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 If you only open the hot water tap briefly, you will get only cold water anyway, but nevertheless hot water will be withdrawn from the very limited supply and just wasted.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.)
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