Monday, August 7, 2017

Another Use For BAC


As a prelude to varnishing Eolian's caprail, I always remove the teak tread plates that I made so many years ago.  And this time I looked at them, really looked at them, for perhaps the first time in years.  The bacteria, algae, and worse, lichen had made themselves a very good home in and on the teak.

Now normally I would have just gotten out the sandpaper, but then it dawned on me to try benzalconium chloride.  I've extolled the virtues of this stuff before, and continue to be impressed with it.  So I sprayed some on the right hand tread in the picture above and let it dry in the sun for a day.  Then I gave it a very light (emphasize light) sanding with 220 to remove the corpses.  What a difference!  And because the BAC is now soaked into the wood, I expect it to fend off colonization attempts in the future.  This has now become an annual task.

Next:  I'm going to spray our unfinished teak rub rail with BAC.  It is equally groady looking.



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Thursday, July 20, 2017

'Tis The Season


In years past, we always cleaned the crab before bringing them aboard, cooked them, and then refrigerated or froze it.  Because they are ubiquitous, we used Zip-lock bags for storage.


But after a disappointingly short time in the refrigerator or freezer, the crab looses it's sweet, just-caught flavor.  And the flesh turns kind of leathery.

So this year, Jane is trying something different.  First, she is picking all the meat.  Tedious work, but realistically, most of the crab we froze last year ended up getting picked anyway to make crab cakes.  So she is just doing this up front.


And here is the big change:  instead of Zip-lock bags, we are using a vacuum sealer.  As opposed to the polyethylene Zip-locks, the Food Saver bags are made of a film that is impervious to oxygen, and presumably also to that common "refrigerator/freezer taste".



Bonus:  out of the shell, the crab takes up a lot less space in the freezer!

And of course, none of this applies to the crab which we eat on board, fresh from the sea!


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Saturday, July 15, 2017

An Early Morning Metaphysical Experience


The alarm goes off at 05:30.  The sun isn't up yet, but the sky is light., and the water is dead calm - it's a mirror.
I jump out of bed and throw on my groady sweats.   The crab pots are on the fantail - I prepped them yesterday afternoon.  I get down into the dinghy and Jane lowers them down to me.
And I start the outboard and head toward our Sacred Spot - the one that has yielded so many crabs in years past.  I veer to avoid the other boats - everyone else is sleeping, and our old Sears Gamefisher outboard is noisy.
As I motor along, skimming on a mirror, the sun clears the horizon and floods the world with golden light.  I promise you, there is nothing like being on the water at dawn!
I return to Eolian, the pots set, and I make Jane and I some lattes, and we watch the harbor slowly awake...

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Reclaiming The View

If your boat has Beckson ports, or any ports which feature polycarbonate (Lexan) lenses, then if those ports are more than a couple years old, they are turning brown and hazy.  Lexan does not do well with UV exposure, but it is used for port light applications because it is easy to injection mold.

For years, I have been removing the affected port lenses (That's what Beckson calls the transparent part) and laboriously rubbing them out with Meguires compounds (#17 and #10).  It helped, but it was a losing battle - the brown coloration was going deeper and deeper into the outside surface of the lenses.

Well, it turns out that that auto manufacturers like that easy injection molding too, and so on all modern cars, those clear headlight covers are also Lexan.  And they too turn brown and hazy.  Now, a product to address boat ports is a lot less likely than one aimed at auto owners trying to refurbish their headlights, and, no surprise,  several companies have met that need.  I trust 3M:


So I bought one of their kits.  It has a velcro disk that is to be chucked in your electric drill and a number of abrasive disks.  It also has a rippled sponge (it's the orange thing in the package picture) and some fine rubbing compound in a pouch.  There is also a wax, but I didn't use it - see below.

Before
So here's what I started with.  You can see how the UV has attacked the plastic, except where the gasket had protected it around the edges.  It's brown, and it's hazy.  The kit first has you go after the surface with a 500 grit disk.  They suggest doing it dry, but the disk materials are all waterproof, so I did it wet - this has the advantage of keeping the dust generated by removing the surface layer suspended in water and keeps it from clogging the sanding disk.  Just sprinkle on s few drops of water.  And boy, did it make a terrible-looking brown slurry out of that decayed Lexan.

After 500 grit
I wiped off the slurry and changed to the next finer disk:  800 grit; I also did this one wet.  And the slurry this time was white - I got all the brown off with the 500 grit!  Now, the purpose of each successively finer grit used is to remove the scratches made by the previous grit, so after the 800 grit treatment, all the 500 grit scratches should be gone.  After wiping off the slurry, I found that I had been a little too impatient and needed to go over the surface again.

After 800 grit
Next on the agenda is 3200 grit.  This time the kit wanted it to be used wet, so, not breaking stride, I used water again.  Same drill - remove the 800 grit scratches.  It's starting to look clear!

After 3200 grit
Finally, after wiping down the lens again, I put on the sponge disk and applied a little rubbing compound to the lens.  Then, scrubbing it around a little so that it wouldn't spray all over the place when I keyed the drill, I turned on the drill and went over the surface a fourth time.

After compounding
Wow!  It's good, but...  So I got out the Meguires and used the #17 and the #10 on it.  This was way easier than in years past because all the hard work had already been done by the drill.

Much better!
Well, it's not quite like new, but this port is much, MUCH clearer than it has been for years.  I suspect that the remaining haziness may be in depth in the plastic.

The whole process took a couple of hours to do four ports, including the time to unmount and remount the lenses...  that's less time than I would have spent doing one port by hand, with more mediocre results.  And a tired arm.

The directions want you to have a medium speed drill, and I would second that.  You definitely want to use a variable speed drill, running at a moderate speed.  One of those single speed drills will turn so fast that heat generation will be a problem (especially if you follow the directions and do it dry...  don't do that).  It is also important to tightly control the drill so that less than half of the disk is in contact with the surface.  If you try to hold it flat, it will inevitably spiral out of control, and then you will likely gouge the surface with the edge of the abrasive disk.

Would I recommend the 3M kit?  Absolutely.  Even for your car.







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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Phone App Recommendation


All the newer phone apps that show or predict wind speed and direction have those little moving arrows to give an animated display of the wind flow.  But how many of them actually predict or show what is happening?  Not so many.  A pretty animated display is not necessarily accurate.

Windy (for both iPhone and Android) is not one of these.  This is the best wind app that I have seen.  Tho it covers the entire Earth, my experience with it is local, which is nevertheless perhaps an excellent test.  Windy successfully deals with the complexity of the three major wind channels (Strait of Juan de Fuca, Admiralty Inlet, Strait of Georgia) in the Salish Sea, and the mess of islands sitting right at their junction.

By comparison, the NOAA "Northern Inland Waters" forecast seems to pick the worst spot in the area and report on that.  I suppose that makes sense from a safety perspective, but it has a tendency to limit boating unnecessarily, because wind speeds can vary dramatically between the southern end of the San Juans and the northern end, or from east to west.

I've been comparing reality with the little flowing arrows in Windy's screen for 6 months now, and from what I can see, it does an excellent job of describing the actual current flow pattern.  In addition, for forecasting it gives you the choice of using three different models.  I use the European high resolution model, ECMWF, but occasionally check the other two models to see how they differ.  The forecasts are also excellent.

The app has many more features which I I'll leave to you to discover.  Just for the wind forecasts this app is worth every penny of it's $0.00 cost!

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Actualization

As with many projects, the design and planning stages take longer than the actual execution.  Making a new sail cover for Eolian's mizzen was one of those projects.  I started thinking about this last summer, while hanging on the mizzen boom by one arm, way out past the stern rail, making up the fasteners on the far end of the sail cover.  I have been doing this acrobatic act for 20 years, but lately my shoulders have started to bother me, telling me that this process was going to have to change.  

Well finally last week everything came together and I was able to spend the time to put the plans and design to the test: actual sewing.

You really want to use a hot knife for this...

I unrolled the Sunbrella on the dock, laid out the pieces using a chalk line, and cut them out using my brand new, handy-dandy hot knife (you really want to use a hot knife for this work because it seals the edges of the cut, preventing unraveling).  The only tricky part of the layout was the placement of the cut outs on the side pieces for the lazy jacks.  To get these right, I tied the lazy jack lines to the boom at their design locations, and then stretched a tape measure along the diagonal that the top of the sail cover will make, taking the measurements where the diagonal intersected the jack lines.

Then the depth of the cut outs needed to be established.  I wanted them to be just deep enough so that the top of the cut out, which will be the bottom once the stitching to make the batten pocket is completed, would be just above that seam in the finished product.  Here's the detail on that:  I had determined that a 4.5" circumference would make a batten pocket large enough to accommodate the 3/4" schedule 40 PVC pipe that I was going to use as battens.  Adding a 1/2" seam allowance, I struck a "fold-to" line 5" away from the top edge of the side piece.  Then I laid out the cut outs so that their ends were 1/2" (seam allowance) + 3/8" (allowing for the edging to be applied to the cut outs) = 7/8" from the fold-to line.

The rest was just sewing.  The cover is just shy of 12 feet long, and there is no place inside Eolian to stretch it all the way out.  But sewing it over the saloon table worked out OK.



I mentioned that I used 3/4" sched 40 PVC pipe for the battens (the gray kind, rated for outdoor use).  PVC pipe comes in 10 foot lengths; the sail cover is just shy of 12 feet long...  a splice was necessary.  I didn't want to use a coupling, since that would make a lump that would make feeding the battens into the pockets difficult.  It turns out that 1/2" sched 40 pipe has an OD just slightly larger than the ID of 3/4" pipe.  So I bought a short length of 1/2" pipe, cut two 12" lengths, a slit one side of each piece lengthwise on my little table saw.  That 1/8" kerf provided just the right amount of clearance to allow the 1/2" pipe to telescope into the 3/4".  Assembling with pipe dope gave me a smooth splice.

Almost done...
I added ties that go under the sail using black Sunbrella webbing and Common Sense fasteners (not visible in this picture - they're on the other side). 

The top zipper would be impossible to operate if its aft end were not stabilized - a short strap there is seized to the topping lift line.  The finishing touch is a tiny block seized to the topping lift line just above the zipper seizing - and a 1/8" line loop routed thru the block and tied to the zipper pull allows the zipper to be operated while standing on the deck, not hanging over the rail.  Doing this work was interesting...  I had to swing the boom out over the dock and stand on top of a ladder to reach the aft end of the boom.

I wasn't sure what I was going to do with closing off the aft end - I think I'll do nothing - the opening is not large enough to bother with. 

I still need to make a front panel that wraps around the mast - the zippers that will attach it to the sail cover are already installed on the sail cover.

And I haven't yet cut the lazy jack lines to length - I think I am going to fiddle with them a little more - I want to see how things settle in with some use.



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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

For The Birds


How about this visitor that showed up on our masthead recently?

Actually, birds sitting up there are not my favorite thing - not even our National Bird...  perhaps especially not our National Bird.  See, that guy weighs 10-15 lb.  And that thing he has his left foot on was not made to carry his weight, or even half of it.   Thankfully he is too big to get both feet on it.

That "thing" is the sensor for our wind instrumentation - a pretty essential thing for a wind-powered vehicle.  See the spinner (wind speed) and fin (wind direction) out on the end?  I've already had to repair the direction sensor once due to an obese bird sitting on it and breaking it.

So, despite the delite of our neighbors (m/v Konocti Bay, who captured the photo), I shooed him off by banging on the shrouds.



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Monday, May 15, 2017

Haulout 2017

We haul out Eolian every three years for a new coat of bottom paint.  Our last was in the spring of 2014, just before we moved her to Anacortes, so she was due this spring.

For the almost 20 years we have been responsible for her maintenance, Eolian has been hauled using a Travelift - a huge contraption that lifts the boat out of the water bodily using two enormous straps:

Scary sight!

This has not been an easy task for us.  First, the Travelift at Shilshole was not large enough to haul Eolian unless we backed her into the Travelift slip.  And we had to disconnect the topping lift for the mizzen boom and drop it down.  And even then, the mizzen mast was always very uncomfortably close to the cross beam of the Travelift.  Oh, and the boat yard required that we had no roller furled sails aboard when we were blocked up (apparently one came open in a windstorm years ago and boats got knocked over like dominoes).  So we always had to remove our yankee - not a simple task because it is so large.

Ah, but not this year.  First, in Anacortes, apparently it is the SeaLift which is all the rage, not the Travelift.  The SeaLift is just an enormous, self-propelled boat trailer.  The boat rests on inflatable bunks (8-10 psi) that contact nearly the entire length of the hull - a much gentler loading than the two straps on the Travelift.  As you would expect, the operator backs the SeaLift into the water and you just drive your boat onto it, just as if it was a 16' ski boat.  Unlike a ski boat trailer tho, the SeaLift has the ability to keep your boat level as it comes out of the water, up the ramp, and onto shore.

We didn't even have to take the dinghy off!
This yard did not require removal of our headsail, and we didn't even have to take off the dinghy!

Adding to the weirdness, the actual yard is about a half a block down the street and on the other side.  So Eolian actually took a trip on land, stopping traffic and everything.

Trundlin' down the road...
Sadly however, not all was roses and wine...  Eolian has a couple of depth sounder transducers mounted on fairing blocks on her hull, and I was afraid that the weight of the boat on them could cause damage if they lined up with the inflatable trailer bunks.  This has never been a problem with a Travelift, because the contour of the hull has the straps a long ways out from them.

Uh oh...

Yup, Murphy played his part.  The bunk lined up precisely on the transducer on the port side, as you can see - the uncleaned part of the hull is uncleaned because it was against the bunk when the hull was pressure washed.

It moved.
After things were dried off, it was obvious that the fairing block had moved towards the centerline of the hull.  The missing paint revealed the disturbance.

Long deliberation on my part concluded that the risk of damaging or breaking the transducer while removing it for a rebedding far outweighed the risk of a minor leak if we simply just thoroughly caulked the seam between the fairing block and the hull, and between the fairing block and the transducer (yes, it was cocked slightly in the block).  So digging out all the loose paint and caulking with 5200 was the order of the day.

Blocked up and waiting for the paint crew
While waiting for Eolian's turn with the paint crew, I used a small portable generator, a ladder, and a buffer and buffed out the hull.  It really makes a huge difference!

Shiny!
Wow - that makes it sound like I spent the afternoon buffing.  Not so.  Buffing out Eolian is a more like buffing out your house.  It took me Tuesday thru Saturday, working 6-7 hours a day to get it done.  But she looks like a new boat afterwards!

Fresh paint always looks wonderful
And then on Monday the paint crew finished their touch-ups, and once again we were headed down the street to the launching ramp...

What's wrong with this picture?
Would I use a Sealift again?  With our underbody configuration, I think I'll avoid it.  But the transducer works fine and is not leaking... yet...




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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Getting Rid Of The Stink At The Stern

The Admiral has put her foot down.  Henceforth, there shall be no more bad smells wafting from our stern when the head is flushed.

And so let it be done.

Commercial versions of holding tank vent filters can be had - for something like $100.  And these are throw-aways...  after a year or so, you discard them and buy another.

But these are not complex devices.  Could I make one?

Sure.  The idea came from Drew; my additions are the methods for retaining the charcoal.

Well, first the charcoal.  "Activated charcoal" is a kind of charcoal which is manufactured to have incredible surface areas - as much as 500 m2 per gram... and these surfaces are loaded with active catalytic sites.  It is the perfect thing to use to adsorb and catalytically deactivate head odors (primarily H2S).  And it is cheap and easily available.  I got this 1 lb bag of granules (don't use the powder - too hard to contain it, and too much pressure drop for gases flowing thru the bed) for just over $11, delivered to my doorstep:

1 lb. activated charcoal:  $11
Next, we need a container for the charcoal, one which can be inserted into the holding tank vent line.  I had some scrap 2" PVC pipe, so all I needed was some fittings:

Pipe fittings:  $5
... a glue-on cap (on the left), and a screw-on cap with its glue-on female half.  To provide a way to attach fittings, I drilled each cap and threaded them with a 1/2" NPT pipe tap.

12" of 2" PVC:  $0  (scrap)
So here's what the finished filter will look like.

Of course, if I just pour in the charcoal granules, they will just run out the holes in the ends.  How to retain it?


Scotchbrite pad: $0 (stolen from the galley)
I robbed a Scotchbrite pad from the galley and cut a couple of disks out of it, sized to snugly fit inside the PVC pipe.  The Scotchbrite is perfect for this because it has pores small enough to retain the charcoal, and yet it has so much open area that it provides virtually no pressure drop.

But:  if I just put these disks into the ends of the pipe, they will wedge down against the pipe fittings, making for quite small flow areas.  So I needed to support the pads with something else that would have the same extremely low pressure drop characteristics, and yet bulk up perhaps 1/2" below the pads.  VoilĂ !  Enter the shower scrunchy:

Shower scrunchy: $0.89
A small piece of this cut off from the wad is stiff enough to provide good support and yet is almost all open space...  no pressure drop at all.

Scrunchy - umm, well, scrunched

Now to assemble the pieces.  First, I glued the end cap and the threaded female fittings onto the pipe.  Next, I stuffed some of the scrunchy down the pipe.  And then put the Scotchbrite disk in... and immediately discovered a problem.  Getting the disk to remain perpendicular to the pipe was impossible once it contacted the scrunched scrunchy.

And then I hit on it:  another piece of scrap pipe, this one 1-1/2", which nicely telescoped in the 2" pipe.  Pushing the scotchbrite disk down with the pipe ensured that it remained perpendicular.

1-1/2" pipe telescoping installer
It also provided a secondary benefit.  Pushing it down and compressing the scrunchy, I was able to fill most of the charcoal....

Filling charcoal thru the telescoping pipe
...and then by jiggling the 1-1/2" pipe up and down slightly while withdrawing it, the charcoal remained in place, compressing the scrunchy by itself now.

Add the second scotchbrite disk
Then to finish, I added the second scotchbrite disk and stuffed the rest of the scrunchy into the end of the cylinder.  The last bit of the scrunchy went in thru the pipe fitting hole in the cap.

Et voilĂ !

Blowing thru the completed filter shows that there is almost no pressure drop, and yet the charcoal is held firmly in place.  Success!

Now I only need to find the time to cut the vent line and install it.








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Monday, May 1, 2017

Upgrade Overdue

Cassette tapes anyone?

Almost immediately after we got Eolian, we purchased a small stereo for music aboard.  It was pretty close to state of the art at the time, and included a CD player, AM/FM radio, and a cassette tape deck.

That was nearly 20 years ago.

We don't have any cassette tapes any more, and despite many cleanings, the CD player portion of the stereo was frustratingly skipping.

After 20 years, it was time for an upgrade.

As is usual on a boat, getting something of a size that would fit in the designated compartment was not a sure thing.  And, surprise, surprise...  Most retailers and most packaging do not disclose dimensions.  So we had to buy something that we hoped would fit, based on the size of the packaging and the internal cushioning they always include.  Cutting to the chase:  the new stereo is quite a bit smaller than the old one, because: cassette tapes?  What're those?

Hello bluetooth!

Time and technology march on...  the new stereo dropped the AM radio and the tape deck, but gained bluetooth capability - something I've been wanting for some time.  So now I can play music from my phone, or from my laptop (where most of my music resides) thru the stereo!

Oh, and it doesn't skip either.




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Friday, April 21, 2017

It's OPEN!


Woo HOO!

Here in the gloomy PNW, we have our first, real day of spring.  The temperature is passing the 60° mark, the sky is sunny, the heat pump is turned off, and for the first time since way back in the fall of 2016, we have the storm windows out and our ports are OPEN!

We are flushing out the old winter air and replacing it with some flower-scented spring air!




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Monday, April 17, 2017

Masking: The Problem

Spring fitting out season is approaching (or is already here for those of you south of the 48th parallel).  That means that there will be painting and varnishing, and where these exist, masking tape is not far behind.  There are all kinds of the stuff out there, and believe me, they are NOT equal, or even close.  Please allow me to give you the benefit of 20 years experience fitting out Eolian, and even longer in masking cars for painting...

Just: No.
There are all kinds of masking tape at the bottom of the rung, cost-wise.  For almost all uses that we here care about, they should be avoided.  The denizens of this rung of the masking ladder, even from a respected manufacturer,  have an inferior backing (that is, they will frequently tear lengthwise wihen you are attempting to pull a piece off the roll...), have an adhesive that is set by the sun, and are worse than useless should they be exposed to moisture (such as dew, on a summer's morning).  If you can get a good piece off the roll, in a day or two in the sun and morning dew, it will be permanently bonded.  You'll need solvents to get it off.  Even for painting a car, where the masking is applied and removed in the same day, the bottom tier is simply not worth it.

Probably No.

The next tier up is useful for things that will be applied and removed in a single day, or where the tape is shaded and protected from moisture (inside perhaps?).  When painting cars, this is what I use to hold the newspaper on the windows, etc.  But not where a clean line is needed.  You probably won't want this anywhere on a boat either.

Maybe.
Scotch's blue "painter's tape" is one that you might consider.  But it has what I consider an overly-aggressive adhesive (it might pull off an underlying paint layer), and also has a tendency to set up in sun or rain.  In addition, like the other tapes mentioned above, it has a "crepe" backing.  That is, the backing is slightly wrinkled on purpose, to make it possible to bend the tape around a curve.  Tho this could be handy in some cases, the wrinkles allow the paint to seep under the edges like this:

Seepage
... so don't use this where you need a clean edge.

The only tape you'll find aboard Eolian is this:

Yes: Scotch 2080

Scotch 2080 (note the orange core).  This tape has,
  • A smooth backing, making for nice clean edges
  • A less aggressive (but perfectly acceptable) adhesive.  In most cases, it won't lift underlying paint layers.
  • An 8-day removal period.  Well, this might be slightly exaggerated, but still, under most circumstances, you won't need a chisel and acetone to get it off.

And a final note:   You use masking tape to prevent getting paint on the substrate.  This means almost by definition that you will be painting over the edge of the masking tape.  When you pull the tape, depending on how heavy the layer of paint is, how strong the paint is, and how well it is cured, you could pull chips or entire areas of paint off into the painted area.  To avoid this, I never allow more than one cured layer of paint on the tape before it is removed.  For example, when varnishing I pull the tape before the second coat has had a chance to set up hard.  This may be a little more work, but it avoids having to use a knife to cut the paint layer (and thus probably scoring the substrate) when pulling the tape.




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Monday, April 3, 2017

It Really *Is* All About The Roux

A long time ago, Jane managed to snag one of those church cookbook compilations at the Shilshole book exchange.  What made this one special was that it was from Cajun Country...  yep, Nawlins.  It seems that almost every recipe in it starts out with something like, "Fry three strips of bacon.  Eat the bacon, and make a roux with the bacon fat."

So, if you're not into the best cooking the USA has to offer, what's a roux?   It is where you brown some flour in fat.  Done properly, it takes a while - up to or more than an hour, in fact.  But oh is it worth it!

Well.

Jane subscribed to a magazine a while back (that I can recommend for a whole bunch of reasons, not least of which is that they use the scientific method extensively in creating recipies...) called "Cooks Illustrated."


It just so happens that this month's addition addressed in one article Cajun cooking's most treasured ingredient:  the roux.  Cutting to the chase, here's the short version:  Instead of standing over a hot frying pan for an hour stirring a mixture of flour and bacon fat, toast the flour in your oven, and use the bacon fat elsewhere in the recipe.  

I made this chicken gumbo for dinner Saturday nite, and oh my goodness, was it good!


I toasted the flour at home in our house oven (I did it in a pie pan, and actually, I toasted much more than I needed, because I anticipated that I'd be making something needing a roux again...).  And then I completed the recipe on board Eolian.

Oh. My. Goodness.

If you try the recipe above, I found that a half recipe was more than enough to feed three...  we'll actually use it to feed four (two, twice).

Oh, and here's a recommendation:  subscribe to Cook's Illustrated.  You'll never have a boring meal again, nor will you have one that requires that you get every pot dirty either.





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Monday, March 27, 2017

Drip, Drip - Round 2

Junior version

Rats. Bought the wrong one. Anybody need a brand new filter bowl for a Racor 500FG?  (Mine are 900FGs, it turns out).

Now I gotta wait for shipping.  Again.

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