Friday, December 31, 2010

New year's resolutions

Everybody's doing it, right?  Everybody has a list of 5, 10, 12 things that they resolve for the new year.

Me too.  But I have just one:

I resolve to live the coming year as if it were my last on Earth:
  • I vow to be present in every moment.  
  • I vow to see instead of look. 
  • I vow to listen instead of hear.
Or is that 4?

Now, please excuse me while I turn loose the 8 year-old in me, and go outside and light off some fireworks.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What comes in must go out

A sailboat is a small, self-contained world.  Because of this, the consequences of the lifestyle decisions we make on a daily basis are much more in-your-face than when living ashore.

As an example, think of a sailboat as a closed system (that's actually pretty easy to do).  Everything that comes aboard will eventually need to be removed.  Unless, that is, it is destined to become part of the boat, and this has to be a very limited set of things, or we will sink! 

I think I first had this realization early in my liveaboard career, when I was cleaning the floor.  Anything I missed was eventually going to find its way into the bilge, and then overboard via the bilge pump.  But bilge pumps are kind of finicky - for example, they don't like hair at all!  It gets wrapped around the driveshaft and the impeller, eventually bringing the pump to a halt.  I started viewing the cabin sole as the last-ditch bulwark keeping hair out of the bilge.  The hair still must leave the boat, but hopefully now via a full shop vac.

The closed nature of a boat system is nowhere more obvious than with garbage.  Every bit of packaging (and make no mistake - packaging is by far the bulk of it) must first be carried down the dock to the boat, and then carried back up the dock to either the garbage dumpster or the recycling dumpster.  Why do we have so much packaging?  Cellophane wrappers over cardboard boxes over plastic internal bags. 

(Aside:  Thank heavens our marina provides a recycling dumpster.  It seems that it fills up nearly twice as fast as the garbage dumpster.)

It seems that every time we head up the dock, there is something to be carried up to the dumpsters.  There is no dockside garbage service - there's just us.  More than once I have wished that there was a sheltered station by the recycling dumpster where I could remove the unnecessary layers of packaging before hauling things down the dock.  There would be less to haul (two ways!) and there would be more room aboard.  Or better yet, how about locating that station at the grocery store?

This is another instance where living on a boat brings the consequences of your lifestyle decisions directly to you.  Realizing that I've come at this obliquely in some other postings, I have created a new tag, footprint, to flag them.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The gift of power

Power to the people!

No, wait.

Free power!  Yeah, that's the ticket.

Clean, free power from the sun!

Well, no, not quite.

First: clean.  Manufacturing silicon from silicon dioxide (quartz) consumes about 12 megawatt hours per ton of raw silicon produced.  Yeah, that's *mega*watt hours.  Then, the raw silicon must be refined to get rid of impurities - an exotic chemical process followed in the end with an energy-intensive electrolytic process for recovering the metallic silicon.  In all, about 200 megawatt hours is consumed in the production of a ton of silicon solar cells.  That's a lot of power - power which must be generated somewhere.

Next: free.  In the recent past, solar panels have sold for about $10/watt - that is, a panel with a rated capacity of 100 watts (in the tropics, at noon) would cost about $1000.  That's hardly free power.  If you work out the numbers, at our local power cost of $0.08/kwh, that 100 watt panel would be paid off in 85 years.

But something has been happening in the solar cell marketplace recently.  Solar panels can now be found for under $2/watt (17 year payback), and the bare cells are available for amazingly low prices.  And so just before Christmas, I bought a kilowatt's worth of solar cells and paid an amazing $350 for them - that's $0.35/watt - a payback period of only 3 years.  Those are numbers I can live with!

An early Christmas present!
The actual purchase was 250 cells, each of which is 6" x 6", and will deliver 8 amps at 0.5 - 0.6 volts.  They arrived in 4 boxes and were well protected with packing materials.

Here are a couple of the cells, showing front and back.  They are incredibly thin and fragile.  That ton of silicon mentioned above made a *lot* of these cells.

Now to actually construct the panels in a way that will last, the challenge will be to keep the cost from climbing back to that $2/watt for which commercial panels can be had.

Stay tuned.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Joyous Christmas!

From the crew of Eolian to you and yours,
Joyous Christmas!
(And let's all pray for peace on Earth)


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lighted dinghies, 2010

Ghost's lit up dinghy
(picture shamelessly lifted from Angela's Facebook)
The run-up to Christmas continues here at the marina.  Sunday nite was our third (?) annual lighted dinghy parade.  In this event, we tie a bunch of dinghies together in a line and putt up and down the waterways between the docks singing Christmas carols.  Well, we try to sing carols.  If we can remember the words.  And if the front of the line and the back of the line can keep synchronized.  That is harder than you might imagine, because we are strung out so far (there were 10 dinghies in the line this year).

Of course, the lights are a big part of this.  Sadly, the only light we had was a red LED flashlight, but we waved it merrily (lites on Eolian this year, lites on the dinghy next year).  Scott and Angela get the prize (from me anyway) for the best lit dinghy - they even rigged a bowsprit so that they could show more lights!  And adding to the display, the battery Scott put into the dinghy to run the lites was kind of low on charge - the little inverter he used to power the lights kept kicking off due to low voltage, making Ghost's dinghy the one with the flashing lites!  I think it added a great note to the celebration.

And amazingly, it didn't rain!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Stopping the decay from within

I recently changed out the anode on our water heater.

"What?" you ask, "are you saying there are zincs on my water heater?"  Well, in a word, yes.  Or there should be.

Let me come at this from a slightly different direction.  Have you ever wondered what the main difference is between 5 year and 10 year warranteed household water heaters?  Zinc.  All water heaters come from the factory with a zinc anode installed.  The longer the warranty, the bigger the zinc.  (You can, of course, buy new water heater anodes, should you wish to extend your water heater life beyond the warranty period.)  As a boat owner who is familiar with the concept of galvanic corrosion, you will not be surprised that a system made of plain steel and which features bronze, brass and copper all in contact with each other needs some kind of corrosion protection for the steel.

Eolian's water heater tank is made of aluminum.   Although a zinc anode would protect it if it were filled with salt water, like for outboards used in fresh water, the manufacturer sells magnesium anodes for it.

I simplified things a bit with that opening sentence.  In fact, I installed an anode in our water heater.  The manufacturer shipped the water heater with *no* anode installed.  Despite the installation of a bronze overtemp/pressure relief safety valve.  Bronze in aluminum with no anode.  Huh.  Instead, the manufacturer requires that a handy plastic valve intended for draining the tank gets replaced with the anode.  That made it easy to install, but it will make changing it next time difficult!  There'll be no drain valve to use when that happens.

And, typically, I am remiss for not doing this sooner.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Boarding ladders

One of the things that the Previous Owner did well on Eolian was the design and installation of our boarding lader.  Eolian has a lot of freeboard.  There is no way, for example, that you are going to board her from a dinghy without some kind of ladder.

It is not uncommon for boats with lots of freeboard to have boarding ladders.  The question always is: "Where do I put this thing when I am not using it?"  It is not an easy question to answer.

If you use the old aluminum folding standby, you can just store it on deck or against the lifelines.  Best to tie it down somehow, tho.

The Force 50's (this is Ghost) came with a wonderful traditional boarding stairs, that fold up and tie to the outside of the lifelines underway.  They are completely adjustable as to height - right down to the water, and make a great platform from which to board a kayak at anchor.

Cooper 416's come with a wonderful heavy teak ladder, which folds in half. 

Eolian's Previous Owner (and I give him all the credit here) came up with a wonderful idea:

Fabricated out of stainless tubing large enough to be comfortable to bare feet, these are permanently bolted thru her hull.  There is a nut welded to the outside of the large washer (that is, inside the tubing), and a bolt goes thru the hull and engages the nut.  The large surface area of the washers provide the necessary stability.  And the bolt is sized to be more than adequate to support a fully mature male human being, but yet small enough to shear off and prevent hull damage should the step meet up with an immovable object - say, a dock (don't ask).   Yes, on a starboard tack, one or two steps may be submerged, adding a little drag.  But on a boat of Eolian's size, it doesn't account for much.

But best of all, we don't have to store them, and they are always ready for use.

Christian asked for additional detail on the steps - The best I can do here Christian is to put up this engineering sketch for the steps which was in the ship's papers:


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The dock box

Most docks which offer monthly slip leases sport dock boxes.  When you lease the slip, you get the use of the dock box (ours were recently replaced).   So what do you put in there?

Here's what is in ours:
  • A horseshoe life preserver that was discarded by someone (it looked to be in better shape than ours) (yellow, on the left)
  • A piece of thin plywood, left over from some project (I no longer remember which project)
  • Our oil change vacuum can and pump (blue, in the center)
  • Our dock phone line, from the dim past when we had a landline on the dock, and on the boat (under the vacuum can)
  • A discarded 50' shore power cord.  (It's 50 ' of 3-conductor 6 gauge wire, right?) (under the phone line)
  • 50' of black 3-conductor 6 gauge wire (see above)
  • A grey milk crate holding various cans of paint
  • A small paint roller and pan (on top of the crate)
  • A short length of condemned fire hose, to use for making chafe guards for docklines (coiled on top of the paint roller pan)
Our dock box is unusually empty.  Some are set up as little workshops, complete with shelving, vices, etc.

What's in yours?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Stewardship, not ownership

Are you planning for your boat to sink?  No?  Then to burn, perhaps?  Not that either, then.  Hmmm.  Then the only alternative remaining really, is to eventually sell her.  To a new owner.

In most cases, boats outlive us, or at least outlive our interest in them.  It is therefore inevitable that at some future time, each of us will be classified as the dreaded Previous Owner.  So whether we consider ourselves as owners, we are caretakers, hopefully stewards, over them for a period of years, but then they will move on to the next owner.   It behooves us to take the stewardship of our boats seriously then.

When I think of "ownership", I get thoughts like:
  • She's mine.  I can do whatever I want to her.
  • Who cares if I use this red wire for the negative?  I'll always remember
  • I'll do it right later; this'll get me by for now.
  • Maintenance log?  Why would I keep one of those?  Just do what needs to be done.
  • Patches are good enough.
But "stewardship" brings to mind thoughts like these:
  • I don't want to be the dreaded Previous Owner - I do want to be  "that great guy who had her before me"
  • I should use the right wire to do this - someone else will eventually be trying to figure out what I did here.
  • Long term thinking instead of short term
  • What will the next owner think of this?
  • Improvements, not patches
I should also point out that eventually, you will become your own Previous Owner.  I am embarrassed to admit that on at least one occasion, I have found myself doubting the Previous Owner's intelligence and breeding, only to find that it was me that had made the change.  Yeah, that's really embarrassing, on several levels.

I believe the key thought above is the one that goes "Improvements, not patches."  Whenever something needs to be fixed, I try to spend some time thinking about why it has failed, and whether a better design or better (more modern?) materials might be called for.  And when appropriate, I try to implement those design or material changes.  This applies to both those things that the Previous Owner did (which goes without saying, of course), but also the factory who built her.  After all, they too were only human, and undoubtedly made decisions based on the twin expediencies of cost and time.

In the boating world, we learn from our failures.  Standards to which boats are built are in large part empirical.  That is, the tried is the true.  But sometimes, in an effort to distinguish themselves, a manufacturer will try something which turns out to be not so "true."  Or we will all decide together that the old way can be improved upon (2 NM navigation lites vs. oil lamps, for example).  The boat owner who is a steward will make his changes and hew to the current standards, rather than just replacing the old.

Done well, and your pride and joy will be something in which you can justifiably take pride, and will be in better condition on the day you sell her than the day you bought her.

Unless you sink her, of course.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Seattle: A good place to live aboard in the winter

It is 46 °F in Seattle tonite (I'm writing this on Thursday evening, 12/9).  And it's raining.  Of course.

This is not the most comfortable weather, but it is a darn site better than that in many of the boating areas which I follow.  For example, England has been in the deep freeze for more than two weeks.  Boaters there are having to deal with ice-covered waterways and frozen pipes.  Here it is just rain.  But relentless rain.

Nevertheless,  to me this is a huge advantage.

Living aboard in the winter is difficult.  The boat must be kept warm, else frozen water lines, valves, tanks, etc are the result. This may not be as easy as you might imagine because boats are not nearly as well insulated as houses are, and the water plumbing may be routed near to the hull.  In fact, the plumbing could run behind closets - closets stuffed full of clothing which serve as insulation to keep the interior of the boat warmer...  and the water lines colder.

We may get wet walking down the dock, but we don't need to shovel it.  The little snow Seattle does get is "self-shoveling" if you just have a little patience.  This is a climate where they talk about "bitter cold" and say to keep your pets indoors if the temperature goes below 32 °F.  Coming from Spokane, and worse yet, Chewelah (where we once spent two weeks with the daytime highs at -20 °F, nite time lows of -45 °F to -50 °F - the ground was frozen 5 feet down) this is ludicrous.  But it is a wonderful ludicrous.  We might complain about having to scrape our windshields once in a while, but you will never hear about anyone freezing an engine block.

Look, let me put it this way:  There are not many days when we can use the cockpit as the refrigerator annex - it's just too warm out there.

Me and my symbiotic mildew, we're good with that.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's beginning to look...

I am guilty of committing a holiday faux pas. And I feel shame.

Last weekend, I was so excited to see our first-time ever Christmas lites on Eolian that I turned them on. Before December 1 (can you imagine?).

Lonely lights
It was a lonely set of lites that greeted you out there at the end of G Dock. But I thought they looked great!

But ah, now. Now the whole end of the dock is lit up in festive splendor! And tonite when I walked down the dock, I felt sorry for those folks who do not live aboard their boats, because they are missing something very special!

Lonely no more!

And down below on Eolian, things are festive too!

There is a wintery garland draped along the starboard side of the saloon,

a poinsetta and Christmas candle grace the saloon table,

stars float above us,

and we have our very own miniature Christmas tree!

This may all look a little minimalist, but don't forget the lite show outside...


Monday, December 6, 2010

Boat ovens

Jane recalled that the first time we rented a boat that had an oven, it was an unbelievable luxury.  Our kids were little, and we had chartered a Catalina 30 in the San Juan Islands.  When the weather turned cold, Jane baked cookies in the oven.  Not only was it great entertainment for the kids, it heated the cabin.  But it touched something more primitive in me - a deep "comfort" thing.

Boat ovens are small (I'm speaking of sailboats here).  There is no way you are going to roast a turkey in there, even a small one.  A turkey breast perhaps, or a chicken would fit.  And in fact, most normal bakeware is too big - you have to shop for "mini" versions of cookie sheets, etc.

Boat ovens are gas ovens- a wonderful thing for someone who has had nothing but electric ovens with their high radiant heat loads (burnt on the bottom, raw on top) for decades.  And they do heat the cabin.  This is a boon in the winter, but it keeps us from doing much with the oven in the summer (we do a *lot* of grilling in the summer).  Also, burning that propane and dumping the moisture it produces into the cabin was a problem before we got our dehumidifier.  You *will* want to have a dehumidifier if you're planning to use an oven when the cabin is sealed up.

You probably don't think about it, but the stove and oven in your house are *level*.  Because of this, your cakes unthinkingly rise evenly across the pan.  But boat stoves are gimbaled.  Because sailboats heel, the stoves are made to  swivel so that the oven is on an even keel even when the boat is not.  This would seem to be a blessing, but it is a mixed one.  Depending on what is in the oven and on top of the stove, "level" is a relative term.  We keep a small bubble level handy nearby so that we can level the stove using the tea pot, etc when the gimble is unlocked.  And don't you dare open the oven door when the stove is unlocked and free to pivot, because it will tilt uncontrollably, and spill it's hot contents all over you.  Most of the time, we keep the stove/oven locked into place when we are at the dock or at anchor.  But when baking that cake, I'll free it and apply weights to level it to get as even a result as I can.  The stove is gimbaled in only one plane: to account for the boat heeling.  Variations in the fore/aft plane cannot be corrected, other than by moving prodigious quantities of "things" from the aft cabin to the forward cabin, or vice versa.  So of course, we don't do that.

There are several marine stoves manufactured out there.  Ours is a Seaward Princess.  Perhaps its main competitor is the more expensive Force 10.  In a major refit, a boat that was near us at the dock upgraded their stove - they chose the Force 10 because, "if it's more expensive, it must be better."  It turned out that this is one of the times that the old adage was *not* true.  Not only is the Force 10 more expensive, but its oven volume is about half of that in the Princess.  Further, the oven is equipped with a totally inadequate burner.  It took forever to heat up, and never would reach 400 °F.  They eventually pulled it out and replaced it with a Princess.  YMMV of course.

Jane just reminded me of another oven incident - we were anchored off of Hope Island, riding out a storm.  I baked cornbread - it heated the cabin, made us feel cozy, quelling the storm anxiety, and as a bonus it tasted good too!  Cornbread is for me a comfort food.  Baking cornbread somehow feeds my soul.

It may be small, but our little oven bakes up a lot of comfort for me.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Destination: McMicken Island

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

South Puget Sound - excerpted from chart 18448

The southern part of Puget sound has a very different feel than that portion north of the Tacoma Narrows (in the upper right of the chart above - click on the image for a full-sized version).  In the South Sound, the waterways are narrower, the boat traffic seems smaller, and wonderfully, the water is warmer.  You will actually see boats pulling water skiers in the South Sound.  In fact, the water is warm enough for oysters to grow.

Which brings us, in a way, to McMicken Island.  McMicken Island State Marine Park lies a little less than half way up Case Inlet, close on its western shore.  If you are coming from above the Narrows, you will want to time your passage thru the Narrows to take advantage of the substantial ride you will get from the tidal current.  In fact, the tidal ride will carry you well past the southern tip of Fox Island.  There are tide rips here, where the flow divides into a stream running up into Carr Inlet and one which continues South to the Nisqually Reach.  Tho it is always best to have the tide in your favor, it won't be all that much help to you once you round the southern tip of Anderson Island.

(soundings in fathoms)
The best anchorage at McMicken Island lies between the Island and the shore of Harstine Island, but do not try to reach the anchorage from the South.  There is a tombolo connecting the island to Harstine which drys at low tide.  Approach the little lagoon from the North.  The chart shows two state park buoys in the lagoon, but the last time we were there, there were at least 4.  You should survey the area while watching your depth sounder tho - the buoys were in pretty shallow water.   Depending on where the State Park has placed the buoys, we usually chose to anchor instead.  When the tide comes in, the tombolo is submerged, but the water over it is thin enough to damp the wave action, should there be any coming up from the South.

McMicken Island, looking East
The island itself is a delightful quiet little place; for us the most enjoyable part is walking in the shallows and looking for oysters (check the WADFW site for red tide warnings before harvesting).  Whether or not you find any of eating size, the walk along the shoreline is a wonderful passtime.  Be sure to tie your dinghy well - one time here ours drifted away on the incoming tide and I had to swim for it.

Looking  South, over the tombolo at low tide


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And there was light

A week or so ago, I talked with you about getting Eolian gussied up for the Christmas season.  Well, it's done.

It wasn't the cakewalk I had thought it was going to be - getting the lites up there without tangling, without knocking the covers off of the LED's (OK, one went into the water, and Jane reports that they don't float) was not easy at all.

First, tho I had planned to put up one string, then attach the second, and then attach the third, it didn't work out that way.  It turned out that I had to deal with the whole 100' of twisted Christmas lites all in one go.  Not only did they desperately want to tangle with themselves, they also reached out and grabbed onto anything they touched.

Eolian is a ketch - why not stretch the lites over the whole rig?  The plan was to have the lites go up the forestay to the top of the mainmast, across to the top of the mizzenmast, and then down the topping lift to the aft end of the mizzen boom.  Conceptually simple, but tricky to execute.  The hardest part was getting the lite string around the ends of the spreaders.

But they're up, and they look great!  Indeed, they are the deep, DEEP blue, the blue that you can't quite focus your eyes on.  And strung over Eolian's spars they make an impressive display!

Now if only they'll survive until Christmas.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A night aboard

You've been invited to spend a nite aboard someone's boat. You don't want to commit any faux pas. But you don't know the etiquette - what should you know?

Here are some do's and don'ts (note that I am *not* assuming you have been invited aboard a mega-yacht):
  • Do leave the high heels at home. Power boat or sail boat, they are inappropriate wear because the concentration of force at the heel will damage decks, and simply because you are not safe teetering up there in an environment where the floor moves. Soft-soled, non-marking shoes are ideal. And because many owners encourage a "shoes-off" environment below decks, slip-ons are best.
  • Don't bring three pieces of hard-sided luggage.  There are no "closets" on boats.  Instead, there are "lockers", with all the lack of space that your high school memories imply.  And these will likely be loaded with the owner's stuff.  There will be no place to put the luggage, except perhaps to store it on your bunk - but then what do you do with it while you sleep?  Instead, pack very lightly, and get everything you'll need into a single soft-sided (won't damage the woodwork) bag.
  • Do arrive on time.  The boat's departure from the dock may be timed by the tide, and as has been said, "The tide waits for no man."  A late arrival could completely destroy the Captain's trip plan, while with an early arrival you could help prep the boat for departure.
  • Don't be too shy to ask about the head.  You will be using it - best not to embarrass yourself by having to ask for directions after you have filled it.
  • Do be sparing with your use of water.  It may come out of the faucet just like it does at home, but the supply is limited - very limited.  For example, don't just let the water run while you brush your teeth, or while you shave.
  • Don't use hot water unless you must.  Hot water on board is even more limited than the water itself.  If you are just rinsing your hands and don't need to use hot water, then don't.  If you only open the hot water tap briefly, you will get only cold water anyway, but nevertheless hot water will be withdrawn from the very limited supply and just wasted.
  • Do leave the hairdryer at home.  There probably won't be power to run it.  
  • Don't be concerned about heeling (tipping) on a sailboat.  They are supposed to heel (well, except for catamarans and trimarans).  It is an entirely normal part of the operation of the boat.  There is a big chunk of metal (in Eolian's case, 12,000 of lead) down deep under the boat that is resisting the heeling. 
  • Do ask to help, but don't be chagrined if your offer is declined.  Operating the boat, docking and anchoring become a fine-tuned science for boat owners - additional hands, inexperienced in the operation of this boat, may be more of a hindrance than a help.  This is especially true with docking, where unspoken (nay, subconscious!) teamwork is required.
  • Don't sit or stand on lines.  Especially on a sailboat, the free use of those lines may be needed at a moment's notice.
  • Do know how happy the boat family is to share the experience with you! Happy Sailing!
Does anyone want to add anything?


    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Culinary question

    I have this really wonderfully uber-sharp antique carving set, that of course came out for carving the Thanksgiving turkey yesterday.

    But I suffer from CID (Culinary Ignorance Disorder).  I know how to run the knife, and I know how to run the fork, but... my question for all of you is this:
    What is that little flippy thing on the fork for?
    Surely someone out there in the infinite stretches of the Internet knows, and will save me from the heartbreak of CID.

    Thanks to Shaneus (see comments below), we have closure on this pressing issue:  This is a guard for your hand to protect from knife slips during carving.  This is shown by this contemporaneous advertisement:


    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Giving thanks

    The fourth Thursday in November is set aside in the US as a day of Thanksgiving.  Those of us who live on boats have a lot to be thankful for.
    We will be spending the next few days with our whole family, so brief post today.

    From the crew of Eolian to yours: Happy Thanksgiving!

    Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    Under sail, at the dock

    Puget sound lies in a North-South direction, defined by the Cascade mountains to the East and the Olympic mountains to the West.  This means that pretty much all the time, when there is wind, it is either out of the North or out of the South.

    But not for the last 24 hours.  We have seen winds above 30 kt (gusts over 40 kt) since yesterday afternoon... out of the West!  Our slip lies North-South, so we have had the wind on our beam for all that time.  As strong as it has been, we have been heeled at 5° - 10° - caused by only the wind pressure on the masts.  It has been as if we have been under sail all nite long!

    Do not get me wrong here - I am very thankful that the wind is out of the West when it is this strong - this means that it is holding us off the dock.  Eolian has been riding well - there is no sound of fenders grinding between the hull and the dock, although they do bang once in a while as the wind lifts them and then lets them fall.  They're pretty stiff  - actually they are hard lumps - because the temp out there is 19°.

    The heat pump hasn't been able to keep up with temps this low (and I'm sure the wind hasn't been helping either), so I have lit the Dickenson.  It's cheery flame has been keeping me toasty warm down below.  And given that Seattle is basically closed today (even UW has suspended operations), I'll just stay here.

    I think I'll bake some corn bread...

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Neighbors, redux

    Yesterday evening, yet another major wind storm went thru Seattle.  This time it was us that were not on our boat...

    Scotty over on Ghost facebooked (is that a verb?) me, saying that he'd checked Eolian and found "all lines tight as E strings... but holding off the dock well."  Do you know how great that makes us feel?

    Meanwhile, it's not over.  This is the view that greeted me when I stepped onto the dock a little while ago.

    Yes, winter has returned to Seattle, with a vengeance, and at least a month early.  If we see snow here at all, it is usually at the end of December or in January.  But nevertheless, here it is, before Thanksgiving...

    And here is Eolian, covered with a white blanket and waiting for me to step aboard.  But yes, the heat pump was working, still holding the boat at 58°, where I had set it.

    And now that I have performed the ritual of unloading the dock cart and getting it all aboard and down below, and I have turned up the thermostat, I am snug as a bug in a rug.  The wind is up into the 20's again, destined for gale warnings later this evening.  With a vengeance indeed.

    And I'll leave you with this that I snapped at Ghost's slip:
    Don't ya love kids?


    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Sterile? Or gaudy?

    Some people think all-white lites are sterile.  Some people think multi-colored lites are gaudy.  I fall somewhere between these two viewpoints... and I confess that I have been influenced by the Christmas lites we have seen at Whistler, BC. For some reason that probably doesn't bear too close an examination, I like the blue ones, the ones which seem almost too deep blue to really see well.

    We've never decorated Eolian with lites for the Christmas season.  See, there is this problem with living on 30 amps - there was no power to spare.

    This year, things will be different.  This year, LED Christmas lites have gotten inexpensive enough to be a financially practical alternative.

    And why LED's you ask?  Well, because all three of these strands draw only 0.2 amps... combined!  Our electrical budget can afford that (I am ignoring the power consumed by that cute little $4 timer).

    These three strands stretch a total of 100 feet, which should be enough to go up our forestay, across the triatic stay, and down the mizzen topping lift.  I know that I am going to have to rig some kind of reinforcement where the main and mizzen halyards hoist the lite strands...  it'll be an interesting problem to solve.

    I'll post pictures when they are up and lit.

    But that won't be until after Thanksgiving.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2010

    Wind woes

    The second big wind storm of the week is blowing thru Seattle right now.  We are fine, and all our neighbors are too, now.

    But our internet provider's antenna has apparently blown off its mounts - we get signal for a few seconds every minute or two, as it swings around up there on its coax - at least that's how I imagine it.

    In the mean time, we are snug and warm down below deck here.

    Monday, November 15, 2010


    This evening the wind kicked up just as the sun set. Soon it got up into the 30's and suddenly Jane and I both heard a sound that you just don't want to hear in high wind:  the sound of a sail flapping.  We both sprung to where we could check our roller furling yankee - nope, not us.   We were fine.  With the primary concern laid to rest, we surveyed the nearby boats.  Sure enough, the roller furling main on s/v Kali Rising, two boats over from us, was coming unwound.

    We both threw on coats and shoes, jumped onto the dock and ran over two slips.  By the time we got there, Scotty from s/v Ghost (across the dock) was already there, and Jill from s/v Ambition (between us and Kali Rising) was out and offering us a winch handle.  With the four of us, it didn't take long to wind the sail back in again - once I figured out those new-fangled rope clutches.

    All of us knew that when the wind is up, swift reactions are required.  Several years ago in a similar windstorm, a roller furling jib on a boat over on F Dock (just upwind of us here on G Dock) unwound.  It made a horrible racket, and before anyone could get to it and get it rolled back up again, BRRRRRRTTT!  Shreds of sail blew past us.  I was amazed at how quickly this happened - the sail couldn't have lasted more than 30 seconds.

    But tonite, we got to it in time.  It's not quiet now by any means (the wind is shrieking in the rigging of all of our boats), but it is just the wind and the rigging - no sails flapping.  So by contrast, things seem almost serene.

    Destination: Everett

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

    With more than 2300 slips, the Everett marina is unquestionably the largest in Puget Sound (they claim to be the largest on the entire West Coast).  Quoting directly from their website:
    The marina is protected by approximately 1,800 lineal feet of guest moorage that is available on the marina’s two breakwater floats located at the entrance of the marina.

    It was constructed in two phases: the north portion was built in the mid 1960s and the south portion in the early 1980s. In 2007, the new 12th Street Yacht Basin will open with 155 permanent moorage slips and more than 70 spots for visiting boaters.
    See that yellow buoy/lite ("AO"), just South of the shoal, near the end of the jetty?  Well, let me tell you that it is *very* hard to pick it out at night, against the shoreline, with all of the yellow flashing lites on traffic signals, barricades, etc.

    The marina is not located directly on the sound - it is slightly upstream on the Snohomish River. Being on a river, the guest docks make for an interesting experience.  If you approach the dock going upriver, you can manage your speed thru the water such that you are essentially stationary over thee bottom.  Then all you need to do is give slight starboard rudder, and the boat will move sideways up to the dock.  But be ready with those docklines!  You may be stationary with respect to the dock, but you are still moving thru the water - do not stop the engines or go into neutral until the lines are made fast (bow, and forward spring first, please).

    Tho it is on a river, the marina basin itself is protected from the river current because it is in a dredged area, off of the river channel.   But if you should moor inside in the marina proper, instead of outside on the guest float like we do, you will need to be prepared when exiting the basin.  At the depths of an ebb tide, the current can be substantial - you need to point upstream and be prepared to be swept downstream as your bow enters the current.

    Be careful of those pilings!  They are on the outside of the dock, and it would be very easy to hook your bowsprit inside of one of them when docking.  I'm pretty sure that would lead to a disaster of some kind.

    Jane picks the oysters

    Just above the marina itself are a number of nice shops and restaurants.  In particular, we enjoy the Anthony's there, as it is right above the dock!

    Should you be interested in long-term moorage, the rates at Everett are 72% of those at Shilshole, (at least for our slip size), and there are many openings.

    You can contact the marina on VHF-16, or at (425) 259-6001.

    Friday, November 12, 2010

    The beginning of the month

    Out here on the dock, ours is a transient society.

    Slip leases run from the beginning of one month to the beginning of the next.  This means that the end/beginning of a month brings new neighbors (welcome George and Betsy!), but it also means old friends are leaving (hope you're enjoying Tacoma, Doug and Ruth!).

    There are those folks who move frequently (military families, minister's families).  Their children grow up learning how to quickly make new friends out of acquaintances, because they must.  But I did not grow up this way, so it is not a skill I have.  The end of the month changes are not easy for me.

    I wish there were room on the dock for everybody that had ever been here, and that no one had ever left.  But of course, that isn't possible.

    I am struggling with something here.  My words are leading me inevitably to the conclusion that I do not do a good job of friendship maintenance once the friends are far away.  And that I apparently need to work on making new friends more quickly.

    Our transient society demands it.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010


    In the parking lot just north of the marina this morning, we were met with this sad sight.  This poor boat had apparently been neglected for an extended period, presumably at the dock.  The fenders were inadequate (one has popped), and the topsides are chewed from of rubbing against the dock.  Sitting on the trailer as it was, we couldn't see the cockpit or the interior, but the view from ground level was scary enough.

    Clearly, this boat was not driven onto the trailer, or the mussel garden on the lower unit would have been blown away. But the state of neglect of the things we could see would indicate that the state of those things we could *not* see, like the engine, would be no better.   I do wonder how it was gotten onto the trailer.

    As we walked around this boat, Jane said that she was saddened.  That she hated to see a boat that was suffering from this lack of love, of owner's pride, of nurturing.  For some reason, boats do this to us - they evoke an emotional response.  (I am only speaking here of Jane and I - surely you non-boaters out there are more rational than this.)  We know that this boat was once someone's pride and joy.  What happened?  Did life's plans change? 

    This boat needs someone to care for her, to invest elbow grease.  Most of what is wrong with her can be repaired with labor.  Certainly, there will be things which, thru neglect, will have corroded or deteriorated beyond repair and must be replaced.  But usually, the majority of any boat project's cost is the labor.  And if you are willing to invest that labor yourself, then that very act of investment will make her yours.

    Nurturing wanted.  Apply within.

    Monday, November 8, 2010


    Why would anyone choose to live on a boat?

    For this blog, that's an important question - in fact, it is perhaps the *central* question.  While I am certain that each liveaboard would give different answers, I also suspect that there would be parallels between them. 

    In the order that came to mind (perhaps you can divine something of my personality from this):
    • I enjoy being close to nature/the world/the weather
    • The lure of the water
    • The feeling of being self-sufficient/self-contained is very satisfying
    • Easy access to sea food
    • There is an undeniable romance, and I am hooked on it
    • The ability to see your home in many different settings
    • To be able to travel without leaving home
    • To live where shore-dwellers only get to visit
    • To experience the grandeur and majesty of the weather and tides at first hand
    • To live more simply
    • It satisfies a spirit of adventure

    And, Jane's answers, also in the order she provided them:
    • We're drawn to the water - all humans are.
    • Moveable home, change of scenary
    • Swinging on an anchor
    • Closeness to your environment, weather awareness
    • Comoraderie with other boaters in our little boating neighborhood
    • Like living in the country, when you are living in the city
    • Traveling at the pace of a sailboat - leaving cars, trains and airplanes behind.
    • Enjoying the experience of sailing as well as the destination
    • No magic - when you live on a boat, like living in the country, there is no magic.  In the city, things magically come to your apartment without thought or conscious action (power, water), and are removed the same way (sewage, garbage).  Not so on a boat. 
    • Enjoyment of the night sky

    Do you live on a boat?


    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Autumn colors

    This has been an outstanding year for fall colors, by Seattle standards anyway.  In Port Madison, in Port Blakely, and oh my gosh, on the bluff above the marina.  It's nature's last gasp of color before reteating to black and white for a few months.

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Master and Commander

    People are curious about the sounds and feelings of living on a boat. I am frequently asked what it's like to live here, usually after a windstorm has gone thru the area. If you wanted to know what that sounds like, I'd suggest you rent the movie Master and Commander. In the opening scenes, the sound of the wind in the rigging is accurately captured - it sounds there exactly like it does here on Eolian when the wind is up.

    The movie is an accurate depiction of nautical life (in the 18th century) in other respects as well:
    • Life in the fo'c'sle (forecastle) was very much rougher than life for the officers or the midshipmen.
    • These ships were crowded. Aside from the need for a lot of hands to man the rigging of a large windborne ship, recall that each cannon required a crew of six to operate. The HMS Surprise (125 feet long) was a 24 gun ship, meaning that 72 men were needed to fire the guns on one side, plus powder monkeys and other auxilliaries to keep them supplied. And then there were the Marines (ship-borne soldiers).
    • Luxurious tho the captain's quarters were (at least in comparison to the fo'c'sle), they were temporary. When the ship was made ready for battle, the quarters were completely torn down, making the area available for working the stern guns
    • The damage caused by a 32 lb iron ball traveling at a high rate of speed is devastating. Most injuries were caused by flying splinters resulting from the impacts.
    • The square meal was shown - "china" for the fo'c'sle was a simple wood plank
    • The officers were frequently what today we would call children.
    • Tho shown in the movie theatre, the scene showing the use of the head resides in the "Deleted scenes" section on the DVD. The head of the ship is the front. There were no "sanitary facilities" provided for the fo'c'sle crew - they were expected to go to the head, climb out into the bowsprit rigging, and drop trousers there. The deleted scene shows this in passing, when the HMS Surprise is rounding Cape Horn - a most unpleasant experience to be sure.
    • Medical care (when the ship carried a doctor) was primitive.
    • And shown so very well - the ship at sea is truly a world of its own. Completely isolated, and necessarily self sufficient.
    We have this DVD aboard - it is one of the two required DVD's for liveaboards (the other being Captain Ron). I cannot recommend strongly enough that you see this DVD - not necessarily for the story line, but for the accurate depiction of life at sea in the 18th century.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Dock zombie attack!

    Our little community out here on the dock (which now includes the remote neighborhood of F Dock too, since the marina renovation - I need to blog on that sometime) does Trick or Treat too.

    Eolian's pumpkin(s): The Space Needle, with a Jumper

    Boats carve pumpkins, some go pretty all-out on decorations, and then there are the pirates, zombies, etc. who go from boat to boat extorting candy.

    The Extortion

    Shown here are a Sniper, a Devil Princess,and a skier with a broken leg.  Not like on shore:  We had a total of 8 budding extortionists this year.

    Adult zombies too!

    Scott and Angela from Ghost hosted a party on the dock afterwards - They went all out, including setting up a lighted tarp shelter in case the weather turned wet. Amazingly, it was reasonably warm, dry, and calm.

    (And this morning, now that it is all done, it is pouring rain.)

    Friday, October 29, 2010

    Witch Birds (Which Birds?)

    Each year, at about this time, the witch birds return to Shilshole.  You can see them standing on the breakwater, some with their wings spread in a position to dry.

    Jane calls them witch birds because of the season, because of their sinister appearance, but mostly because their cry sounds disturbingly like a cackling witch.

    Cormorants are unusual sea birds.  They would seem to be poorly adapted to life in the water on the one hand, because they apparently lack sufficient oil to keep their feathers dry like ducks or sea gulls.  When they swim, they float perilously low in the water (but always with the arrogant head tilt...).  Yet on the other hand, they are superb underwater swimmers, and are very accomplished fish catchers.

    Comorants hold a special place in my heart.  When we first brought Eolian down to Seattle, a comorant welcomed us to the area.  He attempted to land on our wind vane at the top of the mast, but finding it to be too tippy a perch, he left.  But not without unloading before takeoff.

    Thankfully I was wearing a hat.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Hair styling emergency!

    Do I have crypt head?  Yeah, I think I do.  Do you think so?  Is there a stylist in the house?

    Today, being the closest day to Halloween that I will work, I let my tresses flow all day.

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