Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tsunami reprise

When I said earlier that the tsunami was not detectable in Puget Sound, I meant that *I* did not sense it.  However King County's instrumentation did, as I mentioned in a comment on that earlier posting.  My daughter Erica, who works for King County Environmental, sent me this chart:
The tidal cycle shows clearly, of course.  But notice the jaggedness on the peaks beginning between 3/11 and 3/12?  (You might want to click on it to get a larger version.)  That is the tsunami.  The instrumentation only responds to very long-period waves, so wakes from ferries (or fairies, Mr. Rawles!), shipping, etc are ignored.  The number and duration of jags shows that the wave sloshed around in Puget Sound for more than two days before it's amplitude fell below the instrument's detection limit. 

Thought you might be interested.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Refrigerator magnets

No, not the kind that stick on your refrigerator, holding up the kids drawings or the grocery list.

I am talking here about magnetic drive pumps for the refrigerator.  Wait, what?

Let me back up a step.  Your household refrigerator discharges the heat it pulls from its interior into the surrounding air.  If you are old enough, you'll remember the "coils" on the back of the refrigerator, but now virtually all refrigerators have those coils concealed in the base.  Nevertheless, they are there, busy heating air with the heat removed from your food.

Here on Eolian, the refrigerator is water-cooled.  Other than the hassle of dealing with circulating seawater, this makes a lot of sense - the seawater is 48° right now, so it serves wonderfully to carry away the heat.  But there is still that circulating seawater thing.

Originally, Eolian had a very small Johnson brand conventional centrifugal pump for the refrigerator.  But not long after I moved aboard, that pump failed the way most such pumps fail:  the seal gave out and seawater dribbled along the shaft into the pump motor interior, destroying it.  That seal is the weak link in a pump.

There is an alternative, however:  the magnetic drive pump.  In these pumps, the rotor (the thing that impels the water into motion) has an embedded magnet, and is totally sealed off from the motor.  The motor drive shaft has a magnet on its end, and drives the impeller thru magnetic coupling alone.  There is *no* possibility of leakage at the seal - because there is no seal.

When that original pump failed, I sought high and low for a magnetic drive replacement pump, starting of course with Johnson.  The best I could do tho was a Sureflo baitwell pump.  It was oversized for the service, but it was indeed magnetic drive.  I bought it and installed it... and was disappointed because, tho it served well as a pump, it was terribly noisy.

So when I was visiting with my nephew Mark, who is National Sales Manager for SPX (the parent company for Johnson pumps), I brought this subject up.  Well, it turns out that Johnson does make a magnetic drive pump suitable for this service, but that their catalog incorrectly lists it as suitable only for freshwater or ethylene glycol service.  Mark told me that these pumps are used extensively for circulating brine - much tougher service than seawater.  He then arranged for Johnson to ship me a suitable pump for a beta test in my system.

After opening up the bilge space under the floorboards, I removed the old Sureflo pump.  As you can see, the Johnson pump is considerably more compact. 

Next, some plumbing changes were required, and tho I thought I had everything on hand to do the job, Reality checked in and I was short of the correct-sized hose clamps, despite my on-hand collection.  So a quick walk up to West Marine (thankfully close to the marina) and I was set.

The final installation - the pump is almost completely silent in operation - what a relief!  And because it is a magnetic drive pump, it should last as long as the motor.

Oh blessed silence!

Friday, March 25, 2011


Quick - what's a good way to entertain folks on your boat that doesn't require anything but 6 dice?  You didn't say "Farkle!"  You should have.

Farkle is a fast-moving dice game that works well with any number of participants that you are likely to have on hand aboard.  The only thing you'll need is 6 dice, and a pad on which to keep score.  And the rules.  You will need a copy of the rules, or at least general agreement among the players as to the version of the rules which will be in effect.  The rules are easy enough to learn that a complete novice will become competent in less than half a bottle of wine.

The game takes only enough room to throw the dice - it can be played on any boat that has a flat surface - say the dinette table, or I suppose in a pinch, the floor could be pressed into service.  It is perfect for a boat - virtually any boat.

Next time you have folks aboard, you should try it!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How could I knot?

How could I not post this?  For more daily lessons & recitations on wisdom, visit Surviving the World

Lesson #912 - Knots

You kids can stock the various tools for whatever supposed apocalypse is coming our way, I'll just be the guy who knows the bowline and tautline and figure-eight and lashings, and then who will suddenly be your best new friend who will be able to tie together the raft so you can escape the island and get back to civilization?


Monday, March 21, 2011

Cruising hats

It may seem a little early...  But come on - is it ever really too early to talk about cruising fashion?

Even tho there are lowering, dark clouds outside and it is threatening to rain, we Pacific Northwest cruisers need to think about sun protection.  What does the well-dressed PNW cruiser wear for headgear?

One of the most commonly seen is the ubiquitous baseball cap.  It will cover your head, and the bill shades your eyes from glare (that's why the bill goes in the front, dude).   And for just a touch of pride, you can have your boat's name embroidered on the cap.  We have ours made at KAM Gear, in Ballard.

But the baseball cap does not protect the tops of your ears, or your neck (unless you have it on backward, dude).  For better all-around protection, the standard cruising hat (this example is made by Dorfman and sold by West Marine) is a dramatic improvement.  And it has a string to keep it on your head in a breeze, something sailors are hopefully experiencing.

But variations on the Aussie bush hat have it all over the standard floppy cruising hat.  The advantage of the bush hat is that you can snap up the brim on the side away from the sun, and get an improved breeze on that side of your face and head.  It is also supplied with a string to keep it on your head.  This well-used one is my favorite - it was a gift from my kids.

Here in Seattle, it should not be too surprising to find that the classic Seattle Sombrero and its copycat equivalents are frequently used as cruising hats.  Not only do they block out the sun, but they are waterproof, so the occasional Seattle Sunshine won't dampen your locks.  Unfortunately when the sun does shine, they can be a little steamy because of this.

Beyond these, a wide variety of odd headgear gets pressed into service for cruisers - and sadly, sometimes fashion takes a backseat to function.  Tho clearly not the case here, this beauty had to be retired from cruising service because the brim was too wide to pass between the mizzen shrouds and the bimini.


Finally, it must be observed that any headgear which protects you from the sun will also serve to protect you from the rain.  So maybe it's not too early to talk about this after all.  And you are going to want to break in that shiny new hat.  Nothing says "newbie" like a crease in your hat.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I could not say it better

I have tried to evoke the feeling of traveling under sail before.  But I have never come as close as this lovely description from Brittany & Scott of s/v Rasmus

A beautiful shot of Rasmus under sail by our friend and artist, Lara Neece from s/v Illusion
There is truly nothing more magnificent that catching the wind in your sails, kicking your feet up and sailing off to a new horizon, a new place, a new adventure...

Traveling by sailboat is different than any other form of travel I have experienced.  First of all, you are traveling in your home.  Anything you need is there, usually within an arms reach.  Secondly, you are almost entirely self sufficient.  We make our own energy with our solar panels and make our own water from the sea.  We use so little energy and know so specifically what what we need and when.  It's amazing to be able to measure your own carbon footprint.  In addition, you have to work to get where you want to go - really work.  You must trim sails, crank winches and steer your ship through waters calm and rough.  The reward of finally getting to a destination by catching wind is truly something to relish.  Finally, the world opens up to you in a such a way that it never did before.  You become in tune with the rhythm of nature - the ebbing of tides, the clocking of winds, the direction of waves.  Mother Nature is number one out here and to be surrounded by her, with her, know her and depend on her is a truly beautiful gift to experience.
For more luscious prose, check out their blog at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Longing to see our neighbors

Thank heavens for Daylight Savings Time!

And for the progress of the seasons.  I am no longer walking down the dock in the dark evenings. 

There is now the chance to see our neighbors once again.  When it is dark, walking the 1000 feet of dock is a lonely experience.  And unpleasant, if it is not just dark but also raining.  Or snowing.  And in the winter it is always cold and windy.  No one dawdles - everyone rushes to get aboard and into the warm, lighted interiors of their boats, closing out the outside.  Little bubbles of comfort in an inhospitable environment.

But when the sun is shining, folks move outside.  They are cleaning, fixing, playing music, visiting.  It is hard to make it all the way down to the end where Eolian is moored without having several conversations, and perhaps the offer of a beer.  The walk is a leisurely and enjoyable one.


(I can't wait)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tsunami? Not so much

It was undetectable here in Seattle.

Boaters' mail

When I first moved aboard Eolian in 1997, we berthed her at the south end of Lake Union, in downtown Seattle, at the Fairview Marina.  At the same time, I started working at the University of Washington, and they wanted a mailing address.


The marina would not accept mail for me.  So, having had experience with dealing with things postal in the past (we even got mail addressed to "General Delivery" for a while in Chewelah, WA), I rented a post office box.

Time passed, and we moved Eolian to the Shilshole Bay Marina.  And we kept the PO Box, because, well Shilshole wouldn't accept mail on our behalf either.  (Is this common?  Apparently.)

Now, the PO Box was a pretty acceptable solution to the mail delivery problem.  Being the soul of  laziness, I rented the box just down the street from my work, in the University District Post Office.  So it was easy to stop in on the way to or from work and pick up the mail.

But there is more, unfortunately.  You cannot accept delivery of a UPS or FedEx package at a PO Box.  The Post Office is jealous, and will only accept packages with the correct acronym: USPS.  For us, that meant another hassle.  We eventually pressed our kids into service, using them as receiving agents.  But this was kind of awkward when the packages were, for example, Christmas presents for them.

(Cue heavenly music, beams of light, and angels descending)

And then Angela from s/v Ghost across the dock decided to go into business for herself.  She started Dockside Mail Solutions, and our mail-based life suddenly got waaay easier.

But our mail delivery problems are just the tip of the iceberg for cruising boaters.  For example, what do you do about mail when you take the summer off and cruise to Desolation Sound?  Or Baja California?  Angela has the answer - she'll bundle it up into a package and ship it to a destination of your choosing on a regular basis.  Or, she'll scan your paper mail and email it to you.  How convenient is that?

We've gone from having a more difficult mail delivery situation than those living ashore, to having options they haven't yet dreamed of.  Oh yeah, Angela will provide her services to the shore-bound folks too (Long vacation?  Temporary job posting?  Sabbatical?).

Thanks Angela - you've made a huge difference!

And I actually felt a little sad when I gave up the PO Box after 14 years...  I'm writing that off to the Stockholm Syndrome.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Destination: Bremerton

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

Chart 18449

Despite having anchored in nearly all of the great Puget Sound anchorages, we have never visited Bremerton.   So, on a recent Sunday we decided to do a "Jane's Excellent Adventure", and hop a ferry to Bremerton to check it out as a possible boating destination.

The ferry passes thru Rich Passage, at the southern end of Bainbridge Island -   a narrow little cut with a lot of tidal current flowing thru it.  It was nice to be on the ferry, instead of piloting a sailboat trying desperately to stay out of the way of the ferry.  And frankly, I'm in awe of the Captain who has to thread that needle with the huge ferry, in traffic, in all weather, multiple times a day. 

The ferry dock is sandwiched on the shoreline between the Navy docks and the Bremerton Marina.  I have to say that the marina is quite simply the most gorgeous marina we have seen.  The piers and fingers are substantially wider than we are accustomed to, and on the outer breakwater pier there were even picnic tables and BBQ's.  The power pylons are works of art, and provide combined power and water for each slip.  The nite lighting is wonderful baroque 19th century style.

But sadly, the marina was less than half full.  And here I am not talking about the guest moorage, which was not unexpectedly essentially empty at this time of year.  I am talking about the assigned slips.  The marina is the victim of unbelievably bad timing - the construction work on the marina was started in 2007, just before the big economic bust.

Now, as boaters, we immediately left the waterfront (on foot, of course) in search of a nice pub for lunch.  That turned out to be a difficult search indeed.

You see, the Bremerton waterfront has been the victim of a big-city urban planning exercise.  The waterfront is all high rises and expensive retail space.  You can get a Subway sub, but it is difficult to find a charming pub.  Worse, many of the potentially interesting establishments that somehow survived the assault from the Urban Planner then fell victim to the current economic system failure.  In short, there was a lot of walking along sidewalks fronted with high rises with either empty retail main floors or your standard nationwide suburban chain fast food.  The exception, Anthony's, was having a charity auction and was closed to the public the day of our visit.

Eventually, we stumbled into Boston's - which specializes in wonderfully made Italian food.  It is within walking distance of the waterfront, and serves chilled adult beverages which go well with the fare.

Both Jane and I had the Calzones, which we can heartily recommend.

As a boating destination, Bremerton is a mixed bag. The marina is fabulous, but the shoreside ambiance is "downtown financial center" rather than "funky". If you are hoping for an ecclectic collection of small but wonderful restaurants, art galleries and pubs like you will find in Gig Harbor, Winslow, Poulsbo, Friday Harbor or Ganges, you are in for a big disappointment.

If you do journey to the Bremerton Marina, you need to check out Boogaloo's Barbeque Pit, which is right on the promenade, just above the docks.  The smells which were coming from this place were simply amazing.  It's a take-out place, so it is ideally suited for you to bring your pulled pork BBQ back to your boat where you can enjoy it with the best waterfront view around: the one from your own deck.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I learned about sailing from that: A Tale of Two Impellers

Having no idea of its condition, not long after we took possession of Eolian, I changed out the raw water pump impeller.  It needed it.

Then, 480 engine hours (and several years) later, I changed it again.  The impeller was little worse for the wear, looking almost new.  I threw it in the spares box and installed a new one I had just bought for the purpose.

Today I pulled out that impeller, after 230 hours of operation.  Now, there's a lesson here for everybody.  The impeller was in poor shape - three of the vanes were cracked (but none missing, thankfully - I don't have to disassemble the heat exchanger to find lost vanes).  There were a few small chunks missing from the bottom surface, small enough to have passed thru the heat exchanger.  After less than half the operating time.

Why the early failure?

When I compared this impeller closely to the one I had taken out 230 hours ago, one thing stood out clearly:  it was about 1 mm taller.  When the water pump  cover was tightened down, the impeller got a compression load that the older one never saw, and one the pump was apparently not designed to sustain.  Further, the pump cover showed significant signs of erosion, probably caused by the excessive compression load.

It turns out that the too-tall impeller was a Johnson Pump "equivalent" for the Jabsco impeller.  "Equivalent" in the sense of "approximate".

The learnings from this experience:
  • When changing out a part, be certain to compare all relevant dimensions of the new one to the one being replaced. 
  • If you have a non-standard part installed, change it out as soon as possible.
  • Non-standard parts can cause consequent damage far beyond their value

The pump still works OK, but it's not delivering as much water as it used to.  I surmise that the erosion on the cover plate is preventing a good seal with the impeller, allowing leakage internally from the high pressure side back to the low pressure side. 

Rather than just replace the cover plate, I have ordered a SpeedSeal cover plate - something that has been on my todo list anyway, ever since Livia blogged about theirs.   So there is a silver lining to this story.

Years ago when I was a kid, I used to read Flying magazine. I particularly enjoyed a long-running series of articles entitled "I Learned About Flying From That." Each article was written by a pilot, who humbly admitted to having made a mistake, and then having lived, told about it in the hopes that others would not have to make the same mistake. I thought then that it was a good format, and I still think that now. This series of postings is my attempt to recreate that article series with a new subject and new technology.

(If you would like to help others to learn from your mistakes, please send your article to: WindborneInPugetSound at gmail dot com)


Friday, March 4, 2011

Sign of the times

Looking for a good deal on a boat?

They are everywhere.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

An object lesson for all of us

We had some excitement here in the marina on Sunday.

A fire erupted on this boat over on the brokers' section of I-Dock.  The response by the Seattle Fire Department was impressive - perhaps 5 vehicles came, sirens blaring, and the Fire Boat got here from around West Point from downtown Seattle almost as quickly.  There was some complaint from folks on shore with this level of response - but they can be excused for that reaction - they don't understand how quickly a single boat fire can become a flaming inferno the entire length of the dock.  Boats are made of very flammable materials and are further concentrated pockets of energy, given their fuel tanks, propane tanks and batteries.

In this example, this boat on the brokers' dock was immediately backed up by a gas-powered power boat, stern-to-stern.  If the sailboat had become fully engulfed, the power boat would have gone up in flames, probably followed by an explosion very shortly thereafter.  I applaud the response by Seattle Fire.

Apparently the fire started in the shore power wiring.  I've blogged about this recently - the shore power circuitry on all of our boats is critical and needs to be it tip-top shape.  When did you last inspect yours?

The sale price for this boat will probably need to be revised

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