Monday, June 27, 2016

Plea For Data: Salish Sea Bottom Hazards

Our recent experience in Friday Harbor tells me that our charts are not adequate.  There is at least one more wreck in Friday Harbor that is not on them, tho it is marked by a buoy.  But buoys break loose, and then the wrecks become marked only by local lore.

It strikes me that there is a lot of data on wrecks out there... existing as pencil scratchings on charts, notes in logs, etc.

It is time.  It is well past time, that this data be consolidated and made available to all.  Navionics has what they call "community edits" - crowd-sourced data, but not everyone uses Navionics.

So this is a plea:  A plea for all who read this post to dig thru their logs and charts and make all that accumulated wisdom and experience available to the entire boating community.

I will volunteer to maintain a public database of Salish Sea Bottom Hazards, until a better method for making this community data available to the entire community exists.

Here's how you can contribute and help your fellow boaters:
  1. Dig thru those logs and review all those notes on your charts.  
  2. For each wreck or other bottom hazard, note:
    • The location of the hazard - GPS/Lat-Long coordinates are most desirable, but if you don't have them then a verbal description
    • A description of the nature of the hazard, if known or available
    • The source of the data... Hard experience (!), NOAA, Navionics community edit, cruising guide, etc
    • If you wish to be associated with the entry and how (email, name, boat name, etc)
  3. Send this information in an email to WindborneInPugetSound (at) gmail (dot) com
Please don't worry that you might be providing duplicate data - that's fine.  I will sort it out.

So dig thru those charts and logs!  Be an active part of our boating community - lets all help each other!

Looking forward to your emails.

s/v Eolian

(Selfishly, I am most interested in data from Blind Bay, Friday Harbor, Echo Bay, Reid Harbor and Parks Bay.  In Parks Bay especially I would like confirmation of reports that the charted pilings in the south end of the bay have been removed, as has been variously reported) 


Monday, June 20, 2016

Is your chartplotter up to date?

If you are like us, your chartplotter was not purchased this year.  Or last year.  Or the year before that.

That probably means that not only are the charts out of date, but the software that runs the chartplotter is obsolete too.  What's a boater to do?

Certainly one option is to go out and buy a new chartplotter.  But that expense may not be necessary.

Our chartplotter is a Garmin 520 - very old indeed.  And when I hooked up an AIS receiver to it, I began to get an inkling that something was not quite right.  The main shortcoming that started this whole thing was that only Class B AIS targets were being displayed.  At first I faulted the AIS receiver, but no, it was actually the fault of the chartplotter.

So I did a search on the Intertubes.  And guess what?  Garmin has a whole host of updates available online.  For free!  And as for our 520?  We were at software version 3.00, and the current version for our device is 5.60.  Reading thru the changelog shows that we were missing years of bug fixes, improvements, chart updates and a whole lot of functionality!  Including proper handling of Class A AIS signals.

So I downloaded the update.  But there's a catch.

As it turns out, the actual update is a file which you put on an SD card, and have that card in the chartplotter when you turn it on.  The chartplotter finds the file, and then goes thru an update cycle.  But thru remarkably provincial micro$oftian  thinking, the downloaded file is a micro$oft executable.  If you have a micro$oft computer, you can run this executable, which, yes you guessed it, just puts the file on an SD card.  Why Garmin didn't simply provide the native file for download is a mystery that only micro$oft fanboys would understand (curse them and their ancestry forever).

It is not often that you can update your marine electronics for free...  I am more than happy with our "new" chartplotter.  I suspect you will be too!

nb: I previously reported that Garmin had discontinued software support for the old devices...  NOT TRUE!  It's still there, at the bottom of the page in the above link!


Monday, June 13, 2016

Ratty Port Replacement

One of two failing ratty fixed ports

Last summer while doing gelcoat repair, I mentioned that the ratty fixed ports on Eolian's aft-facing cabin house were long overdue for replacement. Well, now is that time.

Even Plexiglas eventually falls prey to the relentless UV from the sun, tho it lasts far, far longer than Lexan - this port is 38 years old.  If it had been polycarbonate, it would have looked much worse after only 5 years.

Tho there are no leaks (yet!), the bedding is overdue for replacement, as well as the port.
Removing the port was easy.  Back out the screws on the inside, and then push it out.  No, that bedding was definitely NOT firmly holding the port in place.  Tho it was clearly not leaking, there appeared to be no reason for that except for habit.

The next problem was that the new port is a little larger than the old one (well, I guess that's better than the reverse...).  First I taped over the entire area with some white duct tape I had on board to protect it from the vibrating sabersaw table.  Then I used the outer trim ring of the new port as a stencil, and marked a cut line.  My trusty (but crummy - I gotta get a better one) saber saw with a grit-edge blade cut thru the 1" thick sandwich of fiberglass, foam, fiberglass with relative ease.  To constrain the mess, Jane was  inside with a shop vac positioned to catch the dust and chips.

(Note to self:  Next time, just tape some plastic over the inside and clean up afterwards - that will be more effective and easier.)

The new opening port is a little larger than the old one.
Before the final installation, one more step was necessary.  Because we often sit on the back deck and lean against the bulkhead that has this port (and a second one, which will also get replaced), it was necessary to trim the spigot to a minimum projection - for comfort.  So I installed the port, held the trim ring in place, and traced around the projecting spigot with a ballpoint pen.

Then I removed the port and laboriously cut off the extra spigot length with a hand hacksaw (the same one I used to cut the exhaust hose...).  I preferred to use a hand tool for this job because, tho it cut slowly...  it cut at a speed that permitted me to maintain a uniform 1/8" from the pen marking.  After cutting, I used a fine file to smooth off the saw cut markings, and break the resulting sharp edges slightly.

Trimmed and ready for final caulking
Before final installation, I carefully sealed the exposed foam core in the opening with the same silicone that Beckson requires for bedding the port*.  If there was any leakage in the future, I didn't want it to get into the core.  Then I injected silicone into the gap between the port and the deckhouse, and smeared a little on the back side of the trim ring.  Press the trim ring into place, some clean up, and it is done!

Now, one more to go, and then all the fixed and opening ports on the boat will have been replaced, giving us a total of 11 opening ports.

* I hate the use of silicone on a boat, but this is one of the few places that I will use it.  In this case, it is because Beckson specifies it.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Permanent moorage in Friday Harbor

The red arrow shows our location

We dropped anchor in Friday Harbor on Tuesday, pretty much in the normal place.  Well, one of the two or three normal places - anchorage is pretty limited there due to the number of (mostly unoccupied) mooring balls.

Not long after, after the tide had changed, we noticed periodic rumbling from the anchor chain.  This is unusual; we thought that the chain was being dragged across something on the bottom.  So we decided to move.  Well, not so fast, there Pilgrim...  with 125 feet of chain still out, the windlass stalled.  Attempting to free the boat by motoring in various directions was fruitless.

So here we sit, now permanently at anchor in Friday Harbor.  At the moment, our chain is straight up and down, so we are directly over the obstruction.  Our location is (mark this on your chartplotters): 48° 32.137' N, 123° 0.483'W

This makes the third wreck that I know of on the floor of Friday Harbor.  I know that one of them has a buoy marking it, and I know now that one does not.  The third one?  Not sure - maybe one of those unused mooring buoys marks it too.

All I know is that it is going to be very difficult to convince me to anchor in Friday Harbor again until the Port of Friday harbor reports these wrecks to the DNR and gets them removed. 

OK, here's the postmortem. 

When we anchored, I avoided the wreck marked on the chart, known locally as "the old fishing boat that had been permanently anchored there for years, and finally sank". But when our chain started 'grumbling' as the boat swung to the tides, I thought maybe the position marked on the chart was off. We tried to raise anchor, but stalled the windlass with 125' of chain still out. Thought for about a beer, and then contacted Jill and Brent who live aboard s/v Ambition at the marina for a diver reference; they recommended Kurt Schwalbe. He came out yesterday afternoon at slack water (currents in Friday Harbor can be very strong - trying to do work down there while fighting the current would be terrible). Kurt deserved the stellar reputation he has. He is friendly, professional, deliberate, and a problem solver. Before going into the water, he discussed his plan with us, in detail.

It turned out that this was NOT the fishing boat, but yet another wreck on the bottom of Friday Harbor - a 21' skiff. And our chain had not only sawed partly thru the fiberglass wreck, but had it wrapped up like a Christmas present. Kurt untangled everything, but was not able to pull the chain out from under the wreck, where one turn had wedged itself. So we put Eolian's Perkins 4-236 diesel to work. After 3 or 4 mighty tugs, we were FREE!!!

Kurt enjoying a well-deserved IPA after the dive

I have marked the position of this wreck on our Navionics charts as a community edit, so if you use Navionics, you already have its location. If you don't, here are its coordinates:
48° 32.137' N, 123° 0.483'W

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