Saturday, May 29, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend, 2010: Nautical

The weather here in Seattle for Memorial Day was not nice: highs in the low 50's (lows in the 40's), fog, and rain. (I know that some of you out there in the world have been in full-blown Summer for a month already. I don't want to hear about it.)

Jane and I decided to make the best of it. We had a very nautical time.

We cast off out docklines Thursday nite and headed for our favorite close-in anchorage, Port Madison. As there was no significant wind, we drove. That has a benefit tho: we have a Red Dot heater, which heats the cabin using the engine cooling water. As soon as the cabin began to cool off after anchoring, I lit the Dickenson. Jane made us a huge taco salad for dinner.

The next morning was a lazy one. First, the cabin was down to 56° F, so I got up early and lit the Dickenson, and then tucked back under the covers while it did its work. A lot later, we got up and had a couple of lattes, and then even later I fried up some eggrooms (fried eggs & fried mushrooms). Then some reading, and finally lunch. All of this was because the tide would not turn in our favor until 12:30 at Agate Pass. Having forced laziness is actually a good thing on the first day of a vacation - it gets the mood in place right away.

We motored thru Agate Pass to Poulsbo after lunch. We didn't leave the boat after anchoring tho, as it was raining hard. So we had another cozy nite down below. I cooked us some cheeseburgers on the grill between rain showers, and there was more reading. I spent an inordinate amount of time working with a new wireless antenna for the computer. Again, the Dickenson kept us toasty.

This morning, we rose late, and after a couple of lattes (seeing the pattern yet?), we put the dinghy in the water and headed over to town. Instead of our usual stop at Sheila's Bayside Cafe, we tried a breakfast at Tizley's Pub - it had been recommended to us by Brent and Jill on Ambition, our next door neighbors at the marina, not least because they make a killer Bloody Mary. It lived up to its billing - Jane had an Irish boxty, and I had bangers, hash & eggs, with the obligatory Bloody Marys. It's an upstairs place, with balcony seating, tho no one was out there sitting in the rain.

Then we wandered around town to the galleries, bought 3 lb of licorice, some antique plates at one of the antique stores, and a matted old-timey Poulsbo poster. We stopped at the used book store and bought some books, and in particular, a book which will go to Fred, published by Sampson Marine, the maker of Fred and Lynda's boat, s/v Black Opal (shhh... don't tell him). We finally ended up at the Hare and Hound - a pub built by an Englishman and named after one that was across the street from him in England, when he was growing up. They had a fine selection of beers, and wanted us to try them all.

Then back out to the boat. For dinner tonite, Jane made us a wonderful coconut chicken with jalapeños and basmati rice. After I finish this post and wash the dishes, there'll be some guitar and some more reading.

Tomorrow, we'll head back to Port Madison - the tide in Agate Pass has us exiting sometime between 04:34 and 12:42. We'll not be able to continue our years long annual tradition of watching the Indy 500 while at anchor somewhere, because with the digital TV "improvement" we no longer get enough signal. But we'll listen on the radio, which takes Jane back to her girlhood.

Monday, we'll return to Shilshole at the 13:50 slack water.

I'd say the trip is a success... and in fact, it is hard to not have a success with a 4-day weekend.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Where do you work?

When you live on a boat, there is no garage, or workshop, or even a basement that you can take your projects to. You have only three choices:
  • work out on the dock
  • work out on deck
  • work inside, where you live
And, sadly, too often the weather removes the first two choices. Leaving:
  • work inside, where you live
This might seem intrusive. but the fact of the matter is that I enjoy the smell of varnish, and there is a huge satisfaction in getting things accomplished. Done.

With that in mind, having the projects right there where you live is an advantage. While you are making dinner, you can be thinking about the best order for varnishing those panels. And while you are eating, you can think about how exactly to varnish the wheel inside (answer: suspend a short piece of stainless rail tubing on a rope from the overhead. The wheel spins nicely on it while you apply varnish). You don't waste any time going to the shop, and you can go to bed 1 minute after cleaning your paint brush. You might be amazed at how much you can accomplish under these circumstances.

Assuming you can get past the chaos, of course.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Destination: Port Ludlow

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

Traveling from Seattle to the San Juans via Admiralty Inlet is a long run to make in one day. One convenient stopping-off place on the trip is Port Ludlow, allowing you to divide the trip into two legs (two other such possibilities on Admiralty Inlet are: Fort Flagler/Mystery Bay and Port Townsend, but this post is about Port Ludlow).

Port Ludlow is a very sheltered bay and a wonderful gunkhole. It is not particularly tricky to get into (see Gig Harbor), but it will be scary the first time you do it. Look at the chart to the left there (depths in fathoms). Note that between the buoy "N2" and the dayboard on Tala Point, the best depth is 24 feet. Now look to the right, toward open water: the depths there are 120 feet and on down. Yes, there is a ledge there, and yes you are going to go over it. There is enough water, but it is quite alarming to see your depth sounder go from 150 feet or more to 24 feet in a very short distance. You will absolutely believe that you are going aground. And yes, you probably do want to split the distance between the buoy and the dayboard. Entering Port Ludlow is a test of faith.

Once you are over the ledge, things are easy. Motor on beyond the privately maintained lite on the end of the hook, and you are in some of the most protected waters in all of Puget Sound. This is not a particularly shallow anchorage - you will be in 30 - 50 feet of water, but it is a sticky mud bottom with good holding. Pay attention to the cable zone noted on the chart at the back of the harbor. We have personally proved that there are, indeed, cables there (a story for another time).

There is also a delightful anchorage in the bight behind the twin islands, at the back, southern end of the harbor. But you will not want to attempt entering at low water. It is best if you explore the passage to the secluded bay with a dinghy before taking your deep draft vessel back there.

Until fairly recently, Port Ludlow was a mill town. All of the land was owned by the Pope & Talbot timber company, and the mill was on the spit, where now there live condominiums. Having sold off the shoreline and some of the second tier, I believe that Pope & Talbot is still selling off prime real estate for development around the harbor. Here is an excerpt from the Port Ludlow Resort's site, giving a brief synopsis of the history of Port Ludlow:
In 1853, Port Ludlow became the site of one of the Northwest’s earliest sawmills. The mill supplied lumber to pioneers and settlers until 1878, when Andrew Pope and Captain William Talbot purchased and invested heavily in renovating the operation. Pope & Talbot, as the venture came to be known, transformed the small mill into a thriving logging, milling, and shipping enterprise.

Port Ludlow became a swash-buckling shipbuilding town and with the money came businesses, churches, and plenty of social options from card playing to dance halls and bawdy houses. During this era, many homes were built for workers in the eastern style of the owners’ hometown of East Machias, Maine.

During the Great Depression, the mill lost business and the owners were unable to fund new equipment to keep the operation competitive. It was finally closed in 1935. Many of the homes constructed during Port Ludlow’s glory days were loaded onto barges and transported across the Hood Canal to Port Gamble or Bremerton for military housing. By 1950, Port Ludlow had declined to a near-ghost town, though farmers and small logging businesses still operated in the area.

The 1950’s brought a new beginning to Port Ludlow with the increasing value of Port Ludlow’s Real Estate. Also the post-war population growth created a market for recreational home sites and property.

In the early 1960s, a floating bridge was constructed to span the Hood Canal. The bridge became an economic lifeline for the eastern part of the Olympic Peninsula, providing easy access from Kitsap County and the greater Puget Sound area. In 1966, Pope & Talbot recognized that Port Ludlow’s unique water and mountain views and pristine natural environment — now with a fast bridge connection — would provide a spectacular place for a residential community.

Thus, they began the first phase of a planned residential community at the site of the original Port Ludlow mill.

This is a quiet, peaceful anchorage, with all the shoreline being residential except for the marina on the north shore. It is run by very friendly folks - give them some of your business if you can - you won't regret it. (You will find me plugging business only very rarely - this one deserves it).

Although I have billed it here as a layover, Port Ludlow deserves more - it really qualifies as a destination.

Monday, May 24, 2010

For horses, for sailboats

I stopped in at our local farm supply store and bought these two fittings for a total of $5. They are solid bronze, and I plan to use them on our flag halyard. I priced the same (OK, similar) fittings in the West Marine catalog... Want to guess? $9.49. Each.

A lot of horse tackle is either stainless or bronze, and is priced without the "marine multiplier" - next time you are nearby, check out a farm supply store.

If it is springtime, there will even be real, honest to gosh peeps!

Friday, May 21, 2010


*pooosh* ... *peeesh* ... I am your father...

(reflection of anchor platform of m/v Tereña)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crabs, Part 3: How to cook and eat them

How does one dispatch a crab? OK, sorry - that's a euphemism. How does one kill a crab in order to cook and eat it? There: I've faced up to it.

In two previous postings, we've met crabs, and learned how to catch them. Now how do we get them into the cooking pot?

When we first moved onto the water, we were told a lot of things. One method (which I suppose we have all heard) is to just throw them into the cooking pot while they are alive. This method has the following drawbacks:
  • The crab doesn't want to go in the pot. Imagine trying to put a cat into a cat carrier, except with crab pinchers.
  • You need a really big pot.
  • This is by far the clincher for me: you're boiling the poor creature alive. They react to this just about like you'd expect.
OK, so that method is out for me. I'd also read about pithing them (think: high school biology; frogs). Supposedly a crab's brain is just aft of the forward edge of the shell and between the eyes. I tried crushing a couple there with pliers - again, I was just torturing the poor things.

Finally, Art showed us the way. Remember we were talking about the "sex plate" on their under sides as a means of determining gender? Well, it turns out that if you turn the crab over and strike a sharp blow on that plate - hard enough to break it - you will kill it instantly. I mean:


I use our bronze winch handle to do the deed.

Discarding the parts of the crab that won't be eaten is quick: with one hand, hold the shell, and with the other, put your thumb on that broken plate and weave your fingers in with the 4 legs. Lever the legs up and in, away from the shell. Setting the shell and the other legs aside for a minute, look at what you have in your hand. You will see 4 legs and some grey, curved finger-looking things on them. These are the crab's gills - you should pick them off and throw them back into the water. Give the legs a quick slosh in the water to rinse off anything else, and they are ready. Do the same with the other side, and throw the shell and contents back in the water. (Trust me - the other crabs down there will see this as manna falling from heaven.)

You will need about 1 full set of legs per person. If everybody is starved, then 3 crabs will serve 2 people.

Here's how we cook crab on Eolian:
  • In a suitable sized pan, put 1/4" - 1/2" of water (I like to use 50/50 salt/fresh), and put it on the heat. We are not going to boil the crab; we are going to steam it.
  • When the water is boiling, sprinkle in some crab boiling spices, add the crab, and put on a lid.
  • The crab will be done when the meat at ends of the legs is no longer translucent - maybe 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of the pot, the size of the flame, and how much crab is in there. Another bit of evidence will be steam escaping from the pot - this won't happen until the crab inside is heated; if it were still cool, the steam would be condensing on the crab instead of escaping. Don't over-cook it. For us, well we have pots with glass lids, so it is easy to see when it is done.
Each person should be provided with a plate to work on, or maybe just a clear spot on the dock, and plenty of paper napkins. If you are eating inside, a bowl will be needed to collect the emptied shells. Each person will definitely want a crab cracker to open the shells to get at the meat. The pointy end segments of the legs make excellent, disposable picking tools to get the last bits of meat from the far recesses of the joints. (Here we have put a towel over the pot to keep the crab warm until we get to it. And beer has been substituted for wine - beer works too.)

Separate a leg from your crab half, and first dip the meaty end into your little pot of melted butter. Stick it in your mouth, and use your lips and tongue to separate the meat from the little bony separator plates. When you have gotten all of that meat, put the first joint ( the one that was closest to the body) in between the jaws of the cracker, tall way up. Crack it a couple of places along it's length, and you should be able to pull away half of the shell and get at the meat. Dip it in the butter! Have a sip of wine! (yes, your wine glasses are going to get dirty finger prints all over them. Shelling crab and eating it is not something you do in evening attire.

Eating crab is like eating corn on the cob. Everybody has a system. I work from the small legs to the big one with the claw. That leg is special, since it is the mother lode - there is meat even in the elbow joint - that's why I save it for last.

Crab caught, cooked and eaten like this will have a wonderful rich, sweet flavor, not very much at all like the strong taste of the whole-cooked crab you find in the grocery store (if you live in a coastal area), let alone the canned variety.

Go ahead! What are you waiting for?

Get crackin!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Let the year begin!

I am writing this at anchor in Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island. At anchor... not tied to the dock at Shilshole, finally!

Well, OK, there was one other nite on 4/30 when we made a quick trip over to Port Madison, but it was a quickie, and it was still cold enough that we had to use our spare sleeping bags as an additional comforter, and we had to fire up the Dickenson (or rather I had to fire up the Dickenson) to heat up the cabin in the morning. And, as opposed to that trip, I can report that all systems (including the anchor windlass) are working fine!

We left Friday evening - our original plans were to go to Poulsbo, but that would have required sailing to windward against 17 -20 kt. Instead, we just rolled out the yankee and coasted downwind, south to Port Blakely. It was a relaxing trip until we started to encounter the shipping... a lot of shipping, all apparently exquisitely timed to intersect with us. There was:
  • A northbound tug and tow
  • A southbound tug and tow
  • A big container ship
  • A submarine, traveling on the surface with two Coast Guard cutters as escort.
  • The eastbound ferry out of Eagle Harbor
  • The westbound ferry bound for Eagle Harbor.
Thankfully, the container ship turned into Elliot Bay, giving us a little gap in time that we exploited to put the traffic behind us.

We had a delightful evening and a quiet nite at anchor in Blakely Harbor. Our usual spot was available, and we took it.

The next morning, because it was calm, we elected to try Eagle Harbor again. In the past, the harbor had been filled with derelict boats, collections of boats, and collections of things that floated (but could not be called boats). I am not sure how it was done, but I counted only 5 derelicts - and all the anchor zone restrictions are gone too (I think that was an earlier attempt to clear the harbor). In any case, I can report that our stay was wonderful. We dinghied into town and stopped at our favorite pub for a pint, and then went grocery shopping for dinner: Shrimp Pahd Thai from scratch.

And now here we are, enjoying the warming morning. Our departure from here this morning will be timed to get us back to the dock at Shilshole at slack water, to facilitate docking, as always.

It's a good weekend!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

And now, for something completely different...

A draft horse can pull a 1000 lb wagon on a level, hard road.

A draft horse can pull 50-60 times that on water: 50,000 - 60,000 lb.

You need to improve the transportation infrastructure in England to move coal and other materials into London for manufacturing and food to feed the inhabitants.  Do you build roads, or do you build canals?

In the 18th century, this was an easy decision: You built canals.

In the 19th century, despite the rise of steam power, canals were still a viable solution, partly because of existence of the functional 18th century infrastructure. And in fact, the British canals were used commercially thru WWII.

England is not a particularly flat country, so the canal system is riddled with locks - hundreds of locks, all manually operated, by the boatmen themselves. To minimize expense, the canals were not made wide. But the controlling dimensions in the canal system are the sizes of the lock chambers: 7' x 72'. These constraints spawned an unusual class of boat: the Narrowboat.

The British canals, once a mix of private- and government-owned, have been nationalized. Because of that and their usage into the 1950's, they are in remarkably good shape, and they are getting better. The narrowboats have over 2200 miles of waterways to explore. An excellent online reference, which uses Google Maps so you can zoom in and see the individual boats, locks, etc, can be found here.

Commercial traffic on the British canal system has all but disappeared, but the boating traffic is as high as ever - once working craft, the narrowboats have been embraced as recreational vessels. And like everywhere else, when you mix people and boats, you always get one common factor: the Liveaboard.

Here is a stellar example: Narrowboat Caxton:
NB Caxton is 68' long and 6'10" wide. Narrowboats are flat bottomed; Caxton draws approximately 22" and weighs 18 tons. She is constructed from steel, with a 10mm base plate, 6mm sides and 5mm cabin, and is powered by a Beta 43 diesel engine. With those dimensions, you will not be surprised to hear she has a bow thruster, although not all narrowboats do.

Despite their unfamiliar (to us) dimensions, much of the design of narrowboats will be familiar to readers of this blog - they need to solve many of the same problems.  So solar panels, heads, propane systems, batteries, inverters are all common subjects.  But foreign to us will be posts about weed hatches, tunnel lights, cratch boards and more.

To this west coast US sailor, narrowboating in England is a very different kind of boating. I have been following several of the narrowboating blogs (some listed below), and I think I can summarize the daily activites to be something like this:
  • Rise promptly at 09:00
  • Have a leisurely breakfast; go for a romp with the dogs
  • Pull pins (narrowboats are usually moored to steel pins which they drive into the soft banks of the canals) and putt 3 or 4 miles. (Note: this will inevitably involve passing thru several locks, or perhaps a tunnel, or even over an aqueduct - a bridge for boats.)
  • Moor up, and go for a romp with the dogs
  • Walk up into the local village and find a pub.
  • Lather, rinse, repeat.
On second thought, that does sound kind of familiar. Except for the bit with the steel pins.

If you have ever taken a canoe or kayak trip on a river, you will probably have noted that, except in the most urban of environments, the world at stream- or creek-level is remarkably untouched. In the case of the canals, this effect is even more pronounced, since the canals now are all government owned. The views of the countryside and the ancient bridges along your path are bucolic and spectacular at the same time. (The pictures you see here were taken by Leslie on NB Caxton, who has an artist's eye and has given me permission to display them here.)

Because of the way the licensing in England works, boats which do not have a permanent moorage are constrained to stay no more than 14 days in any one spot. So there is a lot of movement, all year long.

Narrowboaters are prolific bloggers.  Here are some I have been following:
Narrowboat bloggers make a custom of the blogroll - the links there will lead you thru a seemingly infinite universe of narrowboating.  And there seems to be an ongoing contest amongst the narrowboaters as to who has the most popular website - many feature the "UK Waterways Site Rank" badge, which shows their hit ranking day by day.

If you are curious about how the narrowboats are built and fitted out, then I recommend you read thru NB Bobcat's site.  It is all about the construction of NB Bobcat, which was just completed on May 4.

Narrowboating very much is something completely different...  and intriguing to those of us moored in deep salt water, precisely because it is so different.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Watt's Your Energy Budget?

Now that we have common ground on the meaning of energy, we can discuss an energy budget. In this discussion we will use the "bastard unit" of amp-hours as a stand-in for energy.

Why not use the real energy unit: watts? Because it is easy to say something like: "My refrigerator draws 30 amps, and I need to run it for about 2 hours/day. Thus it uses 60 amp-hours per day." In the real energy units of watts, the refrigerator uses 30 amps x 12 volts x 2 hours = 720 watt-hours. Tho this is correct, it is one step removed from those things that are easily measured, and differs from the amp-hour value only by a constant: the system voltage.So we take a step back from correctness in favor of transparency.

So let's run thru an analysis. On our hypothetical boat, Hypothesis, we find these things which use electrical energy:

12 Volt ConsumerAmpsHr/dayAmp-Hr/day
Refrigerator30 amps2 hours/day60 amp-hours/day
Water Maker6 amps4 hours/day24 amp-hours
Autopilot6/0 amps under way/at anchor?24/0 amp-hours (est) under way/at anchor
Instruments & GPS2 amps24 hours/day48 amp-hours
Interior Lighting5 amps4 hours/day20 amp-hours
Anchor Light2 amps0/8 hours/day under way/at anchor0/16 amp-hours under way/at anchor
Navigation Lighting4 amps8/0 hours/day under way/at anchor32/0 amp-hours under way/at anchor
VHF0.5 amps (RX)24 hours/day12 amp-hours

Wow. Hypothesis shows a total daily consumption of energy of about 220 amp-hr while under way, and about 180 amp-hr while at anchor. These are substantial numbers. If Hypothesis carries (let's say) 600 amp-hours of battery capacity, her owner might still be feeling pretty smug. But most experts seem to agree that regularly drawing down your batteries more than 50% will severely shorten their lives. Uh oh... now we are looking at a daily energy consumption which runs 60% to 73% of the available storage capacity.

So unless we replenish energy, we'll run out sometime in the second day. Not looking good for that long cruise at all. Here are some ways to replenish that 180-220 amp-hours every day:
Run the engine.
If you have a 180 amp alternator, you'd think that an hour would do it. But the alternator won't be delivering energy at it's rated output for that full hour - it will fall off as the batteries charge up. Figure two hours at a minimum

Solar Panels
Assuming that Hypothesis owner bought 4 large panels that are rated at 15 amps, all she'd need is 3.6 hours of sunshine per day. But that rated output is at "full sun", which you can read as "noon in the tropics". If Hypothesis were in the tropics, those 4 panels would probably take care of her pretty well, given that she will have a lot more than 4 hours of fairly direct sun and even more hours at a less than optimal angle. The crew's job would be to keep adjusting those panels so that they are perpendicular to the incoming sunlight thru the day, and to make sure that nothing shadows a panel. Cloudy days present a problem, of course

Wind Generator
Most of these are rated at 300-500 watts - let's convert to our units: dividing by system voltage, 25-42 amps. Now that rating is probably at 25 kt, which we hope Hypothesis is not spending days on end in. So let's cut that in half for a more realistic estimate of power output - say 10-20 amps. The beauty of the wind generator is that it continues day and night, as long as there is wind. The wind generator could easily handle the load.
But the first thing that should be done aboard Hypothesis is to try to reduce the energy consumption.
  • Replacing all the lights with LED bulbs will make a very significant dent in the budget.
  • Drink warm beer and turn off the refrigerator. The refrigerator is the largest single energy consumer on this boat.

Many cruisers seem to use a strategy employing all of the above: They reduce consumption as far as possible. They run the engine occasionally. They have solar panels, and they have a wind generator. Hypothesis should be able to make her cruise after all.

Note that in all of this, I have purposely left out mention of an inverter. Inverters are wonderful inventions, allowing use of 120V appliances with a 12V energy source. But here is where our "bastard unit" of amp-hours can get us in trouble. Remember I said that we could just ignore the system voltage because it was constant? Well with the inverter in the equation, that is no longer true. Here's how to figure your 120V energy usage:
  1. Look for the tag on the 120V appliance where it's rate of energy consumption is specified. It will most likely be in watts (or kilowatts: 1000 watts). Sometimes it is stamped or molded into the bottom or back of the appliance.
  2. If the tag denotes watts, just divide the wattage by 12, and you will be pretty close to the 12V amperage required to feed this 120V appliance thru the inverter.
  3. If instead you find a rating in amps, multiply it by 10 and use that as the 12V amperage required.
(Here, near the end where most people will have given up reading this, I shamefacedly admit that Eolian's energy budget includes 16 amp-hours/day for the making of lattes in the morning, using the espresso machine thru the inverter.)

Also note that an inverter draws power all the time it is on, even if there is no 120V load. But most likely there will be a few "wall bricks" plugged in somewhere, increasing the load. Turn off the inverter when it is not in use.

If you are doing an energy budget (or cruising!), there is one instrument you will want to install: an amp-hour meter. These directly read out the amp-hours consumed from (or fed into) your batteries. Having one on a cruise is having a "fuel" gauge for your electricity storage. And having one before the cruise allows you to get a firm handle on your consumption. I highly recommend it.

Those 600 amp-hour worth of batteries on Hypothesis could store a total of 600 x 12 = 7200 watt-hours, or 7.2 kilowatt-hours. You could buy this energy from your local power company for about $1. Instead, managing it yourself onboard is a *BIG* deal. Life is sure easier ashore.

But life offshore is well worth it.

Public safety item

I found this on the Voyages of Sea Trek blog.  As it is a safety item, and in fact one which could affect some of those on our dock, I feel it is important to get the word out as widely as possible.  I'm sure Chuck and Susan would agree.  Here is their posting:

Dehumidifier Recall

We try and post any safety issues we find that would have a affect a broad number of boaters and we feel this is an important one since many of us in all climates along the eastern seaboard especially, could be affected. We use a dehumidifier all of the time on board Beach House but not any of the ones affected by the recall. Nothing is more frightening and devastating for boat owner like a fire so we considered this one important. This humidifiers can be purchased on line or at many home improvement stores. Check the link and be sure yours is not included

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a recall of 98,000 dehumidifiers sold under the Goldstar and Comfort-Aire brands between January 2007 and June 2008. The model in question, manufactured by China's LG Electronics Tianjin Appliance Co., has a 30-pint resevoir with a front-loading bucket, and a red shut-off button. This unit has been determined to be the cause of a number of fires — and we all know how boat fires usually turn out. To see if your dehumidifier is on the recall list, check this site.
Please check to see if your dehumidifier is on the recall list. Boat fires never end well.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Salnick's First Law

Complexity is the enemy of reliability

First corollary:
Simplicity is harder than complexity

Second corollary:
Complex solutions are usually the first ones discovered

Third corollary:
When a simple solution and a complex one are both possible, the complex one results from an inability to grasp the entire problem at once.

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


Thursday, May 6, 2010

More boat stamps

A recent posting over at s/v Estrellita got me looking for boat stamps, and look at what I found:

A place where you can make your own custom postage! (Sorry for you non USians, it looks like it will only generate US postage). How cool is that!

The postage costs about twice what it does in the Post Office ($18.95 for a sheet of 20), so these are probably not what you'd use to pay your bills.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Adventures in Paradise

Does anybody else remember the TV show with that name? It had Adam Troy, as a kind of 1950's precursor to Captain Kirk, plying the waters of the South Pacific on his trusty schooner Tiki. That show personified the wanderlust that we all seem to have, and it certainly had an effect on me.

Lots of people dream about throwing off the responsibilities of the day-to-day life and sailing off to tropical isles... Have you? You could you know. People are doing that very thing today. Or perhaps you'd like to live vicariously thru the experiences of those who are.

Well, I have a treat for you today: here are two couples who are making it happen. Right now. Today.
  • Carol and Livia, aboard their Wauquiez Pretorien 35 Estrellita 5.10b, have spent the past 16 months getting ready to leave - a recent post summarizes their preparations, but for a full understanding of the process of getting the boat, and much more importantly, themselves ready, your reading should really start at the beginning of their journey. Now they are less than 43 days from cutting the dock lines, and their excitement is building. Follow along with them at s/v Estrellita 5.10b as the days count down.
  • Mike and Rebecca, aboard their PDQ 32 catamaran Katana, are probably the two physically fittest cruisers you will ever meet. They've chosen a catamaran as their waterborne home - a choice which balances things in an entirely different way. This is a boat which has lots of stowage, but which must be kept light in weight in order to reach her speed potential - makes for interesting decisions. They will be starting their journey in fresh water, far enough north that it freezes in the winter (Lake Ontario!), so they'll have quite a trip ahead of themselves just to get to salt water. Their plans have them cutting the dock lines in 89 days (as of today). Join them as the days wind down and the pace winds up at Zero To Cruising.
If reading these two blogs has whetted your appetite, I suggest you check out the Interview With a Cruiser blog which Livia recently started. Although it is not very old, it has been wildly successful. It's premise is to have questions, supplied by folks who are not (yet) cruising, answered by folks who are. It's a great idea!

Listen... I can hear the trade winds rustling the palm fronds overhanging the white sand beach right now.

Can you?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I learned about sailing from that: Check your systems before you need them

This post is not about some long-ago event, from 30 or 40 years ago when we were just starting to be sailors. The events here occurred this morning, when we should have had the benefit of long experience. But hubris gets the best of everyone from time to time, and this weekend it was our turn.

The trip this weekend was our first of the year. Events and weather had postponed it until now, and we were anxious to be off the dock for a quick over-nighter to Port Madison. Despite the desire to be off, we waited until afternoon to throw off the lines, spending the morning getting Eolian ready to go, after her winter hibernation.

Everything went well and we had a wonderful evening meal, despite it being chilly and spitting rain on me while I BBQ'ed. The morning too was idyllic, as we were planning to dock back at the marina (about 90 minutes away) at slack water, which would occur at 13:30.

About 10:30, we checked the NOAA weather forecast, and found that the 20+ kt winds which had previously been forecast to arrive in the evening, now were expected in the afternoon. We decided to get ready and leave, reasoning that docking in the tail end of the tide change was preferable to docking with a 20 kt tailwind.

At 11:00, we were ready. I had the engine running, Jane was at the bow with the washdown hose at the ready, and I was below at the chain locker, ready to flake the incoming chain.

Jane keyed the windlass, and then: well, then NOTHING. The windlass was an inert lump of metal, and nothing we could do would persuade it to run. I wished then that I had just bumped it at the dock, to be sure that it would run when needed, after sitting all winter.

So we hoisted the anchor by hand. This is not an easy task, since Eolian's primary anchor rode is 3/8" chain, and the anchor is a 66 lb Bruce. That is a lot of weight. We were quite fortunate tho, because:
  • We had started to leave an hour earlier than planned - thus we had an hour of slack in our schedule.
  • We were in 14 feet of water, with only 75' of chain out. This means that we did not have much to retrieve, and that only 14' of it was suspended at any time.
  • There was no wind
  • There was a vanishingly small current
  • There were no other boats around us - meaning that during that period after breaking out the anchor, but while we were still retrieving it, we didn't have to worry about drifting into trouble
I don't think things could have conspired to make it any easier on us. We got the anchor back on board, and the rest of the trip continued our good luck - it began to rain just after we were tied up and had closed the boat up.

  • Test all systems, at least at the beginning of the season, before you need them. Make the test at a time and place of your choosing - one where time and circumstance do not require the test to succeed.
  • If a failure occurs, be prepared to change your plans.
We got out of this one way too easily. In any other expected circumstance, the consequences could have been much more severe.

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

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

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