Monday, February 28, 2011


What is it about cats?

I don't get it.  I am clearly missing some key cognitive connection in my brain.  A connection that thousands of apparently otherwise sane individuals have - one that causes them to spend an embarrassing amount of time combing thru the Internet searching for pictures of...


There is one page on this blog (other than this one) that mentions cats. One page out of 400.  Yet that page continues to get a steady stream of hits from these kitty porn devotees.

And even stranger, Adam's fiancee used to run a blog that continued to get visitors who were searching for the combination of terms "splenda" and "cats".   Now, I am at a complete loss here.  I can't come up with any non-recipe line of reasoning that would lead to someone looking for the combination of an artificial sweetener and... cats.  But then, as I said, I am missing some key cognitive cat-related connection.

I have come to regard the cat-searchers as some weird undercurrent of  world-wide society.  They live among us (they always have), largely undetected.  If not for the Internet and hit-counters, they would probably have remained completely undetected.  But they are out there.

And certain as the sunrise, this page is sure to draw them.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Destination: Cutts Island

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

Its been awhile since I did a Destinations post.  When last I did, we were working our way through the South Sound.  Today, we'll pick up where we left off, but first a little South Sound refresher...
The southern part of Puget sound has a very different feel than that portion north of the Tacoma Narrows.  In the South Sound, the waterways are narrower, the boat traffic seems smaller, and wonderfully, the water is warmer.  You will actually see boats pulling water skiers in the South Sound.  In fact, the water is warm enough for oysters to grow.
Now onward to today's destination... Cutts Island is located on the Eastern shore of Carr Inlet in the South Sound, about halfway up from the South.

South Puget Sound - excerpted from chart 18448

Cutts Island is a State Marine Park, and is conveniently just offshore from the land-based Kopachuck State Park.  This could serve as an excellent destination if you were meeting someone for a combined land-sea based vacation.  (Nearby Raft Island is private.)

Other than the usual timing issues with the Tacoma Narrows, there are no surprises in the approach to Cutts Island.  We like to anchor on the South side, because the tombolo stretching to the Northeast provides protection at all but high tide, making a nearly enclosed little harbor.

Cutts Island - excerpted from Chart 18448
Several State Park mooring buoys (Carl and Jo report 7) are present in the little bay, but there is plenty of room for anchorage too.  Surprisingly, it will not be difficult to catch an empty buoy if you arrive in the morning.  Our experience is that the buoys serve mostly day-use boaters.  Again, the cruising traffic in the South Sound is much lighter than you will expect.

Cutts Island itself is a small, steep-sided little island surrounded by sandy beaches, and with some brief hiking paths.  We found clamming to be excellent on all the beaches (always check for a red tide alert before clamming).

But the real party is out on the sandspit.  When it is exposed, it is a beach party/picnic place for folks with runabouts.  Although both sides of the tombolo had runabouts pulled up, the water skiers were courteous and did not ski on the South side, in the anchorage.

Cutts Island is the ideal summer anchorage - sun, sea, and sand, and lots of activity during the day.  But at night, things quiet down, the runabouts all go back to shore, and you are left with peace and quiet. 

And the next morning, be sure to rise early enough to soak up the beautiful horizon-spanning sunrise.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The logbook: for your future self

You have one, don't you?

Without one, where would you keep track of:
  • Places you have been, how you got there, and things to watch out for
  • Wildlife you have seen
  • Guests you've had aboard
  • Maintenance you've done
  • Critical notes to yourself
  • In some cases, what is found in the logbook can be the basis of legal action or defense.
In fact, ours is a journal, a diary - a record of the travels of Eolian and those in her.  It is a little ritual that I enjoy: writing in the log after having set the anchor, or in the morning recording what we prepared for dinner and how we spent the evening the nite before.

During this time of year, when the log comes out in order to record the off-season maintenance, I find myself browsing, reliving past trips we have made (tho I must confess that sometimes this gets in the way of *doing* the maintenance).

But most of all, I enjoy handing the log to a guest and asking them to sign it after a trip.  It can be a real joy to read what they have written.

Some day (in the far and distant future), when we have become Eolian's Previous Owners, all we will have of her is the logbook.  I try to keep this in mind when I write in it; I am writing for my future self to enjoy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Not for granted

Here in Seattle, inside the city limits, it is not unusual to see these guys - yes that is a pair of Bald Eagles sitting on the marina breakwater, with the Olympic Mountains in the background.  What is  unusual about this is that the seagulls are not harassing them.  Perhaps there are no nests nearby, or perhaps seagull nests are empty this time of year.

One should never let their surroundings become so familiar that they get taken for granted. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Not an observer

Living on a boat in a marina, one thing that is always there is that 1020 feet of dock between the boat and shore.

Let me put that in perspective for you folks living up there on shore.  Instead of parking your car in the garage, park it 2-3 blocks away from your house.  Each time you want to go anywhere, you have to make that walk, in whatever the weather has in store for you, carrying whatever needs to be carried.

Hurry up!  The clothes are getting wet!
Case in point:  the laundry.  We do not have laundry facilities aboard Eolian, so laundry is done ashore, at the other end of that 1020 foot dock.  Here we see Jane bringing the clean, dry clothes back to the boat.  Tho you cannot see that it is raining in the picture, you can see it in Jane's face. 

I've said it before - living on a boat, you live in the environment - you are part of it, not just an observer of it.  You must needs give up some of the isolation in which we have cocooned ourselves.  The consequence is an intensified experience. 

And it really is wonderful.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


One of the surprises (well, to me it was) of moving aboard was that periodically I had to clean the boat cabin (OK, I can hear the snickering out there, ladies...)

On all of our previous boats, this was a once a year task, usually as a part of the spring outfitting.  But living aboard is way different than weekending, and that once a year cleaning just isn't adequate.

So do we have a central vacuum cleaning system on board?  No, of course not.  But what we do have comes pretty close.  Under the dinette settee, next to the water heater, is hiding a small shop vac and a really, REALLY long hose.  Long enough to reach everywhere in the boat in fact.

So as it turns out, the dust bunnies become bold enough that the herd needs to be thinned about once a week.  It doesn't take too long, but still, it needs to be done.

You can't escape domestic chores, even on a boat.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Comfort food for Valentine's Day

Is it cold where you are?

If you are reading this in the Northern Hemisphere, chances are excellent that the long winter is getting you down.  I don't think that it is a coincidence that Valentine's Day is celebrated at this time of year when we all need a lift.  For reasons that surely must link back to our hindbrains, here in the second half of winter comfort food really does bring, ummm, comfort.  Tho I have posted precious few recipes here, this is one I think you really must have.  And I am breaking with custom here by posting this on Sunday, to give you time to do the shopping and be ready for Monday.

Now imagine: your boat quietly at anchor in a protected little cove, a romantic candle-lit dinner of braised short ribs slow-cooked in wine, a baguette, a (another) bottle of wine, gazing into the eyes of your lover across the table.  Wherever you are when you consume this recipe, it will make the evening.  It is that wonderful.

Two cooking methods are provided - the crock pot version is probably the most practical on a boat and is the one Jane used.  But if you are an adherent to the Church of Pressure Cooker, I think that would work equally well.

Just in case the link disappears over time, I am duplicating the recipe below:

Red Wine-and-Apricot Braised Short Ribs

This recipe has been tested by Country Living

Minimal preparation and long, slow cooking turns these short ribs into a falling-apart tender masterpiece.

Nutritional Information
(per serving)
Total Fat19g
Saturated Fat--
Total Carbohydrate49g
Dietary Fiber5g

red wine and apricot braised short ribsAimee Herring
Serves: 4
Total Time: 3 hr 30 min
Prep Time: 20 min


  • 3 1/2 pound(s) short ribs
  • 4 clove(s) garlic, chopped
  • 3 cup(s) dry red wine (such as Syrah)
  • 3 tablespoon(s) coarse-grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 cup(s) (11 ounces) dried apricots
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

  1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown ribs in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.  [Ed. Note: If you are on a boat, you probably don't have a large dutch oven - use a frying pan.]
  2. Add garlic to pot and cook over medium heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Add wine and mustard and stir, scraping up browned bits from bottom of the pan. Add apricots and reserved ribs and increase heat to high, bringing liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and simmer until ribs are so tender that meat falls off the bone, about 3 hours. Skim excess fat from braising sauce. (Alternatively, after step 1, add browned ribs and all other ingredients to a slow cooker and cook on low, following manufacturer's instructions, until ribs are so tender that meat falls off the bone, about 8 hours.) Serve meat and apricots in a shallow bowl with braising sauce.
Feed your soul: you really gotta try this one.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kayaks and sailboats

What do kayaks and sailboats have in common?
  • They are both quiet
  • They both travel at the speed of life
  • Neither uses fuel 
  • Both serve well as platforms for observing wildlife
So I guess it is not surprising that we see more and more people are carrying kayaks on their sailboats.  Oh sure, the tender is a necessity for hauling things, but the kayak is the answer for exploring an anchorage quietly, unobtrusively.

Tho I am not an experienced kayaker by any means, I do have some familiarity with the tippy little craft.  It boggles me to imagine getting into one from a sailboat, unless that boat has a sugar-scoop stern or a boarding ladder like Ghost's.

So today here's a question for you gentle readers who are carrying kayaks:

How do you board 'em? 


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A break in the clouds

I am very much a creature of my environment.

And here in Seattle it has been a long, long dreary spell of rain and overcast, and cold.  But this afternoon (Sunday), for a brief period, a hole in the clouds appeared right over Eolian - the sun came out!

The change in my mood was electric!  I started rushing around getting things done, and came up with 4 ideas for blog posts while I was doing so.  It was one of those afternoons when, even tho the temperatures do not permit it, you want to open the windows and change out some winter air for some spring air.   And so I did it - I opened up the forward hatch and let some of that fresh cool air in below.

The heat pump almost immediately kicked in.  Well, I guess I knew that was going to happen.  I didn't leave it open for long.

But I did have it open.

Spring is coming.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Memes are funny like this: you can read about something, say "Ha ha -  that doesn't affect me," and go on your merry way presuming that you have made an end to it.

But a meme is a seed.  Once planted in your brain, it burrows deep.  It sprouts in your subconscious, spreading roots, making itself part of you, but leaving you completely unaware that it is doing so.

Do not think about IHOP
And then one day, *pop* one of the tendrils breaches the membrane between the subconscious and the conscious - an idea has just occurred to you!

Yesterday, Jane suggested that we stop in at an IHOP.


Coincidence?  You decide.
And amazingly, she ordered the same nutritious lo-calorie stuffed french toast combo breakfast that I enjoyed on my earlier solo visit.

{cue creepy Twilight Zone music}

Friday, February 4, 2011

D'oh moment

A little while back I was explaining my experiences with the use of a sextant to establish our position on the earth to someone.  I related how the calculations to reduce a sight are tedious, repetitive, and prone to many, many kinds of error.  And that my first attempt at establishing our position out on Puget Sound is frequently offered by Jane as a reason for us not to set off on a round-the-world cruise:  I made our position to be somewhat southeast of Cle Elum, WA.

"If only," I mused, "there was a small hand-held computer that could be programmed to do the sight reduction for me."   Then I had an epiphany - I had just such a device in my pocket!  My iPhone was entirely suitable for this task!

Like a flash, I did a quick app search, and found a sight reduction app (for $49.95!) that was just the ticket.  That seemed like a lot, but loading all the ephemeri for a large collection of heavenly bodies would be a daunting task, and certainly deserved appropriate compensation.

And then the blocks slowly fell into place in my (perhaps slightly wine-impaired) brain.  Wait a moment...  if I have an operating iPhone, I already know my position on earth to within a few feet, thanks to its GPS.  D'oh.

But for an even bigger d'oh, what was the guy who wrote the iPhone app thinking?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Long hair

I confess that I am a sucker for long hair.  To me,  it is elegant, sophisticated, and at the same time, irresistibly  seductive. 

And pleasing tho it may be to the observer, I understand that long hair can be a hassle for the wearer.  Well at least I sort of understand.  Once a year, I do it myself.  And therefore as another more-or-less unspoken agreement (over 40 years of marriage, these do accumulate), Jane wears her hair longer than she would otherwise, and I (usually) blow dry it after she washes it.

But on a boat - hoo boy.

It really is critical that the stuff be kept out of the bilge.  If it gets down there, it will foul the bilge pump shaft like fishing line around your prop shaft, or if we are lucky, it will only block the pump inlet screen.   So we are always fighting a holding action, with three lines of defense:
  • Vacuum frequently
  • Keep "hair catchers" on both shower drains (the showers drain into the bilge), and clean them frequently
  • Vacuum the floor before pulling up the floor boards
Is it worth it?

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