Saturday, July 31, 2010

Project: Refill the holding plate

A long time ago (Oct 1999) I rebuilt the refrigerator compartment from the hull out, removing and replacing all the foam insulation and installing a new liner (that'll have to be the subject of another post, sometime). During that process I did not rebuild the wall on which the holding plate was hung, since I did not want to lose the refrigerant charge from the system. Nevertheless, I bumped small brass fitting on the bottom of the holding plate, breaking it off. Nothing came out of the hole, so I assumed that it connected to an internal tube (presumably unused). I JB-Welded it back on and forgot about it.

Years later, Jane noticed that the refrigerator was running more than normal, and we both noted that the frost level on the holding plate now never reached more than about 3" high.

I confess that despite my Chemical Engineering background (or perhaps because of it...), holding plates seemed a little mysterious to me. Ours is a stainless steel tank about 12" x 20" x 4" in which the evaporator coils are submerged in a dilute glycol solution (propylene, not ethylene since this is an application where leaks could conceivably get on food. Ethylene glycol is a deadly poison, while propylene glycol is a food additive). The idea is that when the compressor runs, ice forms in the tank (in the form of slush, due to the glycol), thus storing the 'cold' for later release. It is kind of a formalized and self-contained "Blue Ice" system. This is a design which works well on a boat where the engine is run maybe once a day and it is desired to not use power when it is off. Anyway, I was reluctant to get involved with the holding plate.

Now I really had no choice. Presuming that the lowered frost level indicated the level of fluid in the tank, it was obviously leaking. Where? An examination of the tank showed that the little fitting on the bottom was once again loose - probably bumped again somehow. So I broke it off completely - way too easily. Nothing came out of the resulting 1/4" hole.

OK, next step - find the leak - all I'd have to do was put more fluid in the tank and see where it comes out. So how to do that? Taking a deep breath, I drilled a 3/8" hole in the far upper sidewall to gain entry for a hose for filling. Voila! As soon as the drill penetrated, the water (no longer any glycol - just water) gushed out the hole in the bottom! The hole really did communicate with the tank interior, but the water did not drain earlier because there was no way for air to enter the tank to take its place. Mystery solved.

Now... how to seal a 1/4" hole in an almost inaccessible location, and a new 3/8" hole that was easily accessible... against the possibility of some internal pressure (should it freeze solid), and proof against future bumping?

I remembered a device called an "expansion nut" that I had used in an automotive application. This is sort of a rubber analog of a pop rivet. When a screw is tightened into the brass insert at the bottom, it compresses the rubber between the upper flange and the brass insert, swelling it out. You slip it into the hole and tighten the screw - that's it. When finished, it is very low profile. The one in the 1/4" hole on the bottom is not visible, but the 3/8" one in the upper sidewall can be seen in the picture. The tank is now filled with a solution of 10% propylene glycol (aka "RV antifreeze") and the holding plate works beautifully.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Guitars and boats

Guitars and boats go together pretty well, don't they?

Found this on Boat Bits

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Morning tease

Sun shining thru the ports and hatch awakens me.

At this time of year and here at 47° 40' N, this happens pretty early. But I like it because it gets me up and gets me going early.    I have always been a morning person... I like it when it is quiet, the water is calm, and the only sounds come from the gulls.

So we rise and enjoy a cup of coffee, watching the world wake up.

But then you see it:  tendrils of fog creeping down the bluff behind the marina.  And you know... that the dreaded Marine Layer has arrived.

The marine layer is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs here - a foggy/misty low cloud layer that (I understand) blows in from the Pacific.  It can turn a beautiful sunny morning into a damp funk, accompanied by the sad sound of fog horns drifting in from the Sound.

Eventually, hours later, the sun burns thru the layer.  But by then I am inside, at work.  Operating on the sunlight gathered up earlier.

I am solar powered.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hot water

The water temperature in Puget Sound has finally made it out of the 50's. I suppose that I'll use the opportunity to put on my wetsuit and dive on the prop this afternoon. The prop nut zinc needs changing too, and both of our speedo impellers have barnacles growing on them.

I just can't contemplate swimming in "warm" water this early in the morning.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A happy hooker

(Oh wait - you were thinking what?)

On our trip to the San Juans and the Gulf Islands this year, we had a problem at the first mooring buoy we attempted to pick up: the bronze end broke off of our boat hook.

We were attempting to pick up a buoy at Flagler State Park when it happened. Eolian has a lot of freeboard (more than 6 feet at the bow), and so reaching down to pass a line thru the ring on a mooring buoy is just not possible. What we have done in the past is to pull the ring up to deck level (one person) and thread a line thru it (other person). Notice that this arrangement leaves no one at the helm. This is not easy, since the chain below the ring is very heavy (probably at least 1/2" chain, possibly 5/8"). When there is a current, the buoy stretches the chain out, making it even more difficult to pull up, especially since no one is at the helm to stop the boat from falling back down current or down wind.

Well, the current at Flagler was horrendous, and the tension applied to the boat hook, even tho it was a straight pull, was more than it could handle. This failure simply was the straw that broke the camel's back, and it galvanized us to find a better way to pick up a buoy.

Enter the Happy Hooker. This is a device that attaches to the end of your boat hook pole, and that allows the threading of a light messenger line thru the mooring buoy ring with a single thrust-and-retrieve action. It is an ingenious device, made of plastic. (I am tempted to use it as a pattern to make one of cast aluminum.)

I can't wait for us to try it out. If it works, Jane (out on the bow) will be a happy (buoy) hooker indeed.

I'll let you know.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Soaring on the rising air...

Walking down the dock the other evening, I noticed a falcon slope-soaring on the rising air over m/v TerenĂ£, and I thought to myself, "That's going to keep the seagulls from 'decorating' his flybridge canvas!"

And as I walked along, I admired the graceful movements of the bird, the tiny adjustments made at the wingtips and tail feathers to stay in the air stream, and wondered at its control and mastery of the air.

And then I noticed that there were two-dimensional aspects to the bird. It... It was... it was a KITE! I was flabbergasted, and amazed at the lifelike motions that the kite made.

And finally I noticed that the kite was flying from a fishing line coming from the fishing pole you see in the picture.

I want one.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thoughts on box wine

This weekend, we (well actually Jane) hosted the whole family up at our cabin on Camano Island for "Camano Days" - a celebration combining:
  • Jane's birthday
  • Fathers' day
  • Kaci's birthday
  • Hazel's 3-month birthday
It was a weekend of non-stop fun, eating and drinking, and it is the reason I have fallen behind on blogging.

For the event, Ken and Erica brought a box of (dun-dun... dun-dun...) Box Wine. I know we have all contemplated The Box, but something undefinable has, for us anyway, held us back from that final commitment of putting it in the grocery cart.

This small box holds the equivalent of *4* conventional bottles of wine! You may not be able to tell from the picture, but I'd swear that it would hold 2. I guess that says a lot for the marketing whizzes that are behind the punt in the conventional wine bottle.

So, from a boating perspective, what can I say about Box Wine?

  • It's good! Not wonderfully great, but good. Really!
  • It takes up a lot less room
  • It's good!
  • It isn't fragile.
  • It isn't heavy.
  • It's good!
  • When empty, the box will collapse to a very small package (our limiting capacity for long voyaging on Eolian is garbage stowage)
  • You can drink some, and not have to feel obligated to drink the rest - no air ever gets in contact with the wine.
  • Really, it's good!
  • I don't think the "message in a cardboard box" thing is ever going to catch on.
  • Like when you have a kegerator, your wine glass is never empty. You no longer have the portioned serving of the bottle to gauge and control your consumption. You must exercise self-control over the tendency to have, "just another splash"
It was a great success at Camano Days. And despite the shortcomings, I am absolutely certain that Box Wine is going to become a staple boating fluid aboard Eolian.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Jet City

While it is frequently Microsoft that keeps Seattle in the public eye today, it is worth remembering that aircraft are at the foundation of Seattle. This is the city that Boeing built (called "The Boeing Company" by those who work there). Known as Jet City in the trucking world, there is a motel near the airport which commemorates that name.

There are daily reminders here of this airborne heritage:
  • The Boeing 787, aka the Dreamliner, is frequently seen in the Seattle skies as she undergoes flight testing. This is the world's first carbon fiber commercial aircraft, and it has to be the most graceful man-made thing in the sky. Hopefully you'll get to see one too, soon.
  • There is a WWII era B-25 which still flies the area, offering rides to those willing to put up $400 for 30 minutes in the same kind of plane that made the 1942 Doolittle raid on Tokyo.
  • But my money (if I had it) would go for a ride in the Boeing B-17, also available for rides. Sporting 4 huge slow-turning radial engines, the sound this plane makes in flight is like nothing you've ever heard (unless you're old enough to, well, remember). You can hear it coming for miles. And when it thunders overhead, you'll understand why it acquired the appellation "Aluminum Overcast".
  • The second largest Experimental Aircraft gathering (after Oshkosh, Wisconsin) is held at Arlington airport, just north of Seattle. Attending the Arlington EAA fly-in is one of my bucket-list items.
  • And Sunday evening, the inspiration for this post, a flight (swarm?) of 10-12 Rutan VariEze's passed over our anchorage here in Eagle Harbor. I have never seen this many of them in one place, at one time. Come to think of it, I have never seen that many of *any* kind of aircraft in flight together before. It was impressive.
And, tying this back (sort of) to the theme of this blog, have you ever noticed the strong correlation between aircraft pilots and sailing?

Thursday, July 15, 2010


This morning, as I was brushing my teeth, this was my view out the port in the aft head.

Looking at the dawn on the still snowy Olympic mountains, even the most hardened cynic would have paused, and said, "Wow."

I love this time of year, with the very early dawn - it is so peaceful. So awesome.

How could I not feel blessed?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

At a certain point

When the weather allows, I use my bike for my commute from the University of Washington. It is about a 6-mile trip, so it is not a terribly taxing ride, but when it is warm, it seems that it is a long hot pull up on Shilshole Avenue in Ballard to the intersection at 24th. I am always hot when I get there. Thankfully, that is the highest point between Ballard and the marina, so from there it is level or slightly down hill.

That is, once I leave Ballard heading west, the character of the ride changes - it is more relaxed, more easy going.

And at a certain point, at the Locks, there is a not-so-subtle change. The smell of the air changes from baked asphalt, mown grass, dust, and becomes scented with the sea.

There is nothing like it.

Scientists say that your olfactory lobe is wired deeply, back into the more primitive parts of your brain. I believe it. I know that the first whiff of the sea brings a relaxation in my neck and shoulders, a little smile, and often an involuntary sigh. And an emotional lift. The thought, "I am home," with all the connotations of belonging, of comfort, of contentment washes over me. Whatever problems I have had at work fade away right there.

I admit it: I am a slave to my olfactory lobe.

Monday, July 12, 2010

4 Days

It is just 4 days a year. That really doesn't seem like so much of an effort to keep the exterior teak on Eolian spiffy. Yet it seems that every year I go into anxiety attack mode, worrying that we won't get it done. In order to do the brightwork the easy way, we need 4 days of not-rain. In Seattle, that seems to be a major constraint. And 4 days of not-anything-else-pressing. Some years that is harder to come by than not-rain.

The drill is:
  • Day 1: Tape and sand
  • Day 2: Coat 1
  • Day 3: Coat 2
  • Day 4: Coat 3 and de-tape
It is only Day 1 that is really onerous. The other days, the commitment is only about 3 hours, most typically first thing in the morning after the dew has come off.

This year, we tried something different (thanks to Jane, aka Wonderful Woman): We did the work at anchor. Aside from Day 1, this only took up time that we would have been lazing around anyway, and again aside from Day 1, we still had the day to use however we saw fit. And by doing the work at anchor, we had easy access to the entire outside of the boat by dinghy, and no docklines to work around. It really was a better arrangement. Thanks Jane!

Jane did the fiddly stuff: the handrails and the "eyebrow". I did the bulk stuff: the caprail. And this year I even took half of the eyebrow down to bare wood and started over, since the varnish had failed on it.

We finished yesterday - and we just barely made it... the pictures I took this morning show that it rained over night.

And, without the task hanging over my head anymore, I feel like a kid on the first day of summer vacation!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Something sad has happened.

When we were in Friday Harbor, we discovered that the Front Street Ale House was closed.

Coming to this pub has been a tradition with us, well forever. (Here's a picture of Jane and Adam there nine years ago. The whole family was there, but if I recall correctly, he bought the beer, thus he is immortalized in Internet fame.)

This was a brew pub. I am guessing that none of the beer they brewed made it off the island tho, so you've probably not tasted it (unless you were there of course). And it was good beer they made - something to look forward to, welcoming you to shore.

Things change, etc. But I am sad that this icon is no longer waiting for us as we walk up into town.

RIP Front Street Ale House


Another sunny day in paradise

We have settled into a routine now. Rise before the sun, drink a latte or two, waiting for the coming day to dry the dew off the new varnish, and then apply a coat. The application takes us about 3 hours, and then the day is ours.

Yesterday, we went ashore into Winslow and found a laundromat (even cruisers have to do the laundry, eventually). We had lunch at the Harbor House pub, and then returned out to the anchorage, where we:
  • read
  • knitted (not me - Jane)
  • enjoyed the cool breeze
  • wine in the cockpit in the evening
There is one more coat to go...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Heat wave

According to the local media, Seattle is having a "heat wave". The entire rest of the USA would call this "summer".

Who am I to complain? A week ago I was whining about the cold.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


They say that cruising is working on your boat in exotic harbors. I don't know if Eagle Harbor qualifies as exotic, but we spent the day here working on the brightwork. Today was all prep work today, taping and sanding. In the now summer-like heat.

We're beat tonite. The cool shower (at anchor; no hot water) at the end felt wonderful.

And all day long, these guys wouldn't leave us alone. I have found that with geese, greed trumps fear. They will take pieces of bread right out of your fingers. The girls are generally more careful of my fingers.

Is anyone surprised?


Long, but satisfying

Yesterday was a looong day. We hoisted anchor in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island at 06:15 and headed out. We got started this early for two reasons:
  • Based on our past experience, we wanted to reach slack water when we were at Partridge Bank. We needed an ebb tide to give us a ride out of the San Juan Islands, but we needed a flood tide for the ride down Admiralty Inlet and into Puget Sound.
  • It was a long trip - we needed the time to make it. Our plan/hope was to go all the way into Eagle Harbor, on Bainbridge Island - a trip of 67 miles.
We motored out of the harbor, and caught a nice breeze that carried us about half way out of the Islands. Then it faded, we had to start the motor. We drove most of the way to Smith Island, where the breeze filled in from the West, rising to 10-15 (NOAA forecast: East, 10-15). We sailed basically from there all the way to Eagle Harbor. There were two other short stretches where we needed to start the engine. It was a long day - we dropped anchor at 19:55, after nearly 14 hours.

It was a very clear day - we were able to see Mount Rainier from the San Juan Islands, and when we got into Admiralty Inlet, the Seattle skyline appeared. Looks pretty insignificant, doesn't it?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Delayed post from Saturday, 7/3
We are in Montague Harbor. Summer has knocked on the door. It is late in the day and the sun is shining at a shallow angle, glancing off the water and making a light show on the ceiling of the cabin. What you can't see in this picture is that the pattern is constantly rippling, changing.

And, tonight, I can finally declare that I have reached an important mental state: VACATION. Yes, it has been nearly a week since we left Seattle, but perhaps that says how tightly wound I had become (I think Jane would agree with that assessment).

We had a wonderful sail over here from Ganges. After using the engine to get out of the harbor, directly upwind, we made a left turn and unfurled the sails into a spectacular reach, making 6.5 kt. As we made it thru Captain's Passage, the wind fell off, and our speed dropped correspondingly, but finally, finally, that was OK with me. I checked with myself - I was at peace - I felt no urge to meet some self-imposed schedule. So we kept sailing at falling speeds. We sailed the entire way into Montague Harbor, only starting the engine to do the harbor maneuvering to deploy the anchor.

We had planned to visit the restaurant at the marina tonite, but it turns out that reservations are required, and this is Canada Day weekend... So we enjoyed happy hour on the deck with a view that cannot be topped from any restaurant on shore.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Off the grid

Sometime today we will leave Ganges and head over to Montague. Our wide-spread Wi-Fi provider does not have a presence there, so we probably will be off the grid for awhile.

We had a wonderful day yesterday, off the boat for the first time since Mystery Bay. We had breakfast (well, almost lunch) at the Tree House Cafe - a very unique and charming outdoor cafe positioned, oddly enough, right under a tree. If you should ever find yourself in Ganges, this is a not-to-miss place.

After brunch, we did some shopping, visiting a used book store (we seem to haunt these, don't we). I got a couple of interesting volumes there on NW coast history - the second volume of the books David Conover wrote about his life on Wallace Island, and one called "Bits and Pieces - Tales Told at Greenwoods," which sounded intriguing.

Next we visited Mouat's, a hardware/marine supply/housewares store that dominates the waterfront and got a repair device for the washdown hose (taking us back to now 1 failure for the cruise), and a glass slug that I just couldn't resist.

I also bought 10 gallons of diesel for $4.83/gal (CN). Wow.

We replenished the fresh veggies and then back out to the boat.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Up close and personal

We're finding little "things" on the deck this morning.

Day before yesterday, when we anchored here in Ganges, we ended up with a prime spot. Apparently we arrived not long after several boats left. We are far enough to the dock to allow the seemingly continuous series of sea planes to get to the dock, but close enough to discourage anyone from anchoring between us and the dock. And outside of us is a "work in progress" wooden tug hanging on a rusty cable anchor rode. Everyone is giving him a wide berth.

But yesterday afternoon, when the large orange official-looking Marine Safety boat came up to us, I thought they were going to ask us to move. Not so. They informed us that there were going to be fireworks here in the evening, and that we should tell others who might be tempted to anchor inside of us that they would be in harm's way.

Canada Day fireworks! Wow! And it turns out that we got *the* front-row seat.
Like just about everybody, we have been to many fireworks displays - but not like this. As it got dark, Jane and I were out in the cockpit, trying to figure out where they would be shot from. And we remarked at all the people standing on the docks, also waiting for things to get going.

There was a rousing rendition of "O Canada!" from loudspeakers on the dock (and the entire harbor joined in!), and then the first rocket (OK, technically they are mortars) went up... from the dock! When it exploded it was directly above us - I literally ducked. Talk about impressive... Yes, I watched to make sure that nothing burning landed on us (setting the furled sails on fire would have ruined our evening); nothing ever did. These guys knew exactly what they were doing. There was the occasional "tink" as some piece of burned-out casing landed, but they were cool.

It was the most intimate encounter with large fireworks I have ever had. Well, except for the time when I was probably 8 years old and we went to see the fireworks at Arlington Heights, Ill. Something went wrong with one of the rockets, and it landed in the stockpile of unfired munitions. While running for our lives, I looked over my shoulder at the most impressive ground display I will ever see.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Things are not what they seem


Today was the day to cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Never to be taken lightly, this body of water can kick up some prodigious conditions, especially when wind and tides oppose. Today, there was no wind to speak of (despite a forecast of 20 kt westerlies, which would have been perfect beam reach conditions) - perhaps just 4 kt out of the South. Given the currents, sailing in that zephyr was just not a choice. So we burnt diesel.

But, oh those currents. Thanks to the GPS, it was possible to keep a steady course toward the destination, but it sure didn't look that way. There were times, hours on end, when we had the bow pointed as much as 45° off of the desired course (3-4 kt cross-course current? Sure!). Not being able to see the GPS from where she sits, Jane was very nervous about our course, and I can certainly see why. Without the benefit of the GPS view, it looked like we were heading in a completely wrong direction.

It was another long day. In retrospect tho, perhaps we should have left about an hour later (sleep in! I could have slept in!). Again, we rose at 05:15 and weighed anchor at 07:00. But we arrived at Cattle Pass (the entrance to San Juan Channel) at 12:45, just before the end of the ebb tide. An hour later, and we would have had a sleigh ride up the Channel. But as Jane pointed out, if we left an hour later, we might just have arrived 2-3 hours later without as much help from the ebb tide.

Arrived where? Parks Bay, one our favorite gunkholes. It is right across the channel from Friday Harbor, but it is a world away. No internet, no cell phone coverage, and the shoreline is all owned by the University of Washington - landing is forbidden. And as a complete surprise, there was only one boat in here when we arrived. As the sun sets and I type this, another two have arrived. We are lonely here, and I like it.

There is an eagle's nest on the NW shore, and there was a young eaglet up there, crying pretty much continuously for food. Mom and Dad were soaring 100 feet above - surely they could hear him, but they didn't respond. Perhaps they were saying, "Get a job!"

I put the dinghy over the side and tore down the outboard - it turns out that there was a little water in the gas tank, and it had wetted the screen over the outlet, restricting the flow of gasoline. I dumped the gas back into the large jerry can of outboard fuel we keep on deck, cleaned and dryed the screen, and put everything back together. The outboard runs fine. So now we are back to one failure for the trip, and I don't see how I would be able to reduce that - I can't see how I might fix the boat hook, given that the casting that makes up the working end went over the side.

We grilled some cheeseburgers, and endeavored mightily to reduce the liquor supply down to that allowed by Canadian customs - because we've decided to go into Canada tomorrow.

Sacrifices must be made.

Message: Received!

Those of you who know us know that we have the occasional glass of red wine (well, "occasional", for large values of "occasional").

You might also know that we enjoy beach-combing for messages in a bottle.

So, you might ask how these two things are related (that was rhetorical; I know you have already figured it out).

Yes, we send the occasional empty wine bottle over the side with some kind of message in it. We have been doing this for a while, and as you've already guessed from the title, our first message has been found! It was picked up on the beach at Ebey's Landing last evening!

How cool is that?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...