Monday, August 29, 2011

Another iPhone app you need

A while back, we were in a position that required us to traverse Puget Sound from Port Madison to Shilshole in heavy fog.  (Now, I guess I should examine that word "required" more closely, but that's a story for another time).

Puget Sound has a lot of shipping traffic, and an active and professionally run VTS system.  And we have radar on Eolian.  So I was not particularly worried...  focused and intense, yes, but not really worried.

As we started across, I notified VTS giving our speed and that we were going to be crossing the lanes.  They, in turn notified us of shipping in the area.  It looked good for us - a northbound freighter would be past us before we got to the northbound side of the Sound, and a southbound freighter would pass behind us as we entered the northbound lanes.

But just for grins, I fired up my iPhone and ran the "Ship Finder" AIS app.  This app does not actually have a receiver in it - it takes advantage of information on the Internet somehow (don't ask me how it works).  Sure enough, there were our two freighters, with their courses and speed vectors shown.  And their names.

About the time we entered the separation zone (the "median" between the traffic lanes, if you will), a problem developed.  We heard Manolo (the southbound freighter) complaining of a whole bunch of fishing boats out in the traffic lanes a couple of miles to the north of us, and then he said that he might have to veer into the northbound lanes to clear them.

I watched as Manolo's vector on the AIS display swung until it pointed right at us!  Crap.  The AIS app showed we were clearly now on a collision course, and given our relative speeds, it was going to be difficult for us to get out of his way on any course.  So I contacted Manolo directly on VHF-13, and told him of our predicament, and advised that we were making a 180 degree turn and heading back west toward the southbound lanes (on what would be a collision course if had stayed in the southbound lanes) to try to get out of his path; he acknowledged.

Now came a period of tense waiting, completely blind in the fog.

Eventually, Manolo contacted us and advised that he was past the offending fishing boats and was returning to the southbound lane; I acknowledged and returned to our eastbound course. 

In the fog, we never saw Manolo.

Oh sure, he was visible on the radar display, but that display does not show course or speed, only relative position.  It was the AIS that made obvious what was happening.  If you already have an AIS receiver onboard, you already know this.  But if you don't, then I strongly recommend you get the Ship Finder app (there's a free version - that's what I have).

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wedding planning

We are rapidly closing in on Adam and Kaci's wedding, and not only am I running low on free time for blogging, but worse I am running out of spare intellectual capacity.  It seems there is a limit to the number of things I can keep active at once (and that number seems to be decreasing...).  Huh.  Who would have thunk it.  Blogging is going to have to get scarce for the next couple of weeks.

View from m/v Skansonia
(snagged from their website)
In case you might be interested, the wedding will be performed aboard the m/v Skansonia, a vintage wooden ferry boat which is moored at the north end of Lake Union - a wonderfully scenic venue for a wedding, and one which is suitably nautical for the PNW and our family.  Kaci has been blogging about the planning, and we are getting excited.  But there is a lot to get done...


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chubasco? Not quite.

A chubasco is a sudden wind that comes down out of the mountains in the summer in the Sea of Cortez.  Is it a katabatic wind?  Maybe Cliff Mass knows for sure; I certainly don't.

Here in Seattle we don't exactly have a chubasco, but we do have a predictable, thermally-driven wind that shows up every evening in the summer when the real, prevailing winds don't disturb conditions too much.

As the land heats all day long, the air above it rises, creating low pressure over the land.  But over the Sound (water temp 57° today), the air doesn't really heat at all.  This means that it is dense, relative to the attenuated air over the land.  By evening, a river of dense, cool air is flowing down the Sound to the south, spilling into all the tributaries along the way and filling those low pressure areas.  Here on the Seattle waterfront, it is a predictable effect, resulting in a northerly that builds, starting right about dinner time, to as much as 20 kt.  Then as the sun sets and the land cools, the wind lays.

Out here on the end of G dock, it is natural air conditioning.

Monday, August 22, 2011

There's a story in every dinghy

Walking down the dock this morning, I saw this skiff - clearly, it has a story in it.

Now, I happen to know that on the big Nauticat that the skiff belongs to there live two delightful little three or four year old girls.  Twins in fact, with matching purple polka dot pajamas.  So as I walked past the skiff I imagined I heard giggles, squeals and delighted, high-pitched chatter as they played in the sand, perhaps at the little beach that reveals at low tide on the outside of the breakwater.

Funny, how just a glance into this skiff could warm my heart and make me smile.

Friday, August 19, 2011

On little cat feet

Nothing existential this morning...

We sailed down to Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island yesterday evening and anchored.  Here's the view back towards Seattle at dusk:

Sadly, this was before the city lights were on. Also sadly, I have found that I cannot successfully take pictures of the cityscape at night from a moving boat.

And this morning, foghorns are moaning out on the Sound:

(and we have the Dickenson heater lit too)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

No Someday

I've talked about this before, long ago.  But a recent post by Brittany over at Windtraveler really drives it home by quoting Sterling Hayden.

Go read it.

Paraphrasing that famous philosopher Yoda,

"There is no someday.  There is only now."


Monday, August 15, 2011

Demo ride

Never been on a large sailboat?

Ever wonder what it might be like?

Here's a short video I shot near sunset last Thursday from the bowsprit, looking back over Eolian as we sliced across Puget Sound at 6.5 kt under ideal conditions, making our way to Port Madison.

Sailing this way makes the perfect day for me - excitement for a while, followed by serene time at anchor...  the perfect mix, and a guaranteed solid nite's sleep.

Now imagine sitting in the cockpit at sunrise with a warm latte, watching the birds and the seals play.  Yeah, it *is* that good.

Want to try it?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Say cheese

Quick - what's one of the last things you would expect to hear me say we did on the boat last nite?

You said, "Make cheese", didn't you?

I love cheese.

Let me say that again:  I love cheese.

So the combined Father's Day/Jane's b'day present that Adam and Kaci gave us was a perfect fit - tuition at a cheese-making class.

The class we attended was the first in a two-part curriculum, and dealt with fresh cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, mascarpone and chevre.  Bonny, our instructor, an Italian woman and stand-up comic, grew up in a family that made cheese as a regular part of life.  In fact, I was amazed to hear that for them, making ricotta or mozzarella was just a part of normal meal preparation!

Oh my gosh!  What I have been missing!

In the 3-hour class, Bonny took us thru the making of all four cheeses I mentioned above...  and by that I mean that we (hands-on) made these cheeses, and then at the end of the class we ate them.

So last nite, we put our training to the test:  we made ricotta.  Yes, you can do it on a boat - here's proof: cheese making at anchor in Port Madison. (See Bonny?  I told you we would do this!)

And here's the result:  yummy whole-milk ricotta.  We had this with blueberries over it, and a glass of wine of course. 

Now I ask you:  Can you think of a better dessert than fresh ricotta with fruit and a glass of wine, at anchor in a beautiful, protected little harbor?

No, I didn't think so.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Computer woes: Resolved

I bit the bullet. It was clear that the old computer was sending out warning signals of impending failure. One should pay attention to these.

I bought another one - it's a Dell E1505 with 2 GB memory, 250 GB disk and a 15" screen... a far cry from the old one which had (when everything was working) 10 GB disk, 640 MB memory and a 10" screen.

Today's prices simply amaze me... I got it for $149. I remember when I bought my very first actual hard drive - an amazing 85 MB of echoing empty space, and it only cost me $385! (And those were real, 1985 dollars).  But then I also remember when dirt was shiney.

The operating system is going onto it right now. The next post ought to be from the new machine...

Monday, August 8, 2011

A fluther? I think not.

Collective nouns are interesting to me (you know, a murder of crows, a pod of Orcas, an embarrassment of riches).   So what is the proper collective noun for jellyfish? A clump? A wad? A clot? A jar?  Wikipedia gives two: a fluther of jellyfish, or a smack of jellyfish.  Neither of these, it seems to me, fits well.  I propose: a preserve of jellyfish.

This Saturday morning, when returning to Eolian in the dinghy while anchored in Liberty Bay, I encountered the densest preseve of jellyfish I have ever seen. They were packed so tightly that I wondered if my little outboard was going to overheat because it was starved for water.  I have never seen jellyfish so densely packed.  Luckily I had my trusty iPhone handy to capture the tannish colored heaving mass right alongside Eolian's hull.  (Side note:  I have never thought of jellyfish as having a color before).

At first, I thought that this was a universal phenomenon - that all of Liberty Bay was viscous with jellyfish.  But when I climbed aboard and got a higher viewpoint, the view from on deck showed that this was localized.  In this picture, the brownish stain is the preserve of jellyfish.  (See?  Preserve works.)

The sea is a weird and wonderful place.  One should never have the hubris to say that they have "seen it all".

Friday, August 5, 2011

Listening to the bells

We are at anchor in Liberty Bay, off of Poulsbo, and I am hearing a sound that takes me back to my youth:  the Lutheran church is playing their bells at noon.  I believe that this custom goes back to the middle ages, when the church would be expected to be the only timekeeper in town.  At least it gives me pleasure to think about it that way, with the long thread of history attached.

Ghost makes a pass to say hi
on their way to the dock
Not very long after we got the anchor down and everything squared away here on Eolian, here came Ghost!  It turns out that they will be here for the weekend too, and unusual for them, they are tied up to the dock in town.  I'll be visiting later with my backpack guitar and a couple of beers, while Jane takes Zak and Ellie up into town to the candy store.

Yes, as you might have surmised, I have the computer operational again.  Well sort of.  It seems that the memory module I found was only 256 MB, making for very marginal, but barely acceptable operation.  I am still looking for a larger module (the one that died was 512 MB; a 1 GB module would be an unbelievable luxury).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Computer Woes

I am still working with computer woes.  Last nite I think I isolated the problem to a bad memory module.  When I pulled the module out of the laptop, the errors stopped.  Well the whole darn computer nearly stopped - there is only 128 MB of memory on the motherboard, and even running Linux, that is not nearly enough.  But I was able to get some critical files safely off of the machine.

I have located another memory module and will install it tonite...  Wish me luck.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Better living thru chemistry

While Jane was Back Home Again In Indiana, I decided to tackle a pretty disgusting task: cleaning out the shower pan in the aft head.

After living aboard all these years, I am embarrassed to admit that all I have ever done was to clean off the hair catcher. And slowly but surely the pan got dirtier and dirtier. Despite bleach dousings, a layer of hair, bacteria, and what Joe of Tropic Star once termed "human chutney", all in a matrix of soap scum had built up in there

I attacked it first with a scraper, then with a variety of products designed to remove soap scum. Without much luck. Finally I settled in with wet/ dry sand paper - but even that didn't work well - the gummy deposit slowly rolled up in little balls.

While frustratedly sipping a beer, it came to me: work on the other end of the molecule! Soap scum is the insoluble calcium and magnesium salts of long chain organic acids. All of those water-based household products work on the tiny acid/salt end of the molecule, and further require a chemical reaction with it to work effectively. I wetted a rag with mineral spirits and simply wiped the scum off! The mineral spirits dissolved the scum by dissolving the long organic end of the scum. Really, it just wiped off.

With a clean surface, a coat of Brightsides urethane enamel spread cleanly without fisheyes, and really spiffed it up.

I'm having computer problems - this post was created on my iPhone, tediously. Not sure when I will post again until I have the computer working properly again.
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