Monday, December 14, 2009

Just “Ship It”

2009-China-Final-528 For another ten days after Kurt’s departure, Marcia stayed in China monitoring last minute fixes, and the preparation of Alpenglow for shipping. Since we were importing the vessel ourselves, we were going to have to know how to reassemble the boat after it arrived in Seattle.

2009-China-Final-557 When the boat is shipped, it will sit on top of shipping containers exposed to the full force of the North Pacific in winter. The mast and rigging had to come down.  All of the electronics on the mast had to be secured or removed. All of the electronics on the fly bridge had to be removed. 2009-China-Final-693Everything not bolted down inside the boat has to be secured.



IMG_0432 After the boat is secured, IMG_0446it is driven to a small port near the boat yard where it is put on a small (by shipping standards) vessel and taken to the main port where it is loaded on the large container ship that will take it to Seattle. The boat is securely lashed down to a cradle purpose built to hold our boat.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Let’s Have a Party

On the evening before my (Kurt’s) departure from the boatyard, we had a party to celebrate the “completion” of our boat.  The boat was cleaned and celebratory flags strung.

2009-China-Final-434We paid for exotic American food to be brought in, KFC dinner boxes.
2009-China-Final-440Pictures were taken 2009-China-Final-448and speeches were given. 
2009-China-Final-441 Here is Marcia with Henry, our project manager, and  another of both of us with Mr. Gong, the electrical/electronic foreman.2009-China-Final-445

Monday, November 30, 2009

The View from the Bridge

Our boat has a fly bridge (or flying bridge to some).  It is located directly above the lower helm in the pilot house. On nice days it is a delightful place to pilot the boat or simply spend time. For close quarter maneuvering, its view (especially forward) is outstanding.



The view to the rear is fine except for close-in objects. Having someone below telling you what might be lurking in your blind spot is handy.






The lower helm in the pilot house is more comfortable and has a larger set of controls. It also is part of the normal living/social area of the boat not dependent on having good weather.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Electrical Panel

We often joke about when you own a boat, you become a city manager on account of all of the systems on board necessary to support a style of living similar to that on shore. Old-timers will scoff at the complexity of a modern boat saying it is an invitation to disaster (or at least a smaller bank account). Nevertheless, that is the way new boats are built because boat buyers expect creature comforts comparable to their home.

To illustrate this, below are photos of our electrical panel.

Our boat can handle shore power of either 110VAC or 220VAC. Internally, we use 220VAC so shore power of 110 VAC is “stepped” up to the higher voltage through adjusting the connections of our isolation transformer.
Since this photo was taken, we have added a warning telling us to NEVER, EVER step up 220 VAC to a higher voltage.  Bad things happen.
As mentioned above, internally we start with 220VAC which is used for selected items which would only operate with shore power or the generator. Most AC devices operate with 110V which we obtain by stepping 220V down.  
The gritty backside of the AC panel.
We own a 24VDC boat but we do have some 12V items.  The 12VDC is obtained by a DC-DC converter from 24V.
The backside of the DC panel

Stepping a Mast – 8 November

First, I apologize for some of these out of sequence posts.  On account of the inaccessibility of our blog site provider, (one of the many subsidiaries of Google), I am catching up on posts while in Hong Kong. My first burst of posts were simply restating what I had sent out in e-mails to some people. Now that I’ve caught up with those, I am doing new posts and filling in the “blanks.”

The Seahorse (SHM) “duck” boats come with a large, for power boats, masts about 10 meters (33 feet). When they are mounted 10 feet above the waterline, as ours is, it makes for a very tall boat. The purpose of the mast is to support the steadying sails, which reduce the rolling of the boat to due to beam seas (see roll stabilization). In addition, the sails serve as “get home” propulsion should the main engine fail. True sailors dismiss the paltry pieces of canvas we call sails on our boat and say our sails provide more of a “get to a continent” feature as you can’t really sail upwind with them. Since we aren’t sailors, will take what we get and deal with their limitations at some future date.

Anyway, when the boat is launched there is no mast mounted on the boat. Two reasons are: 1) the mast gets in way in factory; and 2) wires for lights and electronics have to be stuffed into the mast which is easier when the mast is horizontal.

A few days after SD462-02 was launched its mast was “stepped” (i.e., mounted). In boat yards where fewer strong backs are available, cranes and winches are used. At SHM, lots of hands are used. It took no more than 15 minutes to take it down the dock and get it vertical and secured on the boat.

The mast is walked down the ramp to the dock. You can see all of the rigging, lights and antenna are mounted on the mast.
The bottom of the mast is lifted onto the boat deck of the receiving (SD462-02) boat deck using a combination of ropes from the boat deck and poles with a mast saddle from the dock. Clearly they have done this before.
The top of the mast is raised to the boat deck of our boat using the same technique. There is a support saddle for the mast at the end of the boat deck on SD462-02. This saves a lot of backs of the workers and allows them to rest and reposition themselves.
A rope is attached to the top of the mast and the mast is slid forward until the bottom of the mast can be put into the tabernacle on the boat deck where a hinge pin is inserted keeping the bottom in position but allowing it to rotate forward.
A team hoists on the mast from the bow while others push from the back and others are prepared to use the back stays to keep the mast from going sideways.
Most of the hard work is done and now it is time to secure the rigging to the boat and tighten them down a bit.


First Night Aboard – 15 November

We spent our first night aboard last night and survived!

We bought a comforter and other household needs (wastebaskets, dishwashing soap, etc.) yesterday afternoon in town.  Later we attended a family event of the boatyard owners (a grand nephew's one-month birthday) at a restaurant in Zhuhai (about 30 miles from the boatyard).  The food was excellent and everybody is very accommodating/understanding of my need to watch my sodium intake.

We got back to the yard about 9:30, made up our bed and were lights off about 10:30.  This morning, not long after I went to the galley to heat water for drinks, I hear a plaintive meow.  I looked around several times before seeing the senior boatyard cat outside asking to come in.  "Slick" the cat inspects all of the boats so we had to let him in to check things out (actually, he's been on many times so maybe he was just checking to see if we were all right).



Later in the morning the new kitten at the yard came by to see how we were doing as well.  As you can tell from the photo, Marcia is quite taken with him. You can also see the borrowed jacket Marcia is wearing.  The temperature has dropped in recent days to overcast, windy and mid-50's.

Since it is Sunday, no workers on our boat today.  We are running our generator and doing a load of wash in our washer/dryer combo.  We are also running our AirCon units as heaters today to add load to the generator.

Sea Trial – 13 November

We had a brief (slightly more than an hour) sea trial yesterday, Friday the 13th.  On account of weather and conflicting schedules we could only squeeze in what our surveyor needed to check for engine vibration, fuel/oil leaks, noise level, etc.  The boat performed well and seems very solid.

The boatyard is on river and a bridge is a quarter mile up river from the yard and about four miles down river.  Neither bridge opens and their clearance is a smidge lower than our high point.

In addition, the river has a pretty good current at times, lots of commercial boat traffic and is less than a half mile wide in many spots.  All and all a not particularly convenient spot for pleasure cruising.  Despite that, we will have some more sea trials in order to test the sail rig and paravane deployment/retrieval.

Today, we hope to move on board (at least the master stateroom) and begin “living” on the boat. There is work still going on and we’ll leave most of the protecting materials intact for shipping so it isn’t quite like real life but we are looking forward to it.

Lots of things are on the "fix" list but things are coming off of it as well.  Marcia is great at pushing the SHM staff to help us get the boat done.

First Day of “Final” Suvey – 11 November

Tuesday was lots of work.  Ray Wolfe, our surveyor, arrived at the yard early and we got to work quickly.

Yesterday, 11 November, was lots of plumbing and electrical checking.  The two water tanks and three waste tanks were filled with water looking for leaks.  All fixtures were checked for hot & cold water and leaks. The bilges in the five water tight compartments had water added to them and the electric bilge pumps and manual bilge pumps were checked.  Lights, AC & DC outlets were tested.

About 100 gallons of fuel was loaded yesterday afternoon.  We'll fire up the generator and test it for voltage and frequency stability, next. 

I am not sure whether we'll have time today to do a sea trial on the river since the owner of SD462-02 (the boat launched last week) is making a one-day visit to the yard and there is lots of activity associated with that.

The sails have arrived but not yet been installed so perhaps a sea trial will be Thursday with sails up.  Lots of testing left to do!

Night Launch of SD462-02 – 5 November


A sister ship to ours (SD462-02) was launched on the high tide which was about 9:30 PM. It was quite a sight, almost like a rocket launch with all of the lights and people climbing ladders into the capsule/boat.

In the attached night shots you'll see many round artifacts which I believe are the flash reflections from the dust floating in the air.



Once the boat was in position (a slow and careful process), fire crackers were set and the clutch on the cables holding the carriage supporting the boat were released.  It slid backwards rapidly into the water at a speed faster than the boat will probably ever go under its own power. 


  The day shot shows the new boat (yellow mask) moored behind our boat (blue mask).

Progress continues on our boat and we hope to do the final inspection with our surveyor next week (9 November).  With luck we will be able to move aboard after that for some "hands-on" experience of systems. 

Cruising will have to wait until the boat makes it back home on a freighter.

State of Ship – 28 October

Below are some photos I took this morning before too many workers came on board.


First is the side profile. The bimini cover over the fly bridge is installed so that is why you see only the stainless steel tubing. 




Next is the salon and “U” shaped galley. Instead of one large refrigerator, we have two stacked DC refrigerators each on a dedicated breaker so that we can only turn on one if that is all we need. We also have a freezer built in under the pilot house settee.


The master stateroom photo right clearly shows the installed mattress. The hatch enters the engine room and a hinged book case covers the hatch.  A seat is under the porthole (no cushion yet) is at the right of the image.




The final photo is the forward stateroom. It has a smallish double bunk below and single bunk above on the starboard side. A very functional array of drawers, lockers and counter top are to the port side.

Great Firewall of China

File this under the "don't commit to something you can't control" department.  A few weeks ago I sent out a message with our relocated blog site (  I had great intentions of posting regular updates to the blog site during our visit to China for the final inspection of our new boat.  Well I didn't reckon with the "Great Firewall of China." 

China has chosen to protect its citizens from some material on the Internet by filtering out "offensive" web sites.  As it turns out, our blog site host, (a service of Google), is on that list.  I can neither read nor post to our blog site.  I tried one work around but that was blocked as well.

Rather than spend all my time trying to circumvent the Chinese governments efforts, I acceded to them and have not posted to my blog site while in China.  Currently we are in Hong Kong to clear out our storage facility and have unfiltered Internet access.  I will now try to catch up on things.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Progress being made

Marcia and I speak daily using Skype. It generally works well but the limiting factor is the connection speed at Marcia’s end.  If she tries to do other things on her computer that use Internet bandwidth or if other people with whom the connection is shared use too much capacity the quality suffers. The delay is a bit like a phone call routed through a satellite and you have to be conscious of not “stepping on” the others comments.

Over the weekend (October 17-18), she was going through the boat with our surveyor, Ray Wolfe. He prepared a list of findings and the yard is now working through them.  Marcia provides the necessary clarification/feedback to ensure that they are properly addressing the findings.

On Tuesday Marcia met with our project manager and the production staff and they worked out the following schedule:

  • Finish survey finding this week (except for carpentry many of these things are already done).
  • Finish carpentry work end of next week (10/25-31)
  • Cushions covered by end of next week
  • Apply non-skid next week
  • SHM testing now to final inspection; Hanson’s poke around to familiarize with vessel
  • Final inspection the first week of November
  • Move in after final inspection
  • Correct deficiencies, testing and sea trials 2nd week November through shipping
  • Ship vessel mid December to early January

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Technology (aka “Toy”)

FlipUltraHDWe just purchased a Flip Ultra HD video camera (Flip).  The camera is a little large than a pack of cards, very light and records HD video (1280 x 720).  The video is highly compressed so the image quality is modest but acceptable given its convenience and low cost.

We expect to use the camera to help our documenting Alpenglow while in China.  We can imagine that people will be doing massive “data dumps” of information on us, so rather than writing sketchy paper notes of what people are telling us, we thought we would try video recording the briefings.  In addition, the camera is small enough that sticking it into a tight location while recording and panning about may give us some images we will find useful in the future.

Below is a YouTube video I uploaded from clips I took on a hike up to Cutthroat Pass last Thursday, October 8.  Depending on available bandwidth, I may try a few video reports while in China.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Roll Stabilization

An unavoidable consequence of a boat floating on a surface of water that has waves is the boat will roll (rotate right or left around the long axis of the boat).  As the waves become bigger, the rolling is usually greater and faster.

Sail boats have an advantage over power boats in these conditions because the force of the wind on the sails usually dampens or stops the rolling motion of the boat.  Power boats without sails have to use other means if they want to dampen rolling.

The stabilization methods are typically broken down into “active” and “passive”.  Active means an active control unit sensing motion and dynamically controlling some mechanism. Passive is the absence of a control unit but relies on a feedback mechanism inherent to the stabilizing device.

The most common active stabilizing method is a fin stabilizer. In effect, a stubby wing sticks out from the side of the boat and pitches up or down to create compensating forces to the roll of the boat (Naiad Stabilizer). Most require a hydraulic pump on the main engine which goes to the fin actuators and a control unit to sense in real-time the boat’s motion and direct the actuators.

While we have saved space in the engine room for an active stabilizer installation, we are starting with a passive stabilizing method, paravanes.

Kohlstrand Patent

The diagrams to the left and below are from a US patent for the “fish” hanging on chain at the end of the paravane poles. The short description is that “fish” on the downward rolling side plunges while the fish on the upward rolling side resists the motion. This action tends to dampen the rolling motion of the boat.

Kohlstrand Fish

Our friends Dorothy and Dave Nagle, owners of the Seahorse Marine Diesel Duck David Ellis (David Ellis blog), encountered a fisherman in Juneau who raved about some fish made by a marine supply store catering to fisherman in Astoria.  Marcia called the store and found out that they are made by a 90+ year old gentleman in Westport. At that point, we decided now was the time to buy them.  To the left is a photo of Marcia in Westport with her newly captured fish.

The Westport fish are slightly different than Kohlstrand fish (the type shown in the patent drawings above). The wings are marine plywood and the lead nose is a hemisphere of  lead bolted through the wing.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Final Stretch

We are coming down to the final stretch on the new boat’s construction and the schedule is firming up.  The airline tickets are purchased and visa’s in hand.

The plan is for Marcia to leave Wednesday, October 14.  Kurt will follow the next week on Friday, October 23.  Return dates are chosen but we recognize that they may change.  They have us returning in early to mid December.

Once at the boat yard the goal is to accomplish the following:

  1. Conduct a “pre-final” inspection to identify any obvious problems or items not built per our requests;
  2. Conduct a final inspection with our marine surveyor, Ray Wolfe. The result will be a list of items needing correction;
  3. Work with the yard to complete the “punch list” created above;
  4. Live on the boat at the boat yard, learning the boat and identifying modest changes that we’d like the boat yard to make';
  5. Work with the boat yard to prepare the boat for shipment via a freighter.

We would like the boat to be put on a freighter in mid-December so that it can reach the Pacific Northwest by the first half of January.  Possible shipping ports are Seattle, Tacoma or Vancouver. Our preference is Seattle but the cost of shipping will enter into our final decision.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Who is that Masked Trawler?

Bill Kimley, co-owner of Seahorse Marine, has been in the boat building industry for a long time and has developed a keen eye for what looks good on a boat. 

On recent boats from the yard, he has been encouraging owners to consider adding a “mask” around the pilot house area.  The mask uses either the hull color or a complementary color to visually lower the height of the boat and lengthen it.  This is particularly valuable on boats like ours that have both a large superstructure and tall rigging.

Anyway, we looked at other SHM boats with masks and did a little playing on the computer with the photo editor to convince ourselves that it would look good to us.  We did go the conservative route and stick with the hull color as opposed to something a little more eye catching like “fire-engine red.”

Below is a before and after view for comparison.

2009-09-76H 2009-09-88H

Friday, September 18, 2009

Boat Launched!

We received from Henry Zheng, our SHM project manager, the following e-mail this morning.

Hi Marcia and Kurt:

This morning, Alpenglow is successfully launched. We have the fireworks to celebrate this wonderful moment. Hope you and kurt were here, to share the happiness with our workers.

Have some picts for your information.

Best regards,

The pictures are below:

2009-09-70H 2009-09-71H
2009-09-72H 2009-09-73H
2009-09-74H 2009-09-75H



Friday, July 24, 2009

Photos from July 2009 China Visit

Based on photos we received from Ray Wolfe, our marine surveyor, and Heny Zheng, our SHM project manager, it was clear that pace of progress on Alpenglow was accelerating.  The schedule called for the boat to be completed Fall 2009 and if we wanted to correct issues before the boat was all “buttoned up”, it was time for another visit to the boatyard.

Since no “Saver” frequent flyer tickets were not available on Northwest Airlines (soon only to be a memory as its name and logo is swallowed by Delta), Marcia turned in more miles and flew business class.  That also allowed her to really load up stuff for the boat in her checked luggage with out paying additional baggage charges.

The initial plan was for Marcia to break up her yard visits with weekend stays in Hong Kong. However, with the mainland Chinese immigration authorities doing their utmost to prevent a H1N1  flu outbreak, the border check was intimidating and lengthy.  Marcia decided to forgo the risk of an inadvertent quarantine by only entering China once and putting all of her Hong Kong time at the trip’s end.

Dates Activity
July 3-4 Fly NWA from Seattle to HK via Narita
July 5-6 In HK
July 6-15 At Seahorse Marine (SHM) boatyard
July 16-21 in HK
July 22 Fly NWA from HK to Seattle via Narita

While at the boatyard, Marcia and I spoke daily for about an hour using Skype. The hotel she stayed at had free Internet in the room that was generally reliable enough. While in Hong Kong, we didn’t talk as often because Internet connectivity in hotel rooms there is typically extra cost.

Marcia’s visit was very productive and timely. She was able to identify and have the boatyard correct several problems and adjust installations of other items (e.g., hand holds) to meet our needs.

Below are some photos from her trip.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Drawings for MV Alpenglow

The layout for Alpenglow has subtly evolved since the original drawings were made. Some changes reflect thinking by the builder while other changes are at our request. Below are the current drawings.