Sunday, December 29, 2019

Water Heater Safety

Do you have a water heater on your boat?

Here’s a fact that you probably know, but which has direct bearing on the question:

Virtually everything gets bigger when heated

And of course this includes the water in your water heater.  Why is this an issue?  Well, because on a boat, the water heater is in a closed system.  There is nowhere for the expanding water to go because the check valves in your water pressure pump do not allow backflow to the water tank.

The pressure that expanding water can build is tremendous - two to four atmospheres per degree centigrade.  With a 100 degree temperature rise, this is easily enough to rupture the water heater tank if it is not released in some way.  In your onboard plumbing system, there are only three ways that pressure is relieved:
  • The pressure relief valve on the water heater opens (never remove or defeat this!)
  • The entire plumbing system swells/expands to accommodate the additional volume
  • Something breaks
In a seemingly unrelated fact, most boats with pressurized water systems also have a "surge" tank (aka "pulse dampening" tank, etc) to smooth out the water pump running cycle.  The idea here is that this tank, with its enclosed air bladder, will fill with water when the pump runs, compressing the bladder.  When the pump reaches its shutoff pressure, the air bladder in the tank will force water out into the system when a valve is opened, eliminating the need for the pump to run, for awhile.

How this bears on water heater safety is this:  that surge tank also acts as an expansion tank.  As the water heater heats up its water, the expansion is accommodated by compressing the air bladder in the surge tank a little more.  Problem solved.

More and more municipalities are installing "backflow preventers" (aka check valves) on water lines entering houses, in an abundance of caution to prevent water that has been in household plumbing from re-entering the city’s supply.  This has made all water systems in these municipalities into closed systems, with nowhere for the expansion in the water heater to go.  Because of this, the market has ginned up, and there are now available a host of water heater expansion tanks.  Even the smallest of these (2 gallons) is more than adequate to serve as an expansion tank, flow smoother and rapid pump cycling preventer tank on any boat.  And they cost far, far less than the tiny pump cycle tanks sold at marine stores.  They should fit just about anywhere, with dimensions approximately 8" dia by 12" tall.

Installation is a snap:  Put a tee in your pump output water line, the closer to the pump the better.  And then hook up the side arm of the tee to the tank.  Some tank manufacturers give instruction about how the tank should be oriented for mounting, but I cannot see how this matters.  Perhaps someone out there will explain to me why this is important.

If you have a water heater but no expansion tank/pump cycle tank, you should install one.  It could save your fresh water plumbing.


Saturday, December 7, 2019

A Rude Awakening 

A couple of days ago we were awakened at 02:45 by the sound of a river otter's claws scrabbling on our deck, almost directly over our heads.

Those who have not had close encounters with these creatures find them cute, playful and adorable.  The reality is far, far different.  These are disgusting, destructive animals.  In this marina a couple of years ago, the otters gained access to a large boat and moved aboard.  By the time the owners discovered this, they had deposited more than 50 gallons of feces everywhere inside and chewed cushions, furniture and wiring.  The boat was a total write-off.  They seem to especially like lines attached to and coiled on a cleat to use for family toilets, making releasing your docklines a most disgusting chore. 

As for our unwanted boarder, Jane scared it off with a screech the likes of which have not been heard by the living or the dead. *Splash*  It was gone (and I was trembling).

These are creatures of habit.  Once they have adopted a cleat as a toilet, a dinghy as a place to raise their young, or a finger pier as a place to eat their prey, they keep coming back, attracted by the odors of their previous visits, and perhaps by habit.  So, getting rid of them involves breaking a habit, and removing that odor that we find so disgusting and they feel has a homey feel.

We have taken a multi-prong approach.
  • First, I should note that our freeboard is much too high for the otters to be able to board from the water.  Nevertheless, once they have reached the finger pier, it is an easy hop, skip, and jump up our dock steps and then to bridge the gap to our deck.  So, as our first deterrent, we suspended an aluminum muffin tin off of our lifeline gate, directly over the boarding position. 
    Shiny, moving.  Maybe it will work, maybe not - these are clever creatures.  But it was all we had initially.
  • Working on the odor issue, we carefully hosed off all the feces on our finger pier and our cleats.
  • Next, we bought a garden sprayer and a gallon of vinegar.  We frequently spray the edges of the dock where they climb out of the water and along the edges of our finger pier.
  • We scattered mothballs (naphthalene) around everywhere.
  • And finally, an attempt at physical exclusion:  we put these spike sheets on our dock steps whenever we are absent.
I'll let you know how this works out.

Of course, the marina denies any responsibility.


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Emergency Calls

Here in the marine world, virtually all marine VHF radios have a "panic" button which sends out a distress signal *which includes your location*.

And that nowadays virtually all cell phones have GPS capability, the really obvious follow-on is this:  Why do not all cell phones have this same capability?  A single button press calls 911 *and includes your location*?  IPhones will already dial 911 if you press the sleep/wake button rapidly 5 times or more...  why not have the phone add the GPS location to the call?

This seems like a no-brainer to me.  If the 911 call centers need help in adding digital location capability, I am sure the Coast Guard would be willing to share their technology.  And if not, I guess the phone could always transmit the location via voice synthesis, but that seems awkward and error-prone.

If you think this is a good idea, please share it widely - your action may be the one that causes this capability to appear.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Mizzen Rain Hood

Because our mizzenmast is stepped inside the cockpit, the cockpit enclosure must by necessity allow for the penetration of the mast.  In an attempt to minimize the amount of rainwater that enters the cockpit via the mast, the enclosure has a "sock" that goes up the mast a little ways and is tied around it.  Undoubtedly it stops most rain drainage, but a still significant amount gets into the cockpit, annoyingly to wet our trousers when we sit down.

An improved solution was called for.

The problem, in the rain, no less.
My first attempt was a simple, straight strip of vinyl cloth, mightily stretched around the cross section of the mast.  For obvious reasons, tho I was able to make it work, it failed to meet my aesthetics criteria.  (That is aluminum tape - I have extolled it's virtues before...)

First attempt: sloppy
The first reason a straight strip of vinyl failed to conform easily is that the mizzen mast is not a round cross section.  And the second is that the bottom of the strip had to accommodate a larger diameter than the top, due to the presence of the top seam of the sock.

Mizzenmast cross section

Well, this obviously called for the application of the lesson learned in Making a Mast Boot, with a minor modification.

First, we need to have a tapered hood, smaller at the top than at the bottom in order to accommodate the sock. I decided that tho the sock was about 1/4" thick (1/2", counting both sides), I should make the hood slightly larger so that the sock could easily fit up inside the hood, and to accommodate the place where the ends of the sock overlapped. I chose to make the bottom of the hood 3/8" larger on a side, or 3/4", counting both sides.  So, the tapered section needed to have a diameter of 3.75" at the top, and 4.5" at the bottom.

Next, the mast cross section is not round. Instead, I chose to view it as two half-round sections, joined by two straight sections.

Since I already screwed up one piece of vinyl, I decided to make a paper pattern this time, using freezer paper (eh, it was what we had...). Using the instructions in the mast boot post, I traced out an arc of sufficient length to supply pieces for both the front and rear of the mast. The arc for the rear of the mast I made extra long so that the ends would be able to overlap, and then I cut this piece in two. Then I cut out a couple of straight sections to accommodate the sides of the mast.

When joined together, the pieces looked like this:

From left to right, this is:
  • Rear piece, extra long
  • Side piece
  • Front piece
  • Side piece
  • Rear piece, extra long
The change in shape seems kind of subtle, but the paper pattern fit the mast perfectly when I tested it.

Taped to back of the vinyl
After testing the pattern, I taped it to the back side of the vinyl, traced its outline and cut it out:

Taa Daa!
And... DONE!
And now because the hood is tapered, if I need to remove the sock I will not need to disturb the hood because I will be able to slide the sock up under the hood when reinstalling it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Salnick's Fourth Law

Any conversation between boaters will eventually turn to the subject of marine heads.

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


Monday, October 28, 2019

Winter Trim

All summer long we had a 25' tall white fiberglass wall across the dock from us, made up of huge boats, blocking our view.  But now all those boats are gone, returning our view, but also exposing us directly to the winter storms.  You probably can't tell from the picture, but I am staring directly into the teeth of a 40-45 kt gale.

Where are they when you want them?

Lines & fenders, oh my!
So as we do every year, Eolian's dock lines get doubled and the number of fenders get more than doubled.  Here the secondary forward spring line is slack, waiting just in case the primary chafes thru.  It is a veritable spider web, and perhaps unnecessary, but we certainly feel better with two lines for each function (fwd breast, fwd spring, aft spring, aft breast) and the extra fenders.  As it turns out, it seems that our worst storms usually come from the southeast, meaning Eolian is held off the dock by the wind in the blows.  But that has its own problems...  it is difficult to board when there is 3' of open water between the dock step and the hull (as in the picture)... especially when carrying groceries...

"Just pull it in", you say.  But I'll venture you've never tried to pull 50,000 lb of boat in against 40 kt of wind.


Monday, October 21, 2019

On The Bourbon Trail

Did you know...  95% of the world's bourbon comes from Kentucky.

In fact, I thought that bourbon *had* to come from Kentucky... not so.  This is just one of the things we learned on the bourbon trail.  (No, there is no actual trail, but we did visit a dozen distilleries in the Lexington-Louisville area).

Here are the actual 5 (Federal!) rules defining bourbon:
  • Must be made in the USA (not just Kentucky)
  • Must have a grain bill of at least 51% corn
  • Must be distilled at no more than 160 proof*, aged at no more than 125 proof, and bottled at no less than 80 proof
  • Nothing can be added except water (no artificial colors, flavorings, etc)
  • Must be aged at least two years in new, charred white oak barrels
We learned that this is the process:
  • Grind the grain and cook it at boiling for a few hours to soften and release the starch
  • Cool to below 145°F and add the ground malted barley.  This supplies a pair of enzymes which break up the starch molecules into sugars (starch is a sugar polymer).  At this point, the mash will taste quite sweet.
  • Cool to near room temperature and add yeast, and then add a few hundred gallons of the previous fermented batch - this is the reason it is called "sour mash".
  • Allow the yeast to grow and consume the sugars...  the byproducts of this are alcohol and CO2.  In fact, if you get down and peer across the lip of a 40,000 gallon fermenting tank, you can *see* the CO2 spilling over the edge (CO2 is heavier than air). 

    At the end of the fermentation the mash is 8-10% alcohol, and has a sour taste (see "sour mash", above)
  • Pump the fermented mash in a continuous stream to the top of a 50-65' tall copper stripping tower and blow a continuous stream of steam up the tower from the bottom.

    This counter-current flow strips the alcohol out of the mash quite effectively.  The vapor coming out of the top of the column is passed thru a condenser.  The condenser output is made visible at a "tail box", where you can see a continuous stream of 125 proof alcohol pouring out of a 2-3" pipe - it is truly impressive.  This product is called "low wine".

  • The low wine is then subjected to a second, batch - not continuous, distillation in beautifully formed copper vessels whose shape recalls medieval alembics.

    The product from this distillation will be about 160 proof and is called "high wine", "new make" or "white dog".  I've tasted this, and aside from the nose burning alcohol content, the taste is quite strong and depends hugely on the grain bill (proportion of corn, rye, and malted barley in the mash)
  • The high wine is then diluted to 125 proof and put into new, charred white oak barrels (pretty much all made at a company named Independent Stave, in Louisville)
  • The barrels are stored in a rickhouse, for years.

    This is a building which could house 20,000-50,000 barrels.  The smell in there is heavenly!  Because this is where the angels get their share.  You see, the bourbon seeps into the wood of the barrels and evaporates from the outside - this evaporative loss is called the "angels share", and can be quite substantial.

    During this time, the white dog gets transformed into bourbon by leaching the carmelized sugars and other flavors that were formed during the charring of the inside of the barrels.
  • Finally, the Master Distiller (a job I would love to have!) goes into the rickhouse(s) and tastes barrel after barrel, coming up with a collection (a batch) which, when blended together, will give the characteristic taste of the brand.  
  • There are also small batches of the really good stuff ("small batch", "small batch select"), and even individual barrels ("single barrel", which of course will be more variable from bottle to bottle, since the barrels differ significantly, dependent on their locations in the rickhouses) selected by the Master Distiller.  These two designations are the best of the best, and are priced accordingly.
During the tour we were afforded the opportunity to taste upwards of 40 different bourbons.  No way did this qualify us to be Master Distillers, but it did give us the chance to make comparisons between the low-, mid-, and high-range products.  My take?  The best (read: most expensive) bourbons have the most complex tastes, of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, smoky wood and spices...  a combination that is impossible to really describe, but which recalls the smell of the inside of rickhouse.

Conclusion:  Buy the expensive stuff, but don't drink it.  Instead, sniff it and sip it very slowly.  My favorite was this one:

*  BTW, the term "proof" is old.  In colonial times, when one of the major imports to the nascent nation was Caribbean rum, a test was needed to prove that the alcohol content of the barrels being unloaded from ships was as advertised.  There were no laboratories - the test had to be simple and doable right there on the pier.  Well, it turns out that when 50% alcohol is used to moisten gunpowder, the gunpowder will just burn.  Less than 50%, no.  So 50% alcohol came to be called 100 proof.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Haulout 2019

On September 20 we did out 3-year haulout, this time at Marine Service Center in Anacortes.  Well, actually it's only been 2.5 years since our last haulout, instead of three.  We pulled this fall rather than next spring because Washington State, in its rush to be more "ecologically responsible" than even California, has banned copper-containing bottom paints, effective 1-Jan-2020.  Of course, this ban applies only to recreational vessels - commercial vessels may continue using copper bottom paint.  They must have a much better lobby.

But when I talked to the folks at the yard, it turns out that the ban has been delayed until 1-Jan-2021.  Why?  Because the State's research revealed that there is no viable alternative to copper-based bottom paints.  You might wonder why they passed the law and *then* did the research...

Always scary to see your baby like this

So we hauled out.  We did it at Marine Service Center because the last haulout at Pacific Marine was an unmitigated disaster.  They use a gigantic trailer with inflatable bunks to haul - apparently it is cheaper than a Travelift to operate.  But with our boat, the bunks landed exactly on our transducers, loosening one of them.  Then we were painted by temporary help, hired that day, who did not do a good job, and finally it was nearly a month before they discovered we had been launched without paying.

In complete contrast, the haulout at Marine Service Center could not have gone better.  The people were friendly, professional, careful, and completely competent.  I highly recommend Marine Service Center.

We typically haul on a Friday.  Since the yard cannot do anything on the boat until it is dry after pressure washing, this gives us the weekend to do what we need to do before the prep and painting begins.

Does this guy look tired?
In this instance, I used the weekend to lube the underwater side of our thru hulls, to rod out our galley sink drain (there were barnacles in there, causing it to run slow), and to buff out the upper part of the hull (a huge job).

Rain, rain, go away...

Paying attention to the weather forecast, I saved the prop for Sunday since rain was forecast.  The prop is located where the rain wouldn't get on it while working on it.

Oooo... clean!
Sand/grind the barnacles off (there were surprisingly few...), change the zinc, and apply several coats of Barnacle Ban, a cold galvanizing paint which repels barnacles.

Always looks so good when the paint is fresh!
One of my primary concerns was whether or not I had cured the weird (Electrolytic? Galvanic?) attack we had seen on the bottom paint near various pieces of underwater metal - even some which are not connected to anything!  I am happy to report that the fix has eliminated the problem!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Another Ten-year Project

Well, almost ten.

Way back in 2010, I bought a pile of 6" square solar cells, with the intention of making a bunch of solar panels.  I had no idea that it would take me this long to finish this effort.  This was a low-priority project, dependent on acquisition of used shower doors for free.  Thanks to craigslist, I was able to find the necessary shower doors, but this took way longer than I anticipated.

Nevertheless, finished it is.  By the time I had built 5 panels, the remaining cells I had were not enough to build that sixth panel, due to breakage in transit, breakage due to my clumsiness (these things are *fragile* - in comparison, a potato chip is way robust), and missing collector busses.  The seller had included extra cells to cover breakage in transit, but sadly none to cover for my clumsiness.  I might be able to resurrect those cells with missing collector busses, but I don't know if that would give me the required 40 cells.  So for now, I am finished.

For each panel, no-load output voltage (at zero current) is about 22V, and short circuit current approaches 8 amps, as advertised.  But as I have mentioned earlier, you don't get to have short circuit current and no-load circuit voltage at the same time.

Something else I have learned is that the output of solar cells is temperature dependent.  The cells produce significantly more power when they are cool than when they are hot.  And that dark color means that they will be hot in the sun.  The highest output I have seen from my array is on a day that is mostly cloudy (panels are shaded), when the sun breaks thru (panels are in direct sun, but still cool).

So, a realistic assessment of the power output from these panels is about 100 watts each, at our lattitude.  This means that I have the capability to produce a little more than 500 watts (including the three little panels that came with Eolian when we got her).  That power is directed into a grid-tie inverter...  there are no batteries in our system.  In essence I am using the power grid as my battery bank.  The inverter turns the output of the panels into 110V, 60 Hz and pushes it back into the line, synced with the line power (if the line power disappears, say during a storm, the inverter automatically shuts off to prevent back-feeding the line).  If my home is drawing more than 500 watts, part of that draw is supplied by the solar panels.  On the other hand, if the house is drawing less than 500 watts, then the solar panel system runs my electric meter backwards.  (With a maximum output of 500 watts, I don't think I will ever need to worry about what happens if I end a month with a negative meter reading.)

Sadly, the day that Jane and I got the last panel up onto the roof of my shop was the first day of the fall rainy season.  I have yet to see what the finished system can deliver in sunshine.  Nevertheless, it feels good to tie the ribbons on another long term project.

(The remaining posts on this project can be found here.)


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Drip... Drip...


"What was that," Jane asked.
"I think the water pump just ran," I said.  "It was probably just on the verge, and a little leak back caused it to cycle," I said, hopefully.

15 minutes later...  Brrrrrp...

"OK, no one is using water and the pump just cycled twice.  Either we have a leak somewhere, or the pump is failing."

Hoping for the best case scenario (meaning I would not have to replace the pump...), I started at the bow and checked for water running aft in the bilge.  I didn't find any until I got to the last floor panel.  Yup, there it was:  drip, drip, drip.

Great!  It's not the pump!

But where was it coming from?  Best bet: a cracked fitting.  But where?  I could sort of see the general area where it was coming from, but serious boat surgery would be required to access that area.

Now those of you that don't own boats might be surprised to hear that there are quite a few places on boats that are either inaccessible or nearly so.  Boats are more like modern cars than those from the 50's and 60's.

So.  I began unloading and disassembling the flooring in the cabinet opposite the refer.

Getting access to the area...
I have been in this area before, but not as fully as this job was going to require.  Yes, I could now see the water actually dripping.  But the source was still hidden up inside that rectangular opening down at the bottom of the area, where the gray water lines are going. 

Deep dark hole...

I stuck my phone down in there and took a blind picture - yup!  Got it!  I even caught a falling drop of water in the air!  See how the left hand fitting is cracked?  That's where the water was coming from.  The fitting on the bottom of the tee is cracked too, but strangely not yet leaking.  Both of them need to be changed.  (The fitting on the right had already been replaced - it had a price written on it.)

I should point out that this space is at the aft end of the engine, and that when I finally got up the courage to dive into the job, standing on the engine mounting bunks, my shoulders were about level with the floor in front of the refer.  Deep.  And narrow - only a little wider than my shoulders.  And filled with hard things that hurt when bumping or kneeling on them.  In the end, I ended up kneeling on the engine bunks, straddling the shaft, and putting my legs back (fwd, actually) alongside the engine to get low enough to work in the opening.  Barely.

Once in position, and with good planning having the correct tools at hand, the job didn't take too long.  The hardest part was tolerating the pain in my shins and knees, knowing that it would all be over soon.  Voluntary bruising, the price to be paid.

These are the bad guys
When it was all done, I awarded myself with a beer in the cockpit, while waiting for the pump to cycle.  Hours later, it still hasn't.


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Leaning Tower Of....

Once again, crabbing has been good this year.  This is just three days catch - Jane likes to stack them up like this.  We have added so much to this that I am tired of crab for dinner...  Jane, infinite patience that she has, has picked most of the meat from these, and the many since these, so that we can fit it in the freezer here on the boat.


Sunday, July 14, 2019

A Tale of Two Tread Plates, Update

OK, it's now been two years since the original experiment...

Here's how they look now:

As you can see, the untreated tread plate on the left is still groady... in fact it is even worse in real life than the picture shows.

And on the right is the plate which was treated with BAC, still looking clean, tho grey.  I said BAC, but for this experiment I actually used a version of BAC that has some silicone functional groups substituted for some of the carbon-based groups.  This version, called "Gold Shield" (sample provided by Drew - thanks!) is considerably more proof against washing out.  In fact it is used by hospitals to sterilize and keep sterile their bedding, even tho it is frequently washed.

I call this experiment concluded, and a success.  I am going to treat the other tread plate, and our bare teak rub strakes, with Gold Shield.


Sunday, June 30, 2019

It Just Got Easier - An App You Have To Have

Previously I wrote about the tricky tide-driven currents in the San Juan Islands,and how important it is to take them into account when planning voyages there.  In that previous post, I referred to the Canadian Current Atlas for the area...  the bible.  I also mentioned the somewhat involved procedure needed to determine which of the 100 or so charts would apply to the current time.  This procedure had to be applied to each of the alternatives when planning a voyage, and involved a lot of flipping thru pages and reference charts.

No more!

It's now an app!

Someone has laboriously taken all of the information in the Current Atlas and built it into an app...  an app that makes it absolutely painless to scroll backwards and forwards in time to compare alternatives.

And here is the big bonus:  it's all in the appNo internet connection is required, so this is entirely appropriate for use in internet-deprived areas (there are quite a few in the Islands...).

You can find it in your app store - search for "Current Atlas".  Yes, you'll have to pay for it, once.   (You had to pay for the arcane hardcopy version didn't you?)  It is worth every penny.

Get it.


Friday, June 28, 2019

Genset Summer

After doing all that work on the generator this spring, when we got back after a couple of weeks at anchor, I found this...

Yep - the seawater pump on the generator had failed.

Apparently the first to go was the seal - that's what keeps the seawater inside the pump and away from the bearings that support the shaft:

That's not supposed to be three different pieces...

In fact the seal was so far gone that it came out in three pieces.

And then, because Kohler didn't see fit to use sealed bearings, the seawater running past the failed seal got into the bearings.  High carbon steel does not do well with exposure to salt water...

Bearings no more...

But thankfully, I have the tools and a rebuild kit was just an eBay away for a nominal sum, so one more time into the bilges, and the pump was as good as new.  Actually better than new, because the rebuild kit came with stainless bolts to replace the brass (?!) phillips screws that had originally held the cover plate on.  I also replaced the single brass (again...) screw that held the pump cam in place with a stainless one.  That brass screw came out in three pieces...  I can just barely imagine what would have happened if the cam had come loose in there when the pump was running...

Better than new!

Previous post in this series

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Blocking Buoys

Port Madison
(Snatched from m/v Archimedes - hires version and a lot more information there)
When first we came to the San Juan Islands, one of our anchorages was Grindstone Harbor, a charming little cove on the south shore of Orcas Island.  Now that cove is filled with "mooring" buoys.

Our first  voyage in Eolian was to Port Madison, on the north shore of Bainbridge Island.  We had virtually the entire harbor to ourselves and our choice of anchoring spots.  But as the years progressed, more and more "mooring" buoys appeared.  And now the current situation (as shown in the picture above) is that there is essentially NO anchorage any more in Port Madison, unless you want to take your chances anchoring in the narrow channel still remaining for ingress and egress.

What has happened?  Well, first of all, nearly all of the buoys are perennially empty.   Then why are they there?

I cannot know in all cases of course, but I do know for absolute certainty (because I have talked to them) that there are those landowners who place buoys in front of their property in order to block boats from anchoring in "their" view.  Since these buoys are not intended to be used for mooring, they may be anchored with nothing more than a couple of concrete blocks.

In Rusty's blog, m/v Archimedes, there is a lot of information about what it takes to get actual legal permission to install a mooring buoy.  It ain't easy!  My guess is, that whatever their intended purpose, less than 10% of the buoys in the picture above are registered, legal buoys.  Even if they all were (ha!), Rusty raises the case for anchorage as a prior right.

So, what to do?

I have a suggestion.

Mooring tender in Friday Harbor

There are many outfits around the sound that install moorings.  Place a bounty on illegal, unsanctioned unoccupied buoys of, say, $300.  Further, allow the mooring tenders to keep the removed moorings and their anchors for later sale as legal moorings.  Kind of like towing companies get to tow your car if it is found abandoned along the freeway.

Now someone is sure to complain that the buoys should not be removed without notifying the owner.  Do you get a notification when your car is towed? NO.  And in any case, the illegal buoys are unmarked (or at best are marked "Private"), so ownership cannot be determined.

With this plan implemented, my guess is that within a year or two, most of the buoys would have been removed and their space returned to general anchorage usage.


Monday, June 3, 2019

Rust Stains 

Over and over again I see people querying for a method to remove rust stains from fiberglass.  And over and over again I have typed in a quick answer.  Because my quick answers are not always complete, and also because I am getting frustrated at answering the same question over and over, I am writing this post so that I can just refer to it.



The surface of fiberglass (gelcoat, actually) is porous at the molecular level, that is why it stains so easily (spill a glass of wine and you'll see what I mean...).  And so it is with rust stains - they are not *on* the surface, but *in* the surface.

So what is the best way to remove rust stains from gelcoat?  Certainly one method is to simply remove the rust contaminated gelcoat - that is what abrasives do.  Besides the elbow grease required, this approach is limiting because eventually you will run out of gelcoat.

And then there is chemical treatment.  Boy have I seen a wide range of suggestions here:
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Cider vinegar
  • Coca Cola
  • Pepsi Cola
  • Ospho
  • Whink
  • Bar Keeper's Friend
  • Starbrite
  • Scotchbrite
  • FSR
  • Clay Bar
  • Rubbing compound
  • Bleach (numerous variants here...)
  • ...
Some of these are abrasives, and as mentioned above, they work by removing the stained gelcoat.

Some of the non-abrasives will be marginally effective.

But for a sure-fire, elbow-grease free and effective solution, use oxalic acid.

Oh no!  Acid sounds scary!  Must run away!  Oxalic acid is a weak acid, in the same vein as vinegar but a little stronger.  Do you wear rubber gloves when handling vinegar?  I didn't think so.

Oxalic acid is a crystalline solid - looks a lot like sugar.  To be effective, it must be used in solution.  Now here is an interesting fact:  oxalic acid is way, way more soluble in hot water than cold...  so when making a solution, always use hot water.  And always make a saturated solution (that is, no more will dissolve in the water - you can tell because there are still a few undissolved crystals on the bottom).

So just make up a saturated solution of oxalic acid, wet a piece of paper towel with the solution and stick it on the stain.  That is all.

Also some notes:
  • Bar Keeper's Friend is a soft abrasive with a small amount of added oxalic acid.
  • The active ingredient in FSR is oxalic acid.
  • Whink contains HF - hydrofluoric acid.  HF is scary stuff - it will even dissolve glass.
  • Bleach will be completely ineffective.  In fact it may serve to set the stain.
  • Phosphoric acid (Ospho, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola) will be marginally effective
 So how would your average boat owner be able to obtain this magic oxalic acid?  Actually it is quite easy.  Oxalic acid is sold at Home Depot, etc. as "wood bleach"... look for it in the paint section.  Now why would this be?  Because the dark brown color in wood is due to iron oxide - rust.  And by the way, the dark brown staining from tannin-loaded waters is also due to iron oxide - oxalic acid will work on it too.

Now a final note on toxicity.  You have already eaten oxalic acid.  The sour taste in rhubarb is oxalic acid.  But you don't eat the leaves of rhubarb - why?  Because the oxalic acid concentration in the leaves is higher.  As with almost everything, the dose is the poison (even water and oxygen...  drink too much water and it will kill you...  deep sea divers use exotic gas mixtures containing far less than the 21% oxygen in the air because the pressure makes oxygen that much more dangerous).  So don't eat or drink the acid solution.  Don't breathe any dust.  Don't rub it into a cut or use it as an eyewash.  Wash your hands after contact.  It is about 3 times more toxic as a poison than aspirin, and about 1/4 the toxicity of caffeine.  Yes, it is poisonous but no heroic precautions are necessary.


Saturday, May 25, 2019


It's a rainy day here in the San Juan Islands... a perfect day for eggrooms.

Whoa - what's that?

Eggrooms is a recipe that I invented nearly 50 years ago for a romantic morning after breakfast. I've never seen it published anywhere... before now.  So the secret is now officially out.

A good blogger would have pictures, both intermediate and finished.  I'm a hungry blogger.
This is way easier (especially for one who fears flipping floppy things with a spatula) than a mushroom omelet.


  • Mushrooms, sliced 1/8" thick
  • Four eggs
  • Butter
  • Garlic salt
  • Pepper
Start by slicing enough mushrooms 1/8" thick to cover the bottom of your non-stick frying pan.  Try to make the slices uniform in thickness so they all will cook at the same rate.

Melt a tablespoon or so of butter in the pan and saute the the mushrooms over medium heat until they are getting golden brown edges on the bottom side.  Don't try to turn them over - you can't, and even if you could by the time you get the last one done, the first will be over-cooked.  Romove the mushrooms from the pan, retaining as much of the butter in the pan as possible.

Did I mention that I am spatula impaired?  I can only handle two eggs at a time.

Return half of the mushrooms to the pan and arrange them into two circles, more of less, with the centers large enough to contain the egg yolks.  Crack two eggs into the mushroom circles.

Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.

We like our eggs over easy - cook as you would normally

Prepare the second two eggs the same way.

You will find eggrooms to be as tasty as a mushroom omelet, but in a different way...



Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The First Time...

[As I write this, we are at anchor in Blind Bay, a gentle breeze riffling the water and the Sun flashing diamonds into my eyes off the water...]

The first time is always a little scary, no matter how many times you have done it.

Getting 50,000 lbs to do what you want in the close confines of docked boats, with no brakes, ineffective steering, and a strong tendency to move to port whenever the engine is engaged definitely requires experience.  And wisdom.   And after so many months of Eolian resembling nothing so much as a cabin on the water, and me, well, forgetting what it is all about...

But God smiled on us - He gave us a morning with absolutely no wind to interfere with maneuvering in the close quarters at the dock and a lovely day to cross over to the San Juan islands.  Getting free of land was uneventful.  {I'd say it was easy, but that would truly be tempting the fates...}

Under way, finally

 Of course, with no wind at the dock it would be unreasonable to expect wind down Guemes Channel and across Rosario Strait, right?  So we came across with the diesel engine.

But as soon as we cleared Thatcher Pass and were in the Islands proper, we were faced with 21 knots of cold wind, right on the nose.  No chance for sailing there either.  But somehow by the time we entered Harney Channel and finally turned into Blind Bay, the wind had dropped to a gentle, warm 5 kt.

So, here we sit, at anchor, a glass of wine in my hand, the flag flapping quietly off the stern, and diamonds flashing into my eyes.

And now in their old arrangement, the Canadian geese are honking in their nightly takeover of the nearby rocky islet from the American geese who seem to hold it during the day, in some kind of weird truce...

It is good to be off the dock!


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Mainsail Stack Pack is Done

This weekend I completed the last portion of the mainsail stack pack sail cover.

Wait... "stack pack" - what's that?

A stack pack is kind of like a basket - it captures the sail when it is dropped and keeps it from going all over the place.  Yes, lazy jacks do that too.  In fact a stack pack uses lazy jacks, but it also serves as a cover for the sail when it is not in use - there is a zipper along the top surface which closes the stack pack over the furled sail.

For our mainsail, the stack pack is 18' long - much, much too big to do the fabric lay out inside the boat - I did it on the finger pier next to us.  Because of the height of the sail when furled, the fabric wasn't wide enough so I had to splice a panel at the forward upper end of each side.  Somehow I managed to not take any pictures of the process.

Needs Viagra
When the sewing was completed, it needed to be fitted to the sail and boom.  This turned out to be a non-trivial task.  There is a lot of fabric, the sail is heavy, and there is lots of opportunity to get the straps that go under the sail hooked up to the wrong places.  It took me most of an entire afternoon to get to the point in this picture.

Next the lazy jacks needed to be disconnected from the boom and attached to the sail cover, and adjusted so that the (PVC pipe) battens formed a pleasant curve.  This required a ladder.

Finally, a piece of canvas (lined with sailcloth for added stiffness) needed to be cut to serve as the front cover.

Front cover pattern
I picked a day when it was sunny, warm, and calm (a rare event!) to make the pattern using Sailrite's Duraskrim (highly recommended!  In fact, Sailrite is highly recommended...)

Long time coming - done!

Then a morning of stitching on the Sailrite LSZ-1 produced the product.  Looks pretty sharp!  The stack pack also eliminates the 1-hour long procedure of reinstalling the old sail cover over the sail after arriving at the dock, and eliminates storage of that cover down below while we are off the dock... hooray!

Next on the agenda is a new cover for the staysail - the old one has shrunken to where it can't be made up over the sail anymore.


Wednesday, May 1, 2019


I have to give all 3 of you patient readers closure on the generator issues...

It's done.  Finished.

I filled the fresh water side with water/antifreeze mix, opened the seawater valve and started it.

There were two problems.  The first was apparent even before the engine fired - diesel mist was escaping from the exhaust elbow flange.  I had been gentle with the 8 mm dia bolts that hold it on, fearing that I could strip or break them.   Apparently I had been too gentle.  A little judicious torque applied to the bolts solved that problem.

Next, after a few minutes of running, the engine started to slow down in what all of us with diesel engines recognize as the dreaded 'air bubble' somewhere in the system.  I bled it again (and got out some more air) but that didn't solve the problem.  Apparently there was now a bubble between the injection pump and the injectors.  Finally I started it up and applied a load (the water heater) which caused lots of diesel to be injected into the cylinders.  That did it - the air was swept out, leaving behind a smooth running engine.

So, this may be the longest oil change on record...  I started the oil change on 3/23, and here we are at the first day of May.

Gratuitous picture showing the finished product, again

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Sunday, April 28, 2019


It's hard to remember after so much work on the generator, that the original intent was only to change the oil.

Done, nearly
Nevertheless, here we are.  I got everything reassembled, with only a couple of difficult spots.

The first relief was that reinstalling the fuel line to the pump went a lot easier than when the filter end was firmly attached (I made up the filter connection, and then installed the filter...).  Everything else went pretty much by the book.

Old vs. New
But the new exhaust elbow caused a little difficulty because the water connection was rotated counterclockwise a little (see the little block bolted to the head at the far left in the 'old' view - where the wires go).  As a consequence, it interfered with the cylinder head over-temperature sensor.  But that was remedied by installing the sensor to another threaded hole in the head only an inch below the original.

The biggest problem was the wiring to the head over-temp sensor and the exhaust elbow over-temp sensor.  At the head sensor, there were two wires in the terminal (the sensors are in parallel - either can shut the engine down).  When I was sliding the connector on, one of the wires pulled out of the terminal.  It turns out that these are unusual terminals (read: Sebo's doesn't stock them), so I had to spend nearly an hour laboriously un-crimping the terminal and then re-crimping it with both wires firmly attached.


But I ran out of time.  I have bled the fuel system, but I still need to bleed the seawater side and refill the fresh water side of the engine.  Then I need to run it and look for:
  • Oil leaks
  • Exhaust leaks
  • Fresh water leaks
  • Salt water leaks
Hopefully there won't be any of these, and I can finally pull the curtains closed on this year's annual genset oil change.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Recursive Maintenance Continues

Maintenance recursiveness continues.

Being unable to budge the stubs left from grinding off the bolt heads, the only remedy was to remove the exhaust manifold/cooler to provide access for more drastic treatment of the bolt remainders than I could bring to bear with it in situ.

But...  before removing the exhaust manifold/cooler I had to drain both the antifreeze treated fresh water and the seawater from it.  This posed a problem because the genset and the heat pump share a thru hull, strainer and feed line.  Because it is still too cool here to do without the heat pump, I needed to install a shutoff valve in the genset seawater feed.

Genset seawater feed shutoff valve
This had it's own set of problems, first of which was a trip up into town to get some fittings.  Of course.  Despite the fact that I have a huge number of fittings aboard, none of them were suitable.  Then shut down the heat pump, close the seacock, cut the hose and clean up the mess from the drainage.  Finally, install the valve.

Draining the manifold/cooler
Now it was possible to drain the manifold.  Because Yanmar provided both drain petcocks and even drain hoses on the 2GMF, this was a clean job. 

And finally, removal of the now empty manifold was quite straightforward.

It turned out that the bolt stub removal was also easy...  because I took the manifold to Gustav at EngineTec here in Anacortes (highly recommended by Jason, and now I can add my enthusiastic recommendation as well).  An hour after I had dropped it off, Gustav called me telling me it was ready for pickup.  I barely had time to finish a post removal celebratory beer!

All I lack for reassembly is the gasket that goes between the manifold and the engine - currently on order.

I lay the blame for this incident at the feet of Kohler, the genset manufacturer.  Kohler adapted the Yanmar 2GMF to power the generator.  When they did so, one of the changes they had to make (in addition to relocating the oil filter) was to reorient the exhaust elbow.  The Yanmar elbow points straight down - that would have interfered with the generator body.

Kohler tilted the elbow to the right

So Kohler cut the elbow pipe off the flange and rewelded it at an angle to clear the generator body.  So far, so good.

The problem was that they made a dog's breakfast of it.  When the pipe was rewelded to the flange, the flange warped, making a seal against the manifold completely impossible.  Rather than redoing the weld, perhaps on a fresh, heavier flange, Kohler sealed the 1/8" gap using JB Weld or something similar applied to the manifold, and then to make sure, they installed two gaskets.  This all became obvious when I was able to inspect the manifold, and when I removed the gaskets and exposed the JB Weld (or whatever) on the manifold flange.  This crappy jury rig held for a while... perhaps 400 engine hours.  And then the leakage started.

Yanmar: 1
Kohler:   0

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