Monday, June 30, 2014

My Little Pony

Every so often, some part of our non-sailing life leaks into this blog. We were not on the boat this past weekend, so this is one of those leaks. This past weekend, we put Jane's 1965 Mustang into the Greenwood Car Show down in Seattle.

This is not a Concours d'Elegance - it is a shine-n-show (capitalization or lack thereof intentional)... that is, it is open to any car.  Hundreds of them.  They block off 20-25 blocks of Greenwood Avenue in Seattle, and the cars park diagonally all along that entire route, on both sides.  The crowds are huge.

Because of the number of entrants, just getting the cars into place is an exercise in logistics.  We had to be in line to enter at 05:30...  just imagine how awake we were.

We had attended the show before, but being a participant is an entirely different experience.   There is a camaraderie amongst the participants, regardless of their car types (next to us were a 1967 Mustang and a 1988 Monte Carlo; across from us was a funny car dragster) that is invisible to those walking the route not as participants.   It was a lot of fun... and a LOT of walking (well sure we walked the route too... much of it before the crowds arrived).  In fact, one of the benefits of being a participant is that we got to see most of the cars drive in.  That is, we got to hear the cars drive in...  Lotta cool engines...

Finally, Jane calls her Mustang "My Little Pony", so of course she went thru the closet full of our children's old toys and pulled them out for placement on the dashboard.  They were still a real attraction for girls of all ages as they walked by.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Project update: Valances

Work continues on the valances. 

I bought a white-finished particle board shelf and cut it into strips.  Then each valance got one of the strips glued to the back, using Gorilla Glue (because of its tremendous gap-filling property), held back from the top of the valance by 3/8" to make room for the LED strip lites.  The strip serves as a stiffener, as a means to retard warpage of the relatively thin valance panels, and finally as a lite reflector for the LEDs, directing their lite back toward the cabin side and upward.

Back side of a valance panel, top edge to the bottom of the picture
And then I ran a 1/4" rounding-over router bit along the edges, sanded, and varnished the panels:

Unfortunately, because of the size of my workspace, I can only deal with the valances from one side at a time. 

These are from the starboard side; the port side will have to be completed another time.  And then there will be the wiring of the LEDs...


Monday, June 23, 2014


So here I am, aboard Eolian.   Its been 2 weeks since we docked here and nearly all of that time has been spent at our cabin, away from the boat - I think this may be the longest contiguous stretch of time we have spent there, ever.

When I came aboard yesterday evening, it was like a homecoming after a vacation.  But different somehow.

Yes, everything down below was the same as we left it, and yet..
  • Tho we are still a port tie, the boat is now facing south instead of north - the light enters the cabin at a different slant.  Places that were dark are now light, and places that were light are how in shadows.
  • The view out the windows has changed.
  • It is quiet!  No more trains.  No more Kenmore Air planes droning overhead.  No more 737s, 747s, 787s roaring by above.
  • I know no one on the dock.
I suppose that after a year or three this will all seem normal, and the differences will recede into the background.  But for now, I feel vaguely dislocated. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Trip planning in the Pacific Northwest

Here in the Pacific Northwest, trip planning is more involved than it is in, for example, the Chesapeake.  Sure, you need a starting point and a destination.  And if the path is complicated, you should set up some way points, either on paper or electronically.  These parts are true everywhere.

But here in the Pacific Northwest, trip planning must also take into account the tides.  With as much as 16 feet of tidal difference, the currents generated just about everywhere are something that must be taken into account by all sail and most power boats.  Even in places with "benign" tidal currents (say, 1 kt) taking the tide into account on a boat making 5 kt can mean the difference of hours in a trip.  And if you're burning diesel, the difference is financial as well.

Here's a realistic example:  The trip from Seattle to the San Juan Islands is roughly 60 miles, depending on your actual origin and destination.  This can be made in a boat making 5 kt thru the water in a single day.  If there were no tide, the trip would take 12 hours.  Working with the tide, the trip can be made in 8-9 hours.  But working against the tide, you might not be able to get past Point Wilson at all.

On Eolian, we try to time things so that we are moving up Admiralty Inlet on a strong ebb tide (1-3 kt ride, rising to as much as 5-6 kt at Point Wilson), timing things so that we arrive at Partridge Bank, more or less in the middle of the east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca,  at low slack.  Then by the time we are approaching Cattle Pass in the San Juan Islands, the flood has started, giving us a ride all the way to Friday Harbor.

This having to deal with both ebb and flood tides seems to be a feature for us.  Now that we are located in Anacortes, we have to consider the current in Guemes Channel and in Thatcher Pass.  And once again, going from Anacortes to Friday Harbor, we want to leave Anacortes on an ebb, but time it so that we have a flood tide by the time we reach Thatcher Pass.  The current in Guemes Channel is pretty benign, but that at Thatcher Pass is significant.  Tho we might stem the tide in Guemes Channel, I'd strictly avoid doing that at Thatcher Pass.

It's never easy, is it?  But it's all part of boating, in the PNW anyway.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The *OLD* Brasso

The Right Stuff
OK, I promise that this is the final post in the disappointingly boring series of Brasso posts.

I received a package from a dear old friend (hi Hogan!) this week containing this: a can of the original formula Brasso!  Apparently there is someone out there on the InterTubes who has hoarded a supply of the old formula and is auctioning it off one can at a time on eBay.  And Hogan  got me one of those cans!

Since I will only use this on the compass binacle and the hub of the wheel, and since I am old, this is probably a lifetime supply for me.  Hooray!  I am no longer at the mercies of the marketing mavens at Brasso Galactic Control!

Thanks Hogan for setting me free!


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

On the grid

The Grid at Poulsbo
I'm sure that you've heard the expression "on the grid".  In the nautical world, "on the grid" does not refer to the Internet or to the power grid.  Instead, it refers to having one's boat on a construction like the one pictured above.  It is designed to provide a stable platform that will take the weight of a boat and provide a means to keep it upright as the tide drops, leaving it "high and dry" so that below-the-waterline work can be done.  Of course for this to work, there needs to be sufficient tidal range (the US Gulf Coast need not apply).

The realities of the tide dictate that there will not be unlimited time for the work, for what goes out will soon come back in.  And the lowest areas of the boat's hull will be exposed for the shortest time...  thus the origin of the expression, "between the devil and the deep blue sea".

We've never had the courage to use a grid...  too vivid an imagination I guess . 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Big Bertha was too big

Adding Big Bertha to her three smaller sisters was apparently too much for the grid-tie inverter... See that burned spot on the circuit board?  That marks the death of the inverter.

So now, with the summer solstice approaching and the best solar insolation of the year, I have no way to put that energy to work.   And I am here because I believed that an inverter advertised as having a 250 watt capacity would be able to handle 175-200 watts. 

Silly me.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Fire and Ice

Last Saturday while anchored in Port Ludlow, The sky put on a show for us. Apparently the relative humidity way up there, where the transcontinental jets fly, was 100% because their contrails didn't evaporate - they just hung around getting bigger and bigger, being blown into the most interesting shapes.

But the most amazing thing was when the sun hit those clouds just right, and this happened:

I know that this did not photograph particularly well.  And what no photograph could possibly capture was the sparkling iridescence that the colors showed.  I guess you had to be there.  But since you weren't, I am trying to share it with you.

At the altitude where these contrail clouds resided, this was surely ice.  One of the names Wikipedia gives for this phenomenon is "fire rainbow"; I can attest to the appropriateness of that name.


Monday, June 2, 2014

The New Brasso: Redux

Earlier I whined about the recent reformulation of Brasso. Wasn't the old stuff kind of pinkish in color? That would be the result of using rouge as the polishing agent. The new stuff is white. I suspect that the polishing agent is finely ground aluminum oxide - a much harder material than rouge.  But is this good?

Here's the thing.  With rouge (and tripoli, and several other polishing compounds), the polishing agent is designed to break down into finer and finer particles as you (or your machine) rub it.  This means that at the end, the finish can be absolutely mirror-like.  Of course, the polishing agent must be matched to the material.  Rouge, which is quite soft, does a wonderful job of polishing gold, silver and brass.  It takes much, much longer to polish stainless steel with rouge because that metal is so much harder.

But we were talking about brass, for which Brasso is specially formulated (with the inclusion of ammonia).   For brass, the new Brasso's polishing agent is too coarse.  And it is too hard - it doesn't break down.

So this morning I had an idea (probably a cosmic ray went thru my head):  Why not try some of the fiberglass polish/wax that we use on the hull on the brass?  It's polishing agent is designed for soft surfaces, and it does break down even when polishing very soft gel coat, giving a very shiny surface.

Here's the result:

Tho this doesn't photograph well, look at the difference between the top of the binacle, which has been polished with the cleaner/wax, and the bottom which has only been polished with Brasso.  On the bottom, the scratches from the coarse polishing agent are clearly seen; they're gone on the top.

Here's the polish I used:

This is no wipe on/wipe off job.  It takes more work than the Brasso because you get no help from the chemical action of the ammonia.  It takes elbow grease to remove the metal to make a shiny surface and to break down the abrasive.  If your rag is not turning black with the removed metal, then you're not working hard enough.  A power buffer would help a lot.

Oh, and there's a bonus:  the wax.  I have no data yet, but I suspect that the shine will last longer because it is waxed.

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