel counterparts with equivalent performance. Conversely, with the same depth and weight, a wing keel will increase both the boat's stiffness and its pointing ability.


Working in the opposite direction, it is also possible to divorce the functions of roll stability and lateral resistance into two separate structures. The shoal draft/centerboard boat is such a case. In this design, the ballast keel is increased in weight, but held relatively high up, giving a shoal draft configuration. Because this keel generates very little, lateral resistance is provided by a retractable centerboard, which is weighted only enough to keep it in place. With the board extended, excellent lateral resistance is generated; with it retracted the boat can venture into thin water (tho the keel alone will not provide enough lateral resistance to allow thin water sailing without making huge amounts of leeway, unless nearly directly downwind).

The Future

So, what comes next? Venturing into prognostication, I have seen some interesting developments that have been tried on the "any $$ for 1/10 of a second" boats. Some of these are:
  • Canting keels - they can be hydraulically tilted from side to side to increase the righting moment
  • Keels with tabs - flaps really, keeping the aircraft wing analogy. The flaps increase the lift that the keel generates
  • Boats with two steerable keels, fore and aft and no rudder
All of these ideas presume that something movable can be kept working in an environment that features barnacles, mussels, crab pot lines, and the occasional ill-placed rock. To survive in this environment, things have to be simple and robust - no delicate linkages need apply.

We'll see.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dock Lines Are Doubled

The storms of winter are coming... our docklines are now doubled up. Not because we need the doubled strength, but because if the primary line should chafe thru, there will be a backup in place, ready to take the strain.

And there really is strain. When the wind is howling, you can see the lines stretch.

Sizing of the docklines is important. This is a case where too strong is not such a good thing. Ours are 5/8" nylon. With our weight, there is a fair bit of stretch in the lines when the boat surges. This stretch removes the shock loading on the cleats, and is a good thing. If we went to heavier line, we would lose this shock absorbing quality.

Here is a plot of wind speed (in knots - multiply by 1.15 to get mph) from the past couple of days.. yes, there was gust to 38 kt on the 5th, and on the 7th, a lot of time was spent steadily blowing between 25 and 30 kt. (By the way, gale force wind begins officially 35 kt.) This plot comes from a weather station that we can see from right here in the marina - it is pretty reflective of conditions here at the dock.

This is definitely NOT the gentle patter of rain on the deck I blogged about earlier...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Open Line Friday

I've done over 150 posts at this point, with the subject matter my own choice (with a couple of exceptions). I have been living aboard since 1997, so a lot (but not all!) of the novelty has become routine to me. That means that I am likely to miss interesting subjects simply because I no longer 'see' something when I am looking right at it. So, please lend me the benefit of your eyes...

Are you curious about something?
Do you have a, "What's it like when..." question?
Do you have a, "How do you..." question?

Help me tune this place to your interests. Post a comment (anonymously if you like), or send me email (my address is right up there on the top bar) suggesting a topic.

It's your turn.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Down Below, in the Rain

The rains have returned to Seattle, in earnest. We have already had a couple really good storms. Tho not up to midwestern frog-drowner standards, they were way beyond the normal Seattle mist 'n spit.

I have been asked more than once recently what it is like below decks on Eolian in the rain.

We can clearly hear the sound of rain on the decks down below. Eolian's deck is a sandwich of fiberglass and foam, as this plug I cut out when installing a solar vent shows: about 1/2" of fiberglass on the outside, backed with 1/2" of foam, and then a 1/4" inner tension layer of fiberglass. (Her hull is solid fiberglass.) This construction transmits the sound of falling raindrops nicely. The closest comparison I can make is to the sound of rain falling on a tent, but it's not that loud.

But unlike being in a tent, on Eolian, we find the sound of the rain is accompanied by a wonderful feeling of, "Wow, it's nasty out there, but it sure is warm and cozy in here!" (This is the time of year for nesting, after all.)

In a house, watching it rain out a window can sometimes be almost like watching a wide-screen TV show.

Here down below, you are not isolated from the weather.

You are in it.


But protected by a thin fiberglass shell.

BONUS: The gentle patter of rain on the deck above is very soothing, and makes falling asleep a delightful experience. (If you sleep in an attic room close to the roof, you will know what I mean.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Project: New Exhaust Elbow

This project is from the winter of 2004/2005
During the last months I had noticed that the amount of water being delivered out the exhaust pipe had been decreasing. (Water? Out the exhaust pipe? Read on.)

First, a brief lesson on marine engines... ours is 'fresh water cooled'. That means that it is exactly like a car engine. Except that instead of an air-cooled radiator, we have a heat exchanger which is cooled with sea water. The engine coolant and the sea water do not mix, any more than the air and the engine coolant in a car mix - they are separated by the internal walls of the water-air heat exchanger (radiator) or water-water heat exchanger (marine engine). Once the sea water has picked up the waste heat from the engine, it is put to one final use: It is dumped into the exhaust gases to cool them so that high temperature plumbing is not required for the exhaust system. It exits with them. The injection point is at an elbow on the very end of the (water cooled) exhaust manifold.

I had cleaned the exhaust elbow once before by poking around inside it with a piece of wire - I am sure that I didn't do a very good job, but I did get the water flowing again OK that time. This time, I decided to remove the elbow and acid pickle it to clean it completely.

It looked easy.

Tho the working space is very cramped, the elbow itself is not large, and it is held onto the exhaust manifold (painted blue in the picture) with only 4 nuts. Well, when I tried to turn the first nut, the stud it was screwed onto immediately broke off. Right here, it stopped being easy. Working on this in place is absolutely impossible, so now the exhaust manifold had to come off too.

Fortunately, the exhaust manifold is held on by only 4 nuts (the Perkins 4-236 has siamese ports). Two of these nuts are accessible from the top, but the lower two are firmly hidden behind the heat exchanger. OK, so that had to come off too. In typical British engineering, before you can take something off, you must first take something else off (apply recursively, forever and ever).

Because the available space to work on this is an awkward wedge-shaped small torture chamber, removal of the heat exchanger was a real difficult chore. Once it was off, the exhaust manifold came out easily.

I used a nut buster to cut the remaining nuts off the mounting studs for the elbow and removed it. The studs were corroded to about 1/2 their original diameter - no wonder the first one twisted off. I applied heat with a torch, heating the studs to red heat and cooling them alternately, and finally they were removable from the manifold with a pair of vise grips - even the twisted off one. (Note to self: never use excessive force if you can get a nut buster on the nut...)

Using a scraper, I began to remove the layered deposits from inside the elbow. Immediately I poked thru the pipe nipple which served as the outlet piece (providing a place for the 3" exhaust hose to attach). OK, as it was rotten, I made no attempt to unscrew it, I just cut it off flush with the elbow using my sawzall. Then I used a chisel to bend the remaining threaded ring inside the elbow to the inside and removed it.

Finally, I hammered away at the deposits inside with a chipping hammer, and then pickled the elbow in concentrated HCl. The results were sobering. Corrosion (or erosion?) had eaten more than half way thru the elbow in various places. Combined with the easy scraper penetration of the outlet nipple, this whole thing was a disaster just waiting to happen. I am SO HAPPY that I had removed it when I did.

After cleaning, another defect was revealed. This exhaust elbow was constructed from a 2.5" 45 degree pipe elbow, on which an external channel had been welded (very nice job!). Finally, a hole was drilled into the external channel at the outlet end of the fitting to provide the water exit into the exhaust gas stream. In order to ensure that water exiting the hole would not find its way back to the exhaust manifold and the engine, the hole was drilled as close to the exit as possible (good!).

Unfortunately, it was drilled so close to the exit that it was in the threads, and when the outlet nipple was screwed in, it partly occluded the hole, undoubtedly spraying water back toward the engine (defeating the purpose of drilling near the exit - bad!).

I checked and found (very surprisingly) that a new exhaust elbow was only $88. Aside from solving the corrosion problems, this elbow also had a water exit in the form of a 3/8" x 1" slot instead of the 3/8" diameter hole in the old elbow. This will pass perhaps 4x as much water and will take a lot longer to block with lime than the small hole, partly covered by the exit nipple.

When I attempted to remove the flange end from the old elbow, the pipe broke off (corrosion again...). A repair was therefore necessary. Rather than weld directly on the flange plate (which would cause warping, and thus poor gasket contact), I cut off all but about 3/8" of the old pipe. Then I bought a 2.5" pipe nipple, and cut off an appropriate-sized piece. I beveled the ends of both and mig-welded them together. Since the new fitting had a heavier wall thickness than the old (corrosion again?), there was a shoulder on the inside - I welded this too.

After grinding and painting, it looks really nice!

Reinstalling the exhaust manifold was easy, but then attaching the exhaust hose to elbow was really tough. I installed new studs in the exhaust manifold. Then I cut off about 3/4" of the old exhaust hose because the new elbow assembly is a little longer than the old one - tough job! This is heavy hose (1/4" wall thickness), with two, very hard, spiral steel wires inside. Then I coated the inside of the hose with silicone and inserted the elbow. Wow - that makes it sound easy! Actually I fought it for the better part of a half hour, grunting, groaning and bruising myself trying to get the elbow far enough into the hose. Finally, with more grunting and bruising, I had the flange over the new exhaust manifold studs and the whole works tightened down.

Lots of water comes out with the exhaust now!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween 2009!

Happy Halloween! For us this year, it was a pumpkin-palooza!

It started on Thursday nite, when Ken and Erica hosted their annual pumpkin carving party. They had their carport decorated festively, and provided halloween goodies (others contributed more sugary goodness as they came). Adam and Jon brought the beer - an excellent pumpkin ale, and an amber. Then we all got to work. (Does it look to you that Adam may be enjoying the knife work a little too much?)

One of the best parts of this party is the growing display as the pumpkins are completed! So much creativity!

On Saturday nite we got to put the jack-o-lanterns to work... it was trick-or-treat on the dock. We had 5 sugar extortionists this year, not including Scott and Angela from Ghost, the pirate King and Queen of G-Dock.

And then, another party, of course! Hosted by Scott and Angela, it went on till late, while the kids were experimenting with their blood sugar levels.
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