Monday, May 30, 2016

The Navionics App

I LOVE the new version of the Navionics app especially the new presentation of your collection of "favorites" areas.  You get just about everything you could use or need in one integrated display.  Look what is displayed..
  • Current weather, including wind speed and direction
  • Sunrise, sunset, moonrise, moon set, moon phase
  • Projected weather
  • Tide (nearby station)
  • Current (nearby station)
Everything you need in a single integrated display.  The Navionics user interface designers must have had some interesting discussions on how to get all this into a single screen.

There is a minor problem with the current version, however.  I have been working with Navionics on getting a minor nag corrected:

In this display, you can see three different representations of the state of the tide:
  • In the upper part of the image, inside a blue circle, an "emptying glass" icon showing that the tide is at 5.8 feet and falling,
  • in the "Details section, a graph showing the tide curve and where we are on it, and
  • in the "Details" section, another "emptying glass" icon showing that we are at 5.8 feet...  AND RISING
    That's right... The icon in the Details section has the arrow indicating the wrong direction.  This error only occurs for a little while around slack (high & low), but still, it is wrong.  

    I bring this up only to emphasize that the Navionics personnel are very, VERY responsive to customer input, and they are actively working on this (pretty trivial) issue; it will probably be fixed by the time you read this.  I appreciate that they are continually fine tuning and improving their software.  And I have talked before about their involvement with community-oriented crowd-sourcing of depth information before.  These are good folks, people!

    I love these folks, and I love this app!  If you don't have it, how could turn down a replacement for a chartplotter that sells for as little as this?  Answer: you can't.

    Get it.


    Tuesday, May 24, 2016

    How To Coil A Hose

    Now what?

    Previously I talked about how to coil a line, using a figure-8 pattern in order to avoid imparting twist...  twist that would cause problems when the line is taken off the coil.

    Well, that same problem also exists with stiffer things, like hoses.  Except that (sticking with hose) a figure-8 coiling pattern really doesn't work very well.  

    In a couple of pictures, here's how to coil a hose without adding twist:

    Put the first turn of the hose on the bracket in the usual way.  This puts a half-twist into the hose.

    But for the second turn, instead put a REVERSE twist into it, making the free end come out UNDER the turn instead of over it, cancelling out the twist imparted by the previous turn.  The first time you do this it will feel awkward.  But after the tenth time, it will feel completely natural.

    Just alternate regular turns and reverse turns for the rest of the length of the hose.

    You'll end up with a neat coil, and more importantly, one that has no twist in it so that when you pay it off of the bracket, you won't have kinks appearing.

    This works just as well for other things too, like a heavy extension cord, for example.  But here is a caution: when both ends are free, it is all too easy to withdraw an end from the the wrong side of the coil when unwinding it.  If you do this, instead of a twist-free line, you'll get a whole series of overhand knots.  Of course, with a hose that stays attached to the hose bib, it is difficult (but not impossible...) to make this happen.


    Monday, May 16, 2016

    Spring Shakedown Complete: Nothing Broke!


    With all systems go, we were finally free to leave the dock on Saturday, May 7.   With Facebook seeming to tease us with posts from past years that showed us at anchor weeks earlier in the year, I was beginning to get a little anxious to be gone.

    The first time off the dock every year is a little more daunting.  This is because the items on the checklist that are naturals after reinforced repetition over the summer have faded.  And then there is the worry about the close-quarters maneuverings needed at the dock - it is not learning all over again from scratch, but it is definitely not second nature either.  And then there are all those things that you worked on since last year.  Sure you checked them, and tested them...  but, well Murphy is always an unwelcome stowaway on every boat.

    I am happy to report that the shakedown was pretty much uneventful.  Leaving the dock was a little exciting with a pretty stiff NW breeze causing the boat to weathercock off of the rudder, making it difficult to get away from the dock without the bow pulpit brushing the piling at the end of the finger pier. 

    Well, OK, it did brush it... just.  No damage, no foul.

    Ahhh...  sleeping at anchor

    As it too often seems to be the case, the wind was on our nose coming our Guemes Channel, and then died off entirely as we entered Rosario Strait.  So we were a motor boat.  But we were away!  We anchored in Blind Bay (Honey, I'm home!) and spent the night, another day, and another nite there, luxuriating in the peace of being at anchor.  The only error I made was a failure to separate the battery banks after shutting the engine down... first-time-of-the-year failure.  Unfortunately, we slept thru the Aurora Borealis display Saturday nite.

    Then, studying our Current Atlas (a book everyone navigating the waters of the San Juans should have), we decided on a trip to Roche Harbor, followed by a jump to Reid Harbor.  The Current Atlas really paid off, with the tide carrying us for 6 of the miles of that trip - motoring again because of a complete lack of wind. 

    Required Roche Harbor ritual
    We dropped the dinghy and went ashore because there were some things that had to be done:
    • We were out of coffee!  Get a pound at the store.
    • Visit with Jill and get caught up with the crew of s/v Ambition.
    • No visit to Roche Harbor is complete for us without clams and a bottle of wine at the Roche Harbor Hotel.  And we got to catch up with our favorite server there, "Crash" (Jayne) and found out she is engaged!   
    And then back out to the boat to enjoy a quiet evening.

    Evening peace in Roche Harbor

    The next morning, we rose, and after consulting the Current Atlas again, determined our departure for the quick jaunt across Spieden Channel to Reid Harbor on Stuart Island.  

    Now, Reid is one of those places without telephone or internet coverage.  So our stay there was NOT spent staring at our phones or the computer.  Instead we went ashore and did some relaxed hiking.  In fact we met one of the few Stuart Island residents, who was working as a volunteer on the park facilities, and had a nice chat.

    Eolian and curmudgeon in Reid Harbor
    After another peaceful nite (20 kt winds had been forecast - part of the reason for the location choice for this nite - but they never materialized), we motored back to Blind Bay for the final night of our trip.

    While on the journey, we found some other shakedown items:
    • Our flares need to be replaced - they are nearing their expiration date. (Done.)
    • For some reason, I forgot to purchase our 2016 state registration.  Last year's expires 6/30/2016, so getting a new one coming is a priority.  (Ordered.)
    • The rechargeable battery in our wireless handheld mic for the VHF will now only hold enough electrons for about an hour of operation.  (New battery pack ordered.  Actually, 3 battery packs are coming, and what a diversity of prices!  Amazon wants $45 for this battery pack, and I got 3 of them, delivered, for $5.69 on eBay.  Always do the research!)
    So, all in all, a good shakedown and a successful first cruise of the year!


    Monday, May 9, 2016

    Now we can go

    You know, there is something kind of irritating about Facebook's "Your Memories" posts, well at least for me, this spring.  I've been getting suggested posts showing us out in the islands or otherwise off the dock, and yet, here we are, in the first week of May, still emulating a teak-lined apartment.

    Well, that has changed, finally.  Two projects which have prevented the boat from moving are done.  First, the compass binnacle and pedestal have been reassembled, and the throttle and gear shift levers are once again connected.  Oh yeah, and everything is now spiffy-shiny.

    Recursive project completed.
    The second project took longer.  In fact, the compass binnacle was kind of a fill-in, since we were trapped at the dock and couldn't move anyway.  This project was the exhaust hose failure - a much more difficult project.  After removing the old hose, the next problem I ran into was that tho the engine exhaust elbow was 3" OD and the old hose (and thus the new hose) was 3" ID, the water lift muffler inlet was 2 7/8" OD.  Undoubtedly this was because the muffler was a custom construction and 2 1/2" schedule 10 stainless pipe was used to make the inlet...  that pipe is 2 7/8" OD, probably the closest to 3" they could get.  I discovered this when I went to clean off what I thought was just some of the inner liner of the old hose from the inlet.  Nope, it was some kind of rubber tape, wrapped around the inlet to fill the gap in diameters.  It was also apparent that this was not the first solution tried - there was evidence of water leakage at the inlet, probably caused by an attempt to just clamp the daylights out of a 3" hose and try to squeeze it down enough to make a seal.  Not.

    I gave a lot of thought to this, how to match up the diameters.  Finally, I settled on the approach the last mechanic had used - it has lasted successfully for 19+ years, after all.  OK, so since the old rubber tape was gone, I needed a replacement.  

    I bought a 36" length of 2" wide, 1/32" thick, adhesive-backed silicone rubber tape.  I chose the smaller thickness so that I could make two wraps around the pipe, minimizing a leakage path thru the joint at the ends of the tape.  I wanted adhesive-backed tape because the inlet is almost inaccessible, and the tape would have to stay in place while I fiddled with installing the hose.  And finally, I wanted silicone rubber because it has a much higher temperature tolerance (400°F +) than neoprene or buna N rubber.

    Silicone rubber gap-filler tape installed
    Then all that remained was to "just" install the hose.  Because it was the least accessible (and most fragile, I didn't want to mess up the silicone tape), I installed the muffler end first.  That part was easy, being pretty much a straight shot.  Everything got a good dollop of silicone rubber RTV too, just to seal any small gaps.  Then tighten down the two hose T-clamps to stabilize the joint.

    Next the hard part:  wrestling the alligator - bending the hose and getting it onto the exhaust elbow.  The hose is only slightly more flexible than a 3" tree branch.  This part took blood, sweat, but thankfully no tears.  And then two more T-clamps and the job was done.

    Alligator: wrestled.

    I waited until the next morning in order to give the RTV time to cure and then started the engine. No leaks! Woo HOO!

    So, by the time you read this, we will be out at anchor in the Islands somewhere.



    Monday, May 2, 2016

    Project Recursiveness

    Projects on a boat are rarely singular.  Instead, what usually happens is that one project spawns another, or reveals another, or enables another.  Boat projects are recursive.

    In the current case, the initial project was not a big one. Our compass binnacle is a beautiful brass construction.  But over time, exposed to the sea air, it takes on, well, a "patina".

    The binnacle is not difficult to remove.  The upper domed section is a slip-on.  With it removed, the compass can be removed by extracting two screws and disconnecting the wires to the nite light.  The four bolts holding the lower cylindrical section are then accessible. 

    Now, the project-within-the-project reveals itself.  The small wood shelf that surrounds the steering pedestal has never been refinished since its original installation, many, many years ago.  I didn't do it because I couldn't see how to work around the throttle/gearshift levers.  But with the binnacle removed, it was not much of a step to disconnect the cables and remove the section of the pedestal containing the levers:

    Add caption

    And so the shelf can be removed...

    Project II
    I will take this to the shop to strip off the failed Cetol and run a router around the edges to smooth them (the original edge finish used a very small round-over bit and left sharp edges...  and good self-leveling varnish hates sharp edges - it pulls away from them).  I'll reinstall after 6 coats or so of varnish.

    In the mean time, a trip to the shop and an hour spent on the buffing wheel, and Project I is complete:

    OOooo shiny!

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