Sunday, June 30, 2013


No, not talking about a rifle.  (Sorry NSA - false alarm)

It is June 30, and we have been off the dock for 30 days so far this year.   That is simply an amazing statistic. 

Since the sailing season started for us in the first week of May, that means we have averaged every other day off the dock, so far this year.  Of course, it is my three-day work schedule that has enabled this, but it has been the weather that has made it possible. 

The last summer I remember like this was  1998, and I don't think it was this good.   If this is Global Warming, then I am all for it. 


Friday, June 28, 2013

An apology

I feel that I need to issue an apology to the rest of the United States. 

We are going to have a lovely next few days - in fact we will probably get enough heat here that we Seattle hothouse pansies will be whining about it. (In fact at 11:30 and 75°, Jane and I are already seeking shade - guilty as charged.)

But apparently to do this we have to absolutely cook the rest of you.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

That magical time

Here in Seattle it has rained for the last five days.   And yes, we are accustomed to this.   Everyone makes fun of us having 20 different words for 'rain'. 

But the next few days are going to be a magical time.  The temps are forecasted to be in the 80's - we expect to be sunny and warm.

Tonite, here at anchor in Port Madison, we are treated to a harbinger.  Late in the evening, the clouds parted and the sun peeked out underneath them, illuminating the world with a magical, golden light.  And here at the far western end of the timezone, so far north that we are within shouting distance of Canada, and within a few days of the summer solstice, it is still light enough to read outside at 10 PM.

Life is good, and it is only going to get better!

Port Madison, 9:45 PM


Monday, June 24, 2013

The old ways are still good

There is a lot of commercial traffic on Puget Sound.  There are big container ships, cruise ships, ferries, tugs towing barges, and military ships.  And all of these move faster than we do in Eolian - much much faster.   Whenever we cross the traffic lanes, I feel a little like the frog in Frogger.

There is a strong tendency on my part to be attracted to the latest new, shiny "gee whiz" gadget.  I'm pretty sure that I am not alone in this.  But you have to go pretty far up the gadget cost scale to get something that can top the good old hand bearing compass. 

A recent crossing from Port Madison to Shilshole provides the case in point.  Just as we cleared Jefferson Head, a tug and tow became visible, heading south in the southbound traffic lane.   I pulled out our trusty old hand bearing compass and took bearings on the bow of the tug and the stern of the barge it was towing.  Then after a few minutes I took the bearings again.

The old adage is that if the bearing is not changing, then you are going to collide.   And tug-'n-tows are long enough that you need to keep track of both ends of the combination (NEVER try to go between a tug and its tow!).

But when I took the second set of bearings, I noticed that a second tug and tow had  appeared from behind the first - he was in the process of passing!   The problem just got more complicated.

Clearly one tug was going faster than the other (he was passing, after all).  Now the choices had become:
  1. Pass in front of the entire parade
  2. Pass between the barge in the first tow and the tug in the second
  3. Wait for the whole parade to pass and cross behind the last barge.
More study with the compass as we continued, our courses converging, convinced me that choice #2 was available to us, but that we were going a little too slowly to make it possible.  So I increased our speed (there was no wind - we were under power), and confirmed that we could pass between the first barge and the second tug.  A little more fiddling with the speed got us into the sweet spot.  And indeed, we cleared both tug-'n-tows nicely, with no drama at all.

We did this bit of piloting with a lowly hand compass. 

To do it with electronics, you'd need to have a GPS-interfaced AIS receiver, or a multi-thousand dollar radar with MARPA capability.

Or a hand compass.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Extreme boating

One of the websites I visit religiously is XKCD's What If? blog.  Each Tuesday, the author takes a subject from a reader and stretches it to the utmost.  This Tuesday's column dealt with Extreme Boating (giving me license to include it here)...
What would it be like to navigate a rowboat through a lake of mercury? What about bromine? Liquid gallium? Liquid tungsten? Liquid nitrogen? Liquid helium?
-Nicholas Aron

Let's take these one at a time.

Bromine and mercury are the only known pure elements that are liquid at room temperature.

'Michael row the boat ashore.'  'I'm TRYING!'

Rowing a boat on a sea of mercury just might be possible.

Mercury is so dense that steel ball bearings float on the surface. Your boat would be so buoyant ...

Just a hint... Read the full column here.  Be sure to hover the mouse over each drawing for an Easter egg...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ferry weather

The winds in Puget Sound can be exasperatingly screwy.  A frequent forecast has winds in the north part out of the north and winds in the south part out of the south.

In the central part when this happens?   Often enough it is calm in the section between Shilshole and the north end of Bainbridge Island - after colliding, the air must blow straight up or something.

And like tidal swirls, the air does odd things as it flows around the Olympic mountains, the islands and the waterways in the Sound.

The NOAA forecasts (issued at 0000, 0300, 0600, 0900, 1200, 1500, 1800, 2100) contain observed wind speeds at various locations in the Salish Sea.  You would think that this would be enough information.  Frequently, it is not.

Quiet morning on Puget Sound

Now here is an apparently little-known fact:  A side benefit of our WA State Ferry System is that the ferries continuously record the actual wind speeds observed in their crossings of the Sound.  These are not predictions, or speeds observed at shore-based weather stations like those NOAA uses - they are the observed wind speeds and directions out on the water.

Oh yeah, and the shore station reports are shown too.  It can be kind of fun to compare the shore station information with the on-the-water readings to see what you miss by only listening to the NOAA observations.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Shhh... Please do disturb

When we are at anchor, a major part of the charm of the experience is the peace that the situation provides.  After the crowded hustle and bustle of being tied to the dock, it is like a breath of cool, refreshing air.  When the anchor goes down and the engine is turned off, I can actually feel the quiet draining the tension out of my shoulders.

I guess we are not very gregarious by nature.  We don't like being in raftups - they are too crowded, too noisy, and require 100% "on" time.  We don't even like being anchored near a raftup because they are typically so noisy (although several recent examples we have encountered have put the lie to that). 


But with all that said, the ability to visit another boat at anchor, or to have someone visit ours is a privilege - something that we geatly look forward to.  We have even been known to row over to someone we have never met and barely know thru the InterTubes and invite them aboard for dinner (Hi Courtney!).   I have written about what a magical, intimate experience it is to visit another boat at anchor, and I can only suppose and hope that it goes the other way too, for people visiting us.

So please, dear readers, should you find yourself anchored in the same bay as Eolian,  do not hesitate to row over and knock on the hull.  Of course you will probably find us dressed in sweats, because that's how we live at anchor, but if you're not embarrassed by that then we certainly won't be.  And we usually have an ample supply of wine or beer to share (and our yardarm is adjustable...).

Everyone at anchor in a harbor has a story to tell...

And we want to hear yours.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Twenty five days

As I type this on Sunday, we are at anchor in Port Blakely, on our 25th day off the dock so far this year.

That's an amazing statistic.  On most any other year, a review of our log would show a little more than 40 days off the dock for the entire year.  Yet here we are, only 8 days into June, with almost the entire summer and fall ahead of us.

How has this happened?
  • Spectacular weather.  Instead of our normal season of Woebegone, we have actually had summer start this year with the beginning of May, instead of July 5th
  • My three-day work schedule.  I am, and have been for some time, working 3 ten-hour days (yes, that's a 75% schedule).  This makes for a wonderful 4-day weekend every week - more time for sailing!
  • Jane has essentially retired.  This means that she can take care of things at the cabin during the week (laundry, gardening, etc), freeing the weekends for boating.
  • A focused determination to use the boat.  This is a big factor.  Without this, we would have taken each rainy forecast as a reason to leave the boat at the dock.  It also means that I have put boating above car maintenance.  At the moment we have but one running vehicle - a situation that, given the nature of our car fleet, is very risky.  
But I said above that we were in Port Blakely.  I checked back thru the log and found that the last time we were here was 5/14/2010, and in years going back before 2010, Blakely Harbor was featured quite frequently.  And as I recall, this harbor was often so crowded that it was not easy to find a spot for the anchor.  Not so this weekend.

I have to wonder.  One thing that has changed between then and now is that Eagle Harbor has cleaned up their moorage field, getting rid of all the permanently moored floating collections of "boats".  This has made Eagle Harbor available as a destination again, perhaps taking some of the load off of Port Blakely, just around the corner.

Not much has changed here in our three-year absence.  The ferry wakes still roll thru here with regularity.  There are no new houses on the shoreline (although the last remaining double-wide on the south shore is now a giant hole in the ground).  The old sawmill log impoundment pond at the very end of the bay is still a park, and the old boiler house is still covered with graffiti.  It is still much quieter here, compared to the hustle and bustle of Eagle Harbor.  And the view of Seattle at nite is still spectacular, undimmed by shoreline lites.


    Monday, June 3, 2013

    Profile: m/v Lotus

    One of the great things about boating in the Pacific Northwest is the vibrant wooden boat community.  The art (and it is an art, to make wood take on the graceful shape of a boat) of wooden boat building and maintenance is alive and well here, most particularly in Port Townsend.  Our wooden boats are the reigning queens of the Salish Sea.

    m/v Lotus

    You may have learned of the 1909 wooden motor vessel Lotus the same way I did: thru a collection of articles on Three Sheets Northwest.  Sadly, a couple of the articles dealt with the winter storm in February of 2012, when she was blown off of her mooring in Port Hadlock and came ashore.

    Well, she's back.  And in a completely random occurrence,  Lotus was tied up at the dock here in Poulsbo this weekend, and was open for tours, so how could we not?  We went aboard.

    Lotus is amazing.  She is almost completely in excellent original condition.  She is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a prime exemplar of the Edwardian (or Craftsman) style as applied in the marine world.  She is in the responsible care of Christian Gruye (who just happens to be Brion Toss' wife). Lotus has been in Christian's family off and on for years; Christian calls herself 'Head Steward', a title which any boat owner will understand.  Under her stewardship, the few 'modernizations' that had been applied in her century of existence were corrected.  Christian even sought out and re-acquired her original diesel-fired galley stove.

    Christian, next to the fireplace in the saloon
    (and your correspondent photo-bombed by the mirror)
    Because we arrived at a visitors lull, we got the cook's tour from Christian, and a fuller recount of her history than I suspect most hear.  It is a privilege to be able to acquaint yourself with one of these grand queens of the waterways.  If you can, you should make the opportunity for yourself.


    Upper deck, exterior lounging area

    Flooring detail.  Also note the name 'Lotus' picked
    out in brass tacks on the brass threshold plate.

    Owner's cabin

    Owner's ensuite head. 
    Yes, that is a claw foot tub.

    Galley, with original diesel-fired stove

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