Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Destination: Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island

If you arrived here by searching for a chart, please see this page.

When you take the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, you land at the town of Bainbridge (used to be called Winslow, but they changed the name to avoid confusion), in Eagle Harbor. When you come to Winslow (I like the old name better) by boat, you too arrive in Eagle harbor. Be very careful of the Tyee Shoal just outside the harbor entrance. Unless you have local knowledge, you should go South, below the red nun buoy, #2, or to play it safe, go a little further South around the dolphin which lays a little SSW of the nun. Then turn North and watch your depth sounder. When you enter the harbor, you will note that (a) it is crowded, and (b) there is a designated anchorage area.

The designated anchorage is filled with many things floating. Some are beautiful projects underway, and some have not moved in years and look as tho they never will again. These latter fill the same residential ecological niche that the now highly sought-after floating homes in Lake Union (see "Sleepless in Seattle") filled in the 1920's - they serve as extremely low cost housing.

The South shore of Eagle harbor was once known as Creosote, (with the Blakely lumber mill and the Hall Brothers' shipyard just one bay south, it is not hard to guess what operations occurred in Creosote) but now serves as a yard for the State Ferry system - this is one of the places where ferries go to get worked on. The rest of the South shore is filled with beautiful and/or charming housing.

Once anchored in Eagle harbor, you have at your disposal all the charms of Winslow - the wonderful restaurants, pubs, and galleries. Be sure to check out the Old Winslow Pub, a/k/a Mac's - it is the only place I have ever been where there was a periscope directly over the urinal in the men's restroom (sorry ladies). It looks out over the harbor...

Back on the boat for the evening, you will find very little roll from the ferry traffic, because they are moving so slowly in the harbor. The night scene in the harbor is charming, and the view to the East is of the Seattle skyline, all lit up just for your personal enjoyment!

Update!  Things have changed in Eagle Harbor.  For the better - but see the post from 5/6/2011 for more information.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Motherhood as a Weight Loss Program

By this time of year, the baby seagull chicks that were hatched earlier in the spring (somewhere? Where do seagulls build nests?) are no longer babies. They are full-sized gulls. But they still have their juvenile gray plumage. And their juvenile ways. They still follow mama gull around, begging for food with a high-pitched mewing cry that surely is as annoying to her as it is to me.

This poor gull spent an afternoon trying to ditch her two offspring, zooming from one perch to the next. The mewing never stopped - as mama flew around, they were right behind her, mewing away. At each perch, the two Baby Hueys would land and immediately assume the "begging-for-food" pose (body held low, head and neck extended up), mewing frantically. When that failed to work, both babies literally tried to take the food from her mouth, stabbing at her face with their beaks, trying to pry open her mouth. She protected herself by turning away.

Eventually, the "motherhood" wiring did kick in tho, and she regurgitated a load for them - right onto this poor guy's bimini. I don't know how this bird is managing, having to feed herself and two other adult-sized birds. She did look trim and svelte tho. Eating for three, and staying trim. Hmmm...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Project: Mainmast Renewal

Project from 2003

This project was done in concert with the replacement of the holding tank, since the mast had to be removed to provide the necessary access for that project. It is worth remembering that we were doing both of these projects at the same time.

When we took responsibility for Eolian, the butt of the mainmast showed evidence of corrosion, pretty severe in fact. Eventually, the mast was going to have to come out and have the butt repaired. Also, the remainder of the spar had evidence of galvanic corrosion as well, indicating that, like the mizzen, it was going to need to be repainted. Given that the mainmast is like 65 feet long, and about 2 feet in circumference, (that is, about twice as tall, and more than twice the circumference of the mizzen), and that it took most of the summer to repaint the mizzen in place, repainting the mainmast in place was something that just wasn't going to happen.

Pulling the mast out of the boat can only be done with a crane. It requires quite a bit of preparatory work (remove the sails, remove the wiring, remove much of the standing rigging, and finally, free up the remaining standing rigging so that when the crane is in place and the mast is supported, no time is required to loosen turnbuckles which have stood in place for 20 years in a salt water environment). We motored to the boatyard dock, at low tide, and the crew was ready at the crane.

The first problem we encountered was that the corrosion at the mast butt had the mast chemically welded to the mast step. When they first pulled on it, the entire boat rose up 3" in the water... that was a weird feeling. But the mast didn't come out. The yard crew, moving fast, solved this by driving a wedge under the step, distorting it and freeing the mast.

Of course there couldn't be just one problem. Next, at low tide, with the crane attached as low as possible on the mast (if you go too low, it will swap ends once free of the boat...), and with the crane two-blocked (all the way up), there was still about 6" of mast in the boat. After puzzling briefly (the tide was coming back in and the boat was rising...) we got it out by walking the boat forward, out from under the crane and mast. But this meant that putting it back in had to happen at a tide lower than +0.8 feet. Unfortunately, looking at the tide tables revealed that the next qualifying low tide in daylight hours was in January. More on this later. Unfortunately, I got no pictures during this operation - we were way too busy and rushed.

With the mast out in the light of day, the problem at the butt is obvious. The bottom 6 - 10" of the mast is rotten with corrosion.

Also, the entire mast shows evidence of galvanic or electrolytic corrosion. Galvanic corrosion could result if there were an electrical connection between the mast and the internal lead ballast. In this case, the mast would corrode to protect the lead (lead doesn't need protection, but the mast doesn't know that). Or the cause could be electrolytic, caused by, say, the mast being part of an electrical circuit (for example, by having a short in the mast wiring).

Both were possible - the mast step was screwed into the keel area with lag screws which may have connected with the ballast, and bad wiring was in place at the masthead lights. The cure for the latter is obvious. To isolate the mast from the keel, I obtained a piece of 1" thick nylon and cut it to fit as a spacer under the mast step. The nylon will lag bolted to the floor, and the new mast step will be bolted to the nylon, providing electrical isolation.

Further, there was evidence that the tiny drain holes in the mast were not working. There was a high water mark inside the mast some 6-8 feet above the butt. And the drain holes were blocked with corrosion products. I drilled a 1-1/4" hole in the mast step, and routed a trench in the nylon under it, leading to the edge. No more tiny little drain holes.

We talked to LeFiell, the mast manufacturer, and obtained a new mast step and a splice kit* as well as 2 feet of new mast extrusion (at the time, there were only 20 feet of this section left, in the entire world). To make the splice, first the right amount of the mast had to be cut off. And the cut had to be clean and *square* - this part of the mast is very heavily loaded - an unsquare cut would make a kink in the mast.

Using a sheet of newspaper wrapped around the mast, pulled tight with the edges matching, I colored the edge of the paper with a magic marker. I cut to very near this line using a skill saw with an abrasive cut-off blade, and then did a little clean up with an angle grinder and finally, a file. This surprisingly simple method (which I discussed with a Boeing machinist beforehand) produced excellent results - it came out very good!

Next, 33 holes had to be drilled into the splice inserts above and below the splice, on both sides... totaling 132 holes. Each had to be laid out, drilled, over drilled in the mast, countersunk, and then the matching hole in the splice insert had to be tapped. The picture shows the process 1/4 done, with one splice insert attached at one end. It took an entire day, but when it was finished, the mast was whole again (but an inch shorter... to accommodate the thickness of the nylon isolator).

While the mast was horizontal, it was an excellent time to replace the partially functional masthead light and the decaying VHF antenna. We also pulled some new wires, and left a pull string in the wiring conduit as insurance for the future.

Now, painting the mast. After a thorough scraping to break open all the corrosion "worms" under the paint, we gave it a heavy sanding with 150 grit sandpaper. Next a coat of zinc chromate corrosion protector, then a coat of epoxy primer. Sand again. Then 2 coats of 2-part polyurethane finish coat.

Unfortunately, this was happening late in the year, it proved impossible to get the high gloss that this paint can deliver. Despite application as early as possible (10 am, just after the humidity had fallen below the dew point), and with a beautiful finish still in evidence by 19:30 in the evening, by the next morning the dew had severely blushed the finish.

We gave up and had the yard spray on a final coat; they kept the mast inside their heated building (it barely fit, on a diagonal) until the paint was fully cured. Looks pretty good, doesn't it!

And because we were not willing to wait until January for a daytime tide low enough for the yard crane to restep the mast, we rented a big crane from Ness (well, we shared the rental with two other boats who also needed it).

I got one picture of the pick and hoist. I can't give enough credit to Rolland and Harris, the Seaview West guys who managed the process. With 30 years in heavy industry, I think I am qualified to say that these guys and the Ness crane operator really know their stuff.

Finally, after hooking up the wiring in the newly painted bilge area (with that new holding tank in place), it looks great!

* Splicing of mast extrusions is not uncommon, especially in the larger sections. An aluminum extrusion press is a batch machine - there is a maximum size to the slug of metal which can be placed into the press chamber before it is closed. Large mast sections use a lot of metal for every foot of length, and the largest presses cannot hold enough metal to create an extrusion long enough to make a seamless, long, large cross section, heavy wall mast.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Final Thursday

Last Thursday, we rushed off the dock right after I got home from work (delayed, unfortunately, by a blowout on my bicycle tire) - across the Sound to Port Madison. Nevertheless, we barely had the anchor down and dinner started and it was dark. Not "city street" dark, *DARK*. There are no streetlights on the water. This will have to be the final Thursday run to Port Madison this year.

Dinner was fabulous, if a little sad because of this (I always get maudlin at the passing of the summer). Jane picked all the crab we still had in the freezer (it was getting a little old), and I made crab cakes - yum!

Crab Cakes

  • Pick the meat from 5 or 6 medium rock crabs
  • Add two eggs
  • Crunch up a half a line of saltines or so and add it
  • Add a big blob of mayonnaise
  • Season with Old Bay or shrimp boil (my favorite), or...
  • Mix it all up completely

Spoon the mixture into a hot pan with a tablespoon or so of olive oil, shaping it into patties - pat them down until they are perhaps 1/2" thick. Fry until they are golden brown on each side.

Makes 4 6-8" diameter crab cakes

Other things you might consider adding to the mix:
  • chopped celery
  • chopped bell pepper
  • squeeze in a clove or two of garlic
  • chopped dill weed


Sunday, September 20, 2009


Looking like a mother duck and her ducklings, a cruising sailboat tows a gaggle of Optimist dinghies out of Port Madison on a recent evening. Did they imprint on it? Was it the first boat they saw as they left the dock?

The older/more experienced sailors get themselves out of the harbor by sailing. I could not capture all of them at once in the camera because they filled the harbor, but it is like being surrounded by a flock of butterflies - beautiful, graceful and silent.

Actually, sailing is a school sport on Bainbridge Island (boy, that's not the way I remember school!). I don't know if these pictures represent the school sessions, but there was definitely schooling going on. Here is one way to do it: Put an outboard on a dock section, set up a flipchart to make it an impromptu schoolroom, tie the Optimists to it, and take the whole shebang out into the harbor for on-site training.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On Any Sunday

Alternative uses for loose dock segments in Port Madison:

  • Cut a hole in the dock decking
  • Mount an outboard motor in the hole
  • Put a table, chairs, benches on the dock
  • Profit! Invite your neighbors and friends for an evening of cards and adult beverages while cruising (albeit very slowly) Port Madison!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

57 Degrees

On Sunday, during our brief Seattle Indian Summer heat wave, I dove on the prop again. At this time of year, the water is considerably warmer than it was last spring when last I did this deed... 57 degrees, in fact.

Nevertheless, I still suited up in my wetsuit, making me look like some kind of fat seal. And we used the teapot full of warm water dumped down my back trick again this time. Boy, this really, really works!

The timing for this was an attempt to get the zinc changes to fall at a time when the water is warmer. I am hoping that this one will last until May. The old zinc was about half gone, which is about right for 6 months - a little much for the 4.5 months that it has been since I installed it. Also, there were some places on the zinc where the erosion was much deeper than others - perhaps there were composition variations in the casting?

At one point, when I was working hard scraping barnacles off the prop, I realized that the cool water felt good.

Cool water ??!?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dilemma Redeemed

On our crossing from Shilshole to Port Madison yesterday afternoon, I cast the message in a bottle adrift, in the middle of the Sound, on an outgoing tide. I also inscribed on the label a short message describing where and when the bottle had been found, and where and when it was cast adrift once more.

And I feel better. Holding onto the bottle as a keepsake was keeping it from finding its intended receiver. I was feeling guilty, and now I feel redeemed. I put no contact info on it - if it is found, I will never know about it. I think that is appropriate.

Now I think I need to empty a bottle for my own message...

Friday, September 11, 2009

s/v Pineapple Express

When we first moved to the Shilshole Bay Marina, there was a genuine, classic wooden schooner tied up on the end of G Dock: s/v Pineapple Express. She was suffering a little from "deferred maintenance", but she was basically sound.

Perhaps her most distinguishing characteristic was her figurehead: a head-to-foot rendition of an anatomically correct nude woman. Whenever anyone visiting the dock made it out to the end, she (the figurehead) was immediately the topic of whispered conversation. Jane and I have in our minds the amusing image of a boat full of sea scouts going by, their every eye glued to the lady of Pineapple Express. Dock lore had it that she had been owned by Denver Pyle, "Uncle Jesse" from the Dukes of Hazard, and that the figurehead was in fact a rendition of his daughter.

From the day we arrived on G Dock, Pineapple Express was for sale. When she finally sold, her now ex-owner bought a big RV and is now, we understand, in Arizona. Her new owner, an elderly gentleman from Latvia, planned to bring her back to her former glory, and to sail her home to Latvia. He moved her off the dock, and over to the back side of Bainbridge Island, just North of Manzanita Bay, where she is today.

The refurbishment went very slowly. Each year, as we went to Manzanita or Poulsbo, we passed her, and each year it seemed she was in worse shape, the hull now severely stained with iron from rusting fasteners and the bobstay broken. Pineapple Express is a wood boat - fresh (eg. rain) water is anathema to a wood boat because it fosters rot. Yet for years, she sat open at the stern where a project to replace planking had become stalled. Not good at all.

Recently, however, work has been restarted. The stern planking is now replaced, although in this picture is still needs to be trimmed to length.

Owning a wood boat is always a maintenance race against the forces that want to destroy her. It remains to be seen whether the current owner can run fast enough to catch up.

If anyone reading this posting has further information on Pineapple Express, please send it to me, either as a comment or as email. We'd love to have a more complete story.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Deck Leaks

If a boat owner tells you he doesn't have any deck leaks, you should interpret that as, "I haven't found any deck leaks recently." Or, "I am lying to you because I want to sell you my boat."

With the return of the rains to Seattle (we set a record last weekend...), the subject of deck leaks is entirely apropos. Why do boats have 'em, and houses not? I don't know, but it may have to do with two things:
  • Boat decks are flat. Well, OK they are gently sloped to shed water, but nothing like the pitches of the roofs on houses
  • Boat decks have a lot of penetrations, where house roofs have only a very few - and those are very carefully (albeit traditionally) treated (chimneys, plumbing vent stacks, roof vents). Boats, on the other hand have deck penetrations for handrails, padeyes for blocks, lighting fixtures, dodger support structures, lifeline stanchions, pulpits, masts, etc. I'd wager that just one handrail on Eolian has more penetrations than the average house roof has altogether. (And what about a boat with a teak overlay deck? In addition to all the penetrations on a standard fiberglass deck, the teak overlay will itself have hundreds of screws.)
So, it comes down to opportunity (flat, or nearly flat surface) and risk (lots of penetrations).

But whatever the reason, deck leaks are a reality. They can really be tricky to locate too. The water can enter and travel a long way before it exits into the cabin. Eolian has a vinyl headliner, which means that water doesn't damage it, but it can direct the water a long distance.

So, what is going on in this picture from two winters ago? There was water coming out of the headliner edge at the narrow teak strip. I had used (ubiquitious) blue tape to redirect the drips from the cabin side, down the tape strips, and into the bowls. Until you find the source, this keeps there from being consequent damage.

And what was the source of this leak? Well, there was a little hole where a small screw had been removed (apparently from an earlier generation of our canvas cockpit enclosure). This screw hole was located inside the cockpit enclosure, and had not been a problem for the previous 12 years we had been responsible for Eolian. However, the small stream of water that had channeled inside the enclosure changed course (a new speck of dust? Recent waxing? Change of boat heel due to emptying water tanks? Who knows). Now it went directly over the screw hole. Well some of it went over the screw hole, but most of it went into the screw hole. And came out in the cabin. It is absolutely amazing how much water can come into the cabin via such circumstances. Until I figured it out, I was dumping the bowls, full, twice a day. Yeah, it rains a lot here in Seattle.

I need to make up a large batch of gelcoat, color-matched to the finish of Eolian's decks. Once I have applied this, the leak will be permanently fixed. But until then, there is a small square of blue tape over the hole.

Sadly, this is not the only small square of blue tape. I really need to make up that batch of gelcoat.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Digging Into the Freezer

Eolian has a freezer. It is an excellent freezer, in that it really, umm, freezes things well.

It is not just a small compartment inside the evaporator plates for the refrigerator, suitable for holding 3 small boxes of frozen peas entombed in lump of frost. Instead, it is a completely separate compartment. But it is not the shape of your conventional household freezer. This is a boat - it was shoehorned into an available space. It is about 3 feet deep, and about 13" square on the inside, making it about 3.5 cubic feet - an incredibly huge freezer for a boat. It is equipped with two holding plates, which make the cold last all day long without additional refrigeration input. (But these take up some of that 3.5 cubic feet - believe me, it is worth it.)

Now measure your arms. Are they 3 feet long? Didn't think so. So, how would you retrieve that bag of frozen crab on the very bottom of the freezer?


Oh, and it is difficult to get the whole length of your arm to work for you, because the freezer is back in the corner of the galley counter space, pretty much where it is least accessible.

Finally, as a consequence of The Second Law of Accessibility, whatever it is that you want to retrieve from the freezer, is on the bottom.

Last summer when we were off the dock for two weeks, I made sure the freezer was full, since it works best at retaining temperature when it is full, by using up the slack space with a milk jug full of water. It easily wedged into the space between the holding plates at the lower back of the freezer, because milk jugs are very flexible. Problem solved!

Well not quite.

Now how do I get that jug out of there? Of course now that it is frozen, it will not come out of the space... I am going to have to defrost the whole system and melt that jug to be able to get it out. That will take a long time (days, in fact). A good plan, gone bad thru a botched execution.

Still, we absolutely love our freezer!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Destination: Stuart Island, San Juan Islands

If you arrived here by searching for a chart, please see this page.
Stuart Island is the westernmost of the San Juan Islands. All the land and islands visible to the west from Turn Point (the white building with the red roof is the Turn Point lighthouse) are Canada. Part (but not all) of Stuart is a State Marine Park. But all of it is lovely. There are two major anchorages - Prevost Harbor on the North side, and Reid Harbor on the South side. Both harbors are absolutely great anchorages. But watch out for a tide rip which forms just outside of Prevost - we got caught in it once... it is, umm, very strong.

When last we were there, in the summer of 2006, we were anchored in Reid Harbor. It was hot. Jane wanted to walk out to the Turn Point lighthouse, but I was reluctant because I thought that the county roads shown on the chart and maps would be blacktopped and uncomfortably hot in the sun.

Ha! Here is a typical view of a county road on Stuart. There are a few cars on the island, but licensing apparently is kind of lax. Most residents seem to drive quads. What would you do with a car here anyway? Remember, there is no ferry, so any gas you need, you would have to bring in yourself... Apparently, cars never leave the island.

So, we did the walk. We found the one-room school on the island which handles the local kids - 6 at that time. (And they were advertising to try to get more.) The school has a really neat fund-raising idea - they have a "Treasure Chest" set out, with tee shirts, hats, etc... souvenirs of Stuart Island and the San Juans. It is a pirate motif, and a lot of the gear is too. The really neat part is that the whole thing is on the honor system. Completely. You take an item, and it comes with an IOU that says what amount you are supposed to mail to the school. I love island life.

In the most idyllic, bucolic view I have ever seen, there is a farm on the North side of the island, just above Prevost Harbor with a view of Mount Baker.

Can you imagine living here?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dilemma Resolved

It wasn't directed to me - I just happened to be a random recipient.

I can't supply what the writer wants.

I have interrupted the message on its way from sender to intended receiver.

But it's a really neat keepsake (darn!).

I have decided to throw the message in a bottle back into the sea. It seems the right thing to do. The next time we are off the dock, I will deliver the bottle back into the water in the middle of Puget Sound. I was planning to do it this weekend, but it is supposed to rain all weekend so it is unlikely that we will go out.

Beka suggested that I add a message telling of the interception, but that cork is really really jammed in there, so I will write something on the outside of the bottle. Tho it is likely that this will be gone by the time the bottle is found again, I will still do it - after all, the whole idea of a message in a bottle is a bet against improbability.
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