Friday, May 30, 2014

Thoughts on leaving Puget Sound

Shilshole in our wake
As we sit here at anchor in Port Madison for what could be our last nite in Puget Sound for some time to come, I realized that a change had come over me.

At Shilshole, we had neighbors and friends, we knew where to buy anything that you might need for a boat, we knew the roads and streets, and we even knew where the potholes were.  And we were comfortable.

But as we crossed the Sound, there was a change.  Yes, there was the understandable nostalgia.  And the excitement and the disorientation  of new beginnings.  But there was something else:  a pulling in, a recognition that now we had to depend completely on ourselves.  For dealing with cruising issues of course, but even more so we now need to depend completely on each other for friendship, for companionship.  We are now self-contained.

We've done it several times before in our marriage; after 42+ years and several cross-country moves this is not a new experience.  But since we have lived in Seattle since 1997, it has been quite a while since we have been in this emotional space.

It is good.  We were too comfortable.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Memorial Day, with Annie

First of all, I must apologize to my hundreds 40 two regular blog readers for letting you go so long without writing.  My only excuse is the Memorial Day weekend, which rolls over into Monday.  Then followed by all the stuff that it takes to move...  when you live on a boat, moving the boat to a new location has all the same little niggling tasks associated with it that moving to a new house does.  With the added complexity of the logistics of things such as making sure that there is a car waiting for us at the new location (you Narrow Boat folks will understand this better than most).

So.  For the Memorial Day weekend, Adam, Kaci, and Annie joined us for a cruise over to Poulsbo.   The weather was forecast to be cold and rainy (well it was Memorial Day in Seattle...), meaning that this cruise would be like every other cruise we've had Kaci on, unfortunately.  But as the picture above shows, it turned out way better than the forecast.

We needed to top off with diesel, so while Jane watched Annie sleep, I ferried Adam & Kaci to shore and gave them walking directions to the Valholl brewery.  And then I schlepped 5 gallon diesel jerry cans back and forth from the fuel dock ($3.89/gal) until we had 3/4 tank on one side and 1/2 on the other.

And then, with perfect timing, I got the call that A & K were ready to return to Eolian.  On the dinghy ride back out, I learned that they had run into one of Adam's co-workers who just coincidentally happens to be one of those two regular blog readers I mentioned.   As it turned out, they were on the docks at Poulsbo with their yacht club.  So, shortly here came a dinghy  and we were graced by a visit from Chris and Deb of m/v C-Shel!  And more brews were consumed, of course.

The next morning is a tradition aboard Eolian:  we watched the Indianapolis 500 mile race.  And as is also part of the tradition, now that we have digital TV, it was almost a stop-action viewing, since the tide had turned the boat so that reception was marginal.  (I much preferred the old analog TV - when reception was poor, the images degraded gracefully with increasing fuzz.  Not this perfect or nothing, with digital garbage thrown in.   Because of the poor reception, we always take our audio feed from the AM radio.)  It was an exciting race, and went 149 laps before the first yellow flag - unheard of!

Then the weather decided to comply with the forecast and the drizzle started.  For a change of scenary, we motored over to Manzanita Bay on the west side of Bainbridge Island and spent the rest of the day and night there.  It was a good, cozy, family time, with the talking in the cockpit going far into the nite - to far, in fact, for this old geezer, who retired early.

We returned to the dock at Shilshole the next morning at the slack at 10:00.  Adam pointed out that this would be the last time we would dock the boat here...  and I was hit with a wave of nostalgia.

Able Bodied Seaman Annie steering a course of sou' sou'west with a firm hand on the wheel


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Invisibility, covered

It's funny, isn't it?  How if you look at something long enough, it becomes invisible.  Even if it is surpassingly ugly, you eventually cease to see it.

Eolian's blinds are a case in point.  Having blinds is a neat idea - even neater, these were custom made for the windows.  And the installer made a good materials choice, with plastic louvers instead of metal ones.  But unfortunately he did a pretty poor job aesthetically.  Covering the blinds with valances has been on the list since, well since we got Eolian.

First, it was necessary to procure the materials for the valances:  six pieces of teak, 4' x 4" x 1/2".  Then there was a lot of thinking.  I had two conflicting design criteria:
  • There should be no visible screws
  • The valances should be removable for full access to the blinds and windows
So screwed and plugged fasteners were out, since they wouldn't be removable without requiring complete refinishing of the valances.  As it turned out, there were four types of areas, each requiring a different mounting solution:
  • Where the valances met the over-sink cabinet
  • Where the valances met the wire chase coming up from the nav station
  • Where the valance terminates against the wall behind the nav station
  • Everywhere else
First, the "everywhere else" solution...  I cut blocks of hardwood that were thick enough to hold the valances away from the blinds and 1 1/2" tall to give a good base so that things wouldn't wiggle.  These I screwed to the cabin sides between the blinds to form a mounting point:

Next, I epoxied blocks to the backs of the valances.  Then I drilled pilot holes up thru the blocks and into the mount points.  Screws hold the valances in place - accessible but not visible.  (Note:  when gluing teak, always wipe it down carefully ahead of time with acetone to remove the waxy teak oils from the surface.)
Invisible mounting #1
Next, at the nav station wire chase.  The wire chase was (amazingly) exactly the right height for the valences, so I just overlapped them with it.  The valence is held in place with a pair of L-shaped brass corner reinforcements, one each at the top and bottom, screwed into the side of the wire chase and the back of the valence:
Invisible mounting #2
Just barely visible in the photo is the saw cut I made in the wire chase cover panel - this was necessary to allow the cover panel to be removed without having to remove the valances.  With the cut 1/2" up behind the valances, it is invisible but allows the cover to be slid down and then removed.  (The wire chase was the very first carpentry project I did on Eolian, way back in 1998.)

At the over-sink cabinet I was less fortunate - I was not able to find flat corner reinforcements in brass, so I had to settle for stainless, which is much harder to work with.  By cutting and bending, I laboriously fabricated these little brackets with the tools I had onboard:

They work like this to support the valances with screws driven up into the bottom of the cabinet:
(Almost) invisible mounting #3
So here's what it looks like with everything up: 

I still need to take the valances down and route the edges, sand, and varnish them. And while they are down, they'll get a 2" wide strip of 1/2" white MDF attached to the back for stiffening.  And then the pièce de résistance:  warm white LED strip lites will go on top of the MDF to create some indirect mood lighting:


Monday, May 19, 2014


This is our new home - slip D-51 at Cap Sante Marina, Anacortes, WA.  We will be port-tie, facing south (into the winter storms, so they tell me).

Tho we are not yet using the slip (we'll leave Shilshole at the end of the month), first impressions are that this seems to be a great marina...  let me count some of the ways:
  • Anacortes is the gateway to the San Juan Islands
  • Cheaper than Shilshole
  • Brand new dock
  • Power and water at each slip (Shilshole has water bibs at each group of 4 slips, meaning that there are hoses strung all over, including under the docks)
  • Free Wifi (Shilshole: nope)
  • The pair of slips making up a horseshoe is 8 feet wider than the slips at Shilshole
  • The marina staff are friendly, courteous and helpful.  (In contrast, Shilshole recently turned off the water at our slip - without any notice at all.  When I discovered this and called them, they said the pipes were rotten, and that it would be at least a couple of years before they would get replaced.)
  • The marina fosters a sense of community by sponsoring  a series of activities set up for marina folks (example: community tour of the Nordic Tug factory in Burlington).  In fact, we recently found out that Cap Sante folks had contacted Angela (s/v Ghost, Dockside Solutions) looking for advice on how to make the marina more desirable for liveaboards.  Wow.
  • There is an Anthony's restaurant literally at the head of the dock - they have an outdoor seating area with a fireplace and blankets for when the weather is cool.
  • There is a Safeway grocery store right across the street from the marina.
  • In fact, the marina is not isolated like Shilshole - the core of downtown Anacortes is all within walking distance.
  • If you plan to be gone for a while, you can rent your slip back to the marina, saving you $$.

And last but not least, Cap Sante's dock carts were purchased in this millenium:

All-terrain dock carts??


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Shape shifting success

Finally: a decent shape

It appears, to me at least, that the effort to remove the excessive draft from the mizzen was successful!   For the first time, the mizzen is pulling while sailing upwind with the main hoisted.  Previously, it was so baggy that it was worthless unless I dropped the main.  And since that would only happen in a blow, when a sail with huge draft is just what you don't want, the sail was previously pretty much a waste.

Also, removing the 7" from the leech has the boom pretty much horizontal, which improves the aethestics of Eolian quite a bit.


Monday, May 12, 2014

Big Bertha #1 Joins Her Little Sisters

There she is, up there on the roof of my shop.  I had to mount her far enough from the edge of the roof to allow a foot path to get at the mounts (unlike her little sisters, whose mounts are only on the tops and bottoms).  In fact, you might ask why the panels are tilted slightly but at the same slant as the roof...  It is purely a concession to the high winds we get here - when they are strongest they come from the left in the picture.  By keeping the panels parallel to the roof and tilted slightly into the wind I prevent the wind from getting under them and lifting them - I hope.  The little ones have survived a winter, so that is some validation anyway.  I'd get more power from the panels if I tilted them more vertical...  until the first big windstorm.

And the crew is really producing power now!

But I fell into a trap when I last reported on the project.  I simply multiplied the short circuit current by the open circuit voltage to get a power output.  But that's wrong.  You'd never get the open circuit voltage when the output is shorted, and the current is zero when measuring the open circuit voltage.  The reality is that both the current and voltage will be lower at maximum power output.

In fact, any solar panel power collector should have MPPT circuitry (my grid-tie inverter does).  MPPT stands for Maximum Power Point Tracking - it means that the collector continuously varies the current being drawn while watching the voltage and looking for that magical balance point where the maximum power is being produced.  And it is not a fixed point, which is why you need a controller with active circuitry.  It changes with the amount of sunlight falling on the panel, with temperature, and whether any of the cells are partially or completely shaded at the moment.

So, as things stand right now, Big Bertha is producing about 110 watts in bright sunlight, and her sisters produce about 75 watts.  I checked our electric meter when everything in the house and shop was quiescent.  Indeed, it was turning backward, ever so slowly.  I can't wait to get more panels made!  I should have enough cells for another 4 or 5 Big Berthas, depending on how many I break in the fabrication process.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

In a San Juan Frame of Mind

Shilshole Sunset
In 1997 we berthed Eolian in Seattle because I had just gotten a job with the University of Washington.  Later, we moved her from the Fairview Marina on the south end of Lake Union out to Shilshole when a slip became available there, in 1999.  We've been there ever since - for 15 years - the longest time we have ever lived in any one place, ever.  Now that I just said that, I realize that's a pretty big indictment of our apparently nomadic lifestyle.

But in any case, we are now retired.  The need for a living space convenient to work is over.  As one of the many life changes that occur with the end of work, out of the blue Jane contacted the Port of Bellingham wondering if there were any slips available suitable for Eolian...  the wait list was five years long.  Then she tried the Port of Anacortes, asking for 50' slips (Eolian is 52' overall, without the dinghy hanging from the davits - maybe we could squeeze in...) - ten year wait list.

Then something completely surprising happened.  The helpful guy at the Port of Anacortes asked if we might be interested in a 57' slip.  They had nine available.

Wait - what??!

Yup - not only was there a slip big enough to take Eolian, with the dinghy, but we could have our choice of nine!  And these are brand new docks.  And the slips are eight feet wider than those at Shilshole.  And the Port supplies free WiFi. And it's cheaper than Shilshole. And finally, Anacortes is the gateway to the San Juans - just a hop, skip and a jump across Rosario Strait.

Cruising in the San Juan Islands has always been a life objective for us, ever since our first visit in 1977, aboard our little Cal 21, Deja Vu.  While berthed in Seattle, we've made it to the Islands several times over the years, but it is always a journey, if you know what I mean.  And for years we had our names on the waitlists at Friday Harbor and Anacortes, hoping for an opening (and the opportunity to work remotely, which sadly never appeared).

So, yeah, we took a slip at Anacortes.  We have it now.  And we have given notice to Shilshole - our time there ends 5/31.

I know it's not the same, but I feel a little of that footloose and fancy free feeling that world cruisers get when they are about to cut the docklines.  But without the anxiety of whether we have covered everything on the boat prep list.  We could go to Anacortes today.  Or next week.  Or after Memorial Day.  Or we could leave Shilshole at the end of the month and arrive in Anacortes at some indeterminate time further in the future. 

We will miss all of our favorite anchorages - Port Madison, Eagle Harbor, Poulsbo, etc.  And we will miss all of our friends on the docks at Shilshole, old and new.  But I trust that we will see our Seattle friends up in the Islands, because they are a popular Seattle destination.  And that we will make new friends in Anacortes.

It's a time of leaving, and a time of arriving.  It's sad.  It's exciting!

Sunset in Parks Bay, San Juan Islands


Monday, May 5, 2014

Nano-tech Experiment #2: Initial Observations

Looks like silver, doesn't it?
 I've tried out the nano-tech superhydrophobic coated prop on our thundering 3 HP dinghy motor.  Here are some initial observations:
  • The air film is retained when the prop is completely submerged.  As the picture shows, it makes the prop look like it is made of silver.
  • The prop does not cavitate due to the retained air film
  • The film of air remained intact over a half-dozen trips to shore and a day of submersion.  Perhaps it is maintained by gases captured from the exhaust, or perhaps the air is simply retained well enough to withstand the surface turbulence.


Thursday, May 1, 2014


Anchored in Port Madison this morning, I was sipping my latte and watching the little fish jumping like water-borne popcorn, when a couple of thoughts came to me.

First, each one of these little 1" - 2" fish who manages to break free of the surface of the water is a little piscine astronaut.  He has entered an environment that, from his perspective, is a vacuum.  He can't breathe there, and there is nothing surrounding him that he can push against.  Brave little guys.

But that brings another thought:  If ever there was a behavior that Darwinian selection should have weeded out, it is this one.  What better way to advertise to gulls, loons, geese, and other predators that, "Here there be food"?

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