Monday, March 31, 2014

Dawn thoughts

As I look out the window this morning, just before dawn, I am struck by how blessed we are to be able to live this way.  Yes, it is chilly out there, but the colors the early morning light brings to life are absolutely gorgeous.  The water is as smooth as a mirror, showing the sky better than the sky itself.

And I sit here with my latte, almost in disbelief that we get to be here, now.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Solar panels, on the cheap

Some time back, I wrote about how the solar energy market was in a state of flux. And I may have mentioned that I bought a kilowatt's worth of 6"x6" solar cells...  for $350.  That price is still pretty much the same.  I am embarrassed to admit that that post was made more than three years ago.

Eight cells to go...

Well fast-forward those three years to the present day. Being retired has given me the time to get some of the "must do" projects off the list, leaving time for the "fun to do" items. And the solar panels are one of these.

Since I am doing this on the cheap, the first problem was finding something to serve as a substrate.  Tempered glass is expensive, and aluminum extrusions are not cheap either.  But guess what?  Shower doors, made from tempered glass and already rimmed with aluminum  extrusions are free, or nearly so.  And a regular shower door is just the right size to hold 40 of the 6"x6" cells in a 4 x 10 matrix, creating a panel that will produce a nominal 8 amps at 22V...  175 watts!  Not bad, for a $60 investment (so far).

And I have enough cells to make 6 of these panels.  Tho they will be too big and heavy to be suitable for a boat, they will work nicely on the roof of my shop where they will feed grid-tie inverters, allowing me to sell the power they produce back to the grid.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Getting your teeth cleaned

  • Getting your teeth cleaned.
  • Doing your taxes.
  • Renewing your driver's license.
  • Performance reviews.
These are all unpleasant things that, despite their unpleasantness, we go forward with when the time comes.

For those boaters out there who keep your boats on salt water there is another: the haulout.   For Eolian, in the waters here on Puget Sound, this is an event that needs to happen every third year.  Since our last one was in 2011, now is the time.

Today my task is to walk over to Seaview West and get on their schedule.

No, I am NOT dragging my feet.  Really, I just want another cup of coffee.


Update: We are scheduled for 10:00 AM on April 11


Friday, March 21, 2014

The elephant in the room

Our first boat (Cal 21) came with a trailer.

Our second boat (Catalina 22) came with a trailer.

Our third boat (O'Day 25) came with a trailer.

Having those trailerable boats allowed us to avoid the issue of moorage - our moorage was our driveway. 

Ah, but here in Seattle, having the space to park a boat on a trailer at your house is the very, very rare exception.  Many houses (and even more condos and apartments) don't even have space to park a car, let alone a boat on a trailer.

So, for that elusive prospective new cruising sailboat owner, there is really only a single realistic alternative:  moorage at a dock.

Now lets put things in perspective:  my kids were offered a well-equipped Catalina 27 in good condition,  For FREE.  And they turned it down.  Why?  Because the moorage was more than their budget allowed.

The cost of moorage is also the second-most common question asked of me by folks who are potential new cruising sailors.  It is a not insignificant portion of the cost of owning a boat in Puget Sound.

Like space at a boat show, the cost of moorage has done nothing but go up, up, UP.  In fact, since we moved to Shilshole in 1999, the price of our slip has almost exactly doubled.  Why is this?  Because every new boat sold increases the competition for the existing slips.

And it takes an act of Congress and an army of lawyers to add new slip space - the Port of Everett did it, but that is a rare exception in modern times.  In fact, the Port of Seattle spent millions to renew and reconfigure Shilshole,  but ended up with fewer slips at the end.  Fewer, but larger slips.  Slips in the 30 foot and under length were the primary victims.  Slips which would have served those just entering the cruising sailboat market.

So as I see it, here are the barriers holding young families from entering the cruising sailboat market:
  • New, small cruising boats are too big of a jump financially, for a family not sure if this is something that will work for them.
  • Used boats come with no guarantee/warranty, a problem for folks entering the cruising market and who don't yet know boats.
  • The adventurous family, one that uncommonly already has the skills and knowledge to purchase a used boat, is then faced with another financial hurdle: moorage.
It's not difficult to see why the demographics of the cruising sail market are aging:  Those who are in the market are staying.  And aging.  But efforts to actually welcome and entice the potentially interested young families are almost entirely lacking, or at best are going WHOOSH right over their heads financially.

This in spite of the fact that there has never been a better time to buy a used boat, a boat that moves for free.

While diesel sells for nearly $5 at the dock. 


Monday, March 17, 2014

Tip tip

Have trouble with polysulphide, silicone or 5200 curing in the tube tip between uses?  

Here's a tip: wipe the tip clean before you snap the cap back on. See that thin ridge that goes around the tip?  That is supposed to seal with a mating groove inside the cap, making a *snap* when you push it on. 

None of the compounds I listed above "dry" - instead they harden by reacting with water vapor present in the air.  And the reaction is designed to propagate over significant distances of the material, so that thick layers will cure all the way thru. Therefore if there is a continuous layer of material reaching from outside the sealing ring and past it into the tip interior, the reaction will proceed into the tip and then eventually into the tube itself. 

Thinking of this as if the tube were filled with polyester resin, and the air was saturated with MEK peroxide catalyst will give you a clearer picture perhaps. 

Just before the final capping, extrude some of the contents, flushing the end bit which has been exposed to moisture. Then thoroughly wipe off the tip and install the cap. You'll be surprised at how little in-tip curing there has been the next time you need to use the material.  


Monday, March 10, 2014

The green gloom

Algae bane
You haven't noticed it all winter, but now you see it everywhere on the exterior surfaces of your boat:  the advance of the mildew and algae. And dirt.  And even lichen.  Your forlorn hope is for a warm winter day when you can strike back with hose, and deck brush, and SoftScrub.

But when it is warm (relatively speaking - if temperatures in the 50's qualify as warm) it is raining.  And really, who wants to stand out in the rain and scrub their deck?  Saturday, some parts of Seattle got 4" of rain.  If only that had been the warm, tropical sort - the sort that entices those living in the tropics to go out on deck for a fresh water shower.   Ah, but what do those folks know?  They actually swim in the ocean, if you can believe it.  Here in Seattle we stay safely and smugly aboard.

This morning it is 47°, and threatening rain.  Huh.  Who would have guessed?



Monday, March 3, 2014

The most dangerous risk

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