Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Poulsbo redux

When last I wrote about last weekend's visit to Poulsbo, the visit wasn't over yet.  There are a few things I still want to inflict on share with you from this great weekend.

First, on Friday evening, a rain shower approached from the Southwest.  Apparently all the rain was virga (evaporates before it gets to the ground) because we never felt any.  But as it fell between us and the sunset it made a spectacular show!

Marco Andretti at 220+ mph
Next, since both Jane and I have roots in Indiana, the Memorial Day Indy 500 classic (the largest sporting event on earth - they seat more than 400,000 people at the Indy 500 Speedway) is a must.  Our anchorage in Poulsbo gave us spotty but adequate TV reception, but we used AM 1380 for the sound.  It was a good race - better than many of the more recent year's when it had essentially become a one-design race.  This year both Chevrolet and Lotus were present which added another dimension.  Both Jane and I (and a large proportion of the crowd) were rooting for Tony Kanaan, but it was Dario Franchitti who won.

Finally, during the last 5 laps of this 200 lap (the track is a 2.5 mile oval - there is a golf course in the infield) race, during a yellow flag and in a hold-your-breath moment, we heard knocking on the hull.  It was Trevor, ex of s/v Lea Fortis, A Force 50 that used to be docked across from us here on G-dock!  Trevor was ferrying his two young daughters (! no offspring when they left G-Dock) around Liberty Bay, recognized Eolian, and stopped for a visit.  Sorry Trevor!  We want to run into you again under better circumstances, and I promise you a beer or three next time!  Really!

But this brings up a wonderful fact about the cruising life...  People may come and go on the dock, but they are not really gone when they leave.  There is an excellent chance that you will connect with them again.  When they leave the dock, they are not gone forever.  Instead, they are extending the geography of your friendship circle.  It's a Good Thing©.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Looking up in Poulsbo

We woke up this morning to summer, here in Liberty Bay.  For the first time this year, we slept with the ports and the hatch open and it was comfortable in the cabin when we got up.  The sun is shining brightly, and the water is glass smooth - one of those wonderful gorgeous mornings.

Just off Point Monroe
But the sail over here yesterday was definitely not calm.  We had 20-25kt, with gusts to 30kt.  We had Eolian rigged with just the mainsail and staysail (perhaps I should have taken a reef in the mainsail...).  With this rig, wind, and rough water, we made more than 6kt across the sound.  For some reason I didn't think to take a picture until we were behind Jefferson Head, and sheltered from the waves. 

Ray steered us all the way from Shilshole to Poulsbo, following our previously laid in and vetted GPS route.  There was only one place where I had to take control from him - the left turn into Agate Pass.  Because of the placement of the shoals, there is little room for error there, and Ray was going to swing wider than I was comfortable with.

And glory be!  Where we are anchored we are getting a weak but mostly usable signal on channel 4.  Considering that we almost never watch TV, why is that important?  Well, because tomorrow morning, beginning at 09:00, channel 4 will broadcast the Indy 500.

Friday, May 25, 2012

RIP Evinrude 2

You might recall that last Christmas, we had to be ignominiously towed for the lighted dinghy parade.

And last weekend, when I tried to start the outboard, I couldn't get it going.

Well this morning I set out to make things right in the dinghy world.  I got out my tools and put the dinghy down into the water so that I could delve into the outboard.  But before I turned a wrench, I gave a diagnostic tug on the cord.

No compression.

At. All.

You could just barely feel some resistance in the pull if you pulled rapidly.

*sigh*  It's plum worn out.  Replacing the piston and cylinder would cost more than the motor is worth (I only paid $100 for it, many years ago), and that would be if I could even find the parts for a 30+ year old motor.

So, once again, I am on the hunt for a dinghy outboard.  The primary criterion is minimal weight, since it spends its life on the dinghy hanging on the davits, and since I have to hoist it up there by hand.  The Evinrude 2 weighed about 24 lb., which was suitable.

And it should be cheap... because I am cheap.  Like with the Evinrude, I am willing to be a motor's last stop on its way to the graveyard.

In the mean time, we are back to having a human-powered dinghy - not necessarily a bad thing.

(If you are into coincidences, John Vigor's post today also treats with outboards.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Project ST5000: Rudder transducer is solid

Ray needs a permanent, solid attachment to the rudder quadrant in order to know exactly where the rudder is.  Although it served for initial sea trials and feasibility testing, the string arrangement will never do for a permanent installation.

I cut a piece of the aluminum angle, carefully measured and trimmed so that it fit tightly inside the tapered space under the top flanges of the quadrant, right at the correct spot. This was not exactly easy, and involved many trials with folded paper.

Then to hold it in place, I cut off two more pieces of angle, 1" long. On each of these pieces, I trimmed one leg to 3/16", the thickness of the bronze casting flange of the quadrant.  These were to serve as the clamps, to be held in place with the 1" 1/4-20 stainless bolts, fender washers and nylock nuts.  For the piece d'resistance, I applied a dab of 5200 to the top of each end of the aluminum angle before installing.  I think this is going to stay in place.  And it avoids weakening the bronze quadrant casting by drilling holes in it.

The aluminum angle got an 11/32" hole bored in the exact center to take the ball bolt.  (By the way, if you ever need any replacement parts for your rudder transducer, these are the 10mm rod ends and ball bolts that are used with gas struts.  Search for them that way.)

Finally, I measured the amount of the M6 all-thread needed (the distance between the ends of the black nylon rod ends, plus the distance that the rod screws into one of the rod ends.  This way, I am left with the approximately 10mm length of the threaded part  at the other rod end for possible adjustment).  I cut the stainless all-thread to this length.

Installed with a lock nut and washer at each end, and voilĂ , Ray gets a solid, repeatable, linear report of rudder position!


(not) Marine stores: Tacoma Screw

One of my favorite marine stores is not a marine store at all.

But if you ever need any kind of stainless fastener, there is an excellent chance that Tacoma Screw will have it, no matter how weird or strange it might be.

I stopped in to their Frellard (between Fremont and Ballard) store Monday morning to get the parts I needed to hook up Ray's rudder transducer properly.

Here they are - Marty was able to find everything off the shelf:
  • 1" x 1/8" aluminum angle
  • M6 stainless all thread
  • 2 M6 stainless nuts
  • 2 M6 stainless washers
  • 2 5/16-18 stainless nuts
  • 2 1" 1/4-20 stainless bolts
  • 2 1/4-20 stainless nylock nuts
  • 2 1/4 stainless fender washers
(For things other than fasteners, Ballard Hardware is my first stop.  But that's a story for another time...)


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hot damn, he's good!

Please welcome our newest crew member: Ray!

Ray steered us tirelessly all over Puget Sound this weekend - doing a much better job than I could have done myself.

In this photo, Ray is helming us across from Shilshole to Port Madison, basically straight west on a compass course of 280° (as always, if you click on the photo, you can see a full-sized version). You can see that in the fierce tidal cross-current, Ray has decided that to get us to follow the desired 280° course, he needs to actually steer 266°. He did this all on his own - I didn't have to prompt him in any way.

Further, he is maintaining that desired course while holding us within 7 feet of our desired track. I am not embarrassed to say that I could not do that, except possibly for a transitory instant.

Ray does not become tired, nor is he distracted by events in the cockpit, or on the water.  Otto, our previous autopilot, would not only get distracted when we crossed a big wake - he would loose his freakin' mind, running the wheel from one stop to the other.  Ray takes it all coolly in stride.

Finally, Ray steers with finesse.  Otto would turn the wheel a minimum of 1/8 of a turn each time he decided that a course correction was required.  Of course, that meant that we zigzagged back and forth over the desired course, never actually settling on it.  As for the track?  Well Otto professed to not know anything about this thing called 'track'.  All he would do is steer a direction.  Poorly.

On the other hand, our new steersman can make the most minute corrections to the rudder position... he actually can accept and properly respond to course correction requests of 1°.

I guess it is time to grant Ray a permanent berth on Eolian.  No more just hanging on his wires in the cockpit - he needs a proper, permanent mount.  The UHMW polyethylene sheeting to make it is on order.

And he also needs a better report of the rudder position.  Tho the glassed in foam block/plywood mount for the transducer is solid, the bailing wire and string setup connecting it to the rudder quadrant needs to be replaced with a real, solid connection.

He has earned it.

Welcome aboard, Ray!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to make a line fast to a cleat

Picture this:

You've just done a masterful job of putting your boat up against the dock, perhaps executing the perfect Captain Ron turn.  Now you need to keep her there, using your dock lines. What do you do?

(This will not be a discussion of breast lines, spring lines, etc...  we'll save that for another time)

Whatever the configuration of dock lines you use, it will be necessary to make the lines fast to cleats on the dock (or perhaps the boat).  How do you do that?

Here's what we do on Eolian:

Around the far end
First, lead the line around the horn of the cleat that is away from the direction of pull.  In the picture above, that is the top horn. 

Over the top
Next, lead the line around the other horn, and then cross over the top of the cleat.

Under and over again
Now lead the line under the far horn again. Because you did the cross-over, you will now be going in the opposite direction, compared to your first pass under this horn.  Cross over the top yet again.

Now the final step, which seems to be where many people go astray.  Make a loop of line with the tail on the under side.  Pass the loop over the horn closest to the load and snug it up.  There are two ways to do this - only one is correct...  this is the one which results in the line laying parallel to the first pass over the top of the cleat and under the second pass, as in the picture above.

If you make the loop the wrong way, you'll get a knot that looks like this. It's ugly.  And I believe that this is one of those times when ugly = bad.  Since there is considerably less contact between passing turns of line in the ugly knot, there is less friction... and it is friction which keeps the knot tied.

More knots are not necessary.  Eolian has spent many, many winters tied to the dock just like this.  Never once has a dock line loosened.  However:
  • If you are preparing for a hurricane, you'll want more knots... and more lines!
  • If the dock line is unusually slippery and/or the cleat is polished, you may need to double the knot
  • If the dock line is very small for the size of the cleat (say, a dinghy painter), you might add a second knot
If you choose to add a second knot, follow the same pattern:  have the tail come out on the under side so that it lies parallel to the previous passing turn.  You'll know when you get it right.

Now that the line is made fast, what do you do with the extra?  When we first moved out to Shilshole, we flemished our dock line tails like this:

Otter target
However we discovered that this provided the ideal target for the otters who live under the dock to dump their daily loads of crushed and undigested mussel shells.  Who knows how the mind of an otter works?

Hard centered target
Now, we just wrap the tail around the cleat. Yes, this is still perceived by the otters as a target, and we occasionally get anointed.  But apparently the hard center is less comfortable to tender otter exhaust ports than the soft, flat flemish coil.

Don't just leave the tails laying on the dock.  Aside from the obvious tripping hazard, the otters will gather them up into a pile and then anoint the pile.

The best arrangement is if someone else has made flemish coils nearby...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I know that I am guilty of Weather Whining™.  It is a shortcoming that I freely acknowledge.  And here in Seattle, whining is permitted whenever the temperature is more than 5° away from 72°.

Ah, but this weekend.  Wow!  It was our first real weekend of summer - it was heaven!  Monday topped out at 80°.  I know, I know, that is outside of 72 ±5°...  but it was so welcome.

And unbelievably, this completed our 7th consecutive non-rainy weekend (yes, we Pacific North-westerners keep track of things like this).  In Seattle in April/May, that has to be a record.

I think I'll wear a Hawaiian shirt to work today.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Project ST5000: My kingdom for a block of foam

My next step in the ST5000 project is to mount the rudder reference transducer - it tells the autopilot where the rudder is positioned. To do so, I wanted a block of foam to prototype the awkward shape that would be required to provide a surface parallel to the rudder quadrant while mounting to the hull.  This is a difficult problem because there are no benchmarks, and nothing is straight or vertical.  The hull is curved in two planes there, and the rudder shaft is far from vertical - it is canted significantly aft and so therefore is the plane of the rudder quadrant.

So where could I get a block of foam, say a 4" or 5" cube? I asked everyone I knew, and even begged a piece of polystyrene packing foam from a computer monitor, that might work... in a pinch.

And then a miracle occurred: someone discarded two giant blocks of urethane foam at the marina recycling center. I grabbed one, and cut what I needed from it.
Big block 'o foam
This is truly a boon because first, there is more than enough there for several trials, and second it is urethane foam - it will be unaffected by polyester resin. I had originally intended to make a foam block and then recreate it in wood for final mounting.  But with the urethane foam I can just laminate a piece of plywood to the top to provide a platform for the mount screws to bite into and stick it all in place with fiberglass and resin. Yes, I can hear the purists out there saying that I should use epoxy.  Well, epoxy takes hours to cure (and I expect to need multiple applications), and this is, after all, not a structural application.  Polyester resin is perfectly adequate to the task.  So polyester resin it is, and glory be, it goes directly on the foam.

Foam is already shaped here

Now, to shape the foam... how to do it?  I devised this plan:
  • Hold a block of foam in place where I think it should be (mark the hull so that I can locate it there again).  This has to be a place that is close enough to the quadrant to avoid interference problems with the nearby exhaust hose, and far enough away from the quadrant that it won't be hit by it when the rudder is hard over.
  • Using a straightedge laid across the rudder quadrant, mark where the plane of the rudder quadrant crosses the foam
  • Remove the foam and cut on the line I had marked

It took two tries, but here is the result (the black dot is where the center of the transducer goes):

Weird shape, empirically derived

It wasn't easy working in the small access hatch.

Awkward access

(By the way, that nasty rust stain is from a standard plumbing elbow that one of Eolian's previous owners had installed on the exhaust hose to mate up with the bronze discharge fitting. I replaced that rotting mess with a fiberglass elbow a long time ago.)

Now all I have to do is glass it into place.  But that's why there's next weekend...


Monday, May 7, 2012

Things that go Brrrrrrr in the nite

Last Tuesday nite I was rudely awakened by the sound of our freshwater pump running.  That's rare, but not completely unheard of.  For example, if it just so happened that the last use of water took the system pressure down to 0.001 psi above the pressure switch setting, it wouldn't take much leak-back thru the pump to cause the switch to trip and the pump to run.  So, I sort of noted it and fell back asleep.

And then it happened again.

Well, OK, this was not normal.  Just as I was groggily contemplating this, the bilge pump ran.  Even half asleep, I knew we had a fresh water leak.  I hopped (that's a euphemism) out of bed and shut down the fresh water pump and the water heater (don't want it to be on if it is empty...).  Then I went back to bed.

But not back to sleep.  My damn brain would not get out of problem-solving mode.  So when the alarm went off, I leaped out of bed (that's another euphemism), got a flashlight, and went looking.

The first compartment I opened (under the setee, where the water heater is) was
drenched.  Got it in one.

I had to go to work on Wednesday morning, so only triage was in order.  I got the things out of the compartment and put the dehumidifier in there to dry it out (have I mentioned how nice it is to have a dehumidifier on board?).  Thankfully, the espresso maker already had enough water in it for the morning's coffee.

Wednesday nite I crawled into the compartment with a flashlight.  After asking Jane to briefly turn on the pump, the location of the leak was obvious, but the cause was not.  That may seem obtuse, but it is accurate.  The water was coming out of the fitting above, right from where the hose met the body of the fitting.

First guess?  Loose hose clamp.  Tightened it.  Nope - same leak.

Second guess?  Split hose or pinhole in the hose.  Pulled the hose, cut off an inch, and reattached.  Nope.

Third guess?  Fitting broken/cracked.  Pulled the hose and then the fitting.  Looked carefully at the joint between the hose barb section and the body of the fitting - looked good.  Put it all back together... and the leak was in a slightly different location.  (That's a hint...)

Then I bumped the hose while there was still some pressure in the system - *big* gusher, obviously coming from the fitting.  Took it all apart again, and got the fitting out into the light where I could scrutinize it.

In the picture above, I carefully posed the fitting in contrasting light to highlight the failure.  In normal light, it is not at all obvious; with a flashlight and wedged into the compartment under the settee, it is invisible.  But see the light-colored discoloration?  That is actually a crack - the entire hose barb section is about to split off.

Thankfully, my plumbing box had enough spare fittings that I was able to put the system back together again.  But I had to use another nylon fitting.  Since the last nylon fitting failed, in cold water service, with just the weight of a foot of 1/2" hose pulling on it, I consider the repair to be a temporary fix, only until I can get a brass equivalent fitting to install.

Lesson learned:  Beware nylon fittings - they will keep you up at nite!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I love springtime in Seattle

I took this picture at daughter Erica's house... So many flower petals that they are drifting in on her front steps, like snow... pink snow.

I couldn't resist throwing a double-handful straight up in the air over my head.  Could you?
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