Friday, February 26, 2010

Irrational Exuberance

That expression was made a permanent part of the lexicon by Alan Greenspan, describing the stock markets.

Mr Greenspan's subject matter notwithstanding, I am feeling exuberant - irrationally so.

Is it the longer days?

Is it the warmer temperatures?

Maybe it is the perfume-filled air. The trees are beginning their spring extravaganza - flowers are appearing everywhere. I hear robins again, in the bushes and trees while I am waiting for the bus in the early morning. The dogwood at the building where I work, the explosion of flowers across the street are an herbivorous exclamation of joy! And Seattle is blanketed with pink from the plum trees blooming everywhere. How can I help but to emotionally chime in.

This euphoria has a name: Spring Fever. And I've got it, bad.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Destination: Hood Canal Floating Bridge

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

The Hood Canal floating bridge is an amazing piece of engineering. It is a huge concrete structure carrying Washington State Route 104 across the Hood Canal, connecting the Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas. Those 7,869 feet in the span save more than 100 miles of driving around the entire Hood Canal (which is not actually a canal, but a long, narrow natural waterway).

The bridge is floating because the water depth is too great for pilings to be a usable support solution. Although it looks like it is two layers, it is not. What you are seeing is the roadway carried on pillars above the concrete pontoons. The ends of the floating span connect to fixed structures, but the span itself rises and falls with the tides - more than 16 feet. Tricky anchoring. Tricky engineering.

The center 600 feet of the bridge can be opened for marine traffic by withdrawing sections into wide spots in the non-moving portions. And marine traffic there is - the Bangor Naval base is located on the Hood Canal, below the bridge.

In a 1979 winter storm with sustained winds of 85 mph and gusts to 120 mph (hurricane, anyone?), the western drawspan and the pontoons of the western half broke loose and sank. It is thought that blown-open hatches allowed flooding of the pontoons, causing the sinking.

In 2005, we transited the bridge aboard Eolian. Opening the span requires at least an hour's notice (contact the bridge on VHF channel 13). When you are arriving at the bridge for your scheduled opening, you should hail the bridge again to let them know.

The actual opening of the span is quite an involved affair. This is a big machine! The operation takes 30 minutes or so and involves a lot of driving here and there by the bridge operators on top of the pontoons (below the road surface). Eventually, one of the draw spans begins to move, and a gap slowly opens, and you are signaled to pass.

Because this is no small deal, and because the opening and re-closing of the bridge causes such long delays for the automotive traffic on the bridge, the bridge operators attempt to "bunch" up the marine traffic. When we transited in 2005, we shared an opening with a US Naval warship. We let them go first.

In this last picture, we have cleared the bridge and are looking back at it. To help give some scale, if you look closely, you can see one of the bridge tenders' pickup trucks parked on the pontoon.

It's an interesting place. After all, where else are you likely to see a submarine on your way to work?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Project: FWD Head Replacement - DONE!

Aaand... it's done. I spent this afternoon mounting it and hooking up the plumbing. I even had to take a walk in the wonderful warm afternoon sun over to West Marine to get a single 5/16" bolt (I only had 3 of them) to make the attachment to the floor.

Oh, yeah, and I tested it. It works. No more needs to be said about that.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Why ski?

I want to share something with you.

I have lately mentioned skiing pretty frequently in this liveaboard boating blog, mostly because we have been doing a lot of it (and not a lot of boating) this time of year.

Skiing is an unusual sport. It takes you to places no sane person would go uncoerced. To the tops of mountains. In the winter.  In the cold.  At a time when people mostly want to curl up in blankets by the fire.

But there are compensations for the harshness. One of the more compelling of these is the stunning surreal beauty of the environment - and that's what I want to share.

I took these pictures at the Stevens Pass ski area 2 weeks ago (for you Stevens Pass skiers, they were taken in the trees off of Roller Coaster, Tye Mill chair). As with all the pictures on this blog, the ones shown here are thumbnails - click on any of them to see a full-sized version.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

She's a Tease

Like Charlie Brown of Peanuts, I get suckered in every time. She tempts me with 60 degree days, sunshine and calm winds. She brings camellias in bloom and plum tree flower buds 1/4" in diameter and ready to just pop! There has been the smell of BBQ in the air, and a few brave folks have been off the dock. Little Ellie from Ghost has earned her "dinghy driver's license", and was out taking Scott and Zach for a ride. The first dock gatherings have happened.

Real spring is just over the next rise, right?

But every year, I am depressed when March roars in and pulls the rug out. February is the tease, but March is the teacher smacking me on the back of the head, rousing me out of my daydream. Some of the best skiing of the year is in March. And our logs reveal that we've only been off the dock once before April.

So, while we are enjoying the warm weather, washing the winter dirt off the boat and cleaning lines, and even cooking a meal or two on the BBQ, I can feel my shoulders hunched up, waiting for March to smack me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Project: FWD Head Redemption

So I cracked down this morning and got on it. No, this is not the morning's reading list... This is weighty volumes helping me out. There was a bubble in the top layer of the teak and holly plywood which makes up our sole, caused by moisture from the old head. I drilled a series of small holes into the bubble and injected 30 minute epoxy thru them with a syringe. The books did yeoman duty holding the bubble flat while the epoxy cured.

Next I over-drilled the old mounting holes and inserted bungs, using 5 minute epoxy this time. After this cured, I cut the bungs off with a chisel and sanded them flat, in the process also sanding off the extra epoxy on the surface from the bungs, and what had bled out of the bubble.

Finally, the first coat of varnish is on. Yes, I know it looks about the same as the "before" picture. But please humor me and tell me it looks way better. That way I will be encouraged to put on another three or so coats.

Project: FWD Head (not much) Progress

OK, I confess. I am guilty. I am guilty of having my priorities inverted. But, oh, the skiing at Stevens Pass has been sooo good...

So the only thing I have accomplished on the "Replace the forward head" project is that I have gotten the old corrupted varnish all sanded down.

I'll do more today. I promise.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Project: Replace the Forward Head

This is *not* a project from the past. You are cruising right along with us on this one.   At last week's boat show, we visited a booth from Marine Sanitation - a local outfit that specializes in marine heads and related items.  After talking with the saleslady there, my frustration with the heads on Eolian came to... um... a head.
Aside: Why is it called a "head" you may ask? On the old sailing ships, the sailors were not provided with "facilities" of any kind whatsoever. When nature called, they had to go up into the bows of the ship, into the very head, and do their business as best they could, hanging on to the rigging while the bow plunged into wave after wave.  There was a scene in Master and Commander that depicted this in the movie theaters (that scene was relegated to the "deleted scenes" on the DVD).  Not very pleasant at any time, and downright nasty in the winter.  I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it.
The forward head, despite the investment of more than $100 in parts will still not pump sea water for the flush. Instead, we have been using the shower hose to supply flush water when needed. I became convinced to try a Jabsco head, for $154, instead of investing another $100 in parts to attempt another repair of the fragile mechanism inside the old Groco head.

So we bought one.  Aside from the usuals, it has a nice feature:  if you push down the pump handle and twist it, both the inlet (sea water) and the outlet (waste) are closed off tight.  At least so it says.  (Pardon my lack of faith in heads.)  It does look like it will be easy to rebuild, when the time comes.

This weekend we did the procurement, and I spent a half a day removing the old Groco head.  There is no other way to put it: this is a filthy job.  In the end, I washed up the area and myself with bleach and then took a shower.  The old head is out on the dock, leaning against our stairs.  Since we still have a Groco head in the aft cabin, this can serve as a source of spare parts.  Unless we like the Jabsco head so much that we pull the aft head too.

The floor area where the head was mounted needs to be refinished.  I tied the hoses up out of the way, and once things dry out I will get out the sandpaper and varnish.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I learned about sailing from that: Always carry tools! And spares!

The year was 2001 and we had just left the dock for the San Juan Islands. Not long after killing the engine and raising sail, while Eolian was sailing herself under autopilot, I was walking the decks, enjoying the sun, the wind, and the boat moving thru the water.

Then I heard the splat of the bilge pump discharging onto the passing sea. It didn't run long... but it shouldn't have been running at all. So I went looking. After pulling up the third floorboard, I found the problem - there was sea water dripping off of everything. It seems that one of the sea water hoses on the engine had split, and had sprayed sea water all over everything. The hose was still drooling.

I shut off the relevant sea cock, and cleaned up the salt water to try to avoid corrosion problems. I removed the (short - about 3" long) hose, and went thru the ships stores looking for something to use as a replacement. Nothing aboard would match the approx 1 1/4" dia. Eventually, Jane found a short piece of 1" white plastic head hose that I had bought to use as a chafe guard on the docklines - this was the best we were going to do.

So I fired up the inverter (wonderful invention!) and heated up the heat gun. I softened the plastic hose enough so that I could stretch it over the pipes, but it was a tricky operation. This hose connected two 1 1/4" pipes whose ends were about 1 1/4" apart. This means that the hose had to be bent and slipped over one pipe far enough to get the other end into the gap, and then slid back so that it would go over the other pipe end. The tricky part was that if the hose cooled enough to become stiff, it was unlikely that I could reheat it with the pipe inside it. Moving quickly was paramount. I got it on almost completely and applied the hose clamps again. Starting the engine, it dripped a little, but that was all. In the picture, the black hose is the one that ruptured and the white one is the one I stretched into place with the heat gun.

Later, we pulled into Everett and walked up to the West Marine store near the marina. In the "scrap" bin was a short piece of rubber hose the right size, which they gave us. I installed it and we continued with our voyage.

When we returned, I replaced all the hoses on the engine on the theory that if one had failed, the others were near to failing.


  • Inspect the hoses on your engine - replace any that appear questionable in any way. Do this at the dock - it is much easier than under way.
  • Carry tools and supplies to make repairs under way. Be ready to improvise!
  • You can get an amazing assortment of hoses at an auto parts store. I was able to replumb the engine on Eolian using pieces cut from only two hoses.
  • In an emergency, you can reduce the pressure in the cooling system to near zero if you remove the radiator cap (let the engine cool first!). With little pressure, duct tape, or even electrical tape can provide a temporary repair.

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)

Note: This material appeared first here as a portion of a larger posting,


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Glad To Be in Seattle

We're glad to be in Seattle, instead of the the East coast where they just got hammered with a monster snowstorm. We had our first dock gathering of the year on Saturday afternoon, when the sun came out and the temps got nearly to 60.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Winter Maintenance: Oil Changes

If it sucks, that's good.

It is necessary to warm the engine up before doing the oil change. This is because we use a vacuum can that sucks the oil thru a hose pushed down the dipstick hole. That means it is a small diameter hose... thick oil takes forever to come out, so having it warm helps a lot. Here, I have remembered that I was going to make a post about this, and took the picture. The engine has already been emptied of oil, and I am about to pour in the 2 gallons of Delo400 30wt (upper left) into the engine thru the white funnel.

Eolian originally came with an electric flexible vane pump plumbed directly into the oil drain on the Perkins 4-236 main engine. I didn't like this for two reasons:
  • I feared that something would go wrong with the plumbing, and dump the oil out of the engine, either all at once, or thru a slow leak. Then, when I needed the engine the most, it would be empty of oil, and I would have a Captain Ron moment and a seized engine when I could least afford it.
  • It didn't work.
The vacuum tank is just as easy, less messy, and is a low-tech solution that requires no modifications to the engine. It works great, if slowly (it takes just about a beer to empty the engine, but that's OK by me).

The same arrangement is used to get the oil out of the genset engine - it works great there too.

This is definitely one of those rare occasions when, the more it sucks, the better things are.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Project: New Inner Forestay Padeye

Project from 2004 (before the bowsprit replacement of 2009)

Crevice corrosion is nasty stuff.

When we first took possession of Eolian, the inner forestay padeye looked a little weird - like it was mounted incorrectly. The front edge was higher than the back edge. Over time, that "weirdness" became more pronounced, until it looked like this (once application after application of various types of caulking - mostly silicone - were removed). Obviously, something was going wrong here, and attention was required.

After the caulking removal, I found that the pad had two pieces of 1/2" stainless allthread welded to its underside. These penetrated thru the entire bowsprit and deck, and were provided with nuts against the underside of the deck. So, on the initial assumption that the forward nut had never been made up completely because of the extreme difficulty of reaching it, I spent perhaps 8 hours wedged into the chain locker, up in the very pointy end of the boat, mightily struggling with the nut (no, I do not suffer from claustrophobia). During the course of this time, I managed to turn it perhaps 2 full turns, which should have substantially reduced the gap on the exterior. In fact, there was NO CHANGE.

Unfortunate conclusion:
The reason the forward edge was lifted was that the forward rod was broken somewhere inside. Using a sawzall, I cut the rod off the bottom of the pad. Then in the now more easily accessible gap, I worked on cutting the rod at the rear of the pad.

I was unable to complete the aft cut tho, because the blade began digging into the wood of the bowsprit. So I decided to break the remaining portion of the aft rod. It was far easier than I had
anticipated... and in fact, it did not break at the cut I had made, but instead below it. After the pad was removed, it was easy to pick the end of the forward rod out of the hole.

The forward rod, due to the design (the tension of the forestay is directed substantially aft), handles almost the entire load. Sometime in the 23 years previous to our purchase, the forward rod parted due to crevice corrosion. This left the entire load, in an extremely unfavorable position, on the aft rod. It was cracking, and had cracked nearly 2/3 of the way thru when I took the hammer to it.

This was caught in time... just. It would have failed sometime when we had only the mizzen and the staysail flying, probably in 25+ knot winds. Then the staysail boom would have been flailing all over the bow, doing substantial damage and creating a very dangerous condition.

Further efforts in the chain locker revealed that the remaining portions of the allthread were NOT going to move. So, they were abandoned in place.

I designed a replacement pad, larger than the original. After fabrication, this was installed over the ends of the abandoned rods, bedded in a generous layer of polysulphide. It is held to the bowsprit with 4, 3/8" stainless hanger bolts (think: "lag studs"... that is, lag bolts, with the hex head cut off, and the shank threaded with machine threads), capped with acorn nuts. The 4, 3/8" bolts provide a greater bolt cross section than the original 2, 1/2" rods, and spread the load over a greater surface area and greater number of fasteners. The new pad is twice as wide as the old, providing a significantly better ability to resist the side loading that the sail puts on it.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Ghost is Now a Sloop!

Ghost is no longer a ketch - she has taken down her mizzen mast to do work on it. Look close - it is there on the deck, on some saw horses. For now anyway, she is a sloop.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Seattle Boat Show, Winter 2010

Jane and I spent today at the Seattle Boat Show, billed as the largest boat show on the west coast. The show takes over the entire south end of Lake Union with literally hundreds of large boats, in the water. And the Quest Event Center is equally filled with more hundreds of smaller boats, up on blocks.

Normally I like to keep this blog positive, but frankly, I must confess I was disappointed. We did the outdoor show first, at Lake Union. At least 80% of the boats were power boats. The proportion of sailboats in the boat shows has been falling for several years running, with a brief respite a couple of years back when diesel was selling for $4.50/gallon (filling the 1200 gallon tankage on a 55' power boat was then a serious commitment). But the fall has resumed.

With the exception of a Dana 24, there were no sailboats of size in the indoor exposition. I am not counting the Hobies, nor the Macgregors (which hardly qualify as sailboats). Nor the delightful collection brought by the Gig Harbor Boat Works. But Hunter, Benneteau, Catalina, etc. were just not there.

But to end on a positive note, a local (Bellingham) builder: Norstar, was represented at the outdoor show with a new Norstar 40. We thought that this Robert Perry-designed boat was well thought-out and well built. He is getting positive press from the local and national yachting publications, and he told us that he was seeing a lot of interest at the show. We wish him luck and success!
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