Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall 2012 Cruising

One of my pet peeves about cruising blogs is infrequent updates. In the future I will have to be less peevish and more tolerant when reading someone’s blog that hasn’t been updated in six months.

My last entry (also a roll-up) recounted our life through August.  Since then, we’ve made progress on the grand plan we’ve laid out for ourselves.  We even managed to get a few short cruises in Puget Sound during the glorious September we had in 2012.

Our sublet of the slip at Shilshole Marina was through the end of August. The folks from whom we were subletting, Dorothy & Larry Dubia (Big Brivet) were gracious enough to let us extend our stay through Labor Day.

We left bright and early on Labor Day (September 3), had favorable currents and made it to Echo Bay on Sucia Island. It was an 11 hour grind but it gave us an extra full day without having to move the boat.

2012-09-011xDespite a little drama (a furnace boo-boo), a little sweat (10 minutes of fussing to start the outboard on the dinghy), we thoroughly enjoyed our full day on Sucia. The view of Mt Baker from Echo Bay is always a highlight. It being the Tuesday after Labor Day, it was pretty busy and we shared Echo Bay with 25 sailboats and 20 power boats.

2012-09-018xOne of the boats we shared the anchorage with was our first boat, Dragontail, a Selene 36. We recognized it by the custom kayak rack on the aft cabin. It has changed hands one more time since we sold it in January 2010.

On Wednesday, September 5, we headed for another favorite spot, Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island. We did a short stop in Friday Harbor to check e-mail, make a cell phone call and buy a few provisions. We’ve not been in Friday Harbor when it was this busy before. It is fun to watch all the boats coming and going but nerve wracking if you are one of those coming or going.

The next day, September 6, we walked to the light house at Turn Point on the west tip of the island.  In the hour or so we were there, we saw four separate pods of Orca totaling at least 20 individual whales pass by from south to north.  Before you’d see the orca, you’d see an entourage of power boats trailing behind pod. The photo at left was taken from shore with a small point and shoot camera with only 3x magnification.  The features in the lower right of the photo are the bull kelp growing near shore.

September 7 was a travel day in which we hoped to snag a mooring ball in Eagle Harbor on Northeast side of Cypress Island. They were all taken but we anchored in a small cove a half-mile north.  In the calm conditions we had, it was delightful and surprisingly calm.

On September 8, we anchored on the north side of Hope Island, an island operated as a marine park by Washington State.  Compared to Sucia Island, Hope is pretty primitive.  I did a hike around the east end of the island and it was a major bushwhack in places.

We arranged to meet George Buehler, the designer of our boat, on the morning of September 9 in Coupeville to get a tutorial on deploying our sails.  Other than at the dock in China, we’ve never put them out.  Of course, the weather decided to get sloppy for our effort and the winds picked up to 15-20 knots.

We only deployed the foresail as the rigging for the main sail needs to be worked out since we our dinghy on the boat deck gets in the way of what Seahorse Marine originally intended.  While we never turned off the engine, we did go into neutral and managed 3.5 knots under sail.  There was current but we have no idea whether it was helping or hindering us.  Deploying the sails was a major effort and given that it normally only Marcia and I operating the boat, the sails will probably stay furled most of the time.

After we dropped off George and his wife Gail back on the dock at Coupeville, we elected to spend the night there.  The weather forecast was for some weather to come in that night and anchorages in Saratoga passage are poor.  It was probably not the best decision as the weather brought 30 knot gusts down the Strait of Juan deFuca over the narrow section of Whidbey Island into Penn Cove and right into the Coupeville dock.  It was very bouncy for much of the night.  Fortunately, the winds let down enough the next morning and we were able to get off the dock without any problem.  We arrived in the early afternoon on September 10, at the Queen City Yacht Club Winslow outstation.

While there we did laundry, provisioned then headed out on September 13 for the southern section of Puget Sound. The first night was just west of the mouth of the Nisqually River

We had hoped to take advantage of reciprocal privileges at the Olympia Yacht Club and stay at the dock in Olympia on September 14.  After poking our nose all the way down to the end of Budd Inlet, we saw that no space was available and headed back out. We ended up at an anchorage off of another Washington State Marine Park named Hope Island. This Hope Island was far less ragged and offered lots of well maintained trails for walking. The anchorage was subject to considerable current, however, and it was impressive to see our boat go from one side of its anchor circle to the other as the current switched with the tides.

We trekked north on September 15 and headed for Port Madison on the north end of Bainbridge Island. We rafted with our friends the Dubia’s on their vessel Big Brivet. We first met the Dubia’s in 2007 when we transited Yuculta, Gillard and Dent narrows the same day.

The next day, September 16, we headed back to Winslow the long way, via Agate Pass and Rich Passage. After a few days in which to do laundry and reprovision, we headed back north to the San Juans.

We anchored just outside the Port Townsend Marina for the night. Since the winds were out of the northwest, it was pretty protected. From there, we crossed the Strait of Juan deFuca in fine conditions and again headed to Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island. While we saw some Orca on the west side of San Juan Island, we didn’t have the display off Turn Point that we did two weeks earlier.

After two nights, we headed south.  As we passed the south side of Jones Island, we spied our sistership, ZanaZu, owned by Nancy & Asrar Zubair. Since it was still early in the morning, we didn’t roust them up by sounding our horn off their stern. 

We continued across the Strait and anchored again off Port Townsend. By early afternoon the next day, we were secured at the Winslow outstation for the winter.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

April-August Roll-Up

Before it gets even more embarrassingly tardy, I need to update our activities over the last five months. First, no cruising with the exception of a 5-day jaunt to Anacortes in May to attend Trawlerfest.  Our big activity has been to first get our house ready to sale (April through June) and then (since June 30) keep it looking good while it has been on the market.

At the end of April we started subletting slips at Shilshole Marina and move on board Alpenglow. That got us out of the way of the contractor while work was done on the house and spared the cats the trauma of being confined to a small area while scary noises happened around them. Now that the house is on the market, remaining on the boat keeps the house cleaner and eases the showing of the house by the realtor.  It does mean we commute regularly from Shilshole in the Ballard neighborhood to the house in West Seattle.

2012-08-010-013Living in Shilshole has been fine. It is a big marina (3,000 slips) but since a maximum of 300 slips are for live-aboards, except for weekends and sunny weekday evenings, it is pretty quiet.

Ballard has a strong Scandinavian heritage (especially Norwegian) and a statue of Leif Ericson stands prominently on marina grounds, staring to the northwest and keeping watch over the moored vessels.

Our sublet at Shilshole runs through the end of August. Hopefully we’ll do a little cruising before settling back in for the winter at our yacht club’s Winslow station.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Metal Boat Festival Presentation

2012 MB Festival Presentation

The Metal Boat Society has an annual festival and this year we were asked to present on our experiences of having Alpenglow built.  Here is a link to the PDF visuals we used to give structure to our presentation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Change in Scenery

Up until recently, we have been wintering the boat (i.e., the September through May we aren’t cruising) on Lake Union. That site was convenient from our house, an 8 or 9 mile drive, but noisy and dirty (it was almost directly underneath the I-5 bridge crossing the Lake Washington Ship Canal).

In early February we were fortunate enough to be offered a winter moorage slip at our yacht club’s (QCYC) outstation docks in Winslow on Bainbridge Island. The winter moorage is available from mid-September to mid-May which accords perfectly with our planned cruising schedule. Additionally, the outstation is everything the Lake Union site wasn’t (i.e., clean, quiet and secure). While it isn’t as convenient to our house as the Lake Union site, once we are living on the boat, that isn’t an issue.

Below is a photo from the stern of the boat of our new neighbors.

Our current plans are to remain here until the end of April at which time we will move to a slip in Shilshole Marina on the Seattle side of Puget Sound we are subleasing through August. This will give us the convenience of living on the boat (not really an option at the Lake Union site) with good access to our home as we prepare and list it for sale.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Keeping Cool

The additional monitoring sensors I installed in our NMEA2000 system this winter has provided a wealth of data. One tidbit was the temperature of the two AC transformers (isolation and step-down) in our electrical system. I was surprised at the the increased temperature above the ambient engine room temperature in the transformers as I was pulling power through them to operate the two electric heaters.

At our moorage we are on a 30A/120 volt circuit. Normally, we don’t pull more than 15 to 20 amps on a steady basis. This gives a little headroom in case there are transient loads from the DC charger pulling power to service the DC side of the boat. With that steady state load, I’d routinely see a 15 to 20 degree increase above ambient in the transformers. While probably not a big issue, heat tends to accelerate the degradation of components so I thought I’d see what I could do.

The transformers are toroidal style (i.e., doughnut shape) which means there is a hole through which I can pull cooling air. I wanted the fans to only operate when the tranformers were working so I tapped into the AC power being put into the transformers. After the installation of the fans, the transformers are running about 10 degrees cooler, in the 5 to 10 degrees above ambient engine room temperature.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Keeping Track of Things

The largest project on the boat this winter has been to take advantage of the NMEA2000 backbone running through our boat and increase the level of system monitoring that we do.

When Seahorse Marine built our boat a couple of years ago, we had them install many components that operated using the marine industry standard NMEA2000. The big advantage of this system is that data and power for the components all run in one backbone cable. When you want to add a module you insert “T” junction that taps into the backbone and pulls data and power off on to a drop line to the new module. So long as you comply with some relatively straightforward restrictions on cable lengths it is pretty idiot proof.  Once a module is on the backbone and some minor configuration completed, its data is available in the display modules elsewhere in the boat.

Up until now, the modules installed were mostly oriented towards navigation (e.g., GPS, compass, wind, depth). This winter we’ve added a DC module, an AC module and a temperature module. While there are a number of vendors of NMEA2000 equipment, the most complete product line is from Maretron, a company based in Phoenix and who manufactures in Bend, Oregon (neither location coming to mind when thinking of marine electronics).

The DC module (DCM100) measures voltage, current and temperature. I installed the voltage and current sensors to measure the output from the DC charging system (either the alternator or the inverter/charger). The temperature being measured is the house bank battery.

The AC module (ACM100) measures voltage and current. I installed its sensors at the output from the AC source selector switch. There are analog meters at the electrical panel that do the same thing but 1) I have to make the effort to look at them and 2) the sensitivity of the meters is pretty coarse.

SD46204 - NMEA 2000The temperature module (TMP100) will accept 4 temperature sensors that operate from -50° F to 176° F. I am measuring 1) the air temperature inside the isolation transformer box; 2) the air temperature inside the 240VAC/120VAC step down transformer box; 3) engine room air temperature; and 4) the house battery bank alternator temperature.

I installed a probe on the engine start battery alternator but did not attach it to the TMP100 since I ran out of inputs. Depending on what temperatures I think are important to monitor, I could add it to the mix by swapping something else out.

Now that I can gather all of this additional data, I’ll have to give it some time while I build up a baseline to know when things are operating normally and when something is not right as reflected by values (e.g., temperatures) outside the norm.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Price of Ice

Last summer while visiting Tracy Arm with our friends the Crowders, we did a tour down to the snout of the North Sawyer Glacier (Crowder visit).

As we were viewing the glacier a nice chunk fell off. We were about a half mile away so I wasn’t worried about the wave but I maneuvered the boat (we had been in neutral just bobbing along) so as to take the wave on the bow. At the time there were “growlers” (see ice sizes) in the water nearby. As the splash waves passed underneath the boat, we began to “hobby horse” a bit. Unfortunately during one of the cycles, some ice was underneath the bow area. We heard the thump but had no concern about damaging our steel hull.

That evening, as we entering the anchorage for the night, I turned on our forward looking sonar (FLS). Unlike a downward facing depth sounder, the FLS is oriented forward and can give you a heads up about what is in front of you (how it works). The FLS display screen simply showed a line at a 45 degree down slope. Having anchored in the same spot the day before I knew that wasn’t correct. Since the FLS worked fine up until then, I feared that it might have been damaged during the ice “thumping.”

Flash forward six months to the middle of January, we had a diver inspect our bottom paint and zincs for wear. We also had him inspect the FLS transducer. Sure enough, the transducer shows its impact with the ice.

Although the transducer is, in theory, replaceable while the boat is in the water, we’ve decided its replacement can wait until we have the boat hauled at some point in the future as part of bottom maintenance or other work. In the meantime, I’ll be more careful around ice.