Thursday, December 31, 2009

Choose Two

Last nite, my friend Jim came over for dinner. He brought his guitar and a couple of bottles of wine. Jane took care of everything except the meat.  My responsibility was the meat - only the meat.  So, I put two racks of short ribs on the grill to slow smoke them.

Slow smoking means to cook them at basically the desired end temperature. That is, if you want the pork to be 180° at the end, you cook it at 180°... with lots of smoke, and for a long time. I have been very successful with this technique. Until last nite.

Last nite, there were the additional distractions:
  • we got to playing guitars,
  • and there was the aforementioned wine.
Let's just say that after 2½ hours, I remembered that I was supposed to be cooking dinner.  The ribs were done.

I mean they were clearly done.  They were black on top (which they should be), but...  they were not glossy black - they were a kind of flat black.  And they were crunchy.  I had trouble sticking in the meat fork to belatedly take them off the grill.

Jim was a gracious guest.  He ate 2 or 3, as did Jane and I (what else were we to do?  There wasn't any other meat...).  They were horrible.  I was terribly embarrassed.  And Jim left early - probably to go eat dinner somewhere - I wouldn't blame him - I would have if I could have.

So:  Two resolutions:
  1. Between wine, guitars and cooking, from now on choose two.
  2. We got some more ribs.  Tomorrow I will do them up properly, and deliver them to Jim's house.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I learned about sailing from that: Running aground

This is a guest column written by my friend Erick over at Erick's Wanderlust Blog, and reprinted here with his permission. See the original at Expensive Weekend: Lessons Learned

I wanted to take my parents out to the boat for a post-Christmas sail this previous Saturday. They have seen and been on Windsong, but haven't been out for a ride yet. I had been following the weather conditions for Saturday all week and it looked to be a great day for sailing with 15 knot winds out of the North. That would allow us to beam reach all the way out of the channel so we could start sailing before we even got to the final channel marker. The only issue I really saw was that it would be a chilly day (for us Floridians) with highs in the 50's. High tide would be in the morning when we would head out, but we would have to come back at low tide. However, it would be a +1 foot low tide, which I was told would be deep enough for Windsong to make it through the river with.

I typically have gotten nervous when it comes to taking Windsong out, rightfully so I might add. I am still a rookie with this boat and particularly the area it is in. Especially after breaking down the first time I took her out, I can't help get nervous. But this time I wasn't worried about the engine or anything particular about the boat. I've tuned the engine and performed all needed maintenance on it and it worked like a charm the last outing. But something was eating away inside me the few days leading up to Saturday and I didn't understand it. Some sort of premonition told me it we shouldn't go, but I ignored it and attributed it to my normal nerves. I should have listened.

So we took the 3 hour ride from St. Augustine to Inglis with my parents and their new Boston Terrier pup, Sawx. As we arrived to the dock my nerves had subsided and was ready for a good ride. I performed all the pre-ride checks on the boat and engine and felt pretty confident that Windsong would do well. Shortly after arriving we cast of the docklines and headed up the river towards the Gulf.

Things were going swell all the way up the river, so good in fact that I must have stopped paying much attention to where I was in the channel. We were motoring at roughly 6 knots only a few hundred yards before we reached the inlet when the boat SLAMMED into the river bottom and the bow reared up high out of the water. Thank goodness that no one was standing at the time or they would have gone flying off the boat or hard into something on it. I tried reversing and steering off, but we were stuck as stuck could be. The keel was resting hard on the bottom and would not budge. I sat there shocked and stunned and could not believe what had just happened. I took a moment to collect myself and made sure everyone was ok before I could think of what to do next. I considered kedging off the anchor but I had no way of getting it out far enough to be worthwhile. So I radioed on channel 16 for some help but recieved no ansewer even after a few tries. I eventually called the Coast Guard, which has a station on the river near the boat's dock, and told them my situation. They said that the only thing they could do is refer me to a towing company either Tow BoatUS or Sea Tow. I knew instantly that this was going to be a worse incident than I thought when they asked if I was a member to either. No, I'm not.

For somewhere around $150/year you can be a member of one of these tow companies and use their services when you need. I had considered getting a membership in particular for the overnight passage South that I need to take soon, just as a piece of mind in case things went wrong. But I never figured I would really need it until I finish working on the hard and start to sail a lot. I realized that was that a huge mistake as I spoke to the tow boat captain and got a quote to be hauled off the bottom. It would be $600 just for ungrounding the boat, plus $240/hour for the tow boat to come from Cyrstal River, about an hour and a half away ( you have to pay for their round trip). So the total quote for the haul was roughly $1,300. When he told me this all I could do was close my eyes, swallow my pride and gave him the ok to come get me. Bye Bye huge hunk of savings.

I considered my options while I waited for confirmation on my credit card and everything. We could wait for a boat to come by and hopefully lift us off with their wake. Unfortunately it was a very quiet day on the river and the only boats going by were small jon-boats with barely any wake. When a decent sized boat finally passed and sent wake our way, it only served to bounce the keel up and down on the bottom, not freeing us at all. Since we ran aground near high tide, it was apparent that waiting for the tide to come back in wasn't going to help much either. Plus, high tide wasn't until 8 p.m. and we had no way of getting back to the dock at night. Navigating the river without light was just out of the question.

So after a few minutes the tow company called me back and confirmed the operation and told me they would be here in an hour and a half. Great, by then the tide would be even lower and getting towed off the bottom would be even more difficult. So we sat waiting for that period of time, during which the air only seeming to get colder by the minute. I was so pissed that I made such a bonehead move that I could do little but stare at the distance in disdain for my bad piloting. But how would I have known this ledge was here? It wasn't marked on the charts or on my new GPS as most obstructions were in the river. As some fishing jon-boats rode by and we discussed what happened they all seemed to know that it got shallow there...local knowledge kicks ass if you have it, but I didn't.

I started to fear about the worst case scenario as the tide began to fall. On the port side, closest to shore, we could see that the water was getting shallower pretty quickly as the bottom was clearly visible in the murky water. On the other hand, the water to starboard was much deeper, if only we could get to it. The tow captain mentioned that if he didn't have success trying to pull us off since the tide was too low we would have to wait for it to come back in before trying again. Thus having to wait till all light was gone and we would be stranded there for the night. We were horribly unprepared to stay the night on the boat particularly due to the cold. We had food to last us, but no blankets and barely enough jackets as it was. I know my dad and I could tough it out if we had to, but my mom and the pup were with us and I would feel horrible if she had to go through that. So I thought if worse came to worse, the tow boat could take my parents and the dog back to the dock and I would stay with the boat overnight and wait for the morning high tide. Still, not something I was looking forward to as my first overnight stay on the boat. I would have been left with little more than sail covers as blankets to not freeze the whole night away.

The tow boat showed up right on queue and rafted up next to us. They sounded the area and found the water deep enough for my draft immediately to starboard, so not all hope was lost. But the water had gotten so shallow on the port side that if any of us put our weight over there the whole boat tilted on its keel at a hard angle. So we tied up the tow ropes and they started trying to pull the bow towards the center of the channel. It didn't work too well and only turned the boat a bit towards the channel, grinding the keel on the bottom. At one point the tow rope snapped after pulling so hard.

Things didn't look to bright at this point and the tow captain kept mentioning about possibly having to wait till high tide, my heart kept dropping as the effort kept failing. Eventually we tried a new tactic by using the main halyard attached to a second tow rope (leads to the top of the mast) to try to tilt the whole boat on its side, thus lifting the keel off the bottom as the tow line on the bow would pull the boat to the channel. After much grinding on the bottom and tilting the whole boat so far that the starboard rail was buried under water, it finally got loose off the bottom and we were pulled into deeper water. It took a long time and many different tries at different angles, but we eventually were pulled free. It was incredibly nerve wracking as it seemed like it would never work.

Relief rushed through me and I could do little more than thank God it was all over and we wouldn't have to stay there any longer. I made sure to ask the captain where else in the river I needed to be wary of, and he said that where we went aground was the worst spot. He has apparently pulled many a vessel off of the same ledge, one even a week previous. Good to know I thought, I will avoid that spot like the plague for now on.

The tow captain was friendly and also owns a sailboat. He told me to not get discouraged since pretty much everyone has made that mistake. Unfortunately I made the double mistake of not being a tow member and having to loose a big gob of cash. On top of it all, my brand new hand held VHF radio was clipped to my belt and sometime during the tow when the boat was heeled over and I was holding on for dear life, it got loose and went overboard. I was concentrating on the job at hand and none of us noticed it until we were motoring back to the dock. So the day got even more expensive.

It was a very bad day for me, but I was more relieved than bitter in the end and was glad we got back safely before dark. I felt pretty bad that we took the long drive out there to only have a bad experience, but my parents were positive the whole time and gave me good encouragement. It was a rough lesson learned, but one I was bound to learn one day nonetheless.

Years ago when I was a kid, I used to read Flying magazine. I particularly enjoyed a long-running series of articles entitled "I Learned About Flying From That." Each article was written by a pilot, who humbly admitted to having made a mistake, and then having lived, told about it in the hopes that others would not have to make the same mistake. I thought then that it was a good format, and I still think that now. This series of postings is my attempt to recreate that article series with a new subject and new technology.

(If you would like to help others to learn from your mistakes, please send your article to: WindborneInPugetSound at gmail dot com)


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Destination: Blind Bay, Shaw Island, San Juan Islands

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

When we're in the San Juan Islands, we almost always spend a night (or sometimes several!) at anchor in Blind Bay.  Blind Bay is on the North shore of Shaw Island, nearly directly across Harney Channel from the ferry terminal on Orcas Island.  

The entrance to Blind Bay is guarded by a collection of rocks and small islands.  The clear entrance is to the East of the largest of these, named logically enough, Blind Island.  The end of the shoal extending from the Eastern arm surrounding Blind Bay is punctuated with a rock which is submerged at high tide; there is a privately maintained black and white marker on the rock.  Make your passage between the marker and Blind Island.

The bay itself is a wonderful anchorage with no surprises.  It is big enough to be uncrowded, even on the busiest weekend of the summer, yet small enough to be protected.  The bottom is mud (which our Bruce anchor loves), and slopes very gently from 30 feet at the entrance (depths in these chart segments are in fathoms).

The shoreline is low bank, pastoral and uncrowded, and is all private.  This is a view taken from the Southern end of the bay, looking to the Southeast, in about 18 feet of water.

Although the shoreline is private, Blind Island is a Marine Park, and is available for hiking and exploring - kids will love it.  Camping is allowed on the island, but only for those arriving on a human-powered craft - that is, by kayak or canoe.

There are 4 State Park buoys on the south side of Blind Island, but we think the water is a little shallow for us there and prefer to anchor in the back of the bay.  This picture is taken from Blind Island, looking back into Blind Bay.

Shaw Island is one of the San Juan Islands which is served by the Washington State Ferry system.  The ferry terminal for the island is on the tip of the Eastern arm surrounding Blind Bay.  An order of Nuns used to run the terminal and the small general store on shore above it.  It was a pleasantly jarring anachronism to see a nun, in full flowing black and white habit, with an orange life preserver over all of it, operating the vehicle ramp and directing traffic onto the ferry.

The store is a delightful little general store, selling stamps, bait, clothes, handmade island crafts, groceries.  And ice cream.   It is the perfect dinghy destination for an ice cream cone on a warm summer day.

And when the fog comes in, lending a very nautical and kind of mysterious quality to things, Blind Bay is even more a comforting, cozy anchorage.

It's a good place to settle in.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Joyous Christmas!

"Unto you this day was born a Savior"

Merry Christmas to you blog readers!

(photo from 2004 Seattle snowstorm)


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Curve of Time

I feel like a high school student writing a book report. Back then, the objective was to please the teacher and get a good grade. But now, my objective is for this to inspire you to find a copy of this book and to read it.  I don't know if I can make that transition...

The book is The Curve of Time, by M. Wylie Blanchet (ISBN 1-58005-072-7). If you cruise the Pacific Northwest waters on your own boat, or if you do it vicariously from your armchair, or if you would just like to look thru a window into this region as it existed in the 1920's and 1930's, you want this book.

The book is autobiographical; it describes the adventures Ms. Blanchet (Capi) experienced while cruising with her 5 children and a dog aboard Caprice, their 26 foot powerboat.  That is it, in brief.  It is a lyrical and yet detailed view of a storyland world.

But that is too succinct.  I mentioned lyrical - here is a short quote from the forward to tempt you:

"Time did not exist; or if it did it did not matter.  Our world then was both wide and narrow - wide in the immensity of the sea and mountain; narrow in that the boat was very small, and we lived and camped, explored and swam in a little realm of our own making..."

In 1926, Capi's husband, Geoffrey Blanchet, went out on a day trip on the boat.  He did not return.  Caprice was later recovered. But rather than sell the boat, which had to be a constant reminder of the tragedy, Capi instead made it her summer residence.  That says a lot about the woman.  She was courageous, with a will of iron.  Those would lead you to picture a "Rosie the riviter" kind of woman - and you would be wrong.   Capi was not by any means "rough"  -  instead she was by many measures a most civilized person.  She brought an artist's eye to what she did, how she viewed it, and how she recorded it.

The Curve of Time was recommended to us by David and Linda aboard Northern Explorer.  They had a dog-eared copy aboard that they pulled out when they were cruising up north in Desolation Sound, reading from it to each other the passages and chapters relevant to their current locale.

You would not think that a woman who would repair a broken distributor with a hairpin would write like this (randomly chosen passage from page 54, writing about an abandoned Indian village):

We stayed three days in that village; anchored three nights beneath the trees-of-the-dead.  After all, if it were the whispers and echoes of the past we wanted - here they were.

But we left on the fourth day on account of a dog - or rather a kind of dog.  There is always the same kind of peculiar silence about all these old villages - it is hard to explain unless you have felt it.  After wandering and sketching there for three days, without seeing a sign of anything living except the ravens and owls, a little brown dog suddently and silently appeared at my feet.  There is only one way of getting into the village - from the water by the beach.  The forest behind has no trails and is practically impenetrable.  Yet, one minute the dog was not, and then, there it was.  I blinked several times and looked awkwardly the other way...  but when I looked back it was still there.

I spoke to it - but not a sound or movement did it make - it was just softly there.  I coaxed, but there was no sign that it had heard.  I had a feeling that if I tried to touch it, my hand might pass right through.

Finally, with a horrible prickling sensation in my spine, I left it and went down to the beach.  As I reached the dinghy, I glanced over my shoulder to where I had left the dog - it was gone!  But as I turned to undo the rope, it was on the beach beside me.
Later in the morning I said to John [her young son] - John had been waiting for me in the dinghy at the time -

"John, about that dog..."
"What dog?" interrupted John, busy with a fish-hook.
"That little brown dog that was on the beach."
"Oh that!" said John, still very busy.  "That wasn't a usual dog."

I left it at that - that was what I had wanted to know.
OK, I admit that choosing that one passage cost me a lot of time - I might have read a quarter of the book in doing so.  It really pulls you in.

I will leave you with one final passage to savor - the first words of the first chapter.  Get the book.  It is wonderful. Reading a chapter out loud, at anchor, in the evening is like a dessert - rich and fulfilling. Get the book.

On board our boat one summer we had a book by Maurice Maeterlinck called The Fourth Dimension, the fourth dimension being Time - which, according to Dunne, doesn't exist in itself, but is always relative to a person who has the idea of Time.  Maeterlinck used a curve to illustrate Dunne's theory.  Standing in the Present, on the highest point of the curve, you can look back and see the Past, or forward and see the Future, all in the same instant.  Or, if you stand off to one side of the curve, as I am doing, your eye wanders from one to the other without any distinction.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Colorful Holiday Cheer

Walking down the dock yesterday morning, we saw that Dan on Daydream has hung this beautiful wreath on his bow... The bright orange decorations are marina "red tags".

Dan, how long have you been saving up all those tags?


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lighted Dinghy Parade

In a tradition started by Scott & Angela of Ghost, F and G docks got together for a lighted dinghy parade on Friday nite.  After a day of calm, dry, reasonably warm weather, we gathered off the stern of Reflections down at the head of G dock.  Unfortunately, then it started to rain, but it didn't dampen our spirits any!

So we formed into a train with Nat & Linda from Reflections at the head, and providing the motive power for the seven dinghies.  We were near the end of the train, so it was absolutely quiet back there - the only thing you could hear was the singing.  Oh, the singing.  What it lacked in pitch, cadence and harmony, it certainly made up in enthusiasm.

We had a good time snaking our way down the waterways from F/G all the way to A dock, and then back, caroling (more or less), and wishing a merry Christmas to one and all along the way.

Finally, Nat and Linda hosted us all for Christmas cheer and Nat's special hot buttered rum afterwards.  Yum!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I learned about sailing from that: Bitter End of the Anchor Rode

We haven't always had Eolian. Before her, we had Deja Vu III, an O'Day 25, a perfect family boat, and a great platform for learning. And boy, did she teach us. Here is one lesson:

The city of Coeur d' Alene, Idaho puts on a fireworks display on Independence Day, over the waters of Lake Coeur d' Alene (for those of you not from the area, that is pronounced "core duh LANE", and means Heart of the Awl). We, along with about a billion other boaters liked to view the display from our boat, out on the water. So that we could focus on the display and not have to worry about the boat drifting into other boats, we wanted to anchor. But the lake is deep, and we carried only 100 feet of rode, just enough to reach the bottom, You know that means we weren't really anchored, but it did slow the drift enough so that we weren't starting the engine every 5 minutes.

As usual, it was a great display. And as usual for the beginning of July in the Inland Northwest, it was cold. When the fireworks were over, I went forward to release the rode from the bow cleat and retrieve the anchor (no windlass here, and the rope rode was fed out a Nicro ventilator on the bow). But my hands were cold and stiff, and when the rode came off the cleat, it slid thru my unresponsive fingers. Since we had it all out, it was only an instant later when the bitter end zipped over the side.


  • Anchors are expensive
  • Have enough rode to properly anchor
  • Always, ALWAYS attach the bitter end of the rode to the boat

Applying these learnings when we became Eolian's owners, we spooled out all the rode (300' of 3/8" chain on the starboard side, 300' of 1" nylon on the port side) to inspect it. Sure enough, neither rode was attached to the boat.

Eolian's chain locker is divided by a partition, separating the port side from the starboard side. I drilled a 1 1/4" hole in the partition and planned to put the bitter end of the nylon thru it and tie a stopper knot.

But how to attach the chain? And with chain rode there is another consideration. If it were necessary to cut the rode and run (the origin of that expression), how might that be done, in a hurry, and under bad circumstances? Here's what I came up with:
  • Pull enough nylon rode thru the hole in the partition to reach all the way out the deck pipe on the chain side, and out onto the bow roller.
  • Tie stopper knots in the nylon on both sides of the partition
  • Make a rope/chain splice, attaching the bitter ends together
In this way, when all the chain is out, there is a rope pendant on its bitter end which could be cut with a knife, in a convenient location out on the bowsprit.

Thankfully, we've never needed it.

Years ago when I was a kid, I used to read Flying magazine. I particularly enjoyed a long-running series of articles entitled "I Learned About Flying From That." Each article was written by a pilot, who humbly admitted to having made a mistake, and then having lived, told about it in the hopes that others would not have to make the same mistake. I thought then that it was a good format, and I still think that now. This series of postings is my attempt to recreate that article series with a new subject and new technology.

(If you would like to help others to learn from your mistakes, please send your article to: WindborneInPugetSound at gmail dot com)


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Lights, 2009

I promised you this, and now here it is!

The view of the marina from the bluff above is beautiful on any evening, but this time of year, it is festive too!

For sailboats, there are two main lighting schemes which appear, sometimes in concert:
  • Around the lifelines
  • Up the forestay and down the backstay (if a ketch or schooner, then also along the triatic stay)

Here, Black Opal did both.

These sailboats on E Dock nicely filled the frame with lights.

Lacking a mast to create the tall sweep of lites, power boats get creative in other ways.  Here is an amazing Jimmy Buffet parrot (on Last Mango, I think.  But it was dark and hard to tell) I apologize that the picture is so crummy - taking 1 second exposures without anything moving is really hard when you stand on a floating dock, and the subject is a boat floating at another dock.

Those fan-inflated creatures were popular too.  This boat has three of 'em, completely covering (and more) his swim platform.

Even the Port of Seattle got into the action this year, decorating their snag scow (complete with a Red Tag flagging their non-compliance with their own policy for marine extension cords!)

Finally, tonight was the Christmas light boat parade, led off by two big Argosy tour boats, and followed by a host of smaller boats.

Santa was waving at us from the first boat as they went by!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Liveaboard Simulator

Before you read this post, please read this one.


I no longer remember who wrote this (might it have been John Vigor?).  I had a bookmark to the author's original posting, but that was taken down, and the bookmark has been deleted.  The article  lives on tho, posted and reposted (sometimes as only a partial version) all over the Internet.  It is a cynical look at the liveaboard lifestyle.  Like all good cynical humor tho, it is built on a scaffolding of truth.

So, doing my part to keep the meme alive...

The Liveaboard Simulator

Just for fun, park your cars in the lot of the convenience store at least 2 blocks from your house. (Make believe the sidewalk is a floating dock between your car and the house.  Move yourself and your family (If applicable) into 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom. Measure the DECK space INSIDE your boat. Make sure the occupied house has no more space, or closet space, or drawer space.

Boats don’t have room for “beds”, as such. Fold your Sealy Posturepedic up against a wall, it won’t fit on a boat. Go to a hobby fabric store and buy a foam pad 5′ 10″ long and 4′ wide AND NO MORE THAN 3″ THICK. Cut it into a triangle so the little end is only 12″ wide. This simulates the foam pad in the V-berth up in the pointy bow of the sailboat. Bring in the kitchen table from the kitchen you’re not allowed to use. Put the pad UNDER the table, on the floor, so you can simulate the 3′ of headroom over the pad. Block off both long sides of the pad, and the pointy end so you have to climb aboard the V-berth from the wide end where your pillows will be. The hull blocks off the sides of a V-berth and you have to climb up over the end of it through a narrow opening (hatch to main cabin) on a boat. You’ll climb over your mate’s head to go to the potty in the night. No fun for either party. Test her mettle and resolve by getting up this way right after you go to bed at night. There are lots of things to do on a boat and you’ll forget at least one of them, thinking about it laying in bed, like “Did I remember to tie off the dingy better?” or “Is that spring line (at the dock) or anchor line (anchored out) as tight as it should be?” Boaters who don’t worry about things like this laying in bed are soon aground or on fire or the laughing stock of an anchorage…. You need to find out how much climbing over her she will tolerate BEFORE you’re stuck with a big boat and big marina bills and she refuses to sleep aboard it any more…..

Bring a coleman stove into the bathroom and set it next to the bathroom sink. Your boat’s sink is smaller, but we’ll let you use the bathroom sink, anyways. Do all your cooking in the bathroom, WITHOUT using the bathroom power vent. If you have a boat vent, it’ll be a useless 12v one that doesn’t draw near the air your bathroom power vent draws to take away cooking odors. Leave the hall door open to simulate the open hatch. Take all the screens off your 2 bedroom’s windows. Leave the windows open to let in the bugs that will invade your boat at dusk, and the flies attracted to the cooking.

Borrow a 25 gallon drum mounted on a trailer. Flush your toilets into the drums. Trailer the drums to the convenience store to dump them when they get full. Turn off your sewer, you won’t have one. This will simulate going to the “pump out station” every time the tiny drum is full. 25 gallons is actually LARGER than most holding tanks. They’re more like 15 gallons on small sailboats under 40′ because they were added to the boat after the law changed requiring them and there was no place to put it or a bigger one. They fill up really fast if you liveaboard!

Unless your boat is large enough to have a big “head” with full bath, make believe your showers/bathtubs don’t work. Make a deal with someone next door to the convenience store to use THEIR bathroom for bathing at the OTHER end of the DOCK. (Marina rest room) If you use this rest room to potty, while you’re there, make believe it has no paper towels or toilet paper. Bring your own. Bring your own soap and anything else you’d like to use there, too.

If your boat HAS a shower in its little head, we’ll let you use the shower end of the bathtub, but only as much tub as the boat has FREE shower space for standing to shower. As the boat’s shower drains into a little pan in the bilge, be sure to leave the soapy shower water in the bottom of the tub for a few days before draining it. Boat shower sumps always smell like spent soap growing exotic living organisms science hasn’t actually discovered or named, yet. Make sure your simulated V-berth is less than 3′ from this soapy water for sleeping. The shower sump is under the passageway to the V-berth next to your pillows.

Run you whole house through a 20 amp breaker to simulate available dock power at the marina. If you’re thinking of anchoring out, turn off the main breaker and “make do” with a boat battery and flashlights. Don’t forget you have to heat your house on this 20A supply and try to keep the water from freezing in winter.

Turn off the water main valve in front of your house. Run a hose from your neighbor’s lawn spigot over to your lawn spigot and get all your water from there. Try to keep the hose from freezing all winter.

As your boat won’t have a laundry, disconnect yours. Go to a boat supply place, like West Marine, and buy you a dock cart. Haul ALL your supplies, laundry, garbage, etc. between the car at the convenience store and house in this cart. Once a week, haul your outboard motor to the car, leave it a day then haul it back to the house, in the cart, to simulate “boat problems” that require “boat parts” to be removed/replaced on your “dock”. If ANYTHING ever comes out of that cart between the convenience store and the house, put it in your garage and forget about it. (Simulates losing it over the side of the dock, where it sank in 23′ of water and was dragged off by the current.)

Each morning, about 5AM, have someone you don’t know run a weedeater back and forth under your bedroom windows to simulate the fishermen leaving the marina to go fishing. Have him slam trunk lids, doors, blow car horns and bang some heavy pans together from 4AM to 5AM before lighting off the weedeater. (Simulates loading boats with booze and fishing gear and gas cans.) Once a week, have him bang the running weedeater into your bedroom wall to simulate the idiot who drove his boat into the one you’re sleeping in because he was half asleep leaving the dock. Put a rope over a big hook in the ceiling over your “bed”. Put a sheet of plywood under your pad with a place to hook a rope to one side or the other. Hook one end of the rope to the plywood hook and the other end out where he can pull on it. As soon as he shuts off the weedeater, have him pull hard 9 times on the rope to tilt your bed at least 30 degrees. (Simulates the wakes of the fishermen blasting off trying to beat each other to the fishing.) Anytime there is a storm in your area, have someone constantly pull on the rope. It’s rough riding storms in the marina or anchored out! If your boat is a sailboat, install a big wire from the top of the tallest tree to your electrical ground in the house to simulate mast lightning strikes in the marina, or to give you the thought of potential lightning strikes.

Each time you “go out”, or think of going boating away from your marina, disconnect the neighbor’s water hose, your electric wires, all the umbilicals your new boat will use to make life more bearable in the marina. Use bottled drinking water for 2 days for everything. Get one of those 5 gallon jugs with the airpump on top from a bottled water company. This is your boat’s “at sea” water system simulator. You’ll learn to conserve water this way. Of course, not having the marina’s AC power supply, you’ll be lighting and all from a car battery, your only source of power. If you own or can borrow a generator, feel free to leave it running to provide AC power up to the limit of the generator. If you’re thinking about a 30′ sailboat, you won’t have room for a generator so don’t use it.

Any extra family members must be sleeping on the settees in the main cabin or in the quarter berth under the cockpit….unless you intend to get a boat over 40-something feet with an aft cabin. Smaller boats have quarter berths. Cut a pad out of the same pad material that is no more than 2′ wide by 6′ long. Get a cardboard box from an appliance store that a SMALL refridgerator came in. Put the pad in the box, cut to fit, and make sure only one end of the box is open. The box can be no more than 2 feet above the pad. Quarter berths are really tight. Make them sleep in there, with little or no air circulation. That’s what sleeping in a quarterberth is all about.

Of course, to simulate sleeping anchored out for the weekend, no heat or air conditioning will be used and all windows will be open without screens so the bugs can get in.

In the mornings, everybody gets up and goes out on the patio to enjoy the sunrise. Then, one person at a time goes back inside to dress, shave, clean themselves in the tiny cabin unless you’re a family of nudists who don’t mind looking at each other in the buff. You can’t get dressed in the stinky little head with the door closed on a sailboat. Hell, there’s barely room to bend over so you can sit on the commode. So, everyone will dress in the main cabin….one at a time.

Boat tables are 2′ x 4′ and mounted next to the settee. There’s no room for chairs in a boat. So, eat off a 2X4′ space on that kitchen table you slept under while sitting on a couch (settee simulator). You can also go out with breakfast and sit on the patio (cockpit), if you like.

Ok, breakfast is over. Crank up the lawnmower under the window for 2 hours. It’s time to recharge the batteries from last night’s usage and to freeze the coldplate in the boat’s icebox which runs off a compressor on the engine. Get everybody to clean up your little hovel. Don’t forget to make the beds from ONE END ONLY. You can’t get to the other 3 sides of a boat bed pad.

All hands go outside and washdown the first fiberglass UPS truck that passes by. That’s about how big the deck is on your 35′ sailboat that needs to have the ocean cleaned off it daily or it’ll turn the white fiberglass all brown like the UPS truck. Now, doesn’t the UPS truck look nice like your main deck?

Ok, we’re going to need some food, do the laundry, buy some boat parts that failed because the manufacturer’s bean counters got cheap and used plastics and the wife wants to “eat out, I’m fed up with cooking on the Coleman stove” today. Let’s make believe we’re not at home, but in some exotic port like Ft Lauderdale, today….on our cruise to Key West……Before “going ashore”, plan on buying all the food you’ll want to eat that will:
  • Fit into the Coleman Cooler on the floor
  • You can cook on the Coleman stove without an oven or all those fancy kitchen tools you don’t have on the boat
  • And will last you for 10 days, in case the wind drops and it takes more time than we planned at sea.
Plan meals carefully in a boat. We can’t buy more than we can STORE, either!

You haven’t washed clothes since you left home and everything is dirty. Even if it’s not, pretend it is for the boater-away-from-home simulator. Put all the clothes in your simulated boat in a huge dufflebag so we can take it to the LAUNDRY! Manny’s Marina HAS a laundromat, but the hot water heater is busted (for the last 8 months) and Manny has “parts on order” for it…..saving Manny $$$$ on the electric bill! Don’t forget to carry the big dufflebag with us on our “excursion”. Golly that bag stinks, doesn’t it?….PU!

Of course, we came here by BOAT, so we don’t have a car. Some nice marinas have a shuttle bus, but they’re not a taxi. The shuttle bus will only go to West Marine or the tourist traps, so we’ll be either taking the city bus, if there is one or taxi cabs or shopping at the marina store which has almost nothing to buy at enormous prices.

Walk to the 7-11 store, where you have your car stored, but ignore the car. Make believe it isn’t there. No one drove it to Ft Lauderdale for you. Use the payphone at the 7-11 and call a cab. Don’t give the cab driver ANY instructions because in Ft Lauderdale you haven’t the foggiest idea where West Marine is located or how to get there, unlike at home.  We’ll go to West Marine, first, because if we don’t the “head” back on the boat won’t be working for a week because little Suzy broke a valve in it trying to flush some paper towels. This is your MOST important project, today….that valve in the toilet!! After the cab driver drives around for an hour looking for West Marine and asking his dispatcher how to get there. Don’t forget to UNLOAD your stuff from the cab, including the dirty clothes in the dufflebag then go into West Marine and give the clerk a $100 bill, simulating the cost of toilet parts. Lexus parts are cheaper than toilet parts at West Marine. See for yourself! The valve she broke, the seals that will have to be replaced on the way into the valve will come to $100 easy. Tell the clerk you’re using my liveaboard simulator and to take his girlfriend out to dinner on your $100 greenback. If you DO buy the boat, this’ll come in handy when you DO need boat parts because he’ll remember you for the great time his girlfriend gave him on your $100 tip.  Hard-to-find boat parts will arrive in DAYS, not months like the rest of us. It’s just a good political move while in simulation mode.

Call another cab from West Marine’s phone, saving 50c on payphone charges.  Load the cab with all your stuff, toilet parts, DIRTY CLOTHES then tell the cabbie to take you to the laundromat so we can wash the stinky clothes in the trunk. The luxury marina’s laundry in Ft Lauderdale has a broken hot water heater. They’re working on it, the girl at the store counter, said, yesterday. Mentioning the $12/ft you paid to park the boat at their dock won’t get the laundry working before we leave for Key West. Do your laundry in the laundromat the cabbie found for you. Just because no one speaks English in this neighborhood, don’t worry. You’ll be fine this time of day near noon.

Call another cab to take us out of here to a supermarket. When you get there, resist the temptation to “load up” because your boat has limited storage and very limited refridgeration space (remember? Coleman Cooler).  Buy from the list we made early this morning. Another package of cookies is OK. Leave one of the kids guarding the pile of clean laundry just inside the supermarket’s front door….We learned our lesson and DIDN’T forget and leave it in the cab, again!

Call another cab to take us back to the marina, loaded up with clean clothes and food and all-important boat parts. Isn’t Ft Lauderdale beautiful from a cab? It’s too late to go exploring, today. Maybe tomorrow…. Don’t forget to tell the cab to go to the 7-11 (marina parking lot)….not your front door….cabs don’t float well.

Ok, haul all the stuff in the dock cart from the 7-11 store the two blocks to the “boat” bedroom. Wait 20 minutes before starting out for the house.  This simulates waiting for someone to bring back a marina-owned dock cart from down the docks…..They always leave them outside their boats, until the marina “crew” get fed up with newbies like us asking why there aren’t any carts and go down the docks to retrieve them.

Put all the stuff away, food and clothes, in the tiny drawer space provided. Have a beer on the patio (cockpit) and watch the sunset. THIS is living!

Now, disassemble the toilet in your bathroom, take out the wax ring under it and put it back. Reassemble the toilet. This completes the simulation of putting the new valve in the “head” on the boat. Uh, uh, NO POWERVENT! GET YOUR HAND OFF THAT SWITCH! The whole “boat” smells like the inside of the holding tank for hours after fixing the toilet in a real boat, too! Spray some Lysol if you got it….

After getting up, tomorrow morning, from your “V-Berth”, take the whole family out to breakfast by WALKING to the nearest restaurant, then take a cab to any local park or attraction you like. We’re off today to see the sights of Ft Lauderdale…..before heading out to sea, again, to Key West.  Take a cab back home after dinner out and go to bed, exhausted, on your little foam pad under the table…..

Get up this morning and disconnect all hoses, electrical wires, etc.  Get ready for “sea”. Crank up the lawn mower under the open bedroom window for 4 hours while we motor out to find some wind. ONE responsible adult MUST be sitting on the hot patio all day, in shifts, “on watch” looking out for other boats, ships, etc. If you have a riding lawn mower, let the person “on watch” drive it around the yard all day to simulate driving the boat down the ICW in heavy traffic.  About 2PM, turn off the engine and just have them sit on the mower “steering” it on the patio. We’re under sail, now. Every hour or so, take everyone out in the yard with a big rope and have a tug-of-war to simulate the work involved with setting sail, changing sail, trimming sail. Make sure everyone gets all sweaty in the heat.  Sailors working on sailboats are always all sweaty or we’re not going anywhere fast! Do this all day, today, all night, tonight, all day, tomorrow, all night tomorrow night and all day the following day until 5PM when you “arrive” at the next port you’re going to. Make sure no one in the family leaves the confines of the little bedroom or the patio during our “trip”. Make sure everyone conserves water, battery power, etc., things you’ll want to conserve while being at sea on a trip somewhere. Everyone can go up to the 7-11 for an ice cream as soon as we get the “boat” docked on day 3, the first time anyone has left the confines of the bedroom/patio in 3 days.

Question - Was anyone suicidal during our simulated voyage? Keep an eye out for anyone with a problem being cooped up with other family members. If anyone is attacked, any major fights break out, any threats to throw the captain to the fish…..forget all about boats and buy a motorhome, instead.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I accidentally hit the wrong button, and published a draft post.  It's fixed now, but there is still a remnant in the Google cache, visible if you use Google Reader.

Where do you go to apologize for polluting the Google cache?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I learned about sailing from that: Wind vs. Current

Years ago when I was a kid, I used to read Flying magazine. I particularly enjoyed a long-running series of articles entitled "I Learned About Flying From That." Each article was written by a pilot, who humbly admitted to having made a mistake, and then having lived, told about it in the hopes that others would not have to make the same mistake. I thought then that it was a good format, and I still think that now. This series of postings is my attempt to recreate that article series with a new subject and new technology.

(If you would like to help others to learn from your mistakes, please send your article to: WindborneInPugetSound at gmail dot com)

It had been a long day.

We anchored on the south shore of Hope Island in a narrow finger of water 2-3 fathoms deep. This little channel 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. The eastward tidal current in the area had us facing west. We chose this spot because a gale was forecast in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (just to the west of us), and we would be sheltered from the worst of it here. 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 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. Did I dare start the engine? Getting 3/8" chain wrapped around the prop would not be good at all...

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  - it came up with a ball of mud 2 feet in diameter which took quite a while to hose off.


  • When wind and tide compete, things can get very strange indeed.
  • 25 kt of wind is equivalent to 2 kt of tidal current, in its effect on the boat
  • We didn't have anywhere near enough red lights available. You need your night vision!

    • Set up a red light at the nav station.
    • Get a red light flashlight
    • Get a red light headlamp

  • The 1,000,000 candlepower spotlight was handy to evaluate our position relative to Hope Island. But using it destroyed our night vision.
  • The engine is not the answer to all your problems. In fact in this case, it could have been the cause of a whole new set.
  • And most importantly, don't anchor in such precarious settings when bad weather approaches.

Note: This material appeared first here as a portion of a larger posting, and then later as a guest article at


Tuesday, December 8, 2009


2b : behavior that is mediated by reactions below the conscious level

All of our 4-legged fellow travelers here on Planet Earth do it. There should be no surprise that we want to too. When the days get short and the temperatures fall, the Nesting Instinct appears.
  • You want to pull the covers over your head
  • You don't want to go out in the morning (Morning? It's still dark!)
  • When you get home at night, there is a powerful urge to settle in, with a mug of hot cocoa or a glass of wine (both? would that work?) and do quiet things
It was 22° F here in Seattle this morning. I definitely wanted to stay under the electric blanket (set to "beach", as Jane said last nite). Most specifically, I didn't want to get up at 04:00 and light the Dickenson diesel heater. But when it is this cold, the heat pump can't keep up, and needs some help to warm the boat up from the nighttime temp of 60° F to the daytime temp of 70° F.

So I got up. The cabin sole was cold. I got the heater going. And then I crawled back into the bed again, and pulled the blanket over my head.

It was a double blessing - I got to experience that satisfaction of surrendering to the Nesting Instinct twice in one nite.

And it was warm when I *really* got up at 05:15 to make Jane her eggnog latte.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Crabs, Part 1: Personality

I really liked Finding Nemo because the characterizations of the various creatures were so apt. Who can forget the seagulls screaming "Mine! Mine!" That so perfectly captures the essence of seagulls!

And the crabs. Remember when Nemo enters the Sydney Harbor, and there are two crabs fighting for tasty morsels as they emerge from the sewage outfall pipe? Well, Pixar captured the personalities of those two guys just as accurately as they did those of the gulls.

Crabs are the junkyard dogs of the ocean floor. They are fast-moving armored tanks in a world of the stationary (clams, mussels, sponges, etc), or at best very the slow moving (starfish, sand dollars). If something should make it past the birds on the surface and the fish floating in between, it will likely be a crab that finds it and defends it on the ocean floor. And I suspect that a big Dungie (Dungeness crab) reared up and holding his heavy claws in attack position would scare off most bottom-feeding fish, if they cruised by.

Crabs are fearless. They will attack anything that threatens them or their food. About the only thing that they seem to fear is a bigger crab. And they are insanely greedy. When we were in Norway, we saw kids catching crabs like this:
  • Walk along the shore and find a piece of abandoned fishing line, and a dead fish, or part of a dead fish
  • Tie the line to the fish, and drop it in the water off of a dock
  • Watch. Crabs will come
  • When a crab grabs the fish, pull in the line. The crab is so greedy, he will not release his hold, even when he is hoisted out of the water and put on the dock
Like junkyard dogs, if you throw two crabs into a bucket of water (to keep them alive for later eating), they will square off, facing each other, claws raised and ready to attack. It won't be long before you'll hear a mighty scrabbling, and one of the crabs will have seven legs instead of eight. They are nasty fighters, and they know just how to use those claws to take apart their opposition, literally.

True story:

Jane was untangling a big rock crab from the netting in our crab ring when the wily critter grabbed her finger. In no time, he was working his claw to separate her finger at the joint. Since she had no way to pry open the claw, and there was no help nearby, she started whanging the crab against the concrete dock until he died, and then finally released her (in that order).

At dinner that night, I knew better than to come between Jane and that particular crab. And the swollen finger didn't slow her down at all.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I learned about sailing from that: Fuel Valving

Years ago when I was a kid, I used to read Flying magazine. I particularly enjoyed a long-running series of articles entitled "I Learned About Flying From That." Each article was written by a pilot, who humbly admitted to having made a mistake, and then having lived, told about it in the hopes that others would not have to make the same mistake. I thought then that it was a good format, and I still think that now. This series of postings will be my attempt to recreate that article series with a new subject and new technology.

(If you would like to help others to learn from your mistakes, please send your article to: WindborneInPugetSound at gmail dot com)

It was November 1, 1997, our maiden voyage in Eolian.

We had been up late the night before celebrating our new ownership and our first night aboard. The day before had been a whirlwind, with papers to sign, financing to finalize, and a crash course in the systems aboard Eolian.

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

The plan was to take Eolian south from Bellingham to Seattle thru the Swinomish Passage, rather than to go all the way around Whidbey Island. This is a neat little cut, that goes from east of Anacortes down to LaConner in the south. The entrance at either end of the passage is dredged thru tidal mud flats, so it is critical to pay attention to the buoys/markers/lights, etc.

Just before entering the north end of the passage, the engine coughed a couple of times, and quit.


I tried that desperation move we all try when an engine quits unexpectedly: I cranked it over... rrrrrrrrrrr... nothing. I mean, if it died when it was running at throttle, what is low-speed cranking going to do?

I charged Jane with deciding when the anchor needed to go down to keep us off the mud, as we were drifting in that direction due to tidal current, and I went below. My first thought was that there wasn't really 100 gallons of fuel in each of the tanks as we had been told, so I switched from port to starboard tank. rrrrrrrrrrr... nothing.

Eolian has aboard 8 group 31 sized batteries, which had been on the charger until we pulled off the dock that morning. And the engine alternator had been charging them ever since... right? (Had I actually checked? And how good were those batteries anyway?) The batteries were arranged in two banks of 3 plus one more of 2, At least I had isolated one of the banks to use for engine cranking. I had one more bank that I could use up, and then I would have to use the last two to start the generator (I hadn't tried that either... would it start? Would it make electricity?) to charge the main banks thru the battery charger. But so far, so good. The engine was still cranking OK.

Next, a little tickle in the back of my head made me look at the operating notes that the owner had left. Sure enough, in getting the Dickenson heater working last night, I had left the valving in a configuration which forced all the diesel to go thru a small electric fuel pump *before* it went to the more than adequate filter bank ahead of the engine. See, there is this little tiny screen in the pump, and the smallest chunk of glop will plug it off... Aha! So some valving changes were made, and rrrrrrrrr... nothing.

Next part of the process: gotta bleed the air out of the fuel system. Talk about learning under pressure! I had brought my tools along (good thing... there wasn't even a screwdriver on board). I dug out the engine manuals, and gave myself a quick course in Perkins diesels, and I bled the injection pump... rrrrrrrrrrrr... nothing.

Last resort... crack the line feeding the highest injector... pssttssttsst a bunch of bubbles came out! rrrrrrr... rumblerumblerumble!

Its a good thing that we hadn't made it to the shallow water. Learning how to operate the anchor windlass under panic conditions would not have been pretty.


  • Know your boat's systems - before leaving the dock. No matter how excited you may be.
  • Always check the fuel valving before leaving the dock.
  • Never leave the dock without tools
  • Know how to bleed your engine fuel system
  • Simplify fuel valving to the greatest extent possible. Put up a valving diagram nearby.
  • Be ready to use the anchor if necessary. It may be all that stands between you and a grounding.
  • If you are alone and near shallow water, put the anchor and 75-100' of rode over the side. If you drift into the shallows while your attention is below, the anchor hanging there will probably save your boat. You can always retrieve it later, when you have things squared away down below.

Note: This material appeared earlier as a portion of a larger posting about our first voyage.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's beginning to look...

Returning from our Thanksgiving holiday, we find that some of the boats in the marina have begun to decorate with lights. In particular, Doug and Ruth on Angelique have strung multicolored LED's along their lifelines. With (temporarily) no boat next to us, we have a delightful view out our starboard windows!

We'll have a veritable a boat parade of pictures for you just a little later on!
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