Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A little slice of Heaven

We are here, in Ganges, Saltspring Island, BC. We left after lunch and got here at about 4 PM, and fortuitously were able to anchor right near the town dock.

Jane just said that we have a little slice of heaven here. The sun is still shining, it is warm, we had BBQ and grilled corn on the cob for dinner, and now as the evening sets, the water is calm like a ripply mirror and there is a live band somewhere on shore playing jazz.

And I am down below catching up on the blog - there are a couple of days to do, and I am working on them.

But for now, I am going up in the cockpit to watch the evening fall and listen to the music.

Poetry in cove


Tuesday morning, we rose late. Heading to Canada, the tide would be against us until the afternoon, so there was no reason to force ourselves out of our comfy warm covers prematurely. We breakfasted on the last of our blueberries, since we couldn't take them into Canada (?), and spent the morning reading (me) and knitting (Jane).

After lunch, we dug out our Canadian courtesy flag and got the ship's papers ready, and hoisted anchor. Unfortunately, the anchor wash-down hose failed, after the anchor was aboard. We'll have to get a new one at Ganges when we get there. The trip failure count now is back to 2.

Going across Boundary Passage is always interesting. Aside from it being an international boundary, it is also a major junction between the waters in the Strait of Georgia and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A lot of water flows thru there every tidal cycle. Consequently, there are lots of tide rips, overfalls, boils, and the charts are marked with foreboding "swirls" (the Norwegian word is "maelstrom") all over the place. The direct path between Parks Bay and Bedwell Harbor (South Pender Island) passes right thru the worst of these. We altered that path, going north of Flattop Island.

It was an interesting day - for most of it, we had the wind on our port quarter, and flew the yankee by itself. At one point we were seeing 15 kt relative wind and were doing 7.5 kt over the ground. Thankfully this was just when we were trying to stem the south-flowing current at Flattop Island. But eventually, the wind faded and we were forced to start up the diesel.

After clearing customs, we anchored in Poet's Cove, not far from a spot others remember well. Not wanting to pay the exorbitant international roaming fees, we both have our cell phones turned off. And there is no internet service available here (doesn't BBX have a site at Bedwell? I'll just jump on line and check. No - wait...). Wow - three days without a connection - how long will it be before the twitching stops? Before I don't feel the need to check my email, facebook, etc. every 30 seconds?

This morning it is downright chilly. In the cockpit, inside the full enclosure, the thermometer reads 46°, and the cabin was 56° before I lit the Dickenson. But it is a bright sunny morning, and I am sure it will warm up (he says bravely). Interestingly, the Poet's Cove anchorage is hard under a high cliff which is shading the anchorage, so it may be a while before that sun actually shines on us.

This morning there are platoons of these guys patrolling between the boats, keeping things orderly - entirely appropriate since we are in their country!

And as were leaving the harbor, we saw something sad and almost a little comical . There was a bald eagle, in the water. I guess he dove on a fish and misjudged and got too far into the water. He was slowly making his way to shore with a kind of slow overhand (overwing?) crawl. There was a kayak with two folks in it debating whether to close in and help. I didn't get any pictures because we were too busy getting under way, and I don't know how it all turned out.

I'll bet the eagle was embarrassed.

The power of sunscreen

Posted on Wednesday, because we just anchored in Ganges where there is INTERNET!


We rise at 05:15 on normal workdays - why does it seem so early on a vacation day? After getting some coffee in us, we did the last of the tasks to be ready to leave, and cast off at 07:00. It was a partly cloudy morning, but it was warm and we were moving downwind, so it was comfortable out on deck in just a sweatshirt.

We left at this early hour for two reasons: First, we wanted to get the best of the northward-flowing ebb tide, and second, we hoped, that if things worked out well with the tide, to be able to tie up at Ft. Flagler State Park on the far north end of Marrowstone Island instead of in Port Ludlow.

Soon, the sun was shining, and we had a great wind off the aft starboard quarter, and thanks to the tide, were making 8.5 kt. It was glorious! I peeled off the sweatshirt, and then the tee shirt. We got out the sunscreen, and prepared for a summer day!

And then the clouds came in.

We continued to make 8.5 kt all day, and blew right past Port Ludlow. When we turned the corner at the top of Marrowstone Island, we were still in the ebb tide, but by the time we got to the entrance of Killisut Bay, the flood had started. I guess you could call that perfect timing, but it was by the skin of our teeth.

Our plan was to take a buoy at Ft. Flagler State park. Maneuvering against the rushing tide influx (it was like being in a river), I brought the buoy alongside and Jane hooked it with the boat hook on the first try. Then, while pulling up the ring to thread a line thru, the end broke off the boat hook! Sploosh! There went all our capability to tie to a mooring buoy for this trip! Trip failure count = 1.

A quick decision, and we headed south into the waterway between Marrowstone and Indian islands. Entering the waterway at the top is complicated, but threading the needle below Ft. Flagler is much, much worse. A local told us this afternoon that everybody eventually runs aground in there, and that it hasn't been surveyed in a looong time. When we saw 5.8 feet on the depth sounder, we made a panic U-turn (we draw 6 feet). We went back and anchored between the buoys at Ft. Flagler, and waited for the tide to raise the water level.

By 14:00, we had another two feet of water, and so we tried again (and used a slightly different path thru the maze). Excellent! The least water we saw was 10 feet. On the way down, we saw this boat - it appears that it was washed ashore (lost its way thru the maze perhaps?), and is awaiting a very high tide to rescue it. Luckily, June is the month where there are both very high and very low tides.

So, here we are, anchored in Mystery Bay - perhaps I'll do a "Destinations" post on it later. We went ashore to the State Park here by rowing - the outboard is starving for fuel (dirty filter is my guess - I'll fix it later. Trip failure count = 2). It is lovely. In fact the word that comes to mind here is: cozy.

It is dinner time now, and we are down below. It has been raining off and on for a while, and we have 20 kt blowing thru the anchorage.

Seems like a good night for Thai Panang Curry. I'll get to work on it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

We're off!

At 07:00 this morning, we cast off for two weeks in the San Juan
islands, and maybe Canada.

This picture is from under way, off of Marrowstone Island, looking
back down Admiralty Inlet toward Seattle. It was sunny earlier, but
now it is clouding over. Still warm tho.

(Posted courtesy of my iPhone - I love this thing!)

Opposite corners

On Monday, I got to compare notes about sailing and life on the water with someone from the opposite corner of the country:  Tampa/St Petersburg, Fla.  (Yes, I still like and use the 3 letter state abbreviations.)

A lady that works with Jane and her Florida-based father (and a reader of this blog!) came aboard to see Eolian, and to discuss how sailing differs between the PNW and Fla.  Here's a partial list from that discussion, in no particular order (did I leave anything out Chuck?):
  • Chuck thought it was delightfully cool here.  How delightful our temps are is apparently colored by where you have spent the last little while.
  • No swim platforms; no swim platform showers - Easy access to the water from the boat and vice versa is de rigeur in Florida.  One swims in Florida because it is delightful, and because it is a way to escape the heat.  Boating life there is living on and in the water.  But entering the waters of Puget Sound can be a life-threatening experience.
  • Cockpit enclosures - the majority of boats here sport full canvas cockpit enclosures.  In Florida, the enclosure is typically a bimini - just the top, without the side curtains.  You need a place to go to get out of the sun.
  • Tides - The tidal range here is large - it can be as much as 16 feet, while in Florida it is minuscule by comparison.
  • Currents - That tidal range drives some prodigious currents in the PNW - currents which do not exist in Florida.
  • Barnacles - Even with bottom paint, boats need to be frequently cleaned of freeloading sea life in the warm Florida waters - Chuck said every 6 months I believe.  While up here, with the boat hull essentially in a refrigerator, not so much.  We seem to be on an every-3-years haulout schedule.
  • Heaters - Boat heaters are as common here as boat air conditioners are in Florida.  And boat air conditioners are as scarce here as boat heaters are scarce in Florida.
  • Bugs - Insect life abounds in Florida.  We have no screens on the ports and hatches on Eolian - we don't need 'em.
  • Anchors - The Danforth anchor is a lot more common in Florida than here - there are lots of sand bottoms there, and Danforths work well in sand.
  • Sailing season - Chuck was interested to find that, on Eolian anyway, our season seems to run from late April to early October.  He thought it would be longer.
  • Hurricanes - We don't have 'em, in Florida they do.  In fact, during hurricane season, people are apparently glued to the Weather Channel the whole time, sweating the track predictions.
  • Anchoring - Florida is home to some of the most inhospitable municipal anchoring regulations in the country.  Not so here.  Yet.
  • Shoreline development - Sadly, this seems to be the same everywhere.  The working waterfront in America is being sold off to The Developers for the construction of condominiums.  Slip space is getting harder to find everywhere.  Yet the boat manufacturers are continuing to make and sell boats - where will they be moored?  Have we reached the point where for every new boat manufactured, one must be destroyed somewhere to release a mooring for it?
It was an entertaining and eye-opening discussion. 


Friday, June 25, 2010

The works of spiders

Spiders are amazing creatures. I know that they are ruthless predators, but their webs always make me sigh. These spider-works, beaded with dew, webbed the entire area around the water faucet on our dock this morning.

Yesterday morning, the Paul Bunyan of spiders had strung a web completely across the dock, from dock box to dock box - a mighty work. It must have taken him all night.  It too was beaded with dew when I saw it, riding my bike down the dock on the way to work.

How could I not think of this Far Side cartoon?

Sadly, it didn't work out for Mr. Bunyan. I rode my bike right thru the web.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gunkholing in the San Juan Islands

Gunkholing - (noun) The fine art of cruising from one small cove or anchorage to another, arising late and arriving early.

If you ever plan to cruise the San Juan Islands, you need to get a copy of this cruising guide.  It is the definitive reference (at least as far as I am concerned) for cruising the San Juans.  Jo Bailey and Carl Nyberg have spent their entire lives cruising in the Islands - even if you start now, you have no hope of accumulating the equal to their experience.

This book (ISBN 0-944257-04-6) should be on your boat in the summer, and if you are not a liveaboard, it should be on your coffee table in the winter.  It can guide your dreams and plans in the winter, and then guide you in the summer.

Here's a typical description, of Parks Bay, one of our favorite gunkholes.  See if you like their description better than mine:

Parks Bay is about 0.5 mile long and 0.2 mile wide, a secluded spot, the waters reflecting the deep green of surrounding trees.  This is a place where yours might be the only boat at anchor.  Mariners in Parks Bay tend to be quiet, picking up the tranquil mood of the bay.  Several tiny, shallow coves filled with submerged piles and old deadheads are fun to explore by small boat. 
This is a favorite anchorage among local boaters, who prefer a small quiet bay to a crowded harbor.  The best anchorage is the south end of the bay in 3-8 fathoms.  There's good protection here with a mostly mud bottom.  Although North westerlies may blow in, most of the time it's pretty calm.  There's room for perhaps a dozen boats, but we've never seen that many.

It is a delightful gunkhole.  Herons stand for hours on long stick legs on the rocky shores of Parks Bay, waiting for snacks to swim past, darting their long beaks into the water for an instant meal.  Eagles soar on huge outstretched wings high above.

There are no public tidelands in the bay, and the entire shore is posted "Scientific Research Area.  Positively no trespassing on tidelands or uplands, and no dogs."  This is a University of Washington Biological Preserve on about 1,000 acres.  The land was donated by the Ellis family: brothers Henry and Bob, both deceased, and Fred, who lives on Shaw Island.  A pier near the head of the bay on the east side belongs to the UW, Friday Harbor Labs.  It has a shed and an occasional small boat tied alongside.

The north end of the bay has a notch in the corner, east of a small penninsula, where we've also anchored in about 6 fathoms.  It's more exposed to wind and waves from San Juan Channel, and there's room for just one boat in here.  Sunsets and moonrises from this little cove are stupendous.
From long experience, I can attest to the accuracy of that description. Of course, they have pictures and charts to go along with the descriptions.  We really like the background and local color that they give - it brings the places to life and fits them into history.  With the descriptions, rather than locations, they become places.  They come alive for us.

We've worn out our original copy of this guide and are now on our second copy.  That ought to say something to you.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An end to splinters in awkward places

At Shilshole, every slip comes equipped with a dock box. Like a black hole, stuff accumulates in them, and gravitates to the bottom, packing down to neutron star density. I will wager that no one on the dock knows what they have in their dock box.

Well, wait. No, I won't. The marina, having rebuilt all the docks except A and G (those were done 10 years earlier) decided to upgrade our dock boxes out here on G Dock. This has forced everyone on the dock to actually look at and touch everything in their dock box, because the marina wants them empty when the workers arrive to swap them out. Like everyone else, we discovered mildewed treasures in the bottom of ours.

The real benefit to us is this: at the after-work beer gatherings on the dock, there is an overwhelming temptation to sit on or lean against the dock boxes - they are the perfect height for it and are at convenient locations. Unfortunately tho, they were molded from a fiberglass reinforced plastic mix. After all that time exposed in the sun and weather, the outer surface glaze has weathered away, exposing the fiberglass strands. Maybe you can just see the glistening individual fibers in the picture, but trust me, if you lean against the box, or Heaven forbid, sit on it, you will definitely know they are there - you'll get painful fiberglass slivers in very tender parts of your anatomy.

Slivers that you cannot reach to pull out.

The replacement is moving along apace this week, but at seemingly random slips on the dock. But at tonite's after-work beer gathering on the dock, it was explained to me that the slips that had cable TV were being done first. We don't have it, so I guess we'll be down the list. This is a picture of the one on G57, where we used to be, and where s/v Angelique is now.  I got to lean against it tonite, and enjoy its cool shiny smoothness.

Without slivers.

Ours is surely coming this week, and then we'll be able to start a whole new treasure collection in it!

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's against the law!

After all my weather whining, things weren't nearly as bad as they were forecast to be. This weekend, we had Adam and his friend Kaci on board for a 2-day cruise to Poulsbo and back - I wanted this to be a memorable time for them. I think we succeeded there.

When we left the dock Friday evening, we had a 15-20 kt northerly which provided us a great close-hauled sail across Puget Sound to Agate Pass. With the main and yankee up, Eolian put her shoulder into it and we scooted across making better than 6 kt most of the way. It is always good to have a great sail for someone's first time on a sail boat, and I think this one did not disappoint Kaci. As this voyage started at about dinner time, Jane served us a salad first course while were under sail. After motoring thru Agate Pass, I put Adam at the helm while I went below and made the pasta for dinner. It is always intriguing behind Bainbridge Island, and it gave Adam some interesting pilotage to work thru. As it turned out, the timing worked out just about perfectly for us to put down the anchor in Liberty Bay right in front of Poulsbo and then sit down to dinner.

Saturday morning, we all had a cup of coffee and then piled into the dinghy for the run to shore. We went straight to Tizley's, a wonderful upstairs resteraunt that you might easily miss just walking down the sidewalk. We had a round of excellent bloody marys and several UK breakfast items, and than back onto the street for a shopping expedition.

We stopped at the Licorice Shrine to try some unusual ones, but unlike in the past, fate did not smile on us, and we each managed to pick something that none of us enjoyed. Then on to more shopping. We stopped into the used book store, (whose proprietress is easily bribed with chocolate) and browsed for quite a while, tho no purchases were made this time.

Jane and Kaci spent a long time in a yarn store, and when Adam and I went to discover the cause, we found that the lady in the store had them operating a yarn baller (?). We rescued them.

Finally, we ended up at the Hare and Hounds for some excellent and highly varied beers.

(Note that I have not mentioned rain yet)

We hoisted the anchor at 11:40 to meet the tide in Agate Pass, and motored against 20 kt headwinds over to Port Madison. The anchorage was unusually crowded (there were several raft-ups), and we were forced to anchor way inside, past the Seattle Yacht Club outpost. The yacht club docks too were packed and there was some kind of big commotion going on up on shore there, with a whole lot of kids involved. It was a relaxed afternoon, involving knitting and reading, and yes, some napping. I did a pork loin on the grill and Jane made her now-famous lime/zucchini/corn dish (does it qualify as a salad?) and smashed potatoes.

Capping the evening, Adam and Kaci took us thru their pictures from their amazing trip to Paris. This was a bohemian trip - with help from their friends, they stayed in a loft above a bar, in a hostel, and amazingly, in a stunning chateau, complete with a cook chef (can you say "9 course dinner, with ice cream as one of the middle courses"?). The pictures from Normandy were particularly sobering. Bomb craters still litter the area. A lot of very brave men died there, creating a beachhead for the invasion of Nazi Europe.

The next morning, while we were groggily sipping coffee, an amazing thing happened. A dinghy full of kids came right by us. And then another. And another. Soon there were 10-20 dinghies lined up between us and the yacht club docks - all full of kids clutching brightly colored creations. We all went out into the cockpit to see what was happening - it turned out that we were one end of the starting line for a sailboat race. The sailboats were the proud creations of the kids and were made from food containers - styrofoam clamshells from hamburgers, hoagies etc. plus skewers, straws, duct tape, and a bunch of other stuff. Now we knew what the commotion had been up on shore.

Suddenly, the dinghies all backed up, revealing that the boats were in the water and that the race was on!  I think you can imagine the cheering that was going on.

From the perspective of the little styrofoam craft, we weren't just the starting line - we were a huge, steep-sided island.  And as the gentle breeze blew past us, some of the craft just zipped right around us and collected in a kind of Bermuda Triangle on our leeward side, sucked into the vortex that formed there.  We heard one father explaining this to his disappointed kids as they watched their craft going nowhere. Eventually, the race was over, the winners were declared, and all the creations were picked up by the dinghies.  And a little 6-year old blonde girl whose craft was one which had been trapped behind us hollered back at me, "It's against the law!  It's against the law to suck in boats!"

How could we not be back for this event again next Father's Day?  I hope we can be the starting line again.

We finally did get rain as we came back across Puget Sound that afternoon.  But we sheltered under the bimini and enjoyed it, kind of.  The visibility was bad enough where we had to use the radar for a while.  But it let up just as we were entering the marina and were getting ready to dock, so all is well that ends well.  We celebrated the successful docking (as is the tradition aboard Eolian) with the "Banana Bread" beer that Kaci got in a specialty beer shop in Poulsbo.  It was surprisingly good - we decided it would be perfect on a Christmas morning.

All in all, I think it was a very successful weekend.  Not summer, but not exactly  "nautical" either. 


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Doug and Ruth and Peppermint Patty


Life is change. Without change, there is no life. And here on G Dock it is more evident than for folks living ashore.

On Thursday nite, we had a dock party honoring Doug and Ruth of s/v Angelique - they're leaving - going to Tacoma. Jay, who recently brought his brand new Hunter 49, s/v Kali Rising to the dock, will be taking their slip. Doug and Ruth, tho only here for a few years, rapidly became an integral part of the community out here at the end of G Dock. They are generous, gregarious, and wonderful folks. Tho Jay will be taking their slip, when they leave on the 26th of June they will leave a big hole in our little community. We welcome Jay, but we will sorely miss Doug and Ruth. So it goes in our transient society.

And now we will have friends in Tacoma.

As evening fell, the temperatures fell even further, and we retired inside - to the saloon on Ghost. There we were introduced to a new (to us, anyway) concoction called a Peppermint Patty - hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps - just the thing for a typical June evening in Seattle out on the water. Or for a ski trip.

These things could easily be addictive.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cleaning the brush: A Chemical Engineer's perspective

Good varnishing brushes are definitely not cheap! The quickest way to ruin one is to let varnish dry in the brush - not something any of us wants to do.

But cleaning a brush is not an easy task. You may think that after triple-rinsing it in fresh paint thinner, the brush is clean. But put it away for a couple of days, and when you go to use it next, the bristles are  disappointingly stiff.

As a Chemical Engineer, I learned several things that have made brush cleaning a lot easier.  (What?  Practical knowledge?  Who knew?):
  • Use a counter-current wash system. This keeps the clean end of the system separate from the contaminated end. In a real chemical plant (for example, an alumina refinery) there would be as many as 10 stages or more. Here we will make it simple - we'll use only two.  Do it like this:
    • Save an empty paint thinner container. When you rinse out your brush, dump the now-contaminated solvent into this container. Soon you will have lots in there. As soon as you have enough, this is now your stage 1 rinse.  Squeeze out all the varnish you can from the brush, and then clean it thoroughly in the stage 1 rinse solution. Squeeze out all the stage 1 rinse, and wipe the brush on a rag, trying to absorb as much of the stage 1 rinse as possible. Dump the stage 1 rinse back into the stage 1 container.
    • Next, rinse the brush in 3 small changes of clean solvent. As above, drain all the now contaminated fresh solvent into the stage 1 rinse container, wiping the brush nearly dry between rinses.
    This works because even tho the stage 1 rinse is not pure solvent, it is not very far from it, as compared to the varnish itself. Then the pure solvent is only used to rinse out the stage 1 solvent - not raw varnish. There is a secondary effect: some of the varnish (and paint, and stain, and...) precipitates out in the stage 1 rinse container. When it does so, the stage 1 rinse liquid becomes less contaminated. By doing things this way, your use of fresh solvent will go down considerably, even while your brush gets cleaner.
  • Exclude one of the reactants, and a chemical reaction will stop.  Curing paint or varnish is a chemical reaction between the resins in the varnish and the oxygen in the air (and water vapor, if there are urethane resins involved).  Exclude air, and the reactions stop.  This is why varnish does not cure in the can.
  • Reaction rates roughly double with every 10° rise in temperature. For our purposes here, the converse is the more valuable: reactions rates are halved for every 10° drop in temperature.
Putting these things to work, on a day when I just need to preserve the brush for tomorrow, I give it a quick but thorough rinse in the stage 1 solvent, getting most of the varnish out of the brush, and then wipe it mostly dry on a rag.

Next, I tightly wrap the brush in aluminum foil - this excludes air and water vapor.

Finally, I store the brush on top of one of the holding plates in our freezer.

I really have no idea how long this process will preserve a brush, but I can set a lower limit.  I have pulled a brush out of the freezer (I forgot it was in there) after a month, and it was still pliable, ready to use.


Trying to keep a PMA

This evening, we leave the dock with Adam and his friend Kaci aboard for a weekend trip to Poulsbo. When we planned this event, the weather forecast looked something like this:

Partly Cloudy
69°F | 46°F
70°F | 56°F
Partly Cloudy
74°F | 53°F
Partly Cloudy
68°F | 53°F

It was going to be our first real summer weekend! (meaning that it wasn't going to be cold and raining). But then, 36 hours from the actual departure, the weather forecast was this:

Scattered Showers
65°F | 52°F
Partly Cloudy
70°F | 54°F
70°F | 55°F
66°F | 56°F

And now, 24 hours later and 12 hours from the departure:

Partly Cloudy
71°F | 54°F
62°F | 54°F
61°F | 55°F
Mostly Cloudy
67°F | 56°F

Trying to keep a Positive Mental Attitude here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Altered Reality: Navigating with radar

Navigating with radar is an exercise in perception in an altered reality.

Instead of seeing with light, you are seeing with radio waves.  Things are different (on purpose!) - there are some consequences:
  • Things reflect radio waves differently than light.  Some things which are opaque to light are essentially transparent to radio waves (eg. wood, fiberglass).
  • Surface roughness matters.  Rough surfaces (with feature size down to say 3-4 inches) will appear brighter than smooth surfaces.
  • Size on the radar screen will be related to reflection efficiency more than physical size.  A canoe with a good radar reflector will appear bigger than a 30' wood cabin cruiser with the engine below the waterline.  In fact, that cabin cruiser may be invisible.
  • The radar beam does not continuously illuminate the surroundings like the sun.  Instead, it is a narrow beam which is swept around the horizon - imagine trying to understand your surroundings by swinging a flashlight around your head in a circle.  This means that you are very obviously viewing a series of snapshots rather than continuous video.
  • In most cases, the radar antenna will be mounted near a mast.  This arrangement will cause a blind sector - a wedge-shaped area on the radar screen in which nothing can ever appear.  Think of it as a shadow.  But there will be no evidence on the screen of this.  
For these and other reasons, it is very disorienting for the helmsman to switch back and forth between the radar display and looking out over the bow.  A far, far better arrangement is to have a radar officer (on Eolian this is Jane) who lives continuously in the altered reality of the radar world, and a helmsman who remains in the real world.  To complete the link, a communication protocol needs to be worked out between the radar officer and the helmsman.  Not surprisingly, we fell into the one where angles are identified as a clock position on the screen, and distance is in miles or fractions of a mile.  For example, Jane might say, "You have something which appears to be stationary, out about 1/2 mile at 2 o'clock."  And then I squint in that direction.

Try it in broad daylight first.  In this way, you will be able to link up the altered reality of the screen with the one out the window.  And do not be surprised if several of the boats in your vicinity are completely invisible on radar.  (Do you have a radar reflector?).  Try out all your controls to learn how they affect what you see (or don't see).

Do not spend all of your observation time at short distance scales.  Switch to longer range scales frequently - big ships move quickly (and you don't). 

Illustrating some of these points, here are two stores from our logs:
Cruising north in thick fog just off of Apple Tree Cove, we knew we were in the ferry lanes.  I was having no luck seeing, but I could hear a ferry out there somewhere.  I kept asking Jane where it was, and she kept telling me that she could not see it at any range.  Seemingly very quickly, he sounded like he was right behind us.  And suddenly Jane shouted - There he is - on both sides of us! 
The ferry had been approaching us from astern, and was in the shadow wedge created by our mizzen mast.  When he got close enough that his ends extended outside the shadow, indeed, he did appear to be on both sides.  He also was turning into Apple Tree Cove to the Kingston ferry terminal, so the story had a happy ending.  Im pretty sure he had us on his radar.
And another:
Cruising again in thick fog, we were entering Port Ludlow.  Now, this is is a little scary in good weather. Having the fog did nothing to make it easier.  Jane began to report that the area beyond the ledge was filled with boats, all apparently stationary.  "Hmmm...," I thought, "a bunch of fishing boats?"  I asked her for a safe course, and she said there were too many blips to pick one.   I ducked down the companionway to see for myself, and try to get a feel for things.  Yikes!  They were everywhere!

I throttled way back, hoping to slow to the point where I'd be able to see boats and be able to avoid them.  As I approached the first one, Jane kept telling me how close I was, and kept asking me if I could see it.  Then why I couldn't see it, as we were right on top of it.  And about then, we passed a crab pot buoy with a little flag on it.  And then a whole lot more of them.  It seems that there was a wire in the flag, to hold it out - a wire that made an excellent radar reflector.

This story too has a happy ending. As we rounded the little sandy hook and entered the inner bay, we drove out of the fog into bright sunshine.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

She's safe.

Even if you have not been following 16 year old Abby Sunderland's quest to sail alone around the world, she has probably been brought to your attention by the stories in the news media in the last couple of days.

What you may not have known is that she runs a blog.  For those of us who follow it, the whole drama of the past few days was played out, in real time.  If you are interested, I'd suggest starting your reading with this entry.

It is delightful (albeit scary) writing.  Much of what she writes sounds like it is coming from the pen of a very experienced seaman (which, of course, she is), but then appears something charming obviously written by a teenaged girl.

There are those busybodies who question whether someone so young should have been "allowed" to make this journey.  To them, I thumb my nose, and say, "Kindly mind your own business!"  As Abby says, anticipating those critics, "As for age, since when does age create gigantic waves and storms?"

This is one tough lady.  My hat's off to her.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Monday nite, Jane set up a garden party at Adam's house  (no, not that kind of garden party). This was a work party to take care of some gardening tasks.  These tasks included "deadheading" rhododendrons.

I learned that rhododendrons need to have their "expired" flowers clipped off, or there won't be any flowers next year.  Who knew?

How did rhododendrons survive until the invention of humans?  And clippers?

I was a grateful deadheader when Adam brought me a porter to finish off the evening  <*ducks*>

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Looking, and seeing

The way the mind works is a mystery to me.

How many times have you looked at the sunset this week?  How many times have you seen it?

How many times have I looked at the reflections of the boats in the marina in the waterway?  How many times have I seen the liquid interplay of shapes and colors that result?  Tuesday nite, while making cheeseburgers on the grill, I had one of those wonderful, but sadly rare, instances where I saw those constantly evolving fluid shapes.

When looking turns into seeing, I can actually feel the mental gears shift, tho I have no words to describe it. 

I know that I spend way more time on the passive, looking side.  I wish that I could find a way to be like some people I know, who seemingly spend the majority of their lives on the seeing side.

As I was writing this, I was about to make a connection to right-brain / left-brain.  But I don't think this is necessarily valid.  Here's why:

This morning at work, I was examining an intermittent failure in a system that I have been trying to get to the root cause of since May 20.  Every day, for at least part of the day, I have spent time looking at this failure, from as many different directions as I can, hoping to get a clue as to its cause.  Now this is pure, unadulterated left-brain analytical thinking.

This morning, while looking at all the same elements that I have examined every morning for the past 3 weeks, I could feel a subtle shifting of the puzzle pieces occur.  Some pieces became more prominent and others became more dependent... and, most importantly, looking turned into seeing.  Everything fell into place, and the cause became not just distinguishable, but OBVIOUS.

Even tho I was heavily into computer systems analysis, did I just shift into a right-brain mode?

Did the shift happen last nite while I was cooking cheeseburgers? 

And by far the most important question:  How can I stay here, where I am today, in seeing mode?

Lots of questions.

No answers.

Monday, June 7, 2010

70 Degrees

It is a milestone in the year when the temperature reaches 70° F. And we reached that milestone here in Seattle this weekend. It is warm enough where you want to take off your flannel shirt when you are working outside.  It is warm enough where you can feel that unfamiliar sensation known as "perspiration" while working.

Now don't get me wrong here.  We live in Seattle completely by choice - we feel it is one of the premier cruising locations in the US.  In fact, we agree with Tom & Dawn of s/v Warm Rain, recently returned from cruising the South Pacific to "the grandeur of the Pacific Northwest."

I love the nautical ambiance of mist and rain on the water.  I enjoy the lush, lush greenery that the rain brings.

And yet.

And yet when I am honest with myself, I admit to being jealous of those who already have suntans.   And I find myself longing for those days and nites when the ports and hatches on the boat stay open all the time, when a pair of shorts and a Hawaiian shirt are comfortable attire.

It is coming; I know it is.  The long season of Woebegone is nearly over.

I want to wear my Hawaiian shirt.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Project: Dickenson Heater

When we first took possession of Eolian, the installation of the Dickenson heater was somewhat different than it is now. This picture, taken too early in the morning after our ownership celebration in November 1997, shows the heater as it was then. (I don't have too many pictures from that timeframe, and the ones I do have are not very good quality - we were just in the beginning stages of switching to digital.) Please note the stainless steel shield behind the heater chimney. I know you can't see it in the picture, but it made a right angle turn at the ceiling, and then proceeded another 18". This was kind of necessary, because the Dickenson heater is not provided with any mechanism to circulate the air it heats - it just rises straight up. The Previous Owner attempted to alleviate this problem with the heat shield, and a small 12V fan, mounted just out of the picture to the right.

I thought the shield was ugly, and decided to take it down, forcing me to find another way to address the problem.

When I did, I got a pleasant surprise. Behind the heat shield was a metal grill with adjustable vanes, venting from the plenum just behind the heater. This was a left over from the original air conditioning installation, at that time mostly removed. For real air circulation, I got a 12V electric radiator fan from an automotive shop, and mounted it in the plenum behind the grill. These are designed to move a lot of air, and are pretty bullet proof, being intended to run outside, under the hoods of cars in all weather.

Next, I thought the metal-framed grill was also kind of ugly, so I made a teak bezel for it. You can see how I have set the vanes to blow the heat away from the bulkhead and ceiling, and out into the boat proper.

Next on the agenda was the treatment where the chimney pipe penetrated the deck. Outside, it was fine. But inside, the trim installation left something to be desired.

A hole had been cut in the headliner, and the trim ring supplied with the Dickenson had been installed to the deck with long screws (the headliner is about 1" below the actual underside of the deck). But the headliner hole was ragged and oversize, and the trim ring was not large enough to cover it.

I glued some wood scraps to the underside of the deck with Gorilla glue (great for large gap filling), scraps thick enough to fill the gap between the deck and the headliner. And I made another teak frame large enough to cover the headliner hole and have some reveal around the stainless trim ring, and attached it to the now-glued wood scraps, trapping the headliner between.

Oh yeah, and I took down the little 12V fan and its associated wiring.

This arrangement works very well for heating the boat, and I think it looks good too. Don't you?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Luck? Or Choice?

I have never seen this stated better.

John Vigor (of the Denaming Ceremony fame) addresses this on his blog. I am not going to repeat it here - I couldn't add anything. Go read it there.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Boat Pano

Some years back, in March of 2002, I fooled around with some image stitching software and produced this 360° panorama of Eolian's interior.

Of note in it are a view of the back wall of the nav station before I got it refinished, and the *ugly* companionway closure that preceded the one I built. But other than that, the interior refurbishment was essentially completed by the time the pano was made.

Time and technology march on.  Twelve years down the road from the picture above, everyone has a camera capable of taking much better panoramic photos in their pocket - no exotic image stitching software required:

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