Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Curve of Time, Revisited

Think back...  Do you remember the third grade?  Where the teacher, at her wits end at the end of the day, had you kids put your heads down on your desks and spent the last half hour quietly reading to the class?   Old Yeller and Charlotte's Web are still stuck in my head from that experience.  And it was an experience...  it was much more than the story alone.

Several years ago (have I been blogging that long?), I reviewed The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet (ISBN 1-58005-072-7).  I strongly recommend that you go back and re-read that review now.  We'll wait for you to come back.

OK, you're back!  Now that you have the flavor of the book in your mind, this isn't strictly about the book - it is about a new audio version of the book, narrated by Heather Henderson.

I highly recommend this audio version to you.  Why?
  • The experience of listening as someone reads to you is subjectively different than reading yourself. 
  • At anchor, with your eyes closed at the end of the day, Heather's reading M. Wylie Blanchet's words soon becomes M. Wylie telling you the story herself...  it becomes a much more personal experience.
  • This lyrical book lends itself very well to this presentation.
  • Jane and I finally experienced the book together.  When we were reading the print version we had to share experiences in series.  
This has been a wonderful companion for us this summer adrift in the Pacific Northwest, in the San Juan Islands.

Now put your heads down on your desks...


Monday, August 25, 2014

PO Recursiveness

In the past I have repeatedly referenced the Previous Owner with some disdain.  In fact I have attributed most of the problems we have dealt with aboard Eolian to the Previous Owner. 

However, astute readers of my previous post will have noticed something:
  • I whined about the use of silicone rubber as caulking under the caprail
  • I last exposed the caprail to daylite in 1998.
Yes, embarrassingly,  it is true.  That was me - I put that silicone rubber there.  I have become my own Previous Owner.  If you own your boat long enough, this is inevitable.  You will eventually have to face your own repairs, made by a younger, less experienced version of yourself.

In the 16 years we have been responsible for Eolian's care, I have learned some things.  No, that's inadequate.  I have learned A LOT.  And the inappropriateness of silicone rubber is one of those things.  While I may have whined about our Previous Owner using silicone rubber for simply everything (liquid duct tape?), I was guilty of bringing this nasty stuff aboard too.

But that is one of the purposes of this blog - to keep others from making the mistakes I have made.


  • Leave the silicone rubber ashore (except where explicitly required - by Beckson for installation of their ports for example).
  • Hubris can result in embarrassment

Years ago when I was a kid, I used to read Flying magazine. I particularly enjoyed a long-running series of articles entitled "I Learned About Flying From That." Each article was written by a pilot, who humbly admitted to having made a mistake, and then having lived, told about it in the hopes that others would not have to make the same mistake. I thought then that it was a good format, and I still think that now. This series of postings is my attempt to recreate that article series with a new subject and new technology.

(If you would like to help others to learn from your mistakes, please send your article to: WindborneInPugetSound at gmail dot com)


Friday, August 22, 2014

Starting Over

Bare wood
We have been uncharacteristically quiet here.  No, there's nothing wrong - we're just really busy.

It's the time for that annual task: sand/revarnish all the brightwork on Eolian's the exterior.

But aside from the normal work, examining the condition of the varnish on the starboard cap rail showed it was obvious that it was time - time for a complete re-do.  The last time this wood was uncovered was in 1998, the summer after I had moved aboard.  That time I used a chemical stripper to remove the last dregs of the Cetol that the Previous Owner had applied and then failed to maintain.  The work experience was not good - it was very difficult to control the stripper, to keep it off of the adjacent gelcoat (as it turns out, the stripper attacks gelcoat too).

This time I elected to use a heat gun, and that turned out to be a good decision.  Because of the thickness of the varnish after 16 years of application, with just the right amount of heat it became rubbery enough to just peel off in large sheets. Two days.

Then it was necessary to dig out the silicone caulk that had been used to seal the caprail to the top of the bulwark.  (This seal was necessary because the factory did not varnish the undersides of the wood when installing it, thus when moisture got underneath the wood and soaked in, it lifted the varnish on the top.  Unfortunately, silicone was a poor choice (it's always a poor choice) - it did not adhere to the teak well and allowed moisture to enter.  So, I had to very laboriously dig out the old caulk, making every effort to remove even traces of the old silicone.  Two more days.

With the old caulk removed, then I applied tape to delineate the area to be caulked and extruded black polysulphide (BoatLife Life Calk) and worked it into the seam with my finger, and then finally pulled the tape.  If you have ever worked with this stuff, you will know that unless great care is taken, it will end up everywhere.  I had a package of paper napkins handy and a gallon of paint thinner on hand, frequently wiping down my hands.  It is messy work, and along the deckhouse the access is terrible on the inside of the bulwark - there is just barely enough room for me to lie on my side in there, meaning that all the work has to happen with my arms extended over my head.  Three more days - I should finish this step today.

Next will come a wash of the teak with oxalic acid to remove the water staining, a light sanding, a wipe with thinner to remove the teak oils on the surface, and then finally, finally, four or five coats of varnish.

Hopefully this will hold for another 16 years.  The people in the slip next to us (transients - they've been here for part of this) are wondering whether we ever take the boat out, or if all we do is maintenance.  While there is more maintenance on a "Classic Plastic" boat than a modern boat with no exterior wood whatsoever, we think the results are worth it.  And really, we are only talking about 3 or 4 days a year (with a big effort every 16 years).

For us, it is worth it.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Escalation in Problem Solving

Recently, the generator onboard Eolian began acting up.

First, there has been the smell of diesel present under the floorboards whenever it has been run.  This started small and grew so gradually that I had been ignoring it.  Jane however is the ever-practical one.  "Why does the generator smell like diesel?" she asked, pointing out that there was indeed an elephant in the room, and leaving me no more room to pretend that there was nothing amiss.

I searched all the diesel connections and didn't find any leaks.  Finally, I put it down to a possible fine mist escaping from a high pressure line feeding one of the injectors - it's hot up there and any leaked diesel would quickly evaporate.  Yeah, that's the ticket. 

But the smell persisted. 

And then the generator began to act like it was starving for fuel.  So as an experiment I turned on the electric fuel pump and pressurized the diesel feed line to the generator.  It immediately smoothed out and ran normally.  No problemo!  All I have to do now is run the fuel pump whenever I run  the generator.  And the bilge blower to get rid of those diesel fumes.

Some of you probably have this figured it out by now...

OK, at this point I have grudgingly admitted that there is something actually wrong.  So I took the simplest and cheapest approach as a first step:  I changed the generator fuel filter.  As a problem-solving method, this is a good first step.  It cost very little, was very little effort, and in even the worst possible case, it does no harm.

Unfortunately, it didn't fix the problem.

Next step:  Change the fuel lift pump on the generator.  Cost $75 (yeah, that's a lot for a fuel pump, but then this is a Yanmar 2GM).  As to effort, well there is a reason this was the second thing I tried.  The lift pump is cam-driven, just like a fuel pump on a car, and is located on the port side of the generator, about 3" away from the port battery bank.  Just about enough room to get a socket on the 2 bolts attaching it to the block.  But not enough room to get my head in there to actually see the bolts.  Oh and did I mention that the pump was a corroded mass so ugly that it was difficult to identify except that the fuel lines ran to it and from it?  Apparently the Previous Owner had had a water leak from the exhaust elbow, which is immediately above the pump.  But this also meant that changing the pump not only did no harm, but was a huge positive, regardless if it was the cause of the problem.

Putting the new pump in was an even bigger puzzle because the hard line on its discharge must be installed before the pump is placed and it must be threaded thru some obstacles before the pump can be placed into position.  And all of this must be done while maintaining the gasket in place (I used Permatex to glue it to the lift pump) and fiddling the mounting bolts into their holes, blind.

Yup, that fixed it.  Both problems.  Although invisible under the mass of corrosion, apparently the pump casing had corroded thru or cracked, allowing diesel to escape on the pressure stroke and air to be sucked in on the suction stroke.

This was a classic case of following my troubleshooting aphorism: 

"Do the simple, lowest cost things first." 


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Comments and Google+

I have received several complaints via email that in order to make a comment on this blog, you must have a Google+ account.  I completely understand why most folks would not want to be pressured into joining the Google borg just in order to make a comment - and I want those comments!

I have finally found the setting that enables Google+ comments.  Unfortunately, "enable" is a word that does not adequately express the strength of the action.  In fact, "enabling" Google+ comments replaces the alternative comment mechanism that this blog used to have.  That setting is now turned off - you no longer need to have a Google+ account to make a comment.

I apologize for the frustration that this has caused.


(and now I expect some comments on this post...)


Wednesday, August 13, 2014


It's raining today.  It has been since some time last nite - I didn't look at the clock when it woke me up.

It woke me up because it was an unusual sound...  it having been so long since water fell from the sky.  The ground is baked and hard, and surely much of the rain must be running off, unabsorbed.  But this is the slow, gentle rain that Seattle does so well, so perhaps I am wrong about that.

Anyway, we need it, badly.  We even have wildfires on this side of the mountains now.  Hopefully this will put them out on both sides of the Cascades.

Monday, August 11, 2014

It begins again

Jane's blackberry crisp, already sampled
The great wheel of the seasons continues to turn, bringing us now to the time when the blackberries ripen.  Last nite, Jane made the first blackberry crisp of this year.  As we sampled it (with ice cream, of course!), a warm memory came to me.

It was a little later in the year - the blackberries were ripe and plentiful, especially at the head of Blakely Harbor, back by the concrete boiler pillbox that is all that remains of the old Blakely sawmill.  We had dinghied thru the opening into the millpond, and Jane went ashore to pick those berries.  It was one of those days where it is warm when the sun is up, but quite cool after sundown.

And as the sun went down, Jane fired up the oven and made a blackberry crisp using those freshly picked berries. 

Only a little later the sun was gone.  But the residual heat from the oven  kept the cabin cozy while we enjoyed that crisp, watching the stars come out.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Problem Solved

Yes, that is 9 gallons of the good stuff. A local TruValue hardware store was selling off their old stock of the "environmentally irresponsible" thinner for $7.89/gallon. I bought all their stock.

I should be fixed for life.

Or perhaps I'll be like the lady who is selling off cans of pre-EPA formula Brasso on eBay, one by one.

(If you haven't been following my paint thinner odyssey, you can catch up here and then here.)

Monday, August 4, 2014


I mentioned earlier that while on our Shaw Island hike, we encountered and had a mid-road conversation with a nun.

But that bald statement gives nothing of the event.  Despite the warmth of the morning, Sister Miriam, a woman in her late 20's or early 30's, was dressed in the full black regalia, and yet she looked entirely comfortable.  Our conversation ranged over the usual topics one might expect when just meeting someone on an island...  where are you from, where are you going, how long have you been here...  like that.  And Sister Miriam is a woman who quietly and confidently knows where she is and where she is going.  But far more than the topics, during this conversation we were presented with an overwhelming sensation of... PEACE.  It was subliminal, but it was powerful.

It was so powerful that immediately after we resumed our walk we both turned to each other and remarked on it.  It was so powerful that even now, as I am writing, it is with me.  It is simply amazing to me that a brief conversation in the middle of a road on a small island could be so transformative.

I wonder if Sister Miriam knows she carries such a powerful aura.

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