Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Storms of November 

(from a couple of years ago)
The Storms of November* - Our fiercest winds usually come in November.  But not this year - November was a lamb...  a chilly lamb, but a lamb.

But we were not spared.  Instead, it seems that the storms were only delayed, until December.

As my physical condition slowly improves, we have been spending the occasional night aboard Eolian - This weekend we had planned to spend two successive nites, Sunday and Monday.

(Now I must digress slightly.  When we have strong winds in Anacortes, they almost invariably come in from the southeast.  With our slip, this means that Eolian is pushed back and away from the dock.  Normally this is a good thing, because we are not grinding the fenders between the hull and the dock.)

When we arrived on Sunday, the winds were in the teens, gusting into the 20s.  With some difficulty, we were able to pull Eolian over to the dock so that we could load our stuff and board.  But we made it.  The nite was windy, but we both slept well, knowing that the boat was safe.

On Monday we planned to drive to Bellingham.  But the winds were up even higher, gusting into the low 30s.  It was everything I could do to get her over to the dock so we could debark.

We did our thing in Bellingham, as the wind continued to rise.

By the time we got back to the marina in the late afternoon it was literally screaming.  Out at the end of the dock, I estimate that it was steadily in the upper 30 kt range, with gusts into well the 40s.  The gap between Eolian and the dock was as wide as ever, but there was simply no way that we could have moved her close enough to board, especially given my enfeebled condition.

So with discretion being the better part of valor, we retreated back to our Camano Island home, and left Eolian to fend for herself, alone.  We built a fire and enjoyed a glass of wind.  And I felt guilty for having left our girl to fend for herself.

The wind laid this morning, and we drove back up to Anacortes.  Eolian was fine with no damage.  We were able to board, perform our normal shutdown duties, and retrieve our "stuff".

And the weather forecast says another storm is coming this evening...

* Apologies to Gordon Lightfoot


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Aboard Again!

Sunday was a beautiful, sunny, calm day - a good day to reboard Eolian for the first time because the wind wasn't holding her way off the dock...  she was snuggled right up against the fenders.

And we spent the night aboard, ending the longest hiatus away from her since we acquired her way back in 1997.

I still have quite a ways to go before we could consider taking her off the dock, but that's ok - we normally wouldn't do that this time of year anyway.

So...  its good and getting better!

Here I want to say thanks to the boating community for all the support, concern and help I’ve received over the past months.  It is wonderful to be a part of this community!



Friday, November 2, 2018

Magnets, Again

Swallows are such graceful and skilled fliers - they are a joy to watch.

But when we kept our O'Day 25 in a marina on the Chesapeake it was too much of a good thing.  The marina was host to a huge flock of swallows who, it must be admitted, feasted on the clouds of mosquitos, keeping them at least somewhat in check.

But all that consumption had a resulting consequence...  Each time we visited the boat, it was absolutely completely covered with swallow exhaust.  For us, that meant that after driving the entire width of the state of Pennsylvania, with two tired kids and carts full of food, etc...  Dad had to get aboard the boat and spend two hours hosing off the swallow exhaust.  It was discouraging for all involved, to say the least.

At Shilshole Bay Marina, there was a big flock of some kind of small black bird that pretty much left the boats alone.  Well except in late summer and fall when there was some kind of purple berry ripening on the bluffs above the marina.  Then they would migrate en masse to some boat out in the marina, presumably randomly chosen, to dump their combined loads of purple exhaust.  Like everyone out on G-dock, we were the occasional recipients of this largesse.

Wait... weren't  we supposed to be talking about magnets, somehow... right?

Bird exhaust on boats is not a problem constrained to the Salish Sea.  Even half way around the world, in New Zealand, the problem exists.  With a world-wide problem, you'd think that someone would have come up with a solution by now.

Well, it just may be that someone has.  The list of things that seem like they should work, but actually do not is long and varied. And, it seems that Viki on s/v Wildwood in New Zealand has tried most of them, to little or no effect.

Until she hit on magnets.  Yes, magnets.

I'm not going to steal her thunder; it's her story to tell - read it here..  My purpose is to make her story known, and to ask whether others have tried her solution, or are willing to.  But as a teaser, here are two pictures I linked to from her blog post:

One week after cleaning; no magnets

One week after cleaning, with magnets


Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New Eyes, New Beginnings

One of the marks of a great artist, or a great writer, is that they can look at a scene or situation with new eyes, even tho they may have experienced it a million times before.  It is that ability to see instead of just looking that is the great divider.  I know people who have this ability, but it is a rare commodity, making these very special people indeed (yes Sarah Gayle, I am talking about you).

I do not have it.

As a consequence, it is difficult indeed for me to see living aboard, or sailing, or boating in general with new eyes.  If I have addressed a subject once before, it is hard indeed for me to find something new to say about it.  And after 10+ years of blogging about life on board, I need to find my "new eyes".  Thus the dearth of recent posts.

None of this has been made any easier by my recent health problems - problems that have kept me off the boat, for all but one partial afternoon where I was required to literally crawl aboard on my hands and knees, since the end of July.

But I have had the surgery, and I am regaining strength in my legs.  And hope has replaced resignation.

I believe that once I sleep aboard again, I will get those "new eyes"  because I will have a new beginning.  There will be more, and more frequent posts, written at the desk aboard Eolian.

Fair winds, following seas, and calm anchorages to you.



Thursday, October 18, 2018


I apologize for the long hiatus in posting something here.  There have been two reasons for this; I will address the second reason in the next post.

There is a lesson in this, expecially for us "seasoned" sailors...  listen up:

I have had arthritis in my spine for a long time; I am no stranger to back pain.  In fact, I have had two spinal fusions already, L4/L5 and L3/L4.  So, the back pain I was experiencing early this summer was not a surprise, just a slight intensification of what I normally feel.  With one exception:  sitting down immediately relieved the pain.  Why is that unusual?  Well (putting on my engineering hat), sitting down should have made very little difference if the pain was arthritic - since L3-L5 were fixed in position, sitting down would have made no difference to L2 and above - sitting or standing L2 and above bear just about exactly the same weight.  It was a mystery - one which I solved with Excedrin, all thru June and July.

We spent an idyllic month aboard Eolian, living at anchor in the San Juan Islands, moving very little, reading, and crabbing.  Trips to shore were only determined by the longevity of the wine supply.  Excedrin continued to hold the back pain at bay.

In August, things began to change.  First, I noticed that I was walking kind of "flat-footed"...  that is, the forward part of my foot and toes were slapping onto the ground and providing very little "lift off" when walking.  This was accompanied by excruciatingly tight calf muscles.  Weird.

And then one day I was unable to board Eolian, except by crawling aboard on my hands and knees.  OK, something was definitely going on here.

I left the marina and camped out in my primary care doctor's office until they managed to squeeze me in - the doctor examined me and immediately ordered an MRI, which I got a day later.  While this was happening, I managed to score an appointment with my favorite neurosurgeon down in Seattle.  Total time duration from requesting an appointment with my primary care doctor to the neurosurgeon appointment: two weeks - a miracle.  He examined me and my MRI, said "Holy cow!" (well not exactly...), and scheduled me for surgery 2 weeks later, the first opening in his schedule.

In those intervening two weeks I essentially lost the remaining use of my legs completely.

The MRI and then later the surgery revealed a synovial cyst growing and squeezing my spinal cord.  There were actually two cysts; only one shows in the MRI slice above.  The neurosurgeon managed to dissect the cysts off of the sheath of my spinal cord without tearing it and letting my cerebral-spinal fluid leak out.  He also fused the L2/L3 joint which will prevent future formation of cysts, and finally he replaced the disk for good measure.

So,  No boating blogs posts - in fact, no posts at all.  But that is changing - I am getting better every day, tho it will still be a while before I can once again board Eolian.

It is too bad that it is far more difficult to search for causes of symptoms on the Internet than searching for symptoms of causes.  A search for synovial cysts will produce results showing exactly my symptoms.

Here are the learnings I have from this experience:
  • Do not ignore persistent spinal pain, or hide it from yourself using Excedrin.
  • Spinal pain is nothing to take lightly.  TV ads for various devices are all well and good.  BUT see a doctor, get an MRI, and see a neurosurgeon - let him recommend a device, if that is appropriate.  Uninformed self-care can lead to a wheelchair.
  • If I had had single-payer health care like my neighbor who has waited an entire year to get an appointment with his VA doctor, I would now be a paraplegic.
  • Do NOT put off dealing with back pain!  The best case is that you will live for years with pain while only delaying the inevitable.  That's the best case.  The worst case is that you will become permanently crippled.
  • This was my third spinal fusion and my fourth spinal surgery.  I can say with personal experience that recovery from the surgery will take less than a month (about 2.5 weeks in this latest case).  Recovery of function will take longer, depending on how long you lived with the pain before the surgery.  See, living with the pain will cause you to curtail activities, and hold yourself in distorted positions in order to minimize the pain.  It will take you longer to unlearn/relearn and rebuild unused muscles than to recover from the surgery.  How much longer?  Well, that depends on how long you lived with the pain and avoided the surgery.
And most of all...
  • Life is NOT a dress rehearsal.  If you want to cruise or live aboard, MAKE IT HAPPEN, NOW.  Don't put it off... You never know when it will suddenly not be possible for you...


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Rigging Modern Anchors

If you have read this blog for any length of time, the name Drew Frye will be familiar to you.  If not, then I will tell you that Drew is an individual that takes nothing for granted.  For Drew, rules of thumb are fine, being derived from long experience handed down over the centuries, but  conclusions and rules derived from hard data are better. And Drew goes out and collects that data.

Bearing this in mind, know that Drew has written a book, based on hard data, about anchors and anchoring techniques.  Here is what he says about it:
"Working with a bricks and mortar publisher to get this in print has been a lengthy process for me, but well worth it. It encouraged me to dive far more deeply into the technical side than I might have for my own needs, and the result is the most technically detailed book on yacht anchoring written. And I don't feel I'm bragging unfairly. I simply did the work. [...] I spent years with a load cell, digging around in the mud. Hardly glamorous, but science is mostly about diligent work."

Rigging Modern Anchors

First print edition, 2018, by Seaworthy Press. About 156 pages.
I've been setting and trusting anchors with my life (climbing) and my boat (sailing) for 35 years. I've been testing and documenting anchor testing for 5 years, and I've spent the last two sifting, collating, and analyzing all that I have learned. The result, I believe, is a complete description of what is actually going on below the waves, not just descriptively or as oral history from an old salt, but with numerical back-up everywhere I could provided it. I hope it helps. I know I sleep better. From the back cover of the book:
“Rigging Modern Anchors” demystifies anchoring with today’s modern anchors. Through years of systematic testing, Drew Frye has produced a new benchmark of understanding based on empirical data instead of anecdotal wisdom, passed down from one sailor to the next without proof or deep understanding. In “Rigging Modern Anchors” we dig deeply into the how and why of anchoring, using hard numbers as our foundation.

Included are in-depth discussions of anchoring basics, loads, scope, and the effects of cyclical loading, soil consolidation and bottom characteristics on holding power. Special attention is given to problem bottoms such as very soft mud and rock. There are anchor-specific observations, discussions of tandem anchors and rigging methods, plus an extensive appendix containing test data, open source designs for bridle plates and anchor turners, strength and toughness for various chain types, anchor connector recommendations, anchor sizing guides and more.

Proper anchoring technique, rigging, and gear selection is vital to the safety of ship and crew. Instead of hoping your anchor and rigging scheme will hold, read “Rigging Modern Anchors” and be sure.

This book would fit nicely on any yacht's bookshelf, and would provide good reading evenings when the wind is howling outside...

If you have Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited, the book is available for free for a limited time!  Here's the link.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

How To: Shuck Oysters 

It has come to my attention that not everyone knows how to shuck oysters.  Like many things, it is not hard, but it does require the right tools.  I like this Oxo oyster knife - it is sturdy and has a slight curve up toward the flat side, which you probably can't see in the picture.  Sorry.  The back side has a reinforcing rib which makes it quite stiff and sturdy.

Oxo Oyster Knife

So grab an oyster.  Hold it with the hinge end (the thick, usually pointy end) towards you, and with the flat, or flatter side up.

Your snack awaits

Now, where to insert the knife?  Examine the edge of the oyster and you will see a zone, approximately half way between top and bottom, where the layers of the shell are very close together.  If you are lucky, you may see a dark band near the center. This is the junction between the lower and upper shells, and is not actually sealed. Instead the oyster is mightily holding the two shells together with its big muscle.

Where does the knife go in?

Nolw here's where you could get hurt.  Professional oyster shuckers (at an oyster bar, for example), frequently wear a chain mail glove on their left hand - you probably won't have that, so be *very careful*!

The moment of truth
Touch the knife, flat side up, to the junction between the lower and upper shells, about halfway between the tip of the shell and the hinge. Apply some pressure and twist the knife a little to help it penetrate the joint. Don't worry if you don't get exactly on the junction... the twisting motion will guide the knife tip to the junction. DON'T POKE YOURSELF IN THE LEFT HAND! If you're pushing really hard, you're doing it wrong. Twist more; push less.

Once you get the tip between the shells, swing the knife side to side while slowly pushing it in further, keeping the tip against the inside of the upper shell.  What you are trying to do is to cut the muscle that is holding the shells together.   It will be about midway across the oyster.  You'll know when you cut the muscle - suddenly there will be nothing holding the shells clamped shut.  Open carefully by twisting the knife, being careful not to spill the liquor inside, and be sure to scrape any meat off the under side of the upper shell.

Enjoy in your favorite way!

*No oysters were harmed in making this post - this was a re-enaction.  We ate them last nite...


Wednesday, August 22, 2018


It was a bucket list item.

Some of you may know that in my land-side life, I am kind of a gear head. So when my son, on the occasion of my still being alive after completing 70 trips around our local star, presented me with a trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats for Speed Week, I was ecstatic!

Just in case you're not up on this stuff, Bonneville is where the world's land speed records are set.

Sunrise on the salt

The place is surreal. It is a salt desert - a dried up sea. It is dead flat, for miles and miles, and yes it is salt...  just like on your table.  Clean white salt.

Now here's a weird thing... Tho it is hot (100°+ most days), there are patches of water showing here and there... water that is so saturated with salt that it is syrupy.  And there are patches of moist salt too.  So not all of the flats are suitable for automotive travel, let alone high speed runs.  Each year the course must be carefully surveyed to ensure that it is safe.

Later in the day, the umbrella was unfurled
For Speed Week, the salt flats are invaded and a city is created.  And aside from the vehicles that will be competing, there is another whole host of vehicles, many not street legal, running back and forth driven by some real characters.  Adam described it as "Burning Man, but with nitromethane."

The event is BIG.  The pit area was perhaps 3 miles long and 5 rows deep.  The course itself is 10 miles long.  In fact, it is so long that it is not possible to see from one end to the other because of the curvature of the Earth.  There are timing traps on the first 5 miles of the course; the second five miles are for deceleration.

Six courses

Actually, there are six courses.  Why so many?  Well, first of all, this is one of very few venues of this type worldwide, so there is a lot of demand.  Second, there are classes for any type of vehicle you can imagine, and not all of them need 10 miles to reach their top speed.  For example, on one of the short courses a competitor on a 50cc Honda step-thru motorcycle turned in a blistering run at 58 mph.

Oh, and by the way, this event is all about breaking records.  There are no second place finishes.  If you don't break the previous record for your class, you fail to qualify for a second timed run (two runs are averaged to make the official speed).  The 50cc Honda failed to qualify - the previous record was 62 mph.

I have been to a lot of car shows and swap meets.  One of the joys of these events is the sound of a guy firing up a big V8 - something you hear fairly frequently.  But here it was an entirely different vibe.  Here when an engine was fired up (and there were lots of them!), it wasn't for show - it was for tuning or to warm it up.  In other words, it was serious business.  And something else - a lot of these engines were running on fuel, not gasoline.  An entirely different, sharper, exhaust note.

Some might want to make a comparison to drag racing.  Well, we talked to a drag racer who was there; he was just as awed as we were.  The fastest he’d ever driven was 180 mph...  there were cars here going more than twice that fast. More, a drag racer's engine only has to run for a few seconds, and then typically gets completely rebuilt after each run.  Most drag racing engines don't even have cooling systems.  The requirements here are far different.

An observation:  all the really serious cars here had rudders.  When your speed is above 200 mph, aerodynamics are extremely important.  When you are above 400 mph, they are everything.

Even the Jag gets fitted with a rudder

The Carbiliner - we called it the spaceship

A Lakester

A streamliner being transported to the starting line


Those are drag chutes in the tubes under the rudder


Finally, a video of a 300+ mph run. I'm sorry that it is so zoomed out - because of the bright sun on the salt, I couldn't see the screen on my phone so I left it zoomed all the way out and just tried to keep it pointed in the general direction of the car. Even this was difficult... remember that curvature of the Earth thing. You'd be looking back toward the starting line, trying to see something moving. Mirages made this difficult. and then you'd see, maybe, a dot. And then it would be past you in a flash if it was a 450+ mph run, turning back into a dot. I had a better chance at capturing a slower run...


Monday, July 30, 2018

A Tale Of Two Tread Plates

A year later

Some of you out there may recall an experiment I started a year ago - using benzalconium chloride (BAC) as a teak treatment.  Well, here are the two tread plates after a year of exposure and neglect.

Clearly, the BAC made a huge difference - the untreated plate on the left still has algae and lichen growing in the low spots and pores in the wood.  The treated tread plate on the right is free of these pests, except at the very top, where I probably didn't get a full dose of BAC applied.


This was so successful that I just completed spraying our teak rub rails with BAC - these are being fully colonized by the same characters, especially where the rain water from the deck scuppers drains on them - in those places, the lichen has completely covered the wood.  In fact, the coverage is so complete there that I will probably have to reapply BAC, since most of what I applied probably never made it thru to the wood.

Where you can easily obtain BAC?  See my first post on this handy material.


Monday, July 23, 2018

Adam’s First Law

Adam’s First Law:
All tools are hammers.
Except screwdrivers - screwdrivers are chisels. 

(See also: Salnick’s First Law
                Salnick’s Second Law
                Salnick’s Third Law)


Monday, July 16, 2018

Salnick’s Third Law

Salnick’s Third Law:

There is no better way to say “I’m retired “
“Morning beer.“

(See also: Salnick’s First Law
               Salnick’s Second Law
               Salnick’s Fourth Law
               Adam’s First Law)


Monday, July 9, 2018

Salnick’s Second Law

Salnick’s Second Law:

Nobody ever slept poorly because their anchor was too big.

(See also: Salnick’s First Law
               Salnick’s Third Law
               Salnick’s Fourth Law
               Adam’s First Law)


Monday, July 2, 2018

Dickenson Heater Maintenance

Dickenson Diesel-fired Heater
Have one of these?

Is the flame getting smaller and smaller over the years?

If so, eventually it will need to be cleaned - estimated MTB cleanings is about 15 years.  Diesel fuel is not quite free of ash - so ash will accumulate in the pot.  But more importantly, the diesel cokes out from the heat of the burner, leaving behind deposits of carbon.  These accumulate in the bottom of the pot.

But even more importantly than that, the carbon also accumulates in the fuel entrance to the pot, at its center bottom.  The feed from the float tank to the pot is strictly by gravity, with the head driving the flow only a couple of inches...  it doesn't take much to significantly decrease the flow when there is only this tiny pressure to drive it.
Thankfully, Dickenson anticipated this, and provided an easy port for cleaning.

If you look at the fitting where the diesel enters the pot (look from the bottom of the heater), you will see that instead of an elbow (which would have sufficed), Dickenson used a tee.  If you remove the plug from the bottom of the tee (watch out, some diesel will escape - have a container under the fitting when you remove the plug), you will find that you can push a typical Phillips screwdriver up thru the tee and into the pot.  This will clear out any coked out diesel or ash that has accumulated in the feed and entrance to the pot.

Next, you should also remove the copper pipe which leads from the float tank to the tee and clean it - some carbon may either have accumulated in it where it attaches to the tee, or may have been pushed into the pipe when the screwdriver was used to clean out the tee.

(Yeah, I know I am talking about heater maintenance in July, but: PNW)


Monday, June 25, 2018

Dodger? Why Not?

If you take a walk down any given dock here in the PNW, you will notice that virtually all the sailboats over about 30 feet long will have dodgers (except racing boats of course, but they are a different breed).  And except for a few obviously home-made ones, they are constructed of stainless tubing and canvas.

Have you asked yourself, "Why is this?"  I have.

They are made from stainless tubing and canvas because that is what the aftermarket can most easily produce to custom fit the broad variety of boats.  But these dodgers are not particularly sturdy and the canvas ages out over a decade or so.  And they are all add-ons, and they look it.

Why are these apparently universally desirable items left to the aftermarket to produce?  Why don't the boat manufacturers produce boats with designed-in, molded-in fiberglass dodgers?  If sailboats were cars, the auto manufacturers would be selling them without windshields.  And the aftermarket would be producing vinyl windshields that slowly decayed in the weather.

Question to my readers:  I have been in other parts of the coastal US but wasn't paying attention to the dodger issue.  Is this a universal trend in both temperate and tropical climates?  (I am virtually certain that all ocean-going cruising sailboats have dodgers.)

So. here's the challenge that I issue to Catalina, Hunter, Beneteau, Jeanneau, Morris, Hinkley, etc:
Design and produce sailboat decks with graceful, proportional, integral, fiberglass dodgers.  Dodgers that don't look like clumsy add-ons.
If not on all the boats you sell, then at least offer dodgers as an option.  If you don't try to price gouge on the dodger option, I think you will see that almost all the boats you sell will be ordered with the dodger option.

Come on.  I dare you.

Here's an example that anchored next to us today...  Doesn't that look nice?


Monday, June 18, 2018

Destination: Westcott/Garrison Bays, San Juan Island

So near, and yet so far. That's an apt description of Garrison and Westcott Bays.

Roche Harbor on the northwestern tip of San Juan Island is a busy place. Boats and huge yachts coming and going all the time, many holding position while they are assigned space at the docks, sea planes coming and going nearly continuously thru the day. Dinghies buzzing back and forth. And then there is that Retirement of the Colors Ceremony that is conducted every night at sunset.

Yet in the twin bays just the other side of a spit of land, there is peace and quiet.

Yes, the bays are shallow, but not too shallow.  In the chart above, the depth contours are the 1, 2, and 3 fathom lines...  there is plenty of depth for most boats to anchor, tho you should probably not try to go behind Guss Island.

(That's Roche Harbor at the top of the chart)

You will reach the twin bays thru a narrow passage that opens off of Mosquito Pass (Mosquito Pass leads from the south end of Roche Harbor to the Strait of Juan de Fuca).  Mosquito Pass is a little tricky - you will want to pay attention to your chartplootter and depth sounder while navigating it.  Turn left (east) after passing red Buoy '6' and enter the narrow channel, again watching your plotter and sounder.  Anchoring is good on a mud bottom, but the north shore of Garrison Bay near Bell Point is infested with kelp.  And do pay attention, there is a shoal extending from Bell Point a surprising distance to the northwest.  Because of the contours of the surrounding land, the bays are very well-protected from winds, even from the southwest, which you might not expect.

The formal garden at English Camp

On the northern shore of Garrison Bay is English Camp, a National Park containing the preserved buildings remaining from the English occupation of San Juan Island (1860 - 1872).  Well worth your time for a visit - let your imagination range back a century and a half and try to imagine how things were then, before Kaiser Wilhelm I arbitrated a settlement between Britain and the United States as to where the national boundary would run thru the archipelago.

BBQ'd oysters
Those are baby oysters he is showing me

In Westcott Bay there is the Westcott Bay Shellfish Company (dotted rectangle), a working oyster farm that supplies much of Puget Sound with these shellfish delights.  They also have a casual food service featuring their oysters, clams and mussels.  But if you want to partake, be sure that you arrive before 16:00, when they shut down the outdoor kitchen.  Take the time to talk to the folks running the operation - they take their work seriously, are very friendly, and will be happy to educate you on the process of shellfish farming.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018


It was a blustery morning in Blind Bay - winds gusting to 17 kt out of the SW, and Eolian yawing back and forth on her anchor.  Our destination for the day was either Roche Harbor or Westcott Bay, depending...

Wasp Passage was even more blustery, with the wind changing from nearly zero up to 20 kt in the space of just a few feet, as it tested and found narrow little passages between the islands, or as the rotors formed by it skimming over the tops of the trees brushed the water.  Despite this, we did manage to get the mizzen up in a prolonged (ha!) calm spell.

But when we exited into San Juan Channel, we got the full brunt of it.  Given that the wind was forecast to be from the SW, and that we had indeed seen it from the SW in Blind Bay, I anticipated that we would have a reach (of some kind) in San Juan Channel, and indeed we did - 18 kt gusting into the high 20s, and not warm - temps in the 50s.  We raised the staysail which gave us a balanced rig, but Eolian seemed to be struggling some in the lulls.  So we put up the mainsail.  With this, we were making 5.5-6.5 kt thru the water - a comfortable speed.  But the mainsail added too much sail aft of the center of drag, and in the gusts Eolian wanted to round up - no, demanded to round up.  There was too much wind to fly the yankee, so we just tolerated the weather helm and proceeded up and into Spieden Channel.  In retrospect we should have dropped the mizzen - that would have moved the center of effort forward and paradoxically would have speeded us up, since I wouldn't have had to hold the rudder so far over to keep us off the wind and on course.

In the weird way of the winds in the San Juan Islands, when we entered Spieden Channel the wind veered around until we were sailing close hauled, at least part of the time.  We had to constantly fiddle with the sails between a beam reach, close reach, and close hauled tho our course remained constant at 270°.

Finally we reached the point where we could make the left turn into Roche Harbor.  Taking the sails down in that kind of wind is never easy, but we got it done.

Motoring into Roche Harbor, we continued to see wind speeds continuously in the 20s.  We toyed with the idea of just anchoring there - it had been a long, tiring day, and the attraction of being at anchor was powerful.  But Roche was not protected.  Tho there were no waves, the water was black with the wind everywhere.  This is where the 'depends...' came in.

We had talked about going to Westcott Bay or Garrison Bay as a destination this morning, and really, could it be any worse than Roche Harbor?  There should have been some protection from the contour of the land, and perhaps the wind would be thwarted some.  These bays are fairly large, but are shallow, meaning that anchorage available to Eolian would be limited.  And they are popular.  We had visited here one other time and the bays were packed shore to shore with boats.  Today however, there were no AIS signatures appearing in either bay.

Motoring directly into the teeth of the 25-30 kt wind howling down narrow, winding Mosquito Pass was not encouraging by any stretch.  I decided to give Westcott/Garrison a chance, but that we would probably have to turn around in there and go back to Roche.  At least that would be a downwind jaunt.

Miracle of miracles!  Almost as soon as we entered the narrow little cut into the twin bays, the wind dropped down to single digits -  I even think I heard angels singing...

We put the anchor down in the narrow channel of deep enough water in Westcott Bay, and began to unwind.  For us, today, Westcott Bay was the very definition of the word 'refuge'.



Monday, June 11, 2018

How To Make: Clotted Cream

Clotted cream.

That has a vaguely unsavory sound about it.  If you are like me, you may have heard of it in some British novel or story - Downton Abbey perhaps.  And you may have imagined something like sour cream...  but how would that go with high tea?

Well, let me assure you, it is not sour cream.  Instead it is a buttery, nutty, caramelly substance that is wonderful when spread on biscuits, pound cake, etc.

I had never had it until I decided to make it just to see what it was.

It is trivially easy.  Here is the recipe:
  • Pour heavy cream in an oven safe dish.  It should be big enough so that the cream makes a layer 1-1.5" deep.
  • Put it in a 180° oven for 12 hours - over night works well.
  • Cool, and then refrigerate.
  • Scrape the clotted cream off of the milk-like layer below.  It will be a little like scraping ice cream off of a layer of milk.  There will be a golden brown crust - include it; it will soften when stored with the remainder and add flavor.

That's it.

Could it be any simpler?  The only catch is that you cannot use ultra-pasteurized cream (it's already been cooked).

Try it - you're in for a really special treat!


Monday, June 4, 2018

Hypervent Alternative

Some boats have a problem with condensation accumulating under the mattress in their berths (for some reason, we don't see this on Eolian... I don't know why).  There are several products offered to address this problem, but they all seem to have the "marine tax" assessed on them.

I recently received this tip from a fellow boater that addresses this very issue and thought I'd pass it along:

As you know we are now living on our boat. The Vberth is our berth of choice but it suffered mightily from condensation under the mattress. We considered Hypervent , $9.69 a linear foot from Defender, 39 inch wide roll, and found it was sold here for $19.99 per square foot. Simple math says this is not a frugal choice. Then we found Keene's Driwall tm, a product used by the building trades to prevent rot and water penetration behind brick ( or similar) wall facing. $179 for 4 foot wide 45 foot roll, immediately a $90 saving even if you have 37 feet left over(it was only sold by the roll, no cutting). I managed to find an 8 foot piece from a builder friend of mine and we installed it. Success! No condensation and dry bedding. Total cost $0, even if I had to pay for it the total cost would have been under $30. Please pass this on to your more frugal readers.

SV In The Mood

(I suspect all my readers are frugal...)


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Crowd-Sourced Bathymetry Is A Reality!

I've written about this before here, and here.  But now...

It is a reality!

Today, NOAA announced the end of testing phase in the development of a new crowdsourced bathymetry database!

And some of the first application of data is of interest to PNW boaters - the Canadian Hydrographic Service used this dataset to update several charts of the Inside Passage!


Saturday, May 26, 2018


Blind Bay peace
It's later than many years, but we are, finally, off the dock.  I am typing this at anchor in Blind Bay, one of our favorite anchorages.  It is another wonderful, sunny, quiet day here.  In order to get here tho, this list had to be accomplished:

  • Change the oil in the main engine
  • Change the pencil zinc in the main engine heat exchanger
  • Change the oil in the genset
  • Top up the water in the batteries
  • Locate, acquire and install a replacement fitting for the main engine expansion tank.  It seems like most years there is a major winter project - this was this year's.
  • Dive on the prop and clean it; change the prop nut zinc
  • Clean up the dinghy from the winter
  • Clean up the boat from the winter
  • Remove and store the extra "winter" fenders and lines that we install to weather the winter storms
  • Fill the water tanks (300 gal)
  • Check the fuel (we're good - both are half full)
  • Test the anchor windlass
  • Check the dinghy motor fuel
  • Reinstall and test the dinghy motor
Oops... Tho we had all winter to do it...

Typically, we remove the dinghy outboard and store it in my shop over the winter.  And then getting ready for the season, I clean it up, paint the rusty spots and test run it.  But this season?  Well, I never seem to have gotten around to taking the motor home.

When I tried to start the dinghy outboard, it was dead.  A preliminary investigation showed that there was no spark.  Installing a new spark plug didn't fix it, leading to pretty much the only other likely conclusion: the points in the magneto are fouled.  To get at them, the flywheel must be removed.  Tho I have a lot of tools aboard, I don't have what it would take to do that.

So: decision time... do we go even tho we don't have a functioning motor on the dinghy?  Well of course!

So here we are, peacefully at anchor, with a rowing dinghy!  And tomorrow we will fulfill our annual tradition of listening to the Indy 500 at anchor.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Runaway Starter

Starter motors are not designed for continuous service - they are not provided with any cooling capabilities.  This is because the design expectation is that they will see only intermittent service.  They are high-current, high-power devices however, especially the ones that are expected to crank diesel high-compression engines.  Now hold that thought...

A recent discussion on The Retirement Project bears review here.  It seems that when TJ went to start his engine, the engine start push button stuck, leaving the starter motor running continuously after the diesel had started.  Because of the lack of cooling, a runaway starter motor is a serious problem - aside from destroying the starter, a fire could result.

I recall an incident where a young woman pulled into a gas station where I was refueling my car, and proceeded to fuel hers.  Her starter motor was running, after she shut down her engine (presumably it had been running since she started her car...).  Running, but running poorly - the heat buildup had caused the armature to swell and it was dragging on the field poles, creating more demand for electricity and even more heat.  I opened her hood and found the battery lead to be red hot, smoking, with all the insulation burned off.  Remember, this was at a gas station, where this car (and mine!) were actively taking on fuel.  I shut off the fuel feeds to both cars and then used a tire iron to break the red-hot wire (easy - copper is soft when it is red hot).  The cause?  Welded contacts in the starter solenoid.

One time when driving (I was 17 at the time) my father's 1959 Oldsmobile, the same thing happened to me.  Again, the tool of choice was a tire iron, and I used it to try to pry the battery connection off of the battery.  And failed.  Instead, the post and part of the battery plates came out of the top of the battery, complete with plenty of sparks and acid.  In retrospect, it is lucky I didn't get to experience a hydrogen explosion.  Again:  the cause was welded starter solenoid contacts.

I guess it is not surprising that this happens - these contacts carry prodigious current - 75 - 100 amps in a car engine and more for a diesel, and are connected to a very inductive load.  When they are asked to open, the magnetic field in the starter collapses, boosting the voltage at the contacts, keeping the current flowing for an instant even tho the contacts are open: an arc occurs.  Most of the time, the contacts continue to open, extinguishing the arc.  But if the contacts are already damaged from arcing, the arc gets a head start because the contacts are already hot...

In TJ's case above, the cause was not welded contacts in the starter solenoid, but rather a stuck starter button.  But in my experience, this is much rarer than welded contacts in the starter solenoid.  Regardless of the cause however, the remedy to a runaway starter is the same:  Disconnect the battery.

Easier said than done.

All cars, and almost all boats have a hard-wired connection between the battery and the starter.  In boats, the usual case is that that "Off-1-Both-2" battery switch is only carrying the house loads - the starter is hard-wired.

I believe that this is a pretty serious safety hazard.

Blue Seas M-Series Mini Selector Battery Switch
Those big battery switches can easily carry the starter current load.  Even the smallest ones have tremendous current carrying capabilities. Here's a mini Blue Seas one:
  • Cranking Rating: 10 sec. 1,500 Amps
  • Intermittent Rating: 5 min. 500 Amps
  • Continuous Rating: 300 Amps
For comparison, cranking Eolian's starter (Perkins 4-236 diesel) draws 200 amps - I know this because everything on Eolian goes thru the shunt for our Link2000 monitor. And everything also goes thru the battery switch on the power panel. Including the starter.  I can't take credit for this - Downeast (Eolian's manufacturer) built her this way.

If the starter on your boat does not go thru a battery switch (or THE battery switch), I'd sure try to find a way to make it so...


Monday, May 7, 2018

Expansion & Bubbles

Everything gets bigger when you heat it.  Fact of the universe.
Water is one of "everything", so when your engine warms up, the cooling water in it gets bigger - it expands.

In older cars, space was left at the top of the radiator for the water to expand into.  In newer cars, the radiator is filled to the brim, and there is an external expansion tank.  There is always one somewhere in the system - there has to be.

Expansion tank on Eolian's engine
It is no different for boat engines.  But.  No radiator, no expansion space in the radiator.  But there has to be an expansion space somewhere in the system.  Right?

OK, now second thought:  air bubbles.  Where do they collect?  Yup, you got it in one - at the highest point in the system, eventually.  In a car, we're back to that space in the radiator.  It's easy to replace the air bubbles in the system with more coolant if they collect in the expansion tank.  It's a good combination of uses.  And in any modern car, the expansion tank or exit to the external reservoir is at the highest point in the system.

Ah, but in a boat.  In a boat, the "radiator" (there isn't one - it's a heat exchanger instead) is unlikely to be the highest point in the system...  Do you have a water heater that gets its heat from engine cooling water?  I'll bet it is mounted considerably higher than the engine.  How about a Red Dot heater (Eolian has both)?  Same question.  So where do the inevitable air bubbles accumulate?

Well, at the highest point in the system.  Always.  On Eolian, that was the water heater.  So, guess how effective the heater was, given that the hot water coils were filled mostly with air?  Yeah, not so much.

Expansion tank, above the water heater

It's been years now, but I installed an auxiliary expansion tank/reservoir at the inlet for the engine cooling water at the water heater.  And collected a lot of air in it.  The expansion tank on the engine simply got filled completely with water - an ineffective and irrelevant (and now removed) bulge in the system.  I put a 14 lb radiator cap on the engine expansion tank, and moved the original 7 lb cap to the auxiliary expansion tank by the water heater.  That way the cap on the engine would never release, and the one on the auxiliary tank would.

Big change in water heater efficiency!

So where do the air bubbles in your engine cooling system accumulate?


Monday, April 30, 2018

Fresh Homemade Pasta

You like pasta?

Well, you'll like fresh homemade pasta even more.

Is it hard?  NO!

Marcato Atlas pasta machine
You will need a pasta machine - if you're on a boat, a hand cranked one is ideal.

Then all you need is flour, water, eggs, and salt.

Makes approximately 1 lb of pasta:
  • 365 grams flour
  • 8 grams salt
  • 2 eggs + water to make 181 grams of liquid
Why am I weighing things instead of following the more usual (American) standard of volume measure?  Well, because flour packs considerably, so the actual amount of flour you dump into your mixing bowl depends dramatically on how you packed it into the measuring cup.  And this is a recipe that is very sensitive to moisture content:  Too much and the pasta sticks to the rollers and cannot be successfully slit.  Too little and you simply cannot roll it.  So, get a scale and weigh the ingredients.

Mix with a fork, then by hand, and finally kneading on the counter until all the flour is incorporated.

Roll out into a log of roughly uniform diameter and cut into 6 equal pieces.

The initial passes thru the pasta machine are simply a continuation of the mixing, but in a shear regime that you cannot reach by hand.  Roll at position 1, fold, roll again.  Do this until all the unevenness in texture is gone.

Fold and roll again at position 3 (yeah, you can skip 2)

Roll again at position 4 (do not fold)

Roll again at position 5 (do not fold)

Hang each of the resulting pasta sheets on a rack to dry slightly.

Move the crank to the slitter portion of the pasta machine.  Slit each pasta sheet and hang the resulting noodles back on the rack, using a long spoon handle to capture and transfer the noodles.

Take the time to separate the noodles on the rack so that they don't stick together.

You can cook the noodles immediately in boiling water, or let them dry over night, or split the batch and do both.  The dry noodles will keep more or less indefinitely, but take considerably longer to cook than the fresh ones.

Trust me, it is so easy and so tasty that you'll never go back to store-bought pasta!


Monday, April 23, 2018

Only One Expansion Tank Now

(Part one of this story is here.)

Like with so many things,the preparation for this task far outweighed its actual execution.

Corroding cast aluminum expansion tank

There are only 4 bolts that hold the expansion tank on the engine, and they do not protrude into the water passage.  This means that they were not rusted or corroded - they were easily removed.  Loosening the hose clamp attaching the tank to the heat exchanger, and the tank was easily lifted out of position.  Far less work than I anticipated.

It's out!

...and the corrosion is worse than I knew

It turns out that the worst of the corrosion was at the hose attachment spud.  It was so bad here that I fear that I could knock off that spud with a sharp blow.  Good to get this failure point off the boat.

In an earlier post, I detailed the time and effort spent in trying to find a replacement fitting that would serve as a thermostat housing and provide a connection to the heat exchanger.  That search satisfied, I thought I was out of the woods.

Not so much.

Since I was in there, I know that my son would chide me if I did not replace the 40-year old thermostat.  So I started a search for a thermostat for a Perkins 4-236, 160°F.  Well it turns out that none of the diesel supply houses in Anacortes could provide one corresponding to the part number in my engine manual.  Or even in a cross-reference manual.

I thought that the thermostat looked very familiar. The one oddball thing was this little device:

Jiggle pin

I told you I did deep research...  In typically British fashion, it is called a "Jiggle Pin."  Its function is to allow air bubbles trapped below the thermostat to pass thru it when the engine is not running.  When there is water flow, the jiggle pin moves up and blocks the hole, stopping water from bypassing the thermostat.  A nice feature, but not strictly necessary, since once the thermostat opens, there is free passage for bubbles, which will then accumulate in the highest point in the cooling system.

I did find some Perkins thermostats.  In England.  For $50, not including shipping.

So I went to my local NAPA store.  I LOVE NAPA!!  No pimply-faced kid behind the counter that can't do anything without the computer (you should see their faces when I answer their question, "What kind of car is this from?" with "It's a Downeast 45 sailboat with a Perkins 4-236 diesel...  they are paralyzed) - experienced countermen who know engines.  I showed the thermostat to the counterman, and allowed as how it sure looked like one for a small block Chevy engine...  he went and got one off the shelf and with his calipers we compared the Perkins and Chevy thermostats.  Yup, the $8 Chevy thermostat is a drop-in replacement, tho without the (not strictly necessary) jiggle pin.

And then the second, and harder problem:  I needed a 1.5" hose that had one end expanded to 1.75" to fit over my new fitting.  And it had to have a right angle bend right past the expansion.  And a straight section at least 8" long to reach the heat exchanger.  Try searching for that on line!  The NAPA counterman took me into the hose room and gave me his calipers and left me to search.  It took me two minutes to find a suitable hose, a NAPA 8349.

What's left of the hose after I cut off the part I needed.  There are still a couple of useful bends there...

So, thanks to NAPA, in the space of 15 minutes I had solved both the thermostat and hose problems and was on my way back to the boat.  Can I say it again?  I LOVE NAPA!!


I ran the engine until it was hot, the thermostat opened, and the bubbles had accumulated in the expansion tank.  Job done!

Expansion tank, higher than the water heater


Monday, April 16, 2018

Ricotta, Again.

Milk is one of those strange products...  apparently they really, REALLY want you to buy it in gallon jugs.  Oh, they'll sell it to you in 1/2 gallon jugs, but for only a few cents less than the gallon jug.

So, being the frugal person that I am, I always buy the gallon jug,  even tho Jane and I frequently don't make it thru the gallon before it starts to get "strong".  Maybe "stubborn" is a better description for a person who refuses to buy the smaller container even tho it fits his purposes perfectly.

And then recently I had a thought, "I wonder if 'old' milk would make acceptable ricotta?"

And delightfully, the answer is a resounding YES!

So, now instead of it being a rare event, I make ricotta at the end of nearly every jug of milk, adding enough from the new jug to make up the difference, because usually there is not enough for a full batch left in the old jug.

And this frequency has led to some experimentation.  First, while ricotta can be made with just about any food acid (lemon juice, vinegar, etc), we like the flavor and texture of that made using buttermilk best.

Second, always add some salt to the curds as you are scooping them out into the cheesecloth to drain.  A little salt really improves the flavor.

Third, try using garlic salt instead of plain salt - it is a delightful addition to the ricotta.

Or try adding finely chopped fresh herbs to the ricotta for another delightful variation.

And since Jane always seems to have a container of heavy cream in the refrigerator, I tried substituting cream for some of the milk.  And here's where I learned something else...  Jane usually buys the "Ultra Pasteurized" variety because it keeps so well.  But as it turns out, the ultra-pasteurization process heats the dairy product to a higher temperature than regular pasteurization, making it unsuitable for cheese making:  it will not form curds.  At all.

My first attempt at cream-enhanced ricotta, substituting a full cup of cream,  produced a cheese that was way too "moist".  In fact, you couldn't really spread it on a cracker - more like you needed to use a spoon.

But problems are often a boon in disguise.  I have found that the ultra-pasteurized cream can be used in making ricotta - as a moistening agent.  But just not so much.  At a level of 1/4 cup in a batch, it produces a ricotta that is delightfully moist and rich.


Monday, April 9, 2018

Easter Egg Hunt

Perkins 4-236 Expansion Tank

Eolian has a diesel engine, a Perkins 4-236.   Because this is a marine installation, there is no radiator (instead there is a heat exchanger), and therefore no expansion space in the radiator.  For the marine installation, Perkins created a cast aluminum tank to provide the expansion space.

Tho the engine is still in its prime, the tank is failing (galvanic corrosion because it is in contact with steel?  Probably.)

One more lead-in:  An expansion tank should be the high point in the system, so that bubbles and air trapped in the system accumulate there.  But Eolian has an engine-heated water heater which is mounted above the engine, making it the high point in the system.  Long ago I added an after market expansion tank at the water heater engine cooling water inlet, so that we would not accumulate a big air bubble in the water heater, drastically reducing its heating capacity.  Eolian does not need the expansion tank on the engine.

So the fix to the failing expansion tank is simple, right?  Just remove the tank.

Not so fast.  The expansion tank traps the engine thermostat against the casting it is mounted to.  With the tank removed, we will need something else to hold the thermostat in place, and provide a connection for the 1.5" hose that carries the water from the engine to the heat exchanger.

My first thought was to contact our local diesel engine supply house, looking for a Perkins part to bolt on in place of the tank to do just that.  No luck.  Apparently Perkins made that special water outlet casting (which bolts onto the front of the head making a right angle turn upward and providing a four-bolt mounting for the thermostat and the tank), just for use with the expansion tank.  It seems that all other non-marine installations have only a two-bolt mounting pad for a standard water neck/radiator hose connection.

I considered just making a flat plate that gets bolted onto the platform to trap the thermostat, and then drilling it to accept a standard small block Chevy water neck.  I am still considering this option.

But wait...  What do you mean non-marine Perkins installations?  Where else are Perkins 4-236 engines used?  Very little research revealed that the Perkins 4-236 may have been the almost-universal industrial small diesel:

  • Taxi cabs
  • Fork lifts (Hyster)
  • Towed air compressors
  • Towed welders (Lincoln)
  • Industrial tow vehicles, eg luggage tow trucks on runway ramps (Clark)
  • Farm tractors (Massey)
  • ... and more
Water outlet casting, thermostat, and water neck
For all these other installations, it turns out that Perkins made a whole host of water outlet casting and water neck combinations, with the resulting water flow directed to the left hand side of the engine, straight ahead, straight up, to the right, and several angles in between.

Wonderful!  A whole new universe of possibilities has opened up!

I contacted my brother-in-law back in Indiana (thanks Tom!) who is an antique tractor collector, and he provided me with several contacts for Massey tractor salvage yards, many of which provided additional contacts...  you know how this goes.  Almost everyone I talked to was very friendly and curious about my problem ("Did you say the engine is mounted in a boat??").  Finally, I found that Massey (tractors) part no. 37762701 would provide me with a water outlet facing forward, and to which I could (hopefully...) bolt a Chevrolet small block water neck.  This part is available new for a cost ranging from £19, $57, to $295 depending on where you look.
Massey 37762701
But I continued the search, this time starting with Lincoln welders, which also used the Perkins 4-236 engine.  In the way of the Internet, that led me hither and yon, but surprisingly, I ended up on a forum where boat owners with 4-236 engines were discussing using JBWeld to repair failing expansion tanks.  And one of the posters mentioned Trans Atlantic Diesels, and that they sold a number of parts that addressed exactly the problem of failing expansion tanks on Perkins diesels.  One of the solutions they sell is a combination expansion tank, exhaust manifold and heat exchanger, made by Bowman.  This was more than I wanted or needed (I've already replaced the heat exchanger with a Monel one, and replaced the exhaust manifold with a stainless steel one), but that forum poster also mentioned that supplied with this kit was a part that bolted directly onto the existing water outlet, trapping the thermostat and providing a hose outlet going to the right side of the engine...

Oh. My. Gosh.  This is exactly what I started out looking for originally!  So I called them.  You'll want to talk to Sheri Alexander - she is by far the most knowledgeable about Perkins engines, and in particular the marine versions, of anyone that I have talked to in this long journey.  Yup, they have such a thing!  But the one they sell with the Bowman  unit is designed for 2" hose, and my setup uses 1.5" hose...  Sherrie said they'd fabricate one for me with the 1.5" outlet for no additional charge!  And when I called back to provide the Perkins part number for my thermostat, she was already downstairs talking to the fabrication shop!

The Easter egg hunt is over.  The second part of the story, the actual removal of the expansion tank and installation of the new water neck/thermostat housing, is here.

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