Sunday, June 30, 2019

It Just Got Easier - An App You Have To Have

Previously I wrote about the tricky tide-driven currents in the San Juan Islands,and how important it is to take them into account when planning voyages there.  In that previous post, I referred to the Canadian Current Atlas for the area...  the bible.  I also mentioned the somewhat involved procedure needed to determine which of the 100 or so charts would apply to the current time.  This procedure had to be applied to each of the alternatives when planning a voyage, and involved a lot of flipping thru pages and reference charts.

No more!

It's now an app!

Someone has laboriously taken all of the information in the Current Atlas and built it into an app...  an app that makes it absolutely painless to scroll backwards and forwards in time to compare alternatives.

And here is the big bonus:  it's all in the appNo internet connection is required, so this is entirely appropriate for use in internet-deprived areas (there are quite a few in the Islands...).

You can find it in your app store - search for "Current Atlas".  Yes, you'll have to pay for it, once.   (You had to pay for the arcane hardcopy version didn't you?)  It is worth every penny.

Get it.


Friday, June 28, 2019

Genset Summer

After doing all that work on the generator this spring, when we got back after a couple of weeks at anchor, I found this...

Yep - the seawater pump on the generator had failed.

Apparently the first to go was the seal - that's what keeps the seawater inside the pump and away from the bearings that support the shaft:

That's not supposed to be three different pieces...

In fact the seal was so far gone that it came out in three pieces.

And then, because Kohler didn't see fit to use sealed bearings, the seawater running past the failed seal got into the bearings.  High carbon steel does not do well with exposure to salt water...

Bearings no more...

But thankfully, I have the tools and a rebuild kit was just an eBay away for a nominal sum, so one more time into the bilges, and the pump was as good as new.  Actually better than new, because the rebuild kit came with stainless bolts to replace the brass (?!) phillips screws that had originally held the cover plate on.  I also replaced the single brass (again...) screw that held the pump cam in place with a stainless one.  That brass screw came out in three pieces...  I can just barely imagine what would have happened if the cam had come loose in there when the pump was running...

Better than new!

Previous post in this series

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Blocking Buoys

Port Madison
(Snatched from m/v Archimedes - hires version and a lot more information there)
When first we came to the San Juan Islands, one of our anchorages was Grindstone Harbor, a charming little cove on the south shore of Orcas Island.  Now that cove is filled with "mooring" buoys.

Our first  voyage in Eolian was to Port Madison, on the north shore of Bainbridge Island.  We had virtually the entire harbor to ourselves and our choice of anchoring spots.  But as the years progressed, more and more "mooring" buoys appeared.  And now the current situation (as shown in the picture above) is that there is essentially NO anchorage any more in Port Madison, unless you want to take your chances anchoring in the narrow channel still remaining for ingress and egress.

What has happened?  Well, first of all, nearly all of the buoys are perennially empty.   Then why are they there?

I cannot know in all cases of course, but I do know for absolute certainty (because I have talked to them) that there are those landowners who place buoys in front of their property in order to block boats from anchoring in "their" view.  Since these buoys are not intended to be used for mooring, they may be anchored with nothing more than a couple of concrete blocks.

In Rusty's blog, m/v Archimedes, there is a lot of information about what it takes to get actual legal permission to install a mooring buoy.  It ain't easy!  My guess is, that whatever their intended purpose, less than 10% of the buoys in the picture above are registered, legal buoys.  Even if they all were (ha!), Rusty raises the case for anchorage as a prior right.

So, what to do?

I have a suggestion.

Mooring tender in Friday Harbor

There are many outfits around the sound that install moorings.  Place a bounty on illegal, unsanctioned unoccupied buoys of, say, $300.  Further, allow the mooring tenders to keep the removed moorings and their anchors for later sale as legal moorings.  Kind of like towing companies get to tow your car if it is found abandoned along the freeway.

Now someone is sure to complain that the buoys should not be removed without notifying the owner.  Do you get a notification when your car is towed? NO.  And in any case, the illegal buoys are unmarked (or at best are marked "Private"), so ownership cannot be determined.

With this plan implemented, my guess is that within a year or two, most of the buoys would have been removed and their space returned to general anchorage usage.


Monday, June 3, 2019

Rust Stains 

Over and over again I see people querying for a method to remove rust stains from fiberglass.  And over and over again I have typed in a quick answer.  Because my quick answers are not always complete, and also because I am getting frustrated at answering the same question over and over, I am writing this post so that I can just refer to it.



The surface of fiberglass (gelcoat, actually) is porous at the molecular level, that is why it stains so easily (spill a glass of wine and you'll see what I mean...).  And so it is with rust stains - they are not *on* the surface, but *in* the surface.

So what is the best way to remove rust stains from gelcoat?  Certainly one method is to simply remove the rust contaminated gelcoat - that is what abrasives do.  Besides the elbow grease required, this approach is limiting because eventually you will run out of gelcoat.

And then there is chemical treatment.  Boy have I seen a wide range of suggestions here:
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Cider vinegar
  • Coca Cola
  • Pepsi Cola
  • Ospho
  • Whink
  • Bar Keeper's Friend
  • Starbrite
  • Scotchbrite
  • FSR
  • Clay Bar
  • Rubbing compound
  • Bleach (numerous variants here...)
  • ...
Some of these are abrasives, and as mentioned above, they work by removing the stained gelcoat.

Some of the non-abrasives will be marginally effective.

But for a sure-fire, elbow-grease free and effective solution, use oxalic acid.

Oh no!  Acid sounds scary!  Must run away!  Oxalic acid is a weak acid, in the same vein as vinegar but a little stronger.  Do you wear rubber gloves when handling vinegar?  I didn't think so.

Oxalic acid is a crystalline solid - looks a lot like sugar.  To be effective, it must be used in solution.  Now here is an interesting fact:  oxalic acid is way, way more soluble in hot water than cold...  so when making a solution, always use hot water.  And always make a saturated solution (that is, no more will dissolve in the water - you can tell because there are still a few undissolved crystals on the bottom).

So just make up a saturated solution of oxalic acid, wet a piece of paper towel with the solution and stick it on the stain.  That is all.

Also some notes:
  • Bar Keeper's Friend is a soft abrasive with a small amount of added oxalic acid.
  • The active ingredient in FSR is oxalic acid.
  • Whink contains HF - hydrofluoric acid.  HF is scary stuff - it will even dissolve glass.
  • Bleach will be completely ineffective.  In fact it may serve to set the stain.
  • Phosphoric acid (Ospho, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola) will be marginally effective
 So how would your average boat owner be able to obtain this magic oxalic acid?  Actually it is quite easy.  Oxalic acid is sold at Home Depot, etc. as "wood bleach"... look for it in the paint section.  Now why would this be?  Because the dark brown color in wood is due to iron oxide - rust.  And by the way, the dark brown staining from tannin-loaded waters is also due to iron oxide - oxalic acid will work on it too.

Now a final note on toxicity.  You have already eaten oxalic acid.  The sour taste in rhubarb is oxalic acid.  But you don't eat the leaves of rhubarb - why?  Because the oxalic acid concentration in the leaves is higher.  As with almost everything, the dose is the poison (even water and oxygen...  drink too much water and it will kill you...  deep sea divers use exotic gas mixtures containing far less than the 21% oxygen in the air because the pressure makes oxygen that much more dangerous).  So don't eat or drink the acid solution.  Don't breathe any dust.  Don't rub it into a cut or use it as an eyewash.  Wash your hands after contact.  It is about 3 times more toxic as a poison than aspirin, and about 1/4 the toxicity of caffeine.  Yes, it is poisonous but no heroic precautions are necessary.

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