Friday, September 28, 2012

Sunrise rainbow at Shilshole

And the giving continues...

A special treat this morning, a sunrise rainbow. It's pink, because the dawn light is pink.

What you can't see is that exactly opposite to the rainbow, the sun had some low-lying fog illuminated with pinkish-golden lite.

What a gorgeous morning!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It just keeps giving

It's a summer that just keeps on giving.  Here we are at the end of September.  It is late,

with the moon rising over the boom, and yet it is still warm and comfortable - enough so that I have not yet closed up the boat for the nite. 

It is calm and quiet in the marina.  The water is a perfect sheet of black glass.  It is a magical evening.

I feel so very blessed to be able to live like this.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Seems easy, right?

 I mean, how hard could it be to keep rain water from running down the mast and into the cabin?  You make a mast boot, and seal it to the mast - probably using one of those jumbo-sized hose clamps as the final measure.  No leaks, right?

(BTW, being able to take this picture with the huge range of brightness between the sun-drenched mast outside and the shadowed mast inside is provided by a function called 'High Dynamic Range', part of the free - or was it 99¢? - iPhone app 'Top Camera' - I recommend the app for this capability as well as many others.)

Well, no. Despite all the measures, a recent rain revealed that I still have work to do here.

The picture is a little vague, but if you squint, you'll see those brown marks that show where water has snuck past the seal somewhere and run down the mast.  The brown stain is coloration leached from the teak wedges which hold the mast in position at the partners.

So I disassembled the seal I had built before.  Here's what I found:
  • First, the silicone tape, tho it had bonded very well with the hose clamp, had not bonded well to the mast
  • Next, because of the poor seal of the silicone tape, the long duration 3M tape underneath had turned to water-saturated mush.
After removing both, I applied a wrap of adhesive-backed aluminum foil (sold for sealing duct work) over the joint between the boot and the mast.  The thinking here is that the aluminum tape will not turn into mush on contact with water.

Finally, I re-applied the silicone tape, because it looks better.  (I hope I don't regret the decision to do this.  I am concerned about the paint bubbling up where moisture was trapped.  We'll see.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

(not) Marine stores: Ballard Hardware

A while ago, I needed a street el.

No, this is not some kind of elevated train, you folks in Chicago.  A street el is a standard pipe elbow, but with one difference:  one side is male and one side is female.  You'd use one of these in order to eliminate a fitting, and to shorten up the completed assembly.  They are not as common as the common umm..  el.  But in a good hardware store you can usually find one.  Possibly even in the size you need.

But now it becomes difficult:  I needed a stainless steel street el, in order to hook up the water discharge from our new stainless steel exhaust manifold.

Where to go to find one?

I love living in Ballard!  Before it becomes completely gentrified, you can find just about anything marine-related you want (except not swaged wires or LeFiell mast fittings any more - University Swaging is now gone).

If you haven't tried it, you need to:  Ballard Hardware.  It's kind of like a regular hardware store, except they know marine stuff, and its on steroids.  Two examples:

Example 1:  The previous owner of Eolian set up a snubber for the anchor chain - a length of 3/4" line attached to the hull where the bobstay attaches, with a 3/8" chain grab hook on the other end to hook on the anchor chain.  When you hook it up and let out the rode until the snubber is taking the strain, the chain hangs slack at the bowsprit, a wonderful thing for peace and quiet at nite when your are trying to sleep down below at anchor in a blow.

But I digress.

The grab hook the original owner installed was galvanized, and was, by the time we took over caring for Eolian, severely corroded.  I looked high and low, trying to find a stainless version of the grab hook.  And then on a whim, I tried Ballard Hardware.  Sure they had one.  $15.  If West Marine sold them (and they don't), it would be for $65.95.  Wow.  I was an immediate convert.

Example 2:  Not being a slow learner, when I needed that stainless street elbow, I went straight to Ballard Hardware.  "Sure, no problem, " said the counter man.  And he took me back to the rabbit warren (yeah, it's still there, even tho there is a fancy new front end).  "What alloy do you want?"


Not only was I going to be able to get a street el, in the size that I wanted, in stainless, but I was presented with a choice of alloys!

Yeah.  Ballard Hardware.

Monday, September 17, 2012


imag·i·na·tion: n.  \i-ˌma-jə-ˈnā-shən\  The ability to look at a pile of shop scraps, and see a battleship.

Credit for this imaginative bit of naval architecture goes to Zak, who lives on s/v Ghost, across the dock from us. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

What are *you* doing on a Saturday morning?

Living on a boat doesn't mean release from domesticity - this morning I am washing dishes.

I had to - I was out of coffee cups


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A little chemistry for non-chemists

So a couple of days ago, I put some chemistry knowledge to work here onboard Eolian.  How you ask?  (Please ask - otherwise this post is going nowhere.)

I noticed that the mirror in our shower was really filthy with soap scum, especially at the bottom.  And so I got out the paint thinner to clean it.

Paint thinner??!?

Let me take you on a very short chemical journey.

What is soap scum?  Well, first let's start with this: what is soap?  Soap is the sodium salt of a long chain organic acid.  Huh?  OK, I guess some definitions are in order.  "Organic" doesn't mean pure, or natural.  Instead it means that it is a carbon-based compound.  Long-chain means, well, it is long, skinny molecule, made up of a chain of carbon atoms strung together.  The acid part means that on one end of this long stringy molecule, there is an organic acid group: C=O-OH, that has been reacted with a strong base, sodium hydroxide in this case.  It is useful for cleaning up greasy things, because the long organic end of the molecule bonds well with the grease, and the ionic acid end dissolves nicely in the water - thus making the grease sort of water-soluble.

OK, so now we know what soap is... what is the scum?  Well, the scum comes from "hard" water - that is, water that contains calcium and or magnesium ions.  See, these ions replace the sodium in the soap molecules, turning the soap into the calcium and magnesium salts of those long chain organic acids.  So what's the rub?  It's this:  the sodium analog is water soluble.  The calcium and magnesium versions are not.  So a precipitate forms:  SCUM.  It feels kind of greasy (that's the organic end of the molecule), and doesn't wash off with water (duh - it's not water soluble). 

People spend lots of money on weird chemicals and abrasives in trying to remove this stuff.  The grocery store remedies all try to work with the tiny ionic end of the molecule; that is not a very effective approach.  The paint thinner works on the 99% part of the molecule: the organic end.  A quick wipe-down with the paint thinner removes the scum amazingly easily.

The scum just wipes off.  Really.

Try it.

I know I've mentioned this before.  But really, it bears repetition.

Monday, September 10, 2012

So where are they now?

If you read this blog, you have probably seen these movies (or you should see them).  So, what about the boats which appeared in them?  Where are they now?  Here's a little information I have been able to find:

The African Queen

Our friends the Yoders found the African Queen (from the Bogart/Bacall movie of the same name) in the Florida keys. She is being rennovated and is available for day trips.  (They are seeking donations to get the original steam engine running again.)   I'd spring for a trip, if only the torpedos were fitted in the bow again...


Looking now much like she did in the opening scenes, this Formosa 51 was the focus of the must-see Captain Ron (Kurt Russell/Martin Short).  (Apparently more than one boat was used in the movie.)  Believe it or not, Wanderer is for sale - she can be yours for only $129,000!

Lea Fortis

This boat appeared briefly in Fifty First Dates (Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore), a bitter-sweet comedy.  The appearance was at the end of the movie and was brief - the primary reason that I include her here is that she used to be berthed across the dock from us, so we have a personal connection.  Sold by our friend Trevor to a Brit named Neal, she was chartered to a movie company who took her to Alaska for the filming.  She came back considerably damaged.  I don't know what Neal got for her rental, but he seemed pleased in spite of the damage.  The last we heard, he had taken her down thru the Panama Canal and then on to England.

Storm Vogel

This beautiful 76-foot schooner was featured in the blue-water thriller Dead Calm (Nicole Kidman, Sam Neill, Billy Zane).  Storm Vogel is a world traveller.  In 2009, she was spotted in Tunisia.  And in August 2012, she was seen in Grenada by our friends Mike and Rebecca on s/v Zero to Cruising.

THE floating house

The central location in the movie Sleepless in Seattle (Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan).  Don't tell me you haven't seen this movie - I know you have.  Not a boat, but still, it floats, it's local and it is a Seattle icon.  And it is still tied up right where it was in the movie.  Further, it is for sale!  You can live here and dream of Hanks or Ryan (your preference), and enjoy the Seattle waterfront lifestyle.  All you'll need is $2,500,000.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A complete contrast

This year's summer is the complete opposite of last year's.  Last year, I was struggling (and not really succeeding) to keep a positive mental attitude here on the blog.   Considering that if you measure summer as that time above 80°, last year it was measured in hours - for the entire year.

Ah, but not this year!  Here's a paragraph from our local weather blogger (and fellow UW employee), Cliff Mass:
"Seattle residents unaccustomed to a record-breaking stretch of sun and warmth are reacting with guilt, anxiety, and discomfort.  I cannot count the number of emails I have received by folks asking when the accustomed clouds and rain will return."
Next week we have the chance to break an all-time record of consecutive days without rain (51) , if the forecast disturbance on Monday fails to appear, or misses the official weather station at Sea-Tac airport.

And amazingly, we are in the middle of what may be the longest recorded run of consecutive pleasant day.  According to Scott Sistek, meterologist for KOMO TV,
"... Seattle is amidst the longest stretch of pleasant temperatures in decades, perhaps in its history. Believe it or not, Monday marked the 17th day in a row Seattle has had a high temperature in the 70s with Tuesday well on its way to make it 18.

We hit a high of 91 degrees on August 17. The next day, the high was 71 and ever since, the afternoons haven't been hotter than 79 nor cooler than 70. And of course, it hasn't rained in the stretch either. What's more, 12 of those 17 days have had a high between 70 and 73, including the entire Labor Day Weekend.

Seattle has never had such a streak of 70s before and in fact, it really hasn't been all that close."

It has been a wonderful summer.

 And it is still continuing!  Tonite after work, Jane and I will take Eolian over to Port Madison, Then to Poulsbo on Friday, Manzanita Bay on Saturday and back to Shilshole on Sunday.  It's a great 3-day loop, and one that the weather will only make more pleasant.


Monday, September 3, 2012

God's own cathedral

Other cruisers blog about their hikes in Costa Rica or on the islands of the Caribbean, so it is entirely appropriate that I talk about the hike Jane & I made this weekend into the equally exotic lands of the Mount Baker National Forest, here in the Pacific Northwest.

This was a backpacking trip, so in addition to the appropriate clothing and good hiking boots, we carried our tent, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, stove, etc. - everything you need to live in the back country.  It was not a terribly difficult hike (at age 65 next week, that's a good thing), but still there was 600 feet of vertical required.  If that figure doesn't mean anything to you, just imagine hiking up the stairs of a 60-story building, carrying that 40 lb pack on your back.  Vigorous - that's the word for it.

But the best hikes are like that.  If they are easy to achieve, then they are crowded, and sadly they are most likely despoiled.  The ones that are worth going to are the ones that need to be earned.

This was one of those.  And it was indeed worth it.  Anderson Lake sits in a close little cirque at about 4450 feet - high enough that the snow hasn't been off it for very long.  And that perfect little mountain lake is surrounded on three sides by towering rock walls.  The floor of the cirque is a meadow, covered with grass, moss, patches of heather, and the occasional towering old growth alpine fir.  There is a small creek which drains the lake - it chuckled at us while we slept.

It is not hard to imagine that this is a place where God comes to contemplate the grandeur of His creation.

On our hike in, it was covered by clouds so we were completely unaware of its reigning presence.  But on the way out, ah the clouds cleared away, and Mount Baker showed itself in all of its glory.  Seeing this as you reach the top of a difficult climb and the trail opens into a gently downward-sloping meadow simply takes your breath away.

The cathedrals built by man are spectacular achievements...  but none holds a candle to this.

Fun fact:  Mount Baker holds the world record for annual snowfall:  2896cm in the winter of 1998-1999.
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