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.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When guitars and cars collide

What happens to the guitar player/auto mechanic who cuts himself on his left hand little finger (anyone who has done work on cars knows that this is not an unlikely event)?

Well, first he lays off the guitar for a while - he needs all the fingers on his left hand to make music (or at least to attempt it, in my case).

Then he probably picks up the guitar prematurely, when the healing seems to be complete.  But playing the guitar involves pushing a tightly stretched, very fine wire against a block of wood.  Without a callus on the fingertip, this can be painful.  On a freshly healed cut, it results in blood on the fingerboard when the cut reopens. 

Then there is more waiting.  And while there is waiting, the calluses on the other fingertips, an adaptation by the body to playing the guitar, are slowly going away.

Finally, tentatively, he tries again.  But now, tho his fingers know what they need to do, they are soft and weak, like those of a guitar virgin.

Starting over.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mind games

There are times that you have to do something unpleasant, something that you really just don't want to do.  There are many ways to convince yourself, to persuade yourself, to fool yourself.

In this case, the technique I chose was to sneak up on myself.  (Anticipating the inevitable comments, yes I do hide my own Easter eggs.)

Water temperature
It is fall and thus it is time for the semi-annual zinc changeout here on Eolian.  This requires me to go in the water and dive down to the prop, remove the old zinc and install a new one.  It is the water temperature that is the deterrent - you know it's going to stop your heart when you jump in.  And who wants to go thru a "little death" just to prevent a little corrosion?  (You folks in the tropics, I can hear you, laughing up your sleeves.)

So Saturday while eating lunch in the cockpit, in the sun, Jane raised the subject, "What's left to do to be ready for winter?"  Reluctantly I confessed that the zinc still needed to be changed.  The sun was shining, it was warm (58°!), and it was almost calm.  I had to admit that this was probably the best opportunity I'd have before next June (and that would be way too late).

So while part me kept busy inventing excuses to put it off ("There's plenty of zinc left!"  "It'll probably be warmer next weekend!"  "We might not have any spare zincs on board!"), I just went ahead and got out the wetsuit and got ready to do the job.  I was in the water before my lazy side could mount an effective defense.  I confess that the beer I had with lunch might have helped, tho I'm not sure if it did so by slowing down my lazy side ("What the...?  We're wet!"), or by impairing the judgment of my Calvinist side ("Oh, go ahead.  It can't be that bad.")

But once in the water, the two halves of my personality briefly conversed and agreed that this was not bad at all... then I was single-minded again, doing the work.  It took no more than 10 minutes.

And then I was back aboard in the warm shower.

So dear readers, how do you get yourself to do something unpleasant?

* Note:  Jane filled up a tea kettle with warm water and dumped it down the back of the wetsuit* just before I jumped in.   This helps tremendously - the suit doesn't fill up with cold water when you get in, since it's already full of nice cozy warm water.  Try it!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Beautiful sunrise this morning

Three things coincided to make this possible:
  • Our neighbor happens to be gone this morning, leaving us with a clear view to the East
  • The days are getting shorter and shorter. This means that sunrise happens when I am awake and sufficiently caffeinated to see and recognize a worthy scene
  • We are sitting around on the boat this morning, waiting for news that Erica's labor has started.  (Did I mention that Ken & Erica are going to have a second baby?  No?  Sorry.  We are hoping that things are easier this time.)  No news yet...


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The perfect boat book

You know that wonderful anticipatory feeling you get when you first crack the cover of a new book?  You've set aside some protected time, you find a comfortable place to settle, provision yourself with the necessaries (some munchies?  a glass of wine?)... and then you open the book and dive in, letting the author take you for a ride.

Well I've been having that feeling a lot lately, and yet Eolian isn't riding any lower in the water.  That's because for my birthday, Jane gave me The Perfect Boat Book®:  A Kindle!  (After 40 years, she so knows me.  Thank you Jane!)

For the cruiser, a Kindle has some wonderful characteristics:
  • It will go months on a battery charge - the only time it uses power is when you turn a page.  In fact, when you open the shipping box, you will find your new Kindle is already displaying the first page of the Users Manual, showing how to plug it in and charge the battery...  It can do this because no power is used to display a page. 
  • Charges from 110VAC or a USB port
  • It can hold literally thousands of books
  • It does not require a connection to the internet (except to obtain new books)
  • As well as buying books from Amazon, you can also download free books from a host of sources, and you can even check out books from your public library
  • It is completely readable in bright sunlight - exactly like a book
(For the cruiser, I think the newly announced Kindle Fire gives up some of these important characteristics - most notably battery life and local storage capacity.)

If you should be gifted a Kindle (or buy one for yourself), you will want a cover for it.  Here's a piece of advice:  Get the cover that Amazon designed for the Kindle.  It is far superior to anything out there.
  • When in the cover, the Kindle is just about the size and thickness of a paperback book - it is very comfortable to hold
  • It contains a cleverly hidden but extensible LED light (draws power from the Kindle - no additional batteries required)
  • The Kindle is attached to the cover - not by clumsy straps which go over the display corners or somewhere, but by two metal clips which engage slots on the left side of the Kindle (aside from attaching the cover to the Kindle, this is how the power gets to the LED).
  • The cover is well-padded and just enough larger than the Kindle that if it were dropped on edge, no damage to the Kindle would result.
So I have The Ideal Boat Guitar®, and now The Perfect Boat Book®!

Monday, October 3, 2011

The return of fall

Here in Seattle we are now welcoming the return of fall weather.  For those of you not in Seattle, that means: rain.  And with the return of the rains, there is the return of the possibility of deck leaks.  (OK, I know that this is a lame post.  But come on... not everything about living on a boat is sitting in the cockpit and watching sunsets with a glass of wine).

Yes, here on Eolian, with the first rain we had drips coming in around the mast.  I never cease to be amazed at how much water can find its way inside thru a tiny, tiny hole.  In this case, the leak was a tiny place on the back of the mast boot, at the bottom of the seam on the back.  I had closed the seam with 3M 5200, but the last 1/8" of that closure had opened up, slightly.  One eighth of an inch.  And yet I had to put a container on the floor to catch the water that came in there.

In the ever timeless scenario, it was not possible to work on stopping the leak while it was raining...  so I had to wait until it stopped.  Thankfully it was easy to find the problem.  A small dab of 5200 fixed the problem - today's rain proved it.

Dry again.
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