Life At The Dock
19 January 2012 | Spud Point Marina, Bodega Bay CA
photo is the original diesel duck -- see story below
So, what's been happening on the good ship DavidEllis? Things are falling apart; that's what's happening! Right before Christmas the isolation transformer (where the electrical shorepower enters the boat) shorted itself and a week later the inverter-charger (which takes shorepower or generator AC and charges the boat's battery banks - that's the charger side; also turns battery DC into outlet AC via the inverter) fried. Boat electricity at this point amounts to the shorepower cord acting like an extension cord to run a portable multi-stage battery charger and we function as we would 'on the hook' (at anchor) mainly on DC (battery) power. The one major inconvenience is the lack of hot water (which we usually heat by a loop of engine coolant when we're underway) or by running the generator to provide AC power and heat the water (as you would at home with a conventional electric water heater). Can't do that now though, as all our AC outlets run through the inverter-charger which, as noted above, is fried. So Dot heats water on our propane cook stove - kinda like camping. And we have small inverters which handle small AC loads like electronics and phone chargers.
I've had some great help and advice from one of the fishboat captains here, who is also a commercial electrician, and I am very grateful. Fixing all this is not just a matter of buying new units and plugging in, as there have been some significant improvements / changes in this type of equipment since DE was built. There are also some (possibly unnecessary) complexities to our current electrical set-up which could be adjusted and with almost 6 years of cruising and living aboard, in a variety of situations, we have some ideas about how things might be made better, more usable, more redundant. I am seeing the projects I thought I would be doing this winter sliding back down the "to do" list, as there's a limit on available "boat units" to pay for it all. "Boat Units" within the cruising world are a facetious reference to $1000 increments, so something costing $2,500 would be referred to as "2.5 boat units", presumably to take some of the emotional pain out of the expense.
In the almost 2 months since my last post, the local crab fleet has gotten underway and from what I hear on the dock, while things have slowed down significantly, the haul has been pretty good (although not so much as last year). The weather has helped the fishing, as we haven't seen any winter storms yet - one may be arriving as I write this. There was a week of rain, end of September / beginning October when we first arrived in Bodega Bay, but since it's been generally sunny, although cold the past two months, and a couple days fog. One report I heard said that the most rainfall recorded in the San Francisco Bay Area this year, has been at Half Moon Bay, where they received 7% of normal - everywhere else locally is less. So while there have been some short-term benefits to the lack of winter storms / rain, it's really not a good situation. Hopefully we won't get our annual rainfall all at once... shades of the many Russian River floods we worked over the years.
We continue to have visitors to DE - family and friends who've only seen her in photos until now. We also have admirers on the dock, one such was a fisherman from down south who was driving the coast and looking for a new boat; seeing DE he said he wished the boat had a 20 ton fishhold (and we'd be willing to sell?) which reminded me of my old dive partner Mike M. who used to say "I wish I had (what that fellow has) and he had a feather up his butt and we'd both be tickled". A couple days later I noticed two gentlemen looking the boat over from the dock and thought they were the usual admirers. It turns out they are the Millerick brothers who in '94 built the original Diesel Duck (from George Buehler's design) in their welding shop on Lone Pine Rd just south of Sebastopol. It was great fun meeting them and showing them around the boat. The photo at the top of the blog is of that boat. (from Buehler's website at: www.dieselducks.com)
Yesterday was a quarterly re-qualification shoot at the SO range; retired guys on the first round. Great to see familiar faces... and everyone can still shoot straight too! Some of these guys I've known for 40 years... and the stories that come to mind just seeing them... well, I guess you just had to be there.
Between the time I started this blog post yesterday, and now, the rain has come in earnest but not nearly so hard as the tropical monsoons we experienced in Hong Kong and the Philippines (not to mention the several typhoons); and not so cold as Wrangell, AK where we were this time last year (3 degrees F there the past few days) or even Seattle which is having record snow. Later this week, hopefully after the weather settles, we'll drive back up to Seattle for the recreation boat show, and several diesel engine classes I'll be taking from Bob Senter at Northern Lights / Lugger. Always great to be able to pick the brain of someone who knows his stuff.