07/01/2014, Tyee YC Outstation, Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge, WA
Mostly as a way to bolster my standing among the cruisers of the world in terms of fortitude and technical expertise in the completion of boat projects, I'm happy to offer a brief summary of progress. Here's an annotated version of the list I posted in my Winter Update post from early last February:
install the new SSB [Installation complete, though I still have to commission it and learn how to use it.]
purchase and install new refrigeration machinery [DONE! It's doing a great job of keeping food at much lower energy demands than the old unit!]
purchase and install a new autopilot [About 3/4 done. All electronic components are installed and the mechanical portion that drives the actual rudder is about half done. If all that works, I'll still have to figure out how to interface with my navigation system.]
design, machine, and fit a double-pulley to drive the high-output alternator [Done, and working great. The old system used to squeal in protest when asked to charge the batteries, but the new system is very stoic. The new belts produced a fair amount of rubber dust in their first few hours of breaking in which I attribute to slight variation from the standard v-belt groove profile. They've stopped that now and I'm very pleased!]
pull and paint the masts and inspect structural components [Pulling and painting masts will still have to wait for the cheaper labor rates down in Mexico. I am also just plain out of time before departure on the Coho Ho Ho. I have inspected most of the chain plates on the starboard side, at least from the inside. They look pretty good and have bolstered my confidence in their integrity.]
sell one or both existing dinghies and replace with a new Portland Pudgy [My friend Len bought the old RIB, although I had to invest $850 in engine repair to even put it on the market. The Grandy skiff has not attracted enough of the right kind of attention to give me much encouragement. I don't know what I'll be doing with her at this point. The new Portland Pudgy has been in service for a couple of weeks now, although delivery of the lifeboat canopy and the solar panel were back ordered. It's proving to be a fun little boat under oars and outboard, but I have yet to try out the sailing rig.]
add a second house battery to double available amp-hours [Done, along with the addition of a separate Comms battery and charging management system.]
test fit and, if necessary, reconfigure the emergency steering tiller [Done! I'm glad I did this, though it was only an educational process. I learned that I'll have to remove the wheel to give the tiller enough clearance for use.]
add a Forespar whisker pole for the genoa and gennaker [Done, though yet to be used away from the dock.]
add another set of reefing points on the mizzen sail [I've decided this won't be necessary.]
replace the staysail and rig new sheets [The staysail has been replaced, but I've decided to stay with the old sheet system.]
add a storm jib. [Done.]
Of course, the list has expanded.
06/29/2014, Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island, WA
Busy busy, ...and not. I have to say that maintaining my retired lifestyle takes a toll on my time. First of all, there's scheduling around my local coffee shop's lackadaisical office hours: Rooster's doesn't open until 7am on weekdays (OMG!) and 8am on Saturday and Sunday! Well, you get used to a place, don't you? I'll eventually have to get back to last summer's routine of making myself a back bay latte on the boat and munching on an English muffin, but I do enjoy being served with coffee and pastry. Until then I struggle to sleep in late to match my barrista's hours.
The new Portland Pudgy dinghy was delivered a couple of weeks ago and I continue to explore that toy. I refer to it as the Leatherman of dinghies, since it does triple duty serving also as a sailing dinghy and a lifeboat. Its second-hand outboard, a 2.3HP Honda, gave me a little trouble starting for the first time, but since I drained the carburetor and put dry gas in the tank, it's been a champ. Even wrapped up in shiny silver plastic and metal, it's still strikes me just as an old Seagull engine at heart with a simple pull cord, a choke, and a throttle. No gears, ...you spin the thing around one-eighty for reverse.
The new main and genoa sails were expanding panel by panel across the sail maker's loft floor as of late last week. Ballard Sails had an equipment failure that delayed their start, but promises on-time delivery. The genoa gets a strip of UV resistant material along the trailing edges to protect it from the sun when it's rolled up around the head stay. People typically choose to make that of Sunbrella canvas that matches the sail covers. Lisa helped pick out a shade of burgundy that I think will go well with the tweedy tan of the dodger. A recent lesson-learned with the new mizzen and stay sails is that old covers never fit over crisp, new sails, so I ordered new covers for the main, mizzen and stay sail. If you were to take even a casual look at the old covers, you'd know that I've been putting off this purchase for far too long. I've also ordered some extra material so I can remake hatch covers, etc. in my spare time.
Installation of the new WH autopilot is the biggest of my personal undertakings. After the Coho Ho Ho trip to Anacortes, I returned to Eagle Harbor and its wonderful little harbor town, Winslow. Besides being convenient to the Seattle ferry and with easy access to my yacht club's outstation for power, water, and the occasional yacht club "do", it is also Wil Hamm's home town. He is the owner, chief cook, and bottle washer for WH Autopilots (go figger) and maintains his shop just a short bus ride out of Winslow. Wil came down to the public dock himself a couple of weeks ago to deliver all the various autopilot system components. That week I built a foundation for the Rudder Angle Transmitter (Mabrouka now has a resident RAT on board) and devised linkage to the steering system. Lisa's Father's Day present was to come over that Sunday from Seattle to help install the system. We only got the primary electronics boxes mounted, but Lisa was invaluable in helping me think through the pros and cons of the various options for locations and cable runs. Thanks, Lisa, for keeping me honest! It was still several more days before I got everything else installed and all the wires run and commissioning was delayed due to mandatory attendance at my yacht club's weekend-long Peace, Boats and Rock-n-Roll party.
I wrested myself from my grueling social schedule to start the system up the following monday, but my lack of electronical confidence, some engineerese (i.e. lousy English) in the autopilot manual, and the unexplained behavior of an indicator light prompted me to ask for Wil's assistance in commissioning the system. Again, it was Wil himself that came to the boat. The painful crux of a significantly longer story is that my plan to use the existing power ram from my old Alpha system to drive the rudder has been thwarted, so I've forked out some more cash for WH's hydraulic system. Yesterday I ripped out the old ram and started building foundations for the new one and it's dedicated hydraulic pump. It will probably be another week or two, social engagements considered, before I get that working.
So, it's time for me to take leave of the Rooster and get back to work. Today I'll try to fiberglass in the new hydraulic pump foundation, configure the mount for the ram, and choose a spot to hang the head tank for the hydraulic oil. Oh what fun!
06/25/2014, On Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island, WA
I'm gratified, but often a little ashamed of myself when, now and again, people ask if I've put up any new blog posts. Supposedly that means they're reading and maybe even looking forward to them. Perhaps they're just making polite conversation, but then as now my response is, "No." Distractions with weekend trips and ongoing projects mean I haven't written in a while, but now that I think of it there has been a subject brewing in the back of my mind. For those of you who tire of the project descriptions I impose upon you when I don't have anything profound to say, get ready for profundity!
It was oh-dark-thirty on June 6th when I hauled in my mooring lines from the Tyee Yacht Club dock on Lake Union. There's the fun back story of my daughter's stolen, then miraculously recovered car to explain the 3:45 am departure, but just leave it to say that I was up anyway and not likely to go back to sleep, so I made a beginning to the weekend trip up to Anacortes for the Coho Ho Ho diesel engine maintenance seminar. (See my Facebook post of June 11th.)
The green flash of the channel marker south of Gasworks Park mirroring on the still waters of Lake Union promised a calm trip out the Lake Washington Ship Canal. Hovering under the Aurora Bridge that arched high above, I called out to the Freemont Bridge tender with one long and one short blast of my air horn to open up and let me through. The sound was a dagger in the night and I think I actually cringed to imagine what my friends and one-time neighbors right there at Lee's Landing Marina would think if they knew it'd been me making all that racket at such a wee hour.
A dark vacuum of quiet followed, drawing my mind into a moment's thoughtfulness. It's funny how a sluggish few seconds at four in the AM can be filled with images that shoot through your head at light speed. Without even realizing it had happened, I imagined a decade or so of firsts and lasts, beginnings and endings stretching out before me. Mostly I wondered if this would be the last time I'd transit beneath the fading blue trusses of the Freemont Bridge, ...ever?
Indeed, the sounds of the bridge had become a comfortable backdrop for my life in the winter and spring months of 2013-14, ...the horns of the waiting boats begging passage and the answering assent or rejection by the bridge tender, sighing a long-short or barking a short-short-short-short-short with his own booming horn. An affirmation is followed by warning bells that rise up in clouds around the bridge as half a dozen traffic barriers perform slow-mo karate chops that stop a couple of feet shy of shattering the road's surface. On a sunny day pedestrians and cyclists can be seen leaning over the railings, holding on to hats and sunglasses while they strain to see who has disturbed their commutes and strolls, at once both frustrated and fascinated by the waterborne miscreants below.
Back in the present, I remained drifting slowly downstream in the slight current, stilettos of light holding Mabrouka hostage on the water as we awaited the bridge keeper's response to my own inquiry. Loathe to upset the night with my horn again, I called to him via channel 13 on the VHF radio. He responded quickly, but from the Ballard Bridge half a mile west and I was reminded that he rotated between the canal's four bridges at these early hours. He predicted opening in about 15 minutes, but managed a little less than that and I had the pleasure of actually seeing him wave as I motored beneath the yawning structure. If anyone else observed Mabrouka's passage from behind the railings, the morning was not yet shedding enough light to betray their presence.
Of all the times I'd been through the canal, every bridge passage had seemed like a blind handshake, a warm exchange of service graciously performed and thankfully accepted, but anonymous. I have always been fastidious in waving a thank you as I made my way under the control towers, but never seen a response through the skies reflected off the windows above. Seeing the attendant that one time, it occurred to me at that early hour that this was both a first AND a last.
So, I'm off on a cruise of firsts and lasts. Sadly, for the near term, I know that many of my experiences will be lasts. Last time under the Freemont Bridge, last time through the Chittenden Locks, last time saying goodbye to Seattle friends. There will be new friends along the way. The cruiser's life is, I gather, a series of first time meetings, some fleeting friendships that are at once both beginnings and endings, and others that will linger into long time relationships. Some friendships will bounce along with me from port to port, others will submerge only to pop up along some distant shore. Hopefully, like my dear friends at Tyee Yacht Club, some will resist the weathering effects of time and distance.
As with most people, I think, few of the many good friendships in my life are deeply intimate ones. What's more, I've become largely a solitary person in recent years and suppose that's one reason I've chosen the cruising life. On the other hand, I am not innately adventurous and the prospect of a series of first experiences stretching out before me is as scary as it is exciting. For those of my friends that find this surprising, don't let the fact that I'm choosing this life fool you. This madness is driven more by the rejection of my naturally dull nature than it is an emergent strain of adrenaline junky-nous running through my soul.
That being said, I recognize that any life accomplishments that I look back upon with pride and pleasure are those when I've jumped off a cliff and, thankfully, learned to fly before I hit the ground. My choice to leave home for the distant east coast to begin a new college and career, the birth of my daughters, training for and then completing the STP in one day, retiring at the infantile age of 59-1/2, ...all have proven to be positive growth experiences that can hardly be explained by any vocabulary that I possess. This latest growth experience will require a long, drawn out explanation yet to be realized in this cruising blog. Stay tuned. In the end, your judgement will be required.
I leave you with this photo, not because it's relevant, but because it reminds me of some of my favorite humans. Elvis, pictured here, was one of those little nothings of a toy that the girls absolutely loved when they were little, ...like five years old. I remember watching the three of them in my rear view mirror sitting in the back seat of the Suburban as we drove across the Saudi Arabian desert, each with their ridiculous stuffed cat in their little hands doing the moves to Roxette's "Joyride". I keep that memory in a special place. The peace sign pendant was a spontaneous gift from Karyn Borcich. Elvis is now Peace Elvis. Thanks, Karyn.
05/31/2014, Chez Kathy's Bistro, Lake Union, WA
Last night provided some punctuation to my journey. My dear friends Karyn (with a "Y") and Kathy are paarrtaaaay gals, and they weren't about to miss the opportunity that my impending departure provided for a soiree. Mabrouka is to vacate her slip at Lee's Landing Marine tomorrow, June 1st, although Lisa Ordway, the marina manager, has been graciously casual about that date.
Lee's Landing has been a wonderfully fortuitous find for our winter stay and it's turned out to be among the best neighborhoods I've had the pleasure to be part of. All my fellow tenants have taken me in and called me "friend". Who could ask for more?
My original May 1st departure date from Lee's Landing had already come, gone, and then slipped to May 15th. That date, too, had gone by the wayside when I chatted with Lisa about staying another two weeks until I finished my pulley modifications, hopefully before May 31st. She didn't make me plead, just assured me not to worry. She wasn't advertising the slip, just waiting for serendipity to find the right tenant.
Although I was grateful, I have to admit to worrying about Lisa's management techniques and business acumen. Shouldn't she be standing at the dock, machete in hand ready to hack away my mooring lines and set me adrift while the next tenant hovered about waiting for me to leave? Then I twigged on how well her approach works. I'm sure my tenancy, however brief, was due only to Karyn's kind recommendation. And Lisa's in no hurry to replace me, patient to wait until the next "right person" comes along to join the neighborhood. It's very pleasant there, with everyone getting along and participating in the community atmosphere. I highly recommend it!
Please take a look at the Lee's Landing Marina pictures in the Photo Gallery. Here's one of them:
So Karyn prodded me to agree on a bon voyage party date, then followed up with me to see how many derelicts and miscreants I'd invited. We'd already decided I'd move Mabrouka the 50 yards from her slip and tie her up at Kathy's houseboat next door, so I figured the drunk and disorderlies could pass out on her decks. In the end, we had about 15 or 20 very well behaved guests pass through, sitting and chatting at Mabrouka's cockpit table or enjoying Kathy's lovely house and deck. She has a wonderful party setting that looks out on the eastern end of the Seattle Ship Canal, overarched by the Aurora Bridge.
I've posted a couple of pictures that I took at the party. Frankly I was too busy enjoying the people to spend much time with my camera. I did get some photos of the morning-after scene and our recovery session with coffee and my daughter, Lisa, so check out the Bye-bye Party section of the Photo Gallery, too.
Thanks so much to Karyn for the inspiration and Kathy for the venue. You've provided a great big exclamation point to bring the winter and spring to a close and start off on the next adventure.
05/28/2014, Lee's Landing Marina, Freemont, WA
I've mentioned this modification several times in recent posts, putting off the long-winded description until I could describe an actual fix. That's finally come to pass, but those of you who fade when mechanical discussions surface may be well served by skipping this entry. It's up to you, but you're hereby officially warned.
This topic was introduced in my May 3rd entry, Of cranks and other things in which I embarked upon a rant about how I'd finally abandoned cranky old Larry Stewart after suffering too much of his abuse and was waiting for a quote from MER Equipment for designing and machining parts. That was for the high-tech solution of replacing the standard v-belt with a fancy serpentine system like they put in most modern automobiles. It didn't take long for MER to come back with two options, either: six weeks and two thousand dollars or; two weeks and three thousand dollars. It took me even less time, though, to decide that THAT was SO not hap'nin'!
Just for grins, here's a repeat picture of the old system for comparison:
So off I went to my old buddy, Jens Hjorth, who I've mentioned in conjunction with several other Mabroukan modifications. He and I came up with what seemed like a simple approach to modifying the system, though still tending toward the Serpentine Solution. I bought a new alternator with the proper serpentine-type pulley on it (I need a spare alternator for cruising anyway) that would give us the dimensions for making new crank and water pump pulleys.
It took about a week for Jens and Quin to decide it'd be prohibitively expensive to machine the relatively complicated serpentine pulleys from scratch and they couldn't find parts that were close enough to what was needed to just suffer a little remanufacturing to fit. The Serpentine Solution turned out to be just a pretty, slithery idea up in a tree that had tempted me to eat the apple. Good sense seems to have won out.
With a little more discussion, Jens and I decided that if I could get duplicates of the pulleys already on my engine, we could adapt the system to add a second v-belt for the alternator. Even though Perkins has stopped supporting my 4-154 engine (I'm sure that'll provide a source for future tales of woe), I had already tracked down the company that bought the rights to remanufacture parts and ordered a new fresh water pump from them. Going back to their order desk, it turned out that they had some pulleys that closely resembled the ones on my engine. I ordered new water pump and crank pulleys and we were off to the races. It doesn't sound nearly so sexy as adding a serpentine belt, but there's something to be said for the neanderthal approach.
It took about a week to get those delivered to Jens and only a few days for him to machine them. I picked the "new" parts up on Saturday afternoon, spent Sunday and Monday assembling some additional parts and supplies and painting up the various components, then got the system all installed and operating yesterday.
Amazement abounds! Things went very quickly and smoothly once I abandoned the fancy solution. I am so, SO happy and can now move on to more exotic projects and places.
05/27/2014, Lee's Landing Marina, Freemont, WA
Will technology be the death or the savior of the human race? Does its cultivation encourage the dichotomous gains in wealth that so few are enjoying at the expense of the many? Is it the expression of some factor in the human genome that effectively relates us more closely to viruses than to the great apes?
I have often struggled with the contradiction that lies within a probable future where we humans will be so successful at individual survival that we are likely to kill ourselves en masse by starving and polluting our planet. If the news seems finally to be taking note of the imbalance of wealth in America, will it become increasingly apparent that a similar imbalance grows between the rich and the poor nations of the world? Many apocalyptic future scenarios envision the two factors reinforcing one another with the relatively few rich living long, healthy lives that are fed off the labors of the many, plague-ridden masses. I do, indeed, fear that our ever-growing ability to extend and improve the lives of the few will come violently up against our inability to feed and care for the many.
Doug is a friend and one time co-worker who, years ago, stoked many a conversation over spaghetti and cheap red wine with his opinion that we ought not try to improve man's condition with such expensive and time consuming endeavors as researching a cure for cancer. He never seemed to be concerned with the possibility that that missing cure might one day save his own life. I always supposed this was because he was a young and robust man who assumed a sense of indestructibility that was inflated even beyond that of the rest of us at our young age. Though I lost touch with Doug long ago, I assume that he still enjoys an impression of temporary immortality similar to mine, but wonder if advancing age has moderated his opinion.
I knew Doug to be a really nice guy who displayed no personality characteristics that I might ever have compared to Hitler or Stalin. I never knew him to espouse racial cleansing, infanticide, or elitism of any sort. Though he exhibited all the hallmarks of intelligence and caring that made me value his friendship, he had what I can only characterize as a quaint simplicity to his outlook. It makes me smile to think back on the example that he never referred to a rubber spatula by that term. To Doug that common kitchen implement was a "peanut butter jar scraper", a perfectly descriptive term for the device that equipped him to take advantage of every last smidgeon of that goopy resource that was so precious to him as an impoverished bachelor.
Whether Doug chose not to or just failed to see that his opinion could turn against him poses a critical question in the fate of the human race. I believe that we do have the potential within us to eliminate cancer, indeed to extend life to years that were once unimaginable. That I do not believe that our planet has the ability to sustain such success, certainly not for all of us, means we do have to grapple with the result.
My understanding does not extend any further into the relationship between technology and sociology than my own humble thought processes take me. I am, by training, an engineer, so you would expect me to tend toward technological solutions to particular everyday problems. On the other hand, I think I have always related to the world at large in more of a thoughtful, even artistic way. As I look back on my thirty-five year career, I now know that I became a naval architect because it offered a profession where technology strove for a happy marriage between the rigid, mechanical world of a ship's machinery and structure and the immense, but fluid forces of the sea. As a stereotypical Libra, this suits my personality. It satisfies my need to balance the world around me.
So, I ask whether we humans have either the will or even the ability to moderate our success in a moral way? Is it possible for us to share our scientific and medical advances in ways that improve the lives of every human on Earth, not just a rich, elite class while imbuing everyone with self-control that keeps us from over-running the place? We would have to overcome both our own propensity to take advantage of those advances and our fear that others would take advantage of us if we didn't. Ultimately, I think that is the question that faces the human race. We enjoy the innate skill to devise ways to survive, but also suffer from the innate inability to curb the individual survival instinct for the benefit of the race. I believe we must all simultaneously choose to overcome that inability or face up to a future of growing inequality and the eventual anarchy and strife that will result.
|Prose and Poetry||