Saturday, December 31, 2011

A little G Dock New Year's excitement

m/v Clupea
This morning when Steve cranked the starter on m/v Clupea, a gorgeous old wood boat, the starter solenoid exploded, starting a fire.

Steve was able to extinguish the fire before any real harm was done, and then he called the Fire Department to come check out everything with their IR gear to make sure that the fire was really out (I would not have thought of that).  Thank heavens that Clupea is a diesel boat.

A flash of genius
And thank heavens that Steve was able to get the fire out with what he had on board, since the Marina has recently implemented a policy of shutting down the fire hoses on the docks for the winter.   (Thankfully, most boat fires do not happen in the winter.  Oh, wait...)

The sign is cheaper

I suppose they have discovered that it is far cheaper to put up a notice than to properly maintain all those pesky freeze protection valves...

Friday, December 30, 2011

3, 2, 1, Contact!

Some of you may have noticed that there is a new tab on the blog: Contact.  And some of you may have sent me email at the address on that tab....

Abject apology!

I screwed up the setup of the email account - I did not get your email.

Things are correctly set up now.  Please, please, PLEASE send your email again (perhaps you still have it in your Sent Mail folder).


(Oh, and thank you too, loyal readers, for hanging in there while I took a Christmas blogcation!)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

From the crew of Eolian to you and yours,

May the joy and hope of
Christmas fill your hearts the
whole year through


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Float testing

As liveaboards, we like to do our part in advancing the boundaries of human knowledge.  Here on Eolian, we believe in the Scientific Method, so we collect data.

One kind of data we have been collecting over the years, is how this whole Archimedes-discovered thing about displacement and floating actually works.  As you have probably guessed from the title, we have been float-testing random objects.  So far, we can definitively report that the following do not, in fact, float:
  • A B6S sparkplug for the outboard
  • A 6' length of 1 1/2" PVC pipe
  • A cell phone
  • Several hamburgers (cooked on one side only)
  • A 3/8" combination wrench
  • A green serving bowl
  • An uncounted number of Christmas lite bulb covers
  • A part of the mounting bracket for our bow light
  • A couple of 1/4" allen wrenches
  • A large and random collection of screws, washers, nuts and bolts.
Take that, Science!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Back to the future!

After six hours, and a trip to West Marine to buy yet another handful of plumbing fittings, we now have a working seawater circulation pump on Eolian, and our heat pump is once again pumping heat.  The original pump was a Cal Pump, and the new one is a Teel pump, manufactured by Dayton, a major, MAJOR pump manufacturer (model # 1P808A, recorded here so that I have it written down somewhere).

I disassembled the Cal pump, and found that the "impeller" was just 4 straight sheetmetal vanes.  I don't know the failure mode because I haven't completely disassembled it, but I assume it to be saltwater moving along the drive shaft past the shaft seal and back into the motor section causing corrosion.

And I have put away the space heaters.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lighted dinghies and engine foibles

The first time, a few years back, there were maybe four or five dinghies.  And if I remember correctly, only one was lit up - the rest of us waved flashlights or something.  But that was several years ago, and my memory is not known for its accuracy (maybe we were all balanced on floating logs, paddling along and waving flaming torches).

Rudolph leads the way
But this year, all the dinghies had some kind of lighting, and the lead dinghy even had a sound system (along with Rudolph) so that we didn't have to sing.  Wait!  No singing?  Well, with the dinghies strung out over perhaps a quarter-mile, singing was always a little problematic - getting us all to sing in time with each other, or even the same song, was not easy.  But aside from being practical, the electronic form took some of the folksiness and charm out of it, I think.

Wanting to be full participants, we rigged Eolian's dinghy with the handle from our deck brush as a mast, and strung a string of lites from the stern, over the mast and down to the bow.  These were battery-operated LED lites, and were full-on kitsch because they blinked and changed colors.

Of course, the final bit is that the dinghy outboard, our not-so-trusty 2 HP motor, should run so that we could stay in the conga line.  So yesterday afternoon I put the dinghy down and started the engine, just to make sure.  Well tried to start the engine.  In the end, I had to take the spark plug out and heat it on the stove to burn off the oil and water on it.  And then when the engine did start, it would never get anywhere near full power output - and believe me, when you only have 2 HP, you need all 2 HP.  The smell of the exhaust told me that the gas was old.

So I drove the dinghy up and down the waterway, trying to heat up the motor to dry out any condensation in the ignition system, and trying to burn off the old gas.

I give Brent & Jill the prize
for the most lights
But last nite, at the moment of truth when everyone was leaving to go over to A Dock to form up, it wouldn't start.  And so once again, we were participants, but we were ignominiously towed participants, towed by Brent & Jill, our slip-mates.  But even that turned out great.  As luck would have it, Brent's warming libation unexpectedly ran out just before we got to the F/G Dock waterway, and so we had to stop at our home slip for a refill.  And then we got invited below, and...

The end of G Dock, and Eolian's
interrupted strand of blue lites
Well, we sipped and gabbed while the second half of the parade went on, down below in the warm.  And we later walked down to the yacht club which was the designated endpoint for the parade, where drinks and goodies were to be had.  In fact, we got there on foot just as the water-borne parade contingent arrived.

So maybe having an unreliable engine can be a good thing after all...

Postscript: a new sparkplug cured the engine woes. Well actually two new sparkplugs.  I discovered that sparkplugs do not float.

Friday, December 16, 2011

You might be a liveaboard if...

  • You buy vinegar in gallon jugs. Frequently.
  • You glance warily at the house AC ammeter when plugging in your hair dryer
  • (And you have a house ammeter)
  • You check the tide tables when you are making a big grocery buy
  • Lightening scares the bejeezus out of you
  • Your stove only has two burners
  • You've run out of water in the middle of a shower
  • In conversations with your friends, the most common topic is "the head"
  • When someone says "head", your first thought is not the one on your shoulders
  • The phrase "scrubbing her bottom" does not sound kinky to you
  • You can catch crabs from your living room
  • "Running out to the car" is a half-mile round trip
  • Grid power outages do not particularly disturb your life
  • When you get a new book, you have to decide which of your other books to give away
  • A successful trip is one where nothing breaks
  • You have 300' of chain in one of your closets
  • You have more than a passing concern about water in the basement
  • You take turns with your partner in passing thru a hallway
  • You are hyper-alert to strange sounds and strange smells
  • Your have at least one flashlight with a red lens
  • The five-second rule is of no value for hamburgers that accidentally get flipped off the grill
  • You have a bottle of vegetable oil in your bathroom
  • You have to think about keeping the toilet paper dry when taking a shower
  • You don't own a toaster
  • You always put everything back where it came from, because really, that's the only place it will fit.
  • You unthinkingly use "stern" to refer to the back of your car (unless you own a 1966 Lincoln, in which case it is entirely appropriate)
  • All of your windows have a water view
  • There's a fishing pole stored over your bed
  • The terms "amps" and "amp-hours" come up frequently in your conversations
  • You have radar in your living room
  • You have at least two electrical systems
  • A dorm refrigerator looks large to you
  • You have no furniture
  • You know how many amps your TV draws
  • You have 5200, polysulphide and multiple kinds of epoxy in your "junk" drawer
  • (And you know what I meant by 5200)
  • Your bed is not a rectangle
  • "Vitamin supplement" is not the first thing you think of when you hear "zinc"
  • For you, "scope" does not refer to mouthwash
  • You unconsciously use "port" and "starboard" when talking to folks on shore
  • You don't own a plunger 
  • You look like a bag lady (or man) just getting off or on your boat.
  • Instead of the Goodwill, you have the ice machine in the marina office where you exchange unneeded items.
  • You have a supply of tarps to use when you suddenly "spring a leak".
  • Your car looks like a storage unit for the local boat yard.
If you have one to add, put it in a comment and I'll pull it into the list...

(Inspired by this list at Windtraveler.  Because, of course, cruisers are also liveaboards, there is a lot of overlap - I have tried not to plagiarize/duplicate...)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Back to the past...

When I arrived at the end of G-dock after having been away from Eolian for a day and a half, I was surprised to see no water coming out of the heat pump discharge.  The sinking feeling I had only deepened when I got down below and found the temperature to be 52°, 10° below the setpoint I had left on the thermostat while we were away.

Yup, the circulating pump which supplies seawater for the heat pump (to chill, thus providing the heat...) was, well, *not* circulating.  The pump motor was warm, indicating that it was getting power, but apparently the impeller was not turning.  I tried flushing the system backwards by directing a stream of water from a hose into the discharge thru hull, but no joy.  And finally, no amount of percussive maintenance (I stopped just short of destructive percussive maintenance) would get it to move water again.

So I dug out the old space heaters (yes, we still have them on board, thankfully!) and plugged them in.  I also lit the Dickenson diesel heater.  So now Eolian is back to being heated the same way she was before the heat pump installation.  And it is cold outside here in Seattle - but never fear, we are cozy here down below.

I called the heat pump manufacturer in Florida, and he promised to have a new pump here in a couple of days. 

We'll see.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cover girls

Look what was posted on the dock-head bulletin board...

Recognize a boat there?  The three lit-up boats are Ghost (on the left), Eolian (blue lites, on the right), and Ambition (multi-color, on the right).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Safety Item: Orion issues recall for flares

Three Sheets Northwest notes this safety item - you need to check your flares. Note that the "signals" they speak of are the actual cartridges - not the gun that shoots them (although it too is orange in color).
Orion Safety Products has issued a recall for two models of its hand-launched aerial signals, citing problems with the devices failing to launch and/or ignite.

The recall applies to older Orion XLT and 12-gauge signals made with orange ABS plastic. XLTs are self-contained, hand-launched signals, while 12-gauge signals have a pistol-style launch and a plastic shell.

In 2008, Orion switched from orange ABS to red-colored, glass-filled polyethylene for its better strength, durability and resistance to moisture. The last XLTs that used orange ABS in the launch tube body expire this month, while the last 12-inch gauge shells using the orange ABS plastic expire in March 2012.

If you have an XLT signal with an orange launch tube that has an expiration date between November 2011 and December 2011, or an orange 12-gauge shell that has an expiration date between November 2011 and March 2012, you are eligible to receive a free, four-pack replacement at no cost.
For details on how to receive the replacement flares, check the original article at Three Sheets Northwest

Thursday, December 8, 2011

High pressure, low water

I would never have considered it.  Or if I had, I would have assumed that the effect was small enough to be of academic interest only.

But Cliff Mass, our primo weather blogger here in Seattle, says otherwise - and proves it.  Cliff points out that our recent record high atmospheric pressure was accompanied by significantly lower tides.  Stealing a couple of public-domain images from his blog (you should read the whole story there), we see:

During roughly the past week, sea level pressure has been unusually high--including the record-breaking high pressure observed on December 1 (1043.4 hPa).   Here is the pressure of the last four weeks.  The first three weeks had relatively normal sea level pressures (1000-1020 mb), but the last week or so, pressures have generally ranged from roughly 1030-1035 mb.   Very unusual to stay that high for so long.

We have also been observing another anomaly:  the height of the water levels in the region have been unusually LOW, particularly along the Pacific coast.  NOAA produces water-level predictions = (the tide tables we know so well) and these predictions are generally quite good, since we understand very well what produces tides and their periodicities.  But recently the tide predictions have been greatly in error, forecasting tides that are much too high by one or two feet!  Here is the predicted and observed water level at Neah Bay, provided to me by UW's Dr. Nate Mantua.

Turns out these two anomalies (high pressure and low water levels) are directly connected, with high pressure pushing water levels down.
Two feet is not of academic interest - it is significant in the real world.  It could easily make the difference between passing over a sandbar in Killisut Bay and being grounded on it.  Something else to keep in mind...

I suppose that the opposite effect - higher sea level with lower pressure - explains at least a part of the storm surge associated with hurricanes.

I recommend Cliff's blog to you.  It is usually Seattle-oriented, with our unique weather tweaks, and it is informative.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Poulsbo - who knew?

On 12/5 Jane and I attended the Winter BrewFest held over at Hales Palladium, in nearby Fremont.

What a wonderful event!  A total of 34 Northwest microbrewers were represented there, each with several unique brews, many made just for this event.  Your entrance fee got you 6 (I think?  I could possibly have lost track...) tokens, each was good for 5 oz of someone's special brew...  and that was plenty - trust me on this.  Here's a sampling of what was available:
  • Schooner Exact's Bourban barrel aged porter
  • Two Beers' Jive Espresso stout, infused with coconut shreds, cacao nibs, cinnamon and star anise
  • 7 Seas Brewing's Wheelchair Barlywine (you'll need the wheelchair, it's 10.6% alcohol)
  • Wingman Brewers' Cerise Noire lambic - brewed with black cherry tea and fermented with cherries
  • Slippery Pig's Emasculator - a dark and malty dopplebock brewed with local blackberries - 10% alcohol
  • Valholl's Stouty Stouterson - an Imperial Stout brewed with sweet potatoes, rasins and cinnamon.
So how does all this tie in with sailing?  Well, it turns out that one of our prime discoveries of the afternoon was that the final two brewers listed above are within walking distance of the dinghy dock at Poulsbo!  Who knew that Poulsbo was a craft-brewing hotspot?

Can you guess what we'll be doing next summer when we are anchored in Liberty Bay?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Our very lucky day

It was Friday; we were coming back down from skiing at Stevens Pass.  We were in that peculiar apres-ski feel - muscles tired and warm, bodies relaxed.

We had just entered the left-hand lane of the westbound trestle east of Everett - this is a looong pair of bridges over a tidal slough - one bridge each for eastbound and westbound traffic.

Suddenly there was a powerful vibration from the rear of the Suburban.  My mind, not yet working at full speed, started to form the thought that we were having a blowout.  And then with a *crunch*, the left rear of the vehicle dropped to the pavement, convincing me that we were now riding on the rim.  The vehicle lurched to the right, but despite the heavy traffic, the vehicle over there managed to avoid us - no contact was made.  Just as I got the Suburban back into our lane, we were passed by our wheel and tire, still going 60 mph; it rapidly disappeared out of sight ahead.  OK then, no blowout - we lost a wheel!  Thankfully, since the trestle is a divided roadway, the wheel could not encounter oncoming traffic.  If it had, there very probably would have been serious injury or death.

The heavy traffic really saved us.  Everyone around us saw what was happening and kept clear.  Those too far back to see us were confronted with a sea of brake lites, and so they slowed down too.  There were no accidents.

Stationary in the left-hand lane, I got out and looked - yep, no wheel on the left rear.  The brake drum was still on the hub, and had acted as a sort-of lumpy cast iron wheel during the decelleration, minimizing damage and allowing the vehicle to decelerate more or less in a straight line.

Soon a very courteous state policeman pulled up behind us and turned on his flashers, which helped to warn the traffic.  And then an Incident Response vehicle pulled up.  I briefly talked to them, and then walked ahead along the narrow walkway to see if I could retrieve the wheel so we could get the vehicle off the bridge.  Sadly, it was nowhere in sight.  But just as I got back to all the flashing lites, a stranger pulled up behind the Incident Response vehicle - he had my wheel in his back seat!  And in order to retrieve it and get back onto the westbound trestle, he had to have driven perhaps 15 miles!  He dropped it off and then disappeared - what an amazing Good Samaritan!  I should add that the Suburban is a *big* vehicle - the tires and wheels are big and heavy.  And yet he had managed to wrestle it into his back seat.  Again, amazing.

The Incident Response guy jacked up the rear and we put the wheel back on, using one lug nut stolen from each of the remaining 3 wheels, and we got the vehicle off of the trestle.

Just the week before, we had dropped $1k on new tires - so it was back to that tire store that we got towed.  The manager was visibly chagrined, and took very good personal care of us, including even springing for our dinner.  As Jane said, "This was our lucky day, and so it was your lucky day!".


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Getting ready for the season

'Tis the season
We finally have the Christmas lites up in the rigging on Eolian.  Now this is not an easy task.  The lites themselves make endless problems with tangling, and are wont to snag on anything and everything, including each other.  And then there are the logistics of getting things up there at the top of the masts without having them wrapped around a shroud or a halyard or something.  This is the second year that we have strung lites in the rigging - it wasn't easy last year either.  You'd think I would have remembered something from last year, but sadly no.

Finally, everything is up and you wait with anticipation the coming of the dark.

Only to find that more than half of the strings remain unlit. 

And then it's the work week, and it is dark when you come home, so it's not possible to investigate and solve the snaggle-toothed lite display.

Now that the work week is over, today I pulled everything down again and took a look.  I discovered a burned out LED, an LED with a melted lead, and a broken wire.  And several loose bulbs.  I think we'll have a complete lite display, tonite.

I hope.

Christmas at 32 knots can be difficult.

One little gap isn't bad, is it?


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Internal or external? Lead or iron?

Except for the smallest ones, monohull sailboats (you multihull readers can skip this post) universally have a keel on their bottoms.  They carry this device around with them because:
  • It helps to keep the boat from sliding sideways when the wind is not taken directly astern, and
  • it keeps the boat from tipping over when the sails are full of wind.
Today, I'd like to talk about the second item: keeping the boat from tipping over.  In naval architecture, the boat's ability to resist being tipped is called her "righting moment". 

Old sailing ships used rocks, held in the bottom of the bilge, as ballast.  When they took on cargo, some of the ballast was jettisoned because the cargo held below the waterline would provide the righting moment, and because the ships were designed to carry cargo, after all, not rocks.  (This led to the ballast spoils areas in many harbors that were heavily used in the 18th and 19th centuries.)

Modern sailboats have moved the ballast outside the boat, lower, where it can have a greater effect.  Like the big kid and the little kid on the teeter-totter (have these all been removed from playgrounds?  What will we use for the illustrative analogy in the future?), the more weight and the deeper it is suspended below the boat, the better: the greater the righting moment.  This started with shaped blocks of lead bolted to the bottom of the keel in full-keeled boats.  But it has evolved from there.

Internal or external?

For a fin-keeled boat, there is really only one choice here:  the keel is a shaped piece of metal bolted onto the boat's bottom.  It is an external keel.

But for a modern fiberglass hull which is designed as modified- or full-keeled, a second choice is possible:  internal ballast.  In this design, the shape of the keel is part of the fiberglass molding of the hull - the keel is molded as part of the hull.  And then the ballast is added to the inside of the molding.  Typically, this is as metal shot combined with resin in a cement mixer and then poured into the keel.  But it can also be done using shaped pieces of metal laid up in the interior of the keel and then encapsulated with resin.
  • Internal keel pros:
    • There are no keelbolts to worry about.  Short of complete destruction of the hull, the keel simply cannot drop off the boat as some external keels have famously done.  
    • Maintenance of a water-tight seal between the keel and the hull is unnecessary.
    • In a collision with a hard object, there is no fear of loosening the hull-keel joint.
  • External keel pros:
    • In a collision with a hard object, it is the keel which makes contact, not the hull.  If the keel is a soft metal like lead, deformation of the keel at the point of impact will absorb a portion of the energy.
    • Because the void space of uniform-sized shot is 33%, the density of the poured shot keel will be considerably less than the solid metal.  Therefore the solid metal keel of equivalent shape will have a greater righting moment than an internal keel made from poured shot.  This advantage is considerably less if shaped metal pieces are used. 

      (Question:  Has any manufacturer explored the use of a range of shot sizes, designed to reduce the void percentage?  Concrete manufacturers have been doing this with the aggregates they use for centuries.  Seems like a simple improvement.)
Until some more exotic material is used (depleted uranium anyone?), keels will be made of either lead or iron. Both have advantages:
  • Iron keel pros:
    • Iron is a lot cheaper than lead
    • For a steel boat, there is less galvanic potential between an iron keel and the hull than there is with a lead keel.
  • Lead keel pros:
    • Lead is denser than iron. This means that for equivalent shapes, the lead keel will have considerably greater righting moment.
    • Lead does not corrode in seawater;  tedious and frequent scraping, sandblasting and painting of the keel is not needed.  In fact, other than for protection against freeloading sea life, painting of a lead keel is completely unnecessary.
    • Lead does not corrode in seawater;  iron does.  In fact iron swells as it corrodes - that is, iron oxide is greater in volume than the iron from whence it came.  Therefore leakage is a serious problem for internal iron ballast, since the incoming seawater will corrode it and eventually cause the keel structure to burst.
    • Already mentioned above:  An external lead keel will absorb a portion of the impact energy in a collision with an underwater object.  An iron keel will convey essentially all of that energy to the keelbolts and the hull at the top aft end of the keel.
This is a lot to consider.  When we were in our boat search, I boiled it all down to an ordered list of preferences:
  1. Internal lead
  2. External lead
  3. External iron
  4. Internal iron
As it turns out, Eolian's keel is internal lead.

But as any of you who have gone thru a boat search already knows, the emotional tug that a boat has on you overrules almost any of the analytical studies that you might have prepared beforehand.

At least it did for us.  So I guess we are just lucky...  but hey, this makes a nice rationalization, don't you think?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tiny little new feature

Just in case you didn't notice it... over there on the right...   you'll now see the current wind/gust/pressure plot from the NOAA weather service station on West Point.

I hope you'll find it useful... or at least interesting.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Water-based varnish?

At nearly $50/quart, marine paints and varnishes are expensive.

And they are worth every penny.

In my dim and barely remembered past, I have used any number of products of lesser cost.  But after using the top tier paints and varnishes, I have learned that using the cheap stuff is a mistake.  The good stuff goes on like thick cream (paint) or honey (varnish).  And it self-levels to a mirror finish.  If you want to get a wonderful look, don't use the cheap stuff.

Recently, in a move motivated perhaps by ease of consumer clean-up, there have appeared in the marine market a collection of water-based products.  These are made by withholding the normal volatile solvents carefully calibrated to give good flow properties on brush application, followed by self-leveling that stops short of sags and runs, and instead emulsifying the neat varnish resin in water.  (For a familiar example, milk is an emulsion of milk fat in water.)

In the interests of science, I tried some water-based varnish.  I can report that the product indeed looks like milk, and goes on just as if you were painting with milk.  It is thin and runny, meaning that it would have taken perhaps three coats to be the equal of one coat of its oil-based cousin.  It was difficult to control on a vertical surface (painting with milk...).  And no surprise here, it raised the grain of the wood, badly.

But my biggest complaint occurred with use on a previously-varnished surface.  After fighting the poor application characteristics, the final cured film was not adhered to the underlying surface.  At all.  I was able to use a fingernail to puncture the film and then lift it off in large sheets.  I ended up removing the whole job and re-doing in oil-based material.

I cannot in good conscience recommend water-based varnish.  In fact, my feelings are stronger than this - I strongly recommend against its use.

Perhaps one of you readers out there has had better luck with water-based materials?  If so, I look forward to hearing about it in the comments.  But fair warning:  if you have never used the $50/quart oil-based materials, your experience does not count for much.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

On giving thanks

In many cultures there is a harvest festival or feast, celebrating the end of the toil in the fields, growing and harvesting the food for the winter, and before the start of the rationing to make that harvest last until the first crops of the spring are available.

Americans have set aside the forth Thursday in November as such a holiday.  I have no familiarity with the harvest feast customs elsewhere, but in the United States, while there is typically a feast (turkey-based, traditionally), this also is a time of reflection, of recognition of the bounty which we receive on a daily basis (would you rather be King of England in 1263, or you, today?  Yeah, exactly). 

It doesn't seem too much to spend one day in an attitude of thankfulness for our bounty.  Please join us aboard Eolian in giving thanks for:
  • Our friends and families who are there for us, giving support in our times of need, and are there also on a daily basis to fulfill that most basic human need: companionship. We are all in this together.
  • The most amazing assortment of food available to mankind, ever, and all year round to boot (do any of you still remember receiving an orange for Christmas, and why that was so special?) 
  • Energy and technology that would make us all, every one, to be taken as Class 5 Wizards to those living but 100 years ago.
  • Peace, and the freedom to live our lives according to our desires (for the most part)
  • Those who gave up their time, their health, or their very lives in the service of this country that we might enjoy these things.
  • [Please add 5 items of your own here]
So, from the crew aboard Eolian, happy Thanksgiving.  But more importantly, may you have a thoughtful, contemplative, thankful Thanksgiving!

Bob & Jane

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Old mechanic's trick*

Say you have to drive a screw in a location where you only have room to get the screw and screwdriver in there.  Or that you are working at full arm's length, with only one hand.

How would you do it?

Here's an old mechanic's trick:

Start with a piece of tape perhaps an inch long,
held sticky side up
Push the screw thru the tape,
so that the sticky side is against the
underside of the screw head
Insert the screwdriver into it's recess on the screw
head, and fold the two flaps of tape up over the
head onto the blade of the screwdriver

Voila!  Now you can start the screw with just one hand because it is held to the screwdriver.  Just before tightening the screw fully, withdraw the screwdriver - the tape will come with it.  Then finish tightening the screw.

* I meant that to be parsed as an old trick that mechanics know, but I suppose it could also be a trick that old mechanics know...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mustang Survival Issues Voluntary Recall Notice

As it is a safety item, I feel it is important to get the word out as widely as possible.  I'm sure Chuck and Susan would agree.  Here is their posting  (thanks to Chuck and Susan on s/v Sea Trek for this information)

We have been users of the Mustang Inflatable vests for many years and have been very satisfied with them. But we recently have been made aware of a recall due to a problem that might keep them from fully inflating. Here is the official recall notice...

MUSTANG SURVIVAL ISSUES VOLUNTARY RECALL NOTICE ON MD2010 & MD2012 model 22LB Inflatable Personal Flotation Devices

In keeping with Mustang Survival’s commitment to the highest levels of product quality and safety, we are voluntarily recalling all model number MD2010 and MD2012 inflatable Personal Flotation Devices (PFD’s) sold in the United States during 2011. To determine if you are impacted by this recall please reference the images below:
Image 1: Any inflatable product with multiple white sewn on safety labels on the back is OK and is not affected by this recall.

Image 2 If your inflatable does not have white sewn on safety labels, please check for model number MD2010 or MD2012 on the back of the PFD, then refer to Image 3.

Image 3 MD2010/MD2012 models with an “MIT” (Membrane Inflatable Technology) stamp (in black or color) above the CO2 cylinder are OK. Any MD2010 or MD2012 missing the “MIT” stamp should be returned to Mustang!
This recall is being issued for the inspection and repair of an inflator installation inconsistency that may prevent some units from fully inflating.  Mustang Survival has developed a solution that corrects any affected product and prevents re-occurrence of this issue.  The inspection and repair can only be performed at a Mustang Survival factory.
This recall notification is for only the MD2010 and MD2012 22LB buoyancy inflatable PFDs.  No other Mustang Survival products are affected as they utilize different inflator mechanisms. 
All MD2010 and MD2012 PFD’s without the stamped MIT logo as shown in Image 3 (above) should be returned to Mustang Survival for inspection.  All other Mustang PFD’s are okay for use.
Distributors and consumers are urged to contact Mustang Survival’s Customer Service department at 1-800-526-0532 between 7:30am and 4:30pm PST, Monday through Friday for specific shipping instructions.  If you have questions, please first refer to the Frequently Asked Questions below:

Q: Why do I have to return the product?
A: Our QA team has discovered an installation inconsistency with the inflator system that needs to be tested and corrected if necessary.
Q: How do I know if my inflatable is one of the affected products?
A: The model number is screen printed onto the back panel above the UL mark and will begin with the characters MD followed by four numbers. Affected products are MD2010 and MD2012
Q: When will I get my product back?
A: We are striving to have all products returned to dealers and consumers within 3-4 weeks (including shipping time to and from Mustang).
Q: What are you doing with my returned product?
A: All units will be tested and if necessary, repaired, before being returned. We will stamp the inside of the product above the CO2 cylinder with “MIT” to indicate that it has been tested and is OK.
Q: Are the re-arm kits affected by this recall?
A: Re-arm kits are not affected by this recall. The problem is isolated to the inflator assembly on the inflatable PFD.
Q: Is this a problem caused by the M.I.T. (Membrane) technology?
A: No, the problem is with the inflator installation on < the affected units.
Q: Does this recall impact any other Mustang inflatable PFDs?
A: No, the recall is limited to only the MD2010 and MD2012 models due to its unique inflator components and installation method.
Q: How do I return my product?
A: Contact Mustang Survival’s Customer Service department at 1-800-526-0532 between 7:30am and 4:30pm PST, Monday through Friday with any questions or concerns regarding this voluntary recall notice.
Q: What are the shipping and repair costs?
A: Mustang Survival will pay for all testing, repair and shipping costs.
Q: How are you notifying the public about this issue?
A: A detailed communications plan is being executed to notify all affected dealers, distributors, consumers and industry partners.


Get the point?

Our old thermostat died.

It was a great little thing - it kept the temperature right where we wanted it, and was 7-day programmable, so that we could set it up to match our lifestyle.  But unfortunately, the touch screen became more and more recalcitrant, eventually ignoring our ever more frantic finger taps altogether.  And then it started doing very weird things, like reporting -50° as the temperature.

So I bought another one - a more modern version of the old one (yes, I'm in a rut).  But the newer one has provision for instlallation of two wifi radio modules behind the thermostat (one for you to use to control the thermostat from your computer, and one for the power company or the authorities to use).  Of course I didn't purchase the radios, but the thermostat still stands off the wall far enough to accommodate them, leaving an ugly, unfinished-looking gap between the thermostat and the bulkhead.

So I made a little bezel for the thermostat out of some old teak decking that I had squirreled away.  Which takes us, finally, to the point of this post.  Our sister site provides me with a never-ending series of inspirations and, sometimes, almost irrational wants.  But this one isn't irrational: painter's points.  The thermostat project provided the impetus for a trip to H*** D****, where I bought a set of 10 of the little yellow plastic pyramids for almost nothing. 

Here they are in simulated use, holding the bezel up so that the sides can be coated without gluing the bezel down to the sheet of newspaper which was actually underneath when I did the varnishing.

I also used them in the finishing of a new floorboard that I made - I painted the bottom side, and then inverted it immediately onto the points so that I could finish the top side. Yes the points made tiny dits in the finish, but they were small enough that they disappeared on successive coats. Very, very handy. And they take up essentially no space.

Yes, you do need a set.

And finally, here is the finished bezel, installed on the thermostat. Improved, but the old thermostat looked better. Oh, well, can't stand in the way of "progress".

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The absolutely last, final bike ride home

Last nite I rode my bike home.

End of the road
Now, that in itself is not at all unusual - I do it all summer, and most of spring and fall.  In early spring and late fall, I don't make the entire ride - I ride from Shilshole to the Ballard Locks, and put my bike on the rack on the front of the bus - this is enough of a ride to be invigorating, and it keeps Jane from having to fire up The Beast just to deliver/pick me up at the end of the bus route.

But last nite, the bus didn't come.  I don't know what it is with the 46, but it seems to be the most unreliable bus in the system.  So there I stood at the bus stop last nite, with my bike, waiting for a bus that never came.  "No problem!" I thought, "I'll just hop on my bike and ride home!"  Having the bike does give you a great feeling of freedom.  So I coasted down The Av and turned right onto the Burke-Gillman trail.


Things are certainly different from the last time I rode the trail, earlier in the year.  There are leaves everywhere - slippery, wet leaves.  As a thin sheet covering everything, and in wet, sloppy drifts that try to grab your wheel and pull it out from under you.

And it is dark.  I mean really dark - the trail is not lit, and so the only light is what filters in from nearby street lighting.  And my little headlight?  Well, it is more of a "please don't hit me" light, warning oncoming traffic that I am there.  It does almost nothing to illuminate the route.

There is not much traffic - bikes or pedestrians.  But what there is, is a real problem.  Many of the oncoming bikes have headlights that are seemingly as bright as car headlights - they blind me...  to the trail, and more importantly, to the pedestrians.

The pedestrians and joggers are the real concern - they are very difficult to see (why do so many wear black coats?!) - literally impossible to see if there is an oncoming bike with one of those very bright lights.  But blessings be upon you pedestrians/joggers that have retro-reflective stripes on your outer clothing!  My flashing headlight makes those stripes flash back at me, as if they were internally illuminated.  Those stripes really work!

It is a good thing that I have ridden the trail so much in daylight - there are several places where the trail curves and where it is simultaneously very dark.  Without the daytime familiarity, and with only my weak "don't hit me" headlight, I am certain that I would have been off in the weeds (or worse, splash!) in one of these corners.

I have two criteria that I use to determine whether or not I'll leave the boat on my bicycle in the morning:
  • Can I get to the bus stop reasonably dry?  I don't want to start the day in wet clothing, and
  • Is there frost on the dock?  I don't want to start the day in clothing wet with saltwater either.
So, aside from the scary dark experience last nite, those two criteria are closing in.   I am hereby declaring that the biking season over, for me anyway.  The bike goes into storage this weekend.

And the skis come out.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Doubled lines: Good.

Last week we got the last of our secondary dock lines installed, and we had already added our "winter" fenders, all to be ready for the winter storms.

And as it turns out, not a moment too soon.

As I write this, Seattle is being lashed by one of the spiralling tails of the winter hurricane that just finished with Nome, Alaska.

Hurricane?  Alaska?  I can hear you folks in the Caribbean and Mexico muttering, "Popycock!"  And other words, perhaps with fewer letters.

But consider this:  The central low is/was at 943 hPa, similar to a category three hurricane, according to Cliff Mass, one of our weather prognosticators here in Seattle.  And the winds were sustained at 60-70 kt, with gusts recorded at 85 kt.  This wind produced significant wave heights of nearly 40 feet.

Thankfully, here in Seattle we have not seen that kind of wind.  But it hasn't been exactly calm here either.  Here's the NOAA chart for West Point, just south of the Shilshole Bay marina:

I note that with this storm (unlike nearly all others) we had the most severe winds as the barometer was falling.  Usually, we experience the strongest winds as the barometer is rising, which to me is counter-intuitive.  Perhaps someone with innate weather knowledge can explain that to me.

And they are predicting the possibility of snow at sea level by the end of the week.

I am glad we are all snugged in for the winter.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Winged keels?

If you didn't read that title carefully, you saw "winged heels" and are probably visualizing Mercury's boots.

But that's not what I want to talk about.  Instead I want to discuss winged keels.  I mean what is the big deal, after all?  Sure, they're modern, sure they're cool, and "every boat must have one".  But why, exactly?

It's all about end effects.


OK, now I have to build something in your mind here.  Please give me some latitude and play along... Imagine an airplane wing.  Regardless of which theory you consider to describe how it holds the airplane up in the air, all the theories condense to the singular fact that there is lower pressure on top of the wing than on the bottom.  The airplane is held up by suction.  So what keeps the high pressure air under the wing from just flowing up into the low pressure area above the wing?  Well, on the leading and trailing edges of the wing, it is momentum - that wing is moving right along, and the air at the front and rear of the wing just doesn't have a chance to flow "upstream" to the low pressure area.

But what about at the ends of the wing?  Well, at the inboard end, there is the fuselage in the way.  Ah, but at the outboard end, there is... nothing.  And air does indeed flow up from under the wing around the end to the top.  This is the source of the "wingtip vortices" that cause the spacing out of flights at airports.

So, if you were an aeronautical engineer, how might you stop this flow around the end of the wing?  Well, you might put up a fence.  On the end of the wing.  In point of fact, this is exactly what is done on modern airliners.

OK.  So enough about airplanes... but hold that thought.  The keel of a sailboat is amazingly similar to an airplane wing.  It is "flying" thru the water, and is required to provide lift, to keep the boat from sliding downwind.  The analogy is really very good.  So then, what keeps the water from flowing over the bottom end of the keel, from the high pressure side to the low pressure side?  Nothing...

Thus enter the winged keel... put up a fence.  However, since each side of the keel is alternately the high pressure side and then the low pressure side as you tack, the keel has to have a fence on both sides,  explaining the now-familiar shape.

The design is so effective that significantly less ballast is required, the force being replaced with more effective lift.  Thus the weight of the keel can be reduced.  And the wings serve as a good place to stash lead, down there at the very bottom of the keel, so the draft of the keel can be reduced.  And then, since everything in nautical design is connected to everything else,  the wetted surface of the boat is decreased because less total weight is being carried.  And the boat goes faster.

It really is a good idea.

So then why then did winged keels take so long to appear?

See the First and Second Corollaries of Salnick's First Law.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fumble Fingers

If you are not a blogger, this will be new to you.  If you are, then it has probably already happened to you.

When writing a post, you are presented with two choices:
  • Save - as a draft for more work later, or
  • Publish - to the world
You know what I'm going to say, don't you?  If you hit the wrong button, your incomplete, inane, rambling post gets published in all its unprepared ugliness for the world to see.  Of course you immediately hit "Save", which makes it a draft again.

But the damage is done.  The damnable RSS Feed gets it immediately - I mean right now - so that even when you recast the post to draft status, the RSS feed and the Google cache have at least the first part of your post out there.


I did it again tonite.  So tomorrow morning's post about winged keels got out there in draft form before I could "unpost" it.  At least the first 200 characters or so, whatever it is my RSS feed publishes.  Check back tomorrow morning for the real thing.  I'd like to say the "polished" thing, but that would be an over-characterization.  But check back tomorrow morning anyway.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Traditional instruments?

Do you have "traditional" instruments?  You know, a depthsounder, a knotmeter, a wind speed/direction indicator?  Or do you have a large screen in the cockpit with all of that instrumentation and more in virtual form? 

As an "early adopter" and self-admitted gadget freak, I have a nearly unconscious tendency to lean to the new, the shiny, the integrated.  The "glass cockpit" draws me.

But then my engineering side steps in and says, "All your eggs in one basket?  Really?  What if it fails?"

That is a very valid question.

There are tremendous advantages to be had with integrated instrumentation, and not just in conserving display real estate.  Being able to overlay radar and depthsounder information on the chartplotter display provides very real advantages over the same information viewed separately.  But if that is your only way to see, for example your speed, and it goes dark, then what?

And does anyone really believe that the modern all-electronic systems are more reliable than the older electro-mechanical ones?  The best that one could say is that the new systems have different failure modes, but I personally think that is being overly generous.  In designing systems for reliability, simplicity is a virtue, and modular design partitions problems. 

Problems that occur with an older electro-mechanical instrument can frequently be fixed on board by the owner, rather than by calling a technician who will charge an arm and a leg to swap out expensive circuit boards until things are working again.  Most (but not all) problems with older systems will be due to corroded connections, which are an easy fix.  And did you know that even the most modern and sophisticated airliners out there (787 anyone?) are still required to have a plain old magnetic compass, a conventional mechanical altimeter and a turn-and-bank indicator (a steel ball in a curved glass tube full of liquid) on board in the cockpit?  (Scott will probably correct me on this.)  Just in case.

Finally, there is an intangible.  I have seen boats with such a large computer display above the compass and directly in the view that commanding the helm surely has become some kind of real-life video game.  One of the joys of sailing is the totality of the experience... of capturing the wind for propulsion, of the boat parting the water and moving thru it, of the sights and sounds and smells of the sea.  When you were a kid, didn't your mother tell you, "Get away from that TV and go outside!" - sure she did.  And she didn't mean for you to take the TV outside with you.  Like having a generator and a TV at a campsite out in the woods, sailing as a video game misses part of the point.  Perhaps the major part.

I am not saying that we should eschew the advantages of modern technology.  But keep it in perspective.  Hang on to your single-purpose instrumentation, and "Get away from that TV and go outside!"

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dock life: Trick or treating

We are a little community out here on the dock, more so than on shore because we all share a common interest and experiences. This is manifested in many ways - trick or treating is one of them. Because of our environment (and thanks to Angela of Ghost for starting it), we do this traditional task in what I think is a very "civilized" manner.

Angela posts two sign-up sheets at the head of the dock. The first is for boats to sign up if they want to be extorted by goblins, and the second is for the goblins themselves (or rather their parents) to sign up. This way the kids know which boats to visit, and the boats know how many kids are coming. Isn't that great?

And then at the end of the extortion run, out at the end of G Dock, there is a party! (There are rumors that grog may be part of the run for the adult participants, but I can neither confirm nor deny that.)

The run starts at the far end of F Dock, goes back towards shore, across the connector (F and G Docks share a common gate), and then back out G Dock. Here, Jane sits with a glass of wine, awaiting the invasion.

Civilized indeed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Identity problem - living aboard in Puget Sound

This is a liveaboard blog.  At least I'd hoped for it to be one - "life aboard s/v Eolian" is what it says up there in the header.  In my posts I often try to give the liveaboard viewpoint, and try to accentuate how that differs from life ashore.

People frequently stumble across this site by doing a search for "living aboard a boat in Puget Sound", or "live aboard Puget Sound", or something similar.  That would seem to be a good thing - they are ending up here, after all.

Unfortunately, that search seems to always return them possibly the single worst example of the living aboard experience: the tongue-in-cheek liveaboard simulator post.  You can try it yourself!  There it is, at #3 (or, at least it was before this post went up).  Usually that is enough to scare them right off.  The blog, that is - I hope that post has not scared anyone off from considering living aboard a boat.  But I fear that it may very well have done so.

So - what might I do (short of sending money, of course) to get Google, Yahoo and Bing to return something other than that fateful post to someone looking for live aboard info?  Perhaps I could put up a post that includes the words "living", "aboard", "Puget", and "Sound" in the title?

Maybe that would work.

Monday, October 31, 2011

SOMEbody is a big fan of Halloween...

But when your boat is named Ghost, there should be no surprise in that...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Baithouse lament

I'm going to do something a little risky here - I'm going to try to recreate in you a feeling we have.

It's a Friday nite.  It is dark.  There is a soft Seattle rain (some might call it drizzle, but that would be inaccurate).  We have walked down to The Baithouse, a tiny little venue right on the Ship Canal, close to the marina.  In fact, it is actually the daylight basement of someone's house, where a two- or three- piece ensemble has been invited, and where you can sip a beer and listen to live music, not necessarily excellently played, but it is live.  And all the while, there is nighttime boat traffic slowly passing by the window and the tiny little deck outside.  And the rain.

It is simple.
It is unorganized.
It is not a show; its more of a jam.
It is intimate.
Its a little bit of human camaraderie, away from the dark for a while.

And after a couple of beers, we walk home, back to the boat.  In the dark.   And the warm rain.

Sadly, its gone now.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Making the big choices in life

Today, a coworker handed me a hardcopy of the Commencement Address that Steve Jobs delivered to graduating Stanford University students in 2005.  It is perhaps the most inspiring such address that I have heard, and it moved me to share with you, my friends.  Because of copyright constraints, I am not allowed to reproduce the whole speech here, but I am allowed to make an excerpt.  I chose the following because it resonates so closely with the "Life is not a dress rehearsal" philosophy we hold aboard Eolian:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
I encourage you to read the entire address.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tropical fruit of the Northwest

One of the ideal boat foods is the Northwest tropical fruit: squash.  There are so many different kinds - unfortunately the idea for this post came after we ate our personal-serving sized Sweet Dumpling squash for dinner tonite.  So I can't show you the beautiful fall tableau that they made in the above picture along with the candle and the Delicato squash.

If the only squash you have ever eaten is the standard dark green acorn, you are missing a whole world of flavorful treats.  We made a point, a year or two ago, to try as many different kinds as we could - it's amazing how many there are, and how different they are.

As a boat food, they are perfect.  They keep forever, and are easily cooked, either:
  • in the microwave
  • turned over in a shallow pan of water in the oven
  • or simply baked, dry
And served with a generous serving of melted butter inside - do not leave this part out in some kind of personal sacrifice to the god of Avoirdupois. 

So visit a farmer's market near you and get some.  But live on the wild side - skip the acorn variety and try something new, something exotic!

You won't be disappointed.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Destination: Olympia

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

The city and port of Olympia lies at the far southern end of Budd Inlet, and is the furthest south you can travel on water in Puget Sound.  Olympia is the capitol of the State of Washington, and as it is an historic place, it would be appropriate to add a little historical perspective here.

In 1792 George Vancouver sailed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca to begin to chart the area, and to seek the western entrance of the fabled Northwest Passage.  Tho it is difficult, one must keep in mind the gap in settlement between the East Coast and Puget Sound at this time.  In the east, the Revolutionary war had been fought and won, the Constitution which defines our government had been crafted, and things were bustling.  Out West, Vancouver and his Lieutenant Peter Puget had just started exploring the waterways that would be called "Puget's Sound".  (While on his journey of discovery, Vancouver encountered the Spanish ships of Dionisio Alcalá Galiano, who was on a similar mission. This is the explanation for the strange mix of Spanish names {Sucia, Galiano, Patos, Matia, Texada} and English names in the area.)

Several days sailing from the open sea, but close to the terminus of the Oregon Trail, the settlement of Puget's Sound began from its southern end and proceeded northward.  The city of Olympia was founded early-on in 1859, eight years after the U.S. Congress established the Customs District of Puget Sound for Washington Territory there.

Approach to Olympia
Excerpt from chart 18456
Depths in feet
Modern-day visitors to Olympia coming by water will proceed down the five-mile length of Budd Inlet, the capitol dome in view the entire time.  It will pay to tend to the West, toward the starboard shore, as the entrance to the dredged channel is not in the center of the Inlet but close-on to the western shore.  This course will also keep you away from Olympia Shoal.  The entrance to the dredged channel is well marked.

Proceed down the channel in a generally southwesterly direction; there are range boards (and lights) to keep you on course.  But note that there are no range boards for the outbound trip, so keep your trip log on your GPS and pay attention to your depth sounder.

Port of Olympia
Excerpt from chart 18456
Depths in feet
The channel forks at its southwesterly end, with one branch going into East Bay, and one branch going to West Bay, where the capitol dome is located.    (When we made the trip in 2011, we chose to go into West Bay, so the rest of this post will deal with West Bay.)  The buoyage at the fork can be a little confusing for the first-time visitor, so proceed with caution until things "click" for you visually. 

Proceed down past the huge commercial wharf, out of the turning basin.  There is plenty of good anchorage on a mud bottom below the buoys marking its boundary.  The commercial wharf is in active use - when we were there it was packed with a huge mountain of raw logs being readied for shipment, presumably overseas to be milled into metric lumber.  When I say "active use", I mean 24 hours/day.  So anchoring closer to the head of the bay would provide a quieter nite's rest.

Percival Landing is a community dock just below the turning basin, on the east side of the bay.  This is available for day moorage (free for less than 4 hr) or overnight for fee (there is no electrical or water hookup).  It provides easy access to all the amenities on the east shore, including the Anthony's restaurant where we enjoyed dinner, looking out at our boat at anchor.

A quick dinghy trip across the bay to Tugboat Annie's is a pilgrimage for many, and our neighbors highly recommend the farmers' market.

And of course, wherever you are in West Bay, the capitol dome dominates the view.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The days are getting shorter.

In some deep part of my brain, inaccessible to my awareness (I like to think of it as an iPhone app that runs in the background), a calendar reminder is going off.  Way up high in my consciousness, this alarm manifests in a non-verbal way, as a desire... pull in finish
    get ready for bad weather
                   be cozy.

Summer is over, such as it was here in Seattle.  The numbers are in:  we had a total of 3323 minutes of summer this year, if you define summer as being above 80°.  For those of you without a calculator handy, I'll do the math for you:  that is a total of 2.3 days.  For the entire year.  As compensation, I find myself trying to identify with Brittany on s/v Windtraveler, in the Caribbean with goosebumps because the nighttime temps are dropping below 80°.  Sadly, I am not having much luck.

I wasn't ready for this - I still had another 3 weeks of summer in me to spend, and now I can't...  I have to pack them away for next year.  Will they spoil?  I don't think so...  I hope not.

Despite the coolness, I must say that we had a very enjoyable sailing year, off the dock more than we have been in recent years, with the great majority of it under sail.  But I think we are done, now.  So, it is time.  I need to go out and double up our docklines.

Storms are coming.  Winter storms.

I can feel it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Destination: Boston Harbor

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

Excerpt from chart 18456
Depths in feet
At the far Northeast end of Budd Inlet (see chart 18456, or page C or 18445), just above Dofflemeyer Point, lies Boston Harbor.  There are no tricks or cautions in approaching Boston Harbor, however it should be noted that a fair tidal current runs here.  There is a nice protected anchorage with a good mud bottom, but when we visited in the summer of 2011, that anchorage was filled with mooring buoys*, many of which were not in use.  Despite the shallow depths, and the attendant short scope, we could not find a place to drop the hook in the inner harbor, relegating us to the area out near the line of orange/white "No Wake" buoys marking the outer perimeter.  There was more current out here, but it was still a good anchorage.

There is a small marina in Boston Harbor; when we visited, we ended up at the marina for breakfast.  This is a delightfully random place.  It reminds me of some of the stores we saw in Desolation Sound - over a friendly uneven floor they sell beer, ice, boots, gifts, food, clothes, books, chandlery, fresh seafood, and more that I have forgotten.  And it seems that the marina is the social center of the area.  I would guess that summer Saturday nites are lively here.

After breakfast, we took a walk around the harbor.  The housing was a delightful mix of old beach cabins, new housing, and a refreshing absence of the trophy houses that seem to be cropping up everywhere on the waterfront, despite the fact that Boston Harbor is less than 10 miles by road from the state capitol.

* Is it just me, or does it seem that Puget Sound anchorages are filling up with mooring buoys?  Most seem to be unused or abandoned.  Also, I know for a fact that some shoreline property owners place buoys specifically to prevent cruisers from anchoring in "their" view.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The pink flag flies again

I never would have guessed that one of the toughest things about being a grandparent is the waiting.

When you are directly involved in the process of creating a new life, there is waiting of course, but still.  You are involved.

Ah, but as a grandparent, you are at arm's length.  You want to help, to know - but you can't.  You must just  ...wait.  And given Erica's mammoth 47 hour labor for her last baby, the waiting this time was filled with more than the usual amount of anxiety.

As it turns out, the anxiety was unwarranted. 

After a brief (comparatively), 7-hour labor, Erica and Ken introduced to the world at 1:30am Elizabeth Pearl Prentice.  She will be called Eliza, and is 8lbs 11.7oz, and 19in long.  Mother and baby are recovering well.  Father is still hyperventilating.

And the grandparents are proud, relieved, and slowly relaxing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cooking afloat

It's easy, right?  Just like home?

Well not so much.

Let's start with the the central cooking appliance: the stove.  Compared to boat stoves*, the ones in houses ashore are huge.  The stove on Eolian is unusual for a boat stove in that it has three burners... many boat stoves have only two.  And these are also not your household burners - they are smaller in size and heat output than you would be accustomed to from life ashore.

Large pans are a difficulty...  they overlap the target burner and encroach on the space for the next one.  And if they are made of thin metal, the smaller flame will produce a concentrated hot spot - heavy metal is your friend.  Even on our three-burner stove, the large, deep frying pan that came with our set cannot be centered over a burner - there just isn't room.

And then there's the oven.  Many boat galleys have none.  That simplifies selection of baking pans - you need none.  But if you are fortunate to have an oven aboard, it will not be the cavernous one you have at home.  Ours on Eolian would be hard-pressed to roast a chicken.  It will not accommodate a standard cookie sheet - you will have to seek a miniature one.  A standard 9x13 baking dish won't fit.  And aside from the size, there will probably be only one shelf in the oven.

Next, you will have a very limited amount of counter space on which to work.  Eolian is pretty big, yet she has only about 4 feet of counter space, altogether.  And some of that is occupied by the espresso machine and the hatch for the freezer.  If you are getting the picture that complicated meals are not going to happen, that is correct.

Eolian is a sail boat.  If we are underway when cooking is to happen, it is very likely that the boat is moving around.  This is definitely different than in your kitchen on land, where your house stays put on its foundation (except if you are in California, of course).  How do you keep the pots from sliding around on the stove?  Marine stoves have rails and pot keepers to hold things in place while the boat moves thru the waves.

But there is more.  On a sail boat, things are rarely level while underway - the boat heels.    The entire stove is gimbaled so that the cooking surface stays level while the boat is heeled...  definitely not your home stove!

And finally, while the boat is heeled and moving about, what is it that keeps the cook in place?  See that red strap hanging from the padeye by the sink?  I connects to the padeye over by the refrigerator and provides the cook with some restraint while his/her world is moving all over the place.

So yeah, it's cooking.  It is simultaneously simpler and more complicated than cooking at home.  And it is worth it.  How many of you at home can enjoy dinner with this view?  Exactly.

* I'm not talking about mega-yachts here, or large power boats with full-sized household appliances.
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