Monday, May 30, 2011

First, a sunset

First, the sunset on Saturday in Eagle Harbor nite was absolutely spectacular.  Because of the locations of the clouds, the sun's reflection on them made it look like there was a ray of light going straight up from the sun.  (I assume they were ice clouds, because ice fog does this, while regular fog does not).

We slept in again, and woke with barely enough time to get another hearty breakfast of sautéed mushrooms and fried eggs into ourselves before the start of the Indy 500.  Of course you watch the Indy 500 don't you?  The largest sporting event in the world, with 500,000 people physically attending and millions more watching all over the world, is something you wouldn't want to miss.  Well at least we didn't want to miss it.  And for a wonderful change, we had excellent TV reception at anchor in Eagle Harbor.  I won't tell you about it - if you saw it, you already know, and if you don't, well then watch it yourself next Memorial Day.  Tough love.

Then it was clean up the boat time, because Kaci and Adam were coming in on the 3:45 ferry to Bainbridge.  We put the dinghy down and made a quick trip to the city dock and up into town to the grocery store for some forgotten items, and then it was time for them to arrive.  Working the visit this way was ideal - it didn't require days of their time, started with a ferry ride (an unusual treat for many folks) to an island (another unusual circumstance).  Then a dingy ride out to Eolian, anchored in the harbor.  I BBQ'd a couple of pork loins on my new grill (it was perfect for this!) while the conversation flowed.  And in fact it flowed until well after dark, with the background of the spectacular city scape of the Seattle nite skyline centered in the harbor.  Unfortunately, I have no good pictures.  First, I suffer from excessive involvement - I participate instead of being the chronicler.  And next, by some rye twist of fate, in the pictures I did manage to get everyone has some weird expression on their face.

This morning, I got up early and lit the cabin heater and started breakfast (cornbread, blue berries and sausages), and then we got under way at 08:30, in order to arrive at Shilshole at slack water, and early enough for Kaci and Adam to have a day left to themselves.

We had another delightful broad reach back, making 3-5 kt, and tied up at 10:45.  So, tho this started out to be a circumnavigation, circumstances dictated that it was not.  But the trip fully satisfied Jane and I, and I think Adam and Kaci were pleased too.  I mean, how can you go wrong when you sail downwind to the North, then downwind to the South, and finally downwind to the North, all in the space of 4 days?  Never sail to weather indeed!

But no rest for the boat owner.  As soon as I am done posting this, we begin work cutting up and removing our old, leaking diesel daytank.  Expect pictures.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Beautiful, relaxing day


Our original plans to circumnavigate Bainbridge Island clockwise did not work, given the circumstances. When plans and circumstances collide, the prudent mariner revises the plan.  And so we did.

The wind forecast had a South wind yesterday,  North wind this afternoon, and a South wind again tomorrow and Monday.  So we sailed to Port Madison yesterday in a beam to broad reach, and today we sailed South to Eagle Harbor under another broad reach.  When your plans match the wind, the going is easy and relaxing indeed, today being the perfect example. 

Now we are peacefully at anchor out in front of the Harbor House, and I am about to go grill a steak.  In the sun. 

Does it get any better than this?

Well, yes.  Kaci and Adam will  join us tomorrow afternoon.  And the temperature is forecast to reach as high as (hold your breath) normal!  Yes it is possible we will reach 68°!

That will be better.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Honey, I'm home...

Our plan for the holiday weekend has changed. First, Kaci and Adam will now join us on Sunday afternoon, and then Jane was not feeling well and the weather was, well, not optimal. So we delayed leaving the dock until 15:30.

Next, the wind was out of the South, making a trip South difficult. So we took the path of least resistance - and we are home at anchor in Port Madison. Tomorrow? Who knows.

Honey, I'm home...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Getting ready, getting hopeful

Over this coming weekend, our plans are to circumnavigate Bainbridge Island, stopping in Eagle Harbor, Poulsbo and Port Madison (or maybe Manzanita).  I know that this is not the wide-ranging island hopping trip that others have planned, but it is our plan.  We may be joined by Kaci and Adam at Eagle Harbor, so we (well, Jane - for she is our quartermaster) are making two provisioning lists: one if yes, and one if no.

And like anyone going out, we are watching the weather.  It looks like the temps will range in the 40's at night and right at 60 for the highs.  Winds look to be out of the South in the benign range - strongest (in tonite's forecast now) to be on Friday.

And there will be rain.

So, after a cozy dinner of chicken soup and a baguette, while Jane makes lists, I am playing along with Mumford & Sons (who I highly recommend) and The Jelly Rollers (who I also recommend) and feeling hopeful that we will have a quiet, restful 4 days away from the dock.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A great way to start the day

It is one of those mornings - I think you know the kind. It is grey, but the clouds are breaking up. The smell of the sea is fresh and there is but a gentle stirring of the air. There is the promise of a beautiful day coming.

You were thinking that it's a perfect morning to make a trip to the masthead to change out the anchor/bow light, weren't you? (If you live on a boat, this is the way you think, unfortunately.)

I'll spare you the pictures from up there (it was breathtaking, as usual) - you've seen enough. But changing out a light fixture while you are 65 feet in the air... now that is something to think about. First order of business: Don't you dare drop anything. Not a tool, not a screw. I wonder if that is why my hands were shaking so much as I did the work... I do know that I think every move thru before I make it, and I move deliberately, very deliberately.

These are the tools I took with me on the trip. Thankfully, all of them came down with me - none of them took the fast way down.

Earlier, while I was up the mast to reinstall the wind sensor, I took a look at the light fixture because only one of the two bulbs (LED's, actually) had been working.  In fact I spent quite a bit of time fooling around with the bulb and socket, trying to get a connection that was solid.  No luck. - there was significant corrosion.  So I bought a new fixture, and this morning was the day to install it.

Old fixture - high water mark
One of the things I had noted was that there was a high-water mark in the light fixture (see it?). The manufacturer did not provide for drainage of rainwater, which surely as the sun rises will find its way into the fixture.

New fixture - drainage added
So, in an attempt to head off a future occurrence of this same problem, I drilled drain holes in the fixture - one in the track that holds the lens, and two in the base on either side of a reinforcing web. I used a 3/32" drill, it's 65 feet in the air, and we're in the Pacific Northwest - I don't think I have to worry much about insects using the holes as nesting spots.

So, obviously I made it down safely, the light fixture is working as it should, and I am enjoying a beer while I tell you all about it.

And that promise is fulfilled - it's a beautiful day!

Friday, May 20, 2011

It works!

In a recent SmallBoatProjects post, the suggestion was made to use a ceramic tile as a means of evening out the heat in a boat oven.

Our oven is like everyone else's - it heats unevenly.  So we took the suggestion and stopped at a home improvement store and picked up a single 12"x12" ceramic tile (cost: $0.94) and clipped it to the oven shelf with binder clips.

Yup, it works!  Look at that luscious corn bread I baked this morning!  It came out just like it does in a household oven.

Go get yourself a tile.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The electric blanket incident which I learned to turn the thermostat up in order to cool off.

Wait - what?  How does that work?

I am sure that I have mentioned before that the task of making the bed seems be my assignment.

And I may have mentioned that we have an electric blanket on our berth.

How do these two threads tie together?  Like this: The berth is queen-sized (in width, anyway), so the blanket is too.  And when you buy a queen-sized electric blanket, it seems that they always come with two controls, one for each side.  Is it coming together yet?  One for which side?  Yeah, that's the ticket. 

When making the bed one time, I accidentally inverted the blanket.  It is easy to do - it looks the same on the top and the bottom surfaces, and things are always hard to see down at the foot of the bed, in the cave under the overhang from the aft deck.  But I didn't know I had done it.

Net result:  the controls now controlled the opposite side of the blanket.  That is, Jane's control now ran my side, and mine ran hers.

So we went to bed.  And I woke up warm not long after falling asleep.   So I adjusted my control down a couple of notches and fell back asleep, thinking that I had things handled.

I woke up again, a while later, but now I was definitely HOT!  I turned off my blanket and tried to fall asleep again.  It wasn't getting any cooler.  And while in that weird state between sleep and awakeness, when your subconscious and your conscious seem to be able to communicate (tho darkly), it came to me that the blanket was inverted.  And the solution?  To cool off I needed for Jane to turn her side down.  And I didn't want to wake her up enough to be able to explain the situation.  So I turned my control all the way up

Sure enough, in a little while Jane became restless, and then turned down her control.  Blessed coolness!

It took a few more iterations to close in on the right combination of temperatures for both of us to be comfortable.  I'm sure that this would make for an interesting control system design problem and an interesting Bodé plot.  But I didn't do the analysis, I simply flipped the blanket over in the morning.

It seems that our inverter kills electric blankets.  More specifically, it kills electric blanket controllers.  I have learned to unplug the electric blanket before I turn on the inverter - something that prevents us from using the electric blanket at anchor.  Does anyone else have this problem?

(You folks cruising in the tropics:  no cracks please.  It will get warm here.  Some day.)


Monday, May 16, 2011

Inside the guitar

While enjoying myself, sitting in the dentist's chair this morning and participating in a necessarily one-sided conversation with the hygienist, she related a story to me about some friends of hers who had lived on a sailboat in Alaska...  It seems that one nite, they were repeatedly awakened by unusual sounds, but were unable to locate their origin.  Finally, after three trips up on deck in the cold and dark, they discovered a heron, which had managed to wedge its head in the rigging somewhere.  (I think I have shortened this a little, but then there may have been nitrous involved.)

Now, that's an interesting boating story, but why do I bring it up here?  Two reasons, both related to my ongoing effort to bring you the experience of living aboard a sailboat.  First, it is the  nature of things that when you are asleep on a boat, you are not really completely asleep.  A small part of your brain remains on duty, paying attention to those senses which still operate.  This ever-alert sentry takes note of unusual motions of the boat and unusual sounds, and presses the alarm bell when something is detected, waking up the rest of the brain.  People on shore rarely experience this sleeping awareness, although it is frequently mentioned in detective novels ("Dirk awoke suddenly, fully alert.  Something had alerted him, bringing him to full awareness in the blink of an eye.  What was it?  Then, he heard it again: the quiet sound of a footstep on the stairs.")

And second, living on a boat is akin to living inside a guitar.  The mast is the neck, the shrouds and stays are the strings, the hull and deck are the body of the guitar.  Anything happening to the rig is greatly magnified down below.  A loosely tied 1/8" flag halyard, occasionally bumping into a nearby stay when the wind blows sounds like a maniac pounding on the rigging with a hammer.  A bird caught in the rigging?  You are not going to sleep thru that.

The story has a happy ending.  They were able to untangle the heron and free him to fish another day.  And now I should probably go up on deck and see what it is that is tapping against our mast.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

50 First Dates

It's about the connections.
Huh?  That's a movie title.  In short: 

Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore create a heart-warming romantic story about a couple who overcome an unusual and very difficult obstacle to create a relationship.

Is that all I'm going to say?  Yep.  I don't want to give it away.  But I do think you'll enjoy it.

So why do I bring it up here, on a sailing and liveaboard blog?

I won't be revealing anything important if I tell you that we have a tenuous personal connection to this movie.  Kind of like, you have to see Sleepless In Seattle if you live in Seattle, we needed to see 50 First Dates.  (Except that when I first heard of the movie, it was by word of mouth, and somehow I got it as 51st Dates, which is not the same thing at all.  But I digress.)

s/v Lea Fortis, across the dock from Eolian
That connection is this: The final scenes in the movie were shot aboard s/v Lea Fortis, a Force 50 that used to be tied up across the dock from us, in the spot now occupied by s/v Ghost (coincidentally, another Force 50).  The movie company chartered the boat for the summer and took her to Alaska to film those scenes.  I don't know what it cost them, but it was a lot.  In addition, the boat came back with some pretty substantial damage - enough to quell any slight inclinations I might have had at chartering out Eolian for anything similar.  I presume that the cost to repair that damage was above and beyond the chartering fee.  All I can tell you is that owner seemed to be happy with the deal he had made, afterwards.

See the movie.  You'll enjoy it, and then you can think about what it costs to make a movie, and why.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shakin' out winter

In the winter, you kind of get into the habit of "relaxing" after dinner.  I mean, what else are you going to do, anyway?

But tonight we have our second (but who's counting?) day this month where the temperature was forecast to reach to nearly normal!  Time to shed those winter habits (and those winter pounds - could there possibly be a connection?).

Sundog on a quiet evening
It's a quiet, hazy evening here in the marina.  There is no wind, Jay is sitting out on deck reading, and the giggle of children drifts around as Zak and Ellie are out playing with Fathom, their dog.  People are talking quietly from one boat to the next.

I grilled a flank steak for dinner (rubbed with garlic salt, pepper and cumin), and we ate in the cockpit.

And after dinner we did *not* relax.  I got out the buffer and went to work on the deckhouse, while Jane got out the Brasso and went to work on the compass binacle.  (She got a lot further along than I did!)

Now we can relax, in the cockpit, with the guitar and some easy blues.


We've been waiting for this.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Better than a wet finger

When last we talked about our fat bird problem, I had completed the Mark 1.5 version of the replacement wind vane, using brass rod, sheet, and a PVC pipe cap.  You may remember that I was concerned about the weight of the Mark 1.5 version, and that I was going to see if I could make one using aluminum.

It's done.  I found that small pieces of sheet aluminum are available in the hardware store as flashing - I cut the vane itself from one of these sheets.  In order to lighten the design, I made the vane considerably larger than in the Mark 1.5 version, and positioned it closer to the pipe cap.  The net result was that I needed one third less counterweight on the front, making the entire assembly considerably lighter.

The only tricky part of the aluminum manufacture was attachment of the vane to the aluminum rod.  Unlike with brass, I couldn't solder the vane to the rod.  Instead, I made two close-together folds in the bottom edge of the vane such that, viewed end-on, a triangular space was created - one a little too small to accommodate the rod.  Then I applied epoxy and wedged the rod into that space.  It's solid.

Glue-up jig
For final assembly, I wrapped the sensor body with enough tape (that's the blue layer in the picture) to make a snug fit into the pipe cap - this made sure that the assembly would go together centered.  I treated the inside of the pipe cap with acetone to soften its surface and then added some 5-minute epoxy - enough to form about a 2 mm thick layer.  I lined up the registration marks I had made on the sensor, and using a carefully constructed glue-up jig (ha!), I assembled it and waited for the epoxy to cure.

Mark II Vane
The final product looks good.   In order to protect the pipe cap from the ravages of solar UV, I cut and applied some aluminum tape to it.

It works!
And then on Friday, while we were anchored in Eagle Harbor, I climbed the mast and installed it.  Almost unbelievably, the calibration turned out to be spot-on!  Hopefully the short length of available perching space on the rod will discourage obese birds from using this as a lounging spot.  But if it doesn't, I'll drill a small hole into the top and glue in a heavy plastic bristle from a shop broom (I don't want to make a lightning rod here!).

Friday, May 6, 2011

Eagle Harbor this morning

We are at anchor in Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island this morning.

Tho the weather is not seasonable (we're still in the season of Woebegone, where every day is 10° below normal), we motored down here as soon as I got home from work last night.  There was a little breeze, but it was light, and was right on the nose.  We did unfurl the yankee for a while, but it was a losing effort.  But wow, the newly clean bottom and prop sure make Eolian speedier - we made the 8.4 miles down here in the same time we were making the 6.25 miles to Port Madison last fall.

Eagle Harbor has changed - for the better.  Many of the "permanently moored" boats that filled the anchorage are no longer here - for a refreshing change, there is lots of room to anchor!  And in fact, we anchored all the way back into the head of the harbor (just below the Harbor House pub, which we will visit later today, of course), if you can believe it.

The view from here is wonderful - the Seattle city skyline is centered in the opening to the harbor.  After a dinner of taco salad and cervezas (it was Cinco de Mayo, after all), we had front row seats last night to a spectacular view of the city lights.  Unfortunately, taking night pictures from a boat with my camera doesn't work too well.  So here is a daytime view - you'll have to imagine how beautiful it is at night.  Maybe if it is real calm tonight...

(And for those of you who were wondering if it is sunny in Seattle... not so much.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


When the Winter Collection leaves the boat, can spring be far away?  I think not.

(And I must confess that I also succumbed to spring fever and replaced several of the flannel shirts in my hanging locker with Hawaiian shirts.  I wore one today as a symbol of hope.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Where do *you* do it?

No, not that.  This is a family-oriented blog (shame on you for what you were thinking).

Where do you work on your sails?  Because of the proportions of boat and sail which have been fixed by time-tested rules, it is a truism that the foresail will be much too big to fit on the deck, regardless of the size of the boat.  So, if you had to work on your foresail, where would you do it?

For us, the answer is some clean grass - grass not recently cut (and therefore littered with clippings) and free of dog-exhaust.  Admittedly, this is not always easy to find.  Yet, because we had to have our foresail off of the boat for our just-completed haulout, this weekend was the perfect time to find some clean grass and go after the algae and mildew growing on the sunshield, and to do some minor repair.

Here, Jane is taking her turn at playing seamstress, while I am taking pictures instead of  getting out the vinegar and starting to work on the sunshield.  (Non-sailors:  when the sail is rolled up on the forestay, that green border is all that is exposed - it's there to shield the sail from UV-deterioration.  And to provide a home for wayward algae.)

White vinegar is an excellent treatment for algae and mildew.  Being a 5% solution of acetic acid in water, the pH is low enough to kill off the single-celled life forms, and yet it is weak enough to cause no harm to the fabric.  Bonus:  both the water and the vinegar eventually evaporate - no rinsing is required.

To prevent colonized algae and mildew from surviving the onslaught of the vinegar by sacrificing their outer members to protect those inside, it is good to break up the colonies while doing the vinegar treatment.  I used a small brush, originally designed to strip cornsilk off of raw corn-on-the-cob - it is soft enough to be kind to the fabric and the thread, yet it does yeoman duty in destroying colonies (look for one in your grocery store).
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