Monday, January 31, 2011


The brand of varnish a boat owner uses on brightwork is an intensely personal choice.  Should you be walking down the dock and see someone applying varnish, you may ask what they are are using, but you should never then make a comparison with what you use.  Commenting on someone's varnish choice is akin to commenting on their choice of a spouse.  Whatever thoughts you may have, you must keep them to yourself.

The varnish we have been using on Eolian ever since we came to be responsible for her care is Interlux Gold Spar #95.   I'd like to be able to tell you that we tested 20 brands, talked to everyone on several docks and did intensive internet research before settling on this choice.  I'd like to be able to tell myself that.  But I can't. 

Instead, I chose this brand because it was available; we kind of found each other.  But after living with it for more than a decade, #95 is a choice I have become comfortable with.  It is predictable.  I know how to take advantage of its strengths and how to work with its weaknesses.  

Then last summer as we prepared for the annual brightwork extravaganza, disaster struck.  Good Old #95 was not available, anywhere. 

It was off the shelves.  
It had been... discontinued! 

I literally felt jilted.

I was unprepared to be thrown back into the varnish marketplace.  All I wanted to do was buy a can of Good Old #95 and get to work, but that was just not to be.

First there was denial:  "If we call enough stores, we will find one that stocks #95..."  Nope.

Then anger:  "How could they do this to us?!  We have been loyal customers.  What about all the loyal customers??!"  But of course, this led nowhere.

Finally, we reached a reluctant acceptance.  And we timidly entered the cacophony of the current varnish marketplace.  There were claims: "Smooth!"  "Silky!"  And promises: "One coat will last all year!"  "Applies itself while you sit in the shade and drink a beer!"

But in the end, we went with the recommendation from Varnish Luke* - a guy who flies under the radar, making a living by doing brightwork for folks at Shilshole.  We used Petit Flagship.

It's too soon to tell if this will be a long-term relationship.  Or a one year stand.

* Name changed.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Woodworking, writ large

When Jane and I were building a house back in 1978, we needed two 24 foot long 4x14 timbers to use as heavy hip rafters.  Now, this was before the era of Home Depot, but I assure you, you couldn't then, any more than now, go to a lumber yard and find such timbers.  Rather surprisingly, the tough part was the 24 foot length.  Even in 1978, most lumber mills had carriages only long enough to cut 16 foot logs.

But amazingly, in Chewelah at that time, there were two operating lumber mills with 32 foot carriages.  So I was able to see the logging truck head up into the mountains past my under-construction house, and a few hours later come back down with one enormous log on it.  Two days later, the lumber mill delivered my timbers.

Today of course, you'd use a glue-lam or one of those things made up of glued together wood chips.

But suppose it's today, and you wanted an 80 foot timber to replace one of the C.A. Thayer's masts?  And a glue-lam or woodchip thingy simply wouldn't do?  A century ago, this would not have been a problem...  any number of West Coast mills would have been happy to fill your order. 

But not today.

Amazingly, you'd still have one mill that could handle the order - the Hull-Oakes sawmill, near Corvallis, Or.  The link leads you to Gary Katz's excellent website where he takes you on a tour of this still-steam-powered mill.  

I am gratuitously posting a linked version of one of the pictures from Gary's site here only to whet your appetite.  You really owe it to yourself to take Gary's tour of this mill.

A hat tip to Craft a Craft for pointing out this treasure.

(Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I am tagging this post "carpentry")

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New crew training: Lesson #1

Our granddaughter Hazel is now 9 months old - certainly old enough to begin training for her crew position on Eolian.

So when Ken and Erica brought her on board recently, we started.  It went something like this:

Me - "Why don't we sit down and learn about the catches that hold the drawers shut in a seaway."

Hazel - "La!  Laoooie."

Me - "The hook, which is made of brass and is attached to the framework gets fitted into the eye on the drawer."

Hazel - "Reeeeee!"

Me - "In this way, the drawer is prevented...  No, wait.  Hazel?  No honey..."

Hazel - "Mummm.  Mmmm..."

Me - "OK, maybe now really is a perfect time to learn what brass tastes like."
We are looking forward to many more crew training sessions.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Heat gun

Speaking of tools... We were speaking of tools weren't we?   Here is one which you should probably have on your boat:

Yep, a heat gun - kind of like a hair dryer on steroids.  This is a serious tool - the air it delivers is so hot that it will set wood on fire - like all serious tools, you should have a care when using it.

And like many tools, when it is needed, it may only be needed for a few seconds, but oh, what a difference those few seconds can make.

Here are some of the things ours has helped with:
  • Formica removal (at the nav station) - heat the Formica enough to soften the contact cement holding it to the wood.
  • Head hoses - coat the outside of the fitting and the inside of the head hose with silicone and then heat the hose (carefully, slowly) until it is pliable.   The hose then goes on the fittings *so* easily, and the hose clamps are much more effective at compressing the hose against the fitting.
  • Heat a piece of 1" head hose enough to get it over a 1 1/4" fitting - this saved our bacon when an engine hose split under way.
  • Heat large-bore shrink tubing for battery cables
  • Soften varnish for removal.  Every so often the brightwork demands that you start over with bare wood.  There is a slip-on scraper that comes with the tool (it goes right over the air nozzle), but I prefer to use my own scraper.
You know you want one.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Winter green

White livesavers.

Green jellybeans.

White crème de menthe.

....things that the term "wintergreen" brings to mind.  

But here in Seattle "winter green" means something else entirely.  Our nearly constant rain and relatively mild temperatures (recent snow notwithstanding) make for burgeoning cultures of mildew and algae almost everywhere.

Here at the partners, where the mast penetrates the deck, I was clearly remiss in not picking up the end of the coiled jib halyard when it fell to the deck.  Happy algae having a party!

And if that was happy algae, here on the side deck there is nothing if not an algae orgy going on. 

So why is all this here?  Well, it's because no one wants to go out and stand in the cold rain and clean the deck with a brush and a bucket of soapy water.  When it is warm out, this is a satisfying task.

But for the next few months, the algae is going to get a good start at taking over the world, starting right here on our deck.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Living on a boat with Jane. And her shoes.

I must start by saying that I love Jane very much, and that living aboard with her is a real joy.  But there are compromises.  Compromises which I joyfully make, I might add.

Jane likes shoes.

A lot.

A recent count put the number of pairs of shoes she has onboard at somewhere north of 13, and that is only the Winter Collection.  There is also a Summer Collection, which is apparently languishing off somewhere in storage.

Now I can only speculate here, but apparently there are shoes for rainy days, shoes for sunny days (but only Tuesdays), shoes for shopping at Fred Meyer, shoes for shopping at Safeway.  There are shoes for black dresses, shoes for black pants, and shoes for black shorts.  There are shoes for brown clothing, shoes for red clothing.  I am uncertain if there are shoes for grey clothing.  And tho this is the Winter Collection, the other day when we had to walk down the dock to shore in 6" of slush, Jane had no shoes which were suitable.

On those few occasions when I have been unwise enough to broach the subject of stowage devoted to shoes, I have been reminded of the number of tools I have aboard.  This is when I pontificate on the need to be able to fix just about anything while underway, and the fact that a #1 Phillips screwdriver can in no way substitute for a #2 Phillips screwdriver.  Then I reflect that the collection of wires and hose ends occupying the stowage behind the dinette seating has real value - after all, it once got us into Everett.  Jane, on the other hand, feels that just about any tool-needing situation can be faced bravely with... a chopstick.  (I must admit that on one occasion, a chopstick was the perfect tool, tho I can't quite remember what that occasion was.)

And so after 40 years of marriage, there is compromise.  I do not (too often) draw attention to the size of Jane's abundant shoe collection, and she does not (too often) threaten to pitch my meager tool and spares collection over the side.

And we keep a supply of chopsticks aboard.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tiny heat pump, with benefits

I've blathered on about our heat pump enough that by now all of you should know how they work:  They use electrical energy to move heat.  Of course, this means that there has to be a heat sourceEolian's heat pump extracts heat from sea water.  And household heat pumps typically extract heat from the outside air.

But here's a heat source you may not have thought of:  condensing water.  A dehumidifier removes moisture from the air by condensing it.  Annnnd... condensing water releases  970 BTU/lb, 1010 BTU/pint.  So is that a lot of heat?

Dehumidifier capacity is typically rated in pints/day.  Ours is a small one, rated at 25 pints/day, or a little better than 1 pint/hr.  Using the numbers above, our little heat pump will deliver 1052 BTU/hr.  It does that while drawing 1.6 amps - that energy (about 600 BTU/hr) also gets delivered into the boat.

So let me put all that into clear perspective for you:
Our little tiny dehumidifier, which draws only 1.6 amps, is the equivalent of an 484 watt electric space heater.
We keep the dehumidifier in the head; this explains why it gets so warm in there when we take a shower.

Of course, these numbers assume that the dehumidifier is working at capacity, and that only happens when the air is very humid, like it is in the head when someone is showering.  At other times, the heat output will be less.  But like all heat pumps, the efficiency will never fall below 100%.

So think of that dehumifier as a tiny heat pump with these side benefits:
  • It keeps the boat interior dry
  • It provides an apparently never-ending onboard source of distilled water
I consider ours to be one of the best $125 we've ever spent.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Meta blog

Blogging is an interesting task.

I know that some people are able to sit down at the keyboard, do a stream-of-consciousness dump, and get something that is not only coherent but funny too.

I can't do that.

If I have a subject in hand, my biggest problem is to hold the post to a reasonable  size (and to hold the number of parenthetical phrases to a minimum).  Ah, but the subjects.  They are the *gold* for me, and I am not all that good at inventing them.  And I am not comfortable unless I have a long list of potential post subjects "in the bank".

In point of fact, blogging here on Eolian is a team task.  An example:  A couple of nights ago - it was one of those cold, rainy Seattle nights which cries for comfort food - we were sitting on an old leather couch at the Hales brewpub in Ballard drinking a pint and eating meat loaf sandwiches.  And I mentioned that my post subject bank was running very low.  Jane immediately spun off 20 new topics!

Including this one.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The loom

Those of you in snow country know what I am going to talk about.

When it snows heavily at night, the sky actually lights up.  Because the air is filled with white snowflakes any light present at the ground is reflected back from the sky... it literally makes it look like the sky is glowing.

Post apocalyptic?
I took this Tuesday nite when it was snowing heavily in Seattle.  You'll have to trust me that it was snowing; the long exposure blurred out the flakes.  So use your imagination to fill the air with snowflakes - but I did get the loom.  It is tinted reddish because the lites up in the parking lot (a quarter mile away...) are sodium vapor lites that have that nasty orange tint that does so much for your healthy skin tone.

Since we already have your imagination running, add the hiss of snowflakes on the deck above.  Too bad those Christmas lites are all put away...

Monday, January 10, 2011

I love our heat pump!

Today in Seattle is one of those cold grey days when it could snow at just about any moment.

But it is warm and cozy down below.  "Why?" he asked rhetorically.   Well, because the heat pump is busy chilling 48° sea water to near freezing, and dumping the heat recovered from it into the cabin.  This is the stream of chilled sea water leaving the boat.

Life is good.

Friday, January 7, 2011

No skiing today

Today was going to be a ski day.

Not anymore.  Today I need to rod out the aft head lines.  And it is raining at the Stevens Pas ski area anyway.

So here's the drill:

First, empty the cabinet behind the head proper.  We put the stuff on the bed because it is convenient, and it is nearby.  Then remove the internal cabinet shelving (also goes onto the bed).

Next, remove the hoses on the Y valve, exposing a path into the lines.  Several years ago, I replaced almost all the hoses with hard 1.5" PVC plumbing pipe to forever get away from the "permeation" problem.  But there are still short lengths of hose at the ends of the pipe runs to make the various hookups.

And... get out the manual sewer snake and begin cranking and feeding the snake into the pipe.  The lime deposits that form as a reaction product between sea water and urine are not terribly hard (at least if you don't leave them in there for years, giving them a chance to recrystallize and consoladate), so this is not terribly difficult, just tedious.

And smelly.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An evening on Estrellita

Livia and Carol regale us with
"Tails from Port Townsend"

Blogging is a wonderful thing - you meet people you have never seen, and you get to know them without ever hearing the sound of their voices.

But last Sunday evening, Jane and I spent an evening with Livia and Carol on s/v Estrellita, putting the lie to that.  They are a thoroughly charming couple.

I will not steal their thunder by telling you about Port Townsend (watch their blog for it), but I am sorry that you won't get to hear the tale in person, over a couple of bottles of wine, like we did.

And I am really, really sorry that we were not at home when they had Estrellita tied up at Shilshole, only one dock away from Eolian.

Monday, January 3, 2011

iPhone App Recommendation #3

Ever wanted to make 3D pictures?  Now you can, with your iPhone, using the "3D Camera" app.

The app can produce stereo pairs, which you view by letting your eyes relax and staring off into the distance, blending the left and right images into a third image which will appear between them (yes, it's a skill which takes some practice).   It helps if you pick out a prominent feature in both images and concentrate on overlaying that feature in the center.  When you get it, everything magically snaps into place!

If you have a pair of those red/blue glasses, the app can also produce both color and grayscale red/blue anaglyphs.  Finally, it can also produce an animated gif of the left and right images which gives depth cues by rapidly alternating between them.

OK, now let's see some great stereo pictures of boat interiors and anchorages!
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