Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Big Wind, 988.5mb, and Cozy Jones

Few would agree or understand why we would go sailing when the forecast was for the biggest windstorm in Seattle in 11 years. Calls for 65mph winds, and such. Well, those folks do not know or understand my family. Or the Salish Sea. Or Aeolus. Or good ground tackle.

We went up and out this weekend and had a deeply restorative trip to Jones Island. With the ferocious forecast for SE and SW winds, we knew we would be fine in the north cove. There is really no amount of wind that threatens you in the north cove if it blows from the SE or SW. A few waves wrap around, but nothing much, and the island is high enough to only allow eddies and swirling gusts to spin you around a bit.

The holding at Jones is in good mud, and with a modern anchor in the Mantus or Rocna style, with good chain rode, and knowledge of how to set and manage your anchoring, you just have no reason not to go.

We went, and had the place to ourselves as usual. When we arrived on Saturday afternoon it was calm and lovely. We had time to take our usual walk around the West Side and enjoyed it enormously. The island has many moods, all of them good. This trip she was in her wet and wild mood, which engenders thoughts of adventure.

All was calm right up until bedtime. The forecast called for sudden winds at 1am, with the strongest winds at 4am. Up to 65 knots in the Straits, and diminishing to 45 in the San Juans. Just before turning out the lights, the pressure had dropped to 988.5 mb, which is the lowest pressure I have ever seen while aboard Aeolus. Sure enough, I was woken at 1:05 am by a sudden gust that stirred everything to life. I laid awake for some time to see what it would be, and found it benign. Going back to sleep, I was awake again at 4am, no joke, with new gusts. Again, it was all sound and fury, but signified nothing in our cozy anchorage. By the time we all woke up for good about 9am, it was all calm, and there were blue skies.

We had a lovely calm trip back down San Juan Channel to Friday Harbor. And again, that trip of less than 24 hours on the boat felt like many days, and the spice of adventure washed clean the cobwebs of normalcy and patterns.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Wow, the new icebox is seriously amazing!

The two bags of ice AFTER a weekend. 
 This weekend was another real test of the new icebox since I did the major retrofit with better insulation. We loaded it up with a two bags worth of food that needed refrigeration but had grown warm on the two ferries and car ride in between Bainbridge and Friday Harbor. We bought the two blocks of ice on Saturday morning, loaded it all up and took off to Jones as described below.

We had sausages and yoghurt and all the normal stuff. When we got back to our slip in Friday Harbor at around 1pm on Sunday, and emptied the icebox of food. When we got down to the bottom to retrieve the ice, we were amazed to see it was completely unmelted. Like, brand new. The photos below are from AFTER the overnight trip.

Adding two inches of polyiso all around and an inch of pink foam up top has really done an incredible job of it. Wish I hadn't waited so long.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

A wonderful get away

We escaped the news and the trauma and busy-ness of our semi-rural Bainbridge Island lives to the more wild and refreshing respite of Jones Island State Park this weekend. Old friend. We went up Friday night as we like to do, and had deep, deep boat sleep through Saturday morning.

I was excited to use our new icebox for the first real trip and to also use the new Racor 500 for the first outing.
A carpet of color. Perfect. 

Amy and the boys were off to Cafe Demeter in Friday Harbor for the num num run after we managed to rise after 9am, and I got the boat ready. We didn't leave until after 11, and the day was gorgeous. Forecast was for rain and SE winds that night so we headed to the north side of Jones.

We were the only boat at the island. Once again. On what turned out to be a beautiful weekend, people stayed away by the millions. We no sooner had anchored than we were ashore and walking around the West side. Every few moments we would stop and just take it in the stunning views, and enjoy the stillness. The embracing of all things. The intricate poetic detail of nature.
Owen on the edge of the world

The boys spent some time chasing each other among the slopes that rise steeply up from the water. Owen's only real chance is patience, since he has the misfortune to have an older brother who runs sprints and the 5K in state qualifying times. But Owen does have patience, and eventually the tortoise caught the hare. They've been doing that since Owen could run, and this is their last year of living together under the same roof as Elliott is a senior. Getting all choked up about that.

When we returned to the dinghy Elliott had decided to once again swim back to Aeolus. He has this tradition now. It was 48 degree air and probably 46 degree water. He stripped down, plunged in, and did it. Some Wimhoff. It was about 100 meters to the boat. Dude is tough.

It poured rain, hard, all night. Some light winds. But we were snug as bugs. On Sunday morning the rain stopped and we had another beautiful day. We played frisbee, and enjoyed the fall colors of the island.
Toward eternity

I walked for some time in rapture at the beauty of the trees. So profoundly beautiful.

Thank you Aeolus, for another magical family trip.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Vastly improved icebox!

The insulation is done and it is glassed. Ready to be painted. 
Finally got around to adding some serious insulation to what we have long called our warming box. The original icebox on the Gulf has paltry insulation and is in a shared space with the engine. A couple blocks of ice might last a day. It's cavernous, but useless. Thanks Don Casey for suggestions of how to do this.

So I added layer after layer of high quality polyiso insulation, in half- inch thicknesses, staggered and interlocking. I added these layers 3-4 deep on all side and the bottom, and added 2 inch pink foam to the top. I also sealed off the so called "day access" hatch as it was just another source of air leakage and absolutely impossible to use anyway.

Sealed the whole thing in fiberglass, used epoxy primekote over it all, and today put the coat of bilge note on it for a nice clean and cleanable white icebox.

On a trial run I added two blocks of ice, and the trip was for 4 days, and damn if that ice wasn't still there at the end. This is a game changer for our ability to store stuff. We gave up probably 25% of the ice box volume, but gained a true icebox. I've left out a lot of detail, but let me know and I can share more about how I did it.

Added an inch of pink insulation to the lid and glassed it all over.  This is before I  painted it. 

A view into the now painted box. The shelves still install and  the drain still drains. 

New Racor 500MA as main filter

Having had two episodes now when a plugged filter left me dead in the water, and one of them even after fully cleaning my fuel tank as I reported here, I finally have had enough and installed a new Racor 500 MA as my primary filter and plumbed the old Racor 220 as my backup. I can switch them on the fly. I also installed the vacuum gauge on the 500, and at cruising RPM it now sits at only 1mm Hg. I'm so damn fastidious about maintenance that it drives me batty to have ever had a fuel filter problem under way.

The source of that hair like stuff must have been from a tank of fuel I picked up somewhere. My pet theory is that the fuel station had a rat get into the tank and die, and those hairs got put into my tank, as there is simply no way in the world for hairs to get in my tank otherwise. And unlike dirty fuel, which would simply clog the filter, those hairs actually accumulate around the check ball and physically block the flow of fuel before it ever gets to the filter. DAMN HAIRS.

So, with the two filters now, I can switch over on the fly and deal with whatever is causing grief in the  other.

The new Racor 500MA
The set up with a view of one of the two three way switches that lets me switch filters on the fly. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Beware the check valve ball on your Racor!

A word to the wise, your diesel may die for reasons not related to your filters being clogged. While crossing the Straits of Georgia last week, on a windless day, my trusty diesel did the old "thump, thump, thump, dead". I had just done my annual change of both fuel filters and had recently cleaned out my entire fuel tank, so I was completely surprised.

As it goes, this was not a bad time, given that we were a mile away from any land, but the lack of wind meant we were bouncing around and drifting with the current right toward that pointy island over there.

I immediately began working the problem and had replaced the primary Racor filter before you could blink. No luck. Engine started, but then died. What? It had looked clean, as it should. I went ahead and replaced the secondary filter. No luck. Started, then died. By now I was truly befuddled. We had gotten uncomfortably close to the the nearby hard rocks when a puff of NW wind allowed us to sail toward our destination of Nanaimo. While my boys sailed us along, I was down below cogitating. I knew it was a fuel issue.

1. It was not the filters.
2. I had no reason to suspect a vacuum leak as none of my fittings had been touched, or were loose.
3. After changing filters over the past 12 years I had never had my motor not run smoothly. The Universal 5432 has a bleeding screw near the injectors that always seem to bleed off any residual bubbles.
4. It was not a problem with my injection pump because during the short intervals of the engine running, I could feel each injection line had the normal pulses of pressure from the pump.

I would start the motor, then it would run for 3 minutes, or 2 minutes, or 1 minute. I must have done this 20-30 times, hoping whatever residual air in the system was getting worked out. I was getting concerned about various things, mainly losing battery power and what I was going to do if I couldn't get it working.

As we got to within about 5 miles of Nanaimo, I decided to call Victoria Coast Guard and request a commercial tow. The wind had died, and there was no prospect at that time of my motor working.  I was soon put in touch with Vessel Tow out of Nanaimo and they would send someone to pull us in a bit later. In the meanwhile, I kept thinking and problem solving.

Finally, a light bulb. Aren't our brains fascinating? I remembered how once upon a time, on this very blog, I had written about how a bunch of hair like gunk had fouled my check valve and prevented the ball from seating, and how this had prevented the diesel from running. I decided to pop off the plastic cover and inspect the ball.
The Goop. All that was below the check ball valve preventing it from seating. 

Sure enough, when I removed the ball it came up with a whole bunch of what looked like hair. I dug down into that area and pulled up more gobs of this hair like stuff. I got my dental tool and scraped out even more! Once confident it was clean, I put the rubber ball back, tighten everything up, and started her up.
Here is the Racor image of the check ball on a 200 series spin on filter like what I have.  There are also check balls on the 500 turbine series and many others.

Purr, purr, purr. 5 minutes later, purr, purr, purr. 15 minutes later, purr, purr, purr. Damn if that wasn't it. Never was my filters.

Another BC and Straits of Georgia summer!

These will never get old. I will never get old doing them. Heading north from Friday Harbor and crossing Boundary Pass is a rite of passage to my life, and one that I crave on at least an annual basis. This year it was saddened by the inability of my dear and lovely wife to join us, so it left just a bunch of Y chromosomes on the boat. We made do.

Owen and I started off as the only crew and headed first to a night on Prevost in Selby Cove. One of many nice little spots in that area. Though we didn't do it, I understand there is a trail that takes you from here over to the more used anchorage at James Bay. We had a lovely evening and hot, benign conditions. This would remain for the bulk of our next week. It meant motoring, but as the islands glide slowly past, and the sun arcs across the sky, there is that cultivated state of mind that cannot be engendered other ways.
Salish Sea: everywhere

We went to DeCourcy the next day, our favorite spot in the northern Gulf Islands. My anchorage choices are heavily influenced by 1. The boys on the boat and their need for play and adventure and 2. Me on the boat, and my need for play and adventure. DeCourcy provides all of that.

We always anchor in the south cove, and prefer the views and spaciousness of that spot, rather than in Pirates Cove. Happy to say the pirates chest had an ample amount of booty in it, though my own boys are now too old to feel appropriate for taking things. We swam like fish and jumped off the pilothouse and hiked around the park and immersed ourselves into the consciousness of the place.