Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Destination: Filucy Bay (Longbranch)

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

South Puget Sound
Soundings in fathoms
(click for a larger version)
A favorite destination in the South Sound for many is Filucy Bay, located on the Southeastern corner of the Key Peninsula.  Many will refer to Filucy Bay by the name of the tiny town centrally located on it: Longbranch - most folks will use the names almost interchangeably.  Calling Longbranch a town is probably historically accurate, but tho it has a zip code, there is not much there beyond the marina of the same name.

To reach Filucy Bay, you will want to ride the tide thru the Tacoma Narrows (at the right in the chart).  Unless you are a power boat with a very large engine, you're going to want to make the Tacoma Narrows passage with the tide.  Probably you'll want to do so even if you have that large engine, because the tidal flow here can be prodigious.

After running the Narrows, you will continue to ride a lessening tide South, past Fox Island and then past the opening to Carr Inlet.

Filucy Bay
Soundings in fathoms
(click for a larger version)
Thread the needle thru Balch Passage, the narrow little run between McNeil Island on the North and Anderson Island on the South.  If the tide is still running strongly when you make this passage, do not get too close to Eagle Island - there can be a substantial current running to the South of Eagle Island which could drag you into very shallow water.  I almost ran us aground there.

You may have heard of McNeil Island.  It is the site of a maximum security Federal Prison.  There are signs all along the shore urging you to stay away and cautioning against picking up swimmers.  This is Washington's version of Alcatraz...  they do mean business.  Although the actual prison only occupies a small part of the island, the entire island is off limits, therefore much of it is in a wonderful natural state.

Do not attempt to approach Filucy Bay from the North thru Pitt Passage, between McNeil Island and the Key Peninsula without local knowledge.  Pitt Passage is shallow and littered with rocks.

As you enter Filucy Bay, occupying the Southern point which forms the opening you will see a beautifully sited large white estate - this is the aptly named "Faraway", built as a resort for the well-heeled in 1910, when it was indeed far away.  Today it serves as a retreat for the Archdiocese of Seattle.

The bulk of Filucy Bay is 8 fathoms, with a mud bottom.  It is an excellent, protected anchorage.   The water is warm; there is an oyster farm up the narrow part of the Northern arm of the bay.  And most unusual!  The bay is littered with sand dollars!  I had never seen them alive before visiting Filucy Bay.  In life they are covered with black, almost velvety waving hairs, and position themselves edge-on on a slant into the sand, looking for all the world like tiny crashed flying saucers.  Their skeletons (the traditional sand dollar) are everywhere.

Right in the middle of the West shoreline, almost directly across from the opening to the bay is the Longbranch Marina.  In 2010, a disagreement between the marina owners and Pierce County, which owns the wharf that serves the marina, as to who should maintain that wharf caused the wharf to be condemned by the County due to its disrepair.  But fear not, the disagreement has been settled and the wharf has been rebuilt - the marina is open!

Monday, June 27, 2011

You know it's summer when...

Seattlites joke that you know it's summer here when the rain turns warm.  Seriously tho, I have a different measure.  I deem us to have completed our annual transit thru Woebegone and to have entered into Summer when we can leave all Eolian's ports and hatches open all night for the first time.

Last nite was that nite, and it's early this year!

We're in SUMMER!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Olfactory, meet Limbic

Scientists who study these things tell us that the olfactory lobe of our brains - where the sense of smell derives - is closely connected to our limbic systems - the seat of emotions.  I have no doubt of this, nor should you.  All it would take is one whiff of your high-school sweetheart's chosen perfume, and all the uncertainty, self consciousness and confusion of those times would return to you in a rush.  And women are very much aware of this.  (Ladies: if you would render him helpless, find out what perfume his high school sweetheart wore and use it yourself - he'll never know what hit him).

Of course, I can have no way of knowing if this would work with the gender roles reversed.  But if it did, what would the guys do - try to obtain a pair of sweaty gym socks from her high school sweetheart?  (I think you see why I am not much of a success at matchmaking.)

I was struck by the close connection between the olfactory and limbic systems again tonight, while riding my bicycle home from the University.  As I have written before, just as I came to the Locks, the smell of seawater (yes, it really does have a distinct smell)  filled my nose.  And my emotions rose.  I stopped pedaling like a crazy man in some kind of race and slowed down.  I was overcome with a kind of calm, relaxed  joy.  The emotion that filled me (and it *did* fill me) was one of wonderful homecoming, like you got in college when you returned home for Christmas break. 

Do you feel it too when you go to the sea?  And where does this come from?  Is it a harkening back to our early origins?  Is it the emotional equivalent of the fact that the composition of our blood is almost exactly that of seawater?  I don't think we can know, since emotion is beyond reason.  But I do know that, living on the water as I do, I get to experience this every single night.  It never grows old - it's been happening to me now for 11 years, since we moved Eolian out to Shilshole.  And it is wonderful.  Absolutely and indescribably wonderful.

So guys, maybe you could take advantage of this.  Instead of the old gym socks, you might want to go with a judicious application of seaweed, rubbing a little behind each ear.

Let me know how it works out for you.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Sunset on the eve of the Summer Solstice - 9:10 PM here in Seattle at the Western end of the timezone and up near the Canadian border.  From here on the days get shorter.


(Yes, that is a wine glass.  Also sadly, it is an empty wine glass.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

A beautiful day in the neighborhood!

I'm pretty sure that it doesn't show well in this photo, but this morning is a summer morning in Seattle.  You know the kind - where the air is still and humid, and full of the wonderful smells of growing things.  And the icing:  here on the water, you can smell the sea too.  It is warm and cool at the same time.  Just breathing the air fills you with promise for the coming day - it's like breathing in a kind of sparkling elven elixir.  

It is the first such morning this year.

I have all the hatches and ports open, seagull cries echoing thru the marina are filtering in, and the dull grey winter air is being wafted out and replaced with bright yellow summer air.  And I am overflowing with what Alan Greenspan once termed "irrational exuberance".

Talk about being creatures of our environment!  One beautiful morning has reduced me to a gibbering fool.

And I love it!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fathers' Day reflections

Erica & Adam aboard DejaVu III, ca. 1985
It is so awesome.  No, not as in the now-common parlance, but rather in its original meaning:  AWEsome. Being a father, that is.

You bring these small, completely helpless creatures into the world (well, OK, the mother does have a small part to play here, but this is Fathers' Day, after all).

And then they rapidly become *people*.  People with dreams and hurts.  People with skills and shortcomings.

As a parent, as a father, it is your job to smooth the way for them (not to do for them, because this steals from them the joy of achievement), to hold their hands and help them over the rough spots, and to guide them.  But the best guidance is not what you say, but rather what you do.  It is far better to model the behavior that you want your children to adopt than to simply demand it (although sometimes both are necessary, realizing up front that you are then modeling autocratic behavior).

But the most important thing about parenting is this:  Children inherently trust and love their parents.  Never, NEVER betray this trust; never take advantage of their love.

And yes, I do believe that there is a marine gene.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wait... $5/pound!?

Turns out Chuck was right - the tank indeed was monel (a copper-nickel alloy), and monel scrap is valuable - $5/lb in fact.  So the 50 lb that I took in to the scrappie was a nice little windfall (I'm sure it will get absorbed quickly in boat work of some kind).  Now I really regret that the first 15-20 lb of tank pieces made it to the dumpster before I took Chuck's advice and called around.

Ignorance is expensive.

Moving on (and trying not to think about the dumpster), the project itself is nearly done.  I have scraped and cleaned the walls of the compartment and painted them - the space is much more cheery now.  That said, it was easier said than done.  There is room for my svelte body down there, just.  But hardly room to swing a paintbrush.  And of course, I couldn't do the floor while I was squatting on it, so that had to be done lying on the cabin sole, working at fully extended arm's length, brush grasped with fingertips. 

Remaining to be done:
  • Make and paint a floor board for the exposed opening in front of the generator
  • tie off those hoses and cables.  Now that the tank is gone, you can see them.  They've always been there, loose like that, but hidden beside the tank.  I am uncomfortable with leaving things like that tho - I guess you could say that it offends me, in some nautical, shipshape way.
That won't be enough to make a blog post about, so please go ahead and assume that it's done.

I'll never tell.

And don't think about the dumpster.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Life storms

Recently found on a piece of paper that had been crumpled up and then flattened out again, Jane wrote this not long after 9/11:

Rain pelts the deck of the boat with fury.  I lose my footing as gusts of wind force the ketch to roam the slip without consent.  Listening to the barrage, the rain becomes heavy on my shoulders and seeps into my conscience.

Why does this glorious essential plague me so?  Often its tip-toe sound lulls me into a blissful sleep.  But today the edge of gray-blue silver drops cut to an area of my thought that is vulnerable.

So much on my mind makes the visitor seem intusive.  Why now?  I am heavy with a need to make decisions, which seemingly made, won't have any impact on the course of events.  The visitor challenges my significance.

Maybe the challenge is not as first perceived.  As I ride the storm, the headlines of the paper on the settee ebb and I concentrate on the integrity of our ties, securing the spring line to comfort the craft.

The ketch no doubt would have suffered no real harm.  Yet now I realize my wet encounter found me decisive and directed.  I took no time to ponder the what-ifs or what-mights.

Lines cleated for life's storms.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Chilly this morning

It's cool and kind of misty this morning over here in Port Madison. The eagles have been busy fishing, and now they are just taking turns in the nest - probably babysitting.

We had a spectacular sail over yesterday evening - a close reach in 15 knots apparent wind, right in Eolian's sweet spot. At times we exceeded 8 knots on almost flat water.

Sleeping at anchor is so peaceful.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tankless in Seattle!

With very careful planning of each cut, and the use of several sawzall blades, the top of the tank was fianlly cut off. The picture shows it after the most difficult section - the one which included the center baffle - had been removed. We thought long and hard about each cut, and used ropes to hold cables and hoses out of harm's way.   I am happy to report that no hoses were nicked, nor were any cable scratched in the process.

After removing the center top section, we had to find a way to provide space at the front to the tank (to the right in the picture) for the saw blade as it passed thru the tank wall.  It was not possible to move the tank away from the wall because it was nearly jammed up against the generator (at the left in the picture).  So the next step meant cutting away a foot or so of the aft portion of the tank so that it could be slid away from the bulkhead.  Doing this was pretty tricky, in that I didn't want the saw blade to cut into the structure of the boat under the tank. 

I won't bore you with any more details.  The job is done, and the pieces of the tank are piled on the dock.  Now, what remains is to do a thorough cleanup of the space.  There is 30 years worth of accumulated guck there, combined with the saw cuttings and just general dirt.

I will need to make a floor board, and following  the cleaning, paint will be needed.  Someday I hope to be able to show you a picture of that.

But for now, we are enjoying the first really warm weekend we've had in Seattle - a wonderful evening on the dock in the (finally!) warm air.

Monday, June 6, 2011


I sort of hesitate to say this out loud.  I don't want to jinx it.  So please imagine that I am whispering into your ear (yeah, as if posting "quietly" on the internet could fool the fates - perhaps they're on a dial-up connection?).

Our long, long LONG sentence to months and months of below-normal temperatures has ended.  Summer has come to the dock!  As irrefutable evidence of that, I have a sunburn.  Yes!  An actual sunburn!  In some twisted kind of way, I am enjoying it.

And as inevitable as my sunburn, when the day's labors were completed, folks began to gather on the dock.  Eventually, Scotty and I had our guitars out, and Rich joined us with his ukulele.  The socializing went on past sunset at 9 PM  (yes, way up here near the Canadian border, the sun sets that late in the day).

Welcome back, summer!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Project: Remove the daytank

I'm not sure when it was installed. It doesn't look like a factory job tho.  And yet, it is difficult to see how it could have been gotten in there without the removal of the floor timber.  And how would you do that?

We are talking about our daytank.  It is a 40 gallon steel tank, obviously  designed for some other purpose and adapted to serve here.  Unfortunately, the adaptation process was inadequate.  The tank leaks from an inaccessible fitting on the bottom - we've never used it.

So, out it will come.

But that is far easier said than done...  The first step was to un-plumb it from the fuel system - I got that done last Monday.  Next, the four 1/4" thick stainless straps  needed to be removed - I got all but one of the big lag bolts holding them down out - I need bigger tools for the last one.  The picture shows the tank - a kind of grey-green color; the tan square in the bottom of the image is the front part of the generator.

And finally, I started to cut away at the tank.  See, there is no way the 19" tall tank will fit thru that 18" tall space between the floor timber and the generator.  And even if the measurements were reversed, it still wouldn't fit because it would have to go thru on a diagonal, and there is no way that can happen.

Now there are some logistics involved here.  Cutting the tank is a noisy, difficult operation.  It is wedged in there with little clearance for multiple fuel plumbing runs, the exhaust plumbing for the generator, the cooling water for the generator and the heat pump, and finally, lots of heavy cables connecting the batteries.  (I am really going to appreciate the room we will recover when it is out.)  Getting the sawzall into a position where it can bear on the task without cutting something else is difficult.  All of this says that I should think about the logistics in order to make the fewest cuts possible.

I have decided to take off the top half of the tank.  This will make it possible to pass the remaining bottom half between the floor timber and the generator.  But I cannot do this in a single cut because I can't get at the outside of the tank with the sawzall - I must make the cuts from the *inside* of the tank.  The last thing I got accomplished on Monday was the removal of perhaps the first quarter or so of the tank top half - the picture shows this.

Next Monday:  lots more cutting...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

'Tis the season

It seems to be that season again.

You know, the one where folks spool out their anchor rode on the dock and, thru various techniques, mark it so that the person who is up front dropping the anchor knows how much rode is paid out.

There is no standard marking method for this.  We have seen:
  • colored cable ties
  • spray paint
  • Fabric strips tied thru the links
  • Little colored hard rubber gizmos which get wedged inside the links

And the color schemes used to designate lengths are even more varied than the methods.

But we don't participate in this season's ritual.  Our ancient Simpson Lawrence windlass (which is built like a brick outhouse, by the way) makes it unnecessary.  See that black circle?  It is a footage counter.  As the wildcat revolves, the black dial revolves too - it is geared to the wildcat.  You can see the only problem with the system:  The raised numbers on the dial are a little difficult to read. 

Why don't modern windlasses have a similar system?  It is dirt simple and rock solid.  Too easy I guess.  There are no LED's or LCD, and it is analog instead of digital.  But - there are no batteries to replace, no delicate electronics to fail, and none of the false precision that a digital readout provides.

My only wish?  That I could buy a replacement dial with engraved white letters on a black background, or vice versa.  And since I am wishing already, I'd really like one calibrated in feet instead of meters, please.
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