Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Liveaboard mail

Recently I was asked how people who live on boats get mail.  "Does the marina accept mail for you?" they asked.  The simple answer to that is "No."

So what do we do?

Well, for a number of years, we kept a Post Office Box (contact your local US Post Office).  This worked OK - it was close to my work.  But there were problems with the PO Box solution.  It was ideal for receiving packages...  as long as they were shipped by USPS.  But if the shipper used FedEx, UPS, DHL, truck freight - any method other than USPS - it most certainly did not work.    And there are certain types of correspondence for which a PO Box is just not acceptable - for which a street address is required.

And then the ideal solution presented itself:  Angela, aboard s/v Ghost across the dock from us, started up a mailing service business.  Dockside Solutions has a street address, accepts (and signs for!) packages from FedEx, UPS, DHL, truck freight...  and USPS.  Angela maintains mailboxes distributed throughout the mile-long marina, and even sends us email when we have mail or a package waiting (You've got mail!).  Bonus:  Dockside Solutions' address (and therefore our address) is listed as a business address, which means a reduction in some shipping costs.

Dockside Solutions is the perfect answer for our situation, but we use only a portion of the services that Angela offers.  Because she is a liveaboard herself, Angela understands the services boaters and cruisers need.  Here's a partial list that Dockside Solutions provides:
  • Mail forwarding.  If you like, she will also aggregate your mail and bulk ship it  (excluding "junk" mail, as you define it).
  • Electronic mailbox:  She will open your mail, scan it, and deposit it at a secure online dropbox site.  This, of course eliminates a lot of delay, especially if you are in a remote location.
  • Bill paying
  • Check deposits
  • ...And more
In fact, she provides just about any service that someone living aboard could want, whether they be anchored in Seattle, San Diego, Greneda, Mazatlan, or Nuka Hiva.  Because of this, she now has customers all over the world (she keeps a world map in the office with a pin representing each of her customers).

I guess this sounds like a plug.  And well, it is.  Angela is a wonderful person, and her business reflects this.  For us, Dockside Solutions is the perfect answer to the question, "How do boaters get their mail?"


Monday, May 27, 2013


Eolian has spent the last 3 days anchored here in Eagle Harbor.  It has been a wonderful, relaxing time, capped with being able to watch the Indy 500 yesterday morning (congratulations TK!) - it's because Eagle Harbor has a clear view of Seattle - and their TV antennae - that we chose to spend this particular weekend here.

But last nite, at sunset we were treated to something very special.  As the sun dropped low enough in the sky to shine underneath the rain clouds that had blanketed us all day, the lighting turned magical.  The contrast between the white boats lit up with the bright golden light and the ominous dark rain clouds was gorgeous.  I hope this photo gives some impression of the experience:

And of course, whenever you have sunshine and rain, there is a rainbow...


Thursday, May 23, 2013

RIP Google Reader

How do you read this blog?

If you do it via Google Reader, You must be aware by now that Google has announced that they will be retiring the service 01-July-2013.  Oh NO!

But hey, there are alternatives.  Who knew?  Google was the 800 lb gorilla in the room.  With them active, the alternatives were boutique news readers, largely ignored except by the Neteratti.

I am not going to tell you what reader to use - that is a decision that each must make for him/her/self.

But I am going to tell you what I chose:  Feedly.  Why did I choose it?

  • It uses OAuth for authentication, via your Google account.  (That means that Feedly asks, via OAuth, that Google authenticate you.)  Why is this good?  
    • Federated identity management (OAuth - Open Authentication - is the authentication portion of OpenID - a federated identity manager) is the way things will be working everywhere in the future.  Step aboard the train!
    • Doing authentication properly is hard.  Google is an experienced old-hand at this.  I trust them much more than I'd trust a brand new site.  
    • If you are already logged into Google, you will not be asked for a password when opening Feedly.
    • No new password to memorize
  • Feedly will automatically import the current state of your Google Reader.
  • There is an iOS Feedly app
  • There is a Firefox Feedly plugin.  
The user interface is different - it is much richer.  It's going to take me a while to get on top of it.  But here in the fast-paced Internet world, change is the only constant, so join me in embracing change!


Monday, May 20, 2013

Everyone has a story

Everyone has a story.  We all do.

But unlike those on shore, the stories of those of us living out here on G Dock lead to us living on a boat.  And that makes us definitely weird, at least by the standards of those living ashore.  So that means the stories that got us here all have an unusual twist, or a strange angle.

So aside from just having some common experiences with others living aboard (which are worth exploring in their own right), all of us have stories which are well above average when it comes to their interest level.

So it behooves you to grab a bottle of wine and go visit your neighbors down the dock.  Ask them how they got here, and listen.

I promise that you will not be bored.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Brushed again

Have any brushed stainless on your boat? On Eolian, our stove is brushed stainless.  This finish is produced in the factory by sanding the metal surface.  

The thing is, stainless is hard, but not so hard that use, and more importantly cleaning attempts, can scratch it, ruining that beautiful, uniform appearance.

On our stove, between the two burners you see here, a typical dishwashing sponge with a scratchy side was used to remove some baked on food.  Sadly, it left a clearly visible remnant of the effort:  an area where the scratches ran up-and-down rather than side-to-side.

Since the finish is originally created by sanding, I thought it might be repaired in the same fashion.  But what grit should I use?  Originally I tried 400, but it was too fine, producing an almost polished finish.  So I backed down to 320:  perfect.  I know the photography doesn't really show it, but the cleaning 'fingerprint' is gone, completely.

NOTE:  When sanding, you must be careful to always move the sand paper in the same direction that the original "brushing" went.

Of course, if the scratches are deeper than the ones that 320 grit makes, then it will take a long time to sand down past them.

I did the actual sanding with a 3M sanding sponge that I now have dedicated to the purpose, but I suppose that any sandpaper would work.

(BTW, I used the sanding sponge to renew a stainless head sink too.  It worked just as well there.  In this case, the brushing was circular, around the inside of the sink, rather than linear.)


Sunday, May 12, 2013


Raining at anchor in Port Madison

When you live aboard, you live aboard in the sunshine, and you live aboard in the rain.  It isn't all sundowners in the cockpit in the cooling evening after a warm day, although it sure has been that way here in Seattle for the last couple of weeks.

Back to normal
Seattle weather has regained its senses.  And all the plants out there, burgeoning away greenly, are thankful.  It's been a long time since they got a drink.

For us, out here at anchor?  It's a time of coziness, corn bread and reading.

And the rain has washed the salt from the windows.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

You know it was a good sail if...

Windows frosted with salt

Frosted old salt
With the wonderfully warm weather forecast, we got off the dock as soon as we could Thursday evening, heading across the Sound towards Port Madison on a close reach in 15 kt.  We were so glad to be out on the water!  In fact, we kind of prolonged the journey by raising only the mainsail - with this rig we made less than 4 kt, and that was perfect for our laid back attitude Thursday evening.  And adding to our joy, we had the privilege of being escorted most of the way across by a pod of dolphins!  Could it have been more perfect?  Well maybe it could have been a touch warmer.  Regardless of the air temperature, the water is still 51°, and the air blowing across it takes on that temperature close to the water's surface...  where we are.

Port Madison sunset
Putting the anchor down in Port Madison felt like returning home after a long trip.  Wonderful!  We grilled some cheeseburgers out on the stern for dinner - cheeseburgers have truly never tasted better.

Friday morning we left at 10:00 to make the tide in Agate Pass.  It was pretty gusty inside Port Madison, but when we got outside we were met with 30+ kt right on the nose!  Looking out on the Sound, as best we could tell, this wind was localized where we were.  I have come to believe that the configuration of the land at Indianola acts as a funnel that concentrates the wind - this isn't the first time we seen unusually strong and localized winds here.

Once we were in Agate Pass there was essentially no wind, so we continued with the engine.  In fact, we really didn't see any wind to speak of until we reached Liberty Bay.  There of course, with the large open area, we were seeing 15-25 kt.  This is enough to keep us swinging around on the anchor, so we put the anchor down kind of in the lee of the breakwater for the Poulsbo Marina.  It helped, in fact we were quite comfortable.

After a leisurely lunch, I put the dinghy into the water and we headed into town to one of our traditional Poulsbo haunts: the Valhöll brewery.  They have moved to new digs, and very nice they are!   The new facility is Viking-themed and has a great view of Liberty Bay (we could see Eolian while sipping!).  It is located just up the hill from Tizley's, kind of behind the new grandiose (well, maybe not for a town of 100,000... but Poulsbo?) City Hall.  Jeff has also substantially enlarged his brewing capacity and is now branching out...  keep an eye open for one of Valhöll's great brews in a store or taproom near you!

I blame the blurriness on the camera

In the evening, we spotted s/v Ghost coming thru the narrow little hole-in-the-wall at Keyport.  It was great to see Scott and Angela out on the water again after last year's troubles with their prop shaft.  We dinghied over to share a congratulatory glass of wine with them in the evening.

Saturday morning we dinghied into town once more, this time for another ritual:  breakfast at Tizley's.  Tizley's is a European-style second story restaurant with seating available on a narrow little balcony outside over the sidewalk.  In nice weather (and yes, it continues...), it's a lovely place to dine.  But the thing that keeps us coming back is their famous Bloody Marys.  This time they even came with bacon!  All the important food groups represented in one glass!

Then some walking around to the marine consignment store and some of the art galleries, and then back out to Eolian.

About lunchtime, we pulled the anchor (The mud in Liberty Bay is just amazing!  Because of a failed washdown hose, we ended up with mud all over everything in the forward quarter of the boat...) and sailed over to Manzanita Bay and anchored for a quiet, warm evening.  We were anchored quite a bit further back in the cove than usual, and as a result got an occasional whiff of hay and horses coming in from the land.  It was another wonderful warm evening!

Next morning (Sunday, if you're keeping track... we weren't), we hoisted anchor early so that we could ride the tide thru Agate Pass and back to Port Madison.  We spent the entire day there, lazing about and eventually trying to keep cool!  In Seattle!  In May!  On our evening wine cruise, we met a young man who had just acquired an Islander 37 pilothouse - I'd never seen one of these and Jane and I were debating what it was.  He had just gotten it to Port Madison from Lake Union in what was apparently quite an ordeal - the boat is named Chaos, appropriately enough.  He spent the day tearing out a lot of hacked interior joinery.  "Not appropriate for a boat," he said.  All I know for sure is that in the evening he left with an amazing load of scrap wood on his dinghy.

Heading for Seattle in the morning sunshine
Finally, on Monday morning, early, we left Port Madison to return to Seattle.  It was so warm at 08:00 that all I had on was an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt and a pair of shorts. Our early summer continues!

One measure boaters use to measure the success of a voyage is by what broke.  For us, the washdown hose was it, so I'd have to call this a successful trip!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Once again, home

I rode my bike home from the University for the first time this year tonite.

You bicycle and motorcyle riders out there will agree with me when I say that riding a bike or a "bike" gives you prime access to the smells.  Be it hot asphalt, fresh hay, the smell of a river at night, or that ethereal smell of alpine fir at the top of a mountain pass - you get it in a way that those poor folk in their cars never experience.

The Burke-Gilman trail runs along the Ship Canal for much of its path from the University to the marina.  And for much of that length, it is fresh water in the Ship Canal.

But once I pass the Locks, it's salt water on my left.

And when I do pass the locks, the smell of the sea, high tide or low, makes an electric connection with my soul.  I know I've written about it before, but tonite it was a new experience all over again.  When I smell the salt water, it is an overwhelming feeling of  home.


Monday, May 6, 2013

A tiny addendum

Because the fuel tank repair caused two of the "footman's loops" that were used to retain our batteries to be removed (they were both right where the round cutouts had to be), they had to be replaced.  Before we could leave the dock.

The old footman's loops were plated steel - the moisture in the bilge had turned them into garbage.  So the first order of business was to get new ones...  new stainless ones.  West Marine sells them, for $6.49 each.  We have eight battery positions; we need 16 of these little fittings.  Woo boy.

So off to the internet for a quick reality check.  And in today's world, with everything at your (and Google's) fingertips, the real trick is knowing what to search for.   You have to know what your gizmo is called, and probably at least one alternate name.  Its really hard if you don't have this as a starting point.

As it happens, I recognized these as the fittings that were used on carriages as anchors for strapping to hold down the luggage, thus the name.  A look on eBay found them for $1.15 each in lots of 10.  So I bought 2 lots, for a total of $23 plus $3 shipping.  And I have spares.

Now another problem appears...  If I mount them on the bulkhead below the cover plates, they will be below the tops of the batteries.  They certainly would wear or punch a hole in the battery sidewalls as vibration took its toll. 

So I once again hit the internet, this time to an old familiar place:  Online Metals. I ordered a square foot of 3/4 inch "cutting board" (HDPE), and sawed off a couple of strips a little thicker than the footman's loops were tall.  With suitable counterbored screw holes and screws, these were mounted on either side of the footman's loops, providing a large, relatively soft riding surface for the batteries.

Standoffs installed

Batteries strapped down

Now the project is really, truly over.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Fuel tank repaired?  Check.
Oil changed?  Check.
Battery water topped off?  Check
Anchor windlass tested?  Check.
Engine zincs changed?  Check.
Prop nut zinc changed?  Check.
Batteries reinstalled? Check.
Weather?  Oh my...

82°?  Holy cow!

We are going off the dock for the first time this year on Thursday nite or Friday morning, depending on when provisioning for 4 days or so is complete.  This is when the work pays off...

Oh yeah.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...