Saturday, December 31, 2011

A little G Dock New Year's excitement

m/v Clupea
This morning when Steve cranked the starter on m/v Clupea, a gorgeous old wood boat, the starter solenoid exploded, starting a fire.

Steve was able to extinguish the fire before any real harm was done, and then he called the Fire Department to come check out everything with their IR gear to make sure that the fire was really out (I would not have thought of that).  Thank heavens that Clupea is a diesel boat.

A flash of genius
And thank heavens that Steve was able to get the fire out with what he had on board, since the Marina has recently implemented a policy of shutting down the fire hoses on the docks for the winter.   (Thankfully, most boat fires do not happen in the winter.  Oh, wait...)

The sign is cheaper

I suppose they have discovered that it is far cheaper to put up a notice than to properly maintain all those pesky freeze protection valves...

Friday, December 30, 2011

3, 2, 1, Contact!

Some of you may have noticed that there is a new tab on the blog: Contact.  And some of you may have sent me email at the address on that tab....

Abject apology!

I screwed up the setup of the email account - I did not get your email.

Things are correctly set up now.  Please, please, PLEASE send your email again (perhaps you still have it in your Sent Mail folder).


(Oh, and thank you too, loyal readers, for hanging in there while I took a Christmas blogcation!)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

From the crew of Eolian to you and yours,

May the joy and hope of
Christmas fill your hearts the
whole year through


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Float testing

As liveaboards, we like to do our part in advancing the boundaries of human knowledge.  Here on Eolian, we believe in the Scientific Method, so we collect data.

One kind of data we have been collecting over the years, is how this whole Archimedes-discovered thing about displacement and floating actually works.  As you have probably guessed from the title, we have been float-testing random objects.  So far, we can definitively report that the following do not, in fact, float:
  • A B6S sparkplug for the outboard
  • A 6' length of 1 1/2" PVC pipe
  • A cell phone
  • Several hamburgers (cooked on one side only)
  • A 3/8" combination wrench
  • A green serving bowl
  • An uncounted number of Christmas lite bulb covers
  • A part of the mounting bracket for our bow light
  • A couple of 1/4" allen wrenches
  • A large and random collection of screws, washers, nuts and bolts.
Take that, Science!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Back to the future!

After six hours, and a trip to West Marine to buy yet another handful of plumbing fittings, we now have a working seawater circulation pump on Eolian, and our heat pump is once again pumping heat.  The original pump was a Cal Pump, and the new one is a Teel pump, manufactured by Dayton, a major, MAJOR pump manufacturer (model # 1P808A, recorded here so that I have it written down somewhere).

I disassembled the Cal pump, and found that the "impeller" was just 4 straight sheetmetal vanes.  I don't know the failure mode because I haven't completely disassembled it, but I assume it to be saltwater moving along the drive shaft past the shaft seal and back into the motor section causing corrosion.

And I have put away the space heaters.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lighted dinghies and engine foibles

The first time, a few years back, there were maybe four or five dinghies.  And if I remember correctly, only one was lit up - the rest of us waved flashlights or something.  But that was several years ago, and my memory is not known for its accuracy (maybe we were all balanced on floating logs, paddling along and waving flaming torches).

Rudolph leads the way
But this year, all the dinghies had some kind of lighting, and the lead dinghy even had a sound system (along with Rudolph) so that we didn't have to sing.  Wait!  No singing?  Well, with the dinghies strung out over perhaps a quarter-mile, singing was always a little problematic - getting us all to sing in time with each other, or even the same song, was not easy.  But aside from being practical, the electronic form took some of the folksiness and charm out of it, I think.

Wanting to be full participants, we rigged Eolian's dinghy with the handle from our deck brush as a mast, and strung a string of lites from the stern, over the mast and down to the bow.  These were battery-operated LED lites, and were full-on kitsch because they blinked and changed colors.

Of course, the final bit is that the dinghy outboard, our not-so-trusty 2 HP motor, should run so that we could stay in the conga line.  So yesterday afternoon I put the dinghy down and started the engine, just to make sure.  Well tried to start the engine.  In the end, I had to take the spark plug out and heat it on the stove to burn off the oil and water on it.  And then when the engine did start, it would never get anywhere near full power output - and believe me, when you only have 2 HP, you need all 2 HP.  The smell of the exhaust told me that the gas was old.

So I drove the dinghy up and down the waterway, trying to heat up the motor to dry out any condensation in the ignition system, and trying to burn off the old gas.

I give Brent & Jill the prize
for the most lights
But last nite, at the moment of truth when everyone was leaving to go over to A Dock to form up, it wouldn't start.  And so once again, we were participants, but we were ignominiously towed participants, towed by Brent & Jill, our slip-mates.  But even that turned out great.  As luck would have it, Brent's warming libation unexpectedly ran out just before we got to the F/G Dock waterway, and so we had to stop at our home slip for a refill.  And then we got invited below, and...

The end of G Dock, and Eolian's
interrupted strand of blue lites
Well, we sipped and gabbed while the second half of the parade went on, down below in the warm.  And we later walked down to the yacht club which was the designated endpoint for the parade, where drinks and goodies were to be had.  In fact, we got there on foot just as the water-borne parade contingent arrived.

So maybe having an unreliable engine can be a good thing after all...

Postscript: a new sparkplug cured the engine woes. Well actually two new sparkplugs.  I discovered that sparkplugs do not float.

Friday, December 16, 2011

You might be a liveaboard if...

  • You buy vinegar in gallon jugs. Frequently.
  • You glance warily at the house AC ammeter when plugging in your hair dryer
  • (And you have a house ammeter)
  • You check the tide tables when you are making a big grocery buy
  • Lightening scares the bejeezus out of you
  • Your stove only has two burners
  • You've run out of water in the middle of a shower
  • In conversations with your friends, the most common topic is "the head"
  • When someone says "head", your first thought is not the one on your shoulders
  • The phrase "scrubbing her bottom" does not sound kinky to you
  • You can catch crabs from your living room
  • "Running out to the car" is a half-mile round trip
  • Grid power outages do not particularly disturb your life
  • When you get a new book, you have to decide which of your other books to give away
  • A successful trip is one where nothing breaks
  • You have 300' of chain in one of your closets
  • You have more than a passing concern about water in the basement
  • You take turns with your partner in passing thru a hallway
  • You are hyper-alert to strange sounds and strange smells
  • Your have at least one flashlight with a red lens
  • The five-second rule is of no value for hamburgers that accidentally get flipped off the grill
  • You have a bottle of vegetable oil in your bathroom
  • You have to think about keeping the toilet paper dry when taking a shower
  • You don't own a toaster
  • You always put everything back where it came from, because really, that's the only place it will fit.
  • You unthinkingly use "stern" to refer to the back of your car (unless you own a 1966 Lincoln, in which case it is entirely appropriate)
  • All of your windows have a water view
  • There's a fishing pole stored over your bed
  • The terms "amps" and "amp-hours" come up frequently in your conversations
  • You have radar in your living room
  • You have at least two electrical systems
  • A dorm refrigerator looks large to you
  • You have no furniture
  • You know how many amps your TV draws
  • You have 5200, polysulphide and multiple kinds of epoxy in your "junk" drawer
  • (And you know what I meant by 5200)
  • Your bed is not a rectangle
  • "Vitamin supplement" is not the first thing you think of when you hear "zinc"
  • For you, "scope" does not refer to mouthwash
  • You unconsciously use "port" and "starboard" when talking to folks on shore
  • You don't own a plunger 
  • You look like a bag lady (or man) just getting off or on your boat.
  • Instead of the Goodwill, you have the ice machine in the marina office where you exchange unneeded items.
  • You have a supply of tarps to use when you suddenly "spring a leak".
  • Your car looks like a storage unit for the local boat yard.
If you have one to add, put it in a comment and I'll pull it into the list...

(Inspired by this list at Windtraveler.  Because, of course, cruisers are also liveaboards, there is a lot of overlap - I have tried not to plagiarize/duplicate...)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Back to the past...

When I arrived at the end of G-dock after having been away from Eolian for a day and a half, I was surprised to see no water coming out of the heat pump discharge.  The sinking feeling I had only deepened when I got down below and found the temperature to be 52°, 10° below the setpoint I had left on the thermostat while we were away.

Yup, the circulating pump which supplies seawater for the heat pump (to chill, thus providing the heat...) was, well, *not* circulating.  The pump motor was warm, indicating that it was getting power, but apparently the impeller was not turning.  I tried flushing the system backwards by directing a stream of water from a hose into the discharge thru hull, but no joy.  And finally, no amount of percussive maintenance (I stopped just short of destructive percussive maintenance) would get it to move water again.

So I dug out the old space heaters (yes, we still have them on board, thankfully!) and plugged them in.  I also lit the Dickenson diesel heater.  So now Eolian is back to being heated the same way she was before the heat pump installation.  And it is cold outside here in Seattle - but never fear, we are cozy here down below.

I called the heat pump manufacturer in Florida, and he promised to have a new pump here in a couple of days. 

We'll see.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cover girls

Look what was posted on the dock-head bulletin board...

Recognize a boat there?  The three lit-up boats are Ghost (on the left), Eolian (blue lites, on the right), and Ambition (multi-color, on the right).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Safety Item: Orion issues recall for flares

Three Sheets Northwest notes this safety item - you need to check your flares. Note that the "signals" they speak of are the actual cartridges - not the gun that shoots them (although it too is orange in color).
Orion Safety Products has issued a recall for two models of its hand-launched aerial signals, citing problems with the devices failing to launch and/or ignite.

The recall applies to older Orion XLT and 12-gauge signals made with orange ABS plastic. XLTs are self-contained, hand-launched signals, while 12-gauge signals have a pistol-style launch and a plastic shell.

In 2008, Orion switched from orange ABS to red-colored, glass-filled polyethylene for its better strength, durability and resistance to moisture. The last XLTs that used orange ABS in the launch tube body expire this month, while the last 12-inch gauge shells using the orange ABS plastic expire in March 2012.

If you have an XLT signal with an orange launch tube that has an expiration date between November 2011 and December 2011, or an orange 12-gauge shell that has an expiration date between November 2011 and March 2012, you are eligible to receive a free, four-pack replacement at no cost.
For details on how to receive the replacement flares, check the original article at Three Sheets Northwest

Thursday, December 8, 2011

High pressure, low water

I would never have considered it.  Or if I had, I would have assumed that the effect was small enough to be of academic interest only.

But Cliff Mass, our primo weather blogger here in Seattle, says otherwise - and proves it.  Cliff points out that our recent record high atmospheric pressure was accompanied by significantly lower tides.  Stealing a couple of public-domain images from his blog (you should read the whole story there), we see:

During roughly the past week, sea level pressure has been unusually high--including the record-breaking high pressure observed on December 1 (1043.4 hPa).   Here is the pressure of the last four weeks.  The first three weeks had relatively normal sea level pressures (1000-1020 mb), but the last week or so, pressures have generally ranged from roughly 1030-1035 mb.   Very unusual to stay that high for so long.

We have also been observing another anomaly:  the height of the water levels in the region have been unusually LOW, particularly along the Pacific coast.  NOAA produces water-level predictions = (the tide tables we know so well) and these predictions are generally quite good, since we understand very well what produces tides and their periodicities.  But recently the tide predictions have been greatly in error, forecasting tides that are much too high by one or two feet!  Here is the predicted and observed water level at Neah Bay, provided to me by UW's Dr. Nate Mantua.

Turns out these two anomalies (high pressure and low water levels) are directly connected, with high pressure pushing water levels down.
Two feet is not of academic interest - it is significant in the real world.  It could easily make the difference between passing over a sandbar in Killisut Bay and being grounded on it.  Something else to keep in mind...

I suppose that the opposite effect - higher sea level with lower pressure - explains at least a part of the storm surge associated with hurricanes.

I recommend Cliff's blog to you.  It is usually Seattle-oriented, with our unique weather tweaks, and it is informative.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Poulsbo - who knew?

On 12/5 Jane and I attended the Winter BrewFest held over at Hales Palladium, in nearby Fremont.

What a wonderful event!  A total of 34 Northwest microbrewers were represented there, each with several unique brews, many made just for this event.  Your entrance fee got you 6 (I think?  I could possibly have lost track...) tokens, each was good for 5 oz of someone's special brew...  and that was plenty - trust me on this.  Here's a sampling of what was available:
  • Schooner Exact's Bourban barrel aged porter
  • Two Beers' Jive Espresso stout, infused with coconut shreds, cacao nibs, cinnamon and star anise
  • 7 Seas Brewing's Wheelchair Barlywine (you'll need the wheelchair, it's 10.6% alcohol)
  • Wingman Brewers' Cerise Noire lambic - brewed with black cherry tea and fermented with cherries
  • Slippery Pig's Emasculator - a dark and malty dopplebock brewed with local blackberries - 10% alcohol
  • Valholl's Stouty Stouterson - an Imperial Stout brewed with sweet potatoes, rasins and cinnamon.
So how does all this tie in with sailing?  Well, it turns out that one of our prime discoveries of the afternoon was that the final two brewers listed above are within walking distance of the dinghy dock at Poulsbo!  Who knew that Poulsbo was a craft-brewing hotspot?

Can you guess what we'll be doing next summer when we are anchored in Liberty Bay?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Our very lucky day

It was Friday; we were coming back down from skiing at Stevens Pass.  We were in that peculiar apres-ski feel - muscles tired and warm, bodies relaxed.

We had just entered the left-hand lane of the westbound trestle east of Everett - this is a looong pair of bridges over a tidal slough - one bridge each for eastbound and westbound traffic.

Suddenly there was a powerful vibration from the rear of the Suburban.  My mind, not yet working at full speed, started to form the thought that we were having a blowout.  And then with a *crunch*, the left rear of the vehicle dropped to the pavement, convincing me that we were now riding on the rim.  The vehicle lurched to the right, but despite the heavy traffic, the vehicle over there managed to avoid us - no contact was made.  Just as I got the Suburban back into our lane, we were passed by our wheel and tire, still going 60 mph; it rapidly disappeared out of sight ahead.  OK then, no blowout - we lost a wheel!  Thankfully, since the trestle is a divided roadway, the wheel could not encounter oncoming traffic.  If it had, there very probably would have been serious injury or death.

The heavy traffic really saved us.  Everyone around us saw what was happening and kept clear.  Those too far back to see us were confronted with a sea of brake lites, and so they slowed down too.  There were no accidents.

Stationary in the left-hand lane, I got out and looked - yep, no wheel on the left rear.  The brake drum was still on the hub, and had acted as a sort-of lumpy cast iron wheel during the decelleration, minimizing damage and allowing the vehicle to decelerate more or less in a straight line.

Soon a very courteous state policeman pulled up behind us and turned on his flashers, which helped to warn the traffic.  And then an Incident Response vehicle pulled up.  I briefly talked to them, and then walked ahead along the narrow walkway to see if I could retrieve the wheel so we could get the vehicle off the bridge.  Sadly, it was nowhere in sight.  But just as I got back to all the flashing lites, a stranger pulled up behind the Incident Response vehicle - he had my wheel in his back seat!  And in order to retrieve it and get back onto the westbound trestle, he had to have driven perhaps 15 miles!  He dropped it off and then disappeared - what an amazing Good Samaritan!  I should add that the Suburban is a *big* vehicle - the tires and wheels are big and heavy.  And yet he had managed to wrestle it into his back seat.  Again, amazing.

The Incident Response guy jacked up the rear and we put the wheel back on, using one lug nut stolen from each of the remaining 3 wheels, and we got the vehicle off of the trestle.

Just the week before, we had dropped $1k on new tires - so it was back to that tire store that we got towed.  The manager was visibly chagrined, and took very good personal care of us, including even springing for our dinner.  As Jane said, "This was our lucky day, and so it was your lucky day!".


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Getting ready for the season

'Tis the season
We finally have the Christmas lites up in the rigging on Eolian.  Now this is not an easy task.  The lites themselves make endless problems with tangling, and are wont to snag on anything and everything, including each other.  And then there are the logistics of getting things up there at the top of the masts without having them wrapped around a shroud or a halyard or something.  This is the second year that we have strung lites in the rigging - it wasn't easy last year either.  You'd think I would have remembered something from last year, but sadly no.

Finally, everything is up and you wait with anticipation the coming of the dark.

Only to find that more than half of the strings remain unlit. 

And then it's the work week, and it is dark when you come home, so it's not possible to investigate and solve the snaggle-toothed lite display.

Now that the work week is over, today I pulled everything down again and took a look.  I discovered a burned out LED, an LED with a melted lead, and a broken wire.  And several loose bulbs.  I think we'll have a complete lite display, tonite.

I hope.

Christmas at 32 knots can be difficult.

One little gap isn't bad, is it?


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Internal or external? Lead or iron?

Except for the smallest ones, monohull sailboats (you multihull readers can skip this post) universally have a keel on their bottoms.  They carry this device around with them because:
  • It helps to keep the boat from sliding sideways when the wind is not taken directly astern, and
  • it keeps the boat from tipping over when the sails are full of wind.
Today, I'd like to talk about the second item: keeping the boat from tipping over.  In naval architecture, the boat's ability to resist being tipped is called her "righting moment". 

Old sailing ships used rocks, held in the bottom of the bilge, as ballast.  When they took on cargo, some of the ballast was jettisoned because the cargo held below the waterline would provide the righting moment, and because the ships were designed to carry cargo, after all, not rocks.  (This led to the ballast spoils areas in many harbors that were heavily used in the 18th and 19th centuries.)

Modern sailboats have moved the ballast outside the boat, lower, where it can have a greater effect.  Like the big kid and the little kid on the teeter-totter (have these all been removed from playgrounds?  What will we use for the illustrative analogy in the future?), the more weight and the deeper it is suspended below the boat, the better: the greater the righting moment.  This started with shaped blocks of lead bolted to the bottom of the keel in full-keeled boats.  But it has evolved from there.

Internal or external?

For a fin-keeled boat, there is really only one choice here:  the keel is a shaped piece of metal bolted onto the boat's bottom.  It is an external keel.

But for a modern fiberglass hull which is designed as modified- or full-keeled, a second choice is possible:  internal ballast.  In this design, the shape of the keel is part of the fiberglass molding of the hull - the keel is molded as part of the hull.  And then the ballast is added to the inside of the molding.  Typically, this is as metal shot combined with resin in a cement mixer and then poured into the keel.  But it can also be done using shaped pieces of metal laid up in the interior of the keel and then encapsulated with resin.
  • Internal keel pros:
    • There are no keelbolts to worry about.  Short of complete destruction of the hull, the keel simply cannot drop off the boat as some external keels have famously done.  
    • Maintenance of a water-tight seal between the keel and the hull is unnecessary.
    • In a collision with a hard object, there is no fear of loosening the hull-keel joint.
  • External keel pros:
    • In a collision with a hard object, it is the keel which makes contact, not the hull.  If the keel is a soft metal like lead, deformation of the keel at the point of impact will absorb a portion of the energy.
    • Because the void space of uniform-sized shot is 33%, the density of the poured shot keel will be considerably less than the solid metal.  Therefore the solid metal keel of equivalent shape will have a greater righting moment than an internal keel made from poured shot.  This advantage is considerably less if shaped metal pieces are used. 

      (Question:  Has any manufacturer explored the use of a range of shot sizes, designed to reduce the void percentage?  Concrete manufacturers have been doing this with the aggregates they use for centuries.  Seems like a simple improvement.)
Until some more exotic material is used (depleted uranium anyone?), keels will be made of either lead or iron. Both have advantages:
  • Iron keel pros:
    • Iron is a lot cheaper than lead
    • For a steel boat, there is less galvanic potential between an iron keel and the hull than there is with a lead keel.
  • Lead keel pros:
    • Lead is denser than iron. This means that for equivalent shapes, the lead keel will have considerably greater righting moment.
    • Lead does not corrode in seawater;  tedious and frequent scraping, sandblasting and painting of the keel is not needed.  In fact, other than for protection against freeloading sea life, painting of a lead keel is completely unnecessary.
    • Lead does not corrode in seawater;  iron does.  In fact iron swells as it corrodes - that is, iron oxide is greater in volume than the iron from whence it came.  Therefore leakage is a serious problem for internal iron ballast, since the incoming seawater will corrode it and eventually cause the keel structure to burst.
    • Already mentioned above:  An external lead keel will absorb a portion of the impact energy in a collision with an underwater object.  An iron keel will convey essentially all of that energy to the keelbolts and the hull at the top aft end of the keel.
This is a lot to consider.  When we were in our boat search, I boiled it all down to an ordered list of preferences:
  1. Internal lead
  2. External lead
  3. External iron
  4. Internal iron
As it turns out, Eolian's keel is internal lead.

But as any of you who have gone thru a boat search already knows, the emotional tug that a boat has on you overrules almost any of the analytical studies that you might have prepared beforehand.

At least it did for us.  So I guess we are just lucky...  but hey, this makes a nice rationalization, don't you think?
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